As TWU continues to celebrate Black History Month, we honor the legendary civil rights work of our Administrative Vice President John Bland, who was an active participant during his time as a student at Texas Southern University.
|John Bland at the historical plaque in Houston, marking the site of the 1960 sit-in.|
Outside of Texas, water hoses blasted school children in Birmingham. A lone teenage girl was surrounded by an angry mob in Little Rock. Marchers were beaten on a bridge in Selma. These were the images that shocked the nation and the world when they appeared in newspapers and on TV—non-violent protest for the rights of African Americans was often met with violent resistance.
In Houston, the struggles were just as real but because the confrontations didn’t turn violent, they seldom made the national news.
On March 4, 1960, 13 students at Texas Southern University met at a flag pole on campus. Their goal? To travel 15 blocks to Weingarten’s Supermarket to be served lunch. John Bland was one of those students, and he helped lead Houston’s first sit-in, which eventually lead to the desegregation of lunch counters and other businesses throughout the city.
“We just wanted to be treated like ordinary citizens,” said Mr. Bland. “We felt that our time had come and we no longer had to go to the back door.”
Nearly 60 years later, Mr. Bland returned to the spot where the City of Houston has honored the students’ efforts with an historical marker, noting that “these 13 unsung heroes are remembered for starting a movement that advanced civil rights and equality in Houston.”
Now Director of TWU’s Department of Human and Civil Rights, Mr. Bland continues to fight for racial justice and equality for all of our members and we honor his service to the cause.