[Blackstudies-l] 50th anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-Ins, Jeffries' commentary

Emilye Crosby crosby at geneseo.edu
Mon Feb 1 18:54:39 EST 2010

Hello all,

I thought that some people on the list might be interested in reading  
this commentary by Hasan Kwame Jeffries on the sit-in movement  
initiated 50 years ago today. Jeffries will be speaking at Geneseo on  
Feb. 25th. Look for more information soon about his lecture.



The Huffington Post
FEBRUARY 1, 2010
This is the print preview: Back to normal view »
HasanKwameJeffriesAuthor of Bloody Lowndes, RaceTalkcontributor
Posted: February 1, 2010 08:03 AM

The Sit-Ins Remembered: A Fight for Much More Than a Hamburger
Exactly fifty years ago, on Monday, February 1, 1960, Joseph McNeil,  
David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Ezell Blair, Jr., four freshman  
at North Carolina A & T, an historically black college in the heart of  
Greensboro, North Carolina, refused to leave a lunch counter at a  
downtown Woolworth's department store after being denied service  
because of their race in accordance with local custom and law.

It was a bold act of defiance, bold because African Americans in the  
South had been murdered for much less than challenging racial  
segregation at a lunch counter. The willingness of these four young  
men -- 'the Greensboro Four' -- to defy Jim Crow publicly inspired  
their generation. Within days, several hundred students from the  
area's black colleges and high schools were sitting-in at Woolworth's,  
and within weeks, African American students across the South were  
sitting-in at segregated facilities. By the end of the year, more than  
fifty thousand students, mostly African American and mostly in the  
South, had taken part in the sit-ins.

Miss Ella Baker, the guiding force behind the most daring civil rights  
organization of the Sixties, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating  
Committee (SNCC), which came into being as a direct result of the sit- 
ins, explained shortly after SNCC's founding meeting that the sit-ins  
were "concerned with something much bigger than a hamburger or even a  
giant-sized Coke." The students, she said, were "seeking to rid  
America of the scourge of racial segregation and discrimination -- not  
only at lunch counters, but in every aspect of life."

During this decade, we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversaries of  
numerous civil rights events, from the 1961 Freedom Rides and the 1963  
March on Washington, to the 1964 Freedom Summer and the 1965 Selma to  
Montgomery March. As we do, it is imperative that we keep in mind Miss  
Baker's observation. African Americans who risked their lives and  
livelihoods fighting to end racial segregation, whether it existed in  
law or common practice, did so because they wanted to enjoy their  
freedom rights -- the wide range of civil rights guaranteed by the  
Constitution and the full spectrum of human rights granted by God.

African Americans wanted more than to be able to eat at the restaurant  
of their choice or to sit wherever they wanted to on a bus. They  
wanted, fought for, and died for, full access to the ballot box; first- 
rate schools for African American children (and for many it didn't  
matter if these schools were all-black or not); unrestricted access to  
quality and affordable housing and health care; equal employment  
opportunities; and an end to racial terrorism, whether emanating from  
the Klan or the police.

Fifty years after the sit-ins, far too many people, African Americans  
in particular, and poor people and people of color in general, are  
denied their freedom rights. Far too many, whether because of  
circumstance or happenstance, are unable to send their children to  
decent schools, unable to find gainful employment, and unable to  
afford health care.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins,  
those committed to a just and equal society ought not simply reflect  
on the protests of the past, but should instead work with renewed  
vigor toward making the unrealized goals of a half century ago a  
reality. Just as the Greensboro Four sat down and changed the world  
around them, we need to stand up and do the same today.

Crossposted from Race-Talk.

crosby at geneseo.edu

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