Today is the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in. Be sure to read Howell Raines’ criticism of news media coverage of civil rights issues in today’s New York Times: “What I am suggesting is that the one thing the South should have learned in the past 50 years is that if we are going to hell in a handbasket, we should at least be together in a basket of common purpose.”
Four young men turned a page of history on February 1, 1960, at a lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond, sat down at the counter to order lunch. Because they were African Americans, they were refused service. Patiently, they stayed in their seats, awaiting justice.
On July 25, nearly six months later, Woolworth’s agreed to desegregate the lunch counter.
News of the “sit-in” demonstration spread. Others joined in the non-violent protests from time to time, 28 students the second day, 300 the third day, and some days up to 1,000. The protests spread geographically, too, to 15 cities in 9 states.
Part of the old lunch counter was salvaged, and today is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. The museum display was the site of celebratory parties during the week of the inauguration as president of Barack Obama.
Notes and resources:
- See the Smithsonian’s on-line display about the decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education and the struggles for civil rights, “Separate is not equal.“
- F. W. Woolworth’s, a “five-and-dime” style store, largely closed its U.S. operations in 2001, though changing its focus to the Foot Locker shoe stores. One of its last remaining stronghold of 807 stores, in Great Britain, was shuttered at the end of 2008.
- Independent Lens program on PBS, “February 1″