Introduction - Greensboro Sit-InOn February 1st of 1960 four young black college students sat down at the "whites only" lunch counter at the Woolworth Department store in Greensboro, North Carolina. White only lunch counters were consider legal at that time due to the concept that "separate but equal" did not constitute discrimination. Separation of the races at such places as movies, hotels, restaurants, bathrooms, and lunch counters was common in the southern states and was a means to foster racial discrimination and inequality. The employees working the counter, following the stores rules, refused to serve the four men and the store manager asked them to leave. The men bravely stayed until the store closed and returned the next day. This brave act was an extremely important event in black history and one of the major events that sparked the Civil Rights Movement. The sit-ins spread too many other southern cities along with an economic boycott of many stores that had segregated counters resulting in de- segregation of many of these lunch counters. On this page is a list of interesting facts about the Greensboro sit-in and the non-violent protest the sit-ins lead to. This information should be helpful to both kids writing reports for Black History Month and adults interested in this important event in black history.
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Greensboro Sit-In Interesting Facts
- The four students that started the Greensboro sit-in were all freshmen at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; their names are Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair Jr. (later called Jibreel Khazan). They are often referred to as the Greensboro Four.
- Like many black civil rights protest the Greensboro sit-in was well planned and designed to bring attention and sympathy to the fight against discrimination. The Greensboro Four with the assistance of a local white businessman by the name of Ralph Johns coordinated the event and alerted the media to the sit-in.
- The initial protest grew quickly. On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in reporters showed up, and by the fourth day over three hundred protesters, mostly black students, were involved. In the following weeks similar protest broke out at whites only counters throughout North Carolina and other southern states.
- Many of the protesters involved in sit-ins were arrested on various charges including disturbing the peace, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.
- Eventually the protesters organized a boycott of stores which refused to eliminate their whites only counters. As the Montgomery Bus Boycott five years earlier had proven, black people had power in numbers and that well organized and determined boycotts could economically force change.
Results of the Greensboro Sit-In
- Feeling the devastating economic effects of the black boycott the Woolworth store in Greensboro desegregated its lunch counter in July of 1960; many stores throughout the south did the same.
- As a result of the success of the Greensboro sit-in and the non-violent protest that soon followed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded in April 1960. This organization was crucial to the civil rights movement.
- Largely due to the Greensboro Sit-In and other civil rights protest the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed which made whites-only lunch counters illegal along with racial segregation in all public places.
- The Woolworth store where the sit-in took place is now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.