The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Integration & Racial Dialogueedit
Seeking to protect Columbia’s growing national reputation as an “All-American City” amidst a growing number of protests, Mayor Lester Bates held informal meetings with black leaders and white businessmen. In August 1962, eight downtown chain stores, including Eckerd’s and Woolworth’s, served black customers for the first time. White counter-protesters picketed Main Street stores in opposition to such “race-mixing.” A year later, Reverend I. DeQuincey Newman and other NAACP leaders along with student activists renewed calls for change. Mayor Bates convened the “Committee of 50,” a biracial committee designed to promote interracial understanding. They persuaded merchants to remove segregation signs, serve black customers, and enact non-discriminatory hiring policies. The “Committee of 50” was renamed the Columbia Community Relations Council in 1964.