A woman’s perspective of the 1960’s Woolworth’s Sit-In
A crowd of around seventy-five people listened intently on April 12 as Marilyn Lott an alumna of the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG) and participant in the Greensboro sit-ins recounted her story of what it was like to stand up for Civil Rights on Feb. 4, 1960.
The event, sponsored by UNCG and hosted by Dr. Omar Ali of the UNCG African American Studies Department, was titled “Marilyn Lott and the Woolworth Sit-In: A Women’s College Perspective.”
The event was originally to be held at the National Civil Rights Museum, but was relocated for safety reasons to the Curry Building on UNCG’s campus.
The historical Woolworth sit-ins sparked similar non-violent protests that spread across the nation.
On Feb. 1, 1960 Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond sat at the Whites only Woolworths lunch counter asking for coffee.
They were heckled, threatened and ignored by staff but remained non-violent.
They were refused service and came back day-after-day with more and more students.
By that time they had organized shifts of people willing to sit at the lunch counter.
On Feb. 4, three White supporters from the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina joined them.
Genie Seaman, Anne Dearsley and Marilyn Lott entered Woolworths around lunchtime and sat beside A&T students during the sit-in.
Because of the publicity and media attention the Sit-ins received, Whites tried their best to counter act the sit-ins by sitting in the chairs and keeping the seats “White.”
“Because we all know that black rubs off right?” Lott joked. She recalled how people could show such “incredible stupidity in the face of fact.”
She went on to say that no one touched each other while they were seated at the counter, but Whites made obscene comments at sit-in participants.
“On the first day I went, I was given a seat immediately she said. It was easy because I was White. When the waitress came to ask me what I wanted to order, I said that the A&T students and others around me should be served because they were there first. The waitress couldn’t handle it and walked off.”
Mrs. Lott gave a very candid and animated account of her experiences during the Sit-In movement citing the dedication and commitment of the students who choose to be involved.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was in charge of organizing shifts so that someone was always at the lunch counter.
“We were still students. If we missed class or failed out, it would give the University cause to kick us out.”
“In the 1960s, the college gave everyone a class jacket. My fellow classmates and I would sometimes be wearing ours while we sat at the lunch counter protesting. That apparently made a statement that we represented the college and its ideals. I was not afraid because I know what I was doing was right.”
Both her family and friends were open-minded about her decision. The lunch counters were integrated by the end of July.
When asked if she regretted being a part of the Sit-ins she said, “Not at all. When you do something that right you can’t regret it.”
She encouraged the crowd to talk to family members about their experience during the Civil Rights movement and before then. “History that isn’t written down disappears.”
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- Brianna Mcfadgen, Contributor