Fifty-one years ago today four freshmen from North Carolina A&T University — Franklin McCain, David Richmond, Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph MacNeil — launched a new form of protest in the South by taking seats at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C.
In 1960 the act of four black men sitting at a ‘whites-only’ counter in the South was enough to cause the citizenry to recoil in a combination of fright, guilt and anger. Twelve days later, at a McCrorys’ lunch counter in Rock Hill, S.C., more sit-ins began, causing Gov. Ernest F. Hollings to say that the act of ordering lunch was designed “purely to create violence and not to promote anyone’s rights.”
That Rock Hill McCrorys is now the Old Town Bistro, which I frequented when I moved to the Palmetto State in 2008. The original lunch counter is still there, underneath a new one, and the row of counter stools have nameplates to commemorate the nine original protestors from nearby Friendship Junior College.
Note that it was college students who pushed the movement. Greensboro and Rock Hill 50 years ago. Tiananman Square 20 years ago. Egypt today. As a college student, you don’t have to wait for someone to make a change. You are, in fact, the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to societal shift. You have the power to force the difference and, in the process, make the adults better.
Black History Month isn’t just about honoring history. It is about making history. Below are a collection of stories of the Ivy League that illustrate just that. May you join them down the line.
Albert Bigelow, Harvard University
Theodore Boyd, Harvard University
David Dawley, Dartmouth College
Lucy Diggs Slowe, Columbia University
John Doar, Princeton University
The Granger Brothers, Dartmouth College
Levi Jackson, Yale University
Ben Johnson, Columbia University
Stephen Machooka, Cornell University
Gregg Morris, Cornell University
Chris Ohiri, Harvard University
Fritz Pollard, Brown University
Kurt Schmoke, Yale University
John Baxter Taylor, University of Pennsylvania
Roosevelt Thompson, Yale University
Art Wilson, Princeton University
The Black Quarterbacks of the Ivy League
Blackball: The Story of the Ivy Baseball Before Jackie Robinson