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"I wasn't afraid because I was too angry to be afraid."
January 10, 2014 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four, has died. McCain was a freshman at North Carolina A&T College when he, along with fellow students Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond (who died in 1990), walked into their local Woolworth's on February 1, 1960, and sat down at a whites-only lunch counter. This spontaneous act of civil disobedience (previously) sparked what would come to be known as the sit-in movement to dismantle Jim Crow.
posted by scody (33 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

posted by lazaruslong at 12:52 PM on January 10


My grandmother lived in Greensboro for all of her adult life, although she was born a bit north of there in Reidsville. She took me to where that Woolworth's was when I was a kid to show me the place and tell me about what happened. She was really, really proud that it had happened in her city.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:54 PM on January 10

This took courage - real, physical courage.
posted by thelonius at 12:54 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]

As a contrast, in the 1950s, when I was a kid living near Vancouver, BC, I played little league baseball. One of the kids on our team was black, and likely the only black kid in town, but I had not been taught that there was anything different about him. If anyone had told me that he was black, it would have been like telling me that he was wearing blue socks. I would not have understood why they were telling me that. It would be nice if we could all grow up in a culture like this.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:55 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


American Hero
posted by oceanjesse at 12:57 PM on January 10


Absolute hero.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:06 PM on January 10

posted by Melismata at 1:08 PM on January 10

What the Greensboro Four did is something more symbolic than they likely realized at the time. The act of "breaking bread" with others is important. It ties us together. It says whatever our differences, we have this to share.

While nowhere near the significance, there were stirrings across the country in that era; any one of which may have become the fuse to light the revolution. My maternal grandfather was a (white) tobacco farmer in Kentucky. Because he had 6 daughters, and in that era, girls were expected to work inside the house but not in the field, he employed men from the local town to help tend his farm. Tobacco is a very labor intensive crop, even today. It was twelve hours a day, seven days a week of hard work.

My grandfather was notorious around town for making both the white and black farm hands sit at the same table for meals. It was scandalous, and is even mentioned to me, unprompted today when I visit nearly 60 years later by those who knew him. I still struggle to understand how such a simple thing could be so revolutionary, and yet, it was. He was a man of many flaws, as I'm sure his children could enumerate, but more even that little act changed the world just a tiny bit.
posted by petrilli at 1:10 PM on January 10 [23 favorites]

posted by lord_wolf at 1:22 PM on January 10

posted by radwolf76 at 1:33 PM on January 10

There's a museum largely dedicated to these guys in Greensboro, just recently opened. I'm from Greensboro and the sit-ins are such a big part of our local history that we even have a street called February One Place, after the date of the first sit-in. I wonder if those guys had any notion at all that they were making such history.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:35 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]

posted by teleri025 at 1:39 PM on January 10


and for David Richmond, gone on before.
posted by allthinky at 1:49 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:24 AM on January 11

posted by c10h12n2 at 6:16 AM on January 11

posted by dubitable at 7:30 AM on January 11

Another nice piece from yesterday: Yes, Greensboro Four pioneer Franklin McCain, you did plenty.
posted by scody at 10:28 AM on January 11

"He shared the tale of how he came to marry the Bennett College student he met at party in Greensboro not long after the first sit-in. When he didn’t follow up and she wanted to know why, he recalled telling her: “You’re a nice woman, but at this stage of my life, I am preoccupied. I am preoccupied with what I call life’s mission. There are not many things more important than that.” When the persistent Bettye called again, he told her, “Come downtown where I am, get on a stool and get on a picket line and you can see me all you want.” She did."
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:38 AM on January 11

I had the opportunity to interview McCain (and McNeil and Khazan) a few years ago about their commitment to non-violence. I apologize for the self-link but this is an important part of the sit-in story and the civil rights movement.
posted by Buckley at 4:28 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

No apology necessary -- I'm really glad you shared it!
posted by scody at 4:48 PM on January 11

posted by hydropsyche at 11:39 AM on January 12

Thank you for that link, Buckley.

Anne Moody's book "Coming of age in Mississippi" includes her description of participating in a similar action, blow-by-blow (which is, from the point of view of the activists, exactly what it was).
posted by goofyfoot at 9:00 PM on January 16

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