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The end of racial segregation in North Carolina


Charlotte city
Charlotte city

An important part of the civil rights movement—mass sit-ins—originated in Greensboro in February 1960. The tactic was this: A body of blacks and whites together would crowd into a segregated lunch counter and ask for service. If service was refused, they would remain in their seats, taking up most of the available space so that the counter could do little other business until the police came and removed the demonstrators. From Greensboro, this tactic spread throughout the South during the early 1960s. Some establishments closed down their lunch counters, some changed to a stand-up operation, and others began integrated service. Many of the larger cities of North Carolina began to serve blacks and whites together, but in many of the smaller towns, segregated service continued until it was outlawed by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 decided, in Brown v. Board of Education, that segregated schools were unconstitutional, the state was less resistant than most Southern states to desegregation, but proceeded slowly. The legislature in 1955 voted to eliminate any reference to race from the laws of the state but would not go beyond that. By unanimous vote, the legislators approved a resolution stating that: The mixing of the races in the public schools within the state cannot be accomplished and if attempted would alienate public support of the schools to such an extent that they could not be operated successfully.

However, desegregation began in the fall of 1955 on the university undergraduate level, when three black applicants were admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These were the first in the university’s 160-year history, other than a few who had been specially admitted to the law, medical, and graduate schools. They were admitted under federal court order after the university’s board of trustees initially voted not to process their applications.

Integration at lower levels began in the fall of 1957 with three school boards—Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro—and gradually spread. After some initial protests by white segregationists, the process was a peaceful one.

Busing of pupils to achieve racial desegregation began in the early 1970s in several cities in the state, following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving a Charlotte school district. In 1981 the U.S. Department of Education and North Carolina authorities agreed on a plan for the full desegregation of the state university system by 1986. The agreement ended an 11-year dispute. Although North Carolina’s black citizens advanced in rights, opportunities, and influence after World War II, they suffered the effects of years of economic, social, legal, and educational inequality. Various organizations advocating white supremacy were still active in the state. In November 1979, five members of the Communist Workers Party were shot to death by a group of Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis while holding an anti-Klan protest rally in Greensboro. The six men accused in the killings were found not guilty by a state court jury in November 1980. "North Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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