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Sitting this one out

Sitting this one out

At the corner of Elm Street and February One Place, a cadre of hard-hatted workers raise the dust inside the old Woolworth’s building that in the winter of 1960 was the scene of a spark that ignited a flame of protests across the country. Light aluminum girders go in; mortar is processed on the street outside; a tar box in the sidewalk has a pipe leading up to the roof. Scaffolding holds like ivy on one corner where the brickwork is being restored. You can hear hammers banging and shovels scraping, smell sawdust and ozone. Inside, the grand space has been partitioned into rooms but the walls have yet to go up. From the sidewalk you can look into the second-story windows and see holes punched in the plaster ceiling. It’s a job site, in what looks like the early stages of rehabilitation. And according to Skip Alston, Guilford County Commissioner and founder of the Sit-In Movement, which charged itself with the creation of a museum on this site, the place will be open for business on Feb. 1, 2010, precisely 50 years from the day that four NC A&T University students committed their brave act of civil disobedience. Unfortunately, we’re not buying it. Alston’s declaration is a song we’ve heard before. The troubled history of Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum in 1993, when Alston and Rep. Earl Jones, then a sitting Greensboro City Council member, hatched the Sit-In Movement, a non-profit that quickly purchased the property and began renovations. An opening date was set: Feb. 1, 1995, exactly 35 years after the historic event. Fundraising began in earnest, and $450,000 of the $700,000 required to buy the property materialized by January 1994, according to the News & Record, which also reported a $15,000 take from the group’s first official fundraiser in February of that year. That’s when the group put the price tag at $5.7 million. Right around 1994, the city floated plans to build a public-access TV studio in the space. And the opening date was pushed back to 1996. In 1995 Rosa Parks stopped by for a ceremony. Also, the non profit fired museum Manager James Mayes, who charged “inadequate record keeping and accountability,” according to a newspaper report. And the opening date was pushed back to 1997, then 1998.

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