The Greensboro Four Display at The Smithsonian
These four stools played a significant role in American history: fifty years ago, the fight against separate but equal began at the Greensboro, N.C. Woolworths lunch counter on February 1, 1960. Four students from North Carolina A&T, Ezell Blair, Jr., Franklin E. McCain, David L. Richmond and Joseph A. McNeil started the movement by continuing to sit at the counter despite being refused service.
Their protest withstood six months of intimidation, but despite their differences, the residents of Greensboro never became violent. During this protest, no one was arrested, and the protesters followed the peaceful, non-violent teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The four students let their actions speak out against the government doctrine of separate but equal. At that time, it was legal for public accommodations to be for whites only or blacks only as long as the facilities were “equal.”
The doctrine allowed separate restaurants, hotels, bathrooms and drinking fountains. The students could shop and spend their money on Woolworth’s merchandise, but they could not eat at the lunch counter. America seemed to understand the separate, but they forgot about the equal.
The students’ protest ended successfully on July 25th, 1960 when the Woolworths lunch counter manager served Geneva Tisdale and three other African American kitchen workers, but not cooks. This meal marked the end of separate but equal in American Society.
Fifty years later, the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History displays a section of the original lunch counter. Each day the Smithsonian commemorates the protest with an interactive skit.Continued on the next page