1944 CRRJ case to be taught in N. Carolina public schools

The case of Pvt. Booker T. Spicely, murdered on July 8, 1944, after refusing to give up his seat on a bus in Durham, North Carolina, is to be taught to students K though 12 in the state’s public schools.

This fall, a public school lesson plan incorporating the story of Booker T. Spicely, was released. This is the first time that a case investigated by CRRJ has directly led to the creation of a case-specific syllabus. Its creation is in large part credited to the Spicely family and advocates, including Christie Hinson Norris, Director of Carolina K-12.

A clinic student at the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Shaneka Louise Davis, first investigated Spicely’s case in 2014.

When Spicely boarded the bus, he sat in the second-to-last row, but when white soldiers boarded, the driver, Herbert Lee Council, ordered Spicely to move further back. Spicely argued with the driver, but eventually moved, and attempted to apologize to Council as he disembarked at his stop. Council shot Spicely twice and continued on his route. 

Military police brought Spicely to Watts Hospital, where on account of his race he was refused care. He later died at Duke Hospital. Council turned himself in to police and was charged with first-degree murder, but an all-white jury found him not guilty after a brief deliberation.

Spicely’s case can be researched in CRRJ’s digital archive.

In 2022, Davis’ paper on the Spicely case led civil rights lawyers and other advocates in North Carolina to form a committee to publicize the case and seek remedies on behalf of the Spicely family. The work of the committee has led to the establishment of a scholarship at NCCU in Spicely’s name, the unveiling of an historical marker and the development of this lesson plan. 

In January 2023, North Carolina Central University Law School officials announced a $100,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation had been awarded to create the Booker T. Spicely Endowed Scholarship Fund.

In June 2023, it was announced that a public marker honoring the soldier will be placed at the sight of his killing, the first of its kind to use the term “Jim Crow.” It is due to be unveiled this December.

The committee continues to seek justice on behalf of the Spicely family.

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