High Point students protest for theater integration, 1960-1964


Newspapers reporting the event have stated that the goal is "complete integration of all facilities."

Time period notes

The campaign stopped in Spring 1961 and started again in November 1962. There is no exact end date.

Time period

February, 1960 to Late, 1964


United States

Location City/State/Province

High Point, North Carolina and Thomasville, North Carolina
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Buying tickets in the the area reserved for whites

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • Refusal of Black community to attend theater

Segment Length

8 months


Brenda Jean Fountain


NAACP: High Point and Thomasville branches, CORE: High Point and Thomasville branches

External allies

Henry McKissick, Members of High Point Biracial Committee

Involvement of social elites

Not known.


Owner of High Point theater Hugh Smart, segregationist advocates, white citizens in High Point and Thomasville.

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known.

Campaigner violence

Isolated groups of blacks (likely not tied to campaign) throwing bricks and stones back at white attackers.

Repressive Violence

Arrests, verbal abuse, shoving, physical assault


Economic Justice
Human Rights



Group characterization

Members of the Youth Council for the National Association Advancement of Colored People
High Point Branch

Groups in 1st Segment

Youth Council for the NAACP

Groups in 2nd Segment

High Point Biracial Committee

Groups in 3rd Segment

High Point Chapter of NAACP and CORE

Groups in 4th Segment

High Point Biracial Committee (exit)
Thomasville Chapter of NAACP and CORE

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

The Biracial Committee did not officially leave, but were largely unsupportive of the Thomasville picketing and alienated by the NAACP in High Point.

Segment Length

8 months

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

2 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

6 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Although the campaign grew to include nearly every civil rights group in High Point, most privately-owned areas integrated only after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, and even then complete integration was a gradual process. The campaign is given two points for achieving its goals because it contributed to the national movement that forced passage of the Federal Civil Rights Act which in turn overcame local white resistance.

Database Narrative

On 18 February 1960, the High Point Biracial Committee was formed to ease racial tensions in High Point. As the group gained more legitimacy, more facilities desegregated thanks in part to negotiations between the committee and city officials. By 1963, nearly all government and public institutions were integrated. The remaining stronghold of segregation was privately-owned buildings such the town theaters.

The high school students who organized the High Point lunch counter sit-ins began picketing the local theater, The Paramount, once the lunch counters shut down. [See in this database: HIGH POINT HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS SIT-IN FOR U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS, 1960.] Their strategy was to attempt to purchase tickets in the white line and sit in the area reserved for whites. Once refused, the group would simply get back in line. 

This campaign ended around Spring 1961, partly due to older members of the group leaving for college. On 31 November 1962, the campaign restarted, this time with only Brenda Jean Fountain as the main organizer followed by members of the local Youth Council for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

After a few months of picketing, the group decided to accelerate the demonstrations. In April 1963, they formed a human chain in front of the ticket booth and the theater door.

In less than a week, after shoving and verbal attacks from white onlookers, the mayor ordered the arrest of the group. 

Once released, Fountain, along with Edna Tomlin and chairman of CORE D. Z. Mitchell, issued a lawsuit against the owner of the Paramount, Key Theaters Inc., for discrimination against blacks on city property.

In July, members the Youth Council for the NAACP collaborated with the High Point NAACP chapter for a series of demonstrations in High Point and Thomasville, a nearby town. From 13 July to about 20 July, a growing number of High Point and Thomasville protesters demonstrated in at Thomasville’s theater, Davidson Theater, each day with picketing and marches. The groups during the first two days numbered only about eight to twenty protesters and brought little attention. 

On the night of the third day Rev. W. E. Banks, chairman of Thomasville’s NAACP led a large group of protesters to the theater to repeat the strategy in High Point of making a human chain and singing songs of freedom. 

After a while, a large crowd of whites gathered. Some white teenagers marched and sang against the protesters. In the commotion, the police arrested 28 protesters and a number of disorderly whites. Juveniles were released the next day, and non-minors faced 60-day suspended sentences for violating a fire ordinance. 

The demonstrations came to climax on 18 July 1963, when a gunshot was fired into a church where protesters were meeting to discuss the segregation issue with the local Biracial committee. No one was hurt, but the movement suspended demonstrations for the weekend.

National Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) defense attorney Floyd McKissick worked for months to get the charges against the Thomasville demonstrators dismissed or reduced to fines; he eventually succeeded. 

Meanwhile, the injunction against Key Theaters Inc. (the owner of the Paramount) in High Point slowly progressed. On 29 November 1963, a pre-trial occurred, presenting the case that the owner leasing the Paramount could not discriminate, as he is leasing a publicly-owned building. The owner’s attorney, James Lovelace, maintained that the refusal to integrate is a purely economic decision, despite the fact that due to extensive picketing and boycotts, few blacks attended the theater and the black section of the theater had been shut down for months. The case was thrown out in 1964 after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The theater was then legally forced to abide by federal law and desegregate.


Greensboro Four Sit-ins


Frank Warren, "Negroes Ask Injunction Against Theater," The High Point Enterprise, June 19, 1963.
Forrest Cates, "Biracial Group Angry over Picketing Threat," The High Point Enterprise, July 11, 1963.
"Week of Race Crisis in Thomasville," The High Point Enterprise, July 21,1963.
"Theater Refuses Integration Plea," The High Point Enterprise, August 5, 1963.
Correspondence with Brenda Saunders Hampden, February 6-7, 2014.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Kerry Robinson, 09/02/2014