North Carolina Timeline

19401950 - 1960 - 1970

North Carolina abolishes the poll tax, used to limit minority voting.

The Southern Conference on Race Relations brings together 59 black leaders from 10 southern states at the N. C. College for Negroes. A committee headed by Charles S. Johnson of Fisk University issues the Durham Manifesto, which demands voting rights and equal educational and job opportunities for African Americans.

 Black tobacco workers go on strike at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem.

The N. C. Conference of NAACP Branches forms in Charlotte.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) tests a Supreme Court decision against segregation in interstate bus travel by sending eight African American men on Greyhound and Trailways bus rides. Riders are arrested in Asheville, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This "Journey of Reconciliation" becomes the model for the 1961 Freedom Rides.

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A court order requires the University of North Carolina to admit minority students to its graduate and professional schools. Floyd B. McKissick, Harvey Beech, J. Kenneth Lee, and James Lassiter become the first African Americans admitted to the law school.

Catholic parish schools in North Carolina begin desegregation.

Elementary schools at Fort Bragg army base are desegregated.
In response to the Brown decision, the Greensboro school board begins an effort to desegregate the city's public schools.

The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill admits the first African American freshmen: Leroy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon, and Ralph Frasier.

The North Carolina General Assembly adopts a resolution opposing racial integration in the state's public schools. The legislature gives local school boards control over the desegregation of their schools.

The General Assembly adopts the Pearsall Plan, which offers North Carolinians alternatives to attending integrated public schools.

Small numbers of African American students enroll in previously white public schools in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem, beginning a period of token integration.

Seven black activists led by Rev. Douglas E. Moore challenge segregation with a sit-in at Durham's Royal Ice Cream Company.

A large group of armed Lumbee break up a Ku Klux Klan rally near Maxton.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visits North Carolina. He delivers speeches in Raleigh and Greensboro.

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In Greensboro, N.C., four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr., and David Richmond) begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. Although they are refused service, they are allowed to stay at the counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the South. Six months later the original four protesters are served lunch at the same Woolworth's counter. Student sit-ins would be effective throughout the Deep South in integrating parks, swimming pools, theaters, libraries, and other public facilities.

College students involved in sit-in demonstrations hold a conference at Shaw University in Raleigh and form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), pronounced "SNICK." The organization adopts Gandhi's theory of nonviolent direct action. SNCC chairman John Lewis is one of the speakers at the March on Washington in 1963.

Cliff MacKay of the Baltimore Afro-American, reporting on protests in Greensboro, quotes a young Jesse Jackson, student president of North Carolina A. & T.: "When a police dog bites us in Birmingham, people of color bleed all over America" ["Police Dogs in Ala. Spur N.C. Unrest," Afro-American]

North Carolina institutes the freedom-of-choice plan, which allows parents to choose the public schools their children attend.

The homes of Charlotte civil rights activists Kelly Alexander Sr., Fred Alexander, Julius Chambers, and Reginald Hawkins are bombed.

A federal court rules the state's freedom-of-choice plan unconstitutional.

Henry E. Frye becomes the first African American elected to the N.C. House of Representatives in the twentieth century.

Howard Lee is elected mayor of Chapel Hill, making him the first African American mayor of a predominantly white southern city.

African American parents and students in Hyde County protest school reassignments with a yearlong boycott of public schools.

Cafeteria workers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill go on strike for better wages and opportunities. Black student activists lend their support.

In Godwin v. Johnston County Board of Education, a federal court declares the Pearsall Plan unconstitutional.

Police and National Guard fire on civil rights demonstrators at N. C. A&T College in Greensboro. One student is killed, and five police officers are injured.

Durham resident Warren Wheeler founds Wheeler Flying Service, becoming the first African American to own a commercial airline.

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The Winston-Salem chapter of the Black Panther Party receives its charter from the national party. The chapter has its beginnings in the East Winston Organization of Black Liberation, a group of African American students advocating community activism to combat police brutality and racial discrimination. Other North Carolina cities also have Black Panther chapters.

Henry D. Marrow Jr.,  a 23-year old African American man, is murdered in Oxford, N.C.—the victim of an alleged hate crime—prompting the first major stirrings of the American Civil Rights Movement in Granville County.

After a federal court in Charlotte orders cross-town busing to achieve integration of the public schools, the Supreme Court upholds the decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

A march to save North Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities, which were threatened by the merger of all state-supported senior institutions into the University of North Carolina system, draws 3,000 students.

A white-owned grocery store is firebombed during racial violence in Wilmington. Nine African American men and a white woman, known as the Wilmington 10, are convicted of arson and other charges. They have their convictions overturned in 1980.

Clarence Lightner becomes Raleigh's first African-American mayor. He serves until 1975.

The North Carolina General Assembly repeals the state's ban on interracial marriage and declines to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Members of the Communist Party and the Ku Klux Klan clash during an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro. Klan gunfire kills five anti-Klan Communist supporters. Twelve Klansmen are charged with murder. A court later clears Klan members of murder charges.

On February 1, 1980, the “Greensboro Four” (Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr., and David Richmond) mark the 20th anniversary of their historic sit-in at a Greensboro Woolworth’s by returning to the North Carolina store. The four are served by Woolworth V.P. Aubrey C. Lewis.

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