This week, the High Point City Council voted unanimously to bestow an honor on one of the city’s best known civil right’s figures.
The council approved a new historic marker and plaque recognizing the life and accomplishments of Rev. Benjamin Elton Cox, who was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders – a group of activists who rode interstate buses in the south in the early 1960s to force states to honor anti-discrimination laws.
The historic marker request, for a descriptive marker that will be just west of the former site of Pilgrim Congregational Church on West Taylor Avenue, was made by the Southwest Renewal Foundation of High Point, Inc. Cox pastored that church for a decade, from 1958 to1968, while he pursued civil rights on a national scale.
Pilgrim Congregational was in the historic Southside neighborhood of High Point.
Cox is considered one of the most important national nonviolent Civil Rights leaders because of his actions as one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, but he made plenty of other major contributions in the civil rights battle as well.
According to documents that were provided by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to the High Point City Council before the council’s vote on Monday, July 15, “Rev. Cox trained William Penn High School students in the methods of nonviolence, helping them organize the first high school sit-in in the United States at the High Point Woolworths on February 11, 1960.”
Cox also organized the first High Point Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality and served in state and national positions for the NAACP.
Since Cox’s High Point activity that’s being honored occurred over 50 years ago, it qualifies for an “historic” designation for the purposes of markers in that city.