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Public Statements

Recognizing Contributions of "Greensboro Four" to the Civil Rigts Movement

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


RECOGNIZING CONTRIBUTIONS OF ``GREENSBORO FOUR'' TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT -- (House of Representatives - February 15, 2005)

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Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, on May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared two things: (1) segregated schools are illegal; and (2) the legal principle of ``separate but equal'' was dead.

Philosophically the Court was saying if our public institutions are equal, why separate them? And, practically and historically, if they are separate we know they will be unequal.

Thus, the Brown decision laid the legal foundation for attacking all segregated institutions in America.

There had been sit-ins in the 1940s and '50s--in Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore and elsewhere--but without the legal foundation of Brown.

During this period of increasing civil rights activity, CORE, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and SCLC clergy trained young people in nonviolent direct action. Rev. James Lawson and others did such training in Nashville at Tennessee State, the American Baptist Theological Seminary and at Fisk University.

The students at North Carolina A & T State University, my alma mater, didn't know about the activity in Nashville. But freedom was increasingly in the air.

So, on February 1, 1960, four young African American men--Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond--all freshmen on academic scholarships at North Carolina A & T, sat down at a ``whites only'' Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro. They wanted to be served, but were refused and physically abused. They responded to violence with nonviolence.

The media focused on what was happening in Greensboro, and African American college students across the South were inspired to begin a lunch counter sit-in movement. They filled jails, got out, sat-in again, and went back to jail. They marched, picketed and refused to stop until the ``Cotton Curtain'' fell.

Ten years after Brown, their dream was achieved when Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing segregation in public institutions. But it all began with four students at North Carolina A & T. The nation owes them a great debt of gratitude.

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