International Civil Rights Center
Four young men in the segregated South of the 1960s stood up for their rights by sitting down at a Greensboro lunch counter, and that act of defiance continues to echo across time. Their act of courage now is commemorated at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro.
It was the afternoon of February 1, 1960. Four freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College – Ezell Blair, Jr.; David Richmond; Joseph McNeil and Franklin McCain – entered the F. W. Woolworth store to do some shopping. After making some purchases, they sat down at the store’s lunch counter and asked to be served. At that time, the store served only white patrons in the seated area. Black customers had to stand in a separate area or ask for to-go orders.
Service was not forthcoming, but this simple act of peaceful civil disobedience and the amount of publicity it, and other sit-ins across the state, generated for the Civil Rights movement set in motion many of the changes for equality that would come to America in the intervening years. Black and white students would continue to stage sit-ins at the lunch counter until July 26, when the five-and- dime store changed its policy and began serving seated black customers, too.
The museum, which is housed in the old Woolworth store on South Elm Street where the action took place, immerses visitors in the sights, sounds and emotions of this tumultuous time.
Fourteen signature exhibits and a changing art and exhibit gallery present a broad spectrum of artifacts and archival installations on the civil rights movement. This includes an exhibit that allows you to experience the conversations of the four young men in the recreated NC A&T dorm, prior to their historic act.
As you move deeper into the museum, you also move along the timeline to the actual day when the four students first sat down in the segregated lunch room. There is a re-creation of Greensboro’s 1960s railway station with its “Colored Only” area as well as white-only restrooms and water fountains. Additional exhibits tell of the church’s involvement in the movement, of the segregated schools and about the politics of the time.
Besides the museum, Greensboro has plenty of other interesting attractions, such as the Greenhill Center for North Carolina Art, the Greensboro Children’s Museum and Wet ‘n Wild water park.
added: December 18, 2008
updated: January 11, 2012