The fateful lunch counter. (courtesy photo).
FIFTY YEARS IS A LONG TIME, LONG ENOUGH THAT MANY OF THE PEOPLE WALKING AROUND GREENSBORO TODAY HAVE VIRTUALLY NO MEMORY OF WHAT THE CITY WAS LIKE WHEN FOUR FRESHMEN AT WHAT WAS THEN NC A&T COLLEGE SAT DOWN AT THE WOOLWORTH’S LUNCH COUNTER AND POLITELY ASKED TO BE SERVED.
But to understand the enormity of what these young men did, there has to be context. We have to understand what life was like in the city before the 1960 sit-in to clearly see the myriad ways it has changed — and the ways it has remained the same — in the years since.
1960 was the year the FDA approved the birth-control pill. The payola scandals were undermining the integrity of radio. It was the year Elvis Presley returned to the US from military service in Germany.
Life on the ground in Greensboro was barely recognizable as the place where we live today. Wendover Avenue had yet to be built. There was no Piedmont Triad International Airport. Pisgah Church Road was an unpaved dirt path.
And among the citizenry, interaction was as proscribed by long-standing custom.
Separate drinking fountains, yes, and different entrances to buildings. Carefully segregated neighborhoods. Rigidly observed but unspoken mores given the moniker Jim Crow. Still, this was supposedly the enlightened South, where race relations were never as bad as, say, Mississippi. Greensboro was proud of its role in the Underground Railroad during slave days, and the city had elected its first African-American to city council, Dr. William Hampton, back in 1951.
Greensboro had two daily newspapers in 1960, the morning Greensboro Daily News and an afternoon paper, the Greensboro Record. Both covered the news of the Greensboro Sit-in in standard reportorial fashion, but in the opinion section, through letters to the editors and unsigned editorials, we can get a measure of the opinions of the general populace.
Recall that the Feb. 1 event was a relatively low-key incident, involving
the Greensboro Four, some Woolworth’s employees and a few policemen. The situation escalated quickly, and on Feb. 5 more than 300 participated in the protest.
The Greensboro Record addresses the sit-ins in an unsigned editorial the next day, framing the problem as one of truancy.
“[I]t strikes us that a lot of valuable time is being idled away,” the piece states, bemoaning the strain on law enforcement resources the sit-in created, finishing with this kicker: “We can see nothing but possible trouble resulting from the sitdown tactics being used by the Negro students.”
Thus began a flood of letters and opinion pieces that flowed through both newspapers while the national media came to town.
An anonymous Greensboro resident wrote the Greensboro Daily News Public Pulse section on Feb. 8. “These students have a lot more education than a great deal of white people I know,” he writes. “And yet they are still looked down upon. I ask, is this right? Are you proud of yourself Greensboro?” The next day RL Carter of Kernersville countered that the strike “only goes to prove two things we Southerners have been knowing for some time. 1) The Negro has constantly tried and is still trying to force himself on the white man and 2) Outsiders, who neither really know our problems, nor are in the least bit concerned, are everpresent to solve our troubles for us.”
In the following day’s paper, the Daily News took a conciliatory stance in an unsigned editorial bearing the hed “What Fools We Mortals Be.”
“The issue, of course, is serious. But isn’t it also a trifle ludicrous?… North Carolina has too much common sense to get hot and bothered about such foolishness,” it states.
“The sad truth about all this turmoil is apparent: It could have been avoided. If the management had welcomed the handful on the first day and given them
double portions of everything, they would have departed happy.”
The Public Pulse rang with point and counterpoint over the next three weeks. On Feb. 15, Eugene A. Hood of Greensboro wrote that the “mayor and police have been derelict in their sworn duties” to keep citizens safe.
“If the police, with the consent apparently of the mayor and the city administration, calmly sit by and allow the Woolworth and Kress businesses to be ruined, what is to prevent this same group of Negroes from branching out and doing the same thing to our two large cafeterias and to other restaurants?” Steve Patterson, a Miami resident who described himself as a frequent visitor to Greensboro, opined on Feb. 18 that he “cannot understand the Negroes permitting such deplorable incidents such as the harassment by invasion of stores, knowing what the white people have done for them, such as schools largely financed by whites.”
Two days later, the Daily News opinion section was loaded with sit-in commentary.
Greensboroan Dorothy Coble wrote, “All these years I didn’t know that the white people had been so down on the Negro and had worked so hard at holding him to the bottom of society. If the Negro has been smart enough to come as far as he has come in the past 50 years under such a heavy load it seems that he should be smart enough to carry on the way he has been without having to demand that the white people pick him up and put him where he is going.”
Thomasville’s RL Loftin said, “[T]he privilege of a seat at a counter can never be worth to the Negro what it will cost the Negro race in public opinion and good will.”
And Clay Brown of Ramseur summed up the situation thusly: “White man lands on coast. Drives westward. Pushes out red man. Now looks like black man is trying to root out white man.”
At this point the editorial stance in the Daily News began to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation it had called “ludicrous” just 12 days earlier.
On Feb. 20 an unsigned editorial titled “Common Sense and the Public Safety” cautioned that change might be inevitable.
“These managers cannot let purely business considerations direct their decision,” it read. “They must not remain blind to the serious nature of the lunch counter protests. They must open their eyes to the possible turmoil which could flare if their counters are open for segregated business with fanfare.”
On Feb. 22, “In Greensboro: Public Opinion on Trial” cautioned that the nation’s eyes were on the city, and that perhaps a reassessment of the social order was necessary. “In the aftermath of the latest student action, is it clearer that the community has been sanctioning inequitable treatment in the guise of ‘local custom’?” it read. “Public opinion is on trial. What will the verdict be?” And still the letters came in. Geo. D.
Herring of Asheboro wrote, “The very principle that is being invoked, the precept that all men shall be given equal protection under the law, is being flouted when Negroes, or any group of malcontents, try to compel others, by any means whatsoever, to mingle with them as social equals.” (Feb. 23, 1960) The same day, Shirley C. Hawkins from Greensboro called it a Christian movement. “[W]e Negroes are not trying to take over the white man’s position. We are only asking for our equal rights to which we are entitled as being citizens of the United States,” she wrote. “The white man wants to feel and be superior to all other races, is that it? However, if all men are created equal, as it states in the Declaration of Independence, we are entitled to our inalienable rights.”
The back and forth went on in the editorial pages as the sit-in movement gained steam across the state, and then the entire South. TW Chandler of Yanceyville said on Feb. 24, “Those who invaded private property in violation of the regulations of the owners are violators of our oldest and most timehonored laws and should be dealt with as lawbreakers” James E. Brown Sr. wrote on Feb. 27, “[T]he lunch counter sit-ins have brought to my attention an injustice that I formerly thought of, when at all, only vaguely.”
Graham Page of Chapel Hill said on Feb. 29, “If the older generations would leave the race problems to the younger generation, I feel confident that the majority of our problems could be solved.”
By springtime, President Eisenhower publicly supported the cause. And as summer came on, lunch counters in Nashville became open to African-Americans. The Woolworth’s in Greensboro desegregated its downtown lunch counter on July 26, 1960.
An unsigned editorial in the Greensboro Record that day, remarkable in its condescension, opined that, “This development will severely test the measure of this community’s good will between the races.
“We would remind the Negro citizens of Greensboro that privileges carry with them commensurate responsibilities,” it continued. “They should remember that this break with custom is a concession motivated by moral considerations rather than one compelled by legal authority…. And if the Negroes of Greensboro are wise and realistic they will be patient and reasonable in their attitude toward other relations between the races.”
When this battle is over: Skip Alston and Earl Jones’ civil rights heritage
Skip Alston and Earl Jones (courtesy photo)
Skip Alston and Earl Jones are heirs and leaders in the continuum of black empowerment that sprung from a flourishing movement for civil rights that unfolded in the wake of four NC A&T College students’ act of defiance half a century ago.
Savvy, complicated and powerful, their political fortunes have risen along the path of the 16-year epic journey of the museum from conception to completion. The museum, like the movement before it, has progressed through a subtle ballet of interracial cooperation. And no less than in 1960, the color line has run a deep, jagged chasm through Greensboro in this unfolding saga, with a chorus of white voices calling on Alston and Jones to relinquish leadership of the project. And now, with the finish line in sight, the two unbowed leaders are relishing the imminent opening.
“There has been misinformation and sometimes straight-out lies,” said Jones, who was a Greensboro city councilman at the time of the museum project’s inception and now represents House District 60 in the NC General Assembly. “It’s all designed to replace the leadership with a more accommodating leadership and Uncle Tom leadership. With that type of leadership, the museum should not be open because it would misrepresent the sacrifices that were made. If the integrity of the museum can’t be maintained as far as the accuracy of history, the character of the young men and the type of attacks that were carried out against those young men, then that would be selling them out.”
Alston traces his engagement with civil rights back to 1968, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis.
“The fact that this man put his life on the line for the rights of other people, to have common, decent human rights, that was a tremendous eye opener
for me,” he said. “Whereas other people would talk the talk and not walk the walk, he walked the walk. I asked myself: Who else would be able to do that in this entire country? And you don’t have too many that was willing to do that, that wasn’t afraid in order to speak truth to power.”
A real estate broker by profession, Alston would become the first African American elevated to chairman of the Guilford County Commission in 2002. He is quick to acknowledge there is no way he would have even thought about attaining the most powerful position in county government had it not been for the efforts of an earlier generation of African- American leadership in Guilford County — people like Dr. George Simkins Jr., the Rev. Prince Edward Graves and Katie Dorsett.
“The right to be able to sit at the lunch counter has been fought,” Alston said. “It’s a different struggle today. It’s a struggle for economic empowerment and economic rights. It’s not just civil rights; we have to fight for silver rights. That’s economic empowerment, the right to own corporations and employ people. The right to own bus companies, not just to ride buses. The right to own restaurants, not just go in a restaurant.”
Jones can take partial credit for a local civil rights milestone of his own.
As a young lawyer active with the Greensboro NAACP, Jones came under the mentorship of Simkins, a dentist and civil rights giant who led the fights to desegregate Moses Cone Hospital and Gillespie Golf Course and established the political action committee bearing his name that leverages black electoral power in local elections.
Since 1968, the white Greensboro political establishment had resisted calls by Simkins and others for a district representation system that would give black candidates a better opportunity to compete in municipal elections. In 1981, Dorsett and two other black candidates lost their elections to city council. The Stand Up Greensboro slate, in favor of preserving the at-large system, prevailed, and for the first time in years the city had an all-white council.
It was a Pyrrhic victory, however. Jones recalled that on the night of Dorsett’s defeat, he formulated plans to file a petition with the US Justice Department on behalf of the Greensboro NAACP to block plans by the city to annex the Cardinal area in northwest Greensboro. The Justice Department subsequently rejected the city’s plans to annex thousands of new, mostly white residents on the basis that it would dilute black voting strength.
City leaders quietly formed an ad-hoc committee to try to work through some of the most vexing issues dividing the black and white Greensboro. Simkins appointed Jones. The committee proposed a compromise 5-3-1 system, which allowed every resident to vote for a district representative, three at-large representatives and the mayor. While distributing power to districts, it still allowed every resident to vote for five out of nine council members.
Jones ran for the newly created District 1 seat in southeast Greensboro. His opponent was Cleveland Sellers, a veteran civil rights activist who had been active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an organization that sprung up across the South as a result of the wildfire of activism that followed the Woolworth’s sit-ins. Sellers had been involved in efforts to desegregate a bowling alley in Orangeburg, SC in 1968, when police fired into a crowd of demonstrators and killed three black students.
The election brought Jones and Alston together, and forged a lasting friendship.
“We had a forum in my first run for city council, a political forum at St. James Baptist Church,” Jones recalled. “And Skip was there. He asked my opponent a real hard question [that] made him nervous. People that were working on my opponent’s campaign accused me of planting Skip. I said, ‘I don’t know him.’ But that’s how we met.”
Jones recalled that the question centered on why Sellers would leave a well-paid position as an employee of the city of Greensboro for a seat on city council with relatively minimal compensation. During the campaign, Sellers received the endorsement of Jesse Jackson, an alum of NC A&T College who would go on to become an ardent supporter of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.
Jones went on to serve 18 years on city council until his 2001 defeat by Belvin Jessup. Jones and Dianne Bellamy-Small, the current District 1 representative, have waged one of the legendary political rivalries of local politics.
Years after Jones’ election, in 1988, Alston lost his first bid for Guilford County Commission. He came over to visit Jones and his wife at their house, and the couple tried to give their friend encouragement.
“Look, just because you’re knocked down doesn’t mean you’re knocked out,” Jones recalled telling Alston.
Four years later, Alston ran again and won.
When Woolworth’s first announced plans to close because of flagging sales, Jones said he persuaded the company to stay open for an additional year. He organized a reverse-boycott, urging black residents to patronize the business and try to save it. The effort failed.
Jones was well acquainted with Henry Isaacson. As lawyers with downtown offices, they circulated in the same tight professional circle. Isaacson, then as now, was the chief real estate lawyer in town arguing rezoning cases before city council. Isaacson, who is Jewish, has long been a key political and cultural broker in Greensboro. He was a prominent supporter of Yvonne Johnson, the city’s first African-American mayor. Appointed to the Greensboro Human Relations Commission in 1967, Isaacson would go on to serve on the NC A&T University Board of Trustees and the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority.
The corner of Elm Street and February One Place (courtesy photo).
“I had occasion to talk to him about another matter,” said Isaacson, recalling an early discussion with Jones about the Woolworth’s building. “I happened to be standing in his office. I asked him if he had read the paper that morning, where it mentioned that the Woolworth’s building was going to be sold. I remarked to him that we ought to save that building because of the significance of the sit-ins in the 1960s.”
Jones recalled that Alston came to his office on Nov. 2, 1993, and they discussed the fact that First Citizens Bank, which owned the building, planned to demolish it to make way for a parking lot.
“What about a civil rights museum?” Alston suggested to Jones.
Jones agreed immediately. They divided responsibilities, with Jones applying his legal training to the task of incorporating, and realtor Alston pursuing the option to purchase. They incorporated Sit-In Movement Inc. on Nov. 3, 1993. Coincidentally, it was the 14 th anniversary of Greensboro’s darkest day — when a caravan of Nazis and Klansmen rolled into a black public housing project, opened fire and killed five anti-racist, pro-labor activists as television cameras captured the carnage.
First Citizens accepted Alston and Jones’ offer of $700,000 for the building, but refused to finance the sale. A fundraising banquet was immediately scheduled. Deena Hayes and her sister Kim filled the first staff positions as coordinators for the banquet. Deena Hayes, who is now a member of the Sit-In Movement Board, would later become active in the local and state NAACP and fling herself into a variety of social justice endeavors. In 2002, she was first elected to the Guilford County School Board.
The nonprofit fell short of its initial fundraising goal, but completed the sale by arranging a loan with Central Carolina Bank. Doug Harris, a white lawyer and early supporter of the project who remains involved to this day, put up significant equity, and Alston and Jones each signed a personal guarantee for the loan.
Isaacson recalled that he came on the board in the mid-1990s.
“I think there were a total of four of us,” he said. “We were meeting at a small office on Martin Luther King Drive no bigger than a closet.”
Another early board member was Trudy Wade, a veterinarian trained at the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black institution in Alabama founded by Booker T. Washington. A conservative white Republican who currently represents District 5 on Greensboro City Council, Wade made her first foray into local politics with an unsuccessful run for Guilford County Commission in 1992. After losing her race, Wade was appointed to the county health board, where she served with Alston. Wade’s service on the Sit-In Movement Board in the 1990s would be repaid when the Simkins PAC, of which Alston and Jones are voting members, threw its endorsement to her in the 2007 and 2009 city council contests against Democratic opponents that were more liberal.
Wade, who stepped down from the board after about three years of service, said she is excited to see the museum open.
Over the years, Alston and Jones have drawn skepticism and suspicion for their role in the project that they founded. Jones ticks a laundry list of what he considers distortions by the majority-white community amplified by publication in the News & Record that he believes have been intended to derail the project: 1) That the museum has missed deadlines; 2) that he and Alston have mismanaged the project; and 3) that the two founders have lowered their profile so that their controversial reputations would not hold it back.
Jones said the original timetable, announced at a press conference in 1993, was 12 to 14 years. Dates for announced openings in 1999 and 2000 would come and go. A 1996 News & Record article stated that the museum was expected to open by February 1999, but quoted Jones as saying, “It may take two to seven years to do everything we want.”
Today, the two founders say their expectations were set according to the timelines of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, which took about a decade to develop, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which underwent a gestation period of 14 years. Like the Birmingham facility before it, the Greensboro civil rights museum would end up being snubbed by local voters in two separate bond initiatives.
Jones attributed a claim about the museum being expected to open in 1999 to an unnamed director.
“A lot of the conflicts that we had internally we didn’t put it out into the public,” Jones said. “That quote was from the director we had at the time. We said, ‘Look, you don’t contradict the schedule that we have.’” Isaacson has been in a position to observe the public conversation about Alston and Jones’ role in the project as the museum’s development has played over the past 16 years.
“They conceived of the idea,” Isaacson said. “It was theirs. They nurtured it. They stuck with it. They never let it go. I commend them for the follow-through that they have exhibited for this project. I tried not to pay any attention to the swirl of what you call controversy. I don’t think there was that much of it. The end justifies the means. Here is this beautiful museum. The proof is in the pudding.”
No less a staunch backer of Alston and Jones is another Jewish Greensboroan with a decidedly less genteel background than Isaacson’s.
Richard Koritz picketed the Woolworth’s store in Boston in 1960 as a 15-year-old boy intent on demonstrating solidarity with Franklin McCain, David Richmond, Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil, the four A&T students who initiated the Greensboro sit-ins.
“Really, it was probably my first independent political activity,” Koritz said.
“My parents were freedom fighters as Jewish white Northerners. This was a new generation, and I was feeling my way.”
Koritz brushes aside allegations sourced to a former executive director indicating Alston and Jones misspent museum funds.
“I think they’ve been good stewards with this dream, and I think they’ve carried out the leadership with integrity,” he said. “The attacks on them have largely been a cover for the old reactionary forces to block this institution that should become an inspiration for freedom fighters and justice-loving people today.”
After a 2000 bond failed, Sit-In Movement Inc. announced a partnership with NC A&T University, and many civic boosters hoped the university’s clout and prestige would boost fundraising and advance the project.
“I brought Skip and Earl in, and they met with the then-chancellor of A&T, and A&T did take an interest in the museum,” Isaacson recalled. “The chancellor became a permanent member of the board. I was on the board of A&T at the time. I thought that would be a good marriage.”
The new partnership with A&T brought then Chancellor James Renick and Obrie Smith, president of the university’s foundation, onto the board of Sit-In Movement Inc. David Hoard, A&T’s vice-chancellor for development, became the museum’s CEO. Hoard focused on fundraising, working with general manager McArthur Davis, who handled day-to-day operations.
“During that period, we received a grant of $450,000 to a half-million from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, we raised a half-million from American Express,” said Hoard, who has operated a fundraising consulting firm in Greensboro since leaving A&T in 2006. “Action Greensboro came on board. That’s when Action Greensboro made a commitment of $4 million. It added momentum. We selected the exhibit company. We selected the architect. There were a lot of positives that occurred. We selected Amelia Parker [as executive director], which was the best choice.”
Hoard and Renick’s involvement soon caused anguish for Jones, who worried that their emphasis on courting corporate sponsors risked compromising the museum’s bold message of social change.
“There was a big fight on the board,” Jones said. “To be honest with you, the new folks — Renick and Hoard — some of us were disagreeing with them because we felt they were representing the power structure. Skip and I disagreed on that, but eventually he saw the light.
“At the second or third meeting, they recommended four or five corporate business people to be on the board that had contributed nothing to the museum and I knew did not have the museum’s interest at heart. We voted it down.”
Hoard said he doesn’t recall any major conflict over increasing the standing of corporations on the board, seeming to take the matter in stride.
“My job is to bring in funding, so inviting CEOs to participate was part of the overall process,” he said. “Sometimes they get on and sometimes they don’t.”
Koritz said he fought hard, alongside Jones, to make sure the museum’s message of radical social change remained intact.
“The strategy of the board has been to go after corporate support,” Koritz said. “To a certain extent, that corporate support is at odds with the history…. From Woolworth’s to city government, they all have a stake in making it seem that there wasn’t that much opposition, that segregation was an evil that somehow survived without having tremendous backing on the police department, the banks, the insurance companies, a sizeable segment of white citizens and, to a lesser extent, some blacks, who found it easier to go along.”
Koritz — who, like Jones, is a member of the board’s content committee — said he lobbied for the museum to include an exhibit on Robert Williams, an early North Carolina civil rights leader who advocated armed self-defense as a tactic for advancing black liberation. He also acknowledged that struggles abroad for liberation that were inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins have not strictly followed nonviolent courses. For example, the dismantlement of apartheid in South Africa followed a three-decade long campaign of sabotage and guerilla warfare by black freedom fighters and their white allies.
Jones indicated the museum will emphasize nonviolence as a tactic and higher moral code of social change.
“What it celebrates is a process to bring about peace,” he said. “Because people have alternatives, they can see things better. There’s more debate, more deliberation regarding what’s the right way to proceed — what’s right, what’s wrong. And without that, you have chaos. Realize, during the Civil Rights Movement you had the Black Panther Party and other elements of the movement that advocated self-defense and, in fact, armed themselves and resisted oppression by arming themselves. So you’ve always had various elements in how people are going to liberate themselves. There is a moral and spiritual element embedded in nonviolent strategies such as sit-ins that really brings some sort of civility and some sort of deliberative process to the whole problem.”
A glance at the museum’s exhibit descriptions makes it immediately clear that Jones’ insistence that the history of the sit-ins not be whitewashed is being honored.
“When we look at what happened in Greensboro, there was not the bloodshed that people associate with other cities,” curator Bamidele Demerson said. “I would caution us to be careful in our analysis. Psychological violence was exacted. There were threats to their lives. In some cases, their livelihoods were curtailed. Those young men who walked that walk from their college dormitory knew they could possibly face expulsion from school, they could face maiming, they could face death. There was that psychological violence. That’s a psychological tension, whether it occurred or not. There was a psychological carnage quite predatory that was still there, but we’re grateful that the bloodshed did not occur.”
Demerson said the exhibits will emphasize that the four students who initiated the sit-ins took deliberate and thoughtful action with a clear understanding of the possible consequences, that their activism sprung from a lineage of struggle and that progress advanced in a context of community mutual support rather than individual heroism. He also emphasized that the purpose of the museum is not to embalm the past, but to inspire action in the present and future.
“Remind the public that these were young 17-year-olds who understood they had a mission, who undertook that mission seriously, that these were young men who had courage, who loved justice. And if we had more young people today who had courage and loved justice perhaps we would see more profound changes taking place in our society today.”
On. Feb. 1, Greensboro will have a monument to its place in civil rights history. Its downtown will have a legitimate tourist attraction and a new game piece in its continuing effort to nurture economic vitality. Skip Alston and Earl Jones will stand a little taller in the esteem of a public that has often disdained their contributions.
And Henry Isaacson, no less than anyone else, will be feeling vindicated.
“There were some skeptics along the way, but there always are,” he said. “There were skeptics about the new baseball stadium, about the Friendly Center and Lake Jeanette. Throughout my lifetime I’ve seen a lot of skeptics, but when things succeed they go away fast.”
176 days in 1960
FEB. 1, 1960 — Four NC A&T College freshmen Ezell A. Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), David Leinhail Richmond, Joseph Alfred McNeil and Franklin Eugene McCain take seats at the “whites-only” lunch counter. Although they are refused service, they remain until closing time.
FEB. 2 — The Greensboro Four are joined by 25 men and four women in their protest. Local media begins covering the story.
FEB. 3 — Protesters now number more than 70, made up mostly of area students from Guilford College, Bennett College and Dudley high School.
FEB. 4 — Three white students from Greensboro Women’s College join Woolworth’s protesters, while down Elm Street Kress becomes a second target. Protesters now number more than 150. The first talks begin between student organizers and store owners.
FEB. 5 — Another group of protesters made up of white students attempt to thwart the fifth day by blocking the lunch counter seats, and more than 300 people stand in downtown Greensboro by early afternoon. The first arrests are made — three of the white students, for intoxication and rowdiness.
FEB. 6 — “Black Saturday” sees the largest number of protesters, more than 500 including the A&T football team. A bomb threat convinces Woolworth’s manager HL Harris to close his store.
FEB. 7 — Similar protests begin in Winston & Durham.
FEB. 8 — Sit-ins begin in Charlotte.
FEB. 9 — Greensboro protesters declare two-week “recess” as Raleigh sees its first sit-ins and protests.
FEB. 10 — Protests of Woolworth’s spread to other Southern states and begin in New York City.
FEB. 15 — Greensboro City Councilman Edward Zanes opens negotiations between students, business owners and civic and religious groups.
FEB. 23 — Woolworth’s lunch counter reopens. Greensboro Mayor George H. Roach convenes the Greensboro Advisory Committee on Community Relations in order to gauge public interest in desegregation.
MARCH — The Greensboro Advisory Committee receives more than 2,000 letters, 73 percent of which are in favor of integrated lunch counters. Lunch counter owners refuse. By the end of the month, the movement has spread to 55 cities in 13 states.
APRIL 1— Greensboro sit-in resumes.
APRIL 2 — Woolworth’s and Kress close their lunch counters.
APRIL 3 — Thurgood Marshall speaks at Bennett College, warning against accepting “token integration.”
APRIL 21 — The Kress lunch counter in Greensboro sees 45 young African-American men asking for service. All are arrested.
JUNE — Dudley High School students take up the cause as Bennett and A&T students leave town for the summer.
JULY 21 — Woolworth’s announces in Greensboro its lunch counters nationwide will be open to all
well-behaved and properly dressed patrons.
JULY 25 — Four African-American Woolworth’s employees eat lunch at the Greensboro lunch counter. The Kress lunch counter in Greensboro is open to all.
JULY 26 — Woolworth’s lunch counters are officially desegregated. Sources: The Greensboro Daily News, the Greensboro Record, the Greensboro News & Record, www.sitinmovement.org