CEdwards BP9_Kings and Leaders

 

On February 1, 1960, four young black men from the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University walked into Woolworths, a store and diner in downtown Greensboro, and sat and placed order for coffees. When David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), and Joe McNeill sat down at the lunch counter, they were told that they would not be served. The manager told them that this was a “white’s only” counter and that they would have to leave. Segregated lunch counters were commonplace in the South even after the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. The four A&T freshman—who came to be known throughout history as the Greensboro Four– stayed at the counter until the close of the store that day. The next day more than twenty African-American students accompanied the four. Many times they were spat on, had food thrown at them, and were heckled with racial slurs. However, the students read their textbooks and sat quietly to distract themselves. Physical violence did not become a part of the protest.  On the third day, more than sixty students showed up from other area schools such as Bennett College. The fourth day saw crowds of supporters in the hundreds. The momentum of these sit-ins spread quickly. Soon sit-ins began in cities across the state such as Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Salisbury, and Raleigh. On July 26, 1960, Woolworth agreed to serve their first African-American patrons, their employees.

The Greensboro Four sat at the counter with a desire to be treated and served as equals. Centuries worth of unfair treatment is protest worthy, in my opinion.  The actions taken against them by the dissenters only added to the injustice that they were trying to conquer. By pouring milkshakes on their heads and spitting on them, the dissenters were extremely overreacting. In 2013, it is hard to fathom such responses to someone asking for a cup of coffee but it was that request stood for that enraged those who disagreed.  These men and their supporters were mentally unbreakable, an enviable attribute. In 1993, Woolworths closed and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro was opened in the exact location. The feeling of standing near the actual bar stools located in Woolworths and knowing what they symbolize is indescribable.  This story has been told hundreds of times and with photos and videos from the actual protests, as well as, interviews with the four, I believe we have gotten the clearest picture of the events, save being actually present for them.

The implications of the actions of the Greensboro Four were monumental. Ella Baker brought together leaders of various citizens together for a conference and consequently the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee was born. The sit in is said to have been a catalyst in the American Civil Rights era. Four years later, the Civil Rights Act was passed which made segregated public place unlawful.

http://ncpedia.org/history/20th-Century/greensboro-four

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a very interesting protest that you chose. I am from North Carolina about 30 minutes away from Greensboro which makes it even more interesting to me. These students were very determined and going after what they wanted.

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  2. Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s crazy to think that someone really took so much humiliation for the next generation of African Americans. I’m black and I really couldn’t imagine doing this and taking that sort of abuse. Those are some brave individuals

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