On February 1, 1960, four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat in protest at a segregated lunch counter in Woolworth’s, which started the student sit-in movement of the 1960s and inspired the formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Sit-ins were organized to protest Jim Crow segregation laws.
Eight months after that first sit-in, on October 19th, 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior and 51 others were arrested in Atlanta after refusing to leave their seats at department store lunch counters. Dr. King did not lead the protest, but was the most high profile member of the group. He was held on charges that his arrest violated a term of state probation imposed earlier that year. He was sentenced to six months at hard labor, but presidential candidate John F. Kennedy reached out to the King family and helped secure Dr. King’s release, earning him pivotal black votes that would help him win the presidency that year.
Hosted by the late D’Army Bailey, Moments in Civil Rights History is produced in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and is part of Comcast NBCUniversal’s “His Dream, Our Stories” project. Visit His Dream, Our Stories for more Civil Rights History, first-hand accounts from those who led, participated in, or benefited from the Movement, or to share a civil rights story of your own (or that of a loved one).