Coming of age; Five sat down
This is Ben park with a program in the series coming of age about American youth today. What you're about to hear is one of two programs made in Charleston South Carolina. It's made up of the voices of five negro teenagers. The following program will come from a like number of Charleston white teenagers. Teenagers go in strongly for fads ponytails hot rods and Elvis Presley may well symbolize the past teenage decade. Some feel that a new teenage fad has been generated by negro teenagers in the American South. Whether it's a fad or something more will be discussed by Dr. your hand Galton our guest commentator at the end of this program. It's called the lunch counter sit in demonstration. Well. Mr.. Reich you have. But.
We wouldn't try and you know. Do you think they would have if the police hadn't been there definitely. What makes you feel that they say something.
Yes our time we were down there practically. Well they can't get me on us to come at us. And why don't you go out there you know you don't belong there. In the. Room we're real hot. In fact that was one of the reasons why we didn't get up when the manager asked us to. Because. We actually we thought it was best to be arrested and be under the police. Custody and only that mob out there.
There were 24 negro teenagers arrested in that sit in demonstration. The voices of five of those 24 make up this half hour.
And what grade are you in school. I mean can you 17. I want it in school 12.
I'm a senior in high school I was 18.
And. I'm a senior high school. How old are you. So. I'm a senior. How old I am 18 years old.
How did how did you get involved in the demonstration I guess it's because I felt so strongly about it I mean I felt that it was just something that should be done and we sat back long enough and seen this thing and never really took notice of it until maybe someone else in another city did it then you just knew how much of it and just threw us to you know this thing happened so I just I felt so strongly but I you know.
Do you feel that the lunch counters are themselves very important or are they simply a symptom of a lot of things.
Symptoms of a lot of other things if I don't believe this. Not just the fact that I want to go down here all the time.
It's just nice to know that you can do these things here and I guess it. Leaves out a lot of other things that are similar there. What are some of the other things that bother you mean about this race problem. Yeah I don't really bother. Bothers me right now.
I feel that I'm a citizen of South Carolina. I'm ready to go to school and I believe that I can get around this but anybody's college for me with a high school background that I'm getting and we have a good school and the students are going to a.. Plans in college and it's an engineering school agricultural land and then I can get a chance to go there I have to go someplace about a thousand miles or the child's me can't get over Christmas can you tell me straight and see my family and I don't things mean the school situation for one thing.
There's a plea we're in front of my house. It's probably playground but only white kids are allowed to play.
But we go to sometimes one Sunday Brewer that claimed these white guys were playing baseball my name and a cop came over and called the white guys over and told him not to play with us and told us to get out the park and so we are at the park which they only allow white people to play here a neighborhood that is almost entirely negro and the property right in front I was a saw me despite the fact that you know as a veteran you know I was down there in the 17 that teachers are you know we're going to play a game of basketball is on the park right in front of me whenever I wanted to where kids of it because it isn't a neighborhood that has an attorney.
Ever talk to my family that I don't buy their products which are designated as places for Negroes to play.
Yes they're up there night away parks. There's a lot of difference. They have concrete course free to play basketball know if you're going to come apart you have to play in the same.
I gather that you've probably gone to segregated schools all your life if you lived here. Yes I do look forward to going to a school which is not segregated.
I definitely do. I would really just like to see if if I am really inferior I mean as they make me feel and I don't believe there is any inferiority and race live anyway I guess the same opportunity is that I decide to get a chance just to see how much I can do.
What about your school. I got a segregated school yes a segregated school also is a good school was as good as the white schools are vile.
I can't honestly answer that question I don't know because I have never you know Pentagon in the white school but I know the man on the right school that I know they have them gymnasiums there were two lawyers track team a bad baseball team whose terrorist team Karthik in there we were hearing a lot about our school curriculum as as complete as the way schools or is it the same one.
Nor to my knowledge I I I don't believe that.
Our curriculum is on the level at the white schools because. I know even when I may have These are the national marry same and color dentures put on exams and various things like that so I know stuff that they have released as we've never seen her. Is why because you know they had to stop and they are able to do well. It's not that we don't have the brain is just a we have gotten over the correcting of the school within yourself to feel better about us how others are feeling.
No I don't I don't feel better about it it's just that as per the custom with silence all around you can't exactly feel better about it but this time of the people realize that as things are changing now.
Times change every day and so you have to change with it in the new one today as well you know he is saying that things are ready for me. Here's an advance and we're going to hear this.
Then one is I want him to slip one of the right people to sign about taking advantage of this and now me awaken and we went out for writing me on a trunk it to legal race to the effect that American citizen just like anyone in the way. How are your grades in school.
Then the top went. Back. The sound down.
I will be doing school when I graduate. The salutatorian of the classes here are better extracurricular activities what are you what are you doing. I'm president of the student council first and I played basketball and kept in a basketball team a football quarterback. And a member of parliament stepped on the society of your medic. The senior counselor yearbook Steph. So you put up are. Yes I'm pretty.
Did your parents know that you were going to be involved in this demonstration.
Yes because I tore my parents on. The way that I felt.
And what I wanted to do. And I got the consent of my parents. Did they try to talk you out of it all.
No my parents have never been that type of persons. And that's one reason why I really love my parents for that because they have always taught me never to do the things that I feel that I was right.
Before we decided that sadly what we're going to do. But we have to get permission from the PICU now so that we have some backing if we have a down chapel.
So at first my mother didn't agree with it but my father wasn't. Think about it. He did a few rather he didn't give me any reason to believe that he wasn't because I told him about it but my mother she wasn't to much for but I explained it to her and I told her that I felt that it was I right and someone had to do it if we just sat back and waited for someone else to do it. No it will never get done and I told her that I felt that it was my right to be so and that I was going and she said if you want good think go.
What was what was her objection was she afraid that you might you're trying out of school or was she afraid that you might get hurt.
Well yes I believe it was my belief she felt that I might get her into some dangerous some danger by being violent. If you believe in something to get anything that's worthwhile you have to fight for it and I was willing to accept any consequences that resulted from them.
Was there any criticism on the part of the school faculty of my sit in demonstration.
Well they were saying that. We should not. Go down there because some of this was happening all over. And eventually it will happen here and we will get the result too and the fact that we are seeing news that it made the conflict between our. Stand and also our own opportunity graduating with the class of six that they said would you have heard letters from the superintendent and you know how he is and you know that you do not. Have. The support. Of the courts and everything and there's no use in going out there and getting into trouble. Because you know what the results will be which I felt. Was not. The correct criticism. I have been able to listen to Preston's who can criticize in a constructive manner. But those who are just there because we have types of people who criticize everything regardless if they are right or wrong. But unless there were constructive I did not pay any attention to them because I expected them to say so. I do not know where they were thinking of the main interests of the students saw themselves at that point. I feel that most of them are worried about their jobs.
And a sense I do not blame them.
But on the other hand I have always stated this that you do not have to be with it. But do not be against it because after all you will be able to enjoy what the results will be.
Do you feel that there is criticism of your city and or on the part of the Negro community at large.
We do have some who have expressed their feelings.
What have they said what.
Well they said that I don't feel that these children should have gone on there because they knew that we weren't. Being Served. They all live our lives and why do you want to start something like that now. And what you expect that type of comment coming from some persons.
What is your answer to that sort of.
Well. My answer is two of them. That this is in 1960. That they are looking at a new needle in a new time. And the things that they were satisfied with about 20 or 45 years ago and not. Becoming to the rights and the dignity of American citizens that we are not willing. And we are not going to allow those practices to excess any longer.
When you say that sort of thing to some of these people what's their reaction.
Well. You go ahead but you will you find out what's going to happen. I have answered them this. That and I have to die for what I believe that is right that I am perfectly willing and able at any time because I do not feel. That anyone would die before his time.
We walked in couples and out of the store I shopped around.
And went to the counters and said did you spend any money before you want to really know. So you then went to the counter what happened how did you go about that.
We sat down and they wrote this and naturally all of the people sitting at the counter. Politely got out that somehow really got hurt while eating the coffee all over them getting up leaving the account to be set and they plan to reopen on the back of Shias and they closed the counters and we sacked. Other photographers came. News cameraman. They said you know they did. I took everything off and they left the kind of themselves.
We sat there for nearly seven I was. What finally happened.
I had a bomb scare. Someone threaten to. Start up. Some crimes we. Know that at the time. Crimes and police. Everybody else was down there. And. The manager requested it with me. But we didn't because. Even though we turn our lives. Our lives were in danger when even they wouldn't supply you any further than that. After the manager asked us to leave and we didn't. Thank you. Our chief of police came in. And. Asked us to leave also. But. He didn't give a reason there and so we just had the closest and quite naturally we couldn't live with him there. And.
The rest and no one bothered a policeman actually protected us from anyone that would come in that area roped off the lady. We just happened to have very courteously their chillers rings because they spoke with authority but that's expected of a police. Car and they say she was very nicely carried us down they didn't put us in jail cell block or anything they just simulated the court room at the jailhouse until Bond was read refried.
They were free until the morning three weeks later when their case came to trial.
Guilty on two. Tests. An officer from his duty. Why.
The conviction of the 24 Charleston teenage student demonstrators was immediately appealed as we are recording the appeal is still pending before the South Carolina state Supreme Court. Attorneys for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hope the conviction will be reversed there if the conviction is sustained. The case could go to the United States Supreme Court.
How do parents feel about this demonstration of it's over.
Well it's me because I think it was a prize and I don't think he had because.
When they were younger anything like this you know they frankly said how do you know. People who didn't feel they are the people to back and stand behind them.
Yes move this Brooklyn Bridge she said. She knows she doesn't think that the people in Tunisia when she was kind of I don't really even approach to this is accepted.
I think that these five and most of the 24 hour sit in Demonstrators have already gone as far or further in school than most of their parents did. Most of their parents are nonprofessional people in semi skilled occupations.
What are your plans for after high school. Well I want architecture specifically architectural engineering. Where will you go to school for that. I have been a separate I was State University and Howard University.
After you get through with your university or college training I do want to come back to the south or do you want to move to another section of the country or what.
That question I ponder that and I would like to come back here to do my own to make my life I love the south. I mean I grew up here. But. You have to feel with the whole hard facts of life. Me I'm a nigger architect. When you're too much of a chance and.
I'm planning on majoring in the field of theology.
You plan to become a minister that tried to have you moved in this town where you're like oh my life from the day that I was born into the barrel up to this time. Do you intend to stay in the south after you continue with college or not when I am finished with my car and your education I am planning on coming back to the south because I feel that that is where the work needs to be done. I feel like they know I'm a violent movement among Negroes and various conferences interracial conferences among Negroes I'm with whites result and to a better. And I. Find myself. Course I'm going to go on the far right.
Do you have any feelings about going to school in the south or the north. Where I might. Go. Without really. I like to. Attend.
What about voting and politics are you interested in how Texas off.
I feel that since these demonstrations are still in my interest as has been rising more than any other time. I mean getting to appreciate quality. There's a lot more you know that the members are you fanning ACP encouraging Negroes to exercise their rights to vote and also in the schools and my school as president of the student council we avow and kind of systems to exercise their right to vote in school. We are set up where we are.
We have only led officers soon for the new school term and Miller said something like the city has in a state where children have to register for they can vote. And maybe this will help some of them to understand better and lighten and help them to realize how important your vote can really be if they are combined.
What is their reaction then the rest of the kids in school toward this demonstration where the majority of the kids.
They don't want to take the first step but after a group of us had a lover had enough courage to take the first step. The majority of them want to fall because of their Me time I think that when you know not a demonstration I want to go instead where we're going to win and I really think me and saw four bears coming. What is your dad my dad is a painter you accept the name you know. What about your mother she worked you know mother's house where you have brothers and sisters.
Yes I have one sister she is two years old and had a funny thing about it.
I tell my mum when we were planning anything that to a mother that it was not just for myself but that I would look at my little sister and I said maybe if I do this I can be happy when she grows up she me we're going to any school that she will choose to go to and she may we're going to sit down to kind of when she when certainly in our kids you know sisters and brothers.
As in each of these programs we've invited an authority to consider and comment on what you've just heard. Here are the informal remarks of Dr your hungover tongue who is currently studying the attitudes of a Southern city before during and after desegregation. Dr. guttering is visiting professor of sociology at Columbia University from the University of Oslo Norway.
I think that before one. Starts commenting on what this high school student said it should be kept well in mind. What a lunch counter is a lunch counter is a place where people sit down. And eat. Now to eat together has always been a symbol of being equals. Anthropologists as a matter of fact when they want to find out anything about the structure of a society they see for the first time one of the first things they ask for is who eat together. And it seems that the segregationists are basically right. There is a distinction between sitting down together and standing up together. In other words it's not strange that. Negroes spontaneously. All over the South. And I don't think only as a fad. Have chosen this as a go.
Why is it nonviolent. One reason why it is nonviolent I think is. That these Negro students who. Hate a certain pattern. In the south and not only in the south and not only in United States. Indeed Negro students feel they belong. They are Americans. As someone pointed out very clearly and I do not want to engage in violent action. I think that nonviolent means in the sense symbolize. Exactly their degree of belongingness. Another thing that should be pointed out. Is the close connection there has always been between negro politics. And negro religious activity. When the nigger leader doesn't get the political platform. Which is by and large does not get and there is always the ministerial career open to him. I do not say that he takes on the clothes of the minister the liberally and is a disguised politician and I become devout Christians. And it seems that they become. Indeed at her and its nonviolent techniques. Now while an techniques very much of the Gandhi version. As one of the students pointed out. This was not the way my moderate or my dad. Felt. And of course it wasn't. Because the generation before them. Was much more much much deeper down I say and certainly didn't have the vigilance of this generation for one reason they didn't have. One might say the economic prosperity and the whole material background after the Second World War which has given so much confidence to people that it should be in any sense communist inspired. Well things like that I think is just a ridiculous way of trying to explain away what is basically has been 10 years. I can however see one reason why some people adhere to these explanations. One must remember that people do not see Negro students. They're not visible to them. And he goes there to see. Well most cases be the servants the gas station filling attendant. It will not be the nigger with a college education. And when I suddenly see that these negroes. Whom they are used to perceiving as apathetic and docile are able to organize something which is just astounding Then I must find an explanation. And here the commonest explanation is of course to catch all explanation because the communists are always been known for their organizational audacity and capacity. What's the long run significance of that. The first thing. Which is so evident listening to a broadcast like this. Is. That the segregationists in the south. Breathing a brand of. Young extremely conscious coming Negro leaders. Who know how to put up a political action if they are asked to. And who can fight it with means that are essentially new. Thus they are maturing politically. And because they engage in nonviolent means. I don't have a don't figure that this means a potential threat to the internal cohesion of the United States. Just not the country. It means. That. In 10 15 years from now. There will be a reserve wiring of leaders available. This may in a sense upset my certain balance particularly in the south because the Negro youth and the Negro students may become more conscious and more trained for political activity than white youths. And what this will mean in the future.
About that we can only guess. Next week we'll hear the voices of some Charleston South Carolina white teenagers on coming of age. A series about American youth in the 20th century. The series is produced for the National Educational Television and Radio Center by the Center for mass communication of Columbia University and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Coming of age
- Five sat down
- Producing Organization
- Columbia University
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- This program is a documentary of a headline integration incident.
- Explores the thoughts and feelings of American youth in the 20th century. Writer-director Ben Park talks with teenagers and parents, teachers and friends.
- Social Issues
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Director: Park, Ben
Interviewee: Galtung, Johan
Producing Organization: Columbia University
Writer: Park, Ben
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-21-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Coming of age; Five sat down,” 1961-01-28, University of Maryland, 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_500-5q4rp59q.
- MLA: “Coming of age; Five sat down.” 1961-01-28. University of Maryland, 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_500-5q4rp59q>.
- APA: Coming of age; Five sat down. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-5q4rp59q