25 years after one of the most pivotal moments in the civil rights movement, the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter sit-in, African American participants return to the same lunch counter.
25th Anniversary of Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
No one was singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ 25 years ago today in Greensboro, North Carolina. That would come later. That day, 25 years ago, four young black men simply walked into a five and dime and sat in the ‘Whites Only’ section of the lunch counter. They wanted to be served. They were not. But they helped change the course of a country. And today, one of them returned. David Hazinski was there.
DAVID HAZINSKI, reporting:
David Richmond didn’t have to face cameras to get apple pie 25 years ago. But then he didn’t get served, either. And down the Woolworth’s lunch counter, Aaron Rushing wouldn’t have been able to sit next to co-worker Debra Diamond. Ima Edwards has worked the opposite side of this counter for 32 years.
IMA EDWARDS, Woolworth’s employee: It was just Southern custom to serve the blacks apart from the white. Now they get along. They sit down beside one another. They talk to one another, they come in together. It’s almost impossible to believe, you know, that it started here at this counter.
HAZINSKI: It started with Richmond and three other black students, who had the nerve to ask for food where only whites were permitted to sit, and it spread to fifty-four cities within days, and contributed to a movement that started to change the country’s mind about civil rights. The Woolworth's lunch counter closed down for five months because of what these four black students did.
DAVID RICHMOND, original activist: The courage was coming from Frank because he was huge, the mind- Joe, the speaker- Ezell, and I was a doer.
HAZINSKI: David Richmond, the doer, is now a soft-spoken janitor at a Greensboro nursing home.
RICHMOND: The status quo will stay the same way forever if you don’t rock the boat. Somebody has to do it.
HAZINSKI: Yet Richmond says what he and the others did 25 years ago wasn’t enough.
RICHMOND: It’s gonna take generations to change the attitudes in America, because we are no more a colorless society than we were 25 years ago.
HAZINSKI: But today, Richmond says that he still has peace of mind. And Aaron Rushing has lunch at Woolworth’s. David Hazinski, NBC News, Greensboro, North Carolina.
Forty years after it ended, the 1960s remains the most consequential and controversial decade of the 20th century. It would dawn bright with hope and idealism, see the liberal state attain its mightiest reforms and reach, and end in discord and disillusionment. Many would remember it nostalgically, and perhaps many more would describe it as an era of irresponsible excess.