Agitators attack a sit-in demonstrator at Woolworth’s lunch counter, February 27, 1960.
“The Nashville sit-ins, which lasted from February 13 to May 10, 1960, were part of a nonviolent direct action campaign to end racial segregation at lunch counters in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The sit-in campaign, coordinated by the Nashville Student Movement and Nashville Christian Leadership Council, was notable for its early success and emphasis on disciplined nonviolence. It was part of a broader sit-in movement that spread across the Southern United States in the wake of the Greensboro sit-ins in North Carolina. Over the course of the Nashville sit-in campaign, sit-ins were staged at numerous stores in the central business district. Sit-in participants, who consisted mainly of black college students, were often verbally or physically attacked by white onlookers. Despite their refusal to retaliate, over 150 students were eventually arrested for refusing to vacate store lunch counters when ordered to do so by police. At trial, the students were represented by a group of 13 lawyers, headed by Z. Alexander Looby. On April 19, Looby’s home was bombed, although he escaped uninjured. Later that day, nearly 4000 people marched to City Hall to confront Mayor Ben West about the escalating violence. When asked if he believed the lunch counters in Nashville should be desegregated, West agreed that they should. After subsequent negotiations between the store owners and protest leaders, an agreement was reached during the first week of May. On May 10, six downtown stores began serving black customers at their lunch counters for the first time. Although the initial campaign successfully desegregated downtown lunch counters, sit-ins, pickets, and protests against other segregated facilities continued in Nashville until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended overt, legally sanctioned segregation nationwide. Many of the organizers of the Nashville sit-ins went on to become important leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. … Before the students in Nashville had a chance to formalize their plans, events elsewhere brought renewed urgency to the effort. During the first week of February 1960, a small sit-in demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina, grew into a significant protest with over eighty students participating by the third day. Although similar demonstrations had occurred previously in other cities, this was the first to attract substantial media attention and public notice. When Lawson’s group met the subsequent Friday night, about 500 new volunteers showed up to join the cause. Although Lawson and other adult organizers argued for delay, the student leaders insisted that the time had come for action. …”
Nashville students sit-in for U.S. civil rights, 1960
Why This Nashville Restaurant Opened at the Site of Historic Lunch Counter Sit-Ins
YouTube: Sit Ins and March in Nashville 3, James Lawson Interview – Lunch Counter Sit-Ins in Nashville