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tv   C-SPAN Programming  CSPAN  August 12, 2015 6:01pm-6:23pm EDT

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supreme court case that led to segregation in the u.s. for the next hour, we explore greensboro's literary scene starting with local author linda brown as she recounts her experience during the greensboro sitins during the civil rights movement. linda brown: in these mass marches going through and down elm street, some of them had eggs thrown at them and water dumped on their heads from buildings and it was, it never got to the wound where it was like it was nice. it was never nice. it was just more than the city could handle in the final analysis. it was about unanimity and solidarity and ok, we're all in this together. i grew up in ohio, ok. io was a little less
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segregated, not less racist, but less segregated, so while i grew up in ohio and i understood that things were different in the south, i also grew up in a family that was very sophisticated about politics and what the situation was, so i knew kind of both sides of the coin and how i felt about it was that, of course, it was unjust and it needed to be changed and my father was very much involved n-american rights as a social worker and worked for the national urban league. so i was not unaware of any of this and what it meant to black americans. essentially life was what it was for the rest of
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african-americans and particularly in the south. it was a matter of jim crow segregation, that is we, if we went downtown to the movie, we had to sit in the balcony in the negro section. if we went to a place to eat, we may or may not and probably what t served and happened with woolworth's is that they enjoyed selling you their snacks, but you had to stand up at the end of the room and eat them. you couldn't sit down at the counter. and most other places you could not eat in the restaurants. and some stores, clothing stores, you were not welcome whether you had the money or not. so basically it was life as apartheid. it was life that was separate and segregated and second class citizenship. when people begin to think the
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same way and then somebody else begins to think the same way and ideas take off for reasons that nobody quite understands, and i think it was time, you know. it was people were fed up and sick and tired of being sick and tired of being second class citizens. and so they all had that same kind of sense that it's time to do something. dr. king came to bennett ollege and spoke in 1958 and there were things going on, the school desegregation which was a big deal in america, 1954, 1955, the supreme court decision, so all of that is going on. here on this campus, the campus of bennett college, there was a student naacp chanter. the naacp has always had
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student chanters and particularly in historically black colleges which is what this is. so, of course, we had a chanter. and the chanter had an visor, a couple of visors. and in the course of meeting with the advisorses and the students that were members of the chapter, of course a lot of conversations took place about what can we do to make things better, do we need to be doing anything. other people are doing other things in other parts of the country, and so over a period, i suppose, more than a year, there were conversations about what we could do and it kind of boiled down to sitins, let's look at woolworth's, let's look and see what can be done. and so those meetings took lace right here on this campus
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in the david jones student union. they combined bennett college and a and t fellows and the bennett college add virus -- advisorses and so on. so there were plans to start the sitins. those plans began in the fall of 1959 and somewhere along the way, they were advised by the college of bennett who said you should really wait, you should really not do this until after christmas vacation because if you start this, you go home for christmas vacation, the momentum and the energy and the enthusiasm will be broken and would have to kind of start all over again in the winter. so that's why it got put off
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from december of 1959 and that's why when the guys came back from christmas vacation, in those days, you had a long break on college campuses, most of january people were gone. so we got back end of january and the a and t fellows decided they were kind of going down town and sit in without having a meeting with us. so they kind of jumped the gun, all right. but the planning for it was it was not done and -- it was spontaneous in the sense that they decided to take the bull by the horns, ok. it was not that suddenly they woke up that day and it was a new idea. i went there on the third day,
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ok. so the guys had gone down on the first and the second and here is the third day and they are expecting us by this time. they know something is going to happen. so number one, it's quiet. counter o, the lunch which was very long and lined up, but it was quite intimidating because most of the seats were empty, i remember when i got there, except for college students, except for a and t and bennett college, everyone else was like i'm not going down there because anything that might happen. so there are these empty seats and it's quiet and we go and wait to see what's going to happen. a waitress came by with a tray of knifes that were -- she was so nervous that the knifes were
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rattling. i was so nervous that i didn't know what she might be doing with those knives, but i could tell that she was scared -- she was as scared as i was. we sat there with our textbooks trying to study. i remember her saying, we can't serve y'all or we don't serve colored. i'm going to ask you all to leave. we had this instruction that just don't say anything, just keep sitting. don't say anything. and if they ask you what you would like and you ask for a cup of coffee, but they never asked us what we wanted because they knew they weren't going to serve us. so i sat there for at least an hour and i think we had hour shifts. we had it planned if you went at 9:00, you were back on ampus by 10:30 for your 11
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class. we had cars that went back and forth also, people volunteering transportation. i don't know who was driving, to this day i don't remember. i think i was too nervous to remember who was driving us and dropping us off in front of woolworth's and that same person would be there in an hour to pick us up and bring us back. so it was quite nerve-wracking, exciting, you had the sense that were doing something very important and very significant. they weren't hostile, i don't think they wanted to provoke anybody. it was just dead pan, you know. now in terms of people from wherever they came from, i don't know. you had a lot of young white
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guys hanging around yelling, i ing bad remarks, the day remember that happening was the day i was picketing in front of woolworth's with pickett signs and cars of young tough guys drove by and said ugly things and racial epithets and all kinds of things. that was very unnerving. that was like are we going to get out of this ok. and then there were incidents within the five and dime stores, and woolworth's, as the weeks went on, the incidents, it got to be really scary. there were people who tried to provoke, especially the men who were sitting in at the counter, somebody got burned with a cigarette stub and what they were trying to do was provoke
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nonviolence and so jostling people and i wasn't, i wasn't present for that, but all of that is in my book. i interviewed a lot of people. many of them have received nonviolent training and were very committed to this way. this is the way you do this. we're very connected to dr. king's philosophy and had been, even some of them had been in demonstrations in other places. so they called on that discipline of don't hit back. on't provoke them. there were techniques that they had to use and they believed in nonviolence and so it wasn't like in a vacuum.
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they knew what could happen and some of them had experienced what could happen. i think it was a remarkable exercise in discipline and movement. to the so it was not a matter of one nice day and they're going to let us eat, but this went on until april and in april they arrested 45 college students and that was i think 13 bennett men and women were arrested in april and the rest of them were from a and t. i don't know, i couldn't find the numbers exactly, the names and the numbers. i do know that the newspaper says at least 13 women from bennett were arrested in april. and then there was a moratorium
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and a time to cool off and try to discuss things, but it was actually july before woolworth's integrated. so this was, it was a tough fight. it was a tough fight for that particular store and once woolworth's was open, that didn't mean the rest of greensboro was open. one fight after another until 1963. greensboro was not the first sitin. wichita where the first sitin took place and the difference is that it didn't take off in the sense of national media and people copy accounting it and so on. it didn't take off, but greensboro, it just happened to be everything came together and people got galvanized and
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imaginations got sparked and so there were sitins in south carolina and florida and all across the country after greensboro. the fight had just started in greensboro and, ok, what are we going to do about these other restaurants and the movies and what are we going to do. they tried to keep alive as jesse jackson used to say, keep hope alive by having meetings and energizing people and it was very difficult for a while because people graduated, they went home. they got jobs and so you had a small group of students and faculty who were left here to try to keep things moving. a lot of that is in the book, also, and a lot of those people were bennett people who one of
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the original sitinners were the four guys says it hadn't been for the bennett women after woolworth's integrated, we would not have been able to move forward. so things kind of quieted down ntil around 1961, 18962 -- 1962, and then it picked up again. here again, i can't tell you y except that, you know, there are mysterious things that happen in history. people began to say, ok, the sent some ganization national people down to greensboro to help and began to have organized sitins at the hot shops. there was a restaurant called shops and at the
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mayfair cafeteria and at the movies and the more they did, the more people joined and so this , you've got continuing pressure on the city and marchers and so on which e growing and finally this culminates in the police department beginning to arrest ople for trespassing and that's when you have 250 bennett women who get arrested n 1963, that kind of huge push for integration. in the meantime in washington, you got president lyndon johnson's efforts to support the civil rights movement and all the things that are going on nationally and so, you know, it looks to us in greensboro
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like, you know, this is really, it's pastime for you to open this city. so what happened in greensboro was this growing mass movement th adults, community people, clergymen, teachers, workpeople, all kinds of people and students all converging in mass marches downtown and volunteering to get arrested. so we filled up the jails to the point where they had to start begging people not to get arrested and that was a whole struggle. that was like here at bennett college, they tried to tell my aunt to all off her girls and tell them to come back to the campus. she said no, i'm not doing that. they believe they're right. if i have to give exams in jail, that's what i'll do and
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aunty's guys had to struggle with their president. he finally had to call them out of jail because a and t is a state school and there was pressure from the governor. so it became a tussle between the city and the colleges and . e african-american community we weren't going to give up at that point. they couldn't keep arresting 200 people, they didn't have anywhere to put these people. here re housing the girls at bennett were housed at a hospital where the polo epidemic had been and out at the armory because they didn't have anywhere to put them and they had 30-some girls in one room with five mattresses. but, you see, when you are doing this kind of movement and
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you got them on the run, it's like there is no way we're going to make it easy for you by not getting arrested. see, as long as you have this position that if you go in this restaurant, you're trespassing, we're going to arrest you, ok, so we go in the restaurant knowing they're going to arrest you. if you stop going in the restaurant, you have said we are wrong and you're right, ok. so that's your problem that you don't have anywhere to put me. all you have to do is stop arresting me for being trespassing and serve me in this restaurant and the whole thing will be solved. so that's how nonviolent direct action works. you don't do anything wrong, you just put people in a position where they have to see
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that they're wrong. you would be interested to know that greensboro was the last size in north or carolina to integrate. having been the first to experience the sitins. when you talk about a formative experience, pretty much opening the door and getting in that ar was like, ok, this is it. that particular moment said to me this is who, this is a huge you of of who you are that will take a stand for what is right and you will not worry about the implications of this and the risks that you're taking. you will be -- this is who you are and you do this out of love. you don't do this out of rage and anger. you do it out of love.
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>> the c-span cities tour continues with more about the role of woman in the history of greensboro. we visit the women's veterans historic project at the university of north carolina greensboro to look at a special colleges of pamphlets and memoirs of how women's roles in the military have changed over time. >> while in greensboro, we stopped by the university of north carolina at greensboro to learn about the changing roles of women in the military through the university's book rchives. >> women in the war, u.s. navy nurses line up for inspection in their new summer uniforms. every day new legions are being called to active duty afloat and ashore. ready to follow the fleet to any battle front, these traditional angels of mercy know about one code, service to hue


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