12019-03-12T23:56:49+00:00Stanford University Pressaf84c3e11fe030c51c61bbd190fa82a3a1a1282415plainpublished2019-10-15T00:51:06+00:00Production Editor7a3dce28be212b1ba5b4a7a50f3d6a8d76b58c74On February 13, 1960, the Norfolk Journal and Guide and Cleveland Call and Post ran stories on the sit-in protests in Greensboro, which started on February 1st. The Journal and Guide described the college students from North Carolina A&T State University who were protesting segregation at Greensboro lunch counters by taking seats at the F. W. Woolworth store and refusing to leave until they were served. The students who initiated the protests—Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and David Richmond—became known as the “Greensboro Four.” The paper reported that “the protest spread from Greensboro to Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Fayetteville during the week” (click to view PDF).
The Call and Post quoted one of the protesters regarding the motivation for protests: “We believe since we buy books and papers in the other part of the store we should be served in this part...We drop in here before or after a movie and buy paper or pencils or a newspaper—It’s very handy for that. We say if we can buy one thing why can’t we buy another?” (click to view PDF).
The Call and Post opened their story by linking Greensboro to early student protests: “Taking their cue from similar protests by youth in Oklahoma City, a group of well-dressed Negro college students staged a sit down strike in the downtown Woolworth store last week and vowed to continue it in relays until Negroes were served at the lunch counter.” The paper had reported on the Oklahoma City protest, led by Clara Luper, on September 6, 1958 (click to view PDF).
What I like about these articles is that they show the formation of an iconic moment in civil rights history in real time. These stories were a small part of a vast amount of media attention the Greensboro sit-ins generated, but it was not at all clear at this point that Greensboro rather than Oklahoma City would be the sit-in protest that would be recorded in history textbooks.