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- Sidney Freeman oral history interview 1, 2003 May 21
Sidney Freeman oral history interview 1, 2003 May 21
Rev. Dr. Sidney L. Freeman, the longtime minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte (UUCC), recounts his involvement in the city's civil rights movement. Originally from Wisconsin, Dr. Freeman moved to Charlotte in 1957 to take the ministerial position at the socially progressive UUCC. That same year he was invited to join the faculty of Johnson C. Smith University as the second full-time white faculty member, and would continue to teach there until 1987. It was through his teaching position that he became a more active participant in the civil rights movement. Dr. Freeman explains how student Charles Jones invited him to participate in the first Charlotte sit-in, stressing that Jones and other student leaders managed and organized the sit-ins in such a way as to reassure the university faculty and also open a line of communication with the Charlotte Police Department. Dr. Freeman describes what the sit-ins were like, including the strategies of the the participants and the reactions of the lunch counter staff and patrons. He also describes how his congregation was active in supporting the protesters, and explains that it was through his role as a Unitarian minister that he was invited by President John F. Kennedy to participate in a meeting of civil rights leaders at the White House in 1963. Dr. Freeman goes on to discuss school integration, both as a member of the clergy and as a father who had children in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system at the time. He discusses Charlotte's transformation into a diverse multicultural city over the past thirty years (1970s-2000s); in particular, the growth of the Muslim community and the positive work organizations like the National Conference for Community and Justice have been doing to bring diverse religious groups together. The interview concludes with a discussion of the end of busing to achieve racial balance in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, due to a 2002 court decision, and the damage he feels it will do to students and to the city as a whole. Dr. Freeman expresses his view that the only way to overcome the persistent racism in our society will be through education and exposure to diversity.