January 16, 2012
They looked so young, the four college students who sat down and ordered coffee at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., on Feb. 1, 1960.
Legal challenges and demonstrations were cracking the foundations of segregation, but a black person still couldn’t sit down and eat a hamburger or a piece of pie in a store that was all too willing to take his money for a tube of toothpaste.
Those four freshmen at North Carolina A&T College — Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond — sat until the store closed, but they still didn’t get their coffee.
But that day helped spark other sit-in protests — led by young people like themselves — that spread throughout the South in 1960, energizing the civil rights movement. And the Greensboro Woolworth desegregated its lunch counter later that year.
It wasn’t the first time that food, or the lack thereof, figured large in the movement.