Greensboro Record, February 2, 1960. Part of Greensboro Sit-ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement.Provided by Greensboro News-Record.
Negro college students sit at Woolworth lunch counter
By Marvin Sykes, Record Staff Writer
A group of 20 Negro students from A&T College occupied luncheon counter seats, without being served, at the downtown F.W. Woolworth Co. Store late this morning — starting what they declared would be a growing movement.The group declared double that number will take place at the counters tomorrow.
Four A&T College students sit in seats designated for white people at the racially segregated Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, in 1960. (No photographers were allowed into the store on the first day of protest.) (Greensboro News & Record photo by Jack Moebes.)
Employees of Woolworth did not serve the group and they sat from 10:30 a.m. until after noon. White customers continued to sit and get service. Clarence Harris, Woolworth manager, replied “No comment” to all questions concerning the “sit-down” move about Woolworth custom, and about what he planned to do.
Today’s 20-man action followed the appearance at 4:30 p.m. yesterday of four freshmen from Scott Hall at A&T who sat down and stayed, without service, until the store closed at 5:30 p.m.
Student spokesmen said they are seeking luncheon counter service, and will increase their numbers daily until they get it.
Today’s group came in at 10:30 a.m. Each made a small purchase one counter over from the luncheon counter, then sat in groups of three or four as spaces became vacant.
There was no disturbance and there appeared to be no conversation except among the groups. Some students pulled out books and appeared to be studying. The group today wrote to the president of Woolworth asking “a firm stand to eliminate this discrimination,” and signed the letter as members of the Student Executive Committee for Justice. Spokesmen Franklin McLain and Ezell Blair Jr., stated that the group is seeking luncheon counter service and will continue its push “several days, several weeks … until something is done.”
Both declared the movement is a student one, with no backing from the NAACP. They said they expect they could count on NAACP backing if needed. The move is not school connected, they added, but they hope to encourage more students to participate and hope that Bennett College students will join.
Four leaders, who were at Woolworths yesterday and again today, were named as McLain, of Washington; Blair, of Greensboro; David Richmond, Greensboro, and Joseph McNeill, Wilmington, all freshmen. They said today’s groups came chiefly from Scott Hall at the college. Blair declared that Negro adults “have been complacent and fearful.” He declared “It is time for someone to wake up and change the situation… and we decided to start here.” McLain said no economic boycott is planned. “We like to spend our money here, but we want to spend it at the lunch counter as well as the counter next to it.”
Dr. George C Simkins Jr., head of the local chapter of NAACP, said that organization had no knowledge of the movement prior to its arising spontaneously. He said the group is 100% behind the idea, and “if any legal action arises as a result, the NAACP is prepared to back the group.”
The lunch counter sit-ins that began at the Greensboro Woolworth’s on February 1, 1960, quickly spread across the state.
David Richmond (from left), Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and Joseph McNeil leave the Woolworth in Greensboro, N.C., where they initiated a lunch-counter sit-in to protest segregation, Feb. 1, 1960.
February 1, 1960, four students from North Carolina A&T, a black college in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at a “whites only” lunch counter at Woolworth’s department store. Before the rise of fast-food restaurants, lunch counters provided cheap and quick food to people on lunch breaks. It was standard policy in the South that lunch counters were reserved for whites only.
The actions of these four students were part of a growing movement among African Americans to demand an end to Jim Crow laws. Emboldened by the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which had ended segregation in public schools, African Americans across the South began public protest against segregation and discrimination.
The “sit-ins” at Woolworth’s lunch counter continued through the month of February. Each day, more and more African Americans arrived at lunch counters across the city to protest “white only” policies..
African Americans were inspired by the actions of the NCA&T students and began sit-ins in cities across North Carolina, including Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Soon, sit-ins spread to Virginia, Tennessee and eventually all southern states. By the end of 1960, an estimated 70,000 people had participated in sit-ins at lunch counters across the South, and 3,000 had been arrested.
Non-Violent Protest: SIT INS
Name: _____________________________________________________________________ date _________________
F.W. Woolworth Building – Greensboro, NC Photograph courtesy Greensboro Historical Museum Directions: 1. Look at photos of sit-ins and read background info. 2. Read Greensboro Newspaper Article 3. Listen to NPR interview with Greensboro sit-in
student Franklin McCain.
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