Friday, February 8

Kitchen to Classroom: Sitting In and Standing Up

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A weekly dispatch by our postdoctoral fellow, Angela Jill Cooley. 

The Greensboro Record, Tuesday, February 2, 1960.
 Last Friday, February 1, marked the 53rd anniversary of the sit-in at the Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth’s lunch counter—an event that triggered a youth movement dedicated to achieving civil rights. For this reason, it seemed appropriate this week that my class read Coming of Age in Mississippi, the memoir by civil rights activist Anne Moody.

Moody became involved in the Civil Rights Movement while a student at the historically black Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. Her memoir tells the story of her impoverished childhood in the staunchly segregated Mississippi of the 1940s and 1950s. Even before the famous sit-ins of the 1960s, Moody’s story reminds us about the tenuous nature of food access for many African Americans who grew up in the South.

Persistent poverty meant that Moody and her siblings rarely had sufficient quantities and varieties of healthy foods. Their hard-working mother could rarely afford to feed them anything more than dried beans and cornbread. In grade school, Moody feared that her lunch of biscuits and peanut butter marked her as poor. She was embarrassed that her mother could not afford to purchase loaf bread.

In college, Moody fought against the system that maintained black inequality and poverty when she participated in the lunch counter sit-in at the Jackson Woolworth’s. Her courage at the counter, in the jail, and in subsequent voter registration drives inspired a city and state even as it imperiled her own safety and well-being.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sit-in Movement or the desegregation of our nation’s eating places, I’ve compiled a short bibliography of relevant literature. You may also want to visit the website of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum located on the site of the Greensboro Woolworth’s store.

Selected Bibliography:
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC & the Black Awakening of the 1960s (published 1995)

GreensboroVOICES Collection, Oral History, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Melody Herr, Sitting for Equal Service: Lunch Counter Sit-Ins, United States, 1960s (2010)

Benjamin Houston, The Nashville Way: Racial Etiquette and the Struggle for Social Justice in a Southern City (2012)

Rodney L. Hurst Sr., It Was Never About a Hotdog and a Coke: A Personal Account of the 1960 Sit-in Demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida and Ax Handle Saturday (2008)

Jerome Lagarrigue, Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins (2007)

John Lewis, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (1998)

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi: The Classic Autobiography of Growing Up Poor and Black in the Rural South (1968)

Iwan Morgan and Philip Davies, editors, From Sit-Ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s  (2012)

M. J. O’Brian, We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired ( 2013)

Cleveland Sellers, River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC (1990)

Miles Wolff, Lunch at the 5 & 10 (1970)