February 15, 2011 - The fifth annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J) march drew more than 800 people to the southern edge of downtown Raleigh for a march to the North Carolina state legislative buildings. What those 800 may not have realized is that the march's start - on Shaw's campus - had historical ties to civil rights movement.
Shaw recently celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), founded on its campus. Shaw students were visible and outspoken during sit ins of various businesses in Raleigh who refused to integrate in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, Shaw is often the starting point for rallies, marches, and other gatherings of people wanting to make their voices heard on topics of equality, educational access, economic justice and other civil rights issues. In 2008, it was voter registration marches and rallies - in 2011 it is the multi-faceted concerns of the HK on J rally.
Sponsored by the North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a coalition of over 100 organizations, the rally aimed to bring a variety of issues before the state legislature, but the main focus in 2011 was the Wake County School Board decision to replace economic diversity as the method of school assignment to neighborhood schools - a move many see as a resegregation of the schools.
Shaw became a natural launching point for the march, not simply for its location in relation to the legislative buildings, but because of its long history in providing educational opportunities for those who had been shut out from higher education.
Shaw was not simply the first Historically Black College and University founded in the south, but also the first to have co-ed dorms. It broadened academic offerings for young black men seeking a college education, but also for young black women who were seeking an education of any kind.
National NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous acknowledged the place of Shaw in history. "You know Shaw was where the freedom struggle started in the 60s with the desegregation movement and the sit in movement."
He said of the event and current lobbying efforts, "We are unfortunately fighting an attempt to turn clock back fifty years. The way that you make your country better is to keep building on your successes, not tear them down."
He, and many in the crowd, repeated the slogan of the HK on J movement, "Forward together. Backwards never."
The crowd, which included Shaw students, as well as people from around the state - and even the nation - marched peacefully to the state legislative building and listened to a variety of speakers - most focused on the Wake County school assignment issue.
The fight for education equality continues today - and Shaw has taken part in the struggle for 146 years.
Check out more pictures of the rally on our Facebook page here.