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57 Years Ago Today Greensboro Lunch Counter De-segregated

Image: 57 Years Ago Today Greensboro Lunch Counter De-segregated
The F.W. Woolworth's lunch counter at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, N.C. (Skip Foreman/AP)

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Tuesday, 25 Jul 2017 09:15 AM Current | Bio | Archive

On July 25, 1960, Geneva Tisdale, Susie Morrison, Anetha Jones, and Charles Best became the first black Americans served at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The store served them as the first step in integrating its lunch counter. All four were Woolworth’s employees.[1]

The stage for this moment was set on Feb. 1, 1960, when four black students walked into a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, N.C.

As described in my new book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not":

Nobody knew it at the time, but Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil were about to make history. The students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College bought a few things, sat down at a segregated lunch counter, and politely asked to be served. They were refused, but did not back down. They stayed all day until closing. Within days, more than 300 students joined the protest in Greensboro.

In the 97 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the political system had not effectively ended segregation. Within a few months of the Greensboro Four’s sit-in, the first black customers were served at that Woolworth’s lunch counter. The reason for the change was simple and it had nothing to do with politics. Black consumers boycotted the store. The sit-ins and publicity surrounding them drove away other customers. The store simply got tired of losing money.

The sit-in movement spread throughout the South. There was, of course, resistance. Often it was the political system that led the resistance. But, in the end, it was action outside of politics that brought integration to American lunch counters and other facilities.[2]

The political resistance to change had been evident since the earliest days of the civil rights movement. After the Montgomery bus boycott desegregated bus lines in 1956, the city's political leaders implemented new ordinances that perpetuated segregation in the city. According to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these ordinances made it a crime "for Negroes and whites to play together or participate jointly in any sport or game, even checkers, or to use the same parks or playgrounds."[3] And, as King put it, "The two elements that are still most responsible for active segregationist sentiment are the newspapers and the politicians."[4]

Footnotes:

  1. History, "The Greensboro Sit-in," accessed July 24, 2017
  2. Rasmussen, Scott (2017). Politics Has Failed: America Will Not
  3. King Jr., M.L. (2010). Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. Boston: Beacon Press. (page 178)
  4. King Jr., M.L. (2010). Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. Boston: Beacon Press. (page 177)
  5. King Jr., M.L. (2010). Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Boston: Beacon Press. (page 18)

Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.

Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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ScottRasmussen
The sit-in movement spread throughout the South. There was, of course, resistance. Often it was the political system that led the resistance. But, in the end, it was action outside of politics that brought integration to America.
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