A ‘hands up’ racial controversy in Burlington, 1969

1969: As integration spreads at Southern schools, some black cheerleaders refuse to dance to ‘Dixie’ or wave the Confederate flag…. Violence erupts in Burlington, North Carolina, after recently integrated Walter Williams High School fails to select any black cheerleaders. The governor [Bob Scott] declares a state of emergency and a curfew, and 400 National Guard troops arrive to quell riots. A black 15-year-old student named Leon Mebane is killed.”

No one was ever charged in Leon Mebane’s death.

“It’s like a blank moment in history,” said Daniel Koehler, who recalled the case in a 2010 documentary, “Burlington: A City Divided.”  “The newspapers say Mebane was caught in the crossfire, but eyewitness reports say that Leon was stopped by Burlington police, put up his hands and was shot 17 times.”


One thought on “A ‘hands up’ racial controversy in Burlington, 1969”

  1. I live only a half of hour from Baltimore and Leon Mebane is my brother. Oh…today I am strongly thinking about him along with the rest. Yes, his hands were up….but what a shame. I am so sad today and can not continue.

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