Marching in the steps of history
Reginald Hawkins Abdullah Salim Jr. leads marchers from the campus of Johnson C. Smith University headed to uptown Charlotte, Monday, May 20, 2013. (Photo: Jordan Stutts for Qcitymetro.com)
Fifty years after civil rights activist Reginald Hawkins led marchers through the streets of Charlotte demanding an end to racial segregation, his son on Monday retraced those step in an event organized to commemorate the father’s historic 1963 march.
'The movement that
he started was one
of human rights.'
The marchers, led by Reginald Hawkins Abdullah Salim Jr., began at Johnson C. Smith University and walked under cloudy skies and through occasional rain to Trade and Tryon streets before ending up at old county courthouse.
The 1963 march, held on the anniversary of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 (more than a year before the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed) was considered a watershed event in the city’s civil rights history. Then-Mayor Stan Brookshire joined the black marchers demanding an end to segregation in Charlotte restaurants. Historians have said that the success of the Charlotte march inspired activists in other Southern city to also demand equal rights.
During Monday’s march, Hawkins Jr. recalled marching with his father as a teen but said he had never walked the route his father famously took to nullify Charlotte’s separate-but-equal policies. Close to 70 others also participated in the Monday march.
"The movement that he started was one of human rights,” Hawkins Jr. told Qcitymetro.com. “We need to come together and unify so we can work toward total unification.”
The march was part of a series of events this week called "From Sit-Ins to Eat-Ins," all meant to commemorate Charlotte's civil rights history and to draw attention to the work that some say still needs to be done.
Four Charlotte organizations teamed up to sponsor the week of events, which also included the 238th anniversary of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. They are: Levine Museum of the New South, Mecklenburg Ministries, The May 20th Society, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations
During the Monday march, participants carried a banner and sang songs made popular during the Civil Rights Movement decades earlier, songs such as "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" and "We Shall Not Be Moved."
At the old county courthouse, Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon celebrated Hawkins' nonviolent call for equal opportunity and proclaimed his action a special day in Charlotte's history.
"What took place 50 years ago still resonates with some folks, even today, in the way of equal opportunity and justice as we know it" Cannon said.
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