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Monday, February 1, 2010

Beginning of the End of Jim Crow

Fifty years ago today, a few brave young souls from an historically black college in Greensboro, NC decided to lay their bodies on the line to express their conviction that they had as much right as white customers did to sit at the Woolworth's lunch counter. It wasn't the first such sit-in. It isn't commonly seen as the spark of the civil rights movement (Emmett Till's murder, or Brown v. Board, or the Montgomery bus boycott get credit for that). But the Greensboro sit-in movement, begun Feb. 1, 1960, sparked something. Within weeks, similar sit-ins had broken out in dozens of other towns. Within months, it was going on in 100s of places with novel variations. Jails started filling up as the common masses and college students took over what had been a somewhat elite-led movement. Three years later, the 1964 Civil Rights Law outlawed Jim Crow segregation in privately owned businesses that served the general public.