Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
As the elderly white woman approached the four Black students at the Woolworth’s whites-only lunch counter, Franklin McCain braced for the worst.
“I was thinking to myself, she must have knitting needles and scissors in that handbag of hers and they’re about to go right through me,” McCain recalled. “I mean, we were invading her space, a space we were told we could not inhabit.”
Fifty years ago today, McCain and three other freshmen at North Carolina A&T University took a stand by sitting at the lunch counter in the national chain’s Greensboro, North Carolina, store.
The store had no qualms selling toothpaste or light bulbs to Blacks, but a cup of coffee at the lunch counter? Out of the question. The Greensboro Four, as they came to be known, were fed up.
Instead of pulling a knitting needle on the young men, the woman placed her hand on McCain’s shoulder and smiled warmly.
“She says, ‘Boys, I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn’t do this 10 years ago,’ ” McCain said.
“That was the greatest source of inspiration to me, probably for all my life, primarily because it came from a very unexpected person,” he said. “You picture 1960 in the South in a little old white lady’s space and you are acting out of place, and she compliments you.”
McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond were refused service February 1, 1960, but they sat their ground.
The Greensboro Four’s act of civil defiance was commemorated today with the grand opening of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro. Three members of the Greensboro Four will attend the ceremony without their companion Richmond, who died in 1990 at age 49.
RTFA. A piece of American history that won’t cease to be relevant until we are nation at peace with differences in belief, color, opportunity. Actually living up to all the great words our politicians utter while patting themselves on the back.
It can happen. It will happen. In spite of the fools dedicated to holding back time and freedom.