THE GLEN ECHO
In February 1960, four
black college students had sat down at a white-only Woolworths
lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Within two weeks, there were
sit-ins in fifteen cities in five southern states and within
two months they had spread to fifty four cities in nine states.
In April the leaders of these protests had come together,
heard a moving sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. and formed the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The summer I had
first worked for WWDC I had covered the passage of the first
civil rights legislation in Congress since 1875. Now it was getting
serious. By the end of June, I was covering the desegregation
of lunch counters in Northern Virginia after sit-ins led a Howard
Divinity School student, Lawrence Henry. As Daniel
Hardin described it:
Henry decided to emulate
the Greensboro sit-ins... On June 9th a small interracial group
began a sit in at a People's Drug Store [in Arlington] and quickly
spread to other restaurants and lunch counters in that city.
They were confronted by
up to 300 residents organized by the American Nazi Party and
several arrests by police, including Henry. However the demonstrators
continued their sit-ins for two weeks until most major chain
stores agreed to desegregate. Alexandria city officials quickly
announced that chain stores and restaurants in the town would
also desegregate and Fairfax County gave similar notice a week
Henry also led a group
protesting at Glen Echo. Although I saved few recordings from
that period -- tape was expensive and usually recycled -- I still
have the raw sounds I
made that day. On it park security chief Francis Collins
and Henry confront each other:
- Are you white or colored?
- Am I white or colored?
- That's correct. That's
what I want to know. Can I ask your race?
- My race. I belong
to the human race.
- All right. This park
- I don't understand
what you mean.
- It's strictly for white
- It's strictly for
- Uh-hum. It has been for
years. . .
- You're telling me
that because my skin is black I can not come into your park?
- Not because your skin
is black. I asked you what your race was.
- I would like to know
why I can not come into your park.
- Because the park is segregated.
It is private property.
- Just what class of
people do you allow to come in here.
- White people
- So you're saying you
exclude the American Negro.
- That's right.
- Who is a citizen of
the United States.
- That's right.
- I see.
As a biracial group marched
outside with picket signs, Henry led a group inside to sit-in
at the restaurant and mount the carousel horses. The case ended
up in court and less than a year later, the park opened for all.
CONFRONTS SECURITY CHIEF FRANCIS COLLINS
AT GLEN ECHO AMUSEMENT PARK