Memories of the First Greensboro Sit-Ins

See The Greensboro Sit-Ins and Sit-ins Sweep Across the South for background & more information.


As remembered by Constance Curry - SNCC, 1960-64, GA
February 1, 2016

Just thinking — 56 years ago today, Feb. 1, 1960 I was in my home town — Greensboro, NC to pick up some clothes to take to Atlanta where I was starting a new job. I was in the car and the radio said to the effect — "Four students from A&T college are seated at the lunch counter in Woolworth's asking to be served. The police will be making arrests, etc" We all know the history after that — "the sit-in movement" swept the country after that and involved over 50,000 students by June of 1960. I would never have dreamed that after my move to Atlanta, I would become involved with SNCC, etc.

Just needed to remind everyone about Feb. 1 1960.


As remembered by David "Dave" Dennis - NAACP, CORE, COFO 1960-68 LA and MS
February 1, 2016

Thanks, Connie, for the memories.

I was a senior at Southern University Lab School. Two months later Southern University students began sit/ins that led to the first mass march by Black college students. This was led by Major Johns, Marvin Robinson and Ed Brown My best friend at the Lab school was my classmate and younger brother of Ed Brown, Hubert Brown.


As remembered by Joyce Barrett - SNCC 1963-64, GA
February 1, 2016

I was a junior at Temple University in Philadelphia. I was transfixed as I watched the news that first day on TV. I had already been involved in other civil rights activities locally. Shortly thereafter I and others including my friend from High School and Temple, Prathia Hall, began picketing a Philadelphia Woolworths every Saturday. Prathia and I attended the conference in NC where SNCC was formed. And we both came South several years later to work in the SW Georgia project. Our lives were never the same since.


As remembered by Sam Friedman - CORE, SNCC, 1959-70, Washington DC, MD
February 1, 2016

I agree. Thank you Connie.

It was indeed a memorable day. I learned about it the next day, and 20+ years later wrote this poem about it:

Two-Two-Nineteen Sixty

I was a high school senior
sitting on the faded pink sofa
opposite our 10-inch black-and-white TV.
Opening the Washington Post before heading upstairs
to homework that never went away,
my future leapt like a mischievous eel
to electrify my life.

"College students sit in.
Arrests in Greensboro."

The coffee that wasn't served,
that remained in hot pipes
instead of steaming the mugs
of these era-busting black youth,
turned a frost-filled February into
the springtime of the century,
scalding out the sewer-years
that had been my life.

It was twelve years to the day
before my mother died
slain by the tobacco smoke and tensions
of sixty-four years in America;
and less than twenty before Ku Klux bullets
murdered my cousin's ex
in that same North Carolina town.

My childhood.
War with Japan.
War in Korea.
Earnest discussions
equating neutralism
with genocide.
Federal agents security-checking my father,
and neighbors shunning us,
when my father sought — and got — 
a major promotion.
Years reading Nuclear War Comic Books,
where we thrilled at pictures
of mushroom clouds over Moscow city
and the cremation of Chelyabinsk.

As I sprouted hair on my chest and my pubis,
my soul was a constant itch,
allergic to the life around it,
but unable to see how to scratch.
My teachers droned their dedication to science, technology,
and a poetry so personal we couldn't find its persona.

My life was written in the icy pellets ringing Saturn,
to reduce the symmetries of the stars
to symbols and formulas
beautiful in their own mathematical logic,
in between scratching the unreachable itch.

But this life was not to be. I was freed
with my generation.

Our fate
and our salvation
was to walk in circles
against Jim Crow,
to walk on Woolworth's sidewalks,
to shine our butts on merry-go-rounds
that wouldn't turn
for blacks and whites together
(or any blacks at all)
while their managers offered money to hoodlums
to pound our sitting bums.

We dissolved dull decades of desolation
in years of learning to walk in loving rage,
pounding our brains to discover
the jugular of their system,
the poisons that created
our never-ending itch.

Earlier version published in Journal of Progressive Human Services, 1998. Volume 9, #2: p. 91-93.

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