Encouraged earlier in the week by their attendance at the historic March on Washington in August 1963, residents of the town of Enfield in North Carolina returned home and immediately engaged in intense demonstrations days later, resulting in the arrests of at least 100 African Americans in a march on City Hall that reportedly involved up to 1,200 Blacks. The town’s police force, which was made up of only five men, had to call in reinforcements from the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and the NC Highway Patrol. Protestors hurled objects at law enforcement and slightly injured four officers. The town’s fire department was called in and used water hoses to repel demonstrators.

These activities culminated in the founding of the Halifax County Voters Movement in Enfield in February 1964, fashioning itself as “a strong, grass-roots, county-wide freedom movement” that cut across class lines. John Salter, a White field secretary for the Southern Conference Educational Fund, had moved to Raleigh with his wife in the latter part of 1963 and had been working with Blacks in neighboring Warren County with voter registration efforts. A co-founder of the movement, Salter was no stranger to Halifax, as he had also been assisting Blacks in Halifax County in the town of Weldon in anti-discrimination efforts.

The HCVM sought to increase Black voter registration in the county, which lagged at 13.9 percent of eligible voters though Blacks made up over half of the county’s residents. The HCVM also would hold non-violent demonstrations, including economic boycotts of White-owned businesses that discriminated against Black patrons, support and file federal lawsuits and engage with local governing bodies, including the county commissioners, to advocate for civil rights.

Adapted from an essay submitted with historical marker application by Rodney D. Pierce

Image: McComb voting demonstration circa 1962, courtesy of The University of Southern Mississippi Unversity Libraries via ncpedia.org 

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