Neighborhood Organized Workers

The Neighborhood Organized Workers (NOW) was organized in Mobile in 1966.

Founding members included Jerry Pogue, David Underhill and Dorothy Parker Williams. Fred Richardson, later Mobile city council representative for District 1, became the treasurer of NOW in 1968. James Finley became vice-president of NOW in 1968. Other members and associates included Melton McLaurin, Sister Patricia Caraher, Ned Milner, and Dallas Blanchard.

NOW was transformed in 1968 by Noble Beasley, a native Mississippian with a checkered past, who became president of the group shortly before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April. Leaders of NOW applied for a permit to hold a march in honor of the slain leader. When their request was refused, Beasley sent marchers into the street on April 7, 1968. The King march inaugurated a period of confrontation between the organization and city officials.
Some have viewed the march as breaking the veneer of racial peace in Mobile and seen the emergence of NOW as a challenge to traditional African-American leadership.

NOW became a target of suspicion to others in Mobile, including the city's Special Advisory Commission (SAC) and to the FBI.

Also in 1968, NOW conducted a "Poor People's March" on May 25, led a boycott of the Mobile City Auditorium, sponsored the appearance of Stokely Carmichael on July 26, conducted the Operation "Downtown Ghost Town" boycott of downtown Mobile Merchants.

In 1969, NOW organized an affiliate chapter in Pensacola, Florida, began publishing the Mobile Call and Post newspaper, and conducted the Operation "Black Christmas" Boycott in December.

In 1969, NOW demonstrated outside the Junior Miss Pageant in Mobile before a national audience. During the incident mass arrests took place; John LeFlore and Vernon Crawford, who were observing the protests, were incarcerated.

In August 1969, NOW leaders announced a boycott of the municipal elections. The boycott was opposed by the Non-Partisan Voters’ League because it endangered the League’s practice of endorsing moderate white candidates through the “pink sheet” campaign. Despite the League’s opposition, the boycott resulted in a record-low turnout of the city’s African American wards and contributed to the defeat of Joseph Langan, a white moderate and long-time supporter of LeFlore and the politics of gradualism.

In 1973 Noble Beasley, President of NOW, was convicted of drug trafficking.

External Links

Image: Jerry Pogue holding the American flag and leading a local march after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., April 7, 1968. Palmer Studio Collection, USA Archives.