My mother was a black college student back in the late fifties, when African Americans were protesting segregation and joining together in protest marches all across the country. So when the documentaries begin to air in February during Black History Month, she often shares a favorite story.
“We used to get dressed up and do our hair, then go to downtown to one of the places that had a lunch counter. We’d stroll right up to the counter and take a seat. We’d sit there until the word got out and the newspaper reporters and the TV cameras showed up. Then we would race back to the dorm to see if we could see ourselves on TV.” She often laughs as she recalled the scene. “Man, if you went at the right time, you could make the news every day.”
It was a lighthearted memory, but it underscored just how tense the cities and communities were all across the South during the civil rights movement. Both of my parents attended black colleges in South Carolina in the late 50’s and early 60’s. It wasn’t until I went to college myself that I realized how fortunate they had been — in the late 50’s and early 60’s, only 3% of all black high school graduates received diplomas from a four year college.
It has been well documented that student protesters played an invaluable part in helping black Americans citizens obtain the legal right to fully participate in all aspects of American society. On Monday, February 1st, the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, the home of the first lunch counter sit-in, will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, a facility that has been located in the historic 1929 F.W. Woolworth building, which is the same building where the Greensboro Four made history.
According to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum website, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and Jibreel Khazan (formerly Ezell Blair Jr.) the three surviving members of the Greensboro Four, will participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the museum.