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

By William H. Chafe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
A Time of Testing

The best in us comes out if we give it a chance. These are days when Southern honor and pride cry out to us--asking what is right and decent. . . . Is it really so difficult to allow all qualified persons to vote, to use the parks, to go to school? Are we so weak and afraid we cannot trust ourselves to do what is right--to answer honor instead of shame?

Ralph McGill, The Atlanta Constitution, September 28, 1962

With the breakdown of faith in the integrity of the white power structure, there is a concomitant loss of respect for the law as an effective means of social change. This, I submit, is the main reason why the Negro revolt has come now and as it has.

Louis Lomax, The Negro Revolt

By the time John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President in the cold, snow-covered nation's capital in January 1961, Greensboro had become synonymous with the start of a civil rights revolution. In the eleven months after the sit-ins began, civil rights demonstrations had spread to nearly every city in the South. More than one hundred towns had already desegregated their lunch counters in response to direct-action protest, and the violence-plagued Freedom Rides were about to begin. Within the next five years hardly a day would go by without some additional testimony that black Americans would never cease challenging American racism--no matter how great the sacrifice and pain-- until equality under the law became a reality.

Appropriately, Greensboro remained a bellwether for the continuing struggle. Although the era of direct-action protests had started there, the city proved no speedier than most in recognizing the justice of black demands--in fact, it was slower. As one black college president in the community observed, "Greensboro and North Carolina had people believing that they were progressive, [but] when [the demonstrations] started they began to show their real feelings . . . they weren't nearly so liberal as they were cracked up to be." On fundamental issues of jobs, education, and equal access to public accommodations, Greensboro showed that the

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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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