Greensboro: A Coffee Date That Changed the World
Sixty years ago this month an event began in the heart of the Old South that forever changed race relations in this country.
Greensboro, North Carolina was a place where for years folks driving into town were greeted with a billboard reading, "Fight Communism and Integration - Join the United Klans of America."
It was here in early February, 1960 that four young Americans converged on a local Woolworth's variety store, where consistent with the laws and cultural more of the region, segregation was in force.
Until one day four African American students from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro – David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and Joseph McNeil – sat down at the whites-only segregated lunch counter in the and each ordered a cup of coffee.
Denied service, they refused to get up until closing time.
The four young men returned the next day, and a number of days thereafter, repeating the scenario until July, when the Woolworth Company announced it would no longer tolerate segregation at the store, in Greensboro or anywhere else.
The protest, as they would say today, "went viral" - sparking similar "sit-ins" at store across the South.
A few years later it was a Southern-born president - Texan Lyndon Johnson - that signed the Civil Rights Bill.
One of the four young men who "sat in" in Greensboro remains alive. The original counter is on display at the Smithsonian.
And curiously, that "United Klans" billboard stayed up on the outskirts of Greensboro for decades, amid trees and thickets, regarded by locals as a curious remnant of a past era.
[Source: Ben & Jerry website]