Events Planned to Mark 50th Anniversary of Woolworth Sit-Ins
Fifty years ago, students from Woman's College stood for change by sitting with peers from N.C. A&T State University and Bennett College to protest segregation at Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro.
Their contributions to the Woolworth sit-ins - a nonviolent protest begun by four N.C. A&T freshmen on Feb. 1, 1960, and acknowledged as a watershed moment in the civil rights movement - will be celebrated by two events at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Both are free and open to the public.
The discussion "WC at the Lunch Counter: UNCG's Involvement in the Sit-In Demonstration of 1960" will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in the Multicultural Resource Center in Elliott University Center.
Forum participants will include Dr. Lisa Levenstein, assistant professor of history; Dr. Hephzibah Roskelly, professor of English; Dr. Tara T. Green, director of the UNCG African-American Studies Program; and Betty Carter, university archivist. Students will also participate in the forum.
On Monday, Feb. 1, the 50th anniversary of the start of the sit-ins, members of the UNCG community will retrace the steps taken by at least two of the three white Woman's College students who joined the demonstrations on Feb. 4.
Participants will gather at 11:30 a.m., and the commemorative walk will start at noon, departing from Guilford Residence Hall on campus and ending at the Phil G. McDonald Governmental Plaza in downtown Greensboro where participants will gather with other local college students.
A bus will be available for those wishing to participate who may not be able to walk the entire distance.
The events are part of the celebration to mark the anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins and are designed to recognize the role college women played in that history, Green said.
"Not enough is really said about women in 1960 and their involvement in civil rights issues," she said.
The three white students from Woman's College, who are often referred to as "The WC Three," were the first whites to join the sit-in movement, breaking ranks from the racist norms of the time. Their actions weren't without consequences, both on and off campus. In the store, segregation supporters hurled insults at them.
At the end of the day's protest, students from N.C. A&T encircled the women for protection as they waited for a cab to take them back to campus. Back on campus, the students received threatening phone calls and letters and were summoned before a high ranking dean to explain their actions.
Woman's College, which integrated in 1956, also had black students who participated in the sit-ins.
The sit-in protests, which resulted in the integration of the Woolworth's lunch counter in July 1960, were largely lead by college students.
"Once we look at their backgrounds and the fact they went into a situation where they weren't well received, it adds something to the conversation about civil rights that students may not have thought about," Green said. "We're talking about people who were barely 20 years old."
UNCG's sit-in anniversary events are sponsored by the African-American Studies Program, the Women's and Gender Studies Program, the Office of the Provost, the Department of History, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Linda Carlisle Distinguished Excellence Professorship.
For more information, contact the African-American Studies Program at (336) 334-5507 or www.uncg.edu/afs.
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