News / USA

Remembering the 1960s 'Sit-in' Civil Rights Movement

FILE - The lunch counter at the former F.W. Woolworth is shown at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, N.C., Jan. 7, 2010.
FILE - The lunch counter at the former F.W. Woolworth is shown at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, N.C., Jan. 7, 2010.
Chris Simkins
February is U.S. Black History Month, a time to pay tribute to people and events that helped shape the history of African Americans.  A pivotal moment in that history happened 54 years ago when four black university students in North Carolina sat down at a whites-only lunch counter.  Their actions re-ignited the U.S. civil rights movement and the struggle by millions of African Americans to achieve racial equality and justice.

In 1960, Joseph McNeil and three other young black university students sat down to get something to eat at a "white's only" lunch counter at the Woolwoth's department store in Greensboro, North Carolina. "In our hearts we thought all racial segregation was an evil," he said.

When they were not served because of their skin color they refused to leave.  Jibreel Khazan was another member of the so called "Greensboro Four" who remembers the conversation he had with the white waitress 54 years ago.

Former North Carolina A & T students, left to right, Joseph McNeill, David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Jibreel Khazan, are shown at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., Feb. 1, 1980.Former North Carolina A & T students, left to right, Joseph McNeill, David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Jibreel Khazan, are shown at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., Feb. 1, 1980.
x
Former North Carolina A & T students, left to right, Joseph McNeill, David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Jibreel Khazan, are shown at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., Feb. 1, 1980.
Former North Carolina A & T students, left to right, Joseph McNeill, David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Jibreel Khazan, are shown at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., Feb. 1, 1980.
"What do you boys want?  And we said we would like to be served very politely.  And she [the waitress] said you boys know we do not serve colored people here there is a lunch counter for you over there," Khazan recalled.

The sit-in demonstrations grew and each day more students would came to the lunch counter in peaceful protests.  The action played a pivotal roll in the civil rights movement by helping to integrate lunch counters nationwide.  

McNeil and Khazan, the two surviving members [of the first sit in] returned to the famous lunch counter that is now a civil rights history museum.  McNeil said its a place with great symbolism. "It lets us not forget the suffering and sacrifice that made it possible for all of us to be better Americans just a little bit and to treat each other with a little respect, and that is worthwhile," he said. "To the extent that the [civil rights] museum fulfills those types of awareness then it serves a great purpose."

The February 1960 sit-in demonstration injected a new level of activism into the civil rights movement, which until then had largely been confined to fighting for equal rights in the courts.  After four months and $200,000 in lost business Woolworth agreed to integrate its lunch counter.  

McNeil said their protest movement has become more than just a part of black history. "I am a part of American history and America's influence in history on the rest of the world.  Things that are happening today probably had its genesis going back to the 1960's and even before that.  So it is good to be a part of that and to be on the right side of justice," he added.

The four black men who were denied service at the Woolworth store in Greensboro, NC thirty years ago, take their places at the same lunch counter to recreate their sit-in, Feb. 2, 1990.The four black men who were denied service at the Woolworth store in Greensboro, NC thirty years ago, take their places at the same lunch counter to recreate their sit-in, Feb. 2, 1990.
x
The four black men who were denied service at the Woolworth store in Greensboro, NC thirty years ago, take their places at the same lunch counter to recreate their sit-in, Feb. 2, 1990.
The four black men who were denied service at the Woolworth store in Greensboro, NC thirty years ago, take their places at the same lunch counter to recreate their sit-in, Feb. 2, 1990.
​Now the history of the sit in demonstrations lives on with a museum devoted to promoting an understanding of the struggles for equality around the world.  Joseph McNeil believes much remains to be done in overcoming racial barriers.

"The fight goes on and there is no turning back.  We are going to have to press ahead with as much vigor as we had back in the 1960's as we face challenges on a day to day basis.  We are talking about challenges in terms of voting accessibility and challenges in terms of social justice.  The engagement still needs to take place and we need to be prepared to stay in this thing [the fight for civil rights] for the long haul," McNeill stated. 

McNeil said its those same feelings many civil rights demonstrators experienced more than five decades ago.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid