A Lunch to Remember

Fifty years ago this week, on a cold February in 1960, history was made close to my new town. Four African-American students from North Carolina’s A & T College sat down at a lunch counter in the Woolworth’s in Greensboro. They ordered coffee. The lunch counter was for "whites only" and these students refused to leave until they were served. They were not served. Some people taunted them; some walked away. According to one of the original four in an interview this week, one elderly white woman placed her hand on his shoulder and said, "I am so proud of you. I only wish you’d done this 10 years ago."

The voices of the resistance were heard and they helped usher in a tide of change. Mass sit-ins soon erupted at lunch counters in nearby Charlotte. Within five days, over 1,000 people joined the peaceful demonstration. Two months later, the lunch sit-ins had spread to 54 cities in nine states. Finally, after five months, the first sign of victory came. In July 1960, the first blacks were served lunch at a counter formerly only serving whites.

Five months seems like a long wait for that tuna sandwich and Coke. However, these students had already been waiting five years since Rosa Parks sat on a bus in Alabama in the "whites only" section. And still they were able to affect change and do it peacefully. Amazing.

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