As Black History Month has started, it is important to reflect on the great things achieved by America’s black community. It is important to understand the significance of these events, and what they represent so that it becomes easier to navigate the world today.
In this regard, not much is known about all the significant events that occurred in North Carolina. Therefore, Cardinal Pine, a Courier Newsroom publication, has recently published an article on their website outlining four significant occurrences in NC’s Black history.
Fusionist Years, 1894-1900
From 1894-1900, marked a period of alliance between the Republican Parties and the Populists. The two banded together to defeat the then-white supremacists, the Democrats. During that time, the Republican party was composed of Black and white men, and thousands of Black men were appointed as officials.
Interestingly, the only Black man serving in Congress back then was NC’s US Rep. George Henry White. White warned Congress of rising insurrection and white supremacy. In his farewell speech to Congress, White said, “The only apology that I have to make for the earnestness with which I have spoken, is that I am pleading for the life, the liberty, the future happiness, and manhood suffrage for one–eighth of the entire population of the United States.” White was removed from office due to Jim Crow laws.
In 1901, White started a law practice in Washington D.C.
Sarah Keys’ Stand Against Bus Segregation
Three years before Rosa Parks’ momentous stand, another Black woman in North Carolina, Sarah Keys, decided to take a stand against segregation and not vacate her seat. It was because of her courage that segregation laws were abolished in North Carolina and the surrounding southern states.
In 1952, Keys was serving in the Women’s Army Corps and was taking a bus to her eastern NC hometown, Washington, when the bus driver asked her to vacate her seat for a white Marine. She was arrested upon refusal, for disorderly conduct, reported Cardinal Pine, a Courier Newsroom publication.
She filed a suit against the Carolina Coach Company and was represented by NAACP. She was successful in getting a decision from the Interstate Commerce Commission that segregation was prohibited on the kind of bus she was riding. Thus, Keys v Carolina Coach Co became an important legal precedent that was later used by US Attorney General Robert Kennedy, in his call to protect Freedom Riders in 1961.
Her contributions have now come to the limelight due to the efforts of an 8th-grade social studies teacher, and a historical marker has been erected by the State at the Roanoke Rapids bus station to commemorate Keys.
Keys, 92, now lives in New York.
Leading Student Civil Rights Group
On April 15, 1960, 150 students, from over 10 states, gathered at Raleigh’s Shaw University, to form the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee or the SNCC, wrote the Courier Newsroom publication. These students came together with the singular aim of dismantling and overthrowing segregation.
This group later became a major force in the civil rights movement and played a key role in the proliferation of non-violent tactics to fight injustice. “Unlike mainstream groups, which merely sought integration of blacks into the existing order, SNCC sought structural changes in American society itself,” said the late Julian Bond, about the role played by the SNCC.
Boycott of Hyde County Schools
This boycott came in the wake of a decision by a white-dominated school board to shut down two Black schools and move all the students to one, previously white-dominated school. The Black community was not consulted in this decision-making process. This plan was part of a larger plan for the integration of public schools with the federal system.
The Black community was proud of the two schools that the school board planned to shut down. Closing them down would have meant that Black teachers would have lost their jobs, and students would face difficulty traveling to the one far-off school.
This led Black teenagers to start a yearslong boycott, which their parents later joined, and this eventually stopped the school board from shutting down the two schools.