A sacred site preserved for generations
January 29, 2010
As co-founders of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, we invite you to join us at 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 , for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the historic Woolworth s tore on Elm Street in downtown Greensboro.
We have facilitated and witnessed the marvelous and sometimes tedious transformation of this site from a vacant building at risk of demolition into a vivid memorial to the 150-year struggle of African Americans to end Jim Crow segregation.
The courage of those who participated in this effort was demonstrated at this very location a half century ago, on February 1, 1960.
It was on this day that four young black students from N.C. A&T — Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan) and David Richmond — quietly sat at the Woolworth lunch counter and refused to leave without being served, knowing full well the potential consequences of their actions. This act of bravery sparked other sit-ins throughout America. The sit-in was later used as a civil-disobedience strategy throughout the world to protest all forms of human oppression.
Because of a decline in sales, the lunch counter at the Woolworth in downtown Greensboro closed in October 1993, and the store closed in January 1994. First Citizens Bank owned the building and had no further use for it, so a decision was made to demolish the building to expand an existing parking lot.
Recognizing the historic significance of the building, we approached bank officials with an offer to purchase the property.
It was our dream to restore and renovate this historic site into something that even our children’s children would one day visit to visualize and appreciate the struggle of African Americans who had fought so valiantly for change on their behalf.
On Nov. 3, 1993, Greensboro was again the site of a historic moment when we created Sit-in-Movement Inc. for the purpose of transforming the abandoned Woolworth s tore into the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. Through the hard work and dedication of our supporters and this community, our dream has become a reality.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony will symbolize a historic transformation from segregation to celebration.
To save the Woolworth complex site is to preserve sacred ground. During the civil rights struggle, lives were lost, indignities were suffered, and a reservoir of intellectual talent and potential to contribute to the development of humankind was unrealized.
The International Civil Rights Center & Museum will serve as a monument to those who endured torments, sacrificed their lives and livelihoods, and suffered a lifetime of humiliations. They moved America and the world closer to the spiritual principles of love and justice for all humanity.
We invite you to join the museum board of directors, staff, volunteers and supporters to participate in the ribbon cutting for the grand opening of this significant and historic site.
Rep. Earl Jones and Melvin “Skip” Alston are co-founders of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.