NASHVILLE - The House on Thursday honored a group of Howard High School students who in 1960 participated in non-violent, sit-in protests that helped bring a halt to downtown Chattanooga business' use of segregated lunch counters.
"You don't know how much this means to us, especially at this point in our lives," Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, a Howard High graduate herself, told House colleagues.
Rep. Favor's resolution says the students' continued actions that "over time, the students' civil disobedience loosened Jim Crow's oppressive hold on this tremendous city, and the good people of Chattanooga began to recognize the moral repugnance of segregation."
Howard graduate Alma Vinyard recalled how, a half century ago, college students were conducting non-violent protests at segregated lunch counters in a number of Southern cities.
"We at Howard High School in February of 1960 decided because there was no (black) college there in Chattanooga ... we needed to take on the responsibility of participating in this historic movement," said Dr. Vinyard, who now is chairman of the English department at Clark Atlanta University.
The Howard students went to the McClellan Company Store and Woolworth's. Virgil Roberts, a then-Howard student, recalled Thursday that students were allowed to sit at McClellan's lunch counter. Woolworth's, however, closed its doors, he said. Police were present, but no students were arrested, he said.
The former students said that, as far as they know, their action was the only one initiated by high school students.
Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, recalled how as a young black social worker at the state's then-Welfare Department, she was electrified when notified by telephone that the students were marching toward downtown.
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