Throughout the South, a generation that had grown up withsegregation was about to demand a change -- to stand up, by sittingdown. On January 31, 1960, a black college student …by the name ofJoseph McNeil went to a lunch counter of a Woolworth Company storein Greensboro, North Carolina. He was then refused service forbeing black, so he came back the next day with three otherstudents, named Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair,Jr. from North Carolina A& T University to protest racialsegregation in restaurants by sitting at "white-only" lunchcounters while waiting to be served. They purchased some schoolsupplies, then went to the lunch counter and asked to be served.They knew they probably would not be. The four freshmen at theNorth Carolina Agricultural and Technical College were black, andthis lunch counter was segregated. This began the nationwidenon-violent "sit-in" movement to protest racial discrimination.While protests and boycotts achieved some success in integratingaspects of education and transportation, other facilities such astheaters, restaurants, and amusement parks limit or prevent accessto blacks, or maintained separate invariably inferior, facilitiesfor African Americans. However, prior to this demonstration andbetween 1943 and 1960, sit-ins had taken place in Chicago, St.Louis, Baltimore, and at least fifteen cities, including Nashville,Tennessee. The earlier protests did not gain full attention until1960, when the southern civil rights movement gained momentum. Whenthe sit-ins first began, it did not gain much attention, but aftermany students started sitting down at the counters, it gainedpublic attention. Within ten days the sit-ins spread to 15 southerncities. Nashville, Tennessee became the center for studentnonviolent workshops and directed action led by James Lawson andDiane Nash. Gordon Carey, a representative from the Congress ofRacial Equality (CORE), came down from New York to organize moresit-ins. .
"We Started Because We Were Tired of Waiting for You toAct."-Sit-In Participant in Chattanooga, TN .
Ella Baker of the SCLC contacted students on many collegecampuses. In two weeks, students in eleven cities held sit-ins,primarily at Woolworth's and S.H. Kress stores. The basic plan ofthe sit-ins was that a group of students would go to a lunchcounter and ask to be served. If they were, they'd move on to thenext lunch counter. If they were not, they would not move untilthey had been. If they were arrested, a new group would take theirplace. The students always remained nonviolent and respectful.Students in Nashville had some "Do's" and "Don'ts" duringsit-ins: .
Do show yourself friendly on the counter at all times. Do sitstraight and always face the counter. Don't strike back, or curseback if attacked. Don't laugh out. Don't hold conversations. Don'tblock entrances. .
When an article in the New York Times drew attention to thestudents' protest, they were joined by more students, both blackand white, and students across the nation were inspired to launchsimilar protests. There was the faith and support of blacks andwhites in Greensboro, such as the three young white women who wereexpelled from then Greensboro Woman's College (now UNCG) forsitting down with the protesters on the fourth day. And there waswhite clothier Ralph Johns, the February One strategist whoactually gave the students the money to make purchases. Mid waythrough the year of 1961, there were over 60,000 studentparticipants and there were over 2,500 arrests. Because of thesit-ins, Nashville became the first major city in the South toallow blacks and whites to eat together in public places. In lessthan two months, the Sit-In Movement spread across the country,changing the South forever. The Greensboro four showed thatnonviolent direct action and youth could be a very useful weapon inthe war against segregation. (MORE)