Rich Black History Pt. 2
I was walking on my college campus of North Carolina A&T State University with teammates of mine. As we passed through the busiest part of campus where everyone was hanging out, I saw enough beautiful young ladies there to keep a young man’s attention and plenty of cars playing their music so loudly as if it were a competition to see who could damage the most eardrums. In that part of campus was the infamous dorm called “Scott Hall,” which housed such notable alumni as Rev. Jesse Jackson, his son Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and NFL and A&T great Elvin Bethea. As we walked by the dorm I happened to look up and there were holes in the side of the building. I had seen them before, but this time my curiosity was piqued. I asked one of the veteran teammates what caused those holes. He told me that just like I was seeing at that time while we were talking, even back in the 60’s there were students on each floor hanging out of the windows watching the activities down below. The holes were there from bullets that were fired at male students who were in those windows in 1969 during one of the most tumultuous years in Greensboro. An unknown assailant shot and killed one student named Willie Grimes.
Those bullet marks told the story of what black students had to endure during the sixties. Nine years earlier in 1960 there were four A&T students that left an even greater mark on black history. That year Ezell Blair Jr., Joe McNeil, Franklin McCain and David Richmond would make up what would come to be known as the Greensboro Four. Four students that would congregate in a room in Scott Hall to talk about school, life and the social injustices at the time that were facing black people. In that dorm room was ultimately born the plans for the Woolworth sit-ins. They would sit in the white-only section of the lunch counter in Woolworth waiting to be served. They would be refused. It would be a peaceful protest in the same spirit of Rosa Parks and the marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The sit-in would soon gain momentum, as over 300 students, and eventually 1,000 protesters and observers would join, including white female students from Greensboro Women’s College. The sit-ins would inspire other sit-ins in 40 other cities around the country, and in less than six months Woolworth’s would integrate its lunch counters.
They sat against injustice. They sat for justice. They sat inspired by the events surrounding Emmitt Till’s death five years earlier. They sat not knowing what would happen in response to their peaceful defiance of injustice against people of color. They did not respond with an eye for an eye. They did not respond with out-of-control anger and pride (which many of us would have easily understood). They responded with the strength of humility. To sit silently with the courage to withstand all that racism had to throw at them. They started a revolution that led to a stand against segregation by refusing to stand and leave.
How easy it is for me, us, to respond to evil out of our fatigue and anger when injustice rears its head. Some might say, “Well that was then, we don’t have to take that treatment today.” I would respond that it may not look the same today when we fight injustice in our homes, in our jobs, in our communities, or in our schools, but I would add that the principle of leading with humility is just as powerful today as it ever has been. I would say that this humility is what made the biggest progress in our history to stop the evil of racism. This is why I am proud to be black and proud to be an A&T Aggie.
This is why I am also proud to be a follower of Jesus. Humility is not weakness, it is actually a greater strength in the face of the weakness and cowardice of injustice. Yes, we must take stands today. Yes, we must not back down out of fear against hate crimes, sex slavery, prejudice, and any form of evil that threatens humanity, but we must respond with the clarity and disarming wisdom that comes with humility to break the back of injustice in any arena. The strength of the spirit of humility seen in The Greensboro Four, the Rosa Parks, and the Dr. Kings of world are exactly in line with the strength of the humility of Jesus. As I have strengthened my walk with the Lord and gained greater understanding of Jesus, I have seen the hand of God so much more throughout black history. “Amazing Grace” is not just lyrics to a song, it is our reality fueling our endurance. I appreciate it even more today. Picture these young college students that didn’t have to sit-in. They could have elected to “fit in” with everyone else and carry on with life as usual. They didn’t. Yet they left their powerful marks on history by wielding the sword of humility.
I can only pray for such courage and humility to continue to impact history as they have. “When I say Aggie, you say Pride! Aggie…Pride…Aggie…Pride!”
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