I first went to Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in December 2010 on my way to walk a stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. I went back a couple of times but I never stopped in downtown Greensboro until last week.
On Thursday, I took a detour in downtown Greensboro on my way to Raleigh and a Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail board meeting. This time, I wanted to visit Scuppernong bookstore and see if it would be suitable for a book signing, next year. It’s a lovely independent bookstore with lots of book events. The coffee is pretty good as well.
I also walked the several blocks of downtown, past restaurants, and shops. Then I passed a long building with a Woolworth sign on top.
Of course! This is the site of the famous sit-ins, now a museum.
Here’s a quick synopsis from the Smithsonian website.
On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their passive resistance and peaceful sit-down demand helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South.
In 1960, I was in high school in Brooklyn. Of course, I read about this sit-in and many more but now I was face to face with the building. Completely coincidentally, I’reading a non-fiction narrative No Place Like Home by Gary Younge. The author is a Black British journalist who came to the U.S. in the late 1990s to retrace the Freedom Riders.
Younge goes to Greensboro and finds the Woolworth building but then, it was only a closed storefront. He spends a couple of days in Greensboro, then goes to Charlotte to talk to Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four. Younge now is based in Chicago, reporting for the Guardian. The book is fascinating in its contrast between the position of African-Americans in the United States and Black Brits. It’s also very funny. I’m going to look up his other books.