Countdown to Downtown: The Civil Rights Protest Movement in Downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina

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Title: Countdown to Downtown: The Civil Rights Protest Movement in Downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina
Author: Suttell, Brian William
Advisors: Dr. Joseph Caddell, Committee Member
Dr. James Crisp, Committee Member
Dr. Walter Jackson, Committee Chair
Abstract: The purpose of the research presented in this thesis is to analyze the civil rights protest movement in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Protest movements in other cities such as Birmingham, Greensboro and Raleigh helped to inspire the demonstrations in Fayetteville. Nonetheless, the movement in Fayetteville was primarily directed by local leadership, largely from Fayetteville State College students. Whereas small-scale sit-in demonstrations had occurred in 1960, the movement gained sustainable momentum beginning in 1963. Large-scale demonstrations in Fayetteville began in May 1963. The actions were initiated largely by the actions of a small group of Fayetteville State Teachers College students, a group informally called the "Demonstration Committee." This group worked to organize students to carry out orderly, peaceful protests. Fayetteville State students were motivated by their education at the college to create a society in which their education would meet opportunity. Likewise, their involvement in the demonstrations formed a crucial part of their education. Fayetteville State students received support from pastors, barbers, physicians, attorneys, teachers, and other members of the community. Many African Americans were concerned that they would lose their jobs if they became involved in the demonstrations. Nevertheless, several blacks supported the movement by providing bail money to protestors who had been arrested. The actions of the protestors created a varied response from city leadership and business owners. The creation of the Mayor's Bi-Racial Committee on June 19, 1963, represented a step toward integration in the city. Mayor Wilbur Clark and the Fayetteville City Council placed some limited pressure on business owners to desegregate services. Moral encouragement for integration also came from Governor Terry Sanford and, less directly, from President John F. Kennedy. Yet several business owners were reluctant to integrate service unless all of the businesses agreed to do so. Therefore, the protestors continued to stage sit-in demonstrations and marches to place additional pressure on the business owners. On July 19, 1963, the Mayor's Bi-Racial Committee reached an agreement with the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which effectively ended the demonstrations. While the agreement did not force business owners to integrate services, the path toward desegregation had gained momentum. By the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, all downtown theaters and hotels in Fayetteville had been integrated, while nearly all of the restaurants and lunch counters had integrated service. A variety of sources were used in the research for this thesis, including newspaper articles, Fayetteville City Council minutes, scholarly books and articles, censuses, and college catalogs and yearbooks from Fayetteville State [Teachers] College. The author conducted eighteen interviews from participants, city leaders, and members of the community to supplement printed resources.
Date: 2007-11-06
Degree: MA
Discipline: History

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