restricted access 13. Turning the Page
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~ 13 ~ Turning the Page December, 1961, it was Southern University in Baton Rouge, and April, 1962, it is Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO. In Lincoln, when Negro and white students protested, 9 were suspended following continuous demonstrations against segregated bowling alleys. Following suspension, members of the Missouri State Youth Conference of the NAACP burned an effigy of the university president. Reason: “To protest with vigor and determination the dictatorial attitude and policy of the Lincoln administration.” Apparently there were two antagonists in both situations—the people “downtown” and those at home. —article in Southern Digest, april 4, 1962 O n January 19, the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate ran a long story under the headline “No Word Is Given on Re-Opening of Southern University”: Aides close to President Felton G. Clark, who is reportedly ill with influenza, told newsmen the president is not available for further comment on the closing which was announced at a student-faculty convocation yesterday. . . . State Supt. of Education Shelby M. Jackson, who said yesterday the announcement of the closure was a surprise to him, said he did not know if the State Board of Education would take up the issue when it meets today. . . . After the formal announcement of the closure, sheriff deputies arrested two Negro student leaders with the Congress of Racial Equality upon request of the university. Arrested were Ronnie Moore, local CORE chairman, and Weldon Rougeau, another CORE official. They were arrested in a group which was forming near the gymnasium and charged with trespassing and 120 the education of a black radical disturbing the peace. The pair was apparently ordered off campus earlier this week by a disciplinary board. Later that day, we found out that Ronnie and Weldon were locked up together in an isolated cell. Bail was set at three thousand dollars. That was a lot of money in 1962, when a new Corvette, for example, could be purchased for five thousand dollars. On January 20, the Morning Advocate ran the headline “Southern University Plans to Resume Classes Jan. 29 ”: “A university spokesman said second semester classes at Southern will begin on Jan. 29. Registration will begin on Thursday, Jan. 25. Notices to students of the reopening will be in the mail Monday. It was indicated that there will be a screening process based on ‘Scholastic and other requirements.’” When James Farmer and the New York CORE office put up the funds, about twenty of us—including Dave, Jerome, Thomas, Willie, me, and eventually Reverend Cox—moved into the Lincoln Hotel located at 400 South Thirteenth Street in Baton Rouge. In the early to mid-1950s, the fifteenyear -old, four-story hotel had been the hotel in black Louisiana. With a spacious restaurant on the first floor, modern carpeted rooms along L-shaped corridors, high ceilings, and chandeliers, the hotel had been a stopping-off point for top-name black entertainers. But those days had long since passed. In January 1962, the once grand hotel was very nearly empty. Water stains showed on the carpet; the wallpaper was faded and peeling. The hotel was now to become Baton Rouge’s first official civil rights headquarters. And as such, we were its first inhabitants. We immediately began picking up the pieces of our movement. We held meetings with black community leaders. We sent out fliers warning of the discrimination and segregation practices of local stores: Kress, Goudchaux’s, Woolworth, J. C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Rosenfield’s, Three Sisters, McCrory’s, Sears. We wrote letters. We appealed to citizens, clergy, and businessmen for donations. We met with attorneys in Baton Rouge and in New Orleans in preparation for a series of court hearings that were coming for the student protesters and Reverend Cox. Also providing valuable legal support were three black civil rights lawyers in New Orleans: Bob Collins, Nils Douglas, and Lolis Elie. A handful of us made regular visits to their New Orleans law office, where they briefed us on their legal strategy to defend those who had been arrested, and on their efforts to get us back into turning the page 121 the university. The lawyers were very supportive and reassuring, and we’d top off our visits with delicious fried-chicken dinners at Dookie Chase, New Orleans’s fancy, premier soul food restaurant on Claiborne Avenue. The New Orleans and Baton Rouge lawyers were backed in their efforts by CORE’s New York general counsel Carl Rachlin, and Jack Greenberg, who succeeded Thurgood Marshall as general...


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