“Carolyn Coefield has lost her red pocketbook. If anyone has found it, please return it to the office.” - John Dudley, student, Adkin High School
As this signal to action was announced through the intercom system at Kinston’s Adkin High School (AHS), all 700 members of the school’s student body walked out of their classrooms and into the streets.
Students at AHS were inspired to walkout during a discussion in their social studies class concerning the importance of quality educational facilities. The school’s facilities, particularly the gymnasium, needed to be modernized. The students formed an ad hoc committee that would bring their concerns to the Kinston Graded School Board (KGSB). Anticipating a negative response, they planned a walkout and march if the KGSB rejected their request for improved facilities.
The committee met with KGSB on November 19, 1951. The Board listened to the committee’s concerns but claimed that the school board’s budget could not cover the facilities improvements. Following the meeting, the signal was given and the student body, holding placards and signs, marched the streets of Kinston until they reached the old Carver Theater on Washington Street. The walkout was organized without the knowledge of their parents, teachers, or the school’s administration to protect them from repercussions.
Following the walkout, the KGSB relented and provided funds to build new and improved facilities at Adkin High School, which were completed in the Fall of 1953. In 1994, the former gymnasium complex was remodeled and established as the Charles B. Stewart Alumni Center by the Adkin High School Alumni and Friends, Inc.
Adapted from an essay submitted with historical marker application by Rita L. Joyner, PhD
Image: Jurden "Chick" Wooten Jr., Mural of Adkin High School (located at Adkin High Alumni Complex, Kinston), courtesy of Adkin High School Alumni and Friends, Inc.
“720 Negro Students Strike in Kinston School Protest,” The News and Observer, November 21, 1951, p. A1-2.
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“Booth Appeals to Adkin Students to Listen to Reason,” Kinston Daily Free Press, November 22, 1951, p. A14.
“Carolina Students Strike for New School,” Jet, 1, December 6, 1951, p. 17.
“Over 700 Students Walk Out In Protest Over Poor Facilities,” The Carolina Times, November 24, 1951, p. A1.
Braxton, H. G, “An Ill Advised and Dangerous Movement on Part of Negro Students,” Kinston Daily Free Press, November 20, 1951, p. A1.
Braxton, H. G., “Enough is Quite Enough,” Kinston Daily Free Press, November 23, 1951, p. A4.
Braxton, H. G., “Student Body is Wise,” Kinston Daily Free Press, November 26, 1951, p. A4.
Dove, Samuel, Interviewee, John F Dudley, Charles Jarmon, Eleanor Stewart, Frances L Suggs, Harold Suggs, Emilye Crosby, and U.S Civil Rights History Project, John Dudley, Eleanor Stewart, Charles Jarmon, Frances Suggs, Harold Suggs, and Samuel Dove oral history interview conducted by Emilye Crosby in Hyattsville, Maryland, 2013, https://www.loc.gov/item/2015669195/.
Kinston Graded Schools, Minutes of the Called Meeting of the Board of Trustees (November 19, 1951, December 14, 1951, January 30, 1952, and February 19, 1952), Lenoir County Public Schools, Kinston, NC.
North Carolina Arts Council, “Adkin High School Walkout (1951), NCPedia, https://www.ncpedia.org/adkin-high-school-walkout-1951%C2%A0.
Stallings, Y. “Over 700 Adkin High Students Parade in Protest on Facilities,” Kinston Daily Free Press (Kinston, NC),, November 20, 1951, p. A1.