Fifty years ago, on Feb. 1, four black college students sat down at a whites-only Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. The "Greensboro Four," along with friends and supporters, returned to the counter every day for six months until the lunch counter was desegregated.
Their determination to resist Jim Crow laws inspired thousands of peaceful sit-ins and helped to end official segregation in the South. On Monday, in the same building that once housed the Woolworth's store, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum opens.
More Than Just A Lunch Counter
In the museum, the original room that housed the Woolworth's lunch counter has been essentially left intact. A row of metal stools with red and green vinyl cushions accompanies a black counter that stretches across the whole room. This is where the young men sat and asked to be served just as white customers were. And so for a lot of people today, it is more than just a lunch counter.
"We feel that this place here and this entire building is holy ground," says Skip Alston, Guilford County commissioner. "What took place here on Feb. 1, 1960, was very holy and ordained."
Alston's expression is somber as he describes how back in 1994, this downtown building was on the verge of demolition. He and his friend Earl Jones, then a city councilman, decided to buy the dusty, abandoned store and turn it into a civil rights museum.