American citizens have a long history of civil protest and disobedience, and one of the most prolific times was at the height of racial segregation. Yes, Americans once lynched blacks and it is a shameful part of our history which few forget, including me. It was shortly over 56 years ago, on 1 February 1960, that four black university students staged a sit-in at a local diner in Greensboro, North Carolina, by taking their seats at a whites-only lunch counter. This sit-in is often regarded as the spark that fueled the civil rights movement in the early 1960's, when ordinary black citizens began to protest unequal treatment and demand change.
The four men were all students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. They planned the protest from their dorm room, simply because "we'd had enough...it was time to wake up and change the situation." Tired of being treated like second class citizens, they walked down the street, sat down and demanded to be served. They promised each other they would repeat the behavior daily until a plate of food was placed in front of them, no matter how long it took. There were reports that a black waitress admonished them, and two old white ladies stood and clapped, encouraging them along. The sit-in grew quickly, and other black students from local universities joined, as well as sympathetic white students who supported their cause. The men encountered resistance from KKK members who showed up and threw burning piles of newspapers under a counter seat. Yet the men were not deterred and the protest remained peaceful for the most part. Because of the swelling crowds and coverage by local media, Woolworth's was forced to close the lunch counter only a week after the four young men first arrived.( Read more... )