Foot soldiers of Civil Rights Movement remembered - FOX 32 News Chicago

Foot soldiers of Civil Rights Movement remembered

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You don't have to be a history buff to know names like Ralph Abernathy or Andrew Young.  Not so well known are the students, housewives and others who filled the civil rights background behind more celebrated leaders.

Hilliard Lee was a student at Morehouse College back in 1960. It was the Atlanta University Center students who took to the streets in protest. Boycotts, sit-ins – all part of a massive effort to desegregate public spaces immediately.

"African-Americans took to the street, young ones who led the old ones," said Lonnie King.

King, a Morehouse College student, and Herchelle Sullivan-Challenor, a Spelman College undergrad, were leaders of that  student movement, the Committee on the Appeal For Human Rights

"Those of us who were on the executive committee spent a lot of time negotiating," said Sullivan Challenor.

"This was the first time that any white power structure agreed to sit down and negotiate to settle a desegregation problem," said King.

Few would disagree that what happened in the street is what forced Atlanta to desegregate, and the Hilliard Lees -- the unknown foot soldiers of the student movement -- were a driving force. Yet, if you go to a computer and google "Hilliard Lee, Atlanta Student Movement," you won't find a thing.

"I tell people I never was arrested, I couldn't afford to. I drove the car," Lee said.

The car had a radio that traveled behind the young protestors. Lee helped organize a two-way radio system that would be something like Twitter today.

"When there was an arrest, we could always call back and say that these people have been arrested and get more people. More people would show up immediately," Lee said.

That strategy that kept the pressure on; the nuts and bolts that kept a movement strong.

"Eventually police figured out something was happening and we were stopped," Lee said.

But the damage was done and victory – desegregation -- was well on its way.

"Like Victor Hugo once said, 'There's nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come,'" said King.

Lee's classmate, Ronald Yancy, helped come up with the two-way radio plan,

FOX 5 would like to thank the family of Maurice Pennington for allowing us to use his personal collection of photos and cartoons. We also want to thank the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church Choir for lending their musical talents.

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