Archive for May 28th, 2013

50th Anniversary of Jackson, Mississippi sit-in

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, MS, which was the subject of a famous photograph. Notice that the protesters are both white and African American (otherwise it wouldn’t be as obvious an attempt to integrate):

Tougaloo College students and faculty attempt to integrate a lunch counter in Jackson, MS.

Tougaloo College students and faculty attempt to integrate a lunch counter in Jackson, MS.

Here is the article:


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi will inaugurate a marker Tuesday recalling a civil rights protest 50 years ago when a white mob attacked a racially mixed group seated at a whites-only lunch counter.

On May 28, 1963, the mob attacked some Tougaloo College students and faculty members who opposed segregation by sitting at the whites-only counter at a Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in Jackson. Some of the peaceful demonstrators were beaten. Others were doused with ketchup, mustard and sugar.

The marker is part of the Mississippi Freedom Trail, a series of signs honoring those who challenged segregation. The sit-in was similar to other protests around the South and occurred two weeks before Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson.

The Woolworth’s, which was located on a downtown Jackson street, closed decades ago.

Here is a link to a first-person account of one of the protesters who took part in the sit-ins in a different town in Mississippi. I have included an excerpt, but please read the whole account here:

Mississippi Lunch Counter Sit-ins, 1963
From Anne Moody. Coming of Age in Mississippi.
“At exactly 11 a.m., Pearlena, Memphis, and I entered Woolworth’s from the rear entrance….before 11:15 we were occupying three seats at the previously segregated Woolworths lunch counter. In the beginning the waitresses seemed to ignore us, as if they really didn’t know what was going on. Our waitress walked past us a couple of times before she noticed we had stared to write our own orders down and realized we wanted service. She asked us what we wanted. We began to read to her from our order slips. She told us that we would be served at the back counter which was for Negroes…
‘”‘We would like to be served here,’ I said.
 “The waitress started to repeat what she had said, then stopped in the middle of the sentence.
“She turned the lights out behind the counter, and she and the other waitresses almost ran to the back of the store, deserting all their white customers. I guess they thought that violence would start immediately after the whites at the counter realized what was going on.
 “At noon, students from a nearby white high school started pouring in to Woolworth’s. When they first saw us they were sort of surprised. They didn’t know exactly how to react. A few started to heckle and the news men [by now this sit-in had attracted the attention of the local press] became interested again. Then the white students started chanting all kinds of anti-Negro slogans. We were called a little bit of everything. The rest of the seats except the three we were occupying had been roped off to prevent others from sitting down. A couple of boys took one end of the rope and made it into a hangman’s noose. Several attempts were made to put it around our necks. The crowd grew as more students and adults came in for lunch.
“We kept our eyes straight forward and did not look at the crowd except for occasional glances to see what was going on… Memphis suggested that we pray. We bowed our heads, and all hell broke loose. A man rushed forward, threw Memphis from his seat, and slapped my face. Then another man who worked in the store threw me against the adjoining counter…
“Down on my knees on the floor, I saw Memphis lying near the lunch counter with blood running out of the corners of his mouth. As he tried to protect his face, the man who’d thrown him down kept kicking him in the head…”