This Week in History: Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-Ins gre

Feb. 1, 1960, started out much like any other day in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Around 4:30 p.m., the temperature had just risen above 53 degrees when four freshmen students from North Carolina A&T sat down at a lunch counter within the local Woolworth’s department store and effectively sparked a revolution. 

Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond sat down at the store’s lunch counter and ordered coffee. The F.W. Woolworth lunch counter, like many other businesses within Greensboro and nationwide, was segregated. This particular lunch counter was designated as a “whites only” counter.

Workers denied the students service and asked them to leave—a request that the students weren’t willing to grant. Having each experienced the frustrations of racial segregation and discrimination, The Greensboro Four were willing to face the consequences of disobedience in order to promote change. They remained seated for half of an hour before the store closed early for the night, presumably having little insight into the inspiration they would provide for nationwide reform.

The Greensboro Four returned the next day with 25 more students and faced the heckling of white patrons and employees while they staged a sit-in lasting from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. By Wednesday, their numbers grew above 60, with other colleges and high school students joining in to protest in shifts. By Thursday, the number of protesters grew to more than 300, occupying every seat and open space they could find, peacefully doing homework and studying while a storm of counter-protesters and national media entities flooded the town of Greensboro, North Carolina.

By the end of February, the sit-in had grown to more than 30 cities in 8 states and, by March, sit-ins spread to 55 cities in 13 states. By the summer of 1960, much of the country had been desegregated. February 1, 1960, had indeed started much like the days before it, but when four freshmen students sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, they changed the world.20150813_121130