American History The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement Sit-Ins

On February 1, 1960 four African American college students went to the "Whites Only" lunch counter at Woolworth's Store in Greensboro, North Carolina and asked for coffee. They were refused service. They sat peacefully at the lunch counter until the store closed.

This form of nonviolent protest was known as sit-ins. African Americans would go to public places such as restaurants where they were not allowed to go by law. They would sit down in all the empty places and not leave. In restaurants, no other people could be served because there was no available space. Protesters would do this day after day until they were served. While not a new idea, the students in Greensboro sparked a new wave of sit-ins throughout the south.

Protestors in Greensboro

In Nashville, Tennessee the sit-ins became violent on February 27, 1960 when a group of white teenagers attacked sit-in participants. The Nashville police arrested not only members of the group who were being violent but the sit-in participants as well. Once the sit-in participants were arrested, new students quickly replaced them until about 81 were arrested.

Sit-ins continued to take place in Nashville until the day Mayor Ben West was asked if it was wrong to discriminate against a person based on race, and he answered yes. Shortly afterwards, lunch counters in Nashville were desegregated.

Numbers of participants in the sit-ins grew so that by the time the Woolworth Store finally decided to desegregate their lunch counters on July 25, 1960, more than 70,000 people had participated and more than 3,000 people had been arrested in sit-ins across America.


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