• “With their very bodies they obstructed the wheels of injustice”

    Date: 02.01.10 | by Judge Tom.

    Fifty years ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, four freshmen from the local Agricultural and Technical College started a peaceful sit-in that changed American history. On February 1, 1960, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Ezell Blair, Jr (now known as Jibreel Khazan) entered a F. W. Woolworth’s in Greensboro. The store was integrated for customers to shop, but the lunch counter was for whites only. Blacks had to stand and eat.

    The four teens bought a few small items (toothpaste, school supplies, etc.) at one counter and received a receipt for their purchases. Then they took their seats at the lunch counter and ordered coffee.  They were refused service. They remained until the store closed. The next morning, they returned with twenty-five students to continue the protest. There were reportedly twice the number on the next day, and on the fourth day, they were joined by three white female students. Day five saw over 300 demonstrators at the store.

    From left, Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond

    For the first few days, the situation had been tense but  peaceful. Negotiations failed and at one point, 45 demonstrators were arrested for trespassing. Then a bomb-scare caused the closing of the store for two weeks.

    The sit-ins launched a massive boycott of stores across the South that had segregated lunch counters. At Woolworth’s, sales dropped one-third and after six months, the owners gave in. The original four freshmen returned to the counter and were served on July 25, 1960.

    This incident brought about the creation of SNCC – the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which led to partial integration before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lunch counter is now on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

    The 50th anniversary on February 1, 2010, witnessed the opening of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum  in the same  building, although the Woolworth’s store is no longer there.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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