Civil Rights and Protests

Race Riots

When did the sit-in movement begin?

African Americans, particularly the young, became impatient with the slow pace that the federal government made toward dismantling racial segregation in America and disenchanted with what they labeled the legalistic and traditionalist practices of the NAACP in its efforts to secure the rights of black people. Students in black colleges decided to apply pressure on local and federal governments, thus beginning the sit-in movement. The first such movement to win concessions in a Southern state in modern times occurred on August 19, 1958, when NAACP Youth Council members sat at lunch counters in Oklahoma City; they were served without incident or publicity. However, on February 1, 1960, when four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (now University) in Greensboro sought service at an F. W. Woolworth store’s lunch counter, they were refused service, and launched the first sit-in movement to achieve major results. They also attracted widespread public attention. The students—Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil—patterned their actions after the passive resistance techniques of Mahatma Gandhi. By February 10 the movement had spread to fifteen Southern cities in five states. The original site is now a Civil Rights museum.


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