REEDOM ON THE MENU
THE GREENSBORO SIT-INS
By Carole Boston Weatherford
Narrator Connie Daddy Store Manager
Mama Sister Old Shopper Clean-up Lady
Brother Man in Straw Hat Student at Lunch Counter
Onlooker Martin Luther King Aunt Gertie Waitress 1
Waitress 2 Old Lady Registering to Vote
NARRATOR: Just about every week, Connie and Mama go shopping downtown. Connie loves having her mama all to herself for the afternoon. Whenever it’s hot or they get tired, they head over to the snack bar in the five-and-dime store. They stand as they sip their Cokes because they aren’t allowed to sit at the lunch counter.
CONNIE: Look at that girl eating a banana split. Her purse is almost exactly like mine. Can I have a banana split. Mama?
MAMA: Not here, Connie. I’ll fix one at home.
CONNIE: That won’t be the same.
NARRATOR: All over town, signs tell Connie and Mama where they can and can’t go. Signs on water fountains, swimming pools, movie theaters, even bathrooms.
CONNIE: Everybody I know obeys the signs -- except my Great Aunt Gertie from New York. Once, when she visited us, she drank from a whites-only fountain and said real loud. . .
AUNT GERTIE: I’ve never heard of colored water. Have you, Connie?
NARRATOR: Then, Aunt Gertie lifted Connie up so she could take a sip. Connie looked up from the fountain. There was a man looking at her real mean.
MAN IN STRAW HAT: Y’all know better than that!
CONNIE: I started to say, “Sorry, mister,” but Aunt Gertie just huffed:
AUNT GERTIE: I’m too old for silly rules.”
CONNIE: It was a real hot day, but the man walked away without taking a drink.
NARRATOR: There aren’t any signs up in the five-and-dime, but folks still know how it is. Most people Connie knows don’t expect change anytime soon. But her daddy thinks different. One
morning, he reads something in the newspaper that gives him reason to hope.
DADDY: Dr. King’s coming to town.
CONNIE: Who’s sick?
DADDY: He’s not that kind of doctor, Connie. He a minister who’s working to make things better for us.
MAMA: So we can go anywhere we please.
CONNIE: Like the lunch counter?
DADDY: Yep, and other places, too.
NARRATOR: Later that week, Connie’s whole family goes to hear Dr. King preach at the college chapel.
DR. KING: Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a flowing stream.
CONNIE: I don’t really understand his whole speech, but I like his booming voice. It sounds as if he believes God is on our side.
NARRATOR: When Dr. King sits down, everyone stands and claps for a long time. Soon after that, Connie’s brother and sister join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Everyone calls it the N-double-A-C-P. Brother and Sister let Connie tag along as they go door-to-door helping people to sign up to vote.
OLD LADY: I’ve never voted in my life. Will I get to vote for the president?”
CONNIE: Yes, ma’am.” My brother wants to be president when he’s all the way grown.”
OLD LADY: Tell him he’s got my vote. And to hold onto those big dreams.
CONNIE: Yes, ma’am, I’ll tell him.
NARRATOR: Connie thinks about her own dreams, too.
OLD LADY: Times are changing.
NARRATOR: Later, Mama and Connie are shopping downtown. They stop at the snack bar, just like always.
CONNIE: Look over at the lunch counter! We know those four boys! They’re Brother’s friends from A&T College. Don’t they know they’re in the wrong place?
MAMA: Some rules have to be broken.
STUDENT AT COUNTER: Coffee and a doughnut, please.
WAITRESS 1: I’m sorry, we can’t serve your kind.
NARRATOR: The boys do not budge.
WAITRESS 2: Don’t y’all understand English?
CLEAN-UP LADY: (scolding) Go on over to the snack bar. Stop making trouble here.”
MANAGER: They can sit there forever for all I care.
OLD SHOPPER: I’m so proud of you. I wish someone had done this sooner.
NARRATOR: The nervous waitresses keep wiping and re-wiping the counter and refilling salt and pepper shakers, sugar pourers and napkin holders. But every time they glance up from their
chores, the boys are still there. Suddenly, the manager comes back with the police. A tall
policeman with a club in his hand paces behind the boys.
CONNIE: This is really scary.
MAMA: Let’s go, Connie.
MANAGER: The store is closing early today. We’ll have this trouble cleared up by tomorrow.
NARRATOR: Connie can’t wait to tell Brother.
CONNIE: Why’d your friends do that?
BROTHER: If we can spend money at a store it’s only fair that we should be able to eat at the store’s lunch counter.
CONNIE: I guess so. Think it’ll work?
DADDY: Sometimes it’s important just to try.
NARRATOR: The next day, Daddy shows Connie the newspaper. The headline reads: Negro Students Stand Up By Sitting Down.
DADDY: They sat four hours.
CONNIE: I’d be too hungry to wait that long.
DADDY: Connie, they didn’t really want food. They wanted to allowed to get it, same as if they were white. To be treated fairly.
NARRATOR: By Friday, Connie and her family hear on the news that hundreds more have joined the sit-ins.
CONNIE: The protests are growing!
BROTHER: (excitedly) I’m joining the sit-ins.
SISTER: And I’m going to picket downtown. Tomorrow.
CONNIE: I want to go, too. I’m plenty big enough to hold a sign, and I know I can sit.
DADDY: It’s good that you want to help. But, Connie, you’re still too young for these things.
CONNIE: I never get to do anything important.
SISTER: You can help us make picket signs. That’s very important.
NARRATOR: Connie gets busy painting a sign. By morning, she has thought of something else that Sister should take to the pickets.
CONNIE: Sister, here’s my little flag to carry.
BROTHER: We’ll tell you everything when we get home. I promise.
NARRATOR: Turns out, Connie sees the protests on TV. Hundreds of people walk up and down the sidewalks in front of stores, restaurants and movie theaters.
CONNIE: There’s Sister wearing a hat and white gloves and carrying a picket sign. And that’s the back of Brother’s head at the lunch counter. My own brother!
DADDY: I’m so proud of them.
CONNIE: Me, too.
MAMA: I just pray there’s no trouble.
NARRATOR: After a while, Connie watches the news on TV almost as much as Mama and Daddy. One night they are all watching a report on the sit-ins.
CONNIE: That doesn’t look like downtown.
DADDY: Connie, the sit-ins have spread all over the South.
NARRATOR: The phone rings.
CONNIE: Daddy! It’s Sister. She got arrested at the lunch counter. She’s in jail!
NARRATOR: Sister, who always gets A’s in school, who hardly ever gets in trouble, who is what Mama calls “mule-stubborn. Daddy races to the police station, but Sister won’t let her family get her out of jail.
CONNIE: (pleading) We can’t just leave Sister here with the bad guys.
MAMA: She’s made up her mind, Connie. She wants to stay with the other students.
NARRATOR: Connie hears the students shouting:
ALL: Jail, not bail! Jail, not bail!
NARRATOR: The chant echoes off the walls and inside Connie’s head. In a few days, Sister comes home.
CONNIE: (begging) Promise me you’ll stop picketing.
SISTER: I can’t do that.
NARRATOR: Now, instead of shopping downtown, Connie’s family orders from the Sears catalog. Mama and Connie leaf through the big, thick catalog together. Mama even lets Connie help pick things out, but it isn’t the same.
CONNIE: How long before the sit-ins are over, Mama?
MAMA: Till folks get what they want.
NARRATOR: That summer, Mama, Daddy and Connie finally go downtown. When they pass Woolworth’s, Connie hears someone shout:
ONLOOKER: (shout of surprise) They’re serving them!
NARRATOR: Daddy stops so fast that the brakes screech and Mama and Connie jolt forward. They park and run to the lunch counter. They see the women who work in the restaurant’s kitchen sitting at the lunch counter. They are all dressed up and eating egg salad! Connie can’t even stand the smell of egg salad, but she stands and watches them eat every bite.
CONNIE: Looks pretty good.
NARRATOR: The next day, Brother, Sister and Connie make a special trip downtown. Brother wears a suit and tie. The girls wear hats and white gloves. At Woolworth’s lunch counter, Connie
climbs up on a stool right between them.
CONNIE: (addressing the waitress) We’ll have three hot dogs, three French fries, two coffees, one Coke and one banana split, please.
NARRATOR: Sister and Brother sip coffee and Connie twists on her stool while they wait for their meals. Their food soon arrives. As Connie eats, the waitress plops an extra cherry on a mound of whipped cream. Then, she serves Connie’s sundae. The waitress still looks nervous, but she smiles at Connie.
CONNIE: (cheerily) It was the best banana split I ever had.