In 1960, four students were refused a cup of coffee because of the color of their skin. Their simple act of defiance started a [peaceful] revolution.
Prologue narrator: In 1960, four black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, had grown tired of being treated unfairly because of the
color of their skin. They decided to do something about it.
Racial segregation (separation) was widely accepted in the U.S. at that time, especially in the South. African-Americans had few rights. Those
who dared to claim their rights met certain trouble: anything from loss of a home or job to imprisonment or even death.
The four Greensboro students dared to risk such dangers. They staged a small, simple protest. No one then realized that their "sit-in" would help
ignite one of U.S. history's most powerful efforts for change: the civil rights movement.
Narrator A: During their first year at an all-black school, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin
McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond meet and become good friends. One night, at a study session, the conversation wanders.
Franklin McCain: It burns me up to be treated like a second-class citizen every time I leave this campus.
David Richmond: Me too. The white folks in town either ignore us, like we're invisible, or they tell us to "move along"--if not worse.
Ezell Blair Jr.: We may not be good enough for them, but they sure do like our money. They'll take that quick enough.
Joseph McNeil: Not everywhere. I can go into Woolworth's and buy a notebook and pencils, but they won't let me sit at the lunch counter and
buy a cup of coffee.
Richmond: The U.S. Supreme Court says that segregation is illegal.
McCain: Yeah, but nobody around here is doing anything to stop it. What's wrong with people?
McNeil: What's wrong with us?
Blair: You're right. Why wait for somebody else to do something? Let's take action ourselves.
McNeil: We should go into Woolworth's, take a seat at the counter, and ask for coffee. Then we'll just sit there till they serve us.
Blair: What if they don't serve us?
Richmond: They might arrest us--or worse. If the college hears about it, we could be kicked out.
McCain: That's how they keep us down. No one dares to take a stand. I say let's try! How about you?
Richmond, Blair, McNeil: We're in!
Narrator B: On February 1, 1960, the four friends, with textbooks under their arms, enter the Wool-worth's on South Elm Street. No one pays
attention to them. They make a few small purchases, taking care to request receipts. Then, exchanging nervous glances, they go to the lunch
counter and sit.
Waitress: You can't sit here.
Blair: A cup of coffee, please.
Waitress: Are you deaf? I said, you can't sit here. You boys know that.
McNeil: We'd like coffee, please.
Waitress: If you don't leave at once, I'll get the manager.
Narrator C: The young men sit in polite and patient silence. The angry waitress walks away.
Cook (whispering fiercely): What are you boys doing? Are you crazy? Or just stupid?
McCain: We would like a cup of coffee, that's all.
Cook: Why do you want to go and stir up trouble? You know that this counter is for white people only! It's rabble-rousers like you who make life
hard for the rest of us black folks.
Clarence "Curly" Harris (rushing over): What's the problem here?
McNeil: Four coffees, please.
Harris: We don't serve black folk.
Blair (holding up his bag and receipt): Excuse me, but I just got served at that counter over there. Isn't my money good here?
Harris: This lunch counter is for whites only. it always has been, and it always will be. Narrator D: A police officer arrives.
Police officer: OK, boys, you've had your fun. Now move along.
McCain: All we want is some coffee, officer. We're willing to wait.
Narrator E: A crowd gathers, staring in amazement. The young men sit quietly, reading their books. They stay at the counter until the store
closes for the night.
Narrator A: On campus, admiring classmates surround the students.
Classmate: What you did is all over campus! What'll you do next?
Richmond: We're going back tomorrow. Anyone want to join us? Narrator B: On the second day, 23 black students "sit in" at Wool-worth's.
Their polite requests for coffee are refused, and they are told to leave. Again, a crowd gathers. 'Some whites yell curses or threats, but the students
remain, reading quietly until closing time. One excited onlooker rushes to a phone.
George Simkins Jr: Operator, get me the office of C.O.R.E. in New York City. That's the Congress of Racial Equality. [pause] Hello, CORE?
I'm calling from Greensboro, North Carolina. Something is going on here that you might be able to help with.
Narrator C: On the third day, 85 students take part in the sit-in--more than the 66-seat lunch counter can handle. Those who cannot sit stand
quietly behind the others. At nearby North Carolina Women's College, a whites-only school ...
Ann Dearsley: Are they still sitting in at Woolworth's?
Liz Kent: They sure are. I heard that some of our students want to join their little protest. Dearsley: That's right. I'm one of them! Come with us.
Kent: Why should I help black people? They should stay in their place--the way it's always been. Dearsley: How can you talk like that about
fellow human beings?
Kent: They're no fellows of mine.
Narrator D: Simkins's call to CORE brings swift action. A team of CORE workers arrives in Greensboro and a meeting of the student protesters
Trainer: We all know how dangerous it can be to protest against racism. What you're doing is making a lot of white people angry. Where there is
anger, there is a chance for violence.
McCain: We've been peaceful. We intend to stay that way.
Trainer: Good. But what if a white man in the crowd takes a swing at you? Anger or pain may cloud your judgment, and you may strike back.
We want to keep that from happening. Here's what to do. ...
Narrator E: The students learn how to ignore abuse, and what to do if they are struck. They practice staying calm under pressure. They know
that they are taking a tremendous risk. But they don't give up.
Narrator A: On the sit-in's fourth day, Ann Dearsley and two fellow students join the protest. The same day, other students, black and white,
start a sit-in at a store across the street. By the end of the week, 400 students are taking part. By now, the Greensboro sit-ins have made news
nationwide. Soon, similar protests are being held at lunch counters all over the South.
Epilogue narrator: The protesters were yelled at, spat upon, and beaten. Many were arrested. In the first six months of sit-ins, more than 3,600
students went to jail. Often, they refused bail, opting to remain in their cells as another form of protest. The students' dedication amazed many
adults. As one girl told her pleading mother, "Mama, I love you. But I'm not free. And I'm not free because your generation didn't act. But I want
my children to be free. That's why I'll stay in jail." In 1960, segregation was an issue that most Americans preferred to ignore. But their children
would not let them--not anymore. In time, the young people won their struggle. In town after town, whites-only rules began to crumble.
Sit-ins were an important tactic in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Later, young people staged sit-ins to protest the Vietnam War and to
demand equal rights for women. What four young men started in 1960 left its mark on an entire generation.