Franklin McCain, who was credited with the most successful use of the sit-in as a tactic for non-violence against segregation passed away Friday, January 10th. McCain was one of the “Greensboro 4” who sat at a F. W. Woolworth’s dining counter reserved for whites only in Greensboro, North Carolina to protest the Jim Crow laws that plagued America.http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-franklin-mccain-20140111,0,3228562.story#axzz2q7peXhhi
McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, and Clarence Henderson risked arrest, intimidation, and possibly worse for having the audacity to sit at a segregated dining counter Woolworth's hoping to be served as anyone else. All four were teenage freshmen at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Years later McCain said in an interview, “If I were lucky, I would go to jail for a long, long time. If I were not quite so lucky, I would come back to my campus…..in a pine box”.
The tenacity that lived in McCain was acquired years before at the age of 14 when another 14-year old Emmett Till was mutilated, shot, and dumped into Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River for allegedly whistling at a white woman.
McCain told the Atlanta Journal-Constitutional in 2005 according to LA Times Reporter Elaine Woo, “Emmett Till never had a chance. My young mind would never let me accept that or forget it”.
The “Greensboro 4” were never served anything to eat although they sat at the counter of Woolworth’s most of the day until the store closed. They returned day after day for service and caught the imagination of other students and citizens of Greensboro who joined them in the protest. The number swelled from the mere four, to scores, then hundreds, and even over a thousand who marched down the main street of Greensboro to protest the racist practice.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensboro_sit-ins
When the national office of Woolworth's released a statement weeks later due to the national exposure to its policies to institute Jim Crow laws, the chain released a deviant message saying its locations would remain segregated.
Demonstrations sprung up in the North Carolina cities of Winston-Salem, Durham, Raleigh, and Charlotte while spreading out of state to nearby Lexington, Kentucky. Days later, sit-ins had spread to over 50 cities of the old South.
Roughly one week after the initial Greensboro sit-in began, students from other North Carolina towns established their own demonstrations. Nashville’s success predated any movement in Greensboro as in May of 1960, the majority of the city eliminated segregation.
The sit-in initiated by the “Greensboro 4” was credited for making the most effective use of the tactic and quickly became a model for other protests of the civil rights movement. The “Greensboro 4” sit-in method would be duplicated in hundreds of locations
On February 1st, 1960, although the “Greensboro 4” began the protests, the first breakthrough in May of the same year took place when Nashville integrated and did away with Jim Crow laws. The pressure from the college community and citizens accomplished what decades of segregation had put into place.
One by one, the bricks that made up the segregation wall were demolished thanks in large part to the efforts of McCain and the other three courageous black teens.