Frank McCain, one of the “Greensboro Four” has passed away at 73. In 1960 as a freshman at North Carolina A&T University, McCain, along with three other freshman students, launched the sit-in movement when they refused to get up from a Woolworth’s lunch counter.
Sit-ins became one of the most visible acts of protest during the civil rights movement.
In its remembrance of McCain, [North Carolina Public Radio station WUNC] adds this account of the history day:
“McCain and his classmates walked into the store, purchased some items and then walked over to the segregated counter. McCain recalls: ‘Fifteen seconds after I sat on that stool, I had the most wonderful feeling. I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood; I had a natural high. And I truly felt almost invincible.’
“He hadn’t even asked for service. When McCain and the others did, they were denied. A manager told them they weren’t welcome, a police officer patted his hand with his night stick. The tension grew but it never turned violent. As McCain and the others continued to sit at the counter, an older white woman who had been observing the scene walked up behind him:
” ‘And she whispered in a calm voice, boys, I’m so proud of you.’
“McCain says he was stunned:
” ‘What I learned from that little incident was don’t you ever, ever stereotype anybody in this life until you at least experience them and have the opportunity to talk to them.”
In response to the students, Woolworth’s closed early and the four men were never served. The next day, another 20 students joined them and by the end of the week they were 300 students strong.
Newspapers quickly spread word about the sit-ins and within 2 months, 54 cities in nine states had movements of their own. The Greensboro lunch counter desegregated six months later.
McCain would go on to have a successful career as a chemist.
Rest in peace Mr. McCain. Your legacy will live on forever.
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