The sit-in demonstrations begun by four A. and T. College freshmen in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960, had greater effect on the students of Alabama State College than most of us realized. Students here, as in other colleges, began to discuss the reasons behind the demonstrations. To some the issues became very dear, because there was perhaps a greater compulsion to understanding in Montgomery than in other places. Feeling strongly a need to identify with the movement, a small group initiated action on the campus without outside aid. Their minds already made up, but believing that more experienced thinking than their own would be helpful, they sought the advice of Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy, President of the Montgomery Improvement Association. After a discussion on possible targets, the students decided on the lunch room at the county court house.
Those students who were in on the plans from the beginning believed that they had a right to demonstrate against injustices. But it was not until the Governor demanded that the demonstrators be expelled that 85 per cent of the student body gave expression to the feeling that their fellow students had the same rights as anyone else in this country and to expel them for seeking to be served in a tax-supported place was a violation of elementary democracy. They also resented the Governor’s treatment of the president of the college. It was for the above reasons that the students started going to meetings and taking part in the demonstrations, including marching on the State Capitol in a peaceful and orderly manner.
The student body falls into several classifications, according to their back. grounds and reactions. Some are from the larger cities in Alabama and others were born in Alabama but had been living in the North for several years. Both of these groups were forthright in stating their beliefs as to the rights of Negroes. Some students put a particular stress on the right to vote and to come and go freely. A third group would include those from smaller towns in Alabama who resented pressure exerted by white authorities. They believed that the students had a right to protest on campus, or off campus for that matter, without the Governor or the Board of Education interfering. Such students rejected the charge of impatience, answering that they realized full well that time will change things, but there was a need occasionally to help time along. A fourth group was composed of those who did not express their feelings so fluently in words, but did so in deeds, often acts of heroism.
The upper classmen took the lead at first and provided the movement with its early leadership. But then they began to fall into the background. The reason for this was simply that they had more to lose because some would soon be up for graduation. Freshmen and sophomores then moved in to take the place of the upper classmen. It was the lower classmen who formed the hard core grou...
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