Celebrating the History of the Greensboro Sit-ins through Pictures

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An image of the Greensboro Four at a 1990 anniversary memorial.
At a 1990 anniversary celebration of the sit-in, the Greensboro Four viewed a plaque presented in their honor. Pictured from left to right are Frank McCain, David Richmond, Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair Jr.), and Joseph McNeil.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Civil Rights became a focal point for Greensboro, North Carolina — especially during the now iconic Greensboro sit-ins.

The Greensboro Four. On February 1, 1960, four A&T College students walked to the downtown Woolworth’s to challenge the store policy of “whites-only lunch counters.” They sat down at the counters and were refused service. Their actions sparked a nationwide Civil Rights Movement. Picture above from left to right are Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil. (Courtesy of Jack Moebes, News-Record.)

While this was an important moment in many places around the country, the national Sit-In Movement was birthed at the Greensboro Woolworth, a five-and-dime store that also served lunch.

The activists who would become known as the Greensboro Four were students at the local A&T College. One day in 1960, they walked up to the Woolworth lunch counter, which was segregated, and sat down. When they ordered coffee, the staff asked the Greensboro Four to leave. They refused and remained until the store closed. The next day, they came back with even more supporters. By the end of their stand off, the sit-in approach had started to spread across the South, raising awareness in some places and even desegregating public spaces in others.

Greensboro has continued to commemorate and celebrate the sit-ins and the Greensboro Four. Here are some historic photos of the city’s various events that have marked this important moment.

An image of Jibreel Khazan, a member of the Greensboro Four, at the grave site of David Richmond.
Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair Jr.), a member of the Greensboro Four, kneels at the grave site of David Richmond. The two were the Greensboro natives of the four A&T students who initiated the sit-in movement on February 1, 1960. Image sourced from Greensboro, North Carolina.
An image of  the head table at the 1980s celebration of the Greensboro Four.
During a 1980s celebration of the anniversary of the Greensboro Four and the sit-in movement, the head table leads the audience in the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” Image sourced from Greensboro, North Carolina.
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An image of David Richmond with Ima Edwards, the manage of thevWoolworth lunch counter.
David Richmond of the Greensboro Four hugs Ima Edwards, manager of the Woolworth lunch counter on February 1, 1960, when the students began their sit-in. The photograph was taken in 1990 at the 30th anniversary of the sit-ins. Image sourced from Greensboro, North Carolina.
An image of Warnersville, where the history Greensboro Sit-Ins took place.
Purely for business reasons, the Woolworth Corporation decided to close several of its local stores in the 1990s. Among them was the store in Greensboro where the historic sit-ins took place. A small group of Greensboro civic and business leaders, led by Melvin “Skip” Alston and Earl Jones, worked to preserve the site so that the lunch counter story could be told to future generations. Image sourced from Greensboro, North Carolina.
An image of McArthur Davies, the executive director of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.
Today, the historic F.W. Woolworth Building is home to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The Museum, led by people like McArthur Davis, who served as executive director for many years, strives to keep the spirit of the sit-in movement alive. Also, it strives to keep fresh the whole issue about the struggles and successes in this country and others that were inspired by the Greensboro Four. Image sourced from Greensboro, North Carolina.
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