I was only 10 when this happened and living in Minnesota. I can’t say I remember learning about it at the time. I don’t know that a 10 year old would care. I do remember being about 14, that would be 1964, and driving to Florida with my parents and stopping in the south for gas or meals and seeing whites only drinking fountains, restrooms, etc. and I just didn’t understand that at all.
Now I am older and living in the south and I see things through different eyes. My brain is still just collecting glimpses of a part of history that is very new to me. I’m a transplant learning how to develop in my new soil. I hope my posts help you do that too.
February 1, 1960:
Initiation of student sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina
Four students from North Carolina A & T attempted to desegregate Woolworth’s lunch counter. After being denied service on the first day, they left, only to return the following day with their friends. Again, they were denied service, but by the end of the week, their bravery had prompted hundreds to join them, and Woolworth’s finally agreed to desegregate. The success of this sit-in sparked similar ones throughout the South and led to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was set up to direct the activities of students working in the civil rights movement.
The Woolworth’s Five & Dime in Greensboro, North Carolina, is historically significant for a unique sit-in that empowered student activists for the next decade and changed the face of segregation forever. On February 1, 1960, when four freshmen from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (listed in the National Register) took vacant seats at the store’s “whites-only” lunch counter, they had no idea what might happen. Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair, Jr., sat down, ordered coffee and waited. The waitress ignored them, as did the store manager and a pacing policeman. Some white customers taunted the students, while two others patted them on the back, whispering “Ah, you should have done it ten years ago.” The next day, the four young men returned with 19 supporters. By the third day, the number had risen to 85, including white and black students from neighboring colleges. Before the week was out, there were 400. They demonstrated in shifts so they wouldn’t miss classes. Local officials asked for a two-week moratorium in which to consider solutions. Meanwhile, energized students staged smaller sit-ins in seven other North Carolina cities as well as in Hampton, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee. By summer, 33 southern cities, including Greensboro, had integrated their restaurants and lunch counters. One year later, 126 cities had taken the same step.
The F.W. Woolworth Building on South Elm Street (the Northeast Shopping Center) is part of the Downtown Greensboro Historic District. The building currently houses the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Museum hours are 10am to 6pm Tuesday-Saturday and 1pm to 5pm on Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. For more information, visit the museum’s website.
More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensboro_Four