A lot of people didn’t expect to see a hero of the civil rights movement speaking at the Republican National Convention in support of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Aug. 27.
But those who know Clarence Henderson of High Point weren’t surprised. Henderson isn’t one of the Greensboro Four because he wasn’t at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on Feb. 1, 1960, but he was there on Feb. 2, 1960 and Henderson is in one of the most famous photographs of the Sit-In movement, which was taken that day of four NC Agriculture & Technology State University students sitting at the lunch counter.
To give his speech, broadcast at the Republican National Convention, Henderson stood in front of a mural depicting that photograph on the wall of the Windsor Recreation Center on Gate City Boulevard.
Henderson talked about his experience going to the lunch counter not knowing if “I was going to come out in a vertical or prone position, in handcuffs or on a stretcher – or even in a body bag.”
He talked about how that simple act of ordering coffee at a lunch counter started a movement that abolished segregation and added, “That’s what an actual peaceful protest can accomplish.”
Henderson said that if it seemed strange to people for a black man who was active in the civil rights movement to be supporting a Republican it was because they didn’t know their history.
Henderson said, “It was the Republican Party that passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. It was the Republican Party that passed the 14th Amendment giving black men citizenship and it was the Republican Party that passed the 15th Amendment giving black men the right to vote.”
Henderson also took a jab at Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
He said, “Joe Biden had the audacity to say if you don’t vote for him ‘you ain’t black.’ Well to that I say, if you do vote for Biden, you ain’t smart.”
Henderson talked about Trump. He said, “Donald Trump is not a politician. He’s a leader. Politicians are a dime-a-dozen. Leaders are priceless.”
And he talked about what Trump had done for the black community.
Henderson said, “The record funding Trump gave HBCU’s [historically black colleges and universities] is priceless too. So are the record number of jobs he created for the black community and the investment he drove into our neighborhoods with tax incentives in Opportunity Zones. And so are the lives he restored by passing criminal justice reform where 91 percent of the inmates released are black.”
In conclusion Henderson said, “Donald Trump is offering real and lasting change, an unprecedented opportunity to rise, a country that embraces the spirit of the civil rights movement of the ’60s, a place where people are judged by the content of their character, their talents and abilities, not by the color of their skin.”