“I’m Sorry But We Don’t Serve Colored Here”

On Feb. 1, 1960, four black college students began a sit-in protest at a lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., where they’d been refused service.

Excerpt from The New York Times article chronicling the sit-in protests:

The spark that touched off the protests was provided by four freshmen at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro. Even Negroes class Greensboro as one of the most progressive cities in the South in terms of race relations.

On Sunday night, Jan. 31, one of the students sat thinking about discrimination.

“Segregation makes me feel that I’m unwanted,” McNeil A. Joseph said later in an interview. ‘I don’t want my children exposed to it.’

The 17-year-old student from Wilmington, N. C., said that he approached three of his classmates the next morning and found them enthusiastic over a proposal that they demand service at the lunch counter of a downtown variety store.

About 4:45 P.M. they entered the F. W. Woolworth Company store on North Elm Street in the heart of Greensboro. Mr. Joseph said he bought a tube of tooth paste and the others made similar purchases. Then they sat down at the lunch counter.

The students asked a white waitress for coffee.

“I’m sorry but we don’t serve colored here,” they quoted her.

“I beg your pardon,” said Franklin McCain, 18, of Washington, “you just served me at a counter two feet away. Why is it that you serve me at one counter and deny me at another. Why not stop serving me at all the counters.”

The four students sat, coffee-less, until the store closed at 5:30 P. M. Then, hearing that they might be prosecuted, they went to the executive committee of the Greensboro N.A.A.C.P. to ask advice.

The Greensboro demonstrations and the others that it triggered were spontaneous.

The protests generally followed similar patterns. Young men and women and, in one case, high school boys and girls, walked into the stores and requested food service. Met with refusals in all cases, they remained at the lunch counters in silent protest.

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Read the article in it’s entirety here: (Source)

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