Friday, February 10, 2012

Marches, Sit-ins, Boycotts and Freedom Rides

Black History Month - Triumphs and Tragedies

photo courtesy of NARA
   I still remember sit-ins and boycotts of the late 50s and early 60's I was a young teenager at the time. I didn't participate in any sit-ins but I did have the opportunity to take part in the picketting of segregated swimming pools and other public establishments in Southern New Jersey. We also successfully boycotted for the hiring of Black employees at local supermarkets and a few other retail outlets that we patronized. I'll never forget when I boarded a bus with other local teens bound for Washington DC. It was a very exciting time, we recieved some coaching on the way regarding what to do and how to behave in case of trouble, we didn't know just what we would find at the end of our four and a half hour bus ride. It turned out to be one of the most impressive experiences of my life. Black Americans from all over America and other races including some from the international community as well had all come to express their desire to bring an end to the inequality that was being practised in the United States and to promote the adaptation of a Civil Rights policy that was necessary if America was to live up to it's claims as being a Nation of Justice.
  I had just turned 17 at the time and most of the young people on the bus that day were about the same age it was quite a mix we were young men and women, Black, White, Asian, Jewish and Native Americans, rich and poor. Some of the kids I knew but most I was meeting for the first time and we were all prepared to  face whatever  we had to in order to make America a better place everyone.

Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In

In 1960 four freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro walked into the F. W. Woolworth store and quietly sat down at the lunch counter. They were refused service, but they stayed until closing time. The next morning they came with twenty-five more students. On the third day, sixty-three students joined the sit-in. On the following day, the students were joined by three white female students from the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina, and by the fifth day Woolworth had more than three hundred demonstrators at the store. The next day the company said they were willing to negotiate, but only token changes were made. The students resumed their sit-ins, the city adopted more stringent segregation policies, and forty-five students were arrested and charged with trespassing. The students were so enraged by this that they launched a massive boycott of stores with segregated lunch counters. Sales dropped by a third, forcing the store owners to relent. Six months from the very first sit-in, the four freshmen returned and were served at Woolworth’s lunch counter.
Within a year similar peaceful demonstrations took place in over a hundred cities North and South. At Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, students formed their own organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “Snick”). The students’ bravery in the face of verbal and physical abuse led to integration in many stores even before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 Sit-Ins (video made for 5th grade class)

Freedom Rides  pt. 1

The Freedom Rides  pt. 2

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