Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom

By William H. Chafe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Politics of Moderation

There has been a kind of liberal strand running through the air-- but make no mistake about it, Greensboro is not all that liberal.

Nell Coley, a black schoolteacher

We're just like Georgia and Alabama except we do it in a tuxedo and they wear suspenders.

A prominent white attorney in Greensboro

The law is the landing force [of change]. It makes the beachhead. But the breakthrough, if it is to be significant, is broadened by forces from behind which take advantage of the opening to go the rest of the way. Where these forces are present, significant alterations of social practices result. Where they do not exist, the law has been unable to hold its beachhead and the legal action becomes a kind of military monument on which is only recorded, we were here.

John B. Frank, legal scholar

To those who believed that Greensboro might lead the rest of the South toward racial justice, the early response to the school board's desegregation resolution provided hope and reassurance. On May 19, 1954, the morning newspaper applauded the school board's willingness to face facts. "How one felt or what one did about segregation before Monday . . . has become relatively academic now," the Daily News editorialized. "Segregation has been ruled out and the responsibility now is to readjust to that reality with a minimum of friction, disruption, and setback to the public school system." A few days later, the Greensboro Jaycees--the largest chapter in the state--endorsed the school board's resolution by a margin of four to one. The same day, the Greensboro Ministerial Alliance added its support.

Acceptance of the Brown decision appeared to extend into the general community as well. A newspaper survey reported that most "ordinary citizens" had accepted the Supreme Court's decision as inevitable. "I really haven't had a chance to think it out," one White mother said, "but I feel the best thing to do is to go ahead and accept the decision and make

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Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I Years of Protest 11
  • Chapter One - Inch by Inch----- 13
  • Chapter Two - the Politics of Moderation 42
  • Chapter Three - the Sit-Ins Begin 71
  • Chapter Four - a Time of Testing 102
  • Chapter Five - "My Feet Took Wings" 119
  • Part II Years of Polarization 153
  • Chapter Six - "We Will Stand Pat" 155
  • Chapter Seven - Black Power 172
  • Chapter Eight the End or the Beginning 203
  • Chapter Nine Struggle and Ambiguity 237
  • Epilogue for the Paperback Edition 251
  • Notes 255
  • A Note on Sources 269
  • Index 275
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