The first sit-in victory in North Carolina that led to the desegregation of lunch counters in Winston-Salem 50 years ago will be celebrated in a series of events on Tuesday, May 25.
The celebration begins at 9:30 a.m. with an assembly at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy. Students from local high schools will present excerpts from original essays, dramatic and dance performances in tribute to the sit-in participants. The individuals who challenged lunch-counter segregation through the sit-ins will be the honored guests at the assembly.
At noon, a ceremony will be held at the corner of 4th and Liberty streets, at the site of the S.H. Kress & Co. store where the sit-ins in Winston-Salem started.
At 6 p.m., the documentary "I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper" will be shown at the Anderson Center on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. The documentary was produced by Wake Forest professors Mary Dalton and Susan Faust. After the screening the audience will have the opportunity to engage in a question-and-answer session with the sit-in participants.
The Winston-Salem sit-in movement was initiated by Carl Matthews, a graduate of Winston-Salem Teachers College, on Feb. 8, 1960, at the Kress store at the corner of Fourth and Liberty streets. Matthews was inspired by the sit-in in Greensboro that began eight days earlier. About 25 other black supporters, drawn by radio news reports of his protest, eventually joined Matthews, effectively closing down the lunch counter.
The protests immediately spread to other lunch counters in the city and attracted the support of sympathetic white students at Wake Forest University. On Feb. 23, eleven African-American students and ten white students held a joint sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter and were arrested, jailed, and found guilty of trespassing when they refused to leave. The students arrested from Winston-Salem Teachers College were Royal Joe Abbitt, Everette L. Dudley, Deloris M. Reeves, Victor Johnson Jr., William Andrew Bright, Bruce Gaither, Jefferson Davis Diggs III, Algemenia Giles, Donald C. Bradley, Lafayette A. Cook Jr. and Ulysses Grant Green; and from Wake Forest University were Linda G. Cohen, Linda Guy, Margaret Ann Dutton, Bill Stevens, Joe Chandler, Don F. Bailey, Paul Watson, Anthony Wayland Johnson, George Williamson, and Jerry Wilson.
The arrests sparked further sit-ins and picketing, leading Mayor Marshall Kurfees to appoint a "Goodwill Committee" of 10 white and 10 black citizens to devise a peaceful end to the protests. After consulting with the lunch-counter owners, the committee announced a desegregation agreement and on May 25, Carl Matthews returned to the Kress lunch counter and was served. It was the first sit-in victory in North Carolina.