Fifty years ago this month, four African-American college students entered a Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth’s retail store, walked up to the segregated lunch counter, and calmly sat down in stools reserved exclusively for white patrons.
Although they were refused service (blacks had to stand and eat) and the police were called in, the students sat quietly for the remainder of the day until the store closed. The men returned to the counter for the next three days – each day facing increasingly difficult, often violent, opposition from many who attempted to disrupt their efforts.
By the fourth day, over 300 students from area colleges and high schools had joined the demonstration, protesting the segregation practices of the department store, and asserting their rights to equal treatment for African-Americans. Tensions escalated between black demonstrators and many white citizens and a bomb scare resulted in the closing of the store for two weeks. The store desegregated the lunch counter several months later.
Inspired by the Greensboro sit-in, neighboring towns throughout North Carolina initiated their own sit-ins. The Woolworth protest had attracted national media attention, and ignited a trend of non-violent collective activism against racial injustice, particularly in the southern states.
Franklin McCain, Sr., one of those “Greensboro Four”, will present “He Sat Down So That We Could Stand Up,” an intimate retelling of his memories of those historic days that ignited a movement.
McCain will speak on February 15, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., at Wright State University, Millet Hall Atrium. The event is free and open to the public.
“He Sat Down So That We Could Stand Up,” is sponsored by Wright State University’s Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center and Office of Enrollment Management, Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, and the Greater Dayton Baptist Pastors’ and Ministers’ Union.
For additional information about this event, please contact Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center at (937)775-5645.