How Did A High School Election Spark A Race Riot?

Scott Hall during 1969 Greensboro Uprising
Leslie Taylor-Grover
April 30, 2021

When pro-Black student Claude Barnes won the student body president election fair and square, the Dudley High administration said, “no.” But their petty, racist intervention in high school politics – and the young people’s righteous anger – would forever change an entire town.

In protest, Barnes and other students contacted a college student at nearby North Carolina AT&T University, hoping to get help organizing students at the high school. Soon, hundreds of high school and college students were protesting for student rights! But the town couldn’t just let Black power happen.

The superintendent called the notoriously racist police. The mayor even called in the National Guard to restore “order” and silence the Black students! Of course, violence ensued. Smoke, gunfire and attacks on Black students lasted for three days, until both the school and the college dismissed students.

But Black Power won the day! Inspired by the student activism, activists kept organizing and fighting for reform in the community. In the end, the city relented, and both the school and the college saw major improvements! The Black community now controlled the school – not white administrators.

As the Dudley uprising shows, when we have control of our own educational outcomes, our children are much less at risk of being penalized for being Black. We must always seek to control the educational systems that serve our communities.

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