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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, February 22, 2001. Interview K-0215. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Origins of the Chapel Hill civil rights demonstrations of the early 1960s

The Chapel Hill civil rights demonstrations of the early 1960s ignited over the resistance to restaurant desegregation. Pollitt insists that black Chapel Hill high school students initiated the protest. To sustain their activism, the students sought the assistance of Minister Charles Jones, a white pro-integrationist and learned effective nonviolent tactics.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, February 22, 2001. Interview K-0215. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DANIEL H. POLLITT:
...But after the movies, there came public accommodations in general. And the four freshmen at A&T in Greensboro went to the dime store, and asked for service and were denied, and they went back the next day in larger numbers, and a third day in larger numbers, and then the Bennett College people and whites at UNC-G joined them, and then the hecklers, and then they closed the dime store. But during that time it spread, over to NC Central and the other black colleges in this state. And here, the high school students started it all.
DAVID POTORTI:
This was at the Colonial.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yeah, it was a guy named Foster—
DAVID POTORTI:
Harold Foster.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yes, Harold was the president of the student body at Lincoln, and the captain of the football team, and the point guard on the basketball team. And he and his buddy, who was the alderman at Carrboro for a long time, was a running back, or the blocking back, and the forward on the basketball team. But they had won a big game one night. And they were exuberant, and they thought they'd go to the Colonial Drug where they used to go and get their things and then eat outside. Well, for one thing, it was snowing that night. Five or six of them went in and ordered, which was all right, but instead of going outside they sat down. And the guy told them to get the hell out. Which they did. And then they went across the street to the bus terminal, where they had a black sandwich-snack bar, and a white snack bar. And they went into the white snack bar. And the guy who owned the bus station told them to get the hell out, which they did. And then it ended up they went to see their minister, who couldn't help them. So they went to Charlie Jones. And there was a guy from CORE, the Congress Of Racial Equality—who had come down—and they were to teach non violence. And he had been arrested in Durham at a picket line. So Charlie went over and bailed him out and brought him here to talk to the high school students.
DAVID POTORTI:
This isn't Floyd, is it? Floyd McKissock?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
No, he later became the chair. This was not James Farmer either— James Farmer was the head of the national CORE, or the executive director, and he had a staff of three or something. And he sent one of them down here, and that was the guy. So he gave a talk at the center, where you have the—recreation center. And he had the drama people act out—he said, okay, now you're the picketer, and you're the policeman, and you're the store owner, now what are you going to do? And they'd say "Nigger get out of here," and what are you going to do? They said, "Leave my store please." Now, is that what the storekeeper is really going to say? [Laughter] No. Now what are you going to do, and when the cop comes, what are you going to do? And they'd act it out, and then they'd get another group in, and they'd act it out. Psychodrama, or something.
DAVID POTORTI:
Reenactments.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
So they acted it out, and the next day they went back to the Colonial Drug and did it. And that started a year or more of sit-in protests.