February 1, 1960: The First of the Greensboro Sit-Ins

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A Brief History

On February 1, 1960, 4 African-American college freshman from North Carolina Agricultural and Mining University, who later became known as the “Greensboro Four,” made some minor purchases at a Greensboro, NC, Woolworth store and then sat at the “whites only” segregated lunch counter where the white proprietor refused them service and ordered them to vacate the premises.

Digging Deeper

Intentionally challenging racial segregation, the 4 young black men stayed at the counter until the store closed.  The next day, the scene was repeated, except this time with 20 or more African-American college students, among them females from Bennett College.  When once again the students sat through the second day without service, 60 students showed up on the third day and again, no service. 

Woolworth’s corporate decision was to abide by “local custom” at their stores.  The national media took notice, and on the fourth day, 300 protestors showed up and spread the protests, and sit-ins along with boycotts to other Greensboro lunch counters, segregated stores and businesses.

Incredibly, even though the Greensboro Woolworth finally caved into the pressure on June 25, 1960 after losing one third of its business and desegregated the entire store, many other businesses only did so grudgingly and some even refused to do so for a few more years.  

The Greensboro sit-ins triggered a largely peaceful and successful protest movement against segregation in the South, and this is remembered by a section of the famous lunch counter which was put on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1993.  The International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, which used to be the Woolworth store, has 4 of the lunch counter chairs on display, and a street near the site was renamed “February One Place” in honor of the protests.

The February 1 Monument Honoring the Greensboro Four

The February 1 Monument Honoring the Greensboro Four

On a national and political level, in March of 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had spoken up in support of the protests taking place in North Carolina and the South and four years later, legislation known as The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing segregation in public places, was passed.

Anyone with any memories of these events is invited to comment and share their experiences.  All others are welcome to share their thoughts.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)) (Hardcover)

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The Movement and The Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee (Paperback)

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.