Assignment: Greensboro

Howard Students Document 50th Anniversary of Historic Sit-ins

WASHINGTON (Feb. 2, 2010) – Twenty Howard University students were in Greensboro, N.C. over the weekend and Monday, Feb. 1, to document the 50th anniversary of one of the most important efforts of the Civil Rights Movement – the sit-ins at an F.W. Woolworth’s restaurant.

It was 50 years ago that four North Carolina A&T students challenged the segregationist policies at a popular drug store chain and across most of the South and set about a nationwide movement that tore those and many other walls down.

Radio, Television and Film Department and Department of Journalism students in the John H. Johnson School of Communications covered and documented the historic activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the effort led by college freshmen Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin Eugene McCain, Joseph Alfred McNeil and David Leinail Richmond. Blair changed his name to Jibrell Kahzan

The students met and interviewed the three surviving members of what became known as the “Greensboro Four” and the “A&T Four,” attended and covered various ceremonies, celebrations and the opening on Monday of the new International Civil Rights Center & Museum in the old Woolworth’s building.

The students wrote for Howard University radio, television, Web and print publications and shared their stories with other news media across the nation, including the more than 200 members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. They also posted stories and compiled video on the Internet on the Howard University News Service site at www.howarduniversitynewsservice.com.

The trip was taped to be shown as a part of the Time Warner Seminar Series.

Reginald Miles, assistant professor in the Department of Radio, Television and Film and organizer of the school’s effort, said it was important to see how students from a generation changed the nation.

“They stood up so we could sit down,” Miles said. “Those boys were 17 years old. They were very young. They risked their lives and their future. That’s something our students need to understand.”

On Feb. 1, 1960, the students ignored the “We Serve Whites Only” sign, sat at the dining counter at the Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro and asked for service.

They were refused, but they stayed at the counter until the store closed. And they kept coming back and coming back and coming back until on July 26 of that year, the store reversed its policy and the sit-in movement had been born.

“By participating in these activities, they will be able to see how students their age 50 years ago changed the course of history and helped launch the Civil Rights Movement,” Miles said.