Greensboro Sit Ins

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The Greensboro sit-ins were a series of nonviolent protests which led to the Woolworth's department store chain reversing its policy of racial segregation in the Southern United States. While not the first sit-ins of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the Greensboro sit-ins were an instrumental action, leading to increased national sentiment at a crucial period in American history. The primary event took place at the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth's store, now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The sit-in movement used the strategy of nonviolent resistance. As far back as 1942, the Congress of Racial Equality sponsored sit-ins in Chicago, as they did in St. Louis in 1949 and Baltimore in 1952. In August, 1939, African-American attorney Samuel Wilbert Tucker organized a sit-in at the then-segregated Alexandria, Virginia library. On February 1, 1960, four students from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina sat down at the lunch counter inside the Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina. The men, later known as the Greensboro Four, ordered coffee. Following store policy, the lunch counter staff refused to serve the African American men at the "whites only" counter and the store's manager asked them to leave. The four university freshmen -- Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond -- stayed until the store closed. The next day, more than twenty African American students who had been recruited from other campus groups came to the store to join the sit-in. White customers heckled the black students, who read books and studied to keep busy. The lunch counter staff continued to refuse service. Newspaper reporters and a TV videographer covered the second day of peaceful demonstrations and others in the community learned of the protests. On the third day, more than 60 people came to the Woolworth's store. A statement issued by Woolworth's national headquarters said the company would "abide by local custom" and maintain its segregated policy. The movement then spread to other Southern cities including Richmond, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee where the students of the Nashville Student Movement had been trained for a sit-in by civil rights activist James Lawson and had already started the process when Greensboro occurred. Although the majority of these protests were peaceful, there were instances where protests became violent. For example, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, tensions rose between blacks and whites and fights broke out. As the sit-ins continued, tensions grew in Greensboro and students began a far-reaching boycott of stores that had segregated lunch counters. Sales at the boycotted stores dropped by a third, leading the stores' owners to abandon their segregation policies. Black employees of Greensboro’s Woolworth’s store were the first to be served at the store's lunch counter, on July 25, 1960. The next day, the entire Woolworth's chain was desegregated, serving blacks and whites alike. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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