Content thumbnail Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr.
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Epilogue On February 1, 1960, hours before King delivered his final address as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, four young Af- rican American college students staged a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Over the following weeks, hun- dreds of college students staged similar protests in cities throughout the South, including Montgomery. Alabama State University (ASU) students began their protest on February 25 by requesting service at the cafete- ria of the Montgomery County Courthouse. Although no arrests were made, Alabama governor John Patterson demanded that ASU president H. Councill Trenholm expel the students who participated in this di- rect action or risk losing state funding for his institution. In early March, Trenholm wrote letters to several students informing them that the State Board of Education had directed him to expel them from the school, citing their participation in “conduct prejudicial to the school and for conduct unbecoming a student or future teacher in schools of Alabama, for insubordination and insurrection, or for inciting other pupils to like conduct.”1 Immediately after the expulsions of their fellow classmates, several Alabama State students gathered to protest the expulsions at Dexter Av- enue Baptist Church and then proceeded to march to the nearby Capitol building. In response, the Montgomery police deputized dozens of white citizens in response to the sit-ins, and used many of these new deputies to cordon off the Capitol building and prevent the protestors from reaching their destination. Virginia Durr commented regarding the response to the sit-ins and demonstrations: “You never saw such unanimity in your life as there seems to be in the white community, although privately some dissent, but not many.” Meanwhile, the campus of Alabama State was divided over the issue, with some professors supporting the protestors, while others worked to preserve their jobs. Still, for the first time since 181

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