By 1010 WINS’ Larry Mullins
Produced For 1010 WINS Radio by Sharon Barnes-Waters
NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – It was February of 1960, and all Joseph McNeil and his three friends wanted was dessert — from the counter of a five-and-dime store in Greensboro, N.C.
But the North Carolina A&T student said the white wait staff wasn’t having it — blacks weren’t to be served at FW Woolworth’s.
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“I ordered apple pie and coffee, and they told us, ‘We’re not going to serve you boys,’” he said. “We told the white waitress we intended to sit there until they did serve us.”
And so they sat.
McNeil, now a Hempstead resident, said him and his friends were back the next day. And they brought supporters — both black and white.
“And by the fifth day, we had filled the lunch counter, it had 64 seats in it.”
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Day after day, they refused to move. It sparked a movement, with sit-ins being staged by students at Woolworth’s across the land.
“Defying Jim Crow,” Dr. McNeil said. “We weren’t sure how we were going to be carried out of that place.”
By the fifth month, 70,000 had participated in those sit-ins, and in July of 1960, Woolworth’s was desegregated.
Reflecting on the event, McNeil put it simply:
“It was a down payment on our manhood.”