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President Decries Church Burnings in Georgia

Sept. 13, 1962 - The burning of churches in Georgia, apparently to discourage voter-registration rallies, provoked President Kennedy today to one of his strongest denunciations. “I don’t know any more outrageous action which I’ve seen occur in this country for a good many months or years than the burning of a church — two churches — because of the effort made by Negroes to be registered to vote,” the President said at his news conference. “Cowardly as well as outrageous,” he added a moment later. The churches of two Negro congregations near Albany, Ga., were burned last Sunday morning. Mr. Kennedy urged all citizens to vote, and he said that voters would be protected, by force and additional legislation if necessary. Agents of the FBI, he said, are working on the crime and hunting the violators. When they are found, he said, “we will arrest them, we will bring them before a jury, and I am sure they will be appropriately dealt with.” “The right to vote is very basic,” he declared. “If we neglect it, all talk about freedom is hollow.” The President was asked whether he had been in touch with the Dr. Martin Luther King, who has been directing a major effort in the Albany area. The President said he had been in touch with Dr. King and others regarding apparent efforts to intimidate would-be registrants.


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