Violence and Non-Violence in Race Relations

March 25, 1960

A document from the CQ Researcher archives:

Report Outline
Danger of Violent Race Conflict in South
American Experience with Negro Protest
Non-Violent Resistance to Segregation

Danger of Violent Race Conflict in South

Flare-ups of VIOLENCE in connection with “sit-in” demonstrations at lunch counters by colored college students in the South suggest that the Negro's campaign for full equality with white citizens has entered a new and potentially dangerous phase. Until the present student protests got under way, the Negro had directed his main drive for racial equality through courts and legislatures. Notable progress has been made there in recent years in establishing principles which the Negro is now seeking to apply in every field.

The sit-in movement began peacefully in February and in the main has been conducted without disorder; its leaders say they are guided by the principles of non-violent resistance developed by Mohandas K. Gandhi in his campaign for the independence of India. But so-called passive resistance is provocative in that it may develop feelings of frustration in opponents and lead to physical attack upon the resisters.1 The student demonstrators have already experienced some violence, but there has been nothing to date that could be called a race riot.

Non-violent resistance is not new to the American Negro; he has practiced it many times in the past. Most recently it was used with success in the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott of 1956. What is new is the sudden widespread commitment to this tactic by Negro students, with the full support of their elders and with the full support of established Negro organizations.

Rapid Spread of Lunch-Counter Demonstrations

The first sit-in, staged at a Greensboro, N. C., dime store on Feb. 1 by students attending the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, attracted little public attention. But the movement soon spread to other Negro colleges and within a few weeks there had been demonstrations in more than 40 communities in 10 southern states.2

The sit-in consists simply in Negro students taking seats at white-only lunch counters and remaining seated after service is refused. The demonstrations, starting at lunch counters in variety, drug and department stores, later spread to bus terminal restaurants. Protests have since been organized against segregated theaters and white-only public libraries. In addition there have been silent street marches, public prayers, and hymn singing. The lunch-counter protest was in part the inspiration for a march of 130 Negro students on the U.S. Capitol on March 2 to demonstrate for civil rights legislation then being subjected to filibuster. A mixed group of colored and white students picketed the White House, March 23, to protest arrests of sit-in demonstrators in the South.

Violence connected with the demonstrations has been minor and sporadic, but in several cities mobs have gathered in the streets and riots have been averted only by swift police action. The biracial Southern Regional Council in a report on Feb. 25 said: “The good performance of southern police forces is, in several cities, about all that has prevented chaos.” A statement by the Methodist Board of Social and Economic Relations, March 16, praised “the good professional performance of southern police forces” also the “dignified, non-violent manner” in which demonstrating students had conducted themselves. Mordecai W. Johnson, president of Howard University in Washington, gave special praise to police authorities in North Carolina.

Saturday has been a favorite day for sit-ins. On Feb. 27, a Saturday, riot squads in 20 southern cities were called out to quell actual or threatened violence. The most serious outbreak was in Nashville, where more than 100 persons were arrested in several separate incidents. In Montgomery the police made several arrests in dispersing bands of white youths who roamed the streets armed with toy baseball bats. Montgomery's police were again called into action on Sunday, March 6, when whites attempted to charge a column of 800 Negroes marching from a church to the steps of the state capital for a prayer meeting. Florida state troopers on March 12 broke up a Negro student march in Tallahassee with tear gas after several incidents threatened serious violence. Municipal authorities warned that they would not tolerate “gang action or mob rule by Negroes or whites.”

On March 15, six weeks after the first sit-in at Greensboro, more than 500 Negroes were arrested in connection with demonstrations in half a dozen southern cities. Most of the arrests were at Orangeburg, S. C., where fire hoses were used to break up a march on the business district by 1,000 demonstrators singing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” The first mass demonstration in Georgia, by 200 students in Atlanta on March 15, brought 77 arrests. Before the end of March the total number of persons taken into custody exceeded 1,000.

Support of Student Movement by Negro Leadership

During Senate civil rights debate, March 15, Sen. Olin D. Johnston (D S.C.) appealed to “citizens of all races” to halt inter-racial incidents which he said were “highly dangerous and could set off bloody strife at any number of points.” He asserted that disturbances in the South were the work of professional agitators. A similar charge had been made, Feb. 27, by Sen. Richard B. Russell (D Ga.), who said northern agitators seemed “anxious to start a race riot of terrible proportions.”

National Negro organizations first got into the picture when the demonstrators at Greensboro called on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) for advice. They were put in touch with the Congress of Racial Equality (Core), an organization founded during World War II to press for removal of barriers to full Negro participation in the national life. Core sent two field workers to metropolitan centers in the South to advise demonstrators and later set up workshops to give training in the techniques of non-violent resistance. Other organizations favoring racial integration, including the N.A.A.C.P., have since provided guidance and rendered other forms of assistance to the student movement. The National Christian Leadership Council, organized in 1958 by the Rev. Martin Luther King, leader of the Montgomery bus boycott, has given aid and counsel. Support has come also from the Montgomery Improvement Association, organized in 1956 to carry out the boycott, local units of the N.A.A.C.P. and certain unions of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

Negro clergymen have preached support of the movement and have joined in some of the demonstrations. Many of the rallies and organization meetings have been held in churches. Negro adult leadership has moved actively into the movement, both to preserve the peaceful character of the demonstrations and to give them weight as a protest from the whole Negro community.

Negro Impatience with Slow Pace of Desegregation

Most of the present demonstrators were children when the Supreme Court's unanimous decision outlawing segregation in public schools was handed down in May 1954.3 Today they are said to be “psychologically unprepared” to accept segregationist practices with the resignation of their elders and to be impatient with slow-moving “token integration” of southern schools where it has taken place.

Segregation at lunch counters was a leading cause of dissatisfaction, particularly to students from homes in the North, because in many southern communities there are few places downtown where Negroes can buy a lunch and eat it while seated at the place of service. The fact that Negroes were welcomed as customers in other parts of the stores made the discrimination at lunch counters seem the more onerous. But the sit-in demonstrations have a deeper meaning, in the opinion of the Southern Regional Council. They must be taken as a sign that “segregation cannot be maintained in the South short of continuous coercion and the intolerable social order which would result.” White southerners, said the Council in its Feb. 25 report, have “almost always underestimated the extent of Negro dissatisfaction” and their leaders have “hardly yet begun to conceive the dimension of the change” in relations between the races that is under way.

An official of the North Carolina Council on Human Relations described the demonstrations as “manifestations of a new spirit and attitude on the part of Negroes which has come about since 1954.” A Charlotte divinity student told an Associated Press reporter that the demonstrations signified an “unrest among this generation of students” which began with the Supreme Court's school decision. He said their protest expressed the feelings of Negro students “about the schools, the vote—civil rights in general.” They wanted to “dramatize the injustice of the Negro's position” and “by showing the depth of the unrest … help the passage of some civil rights legislation and …the progress of desegregating the schools.”

Forms of Pressure to Establish Equality of Status

There seems little doubt that the demonstrations have hardened official resistance to integration, although Negroes assert there is a large body of white sympathy for them in the South which has not found expression. A few white students have joined the colored demonstrators, and members of both races have received increasingly severe penalties when arrested. Funds to pay fines have been raised in some northern colleges.

Len Holt, field secretary of Cose, recommended on March 18 that students refuse to pay fines, that they go to jail instead. He said this policy would be urged throughout the South and could soon fill the jails with sit-in demonstrators.4 The movement was bigger than the people immediately involved or the organizations assisting them. “It is not designed to put anybody out of business,” Holt said, “but to put justice into business.”

Southern business leaders have shown considerable concern over possible economic consequences of the proliferating demonstrations. Racial controversy discourages settlement of industry in the region, and a general Negro boycott against white business establishments would have serious effects. As in the North, many cities of the South have large Negro populations whose trade is important to local business. Many of the stores visited by sit-in demonstrators closed their lunch counters and some shut their doors to all customers when milling youths threatened disturbances.

Buying power of the Negro population is estimated nationally at about $7 billion a year; in the South at about $4 billion. Many of the stores at which the Negro students have registered protests are members of national chains, and northern stores in these chains have been picketed even though they have fully integrated lunch-counter service.

A message to all state and local N.A.A.C.P. branches by Roy A, Wilkins, national executive secretary, March 16, suggested that they urge their members to withhold patronage from all units of four variety chains (Grant's, Kresge, Kress, Wool worth) until “anti-Negro lunch-counter policies” were abandoned by southern units of the chains.5

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American Experience with Negro Protest

The history of the Negro in America has been marked, from earliest days of the slave trade, by repeated mass protests against his subordination to tbe white community. At times he resorted to violence; more often he engaged in kinds of non-violent resistance which were extremely difficult to deal with

A recent study of lawlessness in American life declares that racial violence has almost always occurred “by reaction of the dominant white community to attacks on the accommodative pattern by Negroes.”

The most intense conflict has resulted when the subordinate minority group has attempted to disrupt the accommodative pattern or when the superordinate group has defined the situation as one in which such an attempt is being made. Conflict in Negro-white relationships in the United States has been conflict generated by the breakdown of an essentially unstable accommodative pattern, essentially unstable because the subordinated group has refused to accept its status and has had sufficient power to challenge it.6

Gunnar Myrdal, Swedish sociologist, observed in his comprehensive study of the American Negro that “Deep down in the most dependent and destitute classes of Negroes in the rural South, the individual Negro of the masses ordinarily keeps a recess in his mind where he harbors the Negro protest.” 7

Slave Mutiny, Sabotage, Arson, Insurrection

The popular image of the docile Negro slave of antebellum days is not sustained by modern historical research. The work of scholars has disclosed wide slave unrest, frequent plots against masters, and a readiness on the part of many slaves to grasp any opportunity to escape. Fear of spreading panic among the whites or of encouraging slaves to large-scale revolt is cited as the reason that news of early disturbances was suppressed.

Studies of the records of slave traders show frequent mutinies in Africa while the ships were being loaded, as they sailed down river, and on the high seas. The captives attempted to overpower crews and force the ships to turn back. Records of 53 separate slave-ship revolts between 1699 and 1808 have been found.8

In the early days of the Revolution, when slaves fled the plantations to join the British army, special militia organizations were formed to protect white communities against expected Negro attack. Negroes were taken into the Revolutionary army in part to counter efforts to lure them into enemy ranks.

The successful revolt in Haiti in 1791, led by the Negro slave Toussaint L'Ouverture, and the later establishment of the Black Republic of Haiti, created grave unrest among American slaves; ideas of self-emancipation were widely entertained.

Slaveholders were in an uproar. … Prom New Jersey to Louisiana, Negroes were in ferment. Arson, murders and suicides increased. North Carolina's Tarboro, Newberne, Edenton, and Hillsboro saw uprisings of blacks. One was planned in Camden; Baltimore, Norfolk, Petersburg and New Orleans bad bloody outbreaks, A slave named Coot hatched a scheme to destroy Augusta, Ga. … Charleston broke out with numerous fires in 1795.9

In 1800 Gabriel Prosser, a Virginia slave, marshaled a band of 1,000 for a march on Richmond. Armed with home-made weapons, the insurrectionists planned to overpower the whites and make Gabriel king of Virginia. When the plot was betrayed, Gabriel was captured and executed.

The Nat Turner revolt of 1831 raised alarm throughout the South. Turner and his followers murdered his master's family, then marched across the Virginia countryside killing and burning. The revolt and the effort to apprehend Turner cost 61 white and 200 black lives before the leader was taken and hanged. After the revolt every southern legislature adopted repressive measures, creating a body of law known as the “Black Code” which governed nearly every aspect of the Negro's life. Slave patrols were strengthened and reinforced with professional “slave-catchers.” Much of the intensity of feeling against northern abolitionists was due to a belief that they were inciting Negroes to violence against whites.

Non-violent resistance also was practiced by the blacks in ante-bellum days. Correspondence of slave owners with overseers was found by Grimshaw to be replete with complaints about “the abuse of working equipment by field hands, the widespread and undiagnosable ‘miseries,’ and the unauthorized vacations in the swamps.”

Rejection of slave status was shown by continual destruction of property; the burnings of barns and hay-ricks, the failure to cinch the master's saddle up tight enough to prevent his being thrown; by the studied insult which is not an insult. In a large number of ways short of physical violence, the Negro slave protested his subservient status.10

The historian Allan Nevins states that “Any really penetrating investigation of slavery before the Civil War discloses evidence of sharp tension in the Negro-white relation, with indications that countless thousands of colored folk were constantly ‘fighting back’.” 11

Resistance Vs. Accommodation After Emancipation

Nevins cites the Negro freed before general emancipation as having offered a demonstration—” everywhere, North and South”—that the racial problem underlay the slavery problem, and that abrupt action in dealing with slavery “might well complicate the task of race adjustment.” The freedman was nowhere admitted to full citizenship and he often suffered greater deprivations than the slave. Many persons opposed to slavery still regarded the black man as inferior and not entitled to civil equality with white citizens.

The bloodiest outbreak of racial violence in the country's history occurred not in the South but in the North—the draft riots of 1863 in New York City. An estimated 1,500 whites and an unknown number of blacks lost their lives. The riots were attributed to the unwillingness of unskilled white workers to go to the battlefield to fight for the freedom of Negroes who, they believed, would take their jobs.

Nevins says the South had clung to slavery not only because a large part of the economy was dependent on it but also because even those who did not own slaves—the vast majority of the southern white population—-believed freeing the numerous blacks would create inconceivably difficult problems of race relations. “Throughout the South, an emancipationist movement would have become formidable overnight but for this overshadowing spectre of race relationship.” 12

The apprehensions that had buttressed the institution of slavery in the South continued to be reflected in southern policy after Reconstruction. The former slave was required to abide by a code of racial etiquette which clearly implied his inferior status. That it was necessary to enforce this code by legislation and on occasion by extra-legal acts13 was evidence that all the Negro wanted had not been gained by the abolition of slavery.

The great Negro leader of this period was Booker T. Washington. He stood for Negro acceptance of social inequality in return for white assistance in improving the educational and vocational opportunities of his race. This policy bore fruit in the creation of educational institutions which, though segregated, played an important part in producing the educated Negroes who were later to lead the fight for equality. Since Washington's death in 1915, no other leader advocating accommodation has attracted a comparable following among Negroes.

Assault on Segregation; Aim for Social Equality

A new militancy was displayed by the Negro movement during and after World War I, and there were numerous outbreaks of violence. Negro soldiers, angered by the shooting of a comrade by a police officer in Houston, mutinied in 1917, seizing weapons and storming through downtown streets. After the war there were race riots in Chicago and Washington, D. C., in 1919 and in Tulsa in 1921.

Inter-racial violence declined in the South during the next two decades, but disturbances increased in large cities of the North as their growing Negro populations sought greater access to jobs, housing, and public facilities generally. One of the worst of these was a race riot in Harlem in 1935, touched off by a rumor that police officers had beaten a Negro boy.

Militant opposition to segregation and other practices which reflected or sustained the Negro's inferior status increased during and after World War II. Military and industrial manpower needs, and the promulgation of an equal-treatment policy by the federal government, encouraged Negro hopes for improvement of status. With every step upward in the economic scale the Negro's stand against remaining barriers to equality became more determined.

Effect of Negro Gains on Black-White Relations

As the Negro makes each new advance toward attainment of actual as well as legal rights and privileges, he moves into new areas of white resistance. This intensifies racial animosities and raises new dangers of violent outbreaks. Thus the removal of legal support for racial covenants in real estate contracts by the Supreme Court in 194814 gave impetus to Negro efforts to penetrate white residential sections—efforts resisted by whites in some areas with intimidation and violence. The decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in public schools opened another period of strife as Negroes sought, despite southern resistance, to enjoy what the Court said they could have.

A recent examination of present race relationships noted that “the most dramatic aspects of discrimination in the United States are the restrictions on face-to-face contacts between whites and Negroes.”15 At the root of these restrictions is the fear that a breakdown of remaining barriers to racial mingling will invite intermarriage. Resistance to school desegregation in the South is largely due to the fear of the relationships that may develop between adolescents of the two races. That fear lies behind the abandonment of most social functions at schools that have been integrated and the suggestion that segregation of students by sex be substituted for segregation by color.

The current lunch-counter sit-ins are demonstrations against a long-standing prohibition in the racial code of the South against white and Negro sitting at the same table to eat. Violent reactions are the rule when Negroes bring pressure for desegregation of rest rooms, drinking fountains, recreational areas, and especially swimming pools.

Southern moderates assert that Negro efforts to break down the remaining areas of segregation have widened the breach between the races, creating hostility between them where there had been mutual efforts to find a peaceful adjustment to painful change. But others hold that the segregationist code itself has prevented “any effective communication between Negroes and whites,” 16 and that this has suited the purposes of the white community. The race-conscious Negro appears less concerned with the need for communication than he is with a sense of humiliation over the implied slight of separate facilities; to him, segregation in any form is a mark of inferiority which he is no longer willing to accept.

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Non-Violent Resistance to Segregation

In the present lunch-counter movement, Negro youth is employing a new technique which is making unprecedented difficulties for the South and may become increasingly troublesome in the North. Although there had been many signs that the colored population was building up to a popular revolt against segregation, the rapidly spreading sit-ins seemed to take southern authorities by surprise, In a talk before Montgomery students on March 1, the Rev. Martin Luther King said: “You have now presented the opposition with a technique that they don't know what to do with” and which “baffles and astounds” them.

Negro leaders recognize that the principle of non-violence on which the student campaign is said to be based may provoke violence in others, but the demonstrators appear willing to accept this risk. King has written: “If physical death is the price that a man must pay to free his children and his white brethren from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing could be more redemptive.” 17 In recent talks before students, King has reiterated this theme. Filling up the jails, he has advised, may awaken the conscience of the “white brethren.”

New Techniques in Montgomery Bus Boycott

Widely considered the spiritual leader of the present movement, even though it began spontaneously without adult direction, King is an avowed disciple of Gandhi. Two organizations which have contributed guidance to some of the demonstrators—Core and King's National Christian Leadership Conference—are committed to Gandhi's methods. This form of protest became widely known among Negroes from its successful use in the Montgomery bus boycott four years ago.

In the Montgomery episode the refusal on Dec. 5, 1955, of a Negro woman to move to the back of a bus led to an organized mass movement that continued until the Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 13, 1956, that state and local bus segregation Jaws were unconstitutional. In his account of the boycott, King wrote:

From the beginning a basic philosophy guided the movement. …In the first days of the protest … the phrase most often heard was Christian love. …As the days unfolded, however, the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi began to exert influence. … People who had never heard of the little brown saint of India were now saying his name with an air of familiarity. Non-violent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement. … Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Ghandi furnished the method.18

During the bus strike non-violent techniques of resistance were taught at weekly meetings in Negro churches After the Supreme Court decision, classes were continued to prepare the colored community to meet anticipated acts of provocation when bus riding was resumed. Negro men and women acted out scenes of entering the buses and role of hostile white persons.

Leaders addressed college and high school classes. Mimeographed sheets with the title “Integrated Bus Suggestions” were circulated: “Pray for guidance and commit yourself to complete non-violence …. Be loving enough to absorb evil. … If cursed do not curse back. … If struck do not strike back, but evidence love and good will at all times.” That keeping a pacific posture might be difficult was recognized. “For the first few days try to get on a bus with a friend in whose non-violence you have confidence. You can uphold one another by a glance or a prayer. …If you feel you cannot take it, walk for another week or two.”

Temptations to Violence in Sit-In Movement

Lessons learned by Negroes in the Montgomery boycott have spread widely among members of the race in other communities of the South. Many of the sit-in demonstrators have remained quiet and composed as white groups have uttered jeers and catcalls. An instruction sheet drafted by Nashville students closely followed the earlier admonitions to Montgomery Negroes.

Don't strike back or curse back if abused. Don't laugh out. Don't hold conversations with floor workers. … Don't block entrances to the stores and aisles. Show yourself friendly and courteous at all times. Sit straight and always face the counter. … Remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, Mohandas K. Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Remember love and non-violence.

Students in other cities have been counseled to dress neatly, not to chew gum, to eschew profanity, to behave with decorum. One piece of advice has been to go home if uncontrollable anger wells up.

Whether the Negro students will hold firmly to principles of non-violence advocated by their leaders remains to be seen. A Negro sociologist, Lewis W. Jones of Tuskegee Institute, told a newspaper correspondent: “Students are unpredictable and impulsive, as are most young people, and I fear that should violence occur, the resistance on the part of the Negroes will not be so passive.” In his written account of the Montgomery boycott, King admitted that probably most of the Negroes “did not believe in nonviolence as a philosophy of life” but they “were willing to use it as a technique.”

One of the dangers is that demonstrations will attract youths of both races who may be spoiling for a fight. Negro leaders show a good deal of concern that the peaceful demonstrations may get out of hand. At the height of a demonstration in Chattanooga, an N.A.A.C.P. official who saw the arrest of an armed Negro boy said: “This has been terrible. … We do not want violence. That destroys everything.” After four masked white youths kidnaped a Houston Negro, flogged him and cut the initials K.K.K. on his body, the president of the local N.A.A.C.P. pleaded with Negroes not to seek revenge but to rely on “appropriate law enforcement agencies.” One 18-year-old white youth has since been arrested in this case.

Negro leaders are concerned also about the growth of a so-called “Muslim” sect which preaches black supremacy, cultivates hatred of the white race, and is hostile to Christian-oriented Negro organizations. Although the sect claims a following of only 250,000, there is said to be considerable interest in it among Negroes generally. An Urban League official said: “I have an anxious feeling that it has a great deal more ‘closet’ support and sympathy among Negroes than appears on the surface.” 19

Municipal Action to Control Demonstrations

To most southern officials the sit-in movement has been an exasperating phenomenon. The chief measures so far taken to control the demonstrations have been conventional police action to forestall impending riots, and arrests of demonstrators on minor charges such as trespass and disturbing the peace. The Alabama School Board expelled nine students of Alabama State College and put 20 on probation as punishment for continuing the demonstrations after warnings to halt them, Gov. John Patterson threatened to ask the legislature to cut off the institution's appropriation, and the Montgomery police chief recommended that it be closed because of “apparent lack of cooperation with law enforcement officers by the faculty and students.”

The Georgia and Virginia legislatures have strengthened laws against trespassing. The Virginia amendment imposes a penalty of one year in jail and $1,000 fine for trespassing or encouraging others to trespass on privately operated establishments. Similar legislation is pending in South Carolina. The constitutionality of this application of trespass laws is due for a court test. The N.A.A.C.P. is preparing an appeal of the conviction of two Negroes in Raleigh, N. C., for trespassing at the city's largest shopping center; its lawyers maintain that the center had waived much of its status as private property by seeking to attract customers to the site.

Police action in the South has been largely directed to prevention of riots and checking of isolated outbreaks of violence. In several cities, firemen joined the police in procedures customarily used in riot-breaking. There have been few complaints that police squads have taken sides against the demonstrators but Martin Luther King complained, March 10, in a telegram to President Eisenhower that the police and other authorities in Montgomery were using “Gestapo-like methods” to intimidate Negroes. They had launched “an incredible assault” on students of Alabama State, prevented the holding of meetings and religious services, tapped telephone wires and disconnected the telephones of Negro leaders. “We feel this terror which grips a whole community in an American city, violating elementary constitutional rights, requires immediate federal emergency action.” The Montgomery police chief dismissed the complaint as the “ranting of a rabble-rousing agitator” he said the police had made “every effort to maintain law and order … and to protect the rights and property of all our citizens in what we feel is a tense situation.” Any type of unbiased investigation would be welcome.20

Hopes of Negro Leaders for Race Reconciliation

The question is asked: What do the Negroes hope to gain from the sit-ins and other demonstrations? Is it merely emotional release from pent-up frustration, or is there a real conviction that the organized protests will speed the falling away of the remaining barriers to full equality? According to King, the first gain is new self-respect and courage in the resister; the next gain is rousing up of the silent sympathizer; finally, the effort “reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.” Violent protest, on the other hand, would intensify animosities and make reconciliation impossible.

Others feel that the demonstrations have hardened southern resistance to any concessions on segregation. It has been noted that it was a Supreme Court decision, and not the boycott, that ended segregation on Montgomery's buses. Montgomery officials have closed public parks rather than admit Negroes. On the other hand, sit-ins in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and several other cities outside the Deep South have led to abandonment of segregation at lunch counters.

President Eisenhower, at a press conference on March 16, maintained the right of any group of people to hold protest meetings, march through the streets, or engage in any other kind of peaceful demonstration to express their aspirations and desires. “I do not believe that violence in any form furthers that aspiration, and I deplore any violence that is exercised to prevent them from enjoying those rights.” Gov. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina said the same day that the President's statement had done “great damage to peace and good order” in the South. “All rights are limited in the interest of the public good—the issue is one of maintaining the public peace and not establishing rights.”

Another southern governor, Leroy Collins of Florida, said in a broadcast address, March 20, that he considered it “unjust and morally wrong” for a store owner who invites the public generally to patronize his establishment to bar Negroes from one of its departments. “Now he has a legal right to do this, but I still don't think he can square that right with moral simple justice.”

Collins announced that he would appoint a biracial advisory committee on black-white relations and called on all Florida communities to set up similar committees. The President had recommended at his meeting with the press that southern cities arrange biracial conferences to deal with tension resulting from current Negro demonstrations against segregation.21

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[1] Gandhi is quoted at having written in 1937: “Passive resistance is a misnomer for non-violent resistance. It is much more active than violent resistance. It is direct, ceaseless, but three-fourths invisible. …It may be through the Negroes that the unadulterated message of non-violence will be delivered to the world.”

[2] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina. Tennessee, Texas, Virginia. Sympathy demonstrations developed in several northern cities and college towns.

[3] Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

[4] Thurgood Marshall, head of the legal staff of N.A.A.C.P., announced on March 20, after a two-day conference of some 60 southern civil rights lawyers in Washington, that an initial allotment of $40,000 had been made to defend all sit-in demonstrators who asked for court help. He said the students were asserting constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment in demanding equal service at lunch counters open to the general public. “As lone as they act lawfully we will support them.”

[5] The lunch counter at a Woolworth store in Suffolk, Va., was reopened on a service-to-all basis, March 18, but without seats, after a two-week shutdown following? a sit-in demonstration.

[6] Allen D. Grimshaw, “Lawlessness and Violence in America,” The Journal of Negro History, January 1959. pp. 52. 71–2.

[7] Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma (Vol. II, 1941), p. 757.

[8] Laura A. White. “Slave Insurrections,” Dictionary of American, History (Vol. V 1940), p. 90.

[9] Roi Ottley, Block Odyssey (1948), pp. 19–80.

[10] Grimahaw, op. cit., p. 58.

[11] Allen Nevins, Ordeal of the Union (1947), p. 543.

[12] Ibid., p. 422.

[13] The peak year for lynching, according to Tuskegee Institute reports, was 1892; Negroes put to death by mobs in that year numbered 161.

[14] Shelley v. Kraemer. 334 U.S. 1 (1948).

[15] Bertram P. Karon. The Negro Personality (1958), p. 15.

[16] Ibid., p. 21.

[17] Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom (1958), p. 218.

[18] Ibid., pp. 84–85.

[19] “‘Black Supremacy’ Cult in U.S.,” U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 9, 1959, p. 114.

[20] Chairman John A. Hannah announced. March 21, that the federal Civil Rights Commission would undertake an investigation of charges that race discrimination had been practiced law enforcement in the South and elsewhere.

[21] Formal or informal biracial councils or committees have recently been set up, or were already in existence when the sit-down demonstrations began, in such southern cities as Birmingham, Durham, Greensboro, Knoxville, Nashville and Raleigh.

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Document APA Citation
Shaffer, H. B. (1960). Violence and non-violence in race relations. Editorial research reports 1960 (Vol. I). Washington, DC: CQ Press. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre1960032500
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