Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail Honorees: 1960s Sit-in Demonstrators
Frank James, co-founder of Arkansas Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Frank James Lupper, his and Thomas Robinson’s lawsuit became one of first sit-in cases to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court
Worth Long, sit-in demonstration leader and integral player in the desegregation of downtown Little Rock businesses
Bill Hansen, director of SNCC’s Arkansas Project from 1962-1966
Thomas Robinson, his and Frank James Lupper’s lawsuit became one of first sit-in cases to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court
These five civil rights activists became five of the first ten honorees to be honored with a plaque on the Heritage Trail commemorating their role in the civil rights movement in Arkansas. They were honored along with the 1961 Little Rock Freedom Riders July 10, 2011.
The Sit-in Movement in Arkansas
Around the country, individuals started to use a more direct form of protest to force the integration of public facilities, sit-ins, more frequently. In Arkansas, students from Philander Smith College took a leading role in the sit-in movement. Among them were Frank James, Frank James Lupper, Worth Long, Bill Hansen, and Thomas Robinson.
In the aftermath of the Central High School crisis, some individuals decided to take a more direct approach to achieving equality in Arkansas. Students from Philander Smith College staged a number of sit-ins at segregated facilities in the early 1960s often getting stiff jail sentences and fines as a result. In 1962, the Arkansas Council on Human Relations asked for the aid of the national organization, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In response, they sent William (Bill) Hansen, a white activist, to Arkansas to assist local community organizers.
Hansen was the first SNCC representative from the national organization to arrive in Arkansas in 1962 and was director of SNCC’s Arkansas Project from 1962-1966. When Hansen arrived, he met with Worth Long and others active in the movement such as Frank James, a participant in the first “sit-in” and one of the founding members of Arsnick.
By the end of 1963, working with a integrated group of business and community leaders, Worth Long, Bert Strauss, Hansen and other Philander Smith students successfully pushed for the desegregation of downtown lunch facilities.
The work of Arsnick was not limited to Little Rock. They expanded their operations to other parts of the state including eastern Arkansas, considered to be a hostile territory for civil rights workers. part of the state, which was widely considered to be more hostile territory for civil rights workers. They established offices in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Forrest City (St. Francis County), Gould (Lincoln County), and Helena (Phillips County).
Arsnick’s activities were not limited to sit-ins, the organization also led voter registration drives, established Freedom Schools to increase educational access for black Arkansans, and supported black candidates who ran for political office.
Read more at Arkansas Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee…