The Power Of Protest: The Greensboro Sit-Ins

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The Greensboro sit-ins are one of the most well-known protests of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1960 African-American students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College led a series of nonviolent protests at the “whites only” lunch counter of Woolworth’s department store in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ezell Blair Jr. (now known as Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain were given the name the “Greensboro Four.”

On February 1, 1960, the four men took seats at the lunch counter at the local Woolworth store at 132 South Elm Street and asked to be served. When denied service the brave students did not leave and would go on to repeat the process day after day.

Media coverage of the sit-ins triggered a movement that spread quickly. By February 5, over 300 young men and women had joined the protest. Throughout NC college towns like Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, and Winston Salem initiated their own peaceful demonstrations. Before long the sit-in movement had expanded to cities in other states including Richmond, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee.

Protesters at a Lunch Counter

Source: Wally McNamee / Getty

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While protesting, the students were harassed mercilessly. Many protesters were arrested for trespassing, disturbing the peace, or disorderly conduct.

On July 25, 1960, after significant monetary losses, the Greensboro Woolworth quietly integrated its lunch counter. Four black employees were the first to be served.

The former Woolworth store in Greensboro is now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. It features a restored edition of the lunch counter. Part of the original counter is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

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