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 "They'll soon give up, leave and be forgotten."

 

We're carrying on with our look at the struggle for equal treatment no matter what skin colour you are - some more of my photos from the museum in Washington D.C. We're going back to February, 1960, to a city called Greensboro. Across America you would see signs like this - places black people just weren't allowed to be.

 

Four students who became known as the "Greensboro Four" decided to take a stand against this kind of treatment - which was known as 'segregation'. They walked into a shop called Woolworths, which had a ridiculous rule that you were allowed to buy things if you were black, but black people could not be served snacks at a counter. The "Greensboro Four" sat at the counter peacefully and asked to be served - this is one of the chairs from the counter;

 

They were told they couldn't be served because they were black, but they refused to leave. The owner of the shop said that they would give up and leave so, but they didn't give up. When the shop closed they said they would keep coming back until they decided to serve them.

 

One of the most important things for them was to remain non-violent, that is they would not use violence, that is attack anyone, throw things, punch, kick, do anything that could hurt anyone. They were inspired by the words of Dr Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who believed that violence would begin an endless 'cycle' of bloodshed and it was the duty of good people to break the cycle.

In a famous quote he said;

"Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence."

He was inspired by his Christian faith, where Jesus told someone who wanted to fight for him "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

 

This non-violent approach was soon tested. Eventually, a police officer came and took out his club. He walked back and forth behind the four, hitting his club against his hand, threatening them. They just sat still, and since they didn't attack the police officer or say anything to him, he wasn't sure what to do and left. They realised that this non-violent approach was a powerful tool.

 

More and more people began to join the four, sitting in places where blacks were refused to be served, from swimming pools to art galleries to restaurants. The movement spread across America. Eventually, as more and more people became aware, segregation was made illegal a few years later. See one of the original four tell his story in the link below ("Jim Crow" which he talks about is a name for the unfair laws for black people at the time).

Here's your task. Imagine you were around at the time - can you draw a poster telling the world what these 'sit-ins' were about - that they weren't just 'troublemakers'? Why would people want to join them? How might the 'Greensboro four' have felt at being told that they were not allowed to be served because they were black? What is 'non-violence' and why was it so important for these protesters?
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