The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

The Wiley-Bishop Student Movement: A Case
Study in the 9 6o Civil Rights Sit-Ins
DONALD SEALS JR.*
ON MARCH 26, 1960, TEN AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS FROM NEARBY
Wiley and Bishop Colleges sat down at the Woolworth's lunch
counter in Marshall, Texas, a community nestled against the state's north-
eastern border, and requested service, thus igniting a week of chaos and
racial tension, which had become a familiar part of the southern land-
scape in the past decade. By April the southern sit-in movement, initiated
two months earlier by black college students in Greensboro, North
Carolina, to help eradicate racial segregation, spread throughout all the
former Confederate states, including Texas. The Marshall sit-ins were not
the first in Texas, but followed demonstrations in Houston, Austin,
Galveston, and San Antonio.1 While this study confirms the importance of
such factors as community and African American population sizes in
determining success probabilities for a sit-in, it is particularly valuable in
revealing the significance of location in the 1960 sit-ins. More specifically,
analyzing and comparing the Marshall campaign to its counterparts across
the South and state helps discern regional differences in Texas, emphasiz-
ing that eastern parts of the Lone Star State in 1960 proved as thoroughly
southern as their Deep South neighbors.
Without the presence of two local black colleges in Marshall-Wiley
and Bishop-the 1960 civil rights sit-ins would not have spread to the
sleepy East Texas town of 25,000. Despite the fact that blacks comprised
43 percent of Marshall and Harrison County's population, the majority
of the largely working-class African American community reacted warily
* Donald Seals Jr., a doctoral student at the University of Mississippi, has produced this article
as a selection from his M.A. thesis Special thanks to the Harrison County Historical Museum,
Gail Beil, Baylor University's Texas Collection, and the numerous interviewees who helped facili-
tate this study.
Martin Oppenheimer, The Sit-In Movement of I96o, with a preface by David J. Garrow
(Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1963); William Chafe, Civilities and Cvzl Rights:
Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press,
1980).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed August 27, 2014.