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ASU President Reinstates Students from 1960 Sit-in Movement

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Author: Tina Joly

Release Date: Feb 26, 2010

ASU's president has reinstated nine students expelled for their particpation in the historic 1960 Sit-in Movment. The announcement was made during a conference held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sit-in.


Nine students expelled from Alabama State University after participating in the Montgomery Student Sit-in Movement in 1960 were officially reinstated by President William H. Harris. 

Harris plans to ask the Board of Trustees to allow the former ASU students to receive their diplomas during the University’s spring commencement.

“This cannot undo the 50 years of pain suffered by these students, but I do believe we can show them, through our actions, that we are grateful. We can say thank you, and we can move forward,” said Harris.

Harris’ announcement was made during a one-day conference held at ASU to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ASU Sit-in Movement.

Ten of the sit-in participants returned for the commemoration. They were part of a group of ASU students who marched to the then-segregated cafeteria in the Montgomery County Courthouse on Feb. 25, 1960, to stage a peaceful protest. Police were called in to force the students to leave the building. Under pressure from then-Gov. John Patterson and the State Board of Education, ASU’s president, Harper Councill Trenholm, expelled the nine students identified as sit-in leaders.

One of those student leaders, St. John Dixon, traveled from California to be part of the anniversary. He became choked up with tears as he recalled the turbulent times he and his fellow students faced while fighting for equality.

“Those were hard times. We got expelled from school. My father lost his job because of my actions; but he always supported me and told me to keep fighting,” said Dixon.

Joseph Peterson had an emotional flashback when a photographer took his picture before the start of the conference.

“Wow. The last time I had my picture taken in Montgomery was for a mug shot after I participated in the sit-ins. Having my picture taken brought back a lot of memories just now,” Peterson said.

James McFadden was a second-generation ASU student. He moved to Philadelphia after being expelled. He hopes the conference will ignite a fire in current ASU students to fight for social change.

“These students are walking in history every day. ASU played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement. We helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We were the second school in the country to organize a sit-in movement. This history is something current students can build on,” said McFadden.

The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture sponsored the sit-in conference.

“We were hoping the participants would shed new light on the events surrounding the sit-ins and that’s what happened. We heard recollections that have never been shared before. We are truly excited,” said Dr. Howard Robinson, conference chairperson.

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