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Posted in Sit Ins

C.T. Vivian

Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian was another leader during the Civil Rights Movement. He would use his preaching to spread the idea of equality throughout all mankind.

His mother and grandmother were huge influences and made him what he is still today. His family first run into bad luck was when they lost their farm during the Depression. Next, arson would destroy one of their homes and his grandmother and mother would raise their families without a male influence. Instead of letting that get in the way of their lives, they used it to help guide C.T. into the educated, self-confident leader is today.

 

Here is a video of C.T. Vivian describing what it was like to grow up on a farm:

 

Vivian was born July 28, 1924, in Boonville, Missouri. He was the only child of Robert Cordie and Euzetta Tindell Vivian. At a young age he moved to Macomb, Illinois with his mother and grandmother in 1930. They picked Macomb because it had non-segregated schools and a local college. He started his leadership skills at Macomb High School. After high school, he attended Western Illinois University, but decided to leave college and move to Peoria to work at the Carver Community Center as the assistant boys’ director.

He met his wife, Octavia Geans, at the same center he worked at. They had six children together and one another from a previous relationship of Vivian’s.

In 1947, Vivian participated in his first non-violent protest, where he successfully desegregated all the lunch counters in Peoria. Peoria was also where he decided to devote his life to the ministry. He believed that religion and the Civil Rights Movement worked hand-in-hand because “racism is a moral issue.” His church believed in his capability and helped him enroll in the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee in 1955.

While there, he worked with many of the future leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, such as Diane Nash and John Lewis. Vivian, Nash and Lewis were the founders of the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference. These courageous leaders were the first to organize sit-ins in the city.

 

C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash and John Lewis
C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash and John Lewis in Nashville.

 

In this picture, Vivian, Nash and Lewis led 4,000 demonstrators on a march to Nashville’s City Hall where they established that  Mayor Ben West agreed that racial discrimination was morally wrong.

In 1960, Vivian joined and became a leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He is most known for leading the Freedom Riders of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He was arrested with other SNCC protesters in Jackson, Mississippi and was transferred to Parchman Prison Farm. Many were beaten and tortured while held here.

Martin Luther King Jr. appointed Vivian as the Director of Affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in 1961, where he was responsible for coordinating all the activities happening in the different branches nationwide.

Vivian has now lived in Atlanta, Georgia for more than three decades. He still active in his ministry and always is trying to improve racial issues we deal with today.

Sad to say I could not find any specific information on what he did for the Atlanta sit-ins at Rich’s Department Store.

If anyone has any information they would like to share about C.T. Vivian, feel free to leave comments below!

 

Posted in Sit Ins

Ella Baker

Ella Baker was a huge key factor in the Civil Rights Movement. She mainly worked with the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Ella Josephine Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. Later on she moved to North Carolina where she grew up. Her grandmother was a huge influence on her and helped guide her on the path in developing a sense for social justice for all. Her grandmother lived most of her life under slavery. One of the stories she told Ella that stuck with her throughout her life was the one where her grandmother was whipped for denying the marriage arranged by her owner. As you can see, Ella was just like her grandmother and would evolve into a strong independent woman for many to look up to.

Shaw University
Shaw University Raleigh, North Carolina in the 1920s

Ella went on to further her education at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. A fun fact about Shaw University is that it became very popular school for its course that were offered there. They included:

  •  Black American literature
  • Afro-American in America
  • Black Americans in American politics
  • Black ideology.

It doesn’t say what she majored in while there, but while there she would challenge school policies that she thought was unfair to the student body. She graduated from Shaw University in 1927 as class valedictorian.

As journey continues, Ella moved to New York City and joined a social activist organization called the Young Negroes Cooperative League in 1930. The purpose of this group was to inspire black economic power through planning. She once said,

People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job.”

In 1957, Ella moved to Atlanta to help organize Martin Luther King’s organization called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Martin Luther King and Ella Baker
Martin Luther King and Ella Baker with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

In this organization, she set up the event that led to the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960. As you read in my previous blog, this is where she and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson worked together. Both these strong independent women helped start this life changing movement.

A group of black college students from North Carolina A&T University sat at Woolworth’s lunch counter on February 1, 1960 in Geensboro, North Carolina after being  denied service. This was the inspiration for many more sit-ins to occur, including the sit-in at Rich’s Department Store.

Ella Baker has inspired many over the decades. She help change how people are treated back then and now today. We can all still learn from her today. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions below.

Posted in Uncategorized

Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson

Civil Rights leader, Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson, made an influence on the African American culture. She was a helping hand in keeping the fire going for the Civil Rights Movement.

Ruby Doris Smith was born in Atlanta, Georiga on April 25, 1942. She grew up in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, which is actually the oldest black community in the city of Atlanta. Also, it is between what is now the Atlanta Zoo and the old Turner Field.

Summerhill neighborhood Atlanta, Ga 1960s
Summerhill neighborhood Atlanta, Ga 1960s

She was one of seven children born from Alice and J.T. Smith. She was the second oldest out of her siblings. Her mom was a beautician and her dad was a furniture mover and Baptist minister. They raised their children to be strong and independent by earning their wages off of black patronage (support from the church). Her parents made them feel like it was normal to have their own race’s churches, schools and social activities.

Her mother raised her to want to further her education and be involved with extracurricular activities instead of only becoming a housewife that knows only how to cook. Ruby graduated from Price High School and proceeded to attend Spelman College in 1959, which is still to this day one of the most prestigious black colleges in the United States.There, she earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. Spelman College also played a huge role in the Civil Rights movement by holding conferences there on behalf of the movement.

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Ruby Doris Smith’s participation at Spelman College

At Spelman College, she became involved with the Atlanta Student Movement after the sit-ins at the lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. While being involved with this movement, she attended multiple sit-ins and was arrested a few times. After the Atlanta Student Movement ended on campus, Ruby continued to organize economic boycotts and kneel-ins at white churches.

After being involved with the Atlanta Student Movement, she continued to make integration possible in Atlanta by being part of  the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She worked with Ella Baker (Southern Christian Leadership Conference representative) to help start the SNCC. Ruby organized chapters in Charleston, South Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and Macomb, Mississippi.

While in the SNCC, Ruby was arrested multiple times for believing in equal rights for all races. In February 1961, J. Charles Jones, Diane Nash, Charles Sherrod, and Ruby Doris Smith Robinson decided to participate in Rock Hill, South Carolina city’s sit-in movement. This particular sit-in was a “Jail-No-Bail” sit-in tactic that lead to a 30 day jail sentence for Ruby and her fellow SNCC group leaders, as well as hundreds of other participants.

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Ruby Doris Smith’s mugshot from Parchman Penitentiary in 1961

 Here is a picture of Ruby’s mugshot from when she was arrested for her involvement in the 1961 Freedom Rides. She served a 45 day jail time in Parchman Penitentiary, and while inside she and the others were beaten and abused by the guards.

Another achievement Ruby received was that she was the assistant secretary of the SNCC in the Atlanta office. While there she conducted the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi, and directed the SNCC’s Sojourner Truth Motor Fleet.

In 1964, Ruby married Clifford Robinson from Atlanta, who was also a Motor Fleet mechanic. They had a son in 1965 named Kenneth Toure.

In the remaining years of her life, she replaced James Forman in May 1966 as SNCC’s executive secretary. This put her as the first and only woman to serve in such a huge organization. She later died on October 7, 1967 from terminal cancer at the age of 25.

Posted in Sit Ins

Rich’s Department Store Sit Ins in 1960

What do you think of when you think of Little Five Points in Atlanta, Ga? Most people would say they think of the Vortex, or all of the different vintage clothing stores and bars. Little Five Points is actually a historical landmark for the 1960 non-violent sit in in the Magnolia Room in Rich’s Department Store. Little Five Points needs to be known not only as a hip place to hang out but also as a historical landmark.

In New Georgia Encyclopedia , Morris Rich in 1867 borrowed $500 from his brother to open a dry goods store in Atlanta. Later on during the time of the Civil Rights Movement, Rich’s got the reputation for being a more “tolerant” store towards African American customers. Even though they were more “tolerant” towards African American costumers they still refused to serve them at the Magnolia Room, which was a restaurant inside Rich’s. This caused Rich’s to be boycotted earlier on during the Civil Rights Movement.

This is what Little Five Points looked like during the 1960s:

Rich's Department Store in 1900s
Rich’s Department Store Street View

This is what Little Five Points looks like today:

Welcome sign to Little Five Points
Welcome sign to Little Five Points

I personally had no clue that this even happened in our hometown of Atlanta. I spent the majority of my educational career in Georgia, and not once was this mentioned in any of the classes. One of the classes in middle school that was required was a Georgia Studies course. They mentioned sit ins and the Civil Right Movement, but nothing about the sit ins that happened at Rich’s.

While conducting research for this blog, only one out of four websites mentioned the sit ins at Rich’s. Is this because at the time they did not want to be associated with Civil Rights? I believe there needs to be more recognition of the sit ins role in history and how it effected the Civil Rights Movement.

Here is a short clip depicting parts of  what happened during the Civil Rights Movement:

This clip brought up key events that happened during this era. Martin Luther King was asked by the four college students leading the sit ins to join them for that day. Martin knew that if he were to go, he would be held responsible for his actions. Martin was part of the 51 people arrested on the day of the sit ins. According to the video, only 16 of the 51 were dismissed. Being that he was the most recognizable of the group, Martin was charged because the authorities claimed that he violated his term of probation. He was in jail for six months. John F. Kennedy helped secure his release which then helped promote himself in the election, thus effecting more U.S. history. Do you think John F. Kennedy would of won the election without the support of the African American community?

Rich’s Department Store has already been forgotten and is actually a Macy’s Department Store with no historical ties to this event. In this article, Rich’s Department Store closed in 1991 and the Pink Pig moved into the Festival of Trees to help benefit Eggleston Hospital on Macy’s behalf. The Pink Pig was too expensive to keep running so it closed in 1995, but reopened in 2003.

Macy's Pink Pig ride
Macy’s Pink Pig

Tickets to ride the Pink Pig are sold still today at Lenox Square Mall. Why is it that we preserved this attraction for Rich’s, instead of preserving the historical significance of the sit in that was in the exact same building?

Obviously there is not enough information given to our community about this historical significance that took place right in our own home state. Hopefully one day more people will be informed about what happened in what is now Little Five Points. Please feel free to leave comments and feedback about the subject matter.