Robert Mants, who helped lead the first march from Selma to Montgomery to press for equal voting rights in 1965, died 7 December 2011 while visiting relatives in Atlanta. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, who joined Mants in leading marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge described him as “committed and dedicated, a real fighter for civil rights and social justice.”
Born and raised in East Point, Georgia, Mants was the youngest member of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (The Atlanta Student Movement) at the age of 16, while at the same time volunteering at the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Headquarters. He attended Morehouse College.
At the 25th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” Mants told the New York Times: “Two months after Bloody Sunday, an organization I was in got to work in nearby Lowndes County, which was 81 percent black and had fewer than 30 black registered voters and no black elected officials. The result was the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, whose symbol, a black panther, would be adopted by the movement of that name.”
Historian Richard Bailey saluted Mants for his civil rights activism and described him as a man who “did not seek the limelight.” “He was a freedom fighter at heart,” Bailey said. “What he wanted most of all was a better life for the disenfranchised people who did not have the right to vote.”
Bob Mants remained in Lowndes County. He served as a Lowndes County Commissioner for many years, and was chairman of the nonprofit “Lowndes County Friends of the Historic Trail”, advising the National Park Service. Mants is survived by his wife of 45 years Joann Christian Mants and their three children: Kadisha, Kumasi, and Katanga; and seven grandchildren.
Find additional information on the Selma to Montgomery March