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Though Brown was an important legal victory against the entire concept of racial segregation, as a practical matter southern schools remained segregated while the white South fought back with its " Massive Resistance " campaign.
For the most part, Blacks are restricted to the lowest-paid and most menial of occupations and on average earn less than half of what whites earn. Poverty among Blacks is wide-spread. Throughout the county and the town of Farmville segregation is the rule with "white-only" restrictions, "colored" entrances and drinking fountains, and a maze of race-related rules, customs, and restrictions.
Their call is supported by CORE and other civil rights groups. The national leadership has always allowed local NAACP branches to engage in selective-buying campaigns boycotts such as the Montgomery and Tallahasee bus boycotts and the merchant boycotts in Tuskegee and New Orleans. Through boycott actions, young NAACP activists create an organizational space for some forms of protest. And elsewhere, other NAACP youth groups also begin using direct action tactics to support voter registration and desegregation efforts.
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Inspired by Birmingham, Danville, and the wave of actions across the South, young people in Prince Edward County who have been denied an education for five years press for action. The previous year, Griffen convinced them to refrain from direct action, but now pressure is mounting. Some weeks later, delegates to the national NAACP convention in Washington adopt a similar "Direct Action Resolution" authorizing picketing, sit-ins, marches, and boycotts.
With summer vacation beginning in June, dozens of students who have been attending integrated schools in the North return to Farmville. For them, the segregated, Jim Crow South is no longer tolerable.
Says Bessie Reed, just graduated from a Massachusetts high school, "[Demonstrations] are the only way to get what we want. Samuel Williams and 25 year old Rev. NAACP lawyers counsel them on their legal rights and what to do if arrested.
The training goes on for several days, exhausting the limited patience of the eager young warriors. Tuesday, July 9, is the Democratic primary pitting a staunch white segregationist determined to keep the county schools closed against a white challenger who argues for, "a moral obligation to open the schools.
Some 35 Black demonstrators appear on the streets of downtown Farmville to protest the systematic denial of Black voting rights. The segregationist candidate wins re-election, but the Black activists put the county on notice that their patience with Jim Crow has run out.
Hard-liners among the white power-structure respond to the threat of nonviolent protest by hiring additional police and creating a force of unpaid "deputies" all white, of course are to be issued clubs and identified by armbands in case of "civil unrest.
Since the jail is small, plans are made to incarcerate arrested adults at the local airport and ship juveniles to a state farm in a neighboring county. They also come up with a plan requiring that reporters and news media obtain permits to enter "troubled areas.
He seeks to maintain positive relations with the Black community and particularly Rev. Griffin who he meets with regularly. His goal is to prevent violence and avoid mass arrests. To accomplish that, he is willing to accept some level of lawful, nonviolent protests regardless of what the Mayor and the hardliners think. Within the white power-structure he has some measure of political support from other "moderates" who also oppose hardline tactics.
Day to day, it is Overton who determines how the police handle protests. In the words of Rev.
Others hand out leaflets to Black shoppers in the downtown business district listing the stores that enforce segregation. The boycott is generally supported by most Blacks, though not all. Some ignore the appeals, or do their shopping when no leafleters are present. And some have no choice but to patronize local white merchants who are the only ones who will let them buy on credit. It soon becomes clear that direct action in the form of daily picketing is needed to strengthen the boycott, not only in regards to Black shoppers but also to discourage whites who prefer not to be reminded of the realities of southern racism or risk becoming involved in any sort of confrontation or trouble.
Marching and picketing also has the effect of slowing traffic and deliveries, further inconveniencing both businesses and customers.
Protests begin in earnest on Thursday, July 25th. They form into teams that begin picketing at the courthouse, downtown businesses, and the Farmville Shopping Center.
Leaflets are handed out to Black shoppers urging them to boycott businesses that refuse to hire nonwhites. Well disciplined and carefully trained, they maintain enough separation between each person so that no legitimate accusation of blocking traffic can be lodged against them and therefore the ordinance against parading without a permit does not legally apply.
Their protest signs speak to closed schools, sluggish courts, segregated businesses, and job discrimination. Police make no arrests. They are refused service and the J.
J Newberry manager closes the counter and removes the stools. White customers are allowed in, Blacks are not. In the afternoon, they target the State Theater, lining up at the booth to buy movie tickets. Each time they are denied they step aside and then go to the back of the line to try again.
The teenage demonstrators enter stores that allow whites to try on clothing before purchasing, but not Blacks.
Defying a century of custom, they enter changing rooms to try on clothing in what they refer to as a "try-in. We would go in there and try on clothes and not buy them.
For boycotters, it is the key day to dissuade Blacks from buying, but it is also when white hecklers might resort to violence. But more than picketers march up and down Main St. Richard Hale, of St. The 10 protesters are barred. They stand silently along the sidewalk. When they are arrested for "loitering," they sit down and the police have to carry them away. The study is funded by a grant from the U. On Sunday, the 28th, with all businesses closed for the sabbath, the young protesters keep the pressure on by attempting to integrate the services at white churches.
At Johns Episcopal, Dr. Gordon Moss invites the group to worship with him in his pew. For this racial "crime" he is shunned by his former friends.
When eight Blacks enter Wesleyan Methodist, all but a handful of the whites walk out and the minister asks the group to leave. Which they do to avoid arrest. At Farmville Presbyterian, the Black students are not allowed to enter at all. Samuel Williams leads a group to Farmville Baptist, the largest congregation in the county with an imposing church next to the courthouse.
Ruth Turner, 24, speaks to the usher who tells her, "[You] people are not coming in here. Joined by others who had been barred at the churches they had tried to enter, they sing "We Shall Overcome" and other freedom songs. The white deacons call the cops. Chief Overton asks the demonstrators to leave. They refuse and continue singing. They are arrested for "disturbing public worship.
Fred Wallace, a clerk for Henry Marsh who is the protesters lawyer, gets into a physical altercation with police and is arrested on felony charges. While dramatic, the arrests create problems for Rev. Griffin and the boycott strategy of applying economic pressure to win substantive change. Daily picketing during business hours is an essential enforcement element, but the number of people mostly students who are able and willing to engage in protests is limited to those few who are not working summer jobs and have the courage to risk white retaliation.
The 23 arrestees face greatly increased bail if they are busted a second time. Flood issues an order making lockups in eight adjacent counties, three towns, and the state farm available to Prince Edward law enforcement so that jail-no-bail and filling the jail tactics cannot be used as a viable protest strategy.
Since more arrests would result in fewer pickets, Rev. Griffen orders that protesters avoid pushing confrontations to the point of arrest. On Saturday, August 3rd, Rev. Douglas applies for a parade permit. Watkins denies his request. Chief Overton blocks off a portion of Main St. A swarm of cops are on hand to enforce these rules. Douglas argues that this a violation of his First Amendment free speech right to peacefully protest. They are quickly arrested.
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This sets up a test case, but at the cost of reducing the number of pickets available on subsequent days. The following week some protesters picket downtown on weekdays with in the roped off section on Saturdays. There are no further arrests, but without the drama of civil disobediance and police action, media attention falls off markedly.
The struggle becomes a battle of who can last longer, the businesses losing business or the pickets picketing day-after-day in the summer heat without visible result. On August 12, the federal circuit court rules against Griffin and the NAACP in the school case, asserting that, "there is nothing in the Fourteenth Amendment which requires a state, or any of its political subdivisions, to provide schooling for any of its citizens.
Southern segregationists then switch from a strategy of "Massive Resistance" to one of Massive Evasion. The white politicians demand that all protests and picketing cease as the price of their cooperation, a concession that Griffen is unwilling to formally agree to.
An informal compromise is reached and a nonprofit association called the Prince Edward Free School Association is created to operate a school system, "without regard to race, creed or color" and without county tax-money. At a mass meeting in First Baptist Church, Rev.
He tells them to keep the pressure on by contining the boycott, though with the students back in school there will be little, if any, picketing. The Black community expresses its support by marching that night strong to the courthouse to sing and pray.