The hour hand of the clock kept moving. They kept still…
Yet another lingered, and crawled away…
But they were still there, after four hours. Waiting for their service, fighting for their rights, and for justice.
On Feb 13, 1960, students at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee began a large-scale demonstration of non-violent protests against racial segregation in major chain stores. They gathered together, bought their lunch, and sat at the lunch counters of several stores and waited patiently to be served.
Among these students was Dave Ayers, University of Redlands’ exchange student to Fisk University
“It was the most uplifting, most gladdening, saddening, most unique experience I have ever had. We were still scared, but we were helping each other be brave … The Negro won’t give up because he is beaten or jailed. We made that point today,” Ayers wrote in the Mar. 7 1960 issue of the Redlands Bulldog newspaper.
Ayers called for the support of the University’s student body. “This philosophy of nonviolent resistance is a very difficult one. It is hard not to return curse for curse or spit for spit or kick for kick.”
Answering Ayers’ call, the Bulldog sent a telegram to Fisk students. “The University of Redlands student body stands behind your philosophy of non-violent resistance to unjust racial discrimination.”
Another telegram from the Bulldog was addressed to the Nashville police and mayor, urging them to “‘exert their authority’ and ‘fulfill their responsibility’ and ‘see to it that unbiased police protection is provided for all those involved in this passive demonstration.’”
Yet despite these public expressions of support, the Bulldog reported that the University’s student body was still hesitant to take an active role in the movement. In a pro-integration petition addressed to one of the chain stores (Woolworth), there were only 250 signatures out of roughly 1200 students attending the University.
Why was there such a disparity? The editor of the Bulldog commented on this paradox.
“This could be due to a number of factors such as 1) there is a feeling on campus that the south should remain segregated; 2) there are those who oppose segregation but did not feel the letter to Woolworth Co. was an effective means of protest; 3) did not agree with the wording of the letter; 4) or are for integration in principle but not in action,” the editor’s note wrote. “Perhaps, as some have said, Redlands is a small Christian college for SMALL Christians.”
Another black student, Voris Glaspar, also voiced his concern in an editorial.
“People are forced to hide their real opinions for fear of losing their status in the community. The whites don’t know who’s really for integration. Segregation is argued vehemently, while integration is rarely discussed.” Glaspar wrote. “If more people were to come out publicly in support of integration, they would undoubtedly draw followers who had also been suppressing liberal leanings.”
As time passed, this would undeniably change.
Indeed, the following issue of the Bulldog, on March 21, 1960, a “UR Human Relations Committee” was created, chaired by UR students Russ Warne and Dave Dunning, with a mission to raise awareness about integration and segregation problems.
In 1963, a headline ran “Hiring negro profs will benefit U of R.”
In 1968, one can see the shift in attitude in the Bulldog itself, as articles stopped using the word “Negro” and instead used “Black” to refer to African-Americans. In the same year, the Bulldog ran a series of “Black Awareness” editorials and op-eds.
Black Studies as a major was first endorsed by a unanimous vote in 1969.
These are only some examples of the many changes in the mindset of the student body, as highlighted by the reporting of the Redlands Bulldog in the ’60s.
The Nashville sit-in protests, as it came to be known, and many similar protests, were some of the most pivotal events in the Civil Rights Movement. The University’s involvement in the movement serves as a reminder of the capability for change of the collective will of a community.
“Snapshots of History” is an ongoing research series in which the Redlands Bulldog re-examines its role in prominent events in the history of the world in general and of the University of Redlands in particular. The series hopes to shine a light on the University’s past so that the present can be understood.
[hr gap=””]All photographs by Quynh Nguyen and edited by Jono Ruhlman, by permission from the University of Redlands archives.