Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement was an effort, among many things, to overturn segregation, commonly known as Jim Crow legislation. As early as the 1930s, African Americans protested these laws. In Greensboro, black ministers boycotted the War Memorial Auditorium’s opening, and young people there started a theater boycott. Meanwhile during the twentieth century, municipality leaders used local ordinances to create residential segregation.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Brown decision, and schools were ordered to desegregate. For some time North Carolina avoided compliance, with various creative ideas such as the Pearsall Plan. In the 1950s, North Carolina blacks started what would become known as sit-ins. In 1957 seven blacks, for example, demanded service in the white section of a Durham ice cream parlor.

In 1960, a series of events occurred in North Carolina and began the Civil Rights Movement in earnest. The Greensboro Sit-In occurred in North Carolina, and this demonstration gained national attention and set an example for others to follow throughout the Jim Crow South. Four N.C. A & T State University students walked to the downtown Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, sat in the white section of the store’s restaurant, and demanded service. More students started protesting in Greensboro and protests spread to Raleigh. Storeowners eventually began serving blacks for legal and economic purposes.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sponsored the Freedom Rides in 1961. Black and white passengers boarded public buses to challenge segregation on the buses and in the bus stations. In North Carolina, the riders experienced no violent resistance. During the mid-1960s, CORE embraced black nationalism. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), like CORE, evolved into a more confrontational group. Ella Baker of Raleigh trained students to live in the rural South and to participate in task forces assigned to educate rural blacks and register them to vote.

After blacks regained their suffrage rights with the Voting Rights Act, blacks were elected or appointed to public office. Henry E. Frye became the first African American appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Source: Civil Rights Movement
By North Carolina History Project, © 2016 John Locke Foundation

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