Woolworth's Lunch Counter Protesters

Audio:

Part 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 2
Part 3
Part 3

Notes:

Audio: Voices are sometimes difficult to understand due to the multiplicity of participants.

Image: Original caption: 2/1/1960 - Greensboro, NC: The participants in the first lunch counter sit-in are shown on the street after leaving the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth's by a side exit. The four North Carolina A & T students are (L-R): David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and Joseph McNeil. (No photographers were allowed into Woolworth's during this first protest; this is the only photo of all four original protesters together.).  Copyright: Jack Moebes/Corbis.

Ezell Blair, Stokely Carmichael, Lucy Thornton and Jean Wheeler

Date: 
Mar. 4, 1964
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Ezell A. Blair, Jr.
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Stokely Carmichael
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Lucy Thornton
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Jean Wheeler
Ezell A. Blair, Jr. Bio

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (1941-  ), referred to as Izell Blair in Who Speaks for the Negro?, is an American civil rights activist. In February 1960, while an 18 year-old freshman at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (A&T), Blair and three other students began a sit-in protest at the lunch counter of a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina. The “Greensboro Four,” as they came to be known, acted to challenge the lunch counter’s refusal to serve African Americans. By the spring of 1960 the sit-in movement spread to 54 cities in nine states in the South. After graduating from A&T in 1963, Blair encountered difficulties finding a job in his native Greensboro. He later moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he changed his name to Jibreel Khazan.

Image: Original caption: 2/1/1960 - Greensboro, NC: The participants in the first lunch counter sit-in are shown on the street after leaving the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth's by a side exit. The four North Carolina A & T students are (L-R): David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and Joseph McNeil. (No photographers were allowed into Woolworth's during this first protest; this is the only photo of all four original protesters together.).  Copyright: Jack Moebes/Corbis.

Stokely Carmichael Bio

Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998) was a civil rights activist. Carmichael spent his first 11 years in his native Trinidad before moving to Harlem in 1952 to join his parents. Carmichael attended Howard University, and by the end of his freshman year he joined the Freedom Rides of the Congress of Racial Equality. After graduating from Howard, Carmichael joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked in Lowndes County, Alabama, where he helped register black voters. Carmichael was chosen chairman of SNCC in 1966. In the late 1960s Carmichael began to vocally express frustration with the nonviolent tactics of many civil rights groups, popularizing the slogan "Black Power." Carmichael moved to Guinea in 1969, where he spent most of the last thirty years of his life. Once in Guinea, Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Ture to honor two African socialist leaders who befriended him.

Image: Original caption: Stokley Carmichael, Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee speaks to reporters in Atlanta, Georgia. May 23, 1966.  Copyright: Bettmann/Corbis.

Lucy Thornton Bio

Lucy Thornton was a civil rights activist. She was interviewed at Howard University with Ezell Blair, Stokely Carmichael and Jean Wheeler.

Jean Wheeler Bio

Jean Wheeler was a civil rights activist. She was interviewed at Howard University with Ezell Blair, Stokely Carmichael and Lucy Thornton.

Abstract

Ezell Blair begins this interview by describing his participation in the Greensboro student sit-in and describes the students' determination to keep the sit-in a student-led demonstration. Blair expresses respect for the NAACP and its methods, yet claims that some student activists believed that direct, non-violent action might be more effective at ending discrimination than relying solely on legal challenges. Blair and Stokely Carmichael then consider whether African Americans had, at that point, adopted new methods for achieving social justice. Carmichael, Blair, and Lucy Thornton discuss African Americans' desires to strengthen black culture and to become a part of the broader American culture. They also consider African Americans' place in the South. Blair and Thornton then discuss the need for improved studies of African American history, and Blair, Thornton, and Jean Wheeler consider the status of well-educated African Americans in black and white society. The three consider to what extent African American businessmen and ministers supported desegregation efforts. They also provide answers to Warren's question, "What is a Negro?," and they discuss whether racial strife in the South might one day end. Blair, Thornton, and Wheeler consider differences between the North and the South concerning race relations, and they close by discussing the possibility of civil rights activists increasingly turning to violent forms of protest.

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