The Front Blog

Conversations from the Four Rivers Region

Archive for February 5th, 2010

Black History Month: the Greensboro Sit-ins

leave a comment »

by Angela Hatton

February 1 marked the golden anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins. Four African-American young men walked up to a Woolworth’s lunch counter an hour before closing time and asked for service. They were denied, but they stayed until close of business. The groups action launched a string of sit-ins across the country by both black and white supporters of the Civil Right movement. Six months later, Woolworth’s integrated their lunch counter, and the actions of the sit-in participants were heralded as a landmark non-violent protest.

Below is a picture of the Woolworth’s lunch counter in the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington D. C. Todd and I saw this relic from the Civil Rights Movement when we visited there last week. Nothing in the Smithsonian’s statements say this is a reproduction, so I am assuming this is an actual slice from the counter. However, if anyone knows for sure, feel free to dispute that statement.

 This week, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum opened in Greensboro on the anniversary of the first sit-in. Launching the museum has been a challenge in itself; NPR covered the story

With all the attention around this event, I’ve thought more about what it might have been like to be at Woolworth’s on that day.  While I can’t say the below is a completely historically accurate depiction (warning: may contain anachronisms), it is at least inspired by history.

Greensboro, Fifty Years Later

First day of the shortest month, they began the longest wait with a breezy 
             idea: time for a cup, a bit of pick-me-up.
They swung into seats set up pink, blue, pink, blue, leaned their elbows on 
            the Formica and asked for four, black, with sugar on the side.
No dice; the waiter flipped past them like a boring newspaper page, and 
            zipped to the end of the line to fill an empty glass.
Someone sidled up (not too close) and grunted, “Ya’ll gotta go,” but they 
            were stone, hunched over with nothing to protect.
A man slammed his burger half-eaten on his plate, chucked a pocketful of
            change on the counter, and cut out.
A woman steered her children towards, then away, her heels clip-clopping
            double-time over their dismay. 
The steam from the coffee, the smell of the fries, the gluttonous motion of
            syrup slobbered over sundaes not for them, indictments all—
Chicken bones swung before a rangy, mangy dog. But they spread their
            shoulders, making their coats like the capes on watchmen, set to 
            guard the walls until  
Closing time and they slipped from their seats and out the door, surprised
           they were still alive, and knowing they’d be back tomorrow and 
A busboy wiped their scent from the vinyl stools; a slight impression
           lingered in the foam.

Half a century later, a section stays behind glass, four seats where no one
           sits. Shutters snap  family photos, a memory for the scrapbook.
Before we know this, we swing in your mother’s stools, trying to spin      
           ourselves sick. You scream, I scream for ice cream.
Little giggle-boxes naïve that they are two mismatched scoops: we beg for
            extra cherries on top.

Written by Angela Hatton

February 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

National audience responds: “Grandfather reflects on a segregated Kentucky”

leave a comment »

by Jacque Day

Listeners from all over the nation and across generational swaths have responded to Donnie Nicholson’s personal reflections on growing up in segregated Kentucky, as told in the piece that aired this week on WKMS.  Mr. Nicholson, who lived as a boy in Earlington, tells of his wonder and excitement on the long bus ride from his hometown to Cherokee State Resort in Aurora, a park built to serve African-Americans during segregation.

Chicago novelist Joseph Suglia wrote:  Cherokee Park was an oasis in a divided world, one that transcended its milieu and showed, in a blinding glimpse, the potentiality which exists even in a culture of apartness.

A high school friend of mine who lived for a time in the Deep South reported that a doctor’s office across the street from where he worked, in Mississippi, had a segregated waiting room. The year: 1993.

Before my stepmother Charlene Day set about her adventurous Sixties culture drift, she spent her childhood where I did, in the towns surrounding Pittsburgh (she lives today in Trafford, just outside of the city). Here’s what she had to say: Traveling through the South as a child, I remember the signs: at the department stores, at the gas stations, just about any public building. As a northern white girl they just didn’t make sense to me. If you were thirsty you just went to the nearest fountain. Not so in the South. I made a mistake and a sales woman came running at me shouting, “Don’t drink that water!” Scared me half to death! She added: The North had segregation; it just wasn’t so in your face.

I’ve included a link to Donnie Nicholson’s story here. We welcome your reflections. – Jacque E. Day, correspondent, WKMS-FM.

Written by Jacque E. Day

February 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

Posted in The Front Page

morning cram (redo edition)

leave a comment »

KY~ Triggcohol continues! err… Millwood gets a do-over. 101st Airborne readying to deploy. Frankfort gets sexually educated. House reps pass the driveby texting ban and a committee OKs fixing the unemployment imbalance.

TN~ Republicans: NO to Bredesen’s cable TV tax.

IL~ Metropolis snags a new business.


Written by Chris Taylor

February 5, 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in The Morning Cram