Sit-Ins: A Nonviolent Protest Case Study By Collin Taylor

What is a Sit-In?

Sit-In: Any organized protest in which a group of people peacefully occupy and refuse to leave a premises. Sit-Ins were a popular form of protest during the Civil Rights Movement, but were they effective? Did the hours of sitting in stores and restaurants really make a difference, or were they irrelevant in helping the cause?

To boycott segregation, activists would go to all white restaurants and refuse to leave.

Sit-Ins During the Civil Rights Movement

During the time of extreme segregation, the oppressed African Americans participated in peaceful protests of the unjust Jim Crow laws. These laws said the black people had to be completely segregated from white people in almost every aspect of their daily life. Sit-Ins were a common form of protests at the time. Black people would go to a diner or restaurant and sit at a white only table. The restaurants refused to serve them, but the protesters sat their for hours, slowing down the business of the restaurant. Sit-Ins could get revolutionists harassed, arrested, or worse. It was a dangerous risk for the oppressed people to participate in a protest like sit-ins, but for many it was worth it to make a difference.

This is a collection of newspaper clippers from throughout the years involving debated stories in Nashville. The article on the bottom-right is about one of the most controversial sit-ins during the civil rights movement.

The newspaper article above is account of a sit-in in Nashville, Tennessee. On February 29, 1960, 75 students were arrested after a sit-in. What made this sit-in different than most was that the protesting African American students had such an impact on those around them, some of their white classmates join them in siting-in. This ended in an enormous fight, and soon the police were involved. This Nashville sit-in inspired many others, calling the oppressed to do stand up for their rights.

What sit-in protesters might have thought at the time during the 1960's

The sit-in at the Greensboro Woolworth in North Carolina was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Four brave African American college students from North Carolina A&M dedcided to stand up for themselves through a sit-in. They went to a local all white diner, sat down, and refused to leave. The students stayed at the diner all day, and came back the next day with fifteen more people. On the third day, there were over 300 protesters and 1000 on the fourth day. The four original men inspired a whole community to rise up together and fight for the equal rights they deserved. This sit-in encouraged many others, and soon people every where were refusing to live in the racist society.

Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson during the first day of the sit-in. Throughout the three days of their defiant sit-in, the boys were harassed, yelled at, and attacked; yet their wills were strong enough to to endure.
"Fifteen seconds after ... I had the most wonderful feeling. I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood. I had a natural high. And I truly felt almost invincible. Mind you, [I was] just sitting on a dumb stool and not having asked for service yet," - Franklin McCain

A quote from one of the initial members of the Greensboro Four about how what they were doing was like nothing he had ever done before.


PSA works cited in showbie

Works Cited

Corbis, Jack. Joseph McNeil (from Left), Franklin McCain, Billy Smith and Clarence Henderson Sit in Protest at the Whites-only Lunch Counter at Woolworth during the Second Day of Peaceful Protest, Feb. 2, 1960. 1960. Greensboro, North Carolina. NPR. Web. 13 Jan. 2017. <>.

Greensboro Four. Digital image. Slideshare, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2017. <>.

Harassment during a Civil Rights Sit-in at the Cherrydale Drug Fair in Arlington, VA June 10, 1960 -. 1960., Arlington, VA. Imgday. Web. 12/ Jan. 2017. <>.

In the Days after February 1, 1960, the Sit-ins Spread like Wildfire throughout the South. Within Three Months, Sit-ins Were Taking Place in More than 55 Cities in 13 States. 1960. International Civil Rights Center and Museum. International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Web. 12 Jan. 2017. <>.

Massed Police Halt Sit Down at Food Counter. 1960. Nashville Retrospect, Nashville. Nashville Retrospect. Web. 13 Jan. 2017. <>.

Norris, Michelle. "The Woolworth Sit-In That Launched a Movement." NPR. NPR, 1 Feb. 2008. Web. 13 Jan. 2017. <>.

Penrice, Ronda. "Sit-ins and Their Impact on the Civil Rights Movement." N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2017. <>.

"Sit-ins." Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle. Stanford Encyclopedia, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2017. <>.

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