February is Black History Month, and throughout our state and nation, citizens are celebrating the contributions African Americans have made to society.
In courthouses throughout New Jersey and at the Administrative Office of the Courts, our Judiciary family is remembering the important role African Americans have played in the development of this country and America ultimate embrace of the ideals of equality and justice for all of its citizenry. It is because of advocacy of both famous and not so famous African Americans and other liked minded citizens that helped this country address its system of racial inequality. It is because of individual acts of courage and heroism and the collective role of our courts which led to the toppling of the walls of slavery and segregation. We all should be proud of the role African Americans have played in society’s march toward equality, inclusion, and diversity.
The civil rights movement, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the catalyst for a change in American society and its definition of freedom and equality. The movement pushed America to recognize that its ideals of freedom should be shared and available to all citizens of this country. Interestingly, a member of our Judiciary family had a front row seat in the battle of equal rights for all Americans.
Bobby Battle, chief of Judiciary EEO/AA Unit, was a student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, N.C. when four fellow African American classmates walked into an F. W. Woolworth store on Feb. 1, 1960 and sat at the segregated lunch counter. Only whites were allowed to sit at the counter; blacks had to stand and eat. When asked to leave, the students remained seated. The next day, the four students returned with 27 supporters. On Feb. 5, 1960, 300 students, including Bobby, showed up and peacefully protested, spawning similar sit-in protests throughout the south that were successful in achieving the desegregation of lunch counters and other public places.
Bobby was honored earlier this month by the International Civil Rights Center & Museum – which is located in the old Woolworth store in Greensboro - for his role in the lunch counter sit-ins. A story about Battle will be featured in an upcoming issue of Judiciary Times.
The non-violent example of peaceful resistance demonstrated by the lunch counter sit-ins and espoused by Dr. King led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the elimination of the many laws denying opportunities to large segments of Americans.
Our Judiciary reflects the broad demographic of our state and country. We are dedicated to preserving the ideals which Dr. King gave his life for – justice and equality – and we honor those who followed him and made his dream a reality.