Feb. 1, 1960: The Greensboro Sit-in Begins

Greensboro Sit-In Participants

The participants after leaving the Woolworth’s by a side exit. (L-R): David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and Joseph McNeil. (No photographers were allowed into the Woolworth’s during this first protest.) © Corbis.

On February 1, 1960, four African-American North Carolina A&T University students, Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil, began a sit-in protest at a Woolworth’s whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, where they had been refused service.

Their protest, while not the first sit-in of the modern Civil Rights Movement, triggered a wave of direct action through sit-ins across the United States. (Learn about two of the earlier sit-ins: Howard University students in 1943 and the Dockum Drug Store Sit-In in 1958.)

The SNCC Digital Gateway provides a student-friendly description of the Greensboro sit-in with primary documents and interviews. In concludes:

The Greensboro sit-ins inspired a mass movement across the South. By April 1960, 70 southern cities had sit-ins of their own. Direct-action sit-ins made public what Jim Crow wanted to hide–Black resistance to segregation. By directly challenging segregation in highly visible places, activists grabbed the attention of the media. . . The sit-ins told Black youth that they had power to capture national attention. “Before seeing these sit-ins,” SNCC’s Charlie Cobb said, “Civil Rights had been something grown-ups did.”

Read the full description at SNCC Digital Gateway.

The Zinn Education Project offers books and films for the classroom on the sit-in movement and Rethinking Schools offers a lesson called Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution by Adam Sanchez.

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