High School Students Mobilizing for Civil Rights
What shall we teach our children about race and race relations? Wallace Nelson, a Cincinnati representative of the Congress for Racial Equality, silenced the Hillside High School Parent-Teacher Association meeting on January 14th, 1952.
Nelson’s answer was a boycott of segregated public spaces to prove that non-violent direct action was applicable in the Southern community in promoting contact and friendships between students of different races. Enthusiastic applause was the response from the room of more than 100 parents and community leaders.
Hillside High was the site of the meeting because it was more than a gathering space; the students represented hope for the future for the disenfranchised black community in Durham. The parents were especially motivated by their desire for a better tomorrow for their children.
The three panels of parent representatives related to student life all agreed that actions speak louder than words despite that they often disagreed. Reverend Charles Jones, a Presbyterian minister from Chapel Hill, commented that a child isn’t taught by “telling”.
The overwhelming support in favor of the proposed boycott pushed the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs to name a special committee with Reverend William Fuller as head, to review and study Nelson’s call to action.
During their next weekly meeting on January 20th, the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs declared the “present time unsuitable for the boycott”. The success of the boycotts in Durham years later were possible because of the failed attempts like this one that began in the halls of Hillside High School.