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.