Sit-In Protests Are they Effective?

What is a Sit In?

A sit in is a peaceful protest in which a group of people occupy a place as a form of protest. These peaceful protests ultimately deny the establishment of revenue, as people are occupying seats and not purchasing anything. Sit-ins were popularized by four college students who conducted the greensboro sit-ins.

Greensboro Sit-In

Four African-American college students; Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair went to a lunch counter to conduct one of the first sit-in protests. While buying books and other school supplies in the F.W. Woolworth Company store, Greensboro, North Carolina, the four students requested to be served at a food counter. The group of African-American protestors explained how they were allowed to buy products in other parts of the store, yet were being refused service at the counter. As a result of being denied, the college students proceeded to sit at the lunch counter, ultimately denying them of revenue.

Arlington Sit-In

Around 4 months after the Nashville Sit-In, a series of Sit-Ins were performed by 13 members of the Non-Violent Action Group (N.A.G.). The interracial group went to a couple drug stores on June 7, 1960, the first being the People's Drug Store. After the group was denied of service, they protests for a short while until around 7 members of the N.A.G. went to a different Drug store. At this new location, a group of white teenagers harassed the civil rights activists, throwing lit cigarettes and various other items at those that conducted the peaceful protest. The American Nazi Party was also notified of the act of rebellion and a few members joined the white teenagers in harassing the group. N.A.G. did a few other Sit-Ins before five large business, including the drug stores that the group went to, declared the end of their segregated implementations.

Civil Rights Newspaper Article

After the four college students conducted their first sit-in, their protest was publicized by different newspapers around their area. This "set off" the movement of sit-ins, making them very well known and popular. So, when you are reading this article, think about the following question; How effective were the Greensboro sit-ins?

"A group of 20 Negro students from A&T College occupied luncheon counter seats, without being served, at the downtown F.W. Woolworth Co. Store late this morning — starting what they declared would be a growing movement.

The group declared double that number will take place at the counters tomorrow.

Employees of Woolworth did not serve the group and they sat from 10:30 a.m. until after noon. White customers continued to sit and get service.

Clarence Harris, Woolworth manager, replied 'No comment' to all questions concerning the 'sit-down' move about Woolworth custom, and about what he planned to do.

Today’s 20-man action followed the appearance at 4:30 p.m. yesterday of four freshmen from Scott Hall at A&T who sat down and stayed, without service, until the store closed at 5:30 p.m.

Student spokesmen said they are seeking luncheon counter service, and will increase their numbers daily until they get it.

Today’s group came in at 10:30 a.m. Each made a small purchase one counter over from the luncheon counter, then sat in groups of three or four as spaces became vacant.

There was no disturbance and there appeared to be no conversation except among the groups. Some students pulled out books and appeared to be studying. The group today wrote to the president of Woolworth asking 'a firm stand to eliminate this discrimination,' and signed the letter as members of the Student Executive Committee for Justice.

Spokesmen Franklin McLain and Ezell Blair Jr., stated that the group is seeking luncheon counter service and will continue its push 'several days, several weeks … until something is done.'

Both declared the movement is a student one, with no backing from the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. They said they expect they could count on NAACP backing if needed. The move is not school connected, they added, but they hope to encourage more students to participate and hope that Bennett College students will join.

Four leaders, who were at Woolworths yesterday and again today, were named as McLain, of Washington; Blair, of Greensboro; David Richmond, Greensboro, and Joseph McNeill, Wilmington, all freshmen. They said today’s groups came chiefly from Scott Hall at the college.

Blair declared that Negro adults 'have been complacent and fearful.' He declared 'It is time for someone to wake up and change the situation… and we decided to start here.'

McLain said no economic boycott is planned. 'We like to spend our money here, but we want to spend it at the lunch counter as well as the counter next to it.'

Dr. George C Simkins Jr., head of the local chapter of NAACP, said that organization had no knowledge of the movement prior to its arising spontaneously. He said the group is 100 per cent behind the idea, and 'if any legal action arises as a result, the NAACP is prepared to back the group'" (Sykes 1960).

After the Greensboro Sit-Ins, James Baldwin created the following quote that described how all of Africa will be free before black people can go to a lunch counter and be served. Baldwin talked about a cup of coffee in particular, as this was the beverage that the Greensboro boys asked for during their first sit-in.

"All of Africa will be free before we can get a lousy cup of coffee."

-- James Baldwin

In the various Civil Rights Sit-Ins made by African Americans, some were met with adversity, while others stayed tranquil. The picture on top illustrates a few black protestors being brutally beaten up by a large quantity of white men. This is different from the bottom left and right pictures, where the protests remained peaceful throughout the sit-in.

Nashville sit-in Blog Post

February 27, 1960, the day I had been anticipating for weeks on end. The day that I could finally take action on the segregation occurring in lunch counters all over the south. As I sat down at the lunch counter, I felt a sense of rebellion radiate through my body. I looked to my left and right and saw a sign that read, "Fountain closed in the interest of public safety". I was very uncertain of the things that were to come, or what would happen throughout our sit-in, but I did know that no matter what, I would keep my butt would be glued to my chair. After taking a seat, we all asked to be served and as expected, the waiter refused to do this. Prepared for this response, my peers and I just sat in the chairs, and in doing so, denied the store of potential revenue they would be earning if they served us. After a couple hours of "sitting-in", a group of white teenagers surrounded us like voracious sharks and began to spit vulgar language before beating on us. Staying true to the promise that I had made myself, I remained sitting in the chair. Just as I thought it could not possibly get worse, the police came and began taking my fellow protesters into custody, before inevitably taking me too. I complied with the men in uniforms, realizing that if i didn't, they would do unspeakable things to me. Taking my final glances at the lunch counter, I stepped into the police car, knowing that I would be back here as soon as I was release from my charges.

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