It is hard for me as someone who grew up in Massachusetts to believe that I was born into a time when segregation was widespread throughout the country and that there were actually places that legally and officially disallowed someone service based solely on the color of their skin. So it is amazing to me that it was a mere 50 years ago today that the so-called ‘sit in’ movement started at the counter of a Woolworth in Greensboro, N.C.
I read an article about this in my local paper this weekend, and searched out more information, which was readily available at the, and also covered by :
The four college freshmen walked quietly into a Greensboro dime store on a breezy Monday afternoon, bought a few items, then sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter – and sparked a wave of civil rights protest that changed America.
Violating a social custom as rigid as law, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond sat near an older white woman on the silver-backed stools at the F.W. Woolworth. The black students had no need to talk; theirs was no spontaneous act. Their actions on Feb. 1, 1960, were meticulously planned, down to buying a few school supplies and toiletries and keeping their receipts as proof that the lunch counter was the only part of the store where racial segregation still ruled.
So as we think of all of the minor annoyances that plague us all every day, let us also remember that it was within our lifetimes that paying customers were denied the right to sit down in public establishments solely on the color of their skin.
I certainly don’t believe we are in any sort of ‘post racial world’, as I think many of the issues of the past decade merely shifted distrust and hatred to different people … but it is clear that we have certainly advanced quite a bit in terms of tolerance and the public recognition that institutionalized hatred is wrong. Let’s hope the next 50 year see even more progress in that direction.