On February 1st, 1960, four freshman from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College College went to Woolworth in downtown Greensboro. They were all wearing slacks and dress shoes, two were wearing ties, one even wore his ROTC uniform.
They sat down at the lunch counter and waited; all day. Woolworth had a policy of not serving black people.
This “sit-in” which lasted till July of that year, spread throughout the South and resulted in the changing of Woolworth’s policy. The event, and these four, are now famous, but this wasn’t the first sit-in by any stretch of the imagination. But these four freshmen knew that. They were smart. They knew what they were doing. They were NC A&T students.
The school was once housed together with Shaw in Raleigh, but in 1893 they moved to Greensboro. Jesse Jackson graduated in 1965. They became a state University in 1967.
In 1969 a neighboring high school, the black high school, held student elections. Claude Barnes, an honors student, won by a landslide but the administration refused to allow him to join the student council. He was too into Black Power. The students protested and were ignored. The students went and asked the neighboring black college, A&T, for help and BOOM! No more ignored.
Picketing and rallying led to the eventual invasion of A&T’s dorms by the National Guard. Not figurative, but actual, invasion. In fear of the danger posed by unruly black college students troops invaded with tear gas and arrested 300 students. After ransacking the dormitory they eventually found 3 guns.
All in all several were hurt, one died. A young black man.
When I visited there were no militia, no unrest, just some kids going to school. Black kids and white ones too. Today the school is not known for its activism but rather its engineers. I traveled there from Philly because their engineers are good enough to justify the trip.