The Importance of Knowing the History Behind the A&T Four

By: Victor Greene

On February 1st, 1960, four African American students were denied sitting at a lunch counter in Greensboro. The four were outraged and decided to take a stand and protest segregation. Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond were freshmen at the Agricultural & Technical College of North Carolina which is now known as North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. The four decided to have a sit-in protest in Woolworths, a variety store that had an eating area. African Americans were allowed to shop in the store and eat at the stand-up snack bar, but they were not allowed to sit at the lunch counter. 

They all knew the risks that could come with causing white outrage, and the fear of being beaten or even killed crossed their mind, but they didn’t let fear stop them from making a change for the rights of African Americans. “Blacks aren’t served here,” the waitress said to the four once they sat down at the counter. They remained seated, the owner told them to leave, but they remained seated. The owner called the Greensboro police chief who legally couldn’t do anything as long as the four remained peaceful and quiet. The store closed early that day and the four left peacefully without being arrested or harassed. Later that night they spread the word of what happened and began to ask more students if they would join the next sit-in. 

Woolworths was filled with more than twenty African American students the next day. The students were harassed by some white bystanders, but no violence took place. The movement began to grow and then students from other colleges began to participate, both black and some white students. Students in other North Carolina cities started their sit-ins. The Greensboro Four was not the first sit-in but the non-violent protest is what grew its notoriety. 

The Greensboro Four still inspire students to this day. They are celebrated because they stood up to injustice at a young age as a role model for future generations. The 64th sit-in anniversary on February 1st honored the four who decided to take a stand and played recordings from The Greensboro Four. 

“Thank God that we were protected from all danger but we’re dealing with psychological war. It wasn’t about how big we were it was about us being committed to a cause” stated Jibreel Khazan formerly known as Ezell Blair Jr. 

“They were somethings that bothered me as a young boy about this democracy of ours that was not real to a lot of people” stated Franklin McClain Sr.

“We weren’t sure how we would leave the Woolworth store February 1st, we might leave in a pine box we might leave up right as soldiers. We believed strongly in what we were doing” stated Joseph McNeil Sr. 

“Don’t follow your head, don’t follow your heart, follow your gut but don’t wait for anybody because they won’t come” stated David Richmond.