Holly Adrienne Hogrobrooks, a local civil rights pioneer who helped organize Houston’s first sit-in on March 4, 1960, died January 22, 2016, after a lengthy illness. She was 75.
It was the efforts of Hogrobrooks that helped pave the path to end segregation in Houston.
Hogrobrooks was a Texas Southern University (TSU) alumnus and served as a journalism professor at TSU until her retirement in 2000. More than a half a century earlier, Hogrobrooks, along with several other TSU students, led a sit-in movement that changed Houston forever.
A founding member of the Progressive Youth Association, which was started by students on TSU’s campus in the 1960s, Hogrobrooks strategized with Eldrewey Stearns, John Bland, Pete Hogrobrooks, Otis King, Deanna Lot Burrell, Halcyon Sadberry Watkins and many more on how that first act to end segregation in Houston would be organized.
Hogrobrooks and several others met at a flagpole located centrally on campus. They lined up in pairs, said a prayer, and began to march to the Weingarten Supermarket lunch counter at 4110 Almeda Road. Once they arrived, the students streamed one by one and sat down, determined to be served; however, they were never served. This unlawful assembly became an exercise in civil disobedience for the young architects of change, and set-off a firestorm of student protests that cut at the core of Houston’s moral, political and economic fiber.
“Holly was fearless, opinionated and strong because our parents taught us to standup to injustice,” said Enid Hogrobrooks, her youngest and only sister.
Hogrobrooks’ parents, Theodore and Euneida Hogrobrooks, played a vital role in the movement.
They owned a popular diner located on Dowling Street, across from the Eldorado Ballroom, and would often allow the students to organize their sit-ins at their home. They also financed the movement and would bail the students out of jail when they were arrested for their non-violent protests.
The Weingarten sit-in was one of many sit-ins in Houston.
By 1963, Houston businesses started to desegregate and in 1964, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by the U.S. Congress.
Hogrobrooks’ 5 feet 11 frame and sharp intellect would often intimidate most people she met. She loved teaching at TSU and would always have a great story to share with students.
Many of her students would reference her as a modern day Ida B. Wells, because she would often lecture about the importance of standing up for justice and equality. She has even been called the mother of Houston’s 1960 sit-in movement.
A memorial is being planned for Hogrobrooks in March. The location will be confirmed at a later date.