This Day in Civil Rights History - FEBRUARY

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

February 29, 1960

NAACP Youth Council and 50 Local High School Students Conduct Sit-in at Woolworth's Lunch Counter in Tampa Bay, Florida

Clarence Fort and other Tampa area youth stage a sit-in at Woolworths’ Lunch Counter in downtown Tampa

Encouraged by the sit-ins that took place in early 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina, members of Tampa Bay’s Black community held protests of their own. On February 29, 1960, NAACP Youth Council President Clarence Fort and Reverend A. Leon Lowry of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church led 50 high school students in a sit-in at the F.W. Woolworth’s lunch counter in Tampa. The group was escorted by police assigned by the city’s newly elected mayor, Julian Lane. The group’s meal was interrupted by harassment from a few young white men.

In response to the sit-in and others that followed, the mayor’s Bi-Racial Commission proposed a plan for integration that they hoped would garner less attention from the news media. The plan became what was called the “Tampa Technique.” Area youths tested the plan in which small groups would be seated at restaurants where staff had been instructed to serve anyone regardless of race. While local police were aware of the sit-ins, media was not alerted. Fort and other activists involved were satisfied with the progress of lunch counter integration after only a few days. Still not every eating establishment in Tampa was desegregated so easily. In August 1963, Morrison’s Cafeteria in downtown Tampa was the site of a protest by the NAACP Youth Council. Two student leaders, Gwendolyn Tim and Maceo McMillian, were arrested.

Clarence Fort tell how he led the first sit-ins at the lunch counter of Woolworths in Tampa, Florida, Beaches, Benches, and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa, The Florida Holocaust Museum
Students sit-in at the F.W. Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Tampa, February 29, 1960. From Tampa's Woolworth sit-in was catalyst for changes statewide, Tampa Bay Times,
Inez Anderson, 76, holds a photo of herself taken on Feb. 29, 1960 while she participated in a sit-in to desegregate the F.W. Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Tampa. The city unveiled a historic marker at the former site of the store on N Franklin Street. From Tampa honors 1960 sit-ins that desegregated downtown lunch counters, Tampa Bay Times, May 19, 2018

February 28, 1960

Nine Students from Lincoln High School Conduct Sit-in At Downtown Lunch Counter in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Demonstrators block the entrance to Colonial Drug Store in Chapel Hill in 1964 to protest its policy of serving whites only. The group consisted of William Cureton, John Farrington, Harold Foster, Earl Geer, David Mason, Jr., Clarence Merritt Jr., James Merritt, Douglas Perry and Albert Williams. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.
Excerpted in whole and adapted from Chapel Hill Nine Honored on Anniversary of Historic Sit-In, Will Get Marker, Spectrum News 1, Chapel Hill, March 1, 2019.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The four surviving members of the Chapel Hill Nine were honored Friday, February 28, 2019 on the 59th anniversary of their historic sit-in.

In 1960, the high school teens sought service from Colonial Drug Store on Franklin Street, inspired by the A&T sit-ins.

Albert Williams, Jim Merritt, David Mason Jr., and Clyde Perry are the four surviving men of the Chapel Hill nine who wanted to put a stop to segregation in Chapel Hill.

“We were the ones that started the fire,” said Williams. On February 28, 1960, nine teenagers from Lincoln High School in Chapel Hill wanted service in Colonial Drug Store on Franklin Street, with confidence the police would be called.

“We were the first high school kids to do a sit in and it, from day one I grew up in a segregated world and Chapel Hill was they say a southern part of heaven, but it was still segregated,” said Perry. Merritt added, “I think it was time for it to happen here in Chapel Hill because we had been inspired by the sit-in at A&T.”

It was just the beginning of change for the town. Now 59 years to the day - the remaining Chapel Hill Nine have returned to the same spot to be recognized and honored with a marker in their name. “I’m thankful that in my life as I tell the student that we were able to bring about a change. And it was kind of non-violent,” said Williams.

The dedication of this civil rights marker - comes just one week after another one was removed on franklin street by the town - the Jefferson Davis Highway Memorial. “It allows us to heal and move forward. To take down something that was never put up by this community, that didn’t represent our community and really wasn’t, had much bearing in our community. To take something that was painful and unwelcoming for many people and to be able to put up something that actually reflects the true history,” said Mayor Pam Hemminger.

One interesting tidbit about all that they told us was that although they were all found guilty of trespassing for their actions, they say they were very happy with their legal counsel - who was none other than Sen. Floyd McKissick. The court cost back then they say they had to pay was $10.

Chapel Hill News, September 1, 1960.
The four living members of the Chapel Hill Nine standing at the site of the former Colonial Drug on West Franklin Street. Albert Williams, David Mason, Jr., Jim Merritt and Clyde Perry. From Chapel Hill Nine To Get Marker On Franklin Street, February 27, 2019, WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
Opening Our Future: The Chapel Hill Nine Story, On Sunday, February 28, 1960, nine young men from Chapel Hill's all-black Lincoln High School sat at a booth in the Colonial Drug Store and sought the same service that was given to white customers.

February 27, 1960

"Big Saturday" – Lunch-Counter Sit-ins Turn Violent Against Student Protesters in Nashville, Tennessee

Several men, left, attempt to drag some of the students from the lunch counter where they staged a sit-down against segregation in the downtown Woolworth's store Feb. 27, 1960. Police marched into three variety stores and arrested 73 students seeking lunch counter integration. From Kicked, spat on and burned, Nashville's sit-in protesters persevered through acts of violence, The Tennessean, Jimmy Ellis
Excerpted in whole from Kicked, spat on and burned, Nashville's sit-in protesters persevered through acts of violence, Jessica Bliss, The Tennessean, February 26, 2020.

White men kicked them. They spat and blew cigar smoke in their faces. They extinguished lit cigarettes on their backs. Still, the black students who sat at Nashville's lunch counters did not retaliate. They had been trained in nonviolent resistance. They remained silent, staring ahead or reading magazines, in protest of segregation. Just as they had during the sit-ins the week before. And the week before that. But this time would be different.

For the first time since hundreds of black college students began the sit-ins at Nashville's downtown drugstores, tempers flared.

On Feb. 27, 1960, nearly 100 young African Americans, along with a few white supporters, were arrested and jailed. Future U.S. Rep. John Lewis was among them. It marked the first of his many arrests to come. On that historic day 60 years ago, tensions escalated between crowds of white instigators and the composed young black men and women who wanted integration and equality.

The students came from local universities: Fisk, Tennessee A&I and the American Baptist Theological Seminary. They entered Woolworth's, Walgreens and McLellan's. Thousands of people — white and black — crammed the area downtown, and policemen armed with billy clubs lined the streets. They were stationed there, they said, to thwart an outbreak of violence.

Two fistfights broke out that day. The first started when a white man jerked a young white male demonstrator from his lunch counter chair at McLellan's and hit him. It was the protester, not the aggressor, who was arrested.

Segment on the Nashville Sit-in focusing on February 27, 1960 with interview snippets from Diane Nash and John Lewis. From Eyes on the Prize, Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961), PBS, 5min
Paul Laprad, a student at Fisk University, crouches on the floor, bottom left, and shields his head with his arms after the youth standing over him dragged him from the lunch counter of McLellan's downtown store and beat him Feb. 27, 1960. Laprad, who was sitting beside a black student at the counter, was attacked when he did not respond to being called a “n----- lover." Looking on helplessly is fellow demonstrator Maxine Walker, right center. From Kicked, spat on and burned, Nashville's sit-in protesters persevered through acts of violence, The Tennessean, UPI Photo
Demonstrators including John Lewis, center in light suit, are hustled out of McLellan's Variety Store on Fifth Avenue North in downtown Nashville and off to jail after a four-hour demonstration against lunch counter segregation Feb. 27, 1960. From Kicked, spat on and burned, Nashville's sit-in protesters persevered through acts of violence, The Tennessean, Jimmy Ellis.

The black students, passively unmoved by the jeering and provocation surrounding them, were also taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct. Loud shouts of praise and applause erupted from the crowd as officers put the first group of students into the paddy wagons shortly after 1 p.m. that day.

An hour later, the police were summoned to Woolworth's next door. There, the only black student to respond to the day's hateful acts was dragged from the store, swinging wildly. He was charged with disorderly and offensive conduct and resisting arrest. The young white man who instigated the fight was not arrested. He slipped out of sight.

More arrests took place throughout the afternoon, dozens at a time. As soon as one group was led away, more students were there to sit in their place. "You haven't seen anything yet," sit-in leader Earl May told a Tennessean reporter that day. "We're going to fill their jails. That's a promise."

Two days later, the students arrested during the weekend’s sit-in went on trial. Many were represented in court by Nashville councilman and attorney Z. Alexander Looby. Some chose “jail over bail.” Fifteen students were convicted and sent to the city workhouse after refusing to pay the $50 fines.

The fight was just beginning. "Nashville prepared me," Lewis told The Tennessean in 2013. "If it hadn't been for Nashville, I would not be the person I am now. "We grew up sitting down or sitting in. And we grew up very fast."

February 26, 1962

Supreme Court Upholds Rights to Interstate and Intrastate Integrated Transportation – Victory to the Freedom Rides on '61

Excerpted in whole from Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Facebook post.

On this day in 1962, the Supreme Court case Bailey v Patterson ruled that passengers using segregated transportation have standing to enforce their constitutional rights to non segregated service in interstate and intrastate transportation. Represented by R. Jess Brown and others, the plaintiffs Samuel Bailey, Joseph Broadwater, and Burnett L. Jacob initially filed their complaint against the State of Mississippi who was represented by Atty. Joe T. Patterson. The lawsuit was a direct action to the arrest of the Freedom Riders who were charged with breach of peace.

Listen to a 1972 interview with black Mississippi attorney, R. Jess Brown, one of the lawyers on defending the plaintiffs on the Bailey v Patterson case. Mississippi Moments, The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.
Attorneys R. Jess Brown (right) and Constance Baker Motley accompany James H. Meredith in Meridian, Mississippi, June 1, 1961. AP
Page 1 story, New York Times - February 27, 1962. Reformatted for this post.

February 25, 1960

29 Alabama State College Students Protest Segregated Courthouse Snack Room Sparking First Alabama Sit-In

Excerpted in whole from “The Negroes Are Here!” First-Ever Sit-in in Alabama, Today In Civil Liberties History.

Twenty-nine African American students from Alabama State College on this morning walked into the all-white snack room in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama in the morning of this day in the first known sit-in in Alabama. One startled white patron exclaimed “The Negroes Are Here!”

Indeed they were. The sit-in movement had begun just three weeks earlier, on February 1, 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina. That challenge to racial segregation in public accommodations sparked sit-ins all across the south. On this day the movement finally reached Alabama. The students refused to leave, and snack room staff turned off the lights. A few minutes later the police arrived but made no arrests or attempts to forcibly remove the students. After about an hour, the students left.

The Alabama Governor John M. Patterson ordered that the nine students believed to be the leaders of the event be expelled from Alabama State College. The other twenty were reprimanded.

Fifty-eight years later, in a quiet action on May 10, 2018 the Alabama Board of Education issued a formal apology to the nine expelled students and cleared their official records on the original expulsion.

James McFadden, one of the expelled students, soon joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, and referred to as Snick”), which had been formed out of the original sit-ins on April 15, 1960, and went on to become the most assertive civil rights movement in the south.

Sheriff Mac Sim Butler ordering black students from Alabama State College to stand against a wall after they were removed from a segregated snack room at the Montgomery County Courthouse in February 1960. Associated Press - from New York Times story below.
Alabama State College students on Februrary 29, 1960.

February 24, 1956

"Massive Resistance" to School Desegregation Declared by Virginia Senator Harry Byrd as Southern States Unite to Block Brown v Board

Harry Byrd, United States Senator from Virginia, February 1956, image and story from The Equal Justice Initiative
Excerpted in whole from Massive Resistance, Wikipedia.

On February 24, 1956, U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. of Virginia declared a campaign which became known as "massive resistance" to unite white politicians and leaders in Virginia in a campaign of new state laws and policies to prevent public school desegregation, particularly after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954. Leading the state's conservative Democrats, he proclaimed "If we can organize the Southern States for massive resistance to this order I think that in time the rest of the country will realize that racial integration is not going to be accepted in the South."

Within a month, Senator Byrd and 100 other conservative Southern politicians signed what became known as the "Southern Manifesto", condemning the Supreme Court's decisions concerning racial integration in public places as violating states' rights.

Many schools, and even an entire school system, were shut down in 1958 and 1959 in attempts to block integration, before both the Virginia Supreme Court and a special three-judge panel of Federal District judges from the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting at Norfolk, declared those policies unconstitutional.

Before the next school year began, the NAACP filed lawsuits to end school segregation in Norfolk, Arlington, Charlottesville and Newport News. To implement massive resistance, in 1956, the Byrd Organization-controlled Virginia General Assembly passed a series of laws known as the Stanley Plan, after Governor Thomas Bahnson Stanley. One of these laws, passed on September 21, 1956, forbade any integrated schools from receiving state funds, and authorized the governor to order closed any such school.

Senator Harry Byrd, circa 1956, Virginia Museum of History and Culture
The Southern Manifesto was written two weeks later and grew out of Byrd's declaration of "massive resistance." Click image above for full text.

Another of these laws established a three-member Pupil Placement Board that would determine which school a student would attend. The decision of these Boards was based almost entirely on race. These laws also created tuition grant structures which could channel funds formerly allocated to closed schools to students so they could attend private, segregated schools of their choice. In practice, this caused the creation of "segregation academies".

Although most of the laws created to implement massive resistance were overturned by state and federal courts within a year, some aspects of the campaign against integrated public schools continued in Virginia for many more years.

February 23, 1960

21 High School and University Students Stage Protests Against Segregated Lunch Counters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Civil rights activists sing in a parking lot in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, undated from the time frame of the sit-ins. From Winston-Salem Journal
Excerpted in whole from Remembering the Winston-Salem sit-in, The Wake Forest News, 1, 2010.

On Feb. 23, 1960, a group of Wake Forest students walked into the Woolworth’s in downtown Winston-Salem and joined students from Winston-Salem State Teachers College to protest segregated lunch counters.

Twenty-one students were arrested that day — 10 white students from Wake Forest and 11 black students from Winston-Salem State. The students’ non-violent protest, along with other protests in Winston-Salem, led to the desegregation of the city’s restaurants and lunch counters on May 23 of that year.

The sit-in at the Woolworth’s in Winston-Salem began Feb. 8, a week after the more famous Greensboro sit-in, but a successful resolution came first in Winston-Salem. The Winston-Salem sit-ins began when Carl Matthews sat down at the downtown Kress lunch counter. He was later joined by students from Winston-Salem State and Atkins High School and then by the Wake Forest students.

George Williamson (’61), who was among the Wake Forest participants, remembers seeing media coverage of the Feb. 1 Greensboro sit-in. “I saw those four guys in Greensboro on my TV, and they were my age and they were in college and they were only 30 miles away. I remember one of them saying “it isn’t fair.’ We talked about it in my ethics class the next day and it set me to thinking.”

When a friend asked him to join the group going to Woolworth’s, he went along.

Another alumnus, Bill Stevens (’60), also remembers talking about the Greensboro sit-in during a class with G. McLeod Bryan. “Some of the students thought we might like to participate in something like that,” Stevens said.

He, his fiance Margaret Anne Dutton (’60), and a few others met with Winston-Salem State students to make plans a week or so before Feb. 23. The white students agreed to walk in side-by-side with the black students to sit at the lunch counter.

In a 2000 interview, Bryan, professor emeritus of Christian Ethics, said he “wasn’t too surprised when they were engaged in it. They were in many ways the kind of student that was seeking a wider vision and perspective on life… What got them to leave the campus and go to the streets in civil disobedience was a sense of injustice and unfairness.”

Another Wake Forest student at the time, Joel Stegall (’61), wasn’t one of the protesters, but remembers his roommate and friends preparing for it. “I recall coming back to my dorm room one night and found the suite was quiet and dark — highly unusual. Finding one of the doors slightly ajar, I poked my head in to find a room dimly lit and full of guys, white and black, friends I knew well and some I’d never seen. I asked what was going on. Someone (probably my roommate, Frank Glenn) said they were planning to shake things up downtown with a protest.

“Looking back, I regret that I did not summon the courage to join them. Truthfully, I was frightened. It was a historic event with ramifications far beyond what any of us realized at the time. Remembering the racial climate at the time, I think the Woolworth’s sit-in was a historical marker of which Wake Forest should be proud.”

Jefferson D. Diggs III, one of the protestors from Winston-Salem State, said in a 2001 documentary about the protest: “That was a turning point in the whole movement. It was no longer just a bunch of students from Winston-Salem State Teachers College or a bunch of Northern agitators, these were their own kids, their own sons and daughters and I think that it changed the consciousness of the entire city and the entire country. People began to look at it that it was no longer a matter of “other,’ but of “us’.”

The documentary, “I’m Not my Brother’s Keeper: Leadership and Civil Rights in Winston-Salem,” (embedded below) was produced by two Wake Forest professors, Mary Dalton and Susan Faust.

“I was drawn to this story because it is a story of racial unity and of students making a difference,” said Dalton, an associate professor of communication. “By choosing to walk into a department store together and sit at a lunch counter as peers — on the surface a simple act — these students ultimately changed the way we live in Winston-Salem.”

February 22, 1956

Nearly 100 Arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for Bus Boycott Actions, including Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted on February 22, 1956, by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey as one of the people indicted as leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott. She was one of 73 people rounded up by deputies that day after a grand jury charged 113 African Americans for organizing the boycott. This was a few months after her arrest on December 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated municipal bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Wikimedia
Excerpted in whole from Negro Leaders Arrested in Alabama Bus Boycott, The New York Times, February 22, 1956.

Mass March Called

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 22—Negro religious and political leaders, including twenty ministers, were arrested on boycotting charges today. The arrests were made in a wholesale round-up of defenteans indicted by a grand jury for their mass protest against bus segregation. The indictments were returned yesterday against 115 Negro defendants accused of taking an active part in the even-week Negr boycott against Montgovermy buses. The date for their trials will be taken up Friday at their arraignment. Thousand of Negroes have refused to ride the buses since De. 5, the day a member of their race, Mrs. Rosa Parks, was fined $14 for refusing to move to the Negro section of the bus. City and state laws require segregation.

Mrs. Parks was sentenced to fourteen days in jail in lieu of the fine today after Circuit Judge Eugene Carter, the jurist who ordered the grand jury investigation, had turned down her appeal from the previous conviction in City Court.

She appealed Judge Carter’s decision to the State Supreme Court. Immediately afterward she was arrested on a boycotting indictment.

A partial list of all arrested on February 22, 1956. Rosa Parks is #7053. See full list as well as all the mug shots taken on this day, Civil Rights Mug Shots: Heroes Of The Montgomery Bus Boycott And Freedom Rides
A Montgomery County Sheriff's Department booking photo of Martin Luther King Jr taken February 22, 1956, with the word ''Dead" and the date "4-4-68'' scrawled onto it after King was assassinated in Memphis. King was one of more than 80 people indicted for their involvement in the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott. He was convicted of violating boycotting laws and ordered to serve 386 days in jail or pay a fine of $500.Courtesy of the Montgomery County Archives.Martin Luther King Jr. Booking Photo, Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Judge Carter upheld city and state segregation laws when the issue was raised in Mrs. Parks’ defense. He imposed the jail sentence after she refused to pay the fine and announced she planned to appeal the conviction.

All of the defendants brought to the county jail and fingerprinted were released as soon as they had put up bond of %300 each. They were charged with violating a state law against organized, illegal boycotting. The maximum sentence for violation is six months in jail and $1000 fine.

By nightfall, sixty-seven Negroes had been booked at the county jail. A few more defendants were expected to come in voluntarily during the evening , but the sheriff’s office said that none would be booked af 10 P.M. That would leave about forty-five still to be taken care of tomorrow.

A partial list of all arrested on February 22, 1956. Martin Luther King is #7089. See full list as well as all the mug shots taken on this day, Civil Rights Mug Shots: Heroes Of The Montgomery Bus Boycott And Freedom Rides

February 21, 1965

Malcolm X Gunned Down in Harlem, New York In Front of Crowd of 400

Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965.Bettmann Archive, via Getty Images.
Excerpted in whole from Malcolm X Assassinated in Harlem, from This Day in Civil Rights History, Williams and Beard, page 65.

On this day in civil right history, Malcolm X was murdered. One of the most controversial and outspoken black leaders of the 1960s, he was a charismatic speaker and a strong thinker, a hero of the ghetto and one of the first black revolutionaries. He inspired the Black Panther Party and other militant black organizations.

After a childhood of petty larceny, Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam while in jail in the late 1940s and soon met leader Elijah Muhammad, who saw great potential in young Malcolm and mentored him.

During the 1950s, Malcolm traveled the country speaking at Nation of Islam temples and gaining converts. His oratorical style matched Martin Luther King Jr.’s in power and effectiveness and he became a popular speaker on college campuses. His message focused on exploitation, disenfranchisement, and the economic oppression of American blacks. The media treated Malcolm X as a dangerous but influential leader and he was closely watched by the FBI.

As Malcolm became more famous, Elijah Muhammad apparently became jealous and resentful of his protege. At the same time, Malcolm X's personal philosophy was evolving, and in 1964, he broke with the Nation of Islam, converting to mainstream Islam. He said he had begun to see the problems of African Americans as international. He traveled through Africa and to Mecca and saw white Muslims worshiping alongside black Muslims.

Returning to the States he founded the Organization for Afro-American Unity to cooperate with other civil rights groups. He toned down his militant speech, preaching in instead a message of peaceful self-reliance.

On this date in 1965 Malcolm was speaking to a group of 400 at a ballroom in Harlem when his guards rushed toward a disturbance in the crowd, leaving him alone on the stage. A gunman charged through the melee and discharged two shotgun blasts into Malcolm’s chest. Two other assailants ran forward and unloaded handguns into Malcolm’s prostrate body. He died instantly. Three Nation of Islam members ultimately were convicted of the murder.

Historians debate what Malcolm X—with his fiery energy and keen intellect—might have accomplished had he lived. Malcolm X was 39 when he was assassinated, the same age Martin Luther King would be when he was killed three years later.

Click image above for larger size. From Malcolm X Shot to Death at Rally Here; Three Other Negroes Wounded, The New York Times, February 22, 1965. Reconfigured for this post.

February 20, 1960

200 Virginia Union University Students March on Downtown Richmond, 34 Arrested 2 Days Later

Virginia Union University students protest in front of downtown Richmond Department stores. From Marker to honor 34 VUU students charged after sit-in at Thalhimers in 1960, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Excerpted in whole from Virginia Union University students campaign for desegregation in Richmond, USA, 1960, , Global Nonviolent Action Database, Swarthmore College

The students of Virginia Union University, a black university, wanted to do something to contribute to the growing sit-in movement that had begun on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina (see “Greensboro, NC, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960”). Led by students Frank Pinkston and Charles Sherrod, who had been counseled on nonviolent protest methods by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., more than 200 Virginia Union students and faculty marched from their campus to Richmond’s downtown shopping district on February 20, 1960.

The group proceeded to sit at the lunch counters of the department stores, where they were denied service but refused to leave their seats until the stores closed. They conducted a second sit-in on February 22nd, expanding to include an up-scale restaurant called Thalhimers Richmond Room.

The students were refused access to the fourth-floor tearoom, at which point some minor pushing and shoving occurred. Thirty-four of the students who refused to leave the establishment were arrested for trespassing, and were verbally abused and scalded with hot coffee by some of the white customers. The 34 arrested students—11 women and 23 men ranging in age from 18 to 23—were transported by patrol wagon caravan and charged, then released on a $50 bond.

The students’ arrests led to the formation of the Campaign for Human Dignity in Richmond, through which Virginia Union students, black high school students, and other members of the anti-segregation community organized a shopping boycott and picketing of segregated establishments.

By January of 1961, these establishments desegregated due to the great economic loss they had experienced during the holiday season. However, the city of Richmond did not become fully desegregated until the end of that decade, with the culminating milestone being the election in December 1969 of L. Douglas Wilder, the first African-American to fill a Virginia State Senate seat since Reconstruction.

Even though Richmond wasn't fully desegregated until the end of the decade, this campaign is considered successful as their only stated goal was to desegregate the lunch counters at the department stores, a goal which was met less than a year after the sit-ins occurred.

Read longer story about the Richmond student protests, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 20, 2020.

February 20, 1960

Florida A&M Students Hold Sit-in at Tallahassee Woolworth's, 11 Arrested and Refuse Bail

Photo from a later boycott of downtown stores in Tallahassee on Dec. 6, 1960.. State Archives of Florida / Florida Memory
Excerpted in whole from The Civil Rights Movement in Florida, , Florida Memory

Sit-Ins Lead to the First Jail‑In of the Civil Rights Movement

Tallahassee witnessed several sit-ins in the early 1960s at prominent businesses that maintained “whites only” lunch counters. The first sit-in in Florida’s capital city took place on February 13, 1960. On February 20, students from Florida A&M University and others from around the country held a sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Tallahassee. When they refused to leave, 11 were arrested and charged with “disturbing the peace by engaging in riotous conduct and assembly to the disturbance of the public tranquility.”

Rather than pay their fines, eight students opted for jail time, effectively launching the first jail-in of the civil rights movement. Among those jailed were Patricia Stephens and her sister Priscilla. In the weeks that followed, additional demonstrations took place at the same Woolworth and also at McCrory’s department store.

While imprisoned, Patricia wrote a letter about her experience and her thoughts on civil rights, which reached leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson. King wrote back to Stephens: “…you are suffering to make men free.” Almost three years later, King authored his own letter from a Birmingham jail.

A draft of a letter written at the Leon County Jail by Priscilla Stephens in 1960, describing the arrest of her and other students on March 12, the sentencing of the students on March 17, and the conditions in jail. Read full 8-page version.

February 19, 1960

Howard High School Students Lead Sit-in Desegregation Protest in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Students during the Chattanooga sit-ins of February 1960. This was from the first day of protests when students filled the seats of Woolworth's lunch counter. Five female African American students sat at the counter in the foreground while three or four males sit in the background. A few of the girls smile. The name "Wilson" is written on the back referring to the photographer, likely Delmont Wilson of the Chattanooga News-Free Press. Caption in whole from the Chattanooga Public Library

In February 1960, black activists kicked off a wave of protests against segregation across the South, beginning with sit-ins at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. The sit-ins spread to Nashville and then to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they were organized not by experienced or professional activists, but by the teenage students of Howard High School.

Beginning on Feb. 19, Class President Paul Walker, Lehman Pierce and as many as 200 other black students organized peaceful sit-ins at four businesses along one block in downtown Chattanooga. Young but disciplined, the students had a strict set of rules for the protest — leave seats between each other at the lunch counter, refrain from profanity or loud talking and make small purchases.

The lunch counters refused to serve them, but they remained at their seats, eating snacks from home and reading textbooks and Bibles. As the sit-ins grew, they attracted students from other schools, as well as counter-demonstrations from crowds of jeering whites. The businesses targeted for sit-ins eventually locked their doors, and the protests spilled onto the sidewalks, swollen with pro-segregation demonstrators and curious onlookers.

Following the immense show of police force, the sit-ins paused. They resumed again in April, along with occasional scuffles, arrests and court cases.

On Aug. 5, following extensive negotiations between pastors and merchants, black diners at several lunch counters in downtown Chattanooga finally received service.

One of several sit-ins during February 1960 at the all-white lunch counters in downtown Chattanooga. The movement was started by 12 honor students from Howard High School and eventually led to the desegreation of the counters on Aug. 5, 1960. / File photo by Delmont Wilson/ News-Free Press. Original caption from February 19, 2020, Chattanooga Times Free Press. Click image for full story.
These images, recently unearthed by the Chattanooga History Center and Picnooga, capture the tense atmosphere as the peaceful protests boil over into chaos on the fourth day, with the police using fire hoses to disperse the crowds — a tactic that had never been used before, but would be repeated by other police forces throughout the country. From February 1960 Chattanooga sit-ins Courageous high schoolers take on angry mobs and fire hoses, by Alex Q. Arbuckle

February 18, 1965

Jimmy Lee Jackson, Civil Rights Activist, Killed by Alabama State Trooper During Protests, Helps Spark March from Selma to Montgomery

Jimmie Lee Jackson, undated photo, Encyclopedia of Alabama
Excerpted in whole from Jimmie Lee Jackson Murdered By Alabama State Trooper, The Equal Justice Initiative

On the evening of February 18, 1965, a group of civil rights activists gathered at the Zion United Methodist Church in Marion, Alabama, for a night march in support of James Orange, the recently arrested field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As the demonstration started, protestors were met by Alabama State Troopers, who ordered the crowd to disperse and then attacked the protestors.

Jimmie Lee Jackson, his mother, Viola Jackson, and his 82-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, were among those who fled the escalating violence. Surrounded by panicking demonstrators, the three sought shelter in Mack's Cafe. Police followed them into the cafe and physically assaulted them. When Jimmie Lee Jackson came to the aid of his mother and grandfather, he was shot twice in the abdomen by trooper James Fowler.

Despite his wounds, Mr. Jackson managed to escape from the cafe before collapsing. He died eight days later at a local hospital. In an impassioned eulogy, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. honored Mr. Jackson, saying: “I never will forget as I stood by his bedside a few days radiantly he still responded, how he mentioned the freedom movement and how he talked about the faith that he still had in his God. Like every self-respecting Negro, Jimmie Jackson wanted to be free...We must be concerned not merely about who murdered him but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderer.”

Though he readily admitted to the shooting in the event's aftermath, James Fowler did not face any criminal charges until 2007. Mr. Jackson's death has been cited as one of the catalysts for the March 7, 1965, march from Selma to Montgomery, which became known as "Bloody Sunday."

Mourners gather near the body of Jimmie Lee Jackson killed during rioting which broke out during a civil rights protest in Marion, Alabama. Getty Images
Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, 26, was shot twice by an Alabama state trooper for refusing to disperse from a nighttime march. He died eight days later, and the man who fired the fatal shots wasn't charged for another 42 years.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at a funeral for Jimmie Lee Jackson, 26, who was killed during a civil rights protest in Marion, Alabama. Getty Images

February 17, 1960

Martin Luther King Arrested Again in Alabama for Tax Evasion in Effort to Derail His Civil Rights Impact

Exerpted in whole from Dr. King is Seized in Tax Indictment, February 18, 1960, The New York Times, transcripted from image for this post.

By Claude Sitton
Special to the New York Times

ATLANTA, Feb. 17–The Rev. Martin Luther Jr was arrested here today at the request of Alabama authorities following his indictment in that state on perjury charges.

Dr. King, who led the successful bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., was released on $2,000 bond after his arraignment before a Fulton (Atlanta) County judge. He said he would fight the attempt to extradite him to Montgomery for trial.

He declared he had no idea why he had been indicted. He called it another attempt by Alabama officials to harass him because of his civil rights activities.

A Montgomery County official, reached by phone, said the perjury charge grew out of income-tax statements filed by the minister In Alabama in 1956 and 1958.

The official, County Solicitor William F. Thetford, said the indictment accused the Negro leader of not having reported $31,000 income for the two years.

A perjury indictment was returned because Alabama law, unlike federal law, does not class income-tax evasion as a felony, he explained. However, he said, swearing to a fraudulent return constitutes perjury, which is a felony. The penalty for perjury is one to five years’ imprisonment.

Dr. King moved here recently from Montgomery to devote his time to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he heads up. The organization is made up predominantly of Negro ministers who seek to end racial discrimination.

The Montgomery County grand jury, according to Dr. King, had announced. that it would investigate the activities of the Montgomery Improvement Association, a Negro group active in the bus boycott. He was one of its leaders.

The minister was arrested at his office in a Baptist church, of which his father is pastor. He was arraigned before Judge Jeptha C. Tanksley in Fulton Superior Court. An extradition hearing was set for March 18.

"It's either the sixth or seventh time that I've been arrested in the last four years," Dr. King recalled.

He said he understood a statement had been made to the jury that he planned to buy an $85,000 home here. The implication, he went on, was that he had embezzled money belonging to the association. Dr. King said he had no property except a 1954 automobile, and no plans for building or buying a house.

The Rev. Uriah J. Fields, who set up a rival Negro organization in Montgomery, appeared before the grand jury recently. He previously had accused Dr. King of mishandling funds donated to support the bus boycott. He has also said Dr. King deposited $100,000 in two Atlanta banks.

Martin Luther King, Jr., his father Martin Luther King, Sr. (to left of King), and his brother Alfred Daniel Williams King (second from left), leaving Fulton County Courthouse, Atlanta, Georgia, February 17, 1960. Handwritten caption on original states: "All laughed when King, Jr. told photographers 'If I had known you would be here, I would have worn my Sunday suit.'" Atlanta Journal Constitution Photographic Archives, AJCP444-009b. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.
Date: 1961 Feb. 17, 1961 Feb. 17In this series of WSB-TV newsfilm clips from Atlanta, Georgia on February 17, 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks to an unidentified reporter about fear, sacrifice, and taxes after being indicted and arrested for tax fraud in Alabama.
In the first clip, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tells the reporter that while he knew he was being investigated for tax fraud in Alabama, he did not expect for the grand jury to indict him or that he would be arrested that day. King confirms his willingness to go to jail, hoping his "willingness to suffer and accept this type of sacrifice" will arouse the "conscience of many citizens of our nation." The reporter mentions comments King made the day before in Durham, North Carolina at a mass meeting supporting student-led sit-ins in the state before asking King more about the indictment; there is a break in the audio during the reporter's question.
Citing the recent closing of the Highlander Folk School by Tennessee officials, King points out that many areas in the South use tax charges to "harass individuals working in the area of freedom and integration and brotherhood." When asked if he is ever afraid, King replies that while he has not totally overcome fear, he is strengthened "from the realization that in the struggle we have cosmic companionship and that the cause is right."
The reporter asks King about rumors that he moved into an $85,000 house when he moved from Montgomery, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia. King acknowledges the rumor but counters that he is renting his home and that the only property he owns is a 1954 Pontiac.
He also reports that his taxes have been investigated two or three times before; when he announced that he was moving from Montgomery to Atlanta, the state of Alabama initiated another tax audit. While the Alabama auditor who reviewed King's returns made it clear everything was in order, he also recognized the state's pressure to bring a charge against King.
The second clip records only a portion of the reporter's question about King's nonviolent inspiration. King recognizes the influence of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and asserts "the method of nonviolent resistance is one of the most potent, if not the most potent, weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom."
After King's February 17 arrest, he willingly returned to Alabama to face the perjury charges (according to King biographer David Garrow, "the first time Alabama had ever prosecuted someone for perjury on a tax return"). Testimony began May 25, and on May 28, an all-white jury returned a not guilty verdict, clearing King of the charges.

February 16, 1960

Martin Luther King Joins Protesters in North Carolina and Declares "We are willing and prepared to fill up the jails of the South"

King delivering his "A Creative Protest" speech at White Rock Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina., February 16, 1960. The Herald-Sun
Excerpted in whole from "A Creative Protest", The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. Access full speech as delivered that evening at White Rock Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina.

On 1 February four black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, took seats at the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter. Refused service on the basis of a custom that reserved seats for white patrons, the students continued to sit at the counter until closing time. Within a week, several hundred Greensboro-area students were participating in sitdown demonstrations, which had expanded to another downtown store. This tactic rapidly spread across North Carolina and into other southern states, and the Woolworth chain faced picketing at their northern states.

In the midst of the swelling movement, Durham minister and SCLC board member Douglas Moore telephoned King and invited him to speak with students involved in the protest.

On 16 February, King and Abernathy toured downtown Durham lunch counters that had closed the previous week as a result of the demonstrations. King’s address to a large rally that evening at White Rock Baptist Church was later printed as this pamphlet. Pledging SCLC's full support, he advises the students to remain nonviolent and accept jail willingly: “Let us not fear going to jail. If the officials threaten to arrest us for standing up for our rights, we must answer by saying that we are willing and prepared to fill up the jails of the South.” Commenting on this new dimension of the southern struggle, King observes: “What is fresh, what is new in your fight is the fact that it was initiated, fed and sustained by students. What is new is that American students have come of age."

Below is full transcription completed for this post, from Negro Told Not To Fear Jail Terms, February 17, 1960, Greensboro Daily News, from University of North Carolina Digital Collections.

Negro Told Not To Fear Jail

DURHAM, Feb. 16 (AP)–"Let us not fear going to jail if the officials threaten to arrest us for standing up for our rights" Negro leader Dr. Martin Luther King of. Atlanta, Ga., told 100 students from colleges in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginla here tonight.

Earlier, during a tour of the Durham F. W. Woolworth store, where Negro students protested segregated eating facilities with a sitdown strike, a scuffle broke out between store employees, police and news photographers.

The incident followed on the heels of a news conference at which Dr. King said he could not say whether the demonstrations over the South would continue. King led the successful boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.

Kelly Alexander of Charlotte, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, witnessed the scuffle in the store. He told a newsman he was only a bystander and just happened' to be in the store.

Speaks At Church

Speaking at the White Rock Baptist Church, Dr. King said Negroes must be willing "to fill up the jails of the South" to gain their rights, "Maybe it will take this willingness to stay in jail to arouse the dozing conscience our nation," he added.

The protest or segregated eating establishments, Dr, King added highlights that "segregation is America’s shame." He asked that both white and Negroes in North Carolina “back up the marvelous protest of these students."

“You have given an additional death blow to the once prevalent idea that the Negro prefers segregation," Dr. King told the students. "You have also made It clear that we will not be satisfied with token integration which… is nothing but a new form of discrimination."

Given Instructions

The Negro students were in Durham for questions and techniques of nonviolence in sitdown demonstrations. Before hearing Dr. King's address, the group met but a spokesman would say only that a "coordinating council has been set up" for the demonstrations.

Martin Luther King, Jr., center, visits the Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Durham, February 16, 1960. With King are civil rights activist Rev. Ralph Abernathy at left; Rev. Douglas Moore, who led Durham's first sit-in, in 1957 at the Royal Ice Cream Company, right of King; and an unidentified man at far right. By Jim Thornton, Durham Herald Sun. From Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Visits to Durham, 1956–1964, the Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project
Click image to access full pdf, from Negro Told Not To Fear Jail Terms, February 17, 1960, Greensboro Daily News, from University of North Carolina Digital Collections.

The spokesman said these colleges were represented:
North Carolina A&T and Bennett, Greensboro; Winston-Salem Teachers; Johnson C. Smith, Charlotte; Shaw and St. Augustine, Raleigh; North Carolina College, Durham; Friendship Junior College, Rock Hill, S.C.; Norfolk Extension of Virginia State; Elizabeth City Teachers: Hampton,Va., Instiitute and Durham Negro Business College.

At the news conference before his address, Dr. King said, "The continued existence of segregation in any form in North Carolina and the United States can have a much more devastating effect than the sitdowns."

Woolworth employees and police scuffled with press photographers this afternoon and seized cameras in the wake of a tour of closed lunch counters here by Dr. King.

The incident occurred shortly after a news conference where King said he couldn't say whether the outbreak of sitdown demonstrations against segregation lunch counter facilities in North Carolina would continue.

King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, the Negro who succeeded him as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, were posing for pictures when an assistant manager burst into the group and demanded that they leave.

Noticing the photographers and television cameramen, an unidentified store employee made a rush for one and the lensmen took to their heels. Both King and Abernathy Immediately left:1 the scene.

A WTVD television camera-I man, Ed Gray, was on his way out the door when a policeman attempted to confiscate his camera and asked him to step inside. A Negro photographer on an assignment from the Carolina Times had his camera taken.

Retrieves Camera

Store officials and police spoke to both photographers and the WTVD cameraman retrieved his camera. The Negro photographer, C. C. Burthey, was detained by police and store officials until a Negro lawyer advised Burthey his film could not be confiscated unless a warrant were issued.

Burthey was advised to take his camera and film and leave the store.

A crowd gathered in the store! as officials and policemen talked to photographers. The Woolworth officials contended the store was private property and no photographs could be taken without prior permission.

Durham Mornlrig Herald photographer Jim Thornton was chased for nearly a block by a store official. Thornton outran his pursuer and made it safely to the Herald office on Market Street.

February 15, 1963

Morgan State Students Protest Against Segregated Northwood Theater in Baltimore, Maryland Leading to Quick Escalation and Mass Arrests Days Later

Excerpted in whole from Baltimore students demonstrate to integrate Northwood Theater, 1963, Global Nonviolent Action Database, Swarthmore College

On Friday, February 15, 1963, the student-led Civic Interest Group (CIG) began a demonstration against Northwood Theater in Baltimore, Maryland. The ultimately successful demonstration took place in the context of a longer history of protests against the cinema’s white-only policy. Students, mostly from Morgan State College, had picketed the Theater many times over the course of the previous eight years. Student demonstrations organized by student council occurred annually. Just three years prior, in a tactical move to disassociate from the school and emphasize their role as citizens seeking equal rights, African American students formed the Civic Interest Group. Demonstrations by CIG had succeeded in integrating almost all facilities immediate to Morgan State’s campus except a tavern and Northwood shopping center’s theater (located just a couple blocks from the college).

In part inspired by the successes of desegregation campaigns in the Deep South, the group resolved to sharply escalate their tactics. On February 4, 1963, CIG leaders met with members of student government. Together, they agreed to adopt mass arrest as a strategy to accompany mass picketing. The challenge remained: how to recruit enough of the student body to comprise a mass movement? Using ‘pep rally’ tactics, they enlisted popular elements / leading campus personalities of the student body for the action—including Miss Morgan State and the president of the student council. On Friday, February 15, while fifty picketers drew the public’s attention outside Northwood Theater, Miss Morgan and twenty-five students walked into the lobby to buy tickets. Denied admission and refusing to leave, they were arrested. The following morning, Court Judge Joseph P. Finnerty released them.

As protests and arrests continued, the campaign grew larger. By Monday, February 19, 67 more students had given themselves up for arrest. On Monday afternoon, a second mass meeting at Morgan drew an audience of 500 from a student body of 2600. Then, the CIG Adult Assistance Committee, responsible for raising bail money, formally endorsed the policy of mass arrest. By Monday evening, 151 more people were arrested.

Alarmed, prosecuting police officers and municipal judges met to plan a response strategy. A statement issued by ranking police officers threatened to place charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct against the arrested students, with no need for warrant. Morgan administration threatened on-campus disciplinary action against student demonstrators. On the following day, Baltimore’s chief prosecuting officer told a CIG defense attorney about a possible charge of conspiracy placed against a Morgan State College professor associated with the demonstrators.

On Tuesday, February 20, the fifth day of the demonstration, the arrested demonstrators found their bail set at the unpayable amount of $600 each. Total bail amounted to a staggering $90,200. Though the high bail was intended to discourage others from seeking arrest, it served to prompt yet another string of arrests. By Tuesday night, the CIG-led movement had drawn in white and African American students from other schools: Coppin State, Goucher College, and Johns Hopkins University. A cross-section of the student body normally uninterested in direct action came out to participate: ‘honors students, football players, and large numbers of fraternity and sorority people.’ The 120 new arrests brought the total to 350, resulting in a disruption of ‘the normal operations of the city’s police, court and penal facilities.’ Since city jails were filling up, police were unable to arrest as many demonstrators as they might have otherwise. As the demonstration threatened to flood the municipal court beyond capacity, city and judicial officials grew increasingly apprehensive.

With Judge Finnerty in the hot seat, and Mayor Goodman up for re-election, the demonstrators were putting more than just the management of Northwood Theatre under pressure. Theater, CIG, city, and state representatives met on Wednesday, February 21. Mayor Goodman agreed to mediate. Theater representatives asked that CIG call off the demonstrations immediately, and offered to revisit the topic of integration five weeks later. CIG rejected. On Wednesday evening, while 500 students and some professors picketed in front of Northwood Theater, 74 more students were arrested. The demonstration grew contagious as shopping onlookers connected with the protesters, occasionally dropping their purchases to join the picketers.

Meanwhile, others were paying attention as well. Over the course of the six days, the total numbers picketers involved added up to 1500, and over 400 individuals had been arrested. The sheer size of the demonstration put heavy pressure on adult elements to come to students’ support. While Martin D. Jenkins, president of the college became uncharacteristically outspoken against the demonstrations, select Morgan State College administrators and other adult leadership in Baltimore began to support the student effort. In another show of support, an African American state senator took decided steps to reverse the high bail.

The jail-packing plan, which effectively placed pressure on the city’s administration, had come about mostly by accident. Unable to immediately raise the $90,200 bail, CIG changed their tactic to one of leaving arrested demonstrators in jail. Unfortunately, a lack of communication between jailed demonstrators and the outside threatened the strength of the campaign. Unprepared for conditions in jail, packed many to a cell, and ignorant to the astonishing growth of the demonstration, arrestees suffered dangerously low morale. Many arrived unprepared for the experience, and began to feel alone and used (CIG leaders gave themselves up for arrest in the first and second days of the demonstration, and had since been released). CIG leaders failed to convey to them the proven value of jail packing until Wednesday, at which point 74 women had already signed a bailout list for Thursday.

Morgan State students in jail after protests at Baltimore's segregated Northwood theater, 1963.
Excerpt from Carry the Torch: Continuing Morgan's Legacy of Civil Rights and Equal Justice, which highlights 3-decades of Morgan State civil rights protests beginning in the 1940's.
SNCC press release, February 19, 1963, from the Freedom Summer Digital Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society. Image enhanced for this post.

During the meeting with Mayor Goodman on Wednesday, Morgan State College’s president alluded to the potential participation of an even larger number of the student body, and declared as the only solution a complete withdrawal of charges and the theater’s integration. CIG leaders, made aware of the situation inside jail, prepared for re-arrest that night in order to boost morale and organize from within. However, CIG’s rejection of the theater management’s offer demonstrated their unwillingness to compromise, which further pushed the theater to capitulate.

Simultaneously, pressure on Mayor Goodman came from several avenues. For one, the media was busy spreading highly unfavorable news coverage of Baltimore in the weeks leading up to re-election. Pressure also came from prison officials worrying about a powder keg situation. Other prison inmates grew increasingly resentful of the coddling of students, and had begun to agitate for rights of their own. Unrest grew in the City Jail. On Tuesday inmates threatened a sit-down strike and announced a time for the strike on Thursday. Meanwhile, Northwood Theatre had come under fire from surrounding integrated businesses that had lost customers during the demonstration.

At 1:30pm on Thursday, February 22, Mayor Goodman announced that Northwood Theater would open its doors to African Americans the following day if the demonstrators called off their action. Meanwhile, the President of the jail’s Board of Directors helped CIG eliminate bail. By 4:30pm, the Baltimore Supreme Bench had agreed to drop bail, and demonstrators were released from jail an hour and a half later. Theater management appeared on television to announce integration. Two weeks later, a grand jury dismissed all charges.

February 14, 1965

Malcolm X's Home in Queens, New York Bombed One Week Prior to His Assassination

New York Times, February 15, 1965, reformatted for this post.
Excerpted from 7 Things You May Not Know About Malcolm X,

Though he once revered Muhammad, Malcolm began having second thoughts after discovering that his mentor had fathered several illegitimate children in direct violation of the Nation of Islam’s teachings. Their relationship then further soured in late 1963, when Muhammad suspended him for asserting that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a case of the “chickens coming home to roost.” At loose ends, Malcolm announced his split from the Nation of Islam early the next year, converted to traditional Islam and took on the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

In speeches, he now criticized Muhammad for his infidelities and for “religious fakery,” prompting the Nation of Islam to take retaliatory measures. On February 14, 1965, someone threw Molotov cocktails at his New York City home, forcing him, his pregnant wife and his four daughters to take refuge in the backyard. Exactly a week later, Nation of Islam members shot him dead at the Audubon Ballroom.

Malcolm X, just after his home was bombed, one week before his assassination, February 14, 1965, from See Black See Power

February 13, 1960

500 Students Protest in Tennessee as the Nashville Student Sit-in Movement Begins

Sit-in, Nashville lunch counter, 1960. U.S. Library of Congress (00651469)
Excerpted in whole from Nashville Students Launch Protest; Face Violence and Jail Time, The Equal Justice Initiative

In February 1960, hundreds of volunteers—primarily Black college students—huddled into the basement of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, for what became the first mass meeting of the sit-in movement. The students planned a series of sit-ins designed to challenge racial segregation at lunch counters.

On February 13, 1960, 500 students from Nashville’s four Black colleges—Fisk University, Tennessee State, Meharry Medical, and the Baptist Seminary—filed into the downtown stores to request service at segregated establishments. White merchants refused to serve the Black students and petitioned the police to arrest them for “trespassing” and “disorderly conduct.” On February 26, the chief of police warned student demonstrators that their “grace period” was over and threatened legal retaliation. The demonstrators were not dissuaded.

The next morning, scores of students marched downtown silently to stage sit-ins at their designated stores. As they passed, white teenagers gathered to scream racial epithets and hurl rocks and lit cigarettes at them. Instead of intervening to prevent the assaults and harassment, police arrested 77 African American student demonstrators and five white students who had joined their protest.

The 82 arrested activists were tried and convicted in a consolidated one-day trial on February 29. Afterward, they were given a “choice” between jail time and a monetary fine. A 22-year-old Fisk University student named Diane Nash informed the judge that 14 of the convicted demonstrators had chosen jail. Standing in open court, she explained that paying the fine “would be contributing to and supporting the injustice and immoral practices that have been performed in the arrest and conviction of the defendants.” Ms. Nash’s speech persuaded more than 60 of the convicted demonstrators to change their minds and also serve jail time rather than pay the fine.

The sight of dozens of Black college students being carted off to jail convinced the mayor of Nashville to release the students and appoint a biracial committee to make recommendations for desegregating downtown stores. The success of the Nashville sit-ins quickly made them a model for other segregated Southern communities to emulate. By the end of February, sit-in campaigns were underway in 31 Southern cities across eight states.

As a result of her persistence and bravery, Diane Nash emerged as a civil rights leader. She joined the Freedom Rides in 1961 and helped achieve the desegregation of interstate buses and facilities.

February 12, 1968

Memphis Sanitation Strike Begins, Sparked by Death of Workers, Supported by Martin Luther King

On Feb. 12, 1968, the first day of the Memphis sanitation workers strike, the city's garbage trucks remained silent and unmanned. Barney Sellers/The Commercial Appeal files
Excerpted in whole from Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike Event February 12, 1968 to April 16, 1968, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

The night before his assassination in April 1968, Martin Luther King told a group of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee: “We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through” (King, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” 217). King believed the struggle in Memphis exposed the need for economic equality and social justice that he hoped his Poor People’s Campaign would highlight nationally.

On 1 February 1968, two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck. Eleven days later, frustrated by the city’s response to the latest event in a long pattern of neglect and abuse of its black employees, 1,300 black men from the Memphis Department of Public Works went on strike. Sanitation workers, led by garbage-collector-turned-union-organizer T. O. Jones, and supported by the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Jerry Wurf, demanded recognition of their union, better safety standards, and a decent wage.

The union, which had been granted a charter by AFSCME in 1964, had attempted a strike in 1966, but failed in large part because workers were unable to arouse the support of Memphis’ religious community or middle class. Conditions for black sanitation workers worsened when Henry Loeb became mayor in January 1968. Loeb refused to take dilapidated trucks out of service or pay overtime when men were forced to work late-night shifts. Sanitation workers earned wages so low that many were on welfare and hundreds relied on food stamps to feed their families.

On 11 February, more than 700 men attended a union meeting and unanimously decided to strike. Within a week, the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution supporting the strike. The strike might have ended on 22 February, when the City Council, pressured by a sit-in of sanitation workers and their supporters, voted to recognize the union and recommended a wage increase. Mayor Loeb rejected the City Council vote, however, insisting that only he had the authority to recognize the union and refused to do so.

The following day, after police used mace and tear gas against nonviolent demonstrators marching to City Hall, Memphis’ black community was galvanized. Meeting in a church basement on 24 February, 150 local ministers formed Community on the Move for Equality (COME), under the leadership of King’s longtime ally, local minister James Lawson. COME committed to the use of nonviolent civil disobedience to fill Memphis’ jails and bring attention to the plight of the sanitation workers. By the beginning of March, local high school and college students, nearly a quarter of them white, were participating alongside garbage workers in daily marches; and over 100 people, including several ministers, had been arrested.

While Lawson kept King updated by phone, other national civil rights leaders, including Roy Wilkins and Bayard Rustin, came to rally the sanitation workers. King himself arrived on 18 March to address a crowd of about 25,000—the largest indoor gathering the civil rights movement had ever seen. Speaking to a group of labor and civil rights activists and members of the powerful black church, King praised the group’s unity saying, “You are demonstrating that we can stick together. You are demonstrating that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, and that if one black person suffers, if one black person is down, we are all down” (King, 18 March 1968). King encouraged the group to support the sanitation strike by going on a citywide work stoppage, and he pledged to return that Friday, 22 March, to lead a protest through the city.

"I Am A Man" was the theme for the sanitation workers' march on March 28, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. Agitators would use the signs's wood as weapons. Withers Family Trust

Keep Your Trash, 1971 Documentary on Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program

King left Memphis the following day, but Southern Christian Leaderships Conference’s (SCLC) James Bevel and Ralph Abernathy remained to help organize the protest and work stoppage. When the day arrived, however, a massive snowstorm blanketed the region, preventing King from reaching Memphis and causing the organizers to reschedule the march for 28 March. Memphis city officials estimated that 22,000 students skipped school that day to participate in the demonstration. King arrived late and found a massive crowd on the brink of chaos. Lawson and King led the march together but quickly called off the demonstration as violence began to erupt. King was whisked away to a nearby hotel, and Lawson told the mass of people to turn around and go back to the church. In the chaos that followed, downtown shops were looted, and a 16-year-old was shot and killed by a police officer. Police followed demonstrators back to the Clayborn Temple, entered the church, released tear gas inside the sanctuary, and clubbed people as they lay on the floor to get fresh air.

Loeb called for martial law and brought in 4,000 National Guard troops. The following day, over 200 striking workers continued their daily march, carrying signs that read, “I Am a Man” (Honey, 389). At a news conference held before he returned to Atlanta, King said that he had been unaware of the divisions within the community, particularly of the presence of a black youth group committed to “Black Power” called the Invaders, who were accused of starting the violence.

King considered not returning to Memphis, but decided that if the nonviolent struggle for economic justice was going to succeed it would be necessary to follow through with the movement there. After a divisive meeting on 30 March, SCLC staff agreed to support King’s return to Memphis. He arrived on 3 April and was persuaded to speak by a crowd of dedicated sanitation workers who had braved another storm to hear him. A weary King preached about his own mortality, telling the group, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life—longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land” (King, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” 222–223).

The following evening, as King was getting ready for dinner, he was shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. While Lawson recorded a radio announcement urging calm in Memphis, Loeb called in the state police and the National Guard and ordered a 7 P.M. curfew. Black and white ministers pleaded with Loeb to concede to the union’s demands, but the mayor held firm. President Lyndon B. Johnson charged Undersecretary of Labor James Reynolds with negotiating a solution and ending the strike.

On 8 April, an estimated 42,000 people led by Coretta Scott King, SCLC, and union leaders silently marched through Memphis in honor of King, demanding that Loeb give in to the union’s requests. In front of City Hall, AFSCME pledged to support the workers until “we have justice” (Honey, 480). Negotiators finally reached a deal on 16 April, allowing the City Council to recognize the union and guaranteeing a better wage. Although the deal brought the strike to an end, several months later the union had to threaten another strike to press the city to follow through with its commitment.

February 11, 1960

William Penn High School Students Conduct Sit-in in High Point, North Carolina

The High Point Enterprise, February 12, 1960, as found in the William Penn Project.
Excerpted in whole from High Point high school students sit-in for U.S. civil rights, 1960, Global Nonviolent Action Database, Swarthmore College

High Point, North Carolina was a city viewed as progressive on racial relations, but the black community felt alienated as nearly all of High Point’s public institutions were segregated.

On 1 February 1960, a group of four college students began a sit-in at a Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. News spread quickly to High Point, about 16 miles away.

In a few days, Mary Lou Andrews, a 15-year-old student at the all-black William Penn High School, began meeting with friends to stage a sit-in at High Point as well. She approached local Reverend Benjamin Elton Cox and a retired teacher, Miriam Fountain. After some hesitation due to their age, Cox agreed to train the students in nonviolent resistance at his church.

The group remained small, as it was difficult to find other students completely committed to using nonviolence. Soon, the group grew to 26 students, 24 from William Penn High as well as the only two black students at High Point High School, Miriam and Brenda Fountain.

On 11 February 1960, the students, led by Cox and joined with Cox’s friends Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Douglas Moore, walked to a Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown High Point. The store was set up so that blacks and whites could order food, but only whites could eat there. After a signal, the students sat at the empty seats and stood behind seats occupied by white patrons, who quickly left.

The wait staff began making preparations for closing to discourage the students. Meanwhile, a growing crowd of whites arrived shouting verbal abuse. When the store officially closed an hour later, the students marched to the other two lunch counters in town to continue the sit-in.

Shuttlesworth was visiting High Point only to give a sermon. He was so impressed by the resolve of the students, however, that he immediately contacted the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Atlanta chapter to report on the sit-in and endorse the sit-in strategy as an effective option.

The next day, the students went back to Woolworth’s after school to continue the sit-in. However, a group of white patrons occupied all the seats in what appeared to be a sit-in as well. The students stood behind the white patrons.

At that point another group of whites stood behind the student group. The sitting patrons then stood up and shoved the students back as the other group pushed forward.

The students did not push back. After nearly an hour of shoving, the manager called the police and closed the store.

During the weekend, the students were able to start the sit-in at the moment Woolworth’s opened, and the sit-ins continued with less interference.

About four days into the sit-ins, another group of blacks from the community joined the students in an effort to defend them in case of violence. However, the students were worried that the new group would resort to violence in retaliation. Therefore, the new group did not actually sit-in with the students, but kept watch nearby the store.

The students sit-inners entered the store and continued the sit-in as planned, but upon exiting, a group of whites threw snowballs packed with broken glass and coal at the students. Cans of paint were also tossed on the students.

The group of black allies threw snowballs and other objects back at the attackers and a struggle took place as the students got away with minor injury. The police later broke up the fight.

For the next couple of days, the students did not march or engage in sit-ins. The first Woolworth’s had closed down, and riots between blacks and whites in the community occurred downtown.

Sit-in at Woolworth's in High Point, North Carolina, February 11, 1960. Photo courtesty of High Point Museum, High Point, N.C., High Point Enterprise Collection
Feb. 1, 2019, Mary Lou Blakeney, at the unveiling of monument commemorating the Feb. 11, 1960, sit-in organized by William-Penn High School students. From High Point’s Woolworth sit-in was lesser known, but helped move a country, too, Nancy McLaughlin, February 11, 2021, News & Record
Listen and read transcript of interview with Mary Lou Blakeney (formerly Mary Lou Andrews) who was a 15-year-old organizer of the High Point sit-ins, by Cyril Jefferson, October 25, 2014, The William Penn Oral History Collection.
The February 11 Monument, a bronze bas relief, commemorates the February 11, 1960 Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in by the high school students of High Point, NC.

Eventually, eighty policeman came out to control the crowds and several people were arrested. The next day, an editorial appeared in the local newspaper, the High Point Enterprise, denouncing the violence.

On 18 February 1960, a day after the editorial was published, Mayor Jesse Washburn created the Human Relations Committee to examine the issues behind the sit-ins. This interracial committee was considered the first of its kind.

The students agreed to stop the sit-ins on the condition that the lunch counters remain closed until the committee reached a decision. Once the stores were closed, the students set their focus on integrating a local movie theatre, The Paramount. The campaign targeting the theatre would take three years, with Andrew McBride and Brenda Fountain as the main organizers.

On 30 March 1960, the Human Relations Committee recommended a 60-day trial period of integration for all store lunch counters. However, the Committee had no enforcing power and the stores refused to integrate.

Meanwhile, many stores, once reopened, had removed bar stools from the lunch counter, which was viewed by the students as an encouraging step. However, store owners still refused service to black patrons, which led to a new round of sit-ins less than a week later, this time with a different and less publicized group of students.

The situation remained uneasy, with continuing negotiations between the students and the Human Relations Committee. By 1963 all lunch counters were integrated.

The black community continued to call for total desegregation of public institutions in High Point, culminating in mass demonstrations and arrests during August 1963 and eventual victory.

February 10, 1956

White Citizens' Council Rally Draws Thousands of Whites Against Integration in Montgomery, Alabama

Alabama Governor George Wallace. Undated photo.
Excerpted in whole from February 10, 1956, White Citizens Council Rallies Against Bus Boycott, from This Day in Civil Rights History, Williams and Beard, page 54.

On this day in civil rights history, 12,000 people attended a White Citizens' Council rally in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest a boycott by blacks against segregated city buses.

Created two years earlier aa a response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that desegregated public chools, the White Citizens' Council first formed in Indianola, Mississippi, and then spread across the South. Drawing its support from white local politicians, businessmen, bankers , law enforcement and other middle-class constituents, the WCC sought to defeat integration through public policy and opinion. Instead of advocating terrorism or violence, the W/CC promoted economic and civic manipulation. "We intend to make it impossible for any Negro who advocates deegregation to find and hold a job, get credit, or renew a mortgage," described a founder of the Alabama chapter.

The WCC enacted boycotts again t black businesse while also refusing supplies, credit, or other services . Early on, the WCC's various activities achjeved much success.

At the time, the WCC wa called the "Klan with a smiling face"; its members were often describcd as "Klansmen without hoods" 'The WCC perceived itself as a public service organization, an all-white racial interest group. Of course, many WCC member were covert members of the KKK as wel. The Klan terrorized the night; the White Citizens Council antagonized during the day. While the Klan activities perpetuated fear and intimidation, the WCC made inroads by making life difficult for civil rights supporters.

The WCC worked to create all-white "council' schools to combat desegregation. Some of these schools later transformed into private academies, technically integrated, but still closed off to poor students of color.

Like the KKK the White Citizen Councils saw their influence fade as integration policies took hold and the mindsets of average vhite Southerner slowly changed.

From New York Times, February 11, 1956

February 9, 1960

Home of Carlotta Walls, Youngest Student of the Little Rock Nine, Bombed 4 Weeks Before Graduation

Carotta Walls LaNier, standing next to her statue at the Little Rock Nine Monument on the grounds of Arkansas State Capital in Little Rock, as published in The youngest of the Little Rock Nine tells her story, John Sykes Jr., Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Excerpted in whole from Home of Carlotta Walls, of the Little Rock Nine, Bombed, Equal Justice Initiative

On February 9, 1960, just four weeks before her graduation, a bomb exploded at the home of Carlotta Walls, the youngest member of the original “Little Rock Nine," who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

Carlotta, her mother, and her sister were at home but no one was injured by the blast. Police arrested and beat Carlotta Walls' father in unsuccessful efforts to coerce a confession. Police then arrested two young Black men, Herbert Monts, a family friend, and Maceo Binns, Jr. Carlotta Walls never believed either man was responsible, but both were convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

In 2010, Ms. Walls described the bombing and its aftermath as the worst part of the integration experience, and firmly asserted that "the segregationists were behind all of it–the bombing and the arrests of Herbert and Maceo."

In September 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock's Central High School by barring nine newly admitted Black students from entering the school building. In order to compel the school's integration, President Dwight Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and ordered troops to escort the students into the school, but the students were still confronted by angry white crowds of students and adults. That group of Black students came to be known as the Little Rock Nine, and fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls was the youngest among them.

In response to the admission of the Little Rock Nine, hundreds of white people attacked Black residents and reporters, causing nationally publicized “chaos, bedlam, and turmoil” that led a federal court to halt desegregation. The Supreme Court overturned that decision and ordered immediate integration, but in a move voters later approved in a referendum, Governor Faubus closed all public high schools in Little Rock for the 1958-1959 school year.

Carlotta Walls later described the integration experience as "painful" and recalled that Central High's white students fell into three groups: those who tormented her and the other Black students; those who sympathized with them; and those who silently ignored the way they were treated.

Carlotta Walls (on the left) is blocked from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, September 4, 1957. Photo by Will Counts, courtesy of Arkansas History Commission. From The Youngest of the Little Rock Nine Talks About Her First Day of School, by Leah Binkovitz, 2-8-2013, Smithsonian Magazine,
Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, Carlotta Walls of the Little Rock Nine was one month shy of graduating from the high school she helped integrate when her family home was bombed. Everyone survived, but there is still uncertainty who perpetrated the crime.

Despite the open hostility that she encountered, young Carlotta Walls remained at Central throughout her high school years.

The massive resistance by the white community, like the violence Ms. Walls faced, was largely successful in preventing integration of schools in the South. In the five Deep South states, every single one of 1.4 million Black school children attended segregated schools until the fall of 1960. By the start of the 1964-65 school year, less than 3 percent of the South’s African American children attended school with white students, and in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina that number remained substantially below 1 percent. In 1967, 13 years after Brown v. Board of Education, a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that white violence and intimidation against Black people “continues to be a deterrent to school desegregation.”

February 8, 1968

3 Black Students Killed by South Carolina State Troopers in the Orangeburg Massacre

The 3 school students, Delano Middleton, Samuel Hammond, Jr, and Henry Smith, killed by police on February 8, 1968.
Excerpted in whole from Orangeburg Massacre (1968), Nick Manos, December 31, 2008, BlackPast

The Orangeburg Massacre took place in Orangeburg, South Carolina at South Carolina State University on February 8th, 1968. This horrific incident which ended with three young men, Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, and Delano Middleton, killed and 27 other students wounded, was the worst example of violence on a college campus in South Carolina’s history.

The incident began when approximately 200 students gathered on February 6 to protest the segregation of black patrons at the nearby All Star Bowling lane. The first demonstration proceeded without incident. The following night many of the students returned to resume the protest but in this instance fifteen of them were arrested. The third night, February 8th, tensions were already running high on both sides from the previous night’s arrests.

The students gathered on the South Carolina State University campus instead of at the bowling alley this time. They built a bonfire which a law enforcement officer attempted to put out. In the process he was injured by a piece of a banister thrown from the crowd. A highway patrolman then fired his gun into the air in an attempt to calm the crowd. Upon hearing the shot, other officers, thinking they were being fired upon, opened fire into the crowd of students.

Hammond and Smith who were South Carolina State University students and Middleton, a 17-year-old high school student, were killed and 27 other students were wounded. The high death and injury totals came in part because officers used shotguns with buckshot when they fired into the crowd. Many of the victims were shot in their backs or through the soles of their feet as they ran. None of the students were armed.

Nine officers were held responsible for the shootings and were brought to trial on charges of excessive force at a campus protest. All nine were acquitted of all charges. The only person who was charged and sent to prison as a result of this incident was Cleveland Sellers, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) representative who was convicted of inciting the riot that had led to the shootings. Sellers was later pardoned for his role in the incident.

The day after the shootings Governor Robert E. McNair spoke of this as “one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina”.

Cleveland Sellers, standing at the very spot where he stood when he was shot 50 years ago recalls the night of February 8, 1968 at South Carolina State University. Post and Courier
Columbia, South Carolina: Some 700 Negro students waving placards marched on the South Carolina state house in protest of three Negro youths killed at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg 2/8. Highway patrolman wearing riot gear are shown sealing off the front entrance of the state house. There were no incidents. (Original Caption from Getty Images)
All-Star Bowling Alley, Orangeburg, South Carolina, site of the original anti-segregation protests.

February 7, 1956

Autherine Lucy, First to Integrate University of Alabama, Removed from Classes and Later Expelled After White Students Riot

Autherine Lucy becomes the first African American student to enroll in the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in 136 years. Getty Images
Excerpted in whole from Autherine Lucy, James P. Kaetz, Auburn University Encyclopedia of Alabama

Autherine Lucy Foster was the first African American to be enrolled at the University of Alabama (UA), in 1952. When school administrators found out her race, she was denied admittance but reenrolled in 1956 after a three-year court battle. Mob violence on campus led to her expulsion after two days by university officials, however, under the guise of protecting her safety. Lucy briefly travelled as a public speaker at civil rights meetings and rallies.

Lucy attended Selma University and received a two-year teaching certificate. Unable to get a job because the state recently had begun requiring a four-year degree for a full-time teaching position, she entered Miles College in Birmingham in 1949 and graduated with a bachelor's degree in English in 1952.

That same year, Lucy was contacted by friend Pollie Anne Myers, whom she had met in a public speaking class at Miles, about enrolling in graduate school at UA with her. Lucy somewhat reluctantly went along with the idea, enrolling in the master of education program. Myers and Lucy requested and received admission forms in early September and applied and were accepted by September 13, receiving dorm assignments after sending in five-dollar deposits; admissions officials at the university had no idea that they were African American. Lucy and Myers retained a lawyer working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Arthur Shores, in anticipation of the inevitable rejection of their enrollment, which occurred on September 19 when the Admissions Office discovered that they were black. When the women showed up at the Admissions Office, they were told by Dean of Admissions William F. Adams that they could not be enrolled, although he would not state that it was because of their race. He tried to refund their deposits.

The incident initiated what would become a three-year journey through the court system. In the interim, Lucy took a position teaching English at Conway Vocational High School in Carthage, Mississippi. In 1955, the Brown vs. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation came down from the U.S. Supreme Court, and it became clear to Shores and the NAACP that the Myers/Lucy case would be the first test. Recognizing this, UA administrators hired private investigators to probe into Myers's and Lucy's backgrounds; they found that Myers had been pregnant but not married before she applied for admission. The case went before federal Judge Harlan Grooms on June 29, 1955. After only a single day of testimony, Grooms ruled for Myers and Lucy and later extended the ruling to all such cases.

As the women moved toward enrollment in January 1956, the university used the fact of Meyers's pregnancy outside of marriage to deny her admission. The university board of trustees supported this denial in its meeting on January 29, but confirmed Lucy's admission with only one dissenting vote. Both women received notice of their respective acceptance and rejection on January 30, one day before official enrollment, and Lucy suddenly found herself facing the prospect of continuing on her journey without the person who persuaded her to undertake it in the first place.

On February 1, 1956, Lucy was walked through the enrollment process by university officials and paid her fees, officially enrolling at the university. The only false note on her first day came when she was told that the trustees had denied her a room in a dormitory, which her advisor Emory Jackson vowed to fight. Grooms suggested that if Lucy could find room and board off campus, that would be satisfactory, over Arthur Shores's protests. With moderate police presence, Lucy successfully attended her first day of classes on February 3.

Overview of Autherine Lucy case. Voices of the Civil Rights Movement
University of Alabama students burn desegregation literature to demonstrate against enrollment of the school's first African American student, Autherine Lucy, in Tuscaloosa on February 6, 1956. Library of Congress
Autherine Lucy (C, no hat) leaves a crowded Federal Court hearing for lunch recess, carrying a Bible. Accompanying her are Thurgood Marshall (striped tie), attorney Arthur Shores (at Miss Lucy's left shoulder), Mrs. Constance Motley (far right), and Mrs. Ruby Hurley, NAACP executive secretary. Miss Lucy's reinstatement was ordered by the court, but she was later expelled from the University on other charges. 2/29/1956-Birmingham, AL. Photo and original caption Getty Images
A telegram dated February 7, 1956, from NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins to Attorney General Herbert Brownell regarding the expulsion of Autherine Lucy from the University of Alabama. Wilkins implores Attorney General Brownell to take legal action against any person who attempts to prevent Lucy from attending classes. Wilkins notes that demonstrators had previously thrown objects at Lucy and that she had been suspended by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees to prevent disruptions on campus. Item and text from Civil Rights Digital Library

That night and the following evening (Friday and Saturday), however, increasingly agitated groups of white university students began marching and speaking on campus. Although Lucy's second day of classes on February 4 also passed without notable incident, on Monday, February 6, she passed through a hostile crowd of around 300 white protestors on the way to her first class. By the time that class ended, she was urged by university officials to travel by car to her next class because of the mob gathering outside. Eyewitness reports at the time said that while most of the crowd was made up of students, at least some of the more strident elements looked either much older or much younger.

Lucy and her escorts found themselves surrounded by angry white students, who pelted them with rotten eggs as they made their way to the car. Lucy arrived at her second class safely, but once she was inside, her driver was forced to take the car and flee from the crowd that had swelled to more than 2,000. At the end of her second class, Lucy had to wait for more than two hours for a way to safely leave the campus. When the crowd moved to Denny Chimes, Lucy was taken to a waiting patrol car, which sped away from campus with her lying hidden in the back seat. That same night, the University of Alabama's Board of Trustees voted to exclude Lucy from the university, ostensibly for her own safety.

Attorneys for Lucy and the NAACP, including Shores and Thurgood Marshall, filed a complaint accusing the university of conspiring with the mob to prevent Lucy from attending classes. Outraged, on February 28, the university trustees voted to permanently expel Lucy for her part in the conspiracy charges; the complaint was subsequently withdrawn, but the expulsion stood. Judge Grooms issued an order for Lucy's readmission on February 29, but he refused to overturn the trustees' decision to expel Lucy. Lucy's attempt to attend classes at the university had failed; it would be another seven years before African Americans were granted admission after George Wallace's notorious "stand in the schoolhouse door".

February 6, 1961

Jail-No-Bail Strategy Begins as Four College Students Arrested in Support of the Freedom Nine in Rock Hill, South Carolina

Photo of the Friendship Nine in undated photo from 1961. Getty Images, from Decades After Sit-In, South Carolina Seeks to Make Things Right, New York Times, January 26, 2015.
Excerpted in whole from Feb. 6, 1961: “Jail, No Bail” in Rock Hill, South Carolina Sit-Ins, Zinn Education Project

On Feb. 6, 1961, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sent four volunteers to Rock Hill, South Carolina to sit-in: Charles Sherrod, Charles Jones, Diane Nash, and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson.

They were sentenced to 30 days. This followed a sit-in a week earlier when 10 African American students in Rock Hill (to become known as the Friendship Nine) were arrested for requesting service at a segregated lunch counter.

Saying “Jail, No Bail,” both groups (except for one person) refused to post bail and demanded jail time rather than paying fines as a statement “that paying bail or fines indicates acceptance of an immoral system and validates their own arrests” and as a practical strategy when financial resources were limited.

The Civil Rights Movement Archive describes the origins and use of the “Jail-No-Bail” tactic:

At the October 1960 SNCC strategy conference in Atlanta, some activists argue for “Jail-No-Bail” tactics. They take a Gandhian position that paying bail or fines indicates acceptance of an immoral system and validates their own arrests. And by serving their sentences, they dramatize the injustice, intensify the struggle, and gain additional media coverage.

There is also a practical component to “Jail-No-Bail.” The Movement has little money and most southern Blacks are poor. It is hard to scrape up bail money, and sit-in struggles are faltering — not from lack of volunteers to risk arrest — but from lack of money to bail them out. Moreover, paying fines provides the cops with financial resources that are then used to continue suppressing the freedom struggle. By refusing bail, they render meaningless the no-money-for-bail barrier and by serving time they put financial pressure on local authorities who have to pay the costs of incarcerating them.

As the Freedom Movement continues into the future, the “Jail-No-Bail” tactic is tried again by many of the Freedom Riders. More than 300 of those arrested in Jackson, Miss., refuse to pay their fines and instead served sentences in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Prison. But in later years, “Jail-No-Bail” is rarely used as a tactic-of-choice. Instead, it is mostly used as a tactic-of-necessity when there is no money available to pay bail or fines.

SNCC press release, February 6, 1961, SAVF-Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) (Social Action vertical file, circa 1930-2002; Archives Main Stacks, Mss 577, Box 47, Folder 13), Freedom Summer Digital Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society. Text version below.
February 6, 1961
Four students were arrested today in Rock Hill, in rock Hill, South Carolina for sitting-in at Good's Drug Store on Main Street. They were charged with trespassing and have confirmed their intention of remaining jail without bail. They were identified as Diane Nash, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee; Charles Jones, Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina; Ruby Doris Smith, Superman College, Atlanta, Georgia; Charles Sherrod, Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia. All four of the students are members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The coordinating and administrative body for the student movement which seeks to obtain equal status for all through non-violent means. They gave the following statement as reason for their actions:
There are nine students here serving thirty days on the York County chain gang for sitting at lunch counters and requesting service. Their sitting shows their belief in the immorality of racial segregation and their choice to serve the sentence show their unwillingness to participate in any part of the system that perpetrates injustice. Since we too share their beliefs and since many times during the past year, we too have sat-in at lunch counters, we feel that in good conscience we have no alternative other than to join them.

There are a number of reasons for “Jail-No-Bail” becoming the strategy of last resort:

    • In the Deep South, racism and segregation do not yield to moral witness or appeals for decency and justice. As the Movement progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that only a political movement and political power can force an end to racial and economic injustice. As a result, in the years to come, student activists evolve into community organizers, and tactics shift from students courageously dramatizing the iniquities and abuses of segregation to building popular mass movements for justice. Drama and media coverage become less important than broad participation and stubborn, long-haul determination.

    • When the Movement expands out of college centers into the impoverished and oppressed rural counties of the Deep South, it encounters sheriffs and jails far more vicious and dangerous than those faced by the student sit-ins. Freedom fighters in rural jails face beatings, rapes, and ultimately murder. It is simply too risky to leave anyone in jail if there is any way to get them out.

February 5, 1965

Arrests Continue in Selma, Alabama as Martin Luther King Publishes Letter in New York Times

AP wirephoto entitled, "Marching Off To Jail," taken by Associated Press dated February 5, 1965. Image is of people marching in Selma, Alabama.. Wire transfer information states that the crowd was made up of teenagers singing en route to the jail. There was an estimated 3,300 people arrested that day.

On February 5, 1965, several actions related to the growing protest movement in Selma, Alabama including:

  • continued arrests of mostly youth protesters

  • a federal court order aimed at speeding up voter registration in the County

  • Martin Luther King released from jail on the same day he and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference publish a 1/2 page ad in the New York Times

Civil rights workers applaud the night of February 5,1965 as Rev. Andrew Young, an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., holds a copy of a court order designed to speed up voter registration in Dallas County, Alabama, the scene of hundreds of arrests of protesters during marches on the courthouse. AP Photo found in Gallery: 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, Casper Star Tribune
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gets a big welcome from several youngsters at Marion, Alabama on February 5, 1965 during a visit after his release from jail at nearby Selma. The integration leader had sparked voter registration drives in both Perry and Dallas counties. Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. in Photos, The Atlantic
Advertisement published in the New York Times, February 5, 1965. Reformated for this post, see original.

February 4, 1960

300 High School and College Students Join the Growing Sit-In Protests in Greensboro, North Carolina

The Woolworth Sit-Ins Remembered by Woman’s College Alumni, Former students recount their participation in 1960. Greensboro Daily News, February 5, 1960
Excerpted in part from Greensboro Sit-Ins, Wikipedia

On February 4, 1960, more than 300 people took part. The group now included students from North Carolina A&T University, Bennett College, and Dudley High School, and they filled the entire seating area at the lunch counter.[20] Three white female students from the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now University of North Carolina at Greensboro), Genie Seaman, Marilyn Lott, and Ann Dearsley, also joined the protest.[21] Organizers agreed to expand the sit-in protests to include the lunch counter at Greensboro's S. H. Kress & Co. store that day. Students, college administrators, and representatives from F.W. Woolworth and Kress met to discuss, but with the stores' refusal to integrate, the meeting was not resolved.

The Greensboro sit-ins were a series of nonviolent protests in February to July 1960, primarily in the Woolworth store—now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum—in Greensboro, North Carolina, which led to the F. W. Woolworth Company department store chain removing its policy of racial segregation in the Southern United States.[2] While not the first sit-in of the civil rights movement, the Greensboro sit-ins were an instrumental action, and also the best-known sit-ins of the civil rights movement. They are considered a catalyst to the subsequent sit-in movement, in which 70,000 people participated. This sit-in was a contributing factor in the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

On February 1, 1960, at 4:30 pm ET, the four sat down at the 66-seat L-shaped stainless steel lunch counter inside the F. W. Woolworth Company store at 132 South Elm Street in Greensboro, North Carolina.

[See stories about the February 1st sit-in below]

The next day, on February 2, 1960, more than twenty black students (including four women), recruited from other campus groups, joined the sit-in. This group sat with school work to stay busy from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The group was again refused service, and were harassed by the white customers at the Woolworth store. However, the sit-ins made local news on the second day, with reporters, a TV cameraman and police officers present throughout the day. Back on campus that night, the Student Executive Committee for Justice was organized, and the committee sent a letter asking the president of F.W. Woolworth to "take a firm stand to eliminate discrimination."[17] Upon hearing of the sit-ins, the president of the college, Warmoth T. Gibbs, remarked that Woolworth's "did not have the reputation for fine food".[16] The students wrote the following letter to the president of Woolworth's:

Dear Mr. President: We the undersigned are students at the Negro college in the city of Greensboro. Time and time again we have gone into Woolworth stores in Greensboro. We have bought thousands of items at the hundreds of counters in your stores. Our money was accepted without rancor or discrimination, and with politeness towards us, when at a long counter just three feet away our money is not acceptable because of the colour of our skins...... We are asking your company to take a firm stand to eliminate discrimination. We firmly believe that God will give you courage and guidance in solving the problem. Sincerely Yours, Student Executive CommitteeOn February 3, 1960, the number grew to over 60, including students from Dudley High School. An estimated one third of the protesters were women, many of them students from Bennett College, a historically black women's college in Greensboro. White customers heckled the black students, who read books and studied, while the lunch counter staff continued to refuse service. North Carolina's official chaplain of the Ku Klux Klan (Kludd), George Dorsett, as well as other members of the Klan, were present. The F.W. Woolworth national headquarters said that the company would "abide by local custom" and maintain its segregation policy.

Negro Students Spread Protest to Kress Store, 02-04-1960, The Greensboro Record. It reports a counter-protest initiated by local white student at Woolworth's lunch counter and another sit-in protest initiated at Kress, another downtown Greensboro store.

On February 5, 1960, a high tension environment at the Woolworth counter emerged when 50 white men sat at the counter, in opposition to the protesters, which now included white college students.[22] Again, more than 300 were at the store by 3:00 pm, at which time the police removed two young white customers for swearing and yelling, and then police arrested three white patrons before the store closed at 5:30 pm. Another meeting between students, college officials, and store representatives took place, and again there was no resolution. The store representatives were frustrated that only certain segregated stores were being protested, and asked for intervention by the college administrators, while some administrators suggested a temporary closure of the counters.

On Saturday, February 6, 1960, over 1,400 North Carolina A&T students met in the Richard B. Harrison Auditorium on campus. They voted to continue the protests and went to the Woolworth store, filling up the store. More than 1,000 protesters and counter-protesters packed themselves into the store by noon. Around 1 pm, a bomb threat set for 1:30 pm was delivered by call to the store, causing the protesters to head to the Kress store, which immediately closed, along with the Woolworth store.

February 3, 1964

450,000 Students Boycott New York City Schools In Protest Against De Facto Segregation

Students carrying picket signs as part of a citywide school boycott that saw hundreds of thousands of children stay home from classes. Feb. 3, 1964. Eddie Hausner/The New York Times
Excerpted in part from New York City school boycott, Wikipedia

The New York City school boycott, known as Freedom Day, was a mass boycott and demonstration on February 3, 1964 to protest segregation in the New York City public school system. Students and teachers stayed out of public schools to highlight the deplorable conditions, and demonstrators held rallies demanding integration.[1] It was the largest civil rights demonstration of the 1960s and involved nearly half a million participants.

Freedom Day was part of a larger effort by New York activists to target the Board of Education through acts of civil disobedience for their failure to implement a reasonable integration plan. The demonstration followed the smaller Chicago Public Schools boycott, also known as Freedom Day, which took place in October 1963.

Although school segregation was illegal in New York City since 1920, housing patterns and continuing de facto segregation meant schools remained racially segregated and unequal. At the time of the boycott, schools that enrolled mostly black and Latino students tended to have inferior facilities, less experienced teachers and severe overcrowding, with some schools operating on split shifts of as little as four hours a day of class time for some students.

Opponents of integration, including a coalition of predominantly white neighborhood groups called Parents and Taxpayers, emphasized the importance of children attending schools closest to their homes and expressed concerns over busing.

Just prior to the boycott, the Board of Education released a plan for integrating the schools over three years, including limited rezoning, improving educational quality in schools serving black and Latino students and reducing overcrowding. Pro-integration activists argued the plan was not comprehensive enough.

A few days before the planned event, The New York Times printed an editorial titled “A Boycott Solves Nothing” condemning the activist leaders and claiming it would be violent, illegal, unreasonable and unjustified.

The boycott was led by the Reverend Milton Galamison, who organized and chaired the Citywide Committee for Integrated Schools, supported by the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Urban League, the Harlem Parents' Committee, and the Parents' Workshop for Equality. The committee recruited Bayard Rustin, a prominent activist who directed the successful March on Washington six months earlier, to organize the event.

A flier announcing school boycott in New York City on February 3rd, 1964, More than 450,000 students stayed out of school. City Wide Committee for Integrated Schools
New York Times, February 4, 1964. Page 1, reformatted for this post.

February 2, 1959

Four Arlington Seventh Graders Become First Blacks to Integrate Virginia Schools

On February 2, 1959 (l-r) Michael Jones, Gloria Thompson, Ronald Deskins and Lance Newman became the first black students to break the color line in Virginia's public schools. Washington Post

On February 2, 1959, Stratford Junior High School (now H-B Woodlawn High School) in Arlington was the first public school in Virginia to be integrated. That morning, four African American seventh graders – Ronald Deskins, Lance Newman, Michael Jones and Gloria Thompson – started classes at the school with over 100 Arlington County police officers in riot gear standing guard. To the great relief of the community, there was no violence or disorder (though two students were sent home for setting off a firecracker in a school bathroom).

The day had been a long time coming.

After the U.S. Supreme Court called for the end of segregation in schools in its 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Virginia lawmakers passed a series of “Massive Resistance” laws, which were designed to delay or limit the scope of integration. These included drastic measures like automatically closing any White school where a Black student enrolled, withholding state funds from integrated schools, and offering state tuition grants for students to attend private segregated schools. Seeking to push the issue, the NAACP filed lawsuits around the state – including in Arlington – on behalf of Black students wishing to enroll in White schools.

In the fall of 1958, after months of legal wrangling, Federal Circuit Court Judge Albert Bryan ruled that Deskins, Newman, Jones and Thompson be admitted to Stratford, effective at the start of the second semester in February. (Interestingly, in the same decision he upheld the school board’s decision to decline admittance to 26 other Black students who had applied for enrollment in white schools in Arlington. So, the order was far from a complete victory for supporters of integration.)

From left to right, Lance Newman, 13, Ronald Deskins, 12, Michael Jones, 12, and Gloria Thompson, 12, enter Stratford Junior High School on February 2, 1959. Image courtesy of AP Photo from Arlington County.

The decision to delay until February was nominally because of concerns that transferring the students in the middle of the semester would be disruptive. But it also allowed the court system a few extra months to consider some other related cases, which challenged the constitutionality of Virginia’s Massive Resistance Laws. This proved important: on January 19, 1959 both the Virginia Supreme Court and a Federal Court in Norfolk struck down the laws, leaving segregationist lawmakers without any legal tools to combat integration.

And so, the path was cleared for the four Arlington students’ historic enrollment at Stratford on February 2nd and – later that same day – the enrollment of 17 Black students in previously all-White schools in Norfolk. Integration had come to Virginia at last.

February 1, 1960

National Lunch Counter Sit-In Movement Sparked by Four College Students in Greensboro, North Carolina

Excerpted mostly in whole from FEBRUARY ONE: The Story of the Greensboro Four, Watch full 1-hr film via YouTube or Amazon Prime.

In one remarkable day, four college freshmen changed the course of American history. On February 1, 1960, Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil—later dubbed the Greensboro Four—began a sit-in at a Woolworth's lunch counter in a small city in North Carolina. The act of simply sitting down to order food in a restaurant that refused service to anyone but whites is now widely regarded as one of the pivotal moments in the American Civil Rights Movement. The four men whose moral courage at ages 17 and 18 not only changed public accommodation laws in North Carolina but also served as a blueprint for non-violent protests throughout the 1960s

Despite hard-fought gains in the fight for racial equality, segregation was still firmly entrenched in 1960 America. Black citizens were still treated as second-class citizens. The brutal 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till—an event that first made Greensboro Four members aware of the violent consequences of racism—served as a call for change. Recent advances in Civil Rights included the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, the 1955–56 Montgomery bus boycott and the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock High School in Arkansas. But by 1960, the movement had hit a lull.

February 1, 1960 changed that. The Greensboro Four were close friends at North Carolina A&T University, and two of the four had grown up where segregation was not legal, while another's father was active in the NAACP. On the night of January 31, 1960, the four dared each other to do something that would change the country and their own lives forever. They decided to sit-in at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth's in downtown Greensboro the next day.

On February 1, dressed in their Sunday best, the four men sat down at the lunch counter. Frank McCain remembers that he knew then this would be the high point of his life: "I felt clean... I had gained my manhood by that simple act." The four were refused service. When they did not leave, the store manager closed the lunch counter. In the days that followed, they were joined by more students from local colleges. The Civil Rights Movement was the first major social movement to be covered by television news, so word of the events in Greensboro spread across the nation like a prairie fire. Within just a few days, students were sitting in at lunch counters in 54 cities around the South.

Although Greensboro's civic leadership pressured the president of North Carolina A&T to halt the protests, he counseled the students to follow their own consciences. Finally, after months of protests, the Woolworth management quietly integrated its lunch counter during the summer when students weren't around. The wave of direct action started by the Greensboro Four coalesced in the formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Reflections on the Greensboro Lunch Counter, National Museum of American History
Civil Rights activists Joseph McNeil, Diane Nash, and John Lewis reflect on the history and legacy of the lunch counter from the F. W. Woolworth department store in North Carolina and the sit-in campaign that began on February 1, 1960.
The closing of the Greensboro Woolworth's in 1993 presented Museum curators with the opportunity to acquire this historic artifact. After extensive negotiations with Woolworth's executives and representatives of the local community, a small section of the lunch counter was donated to the Smithsonian.
Short snippet of Franklin McCain, of the Greensboro Four, advises that we cannot wait for the approval of others to do something that we know is right. Smithsonian Channel

Resources Used – common sources used to find daily posts


On June 1, 2020, in part as a response prompted by the George Floyd murder and subsequent re-awakening of the general public to the history of racist struggles, I started a daily practice of finding a relevant moment in Freedom Rights Movement anniversary history. I've found this both personally cathartic – engaging in daily consciousness of the ongoing struggle over the past 400 years – as well as potentially useful for future students.

~Howard Levin

#ohpcrm #civilrights