Black History Month: The Greensboro Sit-Ins

Happy Black History Month, everyone! Today marks the first of 28 days we celebrate not only the history of African-Americans in this country, but also the progress of relations between the races. If it had not been for the great accomplishments of our black forefathers and foremothers, we would not be where we are as a country today. Just think about it, no one would have ever expected to see a black Commander In Chief 50 years ago. The most admired woman in America—arguably the world—would never have been a black woman from the South Side of Chicago, a Princeton grad, and one with really toned arms, I might add . . . not that that matters 😉 . And who would’ve thought that America’s little children would be two brown-skin girls we’d watch grow before our very eyes? It’s amazing how far we’ve come, yet there’s so much more to do.

We have to look back in time, remember our ancestors, and continue their mission. This is where I have my biggest problem with Black History Month. Every February, it’s the same people: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Oprah! Although these people are important (legendary!), there are so many other black people who’ve done wonders for the advancement of our people that are being ignored. I was completely baffled when my mother said that she had never heard of Zora Neale Hurston. As one who has studied African-American literature, I would definitely know who she was, but my god! You know who Langston Hughes was, Mom! She was right there with him during the Harlem Renaissance! (Until they had a pretty nasty falling out over a play, but that’s beyond the point.)

So, I would like to educate my fellow black people (everyone else too, we’re not discriminating here) about some of the lesser known historic African Americans who’ve made contributions to our history. I’ll begin with my hometown of Greensboro, NC and introduce to you the Greensboro Four, also known as the NC A&T Four.

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From left to right: David L. Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell A. Blair, Jr., & Joseph A. McNeil

On this day, February 1st, 1960, four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T) students, the late David L. Richmond, the recently deceased Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), and Joseph McNeil sat down at the whites only lunch counter inside Woolworth store. The staff refused to serve the four black men because of the color of their skin and asked them to leave. However, they did not leave. In fact, they stayed until the store closed and returned the next day (and the next day, and the next day . . .) with more black students all to sit at the lunch counter in protest of segregation.

This sparked a maelstrom in the media, and although this was not the first sit-in, it inspired sit-ins and boycotts in other cities in North Carolina and across the southern United States; African-Americans, young and old, simply asking to be served equally as their white counterparts. The sit-ins continued until finally, Woolworth in Greensboro desegregated its lunch counter on Monday, July 25th, 1960.

The Greensboro sit-ins were more than just Woolworth and its lunch counter. They were about our civil rights. The right to equality. The right to be treated based on the content of our character and not the color of our skin. Thanks to the Greensboro Four and other Civil Rights leaders—those known and unknown—The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included the desegregation of all public places, was passed. We express our thanks and pay homage to these four brave men and others like them.

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From left to right: David “Chip” Richmond (son of the late David L. Richmond), Franklin McCain, Jibreel Khazan, & Joseph A. McNeil pose in front of the statue honoring the Greensboro Four on the A&T campus. Photo courtesy of A&T University Relations.

Take the time to visit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, NC located where Woolworth formerly stood this Black History Month.

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