Our African American Legacy Images

Our African American Legacy

Southern University Civil Rights March

Spring Semester 1960

On February 1, 1960, four black college students in Greensboro, NC, sat down at the whites-only lunch counter in Woolworth's and politedly placed an order. It was one of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement and it set the stage for student involvement in the movement nationwide...

Later that month...
student activists at Southern University, wanting to show support of the Greensboro students and to protest segregation, began planning their own lunch counter sit-in at the Kress store in downtown Baton Rouge.

March 15
Fearing the possibility of campus demonstrations in Louisiana, on March 15, 1960, the State Board of Education ordered all college presidents to take disciplinary action against any students involved in incidents that would discredit the institution -- in other words, punish all student protesters and participants in sit-ins, demonstrations or rallies.
At Southern University, President Felton G. Clark convened the student body to announce that any student taking part in a demonstration would be expelled. Further, he told the faculty that he would demand the resignation of any collaborating faculty member.
3rd Street
March 28
On March 28, the Southern student activists went to the Kress store and took seats at the whites- only counter, refusing to move to the counter for black customers. They were quickly arrested for disturbing the peace.
March 29
The next day, lunch counter sit-ins were staged at Sitman's Drugstore and at the Greyhound Bus Station. Again, the students were asked to move to the blacks-only counters, and again they refused and were arrested.
March 30
On March 30th, approximately 2000 Southern students were seen at a rally in support of the arrested demonstrators. Beginning on the SU campus, the demonstration moved downtown where marchers picketed Kress, Sitman's Drugstore and the Greyhound Station. Major Johns addressed the gathering, reciting the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States and exhorting the demonstrators to work for equality for African Americans. Student leaders sang hymns and made their way back to the Southern campus where they were urged to boycott classes.
At the CapitalGreyhound StationCathedral
March 31
The student leaders of the march were expelled and threatened, and on March 31, almost half of the Southern student body attempted to resign in protest. They were refused.
In early April, protesters again encouraged students to resign en masse, but President Clark met with the original Kress protesters and hammered out a deal where the activists would leave Baton Rouge and the University would cease the expulsions. Ultimately, the expelled students transferred to other schools and about 5% of the students resigned.
Then and Now
For participating in the sit-ins of March 28, 29 and 30, 1960, 16 African-American college students were expelled from Southern University and barred from all public colleges and universities in the state of Louisiana, their educations interrupted, their lives, those of their families, and those of African Americans forever changed. Read more about these 16 individuals in the following articles available from the Black Collegian Online and Black Issues in Higher Education.