The instructions were simple: sit quietly and wait to be served.
The Sit-In movement was born in Greensboro, NC. “Four African American college students walked up to a whites-only lunch counter at the local WOOLWORTH’S store and asked for coffee. When service was refused, the students sat patiently. Despite threats and intimidation, the students sat quietly and waited to be served”
As the national Sit-In Movement grew, “participants would be jeered and threatened by local customers. Sometimes they would be pelted with food or ketchup. Angry onlookers tried to provoke fights that never came. In the event of a physical attack, the student would curl up into a ball on the floor and take the punishment. Any violent reprisal would undermine the spirit of the sit-in. When the local police came to arrest the demonstrators, another line of students would take the vacated seats”.
To read more about that day in 1960, and the desegregation efforts that followed, please take a moment to read this brief article.
That same Woolworth’s building is now the home of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, whose mission “seeks to ensure that the world never forgets the courage displayed by four young North Carolina A&T State College students, on February 1, 1960, and the hundreds and thousands of college and community youth in Greensboro, in the South and around the country who joined them in the days and weeks that followed which led to the desegregation of the Woolworth lunch counter and ultimately to the smashing of the despicable segregation system in the southern United States”
* Much of the preceding text was taken from the website linked above *
It would be too easy to assume that racism no longer exists because the more obvious “Whites-Only” signs are long gone. Sadly, as has been evident in the news of late, racism is still a battle not yet won.
We must never forget, though, the brave ones who led the way to desegregation.
A wonderful post and you are so right, we must never forget. I’m heading down that way in April, adding this museum to my list of places to visit. Thanks, Laurie.
Susan, I’m so glad you will get to visit! I was in town doing some “photo recon” for a wedding I am going to shoot, and I wasn’t able to go into the museum. It’s on my to do list for June.
Downtown Greensboro is such a great place! If you need some restaurant suggestions, let me know!
Thank you for sharing this, Laurie. I didn’t know that the Woolworths was still there, nor did I know that it was now a museum! There was so much going on in the early 60s and I remember well the events that transpired as seen on the news at that time. It affected me deeply and it made it hard to teach my primary kids about what happened with out getting choked up. I’ll never know if my emotion moved them to think, or if they didn’t give it a second thought at the end of the day, but I made sure they knew what happened and how brave these people were.
Thank you, Lynda, for making sure that the children were taught about the Civil Rights movement. I am sure that there are adults today who credit you for making them aware.
It is a worthy museum and you were great to write about it.
Thank you, Janet!
Nice timely piece on civil rights, Laurie. And a nice photo of the Woolworth’s.
Thank you, Lisa. It’s shameful to think of the indignities and atrocities that occurred, but inspiring to see what can happen when people are empowered to make change.
Wonderful post Laurie 😀 For a while I thought times had changed but in light of the recent political climate (I won’t mention names but it rhymes with Rump) I’m afraid we have returned to these horrible days of 4 students taking a seat to be served. The only thing that has changed is now these racists use “code words” like “make America great again”.
You are so right, Joe! I actually saw a sign from one of Trump’s rallies that said “Make America White Again. Shameful! Terrifying!
Courage. Walk a mile in those shoes. That is the only way people who think racism is over might wake up. Great, honest post, LB.
Jim, I couldn’t have said it better. Those of us who have never had our motives questioned because of the color of our skin, have no clue.
Wow, that’s a great piece of history….and shamefully it’s not that long ago😳
Shameful is exactly right!
Great post and great pictures. All the times I have been to Greensboro, I have not been to the museum yet, but it is now on my list for my next trip in May. Thanks for the history lesson, we need to keep this in our past and not undo what these brave people worked so hard to overcome. I do not want to make this country racist again (which is really what Trump is saying).
I really wanted to visit when we were there last weekend. Maybe next time!
What an interesting post Laurie. I cannot imagine the courage it took to endure all of the hatred thrust towards people of colour in the 60’s. It still shocks me to this day. What is even more shocking, is that we seem to be reverting back to those days of hatred & judgment of others. I find it all so scary. There are days it seems we have learned nothing at all.
Lynn, you are so right. The current climate of overt racism scares me!
To think that just 50 years ago, those with skin other than white had to use different bathrooms, ride in the back of buses, eat at different counters. It did indeed take courage to stand up to hatred!
Thanks for posting this. I didn’t realize that the Woolworth was still there and being maintained for a museum. I’m glad that it is.
Me, too, Bruce and I’m anxious to actually tour the museum next time.
Laurie, these photos are haunting. They evoke that remarkable time when four students took a stand for what was right, knowing that they risked physical and mental abuse. When I hear people complain about the #blacklivesmatter movement, saying all lives matter, they miss the point. All lives matter, but our behavior as a society doesn’t reflect that. Until it does, we need to continue to shed light on what’s come before us, and for what many of us fear lies ahead.
Congratulations on the wedding photographer gig. That should be a lot of fun.
Your comments about Black Lives / All Lives are so right, and so many that complain about the Black Lives movement have never had to worry about being victims of racism.
I’m anxious to catch up on your blog this weekend! XO
Exactly! Like many things, until you walk in another’s shoes you don’t really know. But that is no excuse for lack of empathy and understanding. I remember getting Chris ready for pre-school around the age of three or so. Verbal, but not fully articulate. He told me that someone named Martin couldn’t eat at a restaurant. He knew a boy named Martin so I was trying to follow his thinking. Then he said “they threw ketchup on him.” I was still struggling to follow because I didn’t have context, and then it finally clicked: his teacher had discussed Martin Luther King and the sit-ins and he was trying to explain it to me with his limited understanding of the world. I’ve never forgotten it.
We all have the same colour blood mate..
Yes! And you’d think folks didn’t realize that.
Many in the US are appalled at what seems like a rise in discrimination. Scary!
Hopefully one day humanity will leave the playground behind
A lot of my academic research was in the area of civil rights protest rhetoric–the quiet courage of passive resistance always impressed and moved me.
Kerry, I’ll bet that research was at times appalling and at times inspirational.
What a great area of study!