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

By William H. Chafe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
The End or the Beginning

When I first got to Greensboro I heard the white power structure condemning the four sit-in demonstrators as if they were subversives . . . Five years later I heard the Mayor of the city brag about the fact that we were the home of the nation's first sit-in, as if we had invented the electric lightbulb. By that time it was a resource, but in 1966 it was a painful memory.

Hal Sieber, Greensboro Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce wanted to be on top of what was going on in the community, . . . using people to get information. . . . We were concerned about how the system did things in the community. They tried to get around us.

A young black activist

We do have freedom of choice in Greensboro. We have the choice to make the next few weeks and months the most productive and educationally rewarding in the history of our community, or we have the other choice, to drag our heels, to put up unnecessary obstacles, . . . to blame inanimate school buses for our unwillingness to make the school transition work.

Joan Bluethenthal, a parent volunteer

Just as insurgents must continually devise new strategies to undermine the status quo, those who hold power must constantly invent new methods of containment. In 1969 Greensboro's white authorities had met the challenge of black radicalism with repressive force. But military confrontation offered no permanent solution to the city's racial crisis. As awareness seeped in of how destructive further civil strife would be, established leaders of both races started to explore ways to prevent additional polarization. Business interests in particular groped for a program of conciliation. Their search was informed by the tactical judgment that, as one prominent white put it, " Nelson Johnson did not want peace . . . and would have been bitterly disappointed if the community had met all his demands." Acting on this assessment, Greensboro's white leaders sought an accommodation with the black middle class,

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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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