July 6th, 1965

Demopolis, Alabama: White Men Attack Two Black Teen Girls and 3-Year-old Boy Attacked with Battery Acid

On the evening of July 6, 1965, Betty Gaines, 18, Beatrice McGaye,19, and a three-year-old boy were walking home along a road in Demopolis, Alabama. Around 6:00 p.m., a Chevrolet carrying four white men approached. No words were spoken, but the Chevrolet came to a complete stop in from of the two young women and the small boy; then, one of the men inside the vehicle sprayed all three pedestrians with battery acid and the car sped away.

Ms. Gaines and Ms. McGaye, with the small child in tow, walked to Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital seeking treatment for the acid burn injuries all three had suffered. They were examined by a doctor but released with no prescription for treatment.

Located in Marengo County, the town of Demopolis lies about fifty miles west of Selma, in Alabama’s black belt region. This was the site of growing racial tension and violence during the 1960s as the local black community joined the civil rights movement to protest unjust laws that mandated segregation, restricted their rights to vote, severely limited their economic and educational opportunities, and relegated them to second-class citizenship.

Just months before, in March 1965, the Selma to Montgomery march had attracted celebrities, white allies, national press, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the region to join local activists in a protest against voter discrimination. In response, local black people faced retaliatory violence and economic harassment, including evictions from land and random attacks like this one.