A peek into our collections, one object at a time

Greensboro Lunch Counter

February 4, 2013

Addthis Share Tools

Greensboro Lunch Counter, 1960
National Museum of American History

Greensboro Lunch Counter, 1960

This Smithsonian Snapshot celebrates Black History Month with the 1960 Greensboro Lunch Counter from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. 

On Feb. 1, 1960, four African American college students—Ezell A. Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil and David L. Richmond—sat down at this "whites only" lunch counter at the Woolworth's store in Greensboro, N.C., and politely asked for service. Their request was refused, and when asked to leave, the students remained in their seats in protest.

For the six months that followed, hundreds of students, civil rights organizations, churches and members of the community joined the protest and boycotted the store. Their commitment ultimately led to the desegregation of the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter July 25, 1960. Their peaceful sit-down was a watershed event in the struggle for civil rights and helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South.

To learn more about freedom and justice in American history, visit the National Museum of American History’s “Separate is not Equal” online exhibition website.

This item is one of 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection. It is currently on display at the National Museum of American History; to learn more about it, visit the museum’s website.