“A Brief History of the Sit-In Movement” [TIME]

In Americas (North) on February 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Happy Black History Month!


How a simple act of grass-roots disobedience galvanized the civil rights movement and changed the social landscape of the American South.


How it Began
On Feb. 1, 1960, at around 4:30 p.m., four black students from North Carolina A&T University ā€” from left, David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil ā€” entered a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C., and, after purchasing merchandise from several counters in the store, sat down at the store’s “whites only” lunch counter and ordered some coffee.

At the Counter
The four young men were refused service and asked to leave. Instead, they remained in their seats until the store closed, sometime around 5:00. All told, they spent a little more than 30 minutes in the store that first day.

Gathering Steam
The next day, the four young men returned to the store, along with approximately two dozen more students from the college. They sat from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and were once again refused service. As they sat, they kept themselves busy with books and study materials. Several white patrons heckled them. But their actions drew local media attention and thus attracted even more students to their cause. By the time this photo was taken on Feb. 6, the lunch-counter protest had lured several hundred people to the store.

Things Get Ugly
As the protest gathered momentum, long-simmering tensions came to a boil. On Feb. 6, a caller warned that a bomb had been set inside the Greensboro Woolworth’s; the store was emptied and the business closed. The crowd moved to another five-and-dime store, which also was immediately closed. When the two stores reopened later in the month, the protests resumed and tensions flared once again. In this photo, a young white man who had joined the black students in sympathy is dragged from the counter and beaten by other white youths.

Click here to view the 13 picture gallery in its entirety.

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