8 Moments HBCUs Led Civil Rights Progress

8 Moments HBCUs Led Civil Rights Progress

8 Moments HBCUs Led Civil Rights Progress

A look at key moments in civil rights history that ignited on the campuses of HBCUs.

PUBLISHED ON : FEBRUARY 7, 2017 / 07:00 AM

  1. Freedom Fighting Four

    At North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a striking statue features four young men, Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, who were responsible for the historic stand they took against racism on February 1, 1960, by sitting in at the segregated Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. This eventually led to stores like Woolworth participating in desegregation.

    Four A&T College students sit in seats designated for white people at the racially segregated Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, on February 2, 1960. From left to right, the students are Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson. This photo was taken on the second day of the now-famous Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins. Greensboro News & Record photo by Jack Moebes
    (Photo: Jack Moebes, Greensboro News & Record)
  2. Knowledge Is Power

    The Institute for Colored Youth, the first higher education institution for Blacks, was founded in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, in 1837. The founding at Cheyney University was followed by two other Black institutions being founded: Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania (1854), and Wilberforce University, in Ohio (1856).

    (Photo:  Cheyney University of Pennsylvania)
    (Photo: Cheyney University of Pennsylvania)
  3. Shaw You're Right

    Shaw University was the site of the first meeting of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which led voter registration drives and the Freedom Rides. The first meeting was organized by Shaw University student Ella Baker in April of 1960.

    Ella Baker, between 1943 and 1946. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (114.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP via Library of Congress)
[Digital ID # cph.3c18852]
    (Courtesy of the NAACP via Library of Congress)
  4. Blackness Isn't a Performance

    Tougaloo College students not only marched and protested against racial discrimination, they also reached out to white entertainers and encouraged them not to perform at segregated venues.

  5. 'A Voteless People Is a Hopeless People'

    Knoxville College students and professors in Tennessee began one of the first voter registration drives in 1957 and forced the 1960 desegregation of downtown stores and restaurants well before many of the more well-known desegregation efforts succeeded.

    (Photo: Knoxville College)
  6. Peace and Justice for All

    Patricia and Priscilla Stevens (two FAMU students) attended a Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) workshop on sit-in tactics in 1959, which helped them plan and implement a bus boycott in Tallahassee, Florida. Within weeks, the city’s buses were integrated. The campus’s chapter of CORE was also founded by these two women, along with others who eventually went on to help run lunch counter sit-ins for three years to reach integration in Tallahassee.

    Patricia Stephens (in sunglasses) in a boycott and picketing of downtown stores: Tallahassee, Florida. December 1960. (State Archives of Florida)
    (Photo: State Archives of Florida)
  7. Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud

    Toward the late 1960s, many HBCU students began demanding changes in their curricula that would “ensure the presence of African initiatives and experiences.” In protest, 400 students took over the administration building at Cheyney State University in 1967. To this same effort, students held 12 of the university trustees hostage for 12 hours at Tuskegee University, also demanding campus-wide reform. These protests fueled students across the country to demand more relevant curricula to help them better face an ever-changing world.

  8. Civil Rights Central

    Claflin University was the central force working to dismantle segregation in Orangeburg, South Carolina, marching and protesting well before 1960, which most historians mark as the inception of the student civil rights movement.

    (Photo: Claflin University via Facebook)
    (Photo: Claflin University via Facebook)

Written by BET Staff


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