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

By William H. Chafe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Inch by Inch-----

The present generation . . . sometimes doesn't appreciate what was done by those who came before them to make things possible.

Vance Chavis, black political leader in Greensboro and former school principal

The gods bring threads to webs begun.

Susie B. Jones, former Dean of Admissions at Bennett College

The night after the Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in May 1954, members of the Greensboro school board gathered for their regular monthly meeting. Immediately they proceeded to a new item of business--a resolution brought by Chairman D. Edward Hudgins committing Greensboro to implement the Supreme Court's desegregation edict. The decision, Hudgins said, was "one of the most momentous events" in the history of education, and he urged his colleagues not to "fight or attempt to circumvent it." School Superintendent Benjamin Smith sounded the same theme. "It is unthinkable," he said, "that we will try to abrogate the laws of the United States of America." Any effort to evade the decision, Smith declared, would be a disaster to the country and signify the end of democracy. Dr. David Jones, the only black member of the board, strongly supported Hudgins and Smith. "Isn't there a possibility," he asked, "that we of Greensboro may furnish leadership in the way we approach this problem? Not only to the community, but to the state and to the South?" After a brief debate the board voted six to one to endorse Hudgins's resolution. 1

Greensboro's decisive response seemed a good omen to those who perceived the city as a leader of the modern South. Greensboro prided itself on being cosmopolitan--a place where progressive attitudes were a hallmark of political discourse and where the "good life" of affluence and cultural sophistication was available to large numbers of people. The city was the home of five colleges, including Guilford--a nationally known Quaker school--two state colleges, and two small liberal arts

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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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