top of page

More Violence at Nashville Rights Protest

Apr. 29, 1964 - The police prevented a crowd of angry white youths from attacking 200 Negro demonstrators in Nashville today when the Negroes sat down in a busy street during a third day of racial outbursts in the city.

One thousand whites, some of them jeering and urging the police to violence, were restrained by police lines as the Negroes and a few whites, most of them high school students, poured into the street and blocked off five traffic lanes with their bodies.

When the demonstrators refused to leave, the police began jabbing them in the ribs with billy clubs and dragging them to patrol wagons. Forty-seven were arrested. The others withdrew.

The air was charged with tension as a pack of white youths who had followed the demonstrators through town shouted: “Put a knot on their head. Let us at ‘em.”

The scene followed two days of violence in a city that has been cited by civil rights leaders as one of the most racially progressive in the South.

Mayor Beverly Briley told a news conference today that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was investigating both charges of police brutality and an “obvious conspiracy” by some leaders to employ children in the protest movement.

“We have made a lot of progress in the past year in race relations,” Mayor Briley said. “This kind of thing can only hurt the community by creating hostilities.” He blamed “irresponsible leadership.”

The demonstrations, which began Monday, pointed up the militant mood of the Negro youths more than a lack of progress in desegregation. At the same time, Negro leaders in Nashville remember that gains in the past have been made as a result of militant protests, and they are now seeking to wipe out the last vestiges of segregation.

“We want to make Nashville an open city,” John Lewis (pictured), national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, told the young demonstrators today shortly before he was arrested.

Mr. Lewis, who came to Nashville from Atlanta today to join the demonstrations, led about 400 chanting Negro youths to Morrison’s Cafeteria, one of the establishments that have refused to desegregate.

When the management locked the door, the marchers poured into the street and huddled together in a solid mass. The police arrested Mr. Lewis and several other leaders and whisked them away to jail.

Support this project at


bottom of page