Casey Hayden passed away on January 4 of this year. People’s History in Texas was honored to interview her in 2012 for our Stand-ins Documentary.
NBC’s TODAY show with Willie Geist featured her as “A Life Well Lived” on January 22, 2023. Footage from PHIT’s Stand-Ins documentary was included in the tribute.
Casey Hayden was a key figure in the Austin anti-racist activities in Austin when she attended the University of Texas in late 50s and early 60s. UT should erect a statue of her, but so far hasn’t delivered.
In 1960, students in Greensboro, North Carolina took on the racially segregated lunch counter policy at F.W. Woolworth Company by “sitting in.” Their non-violent, direct action sit-in model spread across the South. That same year in Austin, Texas, a group of students launched a “Stand-Ins” protest at segregated movie theaters near the University of Texas.
Casey Hayden (she was known then as Sandra Cason) had been instrumental in organizing the Students for Direct Action, based in the University Y near the campus.
She “wanted to do direct action”…that was what she said in the interview. Her group talked and decided on a creative strategy. They would all go in a group, line up, ask to buy a ticket for themselves and their African American friend, and when denied, get back in line, and ask again when they got to the front. They jammed up the lines, but strictly followed the law. It had a sizable affect on sales. The Stand-in effort was incredibly successful. It took a year, but they achieved national exposure, and inspired similar efforts. Eleanor Roosevelt took notice and wrote about it in her national syndicated column. The Paramount Corporation caved, and, with one announcement, changed their policy of segregation throughout the South in all their theaters.
Casey Hayden went on to work with the Student Non-violent Coordination Committee (SNCC), helped create Students for a Democratic Society, and was one of the authors of a feminist critique of movement roles in 1964 that was part of the second wave of feminism. Casey Hayden spent a life of activism. Her archives are now in the University of Texas Briscoe Center for American History..
Veterans of the Austin Stand-Ins held a fiftieth reunion in 2010 and Peoples History in Texas (PHIT) began collecting their oral histories at the event. In 2013, PHIT produced a short documentary about the Stand-Ins Please take a look and pass it on.