The Greensboro Four are synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement. A southern revolution was ignited when Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond asked for coffee at the segregated Woolworth’s counter. The four freshmen from Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, which is now North Carolina A&T State University, agreed to risk their health and academic livelihoods to integrate a community staple.
Even with the presence of the police department and constant intimidation from opponents, the Greensboro Four remained stoic, dignified, and determined. The students stewed in leftover food tossed at them and saliva tarnishing the smoothness of their skin. But their sacrifice magnified the indecencies of the “separate but equal” argument. Their act of rebellion sparked a wildfire: Dozens of lunch counters closed, President Dwight Eisenhower issued a statement of support, and Nashville students used similar tactics three months later to attain citywide desegregation.
More than 50 years later, a statue has been erected on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University to honor the courage displayed by the Greensboro Four. On the 50th anniversary of the initial sit-in, the historic Woolworth’s counter was transformed into a Civil Rights museum with a section dedicated to the events of February 1, 1960. All recognize and appreciate the heroism exhibited by those fearless freshmen.
But where is the gratitude for the women that were influential in organizing the sit-ins? There are no statues or mentions in history books of the Bennett College* students who were responsible for forming the movement. In November 1959, students at Bennett, a historical black institution for African-American women, recognized the disparities of segregation and decided to stage a meeting to discuss action. The Greensboro Four and others from neighboring colleges attended and with the encouragement of the Bennett Belles, planned to begin the sit-ins before Christmas vacation.