The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr.

Reverend Abraham Lincoln Woods, Jr. was born on October 7, 1928 to Maggie and Abraham Woods, Sr. in Birmingham, Alabama. Woods attended Parker High School and was given a scholarship to attend Morehouse College. Completing one year at Morehouse, Woods became ill and returned home. During this time, he acknowledged his call to the ministry. Woods received his B.A. degree in theology from the Birmingham Baptist College, his B.A. degree in sociology from Miles College in Birmingham, and his M.A. degree in American history from the University of Alabama. He also completed all the credits needed for his Ph.D.

Woods became a charter member of the Alabama Christian Movement and served as the vice president alongside Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth. He served as the director for the Miles College Voter Registration Project and would later become President of the Birmingham Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Woods led the first sit-in at a department store in Birmingham and was jailed for five days. In the summer of 1963, he worked for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the deputy director for the Southeast and helped to mobilize the historic March on Washington. He was often asked to speak on behalf of Dr. King because of his oratorical skills.

Woods would later recruit African Americans, especially those with prior military police experience to take the exam for the Birmingham Police Department. He and Dr. Jonathan McPherson assisted them in preparing for the test.

In 1968, Woods was the first African American to teach American history at the University of Alabama. He lectured on Dr. King’s non-violent and conflict resolution philosophy. Woods served for forty years as a faculty member at Miles College. He retired in 2002, and Miles College conferred upon him the Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Woods has been the pastor of St. Joseph’s Baptist Church in Birmingham for thirty-seven years. He is a member of the Trustee Board of Birmingham Bible College, the Baptist Ministers’ Conference, the United States Capital Historical Society and Phi Delta Kappa.

Woods passed away on November 7, 2008 at age 80.

Woods was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 23, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.107

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/23/2007 |and| 9/7/2007

Last Name

Woods

Middle Name

Lincoln

Schools

Morehouse College

Miles College

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Birmingham-Easonian Baptist Bible College

University of Alabama

First Name

Abraham

Birth City, State, Country

Birmingham

HM ID

WOO07

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Orlando, Florida

Favorite Quote

I Can Do All Things Through Christ That Strengthens Me

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

10/7/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Longwood

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Death Date

11/7/2008

Short Description

Civil rights leader, american history professor, and minister Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. (1928 - 2008 ) was president of the Birmingham, Alabama chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and held sit-ins in Birmingham. Woods also helped in mobilizing the March on Washington.

Employment

Miles College

First Metropolitan Baptist Church

Atlanta Life Insurance Company

Molton Allen & Williams

McWare Cast Iron Pump Company

Favorite Color

Maroon

Timing Pairs
0,0:3995,44:7813,155:8394,163:24196,246:24786,252:27550,271:27975,280:31556,347:32074,355:32444,361:32888,368:54830,619:67630,830:90165,1039:98040,1107:98940,1122:102710,1161:103421,1174:106186,1227:106502,1232:108398,1264:114780,1315:115180,1320:118260,1337:124776,1370:130804,1404:131490,1412:138093,1482:140495,1497:146750,1598:147110,1603:150790,1626:154774,1662:155355,1671:156849,1703:157596,1712:162080,1747:171667,1888:175760,1921:178410,1941:180180,1979:188750,2066:195618,2145:195890,2150:196366,2159:209459,2285:209794,2291:216032,2364:216878,2375:232640,2602$0,0:4280,77:11528,130:12698,142:14687,160:26600,317:27800,333:35478,395:36388,406:39620,469:50496,559:50832,564:51252,570:76970,734:108216,1092:108568,1097:109008,1103:129695,1319:132100,1324:132802,1332:133270,1337:133738,1342:140867,1395:141771,1404:162864,1558:163488,1567:183255,1727:195208,1815:228582,2043:232060,2078:232560,2093:241240,2191:242824,2215:248565,2268:253828,2337:257970,2379:286280,2576
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr.'s interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his childhood home

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls his family's financial difficulties

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers his family's eviction, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls his grandmother's bootlegging

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers his family's eviction, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers the East Thomas School in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls gang activity during his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the Lincoln School in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls attending Atlanta's Morehouse College

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers Benjamin Mays

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls his aspirations at Morehouse College

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers working at The Varsity

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his religious education

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls Birmingham Baptist College in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls joining the faculty of Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls being courted by his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers being dismissed by a jealous supervisor

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers his call to the ministry

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls founding the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his role in the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers Colonel Stone Johnson

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the wrongful arrest of Montgomery preachers

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the bombing of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth's home

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers desegregating the buses in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the ousting of Bull Connor

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls leading his first sit-in

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers being arrested at sit-ins

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls being assigned to manual labor in jail

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers registering voters at Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the civil rights activities at Miles College

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the student march in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. lists his children

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the impact of the student march in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth's hospitalization

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers organizing the March on Washington

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the crowd at the March on Washington

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes the I Have A Dream speech

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr.'s interview, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the impact of the March on Washington

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls being hired at Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls directing a voting education project

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls his decision to attend graduate school

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls studying at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls teaching at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes his organizational involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. talks about the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. talks about other civil rights organizations

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the SCLC's partner organizations

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes the surveillance of civil rights activists

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the arrest of child protestors

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the first boycott in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the activists at Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the mayoral election of Albert Boutwell

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers Birmingham official David Vann

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls his SCLC chapter presidency

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers Bloody Sunday

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the police shooting in Hueytown, Alabama

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers Bonita Carter's death, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers Bonita Carter's death, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers David Vann's position on Bonita Carter's murder

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls organizing a march for Bonita Carter

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls asking Richard Arrington, Jr. to run for mayor

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes Richard Arrington, Jr.'s mayoral campaign

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the mayoralty of Richard Arrington, Jr.

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls advocating for Maggie Bozeman and Julia Wilder

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's presidential bid

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls segregation at the Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. remembers being sued by George Sands

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls integrating the Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing investigation

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing trials

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls the convictions of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombers

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls creating the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls creating the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. shares a message to future generations

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

7$9

DATitle
Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. recalls founding the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights
Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. describes the I Have A Dream speech
Transcript
All right, so, now you become the pastor of First Metropolitan Church [First Metropolitan Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama]. In fifty--and tell me what happens next? What happens next?$$All right. In the late 1950s, after the [U.S.] Supreme Court case, Brown v. the Board of Education [Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954], where the Supreme Court handed down the ruling and said separate but equal is inherently unequal, and overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson [Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896] ruling in the 1890s, I believe it was, and said that there had to be desegregation with all deliberate speed--well, at that time the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] here in Birmingham [Alabama] was attacked not only in Birmingham, but in the state was attacked. And the attorney general of the state asked the NAACP to turn over its membership roster to them, as if there was some shady persons--Communists, or this, that, and the other, who were part of the membership. They refused to do it, because they knew it was a witch hunt. Teachers were vulnerable, and other people who had jobs were vulnerable. And they had no problem with dismissing you from your job when you were a part of that kind of activity. So the NAACP refused to do it, and as a result, it was enjoined from operating in the State of Alabama. I had started working with a young lady who was working with Mr. Patton [W.C. Patton], and Mr. Patton was the voter education person for the national NAACP. And Reverend Shuttlesworth [HistoryMaker Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth] was a part of that organization, too. So after the NAACP was outlawed in the State of Alabama, Reverend Shuttlesworth called a mass meeting at the Sardis Baptist Church [Sardis Missionary Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama] and said we need an organization that will carry the struggle on. And he was criticized; some of the minsters criticized him, and other people criticized him. And one outstanding preacher said to him, he said "Shuttlesworth, the Lord told me to tell you that you should not organize this organization." And of course, Shuttlesworth shot back and said, "When has the Lord started giving you my messages?" (Laughter) And so he organized it and we embraced it. And I shall never forget, he said, "They killed the old hen," referring to the NAACP, "but before she died, she had some biddies." And the Alabama Christian Movement [Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights] was one of those biddies, and it turned out to be a fighting rooster. This was now in the latter part of the 1950s.$And we marched to the Lincoln Memorial [Washington, D.C.], and I shall never forget. I found my place in the VIP section. I was standing in front of the huge statue of [President] Abraham Lincoln sitting there in the Lincoln Memorial. Some little distance from me was Martin [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] with the guards around him, and other people. And we were looking out on the Reflecting Pool [Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Washington, D.C.], and there were wall to wall folks all around the Reflecting Pool, some standing, some sitting with their feet in the water. And not only were there people around on the level land, but in all of the trees; there were people in the trees, everywhere. I'm telling you, that was a sight that made us glad. And of course the activities started, the singing. And one of the singers was Mahalia Jackson, and of course she had a soulful kind of way of singing. And there were others who did sing, too, but I remember Mahalia Jackson. And there were the speeches. And we got down to Martin Luther King, and he was introduced by none other than J. Philip Randolph [sic. A. Philip Randolph]. And if you have really heard about J. Philip Randolph, he was the dean of the civil rights struggle. He was head of the Pullman car porters, and it was really his idea that we have that march. And he had an eloquent sort of bass voice, a baritone voice, and he introduced King, "Martin Luther King, J-R," and Martin came to the podium, and he led up to I Have a Dream. Now, I know you've heard it on cassette tapes and you've seen it maybe video. But you just needed to have been there. It was something in the air, a kind of charge, some kind of electric in the air that was coursing up and down in our bodies, I'm telling you. King got into his speech with the kind of cadence that he, he used. I'm telling you, he lifted us. I guess we were sort of mesmerized, sort of in a hypnotic trance or something. He just lifted us out of ourselves. "And I have a dream that my little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." And of course, he talked about the promissory note that had come back with insufficient funds, and all of that. And he finally said that, he told us to go on back to the Delta Mississippi. Go on back to Stone Mountain in Georgia. Go on back to this, yonder and that. And he said, "When that day come, we will be able to sing the old spiritual with new meaning, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we're free at last.'"