By Hasan Kwame Jeffries,
Exactly fifty years ago, on Monday, February 1, 1960, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Ezell Blair, Jr., four freshman at North Carolina A & T, an historically black college in the heart of Greensboro, North Carolina, refused to leave a lunch counter at a downtown Woolworth’s department store after being denied service because of their race in accordance with local custom and law.
It was a bold act of defiance, bold because African Americans in the South had been murdered for much less than challenging racial segregation at a lunch counter. The willingness of these four young men — ‘the Greensboro Four’ — to defy Jim Crow publicly inspired their generation. Within days, several hundred students from the area’s black colleges and high schools were sitting-in at Woolworth’s, and within weeks, African American students across the South were sitting-in at segregated facilities. By the end of the year, more than fifty thousand students, mostly African American and mostly in the South, had taken part in the sit-ins.