Civility? Doing lunch the rights way, North Carolina, February 1, 1960


Today is the 51st anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in. Be sure to read Howell Raines’ criticism of news media coverage of civil rights issues in last year’s New York Times: “What I am suggesting is that the one thing the South should have learned in the past 50 years is that if we are going to hell in a handbasket, we should at least be together in a basket of common purpose.”

Four young men turned a page of history on February 1, 1960, at a lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond, sat down at the counter to order lunch. Because they were African Americans, they were refused service. Patiently, they stayed in their seats, awaiting justice.

On July 25, nearly six months later, Woolworth’s agreed to desegregate the lunch counter. One more victory for non-violent protest.

 

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record) (Smithsonian Institution)

News of the “sit-in” demonstration spread. Others joined in the non-violent protests from time to time, 28 students the second day, 300 the third day, and some days up to 1,000. The protests spread geographically, too, to 15 cities in 9 states.

On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Smithsonian caption: "On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)"

Part of the old lunch counter was salvaged, and today is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. The museum display was the site of celebratory parties during the week of the inauguration as president of Barack Obama.

Part of the lunchcounter from the Woolworths store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is now displayed at the Smithsonians Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.

Part of the lunchcounter from the Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is now displayed at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.

Notes and resources:

Student video, American History Rules, We Were There – First person story related by Georgie N. and Greg H., with pictures:

Associated Press interview with Franklin E. McCain:

This is mostly an encore post.

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6 Responses to Civility? Doing lunch the rights way, North Carolina, February 1, 1960

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks for the reference, Mary.

    From the University of Illinois Press:

    Dissent in Wichita

    The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest, 1954-72
    Author: Gretchen Cassel Eick
    Book, Dissent in Wichita
    Awards and Recognition:

    Winner of the Byron Caldwell Smith Book Prize, 2003. Winner of the William Rockhill Nelson Award for non-fiction given by The Writers Place and The Kansas City Star, 2003. Winner of the Richard L. Wentworth Prize in American History, 2002.

    On a hot summer evening in 1958, a group of African American students in Wichita, Kansas, quietly entered Dockum’s Drug Store and sat down at the whites-only lunch counter. This was the beginning of the first sustained, successful student sit-in of the modern civil rights movement, instigated in violation of the national NAACP’s instructions. Based on interviews with over eighty participants and observers of this sit-in, Dissent in Wichita traces the contours of race relations and black activism in an unexpected locus of the civil rights movement, revealing that the movement was a national, not a Southern, phenomenon.

    “A well-documented reminder that Kansas has been and is a place divided along racial lines. . . . An essential read for anyone interested in the history of race relations in Wichita or hoping for a foundation to begin understanding where those relations stand today. . . . Additionally, however, the book is an excellent primer on the national civil rights movement.”–Wichita Eagle

    “What makes Dissent in Wichita more than a local case study is its detailed analysis of the NAACP. . . . Eick’s rendering of the internal power struggle that pitched the ‘young Turks’ of the NAACP against the old guard makes fascinating if depressing reading.”–Journal of American History

    “Eick makes a convincing case that important developments, long ignored by most scholars, were happening in the Midwest too. . . . Based on solid archival research as well as interviews with dozens of activists, this work will appeal to specialists in the modern civil rights movement and to scholars and teachers of Midwestern history.”–Great Plains Quarterly

    “Straightforward, free of excessive jargon, and replete with substantive analysis, this work stands at the vanguard of a lengthy body of literature. Readers will find this work edifying and long overdue.”–Western Historical Quarterly

    “Eick is to be comended . . . she successfully places Wichita within the context of the larger black freedom movement. Dissent in Wichita is a model for local Civil Rights movement studies.”–Journal of the West

    “Wichita at mid-century was a northern city with southern customs, where African Americans faced discrimination in the workplace, schools, housing, and public accommodations. Gretchen Eick’s fascinating and moving account of the black freedom struggle in the Midwestern heartland is at the cutting edge of the new civil rights scholarship.”–John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi

    Gretchen Cassel Eick, a professor of history at Friends University, Wichita, has received two Fulbright fellowships and was for ten years a professional lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

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  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Why does the headline say “South Carolina?” Sometimes fingers nnot tlak tobrain. Do own thing (stooopid brain).

    Like

  3. Mary Fox says:

    Of related interest: Dissent in Wichita, by Gretchen Cassel Eick, lunch counter sit-in before Greensboro, led by Ron Walters and others.

    Like

  4. chamblee54 says:

    Why does the headline say South Carolina?

    Like

  5. James Hanley says:

    How interesting that you have this piece today, with the reference to the protests spreading from place to place. It gives one faint hope for Egypt, where protest spread from Tunisia.

    May the good fates smile upon both the Tunisians and Egyptians.

    Like

  6. […] Mostly encore material, from earlier at this blog, and with permission from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. […]

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Play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes.

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