Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record

Greensboro has always been a great city, but living in the time that we do may make us forget how heavy the impact of racism and the civil rights movement was during this time. This was no different in Greensboro seeing as many important events occurred in this city. Many people even say that some of the events that occurred here even launched many civil rights movements. One of the greatest civil rights movements that occurred in Greensboro was the Greensboro sit-ins, as they were called, in which African-Americans used a passive way of protesting that involved just sitting in places where they were not welcome due to segregation laws. This very well may have paved the way for desegregation in many places of business and it known to be a very important part of this movement.

There was a department store in Greensboro called Woolworth which still had segregation laws against black people. There were four students from A&T that went to Woolworth and sat at the “white” counter and ordered coffee. This was, of course, against the store’s policy so the staff denied the black students their service, and told them that if they wanted to order something, they would need to go to the “black” counter. After some slight persistence, the store manager was summoned and asked the students to leave the premise. The four students, later to be coined as the “Greensboro Four” (Fyre), stayed until the store closed, despite what the staff said.

There was much more than meets the eye for the Greensboro Four. The four members consisted of Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond. Every one of these members was a Freshman at the time of the sit ins. Even though these students were brave through their actions, they were honestly not trying to start a revolution, they just wanted to fight for their rights. “We didn’t want to set the world on fire, Khazan said, We just wanted to eat.” (NC Museum of History) This something that can be very respected, because these students weren’t arrogant in anyway and realized that they were only trying to use their rights as citizens to eat at a lunch counter.
The next day, the Greensboro Four recruited about twenty more African-American students and went back to Woolworth and did exactly what they did before. This time, white customers picked at the student and made fun of them, but the students shrugged them off. The students would just read or study and pretend that nothing was happening around them. This was pretty hard due to the fact that there were reporters and and cameras recording everything that happened. People who watched the videos of what was going on were shocked and compelled to join the movement. (Fyre)

The next day there were more than sixty people who showed up at Woolworth. Even though the numbers were alarming and immense, the store still held to their policy and declined service to the African Americans. Surprisingly, the next day, more than 300 people took part in this movement. This was an insane number but they didn’t just stop at numbers. A part of these numbers decided that they could go to another store in Greensboro by the name of Kress, and spread the movement to that lunch counter as well.

This sit-in movement spread to other cities in North Carolina, and also spread to other southern states, such as Virginia and Tennessee. Not only did the movement spread but it also stayed firm in its place of origin. African-Americans initiated a boycott of Woolworth and it hurt them dramatically. Woolworth’s sales dropped during the time of the boycott and they were forced to drop their policies and serve blacks and whites equally.

After this happening, life in Greensboro changed quite a bit for African Americans. Sure, of course they were labeled as troublemakers and people continued to harass them on a day to day basis, but places of business were forced to start changing their policies. This change in policy made it easier for African Americans to use places of business with no direct segregation. It’s easy to forget that even though that performing a sit-in may be a passive movement, it was not always met with non-aggressive means.

It was hard for the Greensboro Four to come up with the courage to perform this, but if it wasn’t for them, it may have taken  many more years for desegregation of business to have taken place. This is an important part of history and an extremely important part of the civil rights movements for blacks as a whole.

Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record



“Fyre, Gaillard. The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneer.”

“The Greensboro Four, Series: Civil Rights. NC Museum of History.”

Works Cited

“Fyre, Gaillard. The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneer.”


About the Author

Anthony Garcia is a freshman currently attending The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is trying to pursue a major in computer and science and hopes to work for IT when he graduates. He grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina and wishes to move to New York after graduation.

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