Monday, February 1, 2010

Sometimes You Have to Sit Down to Stand Up

To kick off a month in which we remember black history, we would be remiss in neglecting the importance of sit-ins to the civil rights movement. Sit-ins motivated activists, young people in particular, to take up the cause for equal rights by staging sit -ins at restaurants that only offered segregated service. Under the Jim Crow laws in the south, black and whites were expected to use different restrooms, water fountains, schools, and even be served at separate counters at restaurants (among countless other indignities). Sick of being segregated to lesser standards because of the color of their skin, African-American students in the south decided to combat these practices through peaceful protest.
On February 1, 1960, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr., and David Richmond (all freshmen at North Carolina A&T University) took seats at the lunch counter of a F.W. Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C. and requested service. The waitress refused their request because of their race. Nonetheless, the four sat steadfast until the close of the store. The next day, the four returned with about 25 more protestors. The sit-in inspired other similar sit-ins across the state, and eventually, throughout the south. By that July (and after an estimated loss of $200,000 worth of business), Woolworth’s integrated all of its stores and allowed blacks to be served at lunch counters.
Today, the site of the first sit-in at the Greensboro, N.C. Woolworth’s was re-opened as an international civil rights museum. Here is a video of the opening along with interviews of the four participants of the February 1st sit-in.

For more information, please visit the Civil Rights Movement Veterans’ timeline

[Image via americanhistory]

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