We are now beginning to communicate without hypocrisy and without fear. The May 17, 1954, decision of the United States Supreme Court cleared the air for honesty between the races. The Negroes' contacts in wartime and through travel, and the uprising of suppressed peoples everywhere, have also helped to clear the air. Negroes do not wish to be branded as inferiors by being segregated, and they want to walk the earth as human beings with dignity. This idea was beautifully expressed by the Negro college students in Atlanta when they said, in "An Appeal for Human Rights": "We will 'use every legal and nonviolent means at our disposal' to end segregation."
Negroes have communicated their aspirations through the federal courts, with the result that many public schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Missouri, and some of the public schools of Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida have been desegregated. There has also been desegregation in bus and train transportation and in the state universities of the South, except in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi; and in golf courses and in airport restaurants.
For a year Negroes boycotted the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, and finally the buses were desegregated by federal decree, although the atmosphere was tense and there was fear of race riots. The Montgomery boycott resounded around the world; and no one could mistake what the Negroes in Montgomery were saying.
Negro students have continued to fight for desegregation. On February 1, 1960, four freshmen from A and T College in Greensboro, North Carolina, started the sit-in movement. Almost immediately, students in colleges throughout the South joined them. Each campus demonstrated in its own way. Students in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas participated. Many were arrested. How effective the demonstrations were can be determined by the fact that the officials of Kress, Grant, and Woolworth agreed to desegregate their lunch counters in sixty-nine Southern communities. Prior to this announcement, twenty-eight Southern communities had desegregated some of their restaurants.
A new type of demonstration began in Atlanta, Georgia, when twenty-five Negro students and two or three white students attended six white churches on August 7. They were welcomed in four churches. In two they were not so warmly received. From the newspaper accounts, there were attempts at segregation in these two.
The demonstrations will continue, and the goals the students seek will be achieved. Their cause is just. Enlightened public opinion is sympathetic. Both political parties in their platforms approved the students' method of protest. The Negro students are determined to be free. Just before a thousand students of the six Atlanta Negro colleges marched through Atlanta to Wheat Street Baptist Church, in defiance of state officials' threats and in celebration of the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, they sang: "We will be free, We will be free, We will be free someday, Deep in our hearts, We will be free, We will be free someday." After they assembled in the Wheat Street Baptist Church, they sang: "That old Negro, He ain't what he used to be." For the first time since Emancipation, Negro youths are willing and proud to be arrested and serve time in jail for a cause they believe to be just.
Has communication broken down? The old hypocritical kind of communication between the races has broken down, and that is good. We can now build good human relations on truth, honesty, and sincerity.
Has progress in race relations been set back, as the conservatives claim? Not at all. I am convinced that as I travel throughout the South today I experience more friendly feeling toward me and receive more decent treatment than at any other time in my sixty years. I have never before felt so much like a free human being in the South as I do today.