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RIGHT NOW at NRN w/Clarence Henderson: “I guess you would call me a peacemaker”
History is everywhere you look and every day is a reason to celebrate America’s heroes. NRN had the honor to interview one civil rights figure, Clarence Henderson, on location at the North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. The on-site statue was dedicated to the four men who were at the sit-ins on the first day, which was February 1, 1960. Our talk with Henderson led us to another civil rights hero, Frederick Douglass. Clarence Henderson serves as the sitting president of the Frederick Douglass Foundation for the State of North Carolina. Today marks the exact day Frederick Bailey became Frederick Douglass when he arrived in New Bedford on Sept. 17, 1838. Frederick Douglass was a Black American dedicated to the abolition of slavery, and gave many speeches on the subject of freedom. He was also a writer, and his works still inspire us to greatness today. Works such as “My Bondage and My Freedom” inform us of where we have been, and how far we have come as a nation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_type=”block” font_color=”light” background_type=”video” video_bg_url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qXvND-0Rws” video_bg_start_time=”139″ video_bg_end_time=”900″ video_bg_parallax=”true” bt_text=”FREEDOM” bt_font_weight=”300″ bt_font_style=”italic” shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ add_bigtext=”true” min_height=”100″ bt_max_width=”300″][vc_column][wvc_video_opener caption_position=”bottom” video_url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qXvND-0Rws” caption=”Civil Rights Spotlight | Interview with CLARENCE HENDERSON”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Frederick Douglass also escaped from slavery during the month of September. On September 3rd, 1838, Douglass hopped on a northbound train and traveled all the way to Wilmington, Delaware, where he boarded a steamboat bound for free states. Douglass was disguised as a sailor and carried identification and protection papers he got from a free black seaman. Douglass eventually reached New York, and freedom, 24 hours after his perilous journey started. He found shelter at the safe house of David Ruggles, a noted abolitionist.
In his writings, Douglass tells of his journey and his arrival in New York City, penning these words: “I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me.”
“If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”
While we would love to say that abolition of slavery was the end of struggles for Black Americans, sadly, the country had a lot more growing to do. Black Americans endured many injustices from the time of abolition to the Jim Crow days. The Civil Rights era of the 1960’s brought it all to a head, with such notable events as the Greensboro sit ins in North Carolina. No one could tell that story better than one of the participants themselves.
Greensboro Sit-Ins: Clarence Henderson Puts Jim Crow on Trial
On September 14, 2019, NRN had the honor of interviewing Clarence Henderson, a civil rights participant in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Greensboro Sit-Ins, which occurred at Woolworth Department Store, “put Jim Crow on trial,” in the words of Clarence Henderson. The Woolworth Department Store chain, much like many other locations throughout the south, supported segregationist policies.
Anyone who opens a history book will likely stumble upon schools, restaurants, theaters, water fountains, or bathrooms from pre-1960s America that pertain to “whites only” or “colored only.” While many significant civil rights achievements occurred throughout the Deep South, as well as in various cities throughout the nation, one prominent movement took place in the heart of North Carolina, my home state.
On February 1, 1960, four young men entered the Woolworth Department Store. David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and Joseph McNeil had one goal in mind: dismantle the store’s unconstitutional policies. Using Martin Luther King, Jr. as an inspiration, the four students of North Carolina A&T State University entered the store. As Henderson said in the interview, they could get food to go, but they would not be served to dine in. When the four men ordered coffee at the counter, they were refused, and asked to leave by the manager. A statue was dedicated to the four men, which rests in front of Dudley Hall at A&T, and this location served as the site for my interview.
The Second Day of Sit-Ins and Beyond
On February 2, many others – both male and female – joined the sit-ins, with Henderson being among them. In the famous picture taken of the four men sitting at the counter on the second day, Henderson is seated on the far right. Any time a group or individual stands up for what is right in the face of adversity, they can expect backlash.
According to Henderson, they did not know what to expect. Would they simply be asked to leave, or would they be taken away in handcuffs? Henderson said that members of the Ku Klux Klan also made an appearance. He stated that their primary mission, in his own words, was to “put Jim Crow on trial.” As a result of their actions, Jim Crow was found guilty, and Woolworth lost thousands of dollars.
Conservative and Pro-Trump Clarence Henderson: “I Help Bridge the Gap”
The story of Henderson’s life goes well beyond the heroic sit-in movement. He travels across the nation to deliver speeches, and feels that God has given him the role of acting as a spokesman between the Black Community and the Republican Party. As a proud Republican, he wishes for everyone to be taught the true history about the Democrat and Republican parties.
Henderson is president of the North Carolina chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, which was founded on Christian and Conservative principles. In the interview, he states that Frederick Douglass would probably be his favorite historical role model, but that his primary role model would be his father. Henderson is dedicated to upholding Christian values and educating all Americans on the Civil Rights Movement. “I guess you would call me a peacemaker. I help bridge the gap. That’s what I still do today is try to make people aware that there’s no difference between the races. As far as I’m concerned there’s only one race and that’s the human race.” Henderson said.
Henderson is a Trump supporter, and has said, “What the Democrat Party is most afraid of is conservative Blacks.” Henderson has defended Trump from those who accuse him of being bad for the country, and has said that America needs someone who understands business as president. Just earlier this year, Henderson was recognized by President Trump at the White House for his role in the Greensboro Sit-Ins. As part of his Independence Day speech, Trump stated, “Clarence Henderson was 18 years old when he took his place in history. Clarence, thank you for making this country a much better place.”