16 January 2012

The Greensboro sit-ins, North Carolina, 1960

I covered O. Henry in Greensboro some time back, but I forgot to add this one. On 1 February 1960 four African American students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University sat down at F. W. Woolworth's lunch counter on 132 South Elm Street. Following the store's segregation policy, they were asked to leave. They remained in the store and encouraged others to make a peaceful protest there over some days. By the fourth day 300 joined in the demonstration and shortly it spread to other stores and other cities. When the protesters started boycotting segregated stores, Woolworth's profits fell sharply, and on 26 July the chain dropped its segregation policy.

The effect of the demonstrations was far-reaching, and it is evident that they played a part in leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which illegalized racial segregation.

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is now inside the former Woolworth store.

The sculpture Cup of Freedom, by Charles Jenkins, was installed outside the museum in January 2010. Below it is a quotation:

'I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold thes truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day... the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.'

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The plaque entitled 'Birth of the Civil Rights Movement' is also outside the museum, and is a representation of the 'Greensboro Four': Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (who became Jibreel Khazan), Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond.


Nick O said...

An interesting post.

I have a recording of an interview given at the time by W E B Du Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP.

He described the decision to campaign on the issue of segregated lunch counters as "genius".

He conceded that the matter had been raised with him in previous years, but at the time he and the NAACP were pre-occupied with the problem of lynching and felt that matters of life and death were rather more of a priority.

Asked if he had anything to tell the young protestors based on his many years of involvement with Civil Rights and other issues, he replied that no he didn`t and he thought perhaps they could teach him a thing or two !

The CD I have, the title of which eludes me, is available from the Smithsonian website IIRC.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Interesting comment - thanks for this Nick