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

By William H. Chafe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
"WE WILL STAND PAT"

As a metaphor, the color line is not . . . represented by a single, sharply drawn line, but appears rather as a series of ramparts like the "Maginot Line" extending from outer breastworks to inner bastions. Outer portions of it may be given up only to hold fast to inner citadels.

Herbert Blumer, "The Future of the Color Line,"in John McKinney and Edgar Thompson(eds.), The South in Continuity and Change

With the demonstrations of 1963, Greensboro's blacks had carried direct- action protest to a new peak of effectiveness. Over the preceding twenty years different strategies had been developed to cope with white modes of control. Beginning with tha patron/client relationship of Tarpley and Bluford during the 1930's, blacks had moved toward a more direct assertion of their demands in the political elections and school board campaigns of the 1950's. The sit-in movement had addressed the short- comings of all these strategies through its genteel but forceful rejection of the existing structure of interaction between the races. Now the 1963 protests raised this form of collective self-expression to a new level of confrontation. Never before had the progressive mystique of Greensboro been challenged so frontally. Through besieging restaurants and theaters that excluded blacks, Negro demonstrators both exposed the hypocrisy of Greensboro's claim to be racially enlightened and threatened to destroy the fabric of civility so central to the city's self-image. 1

Yet the very success of direct-action protest revealed its limitations as an ongoing strategy. Once the demonstrations ended, control over negotiations reverted to those who exercised power in the first place. They set the rules; they determined the framework for discussion. Nowhere was this power of definition more clearly revealed than in a letter from W. O. Conrad, the Western Electric executive who was the chairman of Greensboro's new Human Relations Commission, to William Thomas of CORE. In order to solve the problem of jobs, Conrad wrote, Greensboro must attract new industries. Yet,

-155-

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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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