Dorothy Counts Experiences Harassment from an All-White School: A Proud Heritage: Photos From the Civil Rights Movement

Dorothy Counts was greeted with spitting, trashing and yelling on the morning of September 4, 1957 as she walked along Harry Harding High School in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dorothy Counts was one of the four black students enrolled in all-white schools in North Carolina. She was harassed by students and their parents, including receiving threatening calls which made her family decide to move for fear of their safety.

Dorothy Counts (born 1942) was one of the first black students admitted to the Harry Harding High School, in Charlotte, North Carolina. After four days of harassment that threatened her safety, her parents forced her to withdraw from the school.

In 1957, forty black students applied for transfers at a white school. At 15 years of age, on September 1957, Dorothy Counts was one of the four black students enrolled at various all-white schools in the district; She was at Harry Harding High School, Charlotte, North Carolina. Three students were enrolled at other schools, including Central High School. The harassment started when the wife of John Z. Warlick, the leader of the White Citizens Council, urged the boys to “keep her out” and at the same time, implored the girls to spit on her, saying, “spit on her, girls, spit on her.” Dorothy walked by without reacting, but told the press that many people threw rocks at her—most of which landed in front of her feet—and that many spat on her back. More abuse followed that day. She had trash thrown at her while eating her dinner and the teachers ignored her. The following day, she befriended two white girls, but they soon drew back because of harassment from other classmates. Her family received threatening phone calls and after four days of extensive harassment—which included a smashed car and having her locker ransacked, her father decided to take his daughter out of the school. At a press conference, he said:

“It is with compassion for our native land and love for our daughter Dorothy that we withdraw her as a student at Harding High School. As long as we felt she could be protected from bodily injury and insults within the school’s walls and upon the school premises, we were willing to grant her desire to study at Harding.”

The family moved to Pennsylvania, where Dorothy Counts attended an integrated school in Philadelphia.

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