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Firsthand Witness to Civil-Rights Struggle


I want to thank professor Raymond Pierre Hylton and Style Weekly for the article “The Barriers They Broke” (Cover Story, Nov. 5). I was also delighted with the features on participants, including one on my special heroine and friend, LaVerne Byrd Smith.

I also appreciated the Richmond 34 list because it added to my memory of those days. I was in the first Thalhimers demonstration on Saturday, Feb., 20. I was carried bodily by the police out of the store and dumped on Sixth Street. White authorities in those days were hell-bent on preserving the image of white solidarity and keeping all signs of “trouble” out of the newspapers. My presence wrecked their public relations scheme.
There were no arrests that day, but as your piece reports the students came back on Monday where some of them became the Richmond 34 we so admire today. I could not join them on Monday because I was not allowed to leave my job as a city social worker on a work day.

An account of my experience that Saturday appears as it was written on the afternoon of Feb. 20, 1960, along with three other Richmond race-related episodes, in a book entitled “Race Traitor,” edited by Noel Ignatiev and John Garvey, published in 1996 by Routledge. It also appears in a much-improved form in a near-finished book- length manuscript
 I call, “Twentieth Century Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey Through Segregation to Civil Rights Activism.”
Thanks for keeping the story and the memory of those who struggled in it alive. As you well know, not all American heroes served their country in the armed forces abroad. Many had to fight for liberty and freedom right here at home.

Edward H. Peeples, Ph.D.
Emeritus Associate Professor,
Preventive Medicine and Community Health
Virginia Commonwealth University


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