Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolent protests for racial equality, four black college students in 1960 requested service at a “whites-only” café at a local Woolworth’s department store in Greensboro, North Carolina.
After being refused, the students – Ezell Blair Jr, David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil – remained in their seats and refused to leave until the store closed for the evening.
Despite being met by aggressive counter-protesters, the students were in the weeks following joined by hundreds of fellow demonstrators.
Willing to repeat the sit-ins for as long as necessary, by July the activists had forced Woolworths to integrate their canteen.
The protest ultimately helped spark a nationwide nonviolent sit-in movement, and contributed to the banning of segregation of public spaces in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Part of the Woolworths counter where the men sat is now housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, while the department store has been converted into a civil rights museum.
“Creating art honouring the Greensboro sit-in (and the Civil Rights Movement it was part of) is my way of giving back to today’s generation, especially to those who are in desperate times and troubles – to lift them up and teach them about their history,” Ms Collins said.
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