First Greensboro Sit-In Occurred 59 Years Ago

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

Four North Carolina black college students staged the first Greensboro sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, to protest segregation on Feb. 1, 1960 — 59 years ago.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCAT) students Ezell Blair Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond conducted the protest at an eating area within Woolworth’s general merchandise store, according to Britannica. Black people could be in the dining area but could not receive service at a standing snack bar as that was reserved for white people.

The four men wanted to bring attention to racial segregation in the private sector through peaceful methods of protest. One of the influences for the group was Indian activist Mohandas Gandhi. The group also received help from white businessman Ralph Johns to implement the protest, according to Britannica. (RELATED: UGA Became The Birthplace Of Public Higher Education 234 Years Ago)

The “Greensboro Four” were denied service and though the police were called, they could not be arrested because the men were paying customers. Johns had already contacted local media, making the response quick. The Greensboro sit-ins at the Woolworth store continued, with each day seeing more protesters to the point where the store was filled and people were out on the street.

Around 300 students were reported in the Woolworth store on Feb. 5, 1960, according to History.

Protests continued on Feb. 6 until a bomb threat closed the store down, The Sit In Movement reported. NCAT students voted to suspend sit-ins for two weeks to give Woolworth time to adopt integration policies.

Diners in the South began integrating during the summer with the Woolworth snack bar serving black people beginning in July 1960, according to Britannica.

The Greensboro sit-ins proved to be important for the early part of the civil rights movement. It inspired other sit-ins across the country. More than 70,000 people had participated in sit-ins by 1961, with more than 3,000 people getting arrested, The Sit In Movement reported.

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