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Windows to the Past: September 15, 1963

The News & Observer 9/16/1963

Windows to the Past: March on Washington

The Raleigh Times 8/28/1963

February 1960 sit-ins moved to Raleigh

The lunch counter sit-ins that began at the Greensboro Woolworth’s on February 1, 1960, quickly spread across the state. Following demonstrations in Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, the movement landed in Raleigh on February 10.

Writers Charles Craven and David Cooper covered the event.

Some 150 boys and girls took part in the demonstration against white-only food service at eight stores, but the only immediate result of their action was the quick closing of all lunch counters.

The only incidents in connection with the protest movement were the tossing of one egg and the heckling of students by teenagers and other whites.

Ironically, the demonstration came at the same time when Negro church leaders of Raleigh were meeting with white store operators to work out a peaceful solution to the problem....

The Raleigh sitdown demonstrations began about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Woolworth’s downtown store. It moved on to other stores -- McLellan’s, Hudson-Belk, Kress, Eckerd’s Drug Store, Cromley’s Sir Walter Drug Stores, and Woolworth’s in Cameron Village -- and in each place the lunch counters were immediately closed when the Negro students asked for services.

Signs, apparently prepared beforehand, were quickly brought out and put on display. They read: “Closed in the Interest of Public Safety,” “Luncheonette Temporarily Closed,” and “We Reserve the Right to Serve the Public As We See Fit.”

Lunch counters in several places were roped off and “No Trespassing” signs were hung....

Mayor W. G. Enloe and City Councilman Paul Hooyer were at the entrance of Walgreen’s Drug Store shortly after the demonstration began. Enloe told a reporter that he had no comment at that time. He later issued a statement in which he said: “It is regrettable that some of our young Negro students would risk endangering Raleigh’s friendly and cooperative race relations by seeking to change a long-standing custom in a manner that is all but destined to fail....”

A heavy red-faced man, arms crossed and a cigar burning in one hand, stood placidly near one of the doors at the downtown Woolworth store. Inside, a conglomeration of people milled about. A coed from one of the Negro colleges started out the door where the man stood. The coed wore a tan sweater and as she went through the door, the man unfolded his arms and raked the burning cigar across the back of her sweater.

“Did you burn it?” the girl asked mildly.

The red-faced man looked back upon the scene in the store, grinning now and arms crossed once more, giving her no answer.

Unnoticed by him, a large portion of the cigar’s fire flicked from the girl’s sweater into the crook of his folded right arm.

A bystander watched as a thin stream of smoke curled from his burning coat sleeve.

The wholesale shutdown of lunch counters, coming at noontime, posed an eating problem for State employees and other downtown workers. Unusually long lines of customers turned up at Ballentine’s and the S&W Cafeteria. -- The News & Observer 2/11/1960

The demonstrations went on for several days. On February 12, the management of Cameron Village, “Raleigh’s big model shopping and apartment center,” had 41 students arrested for trespassing. The following week, two white men were arrested, charged with assault, following an encounter with the students.

One of the white men and a Shaw University student exchanged blows after a protest placard was snatched from a Negro student’s hands....

The first outbreak of physical violence in the eight-day-old demonstration... occurred about 3 p.m.m on Fayetteville Street. An area in front of Eckerd’s Drug Store, Woolworth’s and McLellan’s was crowded with young white men, and some older men who heckled the Negro protests...

Mrs. Elizabeth Miller, who was visiting in Raleigh, told the white crowd, which included boys and girls of school age, that they were wrong in abusing the Negroes.

“You’re going about this in the wrong way,” Mrs. Miller said. “I’m as much a segregationist as you are, but I believe you should meet courtesy with courtesy.” -- The N&O 2/18/1960

See more photos of the 1960 sit-ins.

Reporter Karl Fleming had many ties to NC

Karl Fleming, a great and brave reporter during the civil rights movement in the 1960s who died recently at age 84, had many ties to North Carolina.

Fleming was born in 1927 in Virginia but lived in an orphanage in Raleigh from ages 8 to 17, according to a fine obitary by the Los Angeles Times' Elaine Woo. He joined the Navy just as World War II was ending, then attended Appalachian State University for two years. He worked at newspapers in Wilson, Durham and Asheville, and eventually became Newsweek's Atlanta correspondent in 1961.

Fleming covered all the biggest civil rights stories in the South in the 1960s, often under difficult conditions. He reported on the Birmingham church bombing in 1963; the assassination of the NAACP's Medgar Evers in Jackon, Miss., in 1963; and the disappearance in Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964 of three civil rights workers. "Karl was one of these reporters who would go anywhere, any time, no matter what the danger, if the story was good enough," said Gene Roberts, a North Carolinian and former editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fleming and Claude Sitton of The New York Times, who later became editor of The News & Observer, did brilliant work from the South in the 1960s and sometimes joined forces. Elaine Woo wrote: "Since one wrote for a daily paper and the other for a weekly newsmagazine, they did not consider themselves competitors and found it useful and safer to work together. They developed some methods to protect themselves, including obscuring their stock-in-trade — their reporter's notebooks — by cutting them down to fit in their pockets.

"That trick did not help in Philadelphia, Miss., where they were the first reporters on the scene of the three civil rights workers' disappearance. The sheriff told Fleming he was a traitor to 'our precious Southern way of life' and ordered him and Sitton to leave town. A pack of white toughs pursued them, and back at their motel men with shotguns invited them to 'take a ride with us out in the country.' Fleming and Sitton quickly packed their bags but returned later to continue reporting the story."

--John Drescher


Amendment One: Our friends and a fight for civil rights

As the May 8 election approaches, we're getting inundated by letters and Point of View submissions about Amendment One -- the "gay-marriage amendment -- the vast majority of which are against the amendment. As such, we can't begin to print them all in the paper.

Here is a Point of View on the subject by Scott Huler, a former N&Oer, former Piedmont Laureate and the author of many books, including "On the Grid: A Plot of Land, an Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work."

Freedom Riders screening

See a free screening of the documentary Freedom Riders tonight at the Varsity Theatre in Chapel Hill.

The film is described as "the powerful, harrowing, and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever." It is a production of American Experience (WGBH/Boston) and is based on Raymond Arsenault’s book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. It is the winner of three 2011 Emmys.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with the film's producer Laurens Grant and playwright Mike Wiley. Wiley created the play The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the ’61 Freedom Riders, which opens October 26 at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill.

Many of the freedom riders were imprisoned in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary, where they passed the time by created a nightly live variety show known The Parchman Hour. This show was the inspiration for the play.

The film starts at 6:30, and admission is free.

The play runs October 26-November 13, 2011.

"Mad Men" recap: Sometimes, it's hard to be a woman

Mad Men-Episode409-Sally Draper-teaseThe women and girls take center stage in Season 4, Episode 9 of "Mad Men." They show their competence, their power, their lack of power, their confusion, their ability to leave men confused. The episode ends with a workplace tableaux that I found familiar and wistful. The episode title is "The Beautiful Girls." We get a glimpse of the political and social problems of the 1960s.

"Mad Men's" Matthew Weiner gives us another shocking, funny side show, too. Here is my warning of spoilers ahead.

Photojournalist Alex Rivera

See a gallery of photos of photojournalist Alex Rivera and his work.

Celebrating the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrating the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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