65th anniversary of integration at Charlotte schools to be acknowledged by WBTV special on efforts of Dorothy Counts-Scoggins

Steve Crump tells the story of Dorothy Counts-Scoggins
Four African American students were granted permission to attend what was then all-white schools, but what happened at Harding created a community firestorm
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 11:28 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - She was a 15-year-old innocent African American student who hoped to cross the color line at Harding High School, but her efforts were stopped short after four days of attending classes.

Blame it on blatant and abject racism, threats and violence from an angry mob made up of defiant whites.

Having interviewed Dorothy Counts over the years I can tell you she is a fighter and remains an advocate for fairness and equity in education for all students.

Memories from the first day of school often last a lifetime,

But in the case of Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, stirring flashbacks from day one at Harding High School are hard to turn loose.

“I continue to tell the story because I think people still need to know the struggles that we all went through and, uh, to get to where we are,” she said. ”The last thing my dad said to me before I got out of the car that morning was that you can do anything that you want to do, hold your head up high, be proud of who you are.”

Poignant photographs and flashbacks from her first arrival at Harding showcase a stressful journey carried out in a very public place.

Pride that morning also carried a burden of pain. Former Mayor Richard Vinroot remembers her ordeal.

He said, “Somebody had to essentially walk the plank, uh, for the future of our community.”

She didn’t face this hostile mob alone.

This 15-year-old student was escorted in by Dr. Edwin Tompkins and at the end of class, her protector was Charlotte’s dentist and community activist Dr. Reginald Hawkins.

“And that, and that’s the kind of community that, you know, we lived in and, and I tell people all the time, I said, you know, we talk about neighborhoods, but I tell, I said, I grew up in a community. I grew up in a community of people that knew everybody, everybody looked out for everybody, regardless of who you were, where you came from, but we were a community of people living together,” Counts-Scoggins told WBTV.

Despite having crossed the so-called color line, taunts of resistance remained a reality.

She recalls, “Now that they were targeting other people in my family, not just me cause my brother was sitting in the car that day when the windows were broken and he said, ‘this is it.’”

Four days after classes started at Harding, Dorothy’s father Reverend Herman Counts who taught religious studies at Johnson C. Smith University, told the community their family decided it was time for his daughter to withdraw from Harding.

Our WBTV special airs this Friday evening at 7:30 p.m.