I am guest blogging over at Thoughts in Progress today, so I chose to take a page from the Elizabeth Spann Craig book on blogging and re-post and article from earlier this month. It isn't one that got a ton of comments, but the comments it got were very powerful. I think this is an important post, so I hope you enjoy it. And come on over & see me at Mason's blog.
It is February. Love is in the air. It is a month for remembering others and the love that binds us. Or doesn't, I suppose.
On the third day of sit-ins, the number of participants had grown to 60. They took up every single seat at that lunch counter. Members of the KKK turned out to heckle them. By the fourth day, 300 studenst were protesting by 'sitting in,' three of them white women from a local women's university, and the protest had spread to a second store, S.H. Kress & Co. Still the stores refused to integrate as long as "other downtown facilities remained segregated."
On Friday, Feb. 5th, white segregationists seated their own at the counters in hopes of displacing the protests. Sit-in participants filled in the remaining seats and the standoff continued. By Saturday, more than 1,000 people packed the Woolworth's in protest. A bomb threat was called in and the store was closed. Protesters moved to the Kress store, which was immediately closed as well.
On Monday, Feb. 8th, students in Winston-Salem and Durham held sit-ins to show solidarity with the Greensboro students. The movement spread to Raleigh, Charlotte and High Point, then beyond to Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and "even Woolworth stores in New York City."
Talks and public votes showed support for integrated lunch counters, but, when it hadn't happened by April 1st, students began sitting in again at both the Woolworth and Kress stores. The next day, both stores officially closed their lunch counters.
Nearly six months later, on Monday, July 25, 1960, "F.W. Woolworth employees Charles Bess, Mattie Long, Susie Morrison and Jamie Robinson are the first African-Americans to eat at the lunch counter. The headline of The Greensboro Record read 'Lunch Counters Integrated Here.' The Kress counter opened to all on the same day."
(All information and quotes taken from the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.)
I am a woman. I know my history is as oppressed as African Americans, but I don't feel it as strongly as I feel theirs. I continue to feel shame for the ignorance that guided our country so recently in the laws and treatments of people who are our equals. I have never paid much attention to Black History Month before. However, with the opening of this new museum right down the road from me, my eyes are a bit more open. 1960 was before my time but it wasn't so long ago. And it is still 1960 in many places around the world. What do we do? We are all writers. We all have a pen that is, it has been said, mightier than the sword. Read I, Rigoberta Menchu or Revolutionizing Motherhood and you see how words brought change and safety to the oppressed.
So I ask you, do we have a responsibility? Do we have a job to do?