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Civil Rights Fighters: The Archive

Civil Rights activists engage in a prayerful sit-in at St. Mary's Hospital.

Photo by Provided by Beck Cultural Center, Provided by Beck Cultural Center

Civil Rights activists engage in a prayerful sit-in at St. Mary's Hospital.

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  • Knoxville College students 'march' through downtown lunch counters during the first stages of the Knoxville sit-in movement. Students identified in the foreground are (left to right): Warren Brown, Robert J. Booker, Olin Franklin, Car Westmoreland, Lucille Thompson, Raymond Melton, Barbara Surrancy, Kendall Smith, Aaron Allen, John Dean, Deford Valentine and Georgia Walker. (Knoxville News Sentinel, March 7, 1960)
  • Counter-protesters from nearby counties were also present at demonstrations, like these from Cocke County who voiced their opinion with a large sign. Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960
  • With its fine lunch counter and the plush Laurel Room for dingin, Rich's was a prime target for local Civil Rights demonstrators. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960)
  • Nikita Kruschev, a Communist and leader of the Soviet Union, could visit Knoxville and eat at any restaurant in the city, but a black Knoxvillian could not. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960)
  • As long as African American customers stood up to buy something, except shoes, there was no problem. Sitting at a lunch counter always caused a “horizontal problem,” as was the case at Rich’s Department Store. Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960
  • A group of pickets protest 'second class citizenship' a the rear entrance of Rich's Department Store (now the University of Tennessee Conference Center) on Locust Street. The downtown YMCA is pictured at top right. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960)
  • The signs of these young men say 'Send these Africans home,' 'We're Rich's first class customers, sorry your (sic) Rich's rock bottom,' and 'We don't like black people at Rich's and white people who like black people, go home, too.' (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960)
  • Civil rights protest at Knoxville's downtown Rich's department store. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 29, 1960)
  • Priest of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Father Matthew A. Jones was an ardent participant in the Civil Rights Movement. Here he marches in downtown Knoxville. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 30, 1960)
  • An unidentified man (left) and Jack LeFlore decry the fact that downtown drugstores sold medicines but no 'sit down' food to black Knoxvillians. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 20, 1960)
  • Knoxville College student Robert J. Booker and Dean of Men, John Bell, converse through the city jail 'peep slot.' Booker was arrested during a protest at the Tennessee Theater on October 9, 1961. (Knoxville News Sentinel)
  • A young lady is carried to the police wagon by Patrolman James Rowan, who said that he could not be a party to 'dragging' the protesters. Avon Rollins stands at the left. (Knoxville News Sentinel, March 10, 1963)
  • Policemen were on duty primarily to thwart troublemakers, but they also arrested protesters who refused to obey a command. Sometimes 50 people or more were arrested at a time. Knoxville News Sentinel, March 24, 1963
  • A theater employee tries to stop a Knoxville College student from entering because a group of University of Tennessee students are present. Marion Barry, later the mayor of Washington D.C. is pictured behind the student. (Knoxville News Sentinel, March 24, 1963)
  • The arrest of W.M. Gordon Jr. created a stir when it reached the newspapers. His father, W.M. Gordon Sr., was a city police officer who often drove the 'paddy wagon,' which took his son to jail. (Knoxville News Sentinel, April 16, 1963)
  • Some pickets who 'went limp' upon being arrested were, for the most part, drgged to the waiting 'paddy wagon.' Singer Louis Jordan described similar arrests in his 'Saturday Night Fish Fry' as being tossed in the wagon 'like potato sacks.' (Knoxville News Sentinel, May 11, 1961)
  • Civil Rights activists engage in a prayerful sit-in at St. Mary's Hospital.

The Beck Cultural Center has provided a selection of its archival photos from the Civil Rights fight in Knoxville (originally printed in the Knoxville News Sentinel). They're collected here in roughly the same chronological order the photos were originally published.

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