Saturday was the 60th anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-in protest led by four young African-American students who attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. In 1960 in Greensboro, N.C., Ezell Blair, Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, also known as the Greensboro Four, were denied service because they were Black men at a “whites only” dining area at the WoolWorths General Merchandising Store.
The brave decision to still demand service despite the sign is what sparked the roughly 6 month protest from Feb. 1 to July 25. On July 25, WoolWorth began to serve all people, regardless of color, at its lunch counter. This act of desegregation in Greensboro led to WoolWorths’ racial segregation policy ending as well.
The sit-in sparked protests led by other students, especially students involved in the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. According to the National Museum of American History, protests like the Greensboro sit-in also led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation in public accommodations.
Though this piece of history originated in a place that is hundreds of miles away from Albion, the resilience of these college students is the same kind of resilience and passion that has been seen and should continue to be seen on Albion College’s campus.
Work still needs to be done. As far as diversity and inclusion go, not every student is happy with the way Albion looks right now. That’s not abnormal in a place as systemically unequal as the United States of America, but this doesn’t mean we end here at just our thoughts and our feelings.
If the Greensboro Four would have walked out of WoolWorth with their thoughts and feelings stuck inside them, people who look like them and others who are systematically marginalized would not be taking up the space we need to take up today.
There have been many instances where students on campus have allowed their ignorance to shine through cowardice acts in attempt to marginalize already marginalized groups on campus. From protests against the racist, homophobic, and zenophobic comments in Seaton Hall’s bathroom to protests led by Black Student Alliance to show support for the national protest for Jena 6, Albion College students have not been afraid to voice the need for change on and off campus.
Injustice has become a societal norm, and these issues don’t go away because college students need to focus on something else, like midterms and finals. Life does not flow a certain way because we as students see the world a certain way. It is important to recognize this and know when we as students need to speak on the differences in the way we see the world.
The Greensboro Four, along with many Civil Rights activists of the 60s and 70s, embodied this idea of voicing that the world is not one dimensional, and it doesn’t revolve around one group of people.
The pride that activists like the Greensboro Four have in their people is astonishing. To care about your fellow African American brothers and sisters enough to fight against ignorance for months is what radicalism looks like, radicalism in the sense of something necessary, something made of love and passion.
In order to consider ourselves a radical campus, also known as a campus that loves each other, respects each other and thrives with each other, we must also embody the spirit of the Greensboro Four.