Ezell Blair Jr.

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Ezell Blair Jr.
Born Ezell Alexander Blair Jr.
(1941-10-18) October 18, 1941 (age 76)
Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Citizenship United States
Alma mater North Carolina A&T State University
Howard University Law School
Massachusetts University
New England Conservatory of Music
Known for Staging Greensboro sit-ins during Civil Rights Movement
Spouse(s) Lorraine France George
Children 3

Jibreel Khazan (born Ezell Alexander Blair Jr.; October 18, 1941) is a civil rights activist who is best known as a member of the Greensboro Four; a group of African American college students who, on February 1, 1960, sat down at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina challenging the store's policy of denying service to non-white customers. The protests, and the subsequent events were major milestone in the Civil Rights Movement.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Khazan was born Ezell A. Blair Jr. on October 18, 1941 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Khazan received his early education from Dudley High School; where his father, taught.[3] The senior Blair was very vocal on the subject of racial injustices and would be an early influence on his son. It was said that when he experienced unjust treatment based on color, he "stood up."[4] In addition to his father, Khazan was also influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. In 1958, Khazan would hear King speak at the local Bennett College. He was captivated as King addressed the audience in attendance. At that speech, King called for an escalation of nonviolent protests to end segregated accommodation. King's words had made a huge impact with Khazan; so much so that he later remarked "that he could feel his heart palpitating" and that the words of King "brought tears to his eyes."[4]

In 1959, Khazan would graduate from James B. Dudley High School, and enter the A&T College of North Carolina for his freshmen year. It was during his freshmen year that Khazan and his roommate, Joseph McNeil; along with two other associates, Franklin McCain and David Richmond, devised a plan to protest against the policies of the segregated lunch counter at the downtown Greensboro F. W. Woolworth’s store. On February 1, 1960, Blair, along with McNeil, Franklin and Richmond, took the bold step of violating the Greensboro Woolworth's segregation policy.[4] Khazan stated that he had seen a documentary on Mohandas Gandhi's use of "passive insistence" that had inspired him to act. Each of the participants in the sit-in had different catalysts, but it is clear that the four men had a close friendship that mutually reinforced their desire to act.[4]

The sit-in demonstrations were just the beginning of Khazan's community involvement. Khazan was elected president of the Junior class, and would later go on to become president of the school's student government association, the campus NAACP and the Greensboro Congress for Racial Equality.[3] In 1963, Khazan graduated from A&T College with a Bachelor's degree in sociology and Social Studies. After graduation, He briefly studied law at Howard University Law School in Washington, DC. He would continue his education at Massachusetts University and later at the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied voice.[5]

Later life[edit]

The A&T Four Statue on the campus of North Carolina A&T. (From Left: David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeil

Having been labeled a "troublemaker" for his role in the Greensboro Sit-Ins, life in Greensboro became difficult. In 1965, Khazan moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he worked as a teacher and counselor for the developmentally challenged. In 1968, he joined the Islamic Center of New England and changed his name to Jibreel Khazan.[3][6] Today Khazan is an oral historian, oracle, Mass-Star Story teller and lecturer.

Legacy[edit]

In 1991, Khazan received an honorary doctorate of humanities degree from North Carolina A&T State University.[5] In 2002, North Carolina A&T commissioned a statue to be sculpted honoring Khazan, along with the three other members of the A&T four; Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond. In addition, the four men each have residence halls named for them on the university campus.[7] In 2010, Khazan was the recipient of the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institution.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Khazan is married to the former Lorraine France George of New Bedford. Together they have three children.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Civil Rights Greensboro: Jibreel Khazan". University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  2. ^ Davis, Townsend (1998). Weary Feet, Rested Souls: A Guided History of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 311. ISBN 0-393-04592-7. 
  3. ^ a b c "Jibreel Khazan (Formerly Ezell Blair Jr.)". Video Dialog Inc. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d Chafe, William H. (1980). Civilities and civil rights : Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black struggle for freedom. New York: Oxford U.P. p. 81. ISBN 0-19-502625-X. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "The A&T Four: February 1st, 1960". The F.D. Bluford Library • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "FebruaryOne: The Story of the Greensboro Four". PBS. 2008-01-21. 
  7. ^ "A&T History". The F.D. Bluford Library • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  8. ^ Trescott, Jacqueline (5 February 2010). "50 years later, Greensboro Four get Smithsonian award for civil rights actions". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "Different paths for sit-in leaders". Greensboro News & Record. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.