The Sit-ins and the New South
He said it just so I decided drink some water.
I certainly wish I had all of you with me in Tallahassee. You seemed all to be very interested in this movement somewhat and we can certainly use you in the south. I wish I was up here planning a big demonstration sit in demonstration rather than just telling you about what we've done so far.
Last summer my sister now where we were on our vacation in Miami were invited to attend a core meeting and cost him the Congress of Racial Equality. We were invited to attend this meeting and we did. We were so impressed by what the White corps was doing that we've decided to attend more meetings. So when I returned to school in September my sister and I decided to organize a core chapter in Tallahassee so we were sucessful in doing this the latter part of October and the first of November. And of course some of my first projects were testing the local buses in Tallahassee in 1956 we had a bus boycott and as a result of this boy bus as a result of this bus boycott the buses were supposedly have been integrated. Of course we had heard that they were not. So we decided to find out why these buses are not integrated although they were supposed to be. So of course some core members including myself decided to test the buses. And we are going as a court chap in Tallahassee. We were in to get graded. We had three white members and instructor from the White University in Tallahassee which is Florida State University a woman who works in the government in Tallahassee the capital and the instructor's wife. And along with some 20 Florida A&M University students and instructors. So of course we got the white observers to rather buses to get on the buses first. At the same point where we were getting on the buses they were to sit down in cases where we would use the media. We would use a female white observer.
We've learned that it's best to have a white female and Negro female to work together on these and testing these local projects. So of course on the particular on this particular test we had a white woman and two Negro Women. So we purchased a ticket on the bus and we sat down the first seat of the second seat there. So the bus driver Sierre very softly but hard moved to the back so of course we nor him we knew he was talking to us but we just ignored him. So he didn't say move to the back. Again the slightly louder so we still ignored him. So then he wins he sets the curse and then he didn't say anything else. So and then not before we finished our ride. A negro woman came up to us and said Don't you know you can't sit up here.
So then we knew what our problems were furries with the blocking of the bus drivers and subtly educating the negroes. So of course there we learned that the negroes had a tendency to sit to the back of the buses because of habit or fear are both. So then we decided to put to send leaflets out to all the churches in Tallahassee telling negroes that we were going to change our society from a rear view society to a front view society. So then of course the corps members decided that they were rather buses once a week to find out whether nothing negroes were going along with this new society.
So then of course we've discovered that the people that we were talking to were people that did not run the buses they were people with cars and soulful. So we discover the people who ran the buses didn't go to churches.
So cool was there we had another problem which meant that we would have to get our mistreats and various other places where people these type of people would wear it and tell them to change the society from a rear view society to a front view society. Then of course we accomplished something in that. Some of the negroes after seeing us write the front of buses for maybe a month and a hand decided they would change. This was not something so horrible after all and it wasn't self frightening after all so that our next project was testing the bus stations in Tallahassee Greyhound and Trailways. We were there's a law in Tallahassee saying that you should should be able to purchase an interstate ticket on either side. So of course we decided to see whether or not we could purchase it interstate ticket on the white sorry.
So of course Greyhound is on one corner and trio is on the other corner on the same street. So we decided to test both of the stations on one night so of course some of these projects sometimes the persons who are participating have a tendency to go on these projects without knowing their money. They always think that they are not going to be served. So we thought it would be a good idea to carry money along. Also if they would sell us a ticket we would buy a ticket to Thomasville Georgia which is only 21 miles from Tallahassee because really no one wanted to leave the state but since Thomasville was very close and Red Cross and I would get this ticket. So of course we may have several testing.
We went on several projects testing the bus stations and of course we were all refused on one particular instance. We had a man there from New York and he was on his way to Atlanta Georgia so he gave me $20 to get his ticket find this was a white man. So of course he went to the station first to be there or to get the afterthoughts and to be a witness if we needed one they own in court. So of course he was in there just looking around you know white people can do this in the south they don't really have to go there to purchase and ticket a ticket. So of course he was there. So they are about two minutes before we get here. So we arrived we walked over to the ticket booth and of course we know that this one was ignoring us. So then we found we got her attention and told her that we wanted to purchase an interstate ticket to Atlanta Georgia. Georgia they say their home. So of course she said I'm sorry just don't sir can't hear. Go on the other side. So of course we said why we want to purchase an inter-state ticket to Atlanta Georgia reemphasizing says I don't care what kind of ticket you want to get you gone other side. So of course we decided to leave and go up to tray away and Trailways station and blog it and Tallahassee is known for having a lot of rough characters around. So we were free of the growing around would probably call Trey away and tell them we were coming in that there was some work for me with all of these with us testing. So of course we went to Greyhound and we didn't find too many rough looking characters. A policeman was standing over in the corner there so we thought maybe we would get a little protection. But of course in Tallahassee police do not protect negroes as such. So then we followed missing procedures except the articulation was a man this time. So of course we asked to purchase an interstate ticket to Atlanta Georgia use Armor saw our go right through that door and I'll show you your ticket. So because I had not seen my door until the point and then there was this little door on the side to go through but it was close. Was it weird reemphasize it was going to purchase an interstate ticket to Atlanta Georgia so close he started getting his abuse about to give Vala. And he was only bluffing week. So I decided that the f I was convinced he was not going to sell us a ticket I walked over to the jury count and just stood there for about five minutes and he was just burning up. He wanted me to run out of lives if I was scared to death and I just wouldn't. And I was scared that I would run.
So Cause I stood there for 5 mins and this policeman This policeman was only McCoy not saying a thing but looking just looking. So because the second time we had to test the station made a test we we really didn't want to purchase a ticket no one was going anywhere. We were just you know just going to test again make another test. So of course you know when you ask for something and you surprise some time things come out that you don't really mean.
So instead of saying Thomas or George on this particular time this one sided manner of George which is three hundred sixty nine miles away. Thomas was only twenty one miles away. So he sold the ticket I don't know.
So of course she still has his ticket she's trying to get rid of it. So.
With that we decided that we would ride the the bus station about greyhound because we were unable to purchase a ticket from the Greyhound station but we were the true way. So of course we were back several more times to make sure they would do this all again and of course they did but we only get we would only go when we really want to go somewhere and we were going short distance if we were not so close along with this.
We were testing the lunch counters in Tallahassee. We were doing this all along. Maybe one group of core members would go to the bus stations and one group of Corman's would go to lunch counters.
Now proud of the man's demonstration of sit ins we were testing in Tallahassee in that we would go to these large towns we have four in Tallahassee. We would go to these lunch counters and sit down and we would ask a service we were politely refuse. Then you ask why. And then I will say something like it's a policy of the store and they were asking a manager's name and with after getting this information we would then get up and leave.
We would not sit in a long length of time. However we were planning a sit in in Tallahassee before the sit in started in Greensboro North Carolina. So says they did start before we got to them we decided to sympathize with the group on a particular day and then too we have the same problem in Tallahassee as they have in North Carolina and other southern states. So of course on February the 13th we decided to have a sit in demonstration. But before February on the 12th which was a Friday the eleventh and the twelfth we had social dramas maybe some of you have seen the social dramas on television that they made in the self or the social dramas of when students will sit down pretending that they are meant they are at a lunch counter and other students will kick them slap them blue in their faces pull a hair and so forth.
We do all of this to find out whether or not the students are capable up dissipating in that we stress nonviolence and also to get them prepared to what might happen on these demonstrations. So after two days of having social dramas we decided that we were somewhat ready for the demonstration. So of course our procedures were the first demonstration we did not have quite of service this is quite unusual. We decide to shop around first in the US and we'll worry if this is a particular store that we had our sit in first.
The students would go and shop around they were not going all together. There were now students involved in the first sitting and all nine students were not rushing to the store or going to the store at one time. They were going to pails right behind one another maybe seconds apart and then they would shop around purchasing small articles and then they were quietly to comment and sit down. Then they would try and place their orders if possible.
And then if they were asked to leave they would say we'll just wait. And before each demonstration we select a spokesman of the group in case some people want to argue anything like that we just have one person they can go to for information and what have you. So of course in the first demonstration My sister was chosen as a spokesman of the group.
Will they win they.
Win in war if 11 o'clock on this Saturday February 13. They say they receded. Ever they refuse they decided to read and just talk among themselves never talking to anyone else unless a spokesman decided that this was the right thing to do and only he or she would do so. So of course they sat for two hours and the only trouble they had on the first demonstration was that if some white man and in most cases in the South was always a man and after women on both sides and women doing something I mean the men doing something wrong and not doing something well those cases and women are never the ones to give balance on the opposite side. Women are just good on both races I have found.
This Out. He's a man.
So of course the white man came into the store and these white men picked the smallest and the youngest person who was sitting at the lunch counter a fellow about 15 a 15 year old high school student.
These big old guys walked over to him and ask him questions. Can you read more they said. So he said direct all your questions to the spokesman. Policemen looked at him. As a can you boy and the man asking what how should they know if you can read you should know and he kept saying direct all of your questions to the spokesman. So then the white man decided he would get he wanted to get involved decided to blow smoke in this little fellow's face I don't know why I didn't pick on some of those other fellows there was a big man sitting down with a pick this little boy and aggravated.
So of course there were a lot of reporters there and they were all asking masses to questions in that she was the only person supposed to talk to them. So they left at 2 o'clock and they had no more trouble. Now in the second demonstration we decided to plan it somewhat different in that we decided to use while observers on this particular demonstration. The calmer mostly quite calm members in Tallahassee decided to participate in that they were to goal into will worry first. Looking around to fire the kind of people they are in the store if there are any unusual looking characters there and they were to inform us what they found there. So of course they did this and then they were to go back to the store. And on a big breakfast or lunch or what have you. Enough to last maybe an hour I have enough to eat on our own here.
See we do this in order we in case we need witness in court or something we can have these people there so you're not letting the other people the public know they are with us. So of course they did this and the procedures were different on the second demonstration in there. My sister made a mistake on the first demonstration she will this law up loud orange coat and on the second demonstration she wore it again.
So unfortunately a waitress who was there on the first one was there in a circle and she saw Patricia entering the store with designs called Oh and she threw his open issue.
My God you're to come again so we don't have a chance to stop. We had to rush quietly to the lunch counter and sit down. So then we all try to place our orders and we refuse.
So course we all say we will wait. And the other difference was this we only say half an hour and a half we were reading and talking. We weren't really reading we were trying to read and we were talking among our sales. And no one usual crowd gathered as a result of our being there. And I might add no white person's got up to leave because we set down a fact especially on the first demonstration. Over a hundred persons returned down after we were seated there.
The second demonstration is clearly people return down after we were seated there no one got up to leave. So of course we were sitting there and they have to now have a pacifist gentleman well-dressed gentleman walked into the store. You know how you are impressed by has some people look at me as a well-dressed and posh insole. So I saw this man coming. Does a mirror right in front of us and you see everything going on in the back this is very good you know.
You can see anybody trying to sneak up on you case when the duck. You can't fight that we can duck. So cause. We saw this gentleman dressed so well dressed who all impressed with how well dressed he was. We knew it was something that was striking about this man and we saw these 15 policemen behind me we knew it was something.
So close. We all looked around to see what was going on. We thought maybe something is happening we have not heard or seen it you see. So we looked around trying to see what had happened while the policeman's were rushing into the store. So then we came to a conclusion that there were time for us. So we all looked. Oh I can't tell you exactly how he looked. Of course this gentleman walked over to my sister and asked her if she could read I don't know why we always pick this question to ask us in that we have books that should be obvious that we can do something you know we have these books although we are not reading most hands and he asked her if she knew the canon was closed so she told him to direct all of his questions to the spokesman and he looked at her very me.
What do you mean Tell me what to do.
You know when all sort of expressions. So she pointed me out to him. So he then came over to me asking me the same identical questions only adding as a Myrtella has and this is for me. This is when I realized that he was and it was a possibility of him being the mayor of Tallahassee. I never met the mayor of Tallahassee and it was nothing written so my mayor.
Put him away he said as a mayor of Tallahassee I'm asking you to leave.
So I asked the gentleman if we did not Lee would any of us be committing a crime. He didn't even bother to answer that question. He merely repeated the statement he'd made previously. Then I thought it was only right for me to get up and relate to the other students what he had said to me in that all of them could not hear what he was saying. There were 11 of us involved too by the way in this demonstration. So I got to tell the other students what he is saying here. And I also say that we did not Lee were probably arrested. We had talked of being arrested but no one really decided to be arrested. So of course the annon only been all 11 persons including myself decided to stay knowing that we would be arrested. So of course the other students were already seated. But before I can return to my seat the mayor told the Chief of Police to place all of us under arrest. Then the chief of police does something like this and 10 more policeman's walked into the store. I don't know why the needles awls policemen's for peaceful biting students. But anyway two policemen stood behind each one of us. Some of them grabbing the fells by the seat of appears uncertain and right there we had nothing but books with us but I don't know why they searched us. The Fells anyway and.
There were too many of us to go travel back to Tallahassee to police police department. I don't have that many cars in Tallahassee. So we had to walk to the police station which was last year. Then a bank in Tallahassee and the bank now lies the police station and Dave is the seller for the phrase it was. So. So of course when the broom in the building was built it was built. The vote was built it was built for money and things of value and not human beings are nothing that we are of any value but it was a bit facile so they put all 11 of us in there. So for two hours we were in there vote no air whatsoever you can imagine mine didn't need air so they had us in there. And for two hours we were in there before we knew what we were charged with before any of us were allowed to use the telephone. We were continuously asking what we were charged with and if one of us could use a telephone. This was all denied to us for two hours. Although a policeman kept coming back saying that the charges are this long and I'll tell you in a minute this minute last for two hours.
So of course firmly after two hours I have a pass. This policeman came back and said that with this long piece of paper and folders and said that you know in the case of the charge of all the way down here we are three charged and blundered through those three so of course we were disturbing the peace.
Incite a riot and disrupting the peaceful tranquility to come and.
This is just sitting down now quietly just talking to among all sails very softly. So then he said coming girl you can come and use the telephone. I can't get myself for nothing anywhere. So of course he pointed to my sister.
So then she went out to use the telephone she was her and she was dialing the number of airfare so it's telling someone where we were and come get us out.
So before she got the last number Tao the policeman told us that yes a why you darling calling. Tell them to come and bring found a hundred dollars to get each one of you out but this is just a sitting down lunch counter quietly. So of course you really drop the phone almost on the floor. She had no idea who to call to come and get us out for $500. I'm telling wasn't $55 Intelius anywhere we thought.
So of course she came back into the Vaal various alien related to us what he had said. So before. We could I might add while we were in this boat we will continue to sing and pray in between time but asking what were we charged with. And Larry Wow it took so long for them to tell us what we were charge of because it took them two hours to think of something to charges with and it took about seven people to think of the charges. Smart of them were not even there. So of course the chief of police came and said to us that a minister was sending a professional bondsman down to get us all out.
So they were released an hour later. So of course. Apollinaire hearing was the following Monday February the 22nd and we couldn't we have a demonstration on Sara day after we were released from jail.
The remainder of the sarod Iand Sunday and we were trying to get lawyers to represent us in court Monday for the police.
Blair Nair hearing and we were able to get lawyers in Tallahassee this is a capital floor too by the way to represent us. So of course we had to go 500 miles away to get lawyers to represent us and our lawyers got to Tallahassee one hour before court one hour.
So you can imagine how things were all that weekend after we were arrested. So of course we all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
And then our trial was set for March 3rd eight days before our trial the entire student body a Florida A&M University this is a negro universe in Tallahassee decided to meet in our jury room to discuss this problem.
And tell us in ways that they could support us give us more support. So the president of the student body for I am university put leaflets it spread leaflets on our campus saying there would be a meeting at 6 o'clock.
So if our clock the president of our University told the president I asked to nobody that we could not have this meeting at six o'clock. So of course the president's job I had no idea how he could inform 3000 students by 6:00 he was only in Phantom's inform Foulke Are they cannot have it. It was no way in the world for him to inform 3000 students by 6 o'clock that we cannot have a meeting on this particular day it was raining extremely hard too. So what we decided to do just let the students gather in the auditorium and then we would tell them what we wanted them to come for before we had heard about this.
We cannot have a meeting and then tell them not that we can herald. So of course they are charming was packed we have an extremely large order turn and seem to me although it was raining very hard all students.
All the students were there. They had to stand up there was not enough city room for all of them. So of course the students who were involved decided to sit in the audience rather than sit on stage because of it. We've been on stays This will indicate that we want to have a meeting anyway and we want to do this without their permission. So of course we inform the the present student body get up and say I'm very sorry but we cannot have this meeting concerning the rest of our students today because the present say we cannot sounds like this all in one sentence he was trying to say it. So cause one of the students go out and say watch it we have this meeting. So then he told him that the president said we can have civil one. So I don't know the president so we can have a meeting. So of course then someone can say well we're going to have it anyway we'll go outside and hear it. And there does seem to be raining hard over any set of beers as all Margaretta are going outside. So then someone said why should we have right here is raining outside. Let's have it here. So then the entire student body just voted to have it there. Then.
Of course they voted it in there.
So of course the student body decided they would give us more support as well as financial support on the day of our trial and before our trial soon. So then they decided to go down to the courthouse and give us support.
So of course the courthouse only seats two hundred and sixty people and you can imagine. I don't know in a world 3000 students thought they were going to sit but in a way they were going down this way there will been a big demonstration downtown. But what we did not know before we had the meeting we had called the press center has and asked them to cover this meeting but evidently we called the wrong person and he didn't show up. They only only planted a tape recorder in the auditorium so the city officials downtown knew of our plan so they decided to side to reschedule our tribal council arc. And definitely So of course we heard the salute radio the next morning.
So then we were invited to New York the leaders of the sit in movement in Tallahassee were invited to New York to tell for a press conference and to tell their experience says so then where we were in New York we were in New York in the time they had a snowstorm and we were so impressed with the students as well as the older people are. Picketing Woolworths in all of us know. And you know I have people from Florida. They just use a stone thing. All of us know all of those people are out there picketing. We were we were really impress and we thought that if these people could picket and all of us know at their worst time the worst time to ever head the least we could do was go to jail. So of course we told them this. So when I returned to Tallahassee we decided to have a mass demonstration before hand leaving only having one sit him her.
We live in only having Bersih turn to fertilise see. Well I will see if I can come to a conclusion very quick I hate to leave you at this point.
As a result of the mass demonstration 46 students were arrested then the city officials decided to get rid of all of the leaders in Tallahassee they decided to reschedule our trial it was a shame I can't tell you about the mass demonstration. So then we were trying convicted we were sentence 60 days in jail or $300 fine and we were given the Until the next day at 11 o'clock to come in with our $300 or we would all go to jail. Now what the judge did know that we were not going to pay a family we were going to jail. But our lawyers advice to. Three persons to stay out. A lawyer said that he thought the three persons out of the 11 should stay out of jail and carry on the work if all the leaders went to jail. Thing was things were probably died down in Tallahassee so we spent four fouls before we were supposed to go to jail.
Following people out of out everybody want to go to jail. You see all of us.
All of us do not believe in paying for say radiation. No one involved no one that I know of believes in say reggae ssion. So after five hours of passing we finally got these three people while the other persons went to jail. You're going to have questions for the other persons went to jail and three weeks after we were in jail three other persons were taken to an appeal which is depending on the other five of us remain in jail for nine days. Now we were given 60 days and we want to serve 60 days. But they decided to do us a favor. They gave us 10 days for good behavior and one day to avoid publicity. And artists. I have to say that the I'm sure that all of us will probably go back to jail again and jail is not a very pleasant experience and then it is a pleasant experience in that when you believe in something strongly enough you don't instill Jr. as something horrible or anything like that. Because this summer I'm sure that my sister and I and the other persons who were involved in sit in demonstration were going back to jail. Some of you think that the sit ins and the other demonstrations are sort of quiet down a bit but you just keep your eyes open you mind I hear the words singing but you hear something else. And so. And you probably hear of students being arrested. And let me add this to my conclusion that I hope that each one of you will give all the support. As much support as possible to to push this thing because you know this is a fight for all the concerns all of us not just the negroes. This is a fight the should concern all Americans not. I should say we gave it to Americans all the individuals who believe in democracy who believe in equality do everything possible. Picket boycott just do everything to help us what's possible write letters to people send money if you have any and know most of your students have very little money but your physical support can be of the most importance especially here. Don't think that because you are in the West and not in the south or this does not concern you because it does as long as we are not free you are not free. Thank you very much.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- The Sit-ins and the New South
- Producing Organization
- KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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- Pacifica Radio Archives (North Hollywood, California)
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- Priscilla Stephens, winner of the Gandhi Award from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), gives a first-hand account of student protests in Tallahassee, Florida, lecturing at the University of California during a fundraising tour for CORE. Stephens speaks to the audience about testing bus lines and lunch counters for violations of civil rights laws, sit-ins, freedom rides, and other nonviolent protests she organized to fight segregation in Tallahassee. A student at Florida A&M, Stephens, along with her sister Patricia, became a leader of CORE, prompting a national official of the organization to state, "To the Negro community she symbolizes their greatest hope for the future." For information on Stephens and the Tallahassee movement, see Glenda Alice Rabby, The Pain and the Promise: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Tallahassee, Florida (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
- Congress of Racial Equality; Freedom Rides; Civil rights demonstrations; African Americans--Civil rights--History; Community organization--United States
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Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Speaker: Stephens, Patricia
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Pacifica Radio Archives
Identifier: 9892_D01 (Pacifica Radio Archives)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “The Sit-ins and the New South,” 1960-09-12, Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-br8mc8rr6z.
- MLA: “The Sit-ins and the New South.” 1960-09-12. Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-br8mc8rr6z>.
- APA: The Sit-ins and the New South. Boston, MA: Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-br8mc8rr6z