Baton Rouge Sit-ins were pivotal to Civil Rights Movement in Louisiana
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A pivotal moment of the Civil Rights Movement that involved a few students, a clothing store, and a bus stop happened in Baton Rouge.
“You recognized, that if you were in that movement, there’s a possibility you could die,” said Dr. Albert Samuels, a historian and political science professor at Southern University.
In March of 1960, seven Black students from Southern University tried to integrate the lunch counter at the Kress department store downtown. At the same time, another group of kids peacefully sat inside Sitman’s Drug Store and the former Greyhound Bus Station.
Collectively known as the Baton Rouge Sit-ins, this was the first known sit-ins of the state’s Civil Rights Movement.
“People spat on them. People insulted them. They got kicked. They got arrested. And you have to not retaliate. In fact, that was the strategic choice of the movement,” explained Samuels.
He says that moment changed the outlook of Louisiana’s history.
“They rehearsed and drilled people. So, this wasn’t something that people just got up and decided that they wanted to do this. There was a lot that went into that,” he noted.
Samuels added the students were arrested for disturbing the peace and some were even kicked out of school. The moment caught the attention of the US Supreme Court after the students went to jail. It was ruled that the state could not convict any of the students.
Samuels says the students took a risk by putting their lives on the line.
“Black people knew. They’ve seen and experienced violence at the lengths that segregation was willing to go through to preserve white supremacy that your life did not matter,” said Samuels.
The sacrifice the students made will be remembered throughout history but Samuels emphasized we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to fighting for civil rights.
“I’m optimistic. I’m an educator, so I have to be optimistic. So, I’m inherently optimistic, but we have some work to do,” added Samuels.
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