Sunday, April 21, 2013

School Desegeration Protests in Henderson, 1970

Lexington Dispatch, Nov. 7, 1970

By Ernest H. Robl, UPI
National guardsmen today were ordered into Henderson, where a dispute over school desegregation policies erupted into a night of sniping and burning.

Gov. Bob Scott officially ordered in the troops to enforce a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed on the city and surrounding Vance County.

The move came after about 100 black youths gathered in the smoldering ruins of a burned out tobacco warehouse and began hurling bricks and pieces of pipe at passing cars.

About 40 arrests were made during the nightlong disturbance, concentrated in a four-block area of a black neighborhood.

Two whites were injured but no one was reported hit by gunfire.

Violence also broke out in Greenville, S.C., where black and white students clashed in a newly integrated high school. White parents rushed to the school and smashed out windows so children could flee the melee. No one was seriously injured.

Protest Policies
Blacks have staged protests here for weeks over policies of the Vance County education officials, especially the reopening of an all-black school in the Nutbush Community. Blacks charged the board with trying to skirt desegregation.

The school board agreed Wednesday to close the black school and transfer its student to desegregated schools, but a group of young black gathered Friday afternoon at the education office in a protest to back up demands for hiring of a Negro coach and a Negro assistant principal.

The protestors left the building and gathered in the street near a church, where police ordered them to disperse on grounds they were blocking traffic. Officers used tear gas to break up the crowd, which hurled bricks and bottles at the officers.

Ben Chavis, a leader of the black protesters, charged that police began chasing some students after they left the education building and some were hit with nightsticks before the stones were thrown.

Fires Erupt
After night fell fires were touched off at the warehouse and grocery in the black neighborhood, and police were fired upon in the dark. Highway Patrol reinforcements in riot helmets with face shields were hurriedly brought in.

A nighttime curfew was declared in Henderson, a city of 12,500, and it was extended late Friday night to all of Vance County on the Virginia border.

Police moved out of the trouble area late Friday night as the fires burned themselves out, and Buck said, “we hope they will stop burning when they see we care about our own hides.”

The area was quiet early today as Highway Patrol units moved back into the black neighborhood.

Buck said firemen stopped answering any alarms in the area after a false alarm brought a “barrage of fire” on policemen and firemen. “We had to pull back,” he said.

A police officer said “We had no choice, we had to let it burn.”

A vacationing United Press International reporter, Mark Scheinbaum of New York, was beaten to the ground and had his camera stolen by a black mob when he stopped to see what was going on. Scheinbaum, who was on his way to Florida with his wife and small child, was treated at a hospital and released.

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