Civil Rights and Non-Violence


The Sit-in

Sign reading “Visit Woolworth’s Luncheonette”

The Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in portrayed in FEBRUARY ONE started out with four students and a modest idea spurred on by the brutal killing of 14-year-old Emmett Till. But in just one short week, the non-violent act exploded into a mass protest that gripped the South and revived action in the Civil Rights Movement. Learn more below about how this pivotal event unfolded.

February 1, 1960
The backs of four men playing the Greensboro Four in FEBRUARY ONE, sitting at a lunch counter
(Photo from a re-enactment)
Four North Carolina A&T State University students enter Woolworth’s and make small purchases, saving their receipts to prove they are customers. The take seats at the whites-only lunch counter. Denied service, they remain seated. Police arrive, but are unable to take action against the four students due to lack of provocation. Woolworth’s closes early to end the incident, but the Greensboro Four vow to return the next day.

February 2, 1960
A TV reporter interviews two protesters The Greensboro Four return to Woolworth’s and sit at the lunch counter. Reporters and local TV news crews gather at the store. The intense television coverage helps spread the protest to High Point, NC by the next day.

February 3, 1960
The Woolworth’s lunch counter, crowded with the white opposition By opening time, students are scrambling to get seats at Woolworth’s, but there is also a growing opposition of whites who taunt the demonstrators. National news begins to carry the story and the protests spread to Winston-Salem, NC.

February 4, 1960
Female college students sitting at the lunch counter in solidarity with the protesters Female students from Bennett College and as well as three white students from Greensboro Women’s College join the sit-in. The protests effectively paralyze Woolworth’s and other nearby businesses.

February 5, 1960
A police officer stands in the crowded Woolworth’s store About 300 students are now protesting at Woolworth’s. The sit-in movement spreads to almost 40 other cities across the country.

February 6, 1960
The exterior of a Greensboro department store, Kress An estimated 1,000 protesters and observers fill Woolworth’s. The sit-in spreads to the nearby Kress department store, bringing downtown Greensboro to a virtual standstill. Both Woolworth’s and Kress close early after receiving a bomb threat.

February 7, 1960
Two white men in suits stand at opposite ends of the now empty Woolworth’s counter A&T students vote to suspend demonstrations to give city and store officials a chance to comply. Negotiations fail, and students resume the sit-in.

July 26, 1960
A black man and a white man sit side-by-side at the lunch counter Woolworth’s integrates its lunch counter.

Learn more about other non-violent protests during the Civil Rights Movement >>

Learn more about Emmett Till >>


February One: A Teaching Resource Guide
By Diana Wright

Feb. 3: Photo courtesy Greensboro News and Record
Feb. 7: Photo by Jack Moebes. By permission.
All other images courtesy of the filmmakers

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