Below is a chronological and geographical list of the start date(s) of known lunch counter sit-ins that took place to protest Jim Crow-style segregated seating and dining accommodations for African-Americans. While segregated lunch counter were most common in the South, the list sadly depicts instances in northern and border states, as well. Locations from 18 states are included in the list.
While the heroic efforts of the four freshman from North Carolina A & T at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina is the best known of these sit-ins, each and every protest took an immense amount of courage on the part of the participants. They all should be commended and honored for their role in the civil rights movement.
Though some of these sit-ins resulted in successful changes without incident, others took considerable effort and too often ended with the protesters being jailed, convicted on bogus charges, and/or being expelled from school. Needless to say, this was a sad time for social and economic justice the United States. In some cities, a successful protest at one lunch counter did not necessarily mean all restaurant lunch counters followed through with integrating. As a result, some cities appear on the list multiple times.
As always, any additions, corrections, or suggestions to this blog post are most welcomes. In particular, any additional details on lunch counter sit-ins that are listed below or that may not be included would be more appreciated and helpful in fully documenting these important civil rights initiatives.
In certain instances, the date given for some of the sit-ons varies between sources. In these case, most often the local resource was used. The discrepancy is also noted in case further research or documentation clarifies the difference. Also, note, this list only include lunch counter protests and not protests related to table seating at restaurants.
Chicago, IL – in May 1942, by Jack Farmer and 27 others at the Jack Spratt Coffee House on the city’s south side at 47th & Kimbark. The protest was successful. **First lunch counter sit-in in Illinois**
St. Louis, MO – May 15, 1944, at the lunch counter at the Stix, Baer & Fuller department store. The protests led by the CCRC (Citizens Civil Rights Committee) continued off and on for a number of years here and at the two other downtown department stores – Famous-Barr and Scruggs-Vandevoort-Barney. Full and final success was not achieved until 1954. **First lunch counter sit-ins in Missouri**
St. Louis, MO – 1949 to June 1953, at downtown dime stores in the city. The campaign by CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), which included sit-ins, meetings, and picket lines, lasted 3.5 years before achieving success in June 1953.
Baltimore, MD – May, 1953 to May 1954, by CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) at Grant’s and McCrory’s locations in the city. The campaign archives success in May, 1954. **First lunch counter sit-ins in Maryland**
Wellston, MO – January 1955, by members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) at three dine store lunch counters in the city. The campaign was successful.
Baltimore, MD – January 1955, at Read’s Drugstore located at Howard & Lexington Streets by students from Morgan State College. Led by CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), the campaign achieves success in February when all 37 Read’s locations are integrated.
Wichita, Kansas – July 19, 1958 to August 11, 1958, at the Dockum (Recall) Drug Store located at Douglas & Broadway in downtown. The protest was successful on August 11, 1958, and is now commemorated by a bronze sculpture. **Highly successfully lunch counter sit-in protest and the first in Kansas** (see photo below)
Charleston, WV – August 11, 1958, by members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) at Woolworth’s, Kresge, and Newberry’s. The protest was largely successful, as these three stores soon changed their policies. However, Diamond department store did not change its policies until May 3, 1960. **First lunch counter sit-in in West Virginia**
Oklahoma City, OK – August 19, 1958, at Katz Drug Store located at Robinson & Main Streets by members of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council. Success was achieved just two days later when Katz’s ended its segregation policy. The campaign was so successful that 40 stores across the state of Oklahoma had followed Katz’s lead by the end of the year. **Highly successfully lunch counter sit-in protest and the first in Oklahoma**
Enid, OK – August 27, 1958, by 50-60 local students at Downs Pharmacy at 120 N. Independence and Sanford-Stunkle Drug Store at 100 N. Independence. On September 4, 1958, the owners of 25 restaurants in Enid agreed to desegregate. **Highly successfully sit-in protest**
Stillwater, OK – post August 19, 1958 – more details needed
Tulsa, OK – post August 19, 1958 – more details needed
Lexington, KY – July 1959, at downtown lunch counters in Woolworth’s and Kresge’s by members of the NAACP and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). **First lunch counter sit-in in Kentucky** (see photo below)
Miami, FL – August 18, 1959, by 18 CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) protestors at the segregated lunch counters located at Jackson-Byron and Grant’s department stores. **First lunch counter sit-in in Florida**
Greensboro, NC – February 1, 1960, at the downtown Woolworth’s lunch counter by four freshman students attending North Carolina A & T College. It took approximately five months for the lunch counters to be integrated in Greensboro. **Successfully launched a series of similar sit-in protests at lunch counters across the South** (see photo below)
Durham, NC – February 8, 1960, at Woolworth, S. H. Kress, and Walgreen’s lunch counters by students from North Carolina College.
Charlotte, NC – February 9, 1960, by approximately 100 students from Johnson C. Smith University at eight stores in downtown.
DeLand, FL – February 9, 1960 – students from Euclid High School at the lunch counter in Woolworth’s on North Woodland Boulevard. The students continued this protest five times.
Elizabeth City, NC – February 9, 1960, by students from Elizabeth City State Teachers College.
Henderson, NC – on February 9, 1960 – more details needed
Hampton, VA – February 10, 1960, by three students from Hampton Institute (University) at Woolworth’s lunch counter. Approximately 200 students came to the Woolworth’s the following day. The store was located on West Queen Street in downtown. **First lunch counter sit-in the Virginia**
Raleigh, NC – February 10, 1960, by students from St. Augustine’s College and Shaw University at Woolworth’s downtown store, as well as McLellan’s, Hudson-Belk, S.H. Kress & Co., Eckerd’s Drug Store, Cromley’s Sir Walter Drug Stores, and Woolworth’s in Cameron Village.
High Point, NC – February 11, 1960, at the downtown Woolworth’s by 26 local high school students, at McClellan’s by another 30 students, and again at the Woolworth’s in College Village Shopping Center.
Portsmouth, VA – February 11, 1960, at lunch counters in the Rose’s and Bradshaw-Diehl department stores.
St. Petersburg, FL – February 11, 1960, by local students at the S.H. Kress & Co. store. The protest continued off and on for some time, as there were reports in the papers as late as November 1960. (see photo below)
Newport News, VA – February 12 +/-, 1960 at Woolworth’s, Sears,Roebuck & Company, Kresge’s, Nachman’s, Peoples Drug Store, Greyhound’s Post House, and the New Market Shopping Center.
Norfolk, VA – February 12, 1960, by 38 protestors at the Woolworth’s store located at Granby & Freemason Streets on downtown. (see photo below)
Rock Hill, SC – February 12, 1960, at McCrory’s Five & Dime and Woolworth’s lunch counters by students from Friendship Junior College/CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). **First lunch counter sit-in in South Carolina**
Nashville, TN – February 13, 1960, at Woolworth’s, S.H. Kress & Co., and McClellan’s lunch counters by students from Fisk University. **First lunch counter sit-in in Tennessee** (see photo below)
Tallahassee, FL – February 13, 1960, held at several downtown lunch counters by CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). A second sit-in took place on February 20, 1960, at Woolworth’s by students from Florida State University and Florida A&M University.
Sumter, SC – February 14, 1960, by students from Morris College.
Salisbury, NC – February 16, 1960, by students from Livingstone College at the Woolworth’s on South Main Street. This former lunch counter has been on display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh since 2011.
Shelby, NC – February 18, 1960, by students from Cleveland High at drug store lunch counters.
Chattanooga, TN – February 19, 1960, at Woolworth’s and three other lunch counters by students from Howard High School. They were the only protesters who were sprayed with water hoses by local firefighters to break up the protests. Despite this, the lunch counters in Chattanooga were desegregated in August of 1960.
Baltimore, MD – February 22, 1960? – students from several colleges and high schools participated. In March, sit-ins were held at Hecht’s department store and Arundel’s Ice Cream Parlor near Morgan State University.
Montgomery, AL – February 25, 1960, at the segregated lunch counter in the Montgomery County Courthouse cafeteria. **First lunch counter sit-in in Alabama**
Orangeburg, SC – starting February 25, 1960, multiple sit-ins were held at the lunch counter in S.H. Kress & Co. by students of Claflin College.
Lexington, KY – February 26, 1960 – more details needed
Petersburg, VA – **February 26, 1960, by students of Virginia State College at the local library, but the first lunch counter sit-in didn’t take place here until later in 1960. It took place at Spiro’s Department Store.**
Tuskegee, AL – February 26, 1960, by students of Tuskegee Institute – **the location is unclear and may not have been a lunch counter – more details are needed.**
Chapel Hill NC – February 28, 1960, by the ‘Chapel Hill Nine” at Colonial Drug on West Franklin Street.
Tampa, FL – February 29, 1960, by area students and lasted for a week at the downtown Woolworth’s store located at Franklin & Polk Streets.
Columbia, SC – March 2, 1960, by students of Allen University and Benedict College
Daytona Beach, FL – March 2, 1960 by three students of Bethune Cookman at the local Woolworth’s store.
St. Petersburg, FL – March 2, 1960 – more details needed.
Florence, SC – March 3 and 4, 1960, at the S.H. Kress & Co. store – more details needed.
Houston, TX – March 4, 1960, by students of Texas Southern University at the Alameda Road Weingarten’s grocery store lunch counter . **First lunch counter sit-in in Texas** (see photo below)
Miami, FL – March 4, 1960, by students of Florida Memorial College at the downtown locations of Woolworth’s, Grant’s, and S.H. Kress & Co.
Orlando, FL – March 4, 1960 – more information needed.
Little Rock, AR – March 10, 1960, by around 50 students of Philander Smith College at Woolworth’s located at 4th & Main Streets. Success was not achieved at downtown lunch counters until November of 1962. **First lunch counter sit-in in Arkansas**
Austin, TX – March 11, 1960, by students of Huston-Tillotson College – more details needed.
Galveston, TX – March 11, 1960, by high school students at Walgreen’s, Woolworth’s, S.H. Kress & Co., and McCrory’s.
Atlanta, GA – coordinated sit-ins on March 15, 1960, at lunch counters across the city by members of the All-University Student Leadership Group. A follow-up protest began on October 19, 1960 and continued off and on until March 7, 1961.**First lunch counter sit-in in Georgia**
Corpus Christi, TX – March 15, 1960,more details needed as one report indicates no demonstration took place here, but the local stores open up the lunch counters to all on March 25th.
St. Augustine, FL – March 15, 1960 and March 17, 1960 by area students. In July, a lone student sat at the lunch counter at McCrory’s.
Statesville, NC – March 15, 1960, by four student teachers from the Unity School at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. Several African-American homes in town were damaged that night in retaliation, while the four student teachers were relieved of their teaching positions the following day.
Savannah, GA – March 16, 1960, by students from Savannah State College at eight downtown stores. Sit-ins and boycotts in the city continued until October 1961, when the city ordinance requiring segregated lunch counters was repealed. Despite the repeal, some segregated places in the city continued until 1963, as did the boycotts.
New Bern, NC – March 17, 1960, by 16 area students at the S.H. Kress & Co. store and 13 area students at the Clark’s Drug Store.
Memphis, TN – March 18, 1960, and the city’s main library by students from LeMoyne Owen College. This was followed by later and larger protests at department store lunch counters.
Wilmington, NC – March 19, 1960 – more details needed
Baton Rouge, LA – March 28, 1960, by seven students from Southern University at the S.H. Kress & Co. store lunch counter. Nine more students participated at other locations the following day. The students were expelled from the school, but as Senior Class President, Marvin Robinson so aptly stated:
“What is more important, human dignity or the university? We felt it was human dignity.”
The United State Supreme Court later overturned the “Disturbing the Peace” convictions of the protestors and in 2004, the expelled students were awarded honorary degrees from Southern University and honored by the state legislature. **First lunch counter sit-in in Louisiana**
Marshall, TX – March 26, 1960, by students from Wiley (or Bishop) College at lunch counters, including the Woolworth’s on Houston Street and at the bus station. A fire hose was used on the students during the March 30th protest.
Birmingham, AL – March 31, 1960, by students from Wenonah State Technical Institute and Miles College.
Columbia, SC – March 1960, at store lunch counters, including Taylor Street Pharmacy and McCrory’s, by students from Allen University and Benedict College.
Charleston, SC – April 1, 1960, by 24 students from Burke High School at the S.H. Dress & Co. lunch counter in downtown. (see photo below)
Darlington, SC – April 4, 1960 – more details needed.
Norfolk, VA – April 12, 1960, by students Virginia State College of Norfolk.
Biloxi, MS – April 17, 1960 – more details are needed as this may have been a wade-in beach protest versus a lunch counter sit-in.
Columbia, MO – April 18, 1960, by members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) at the Minute Inn Restaurant. A similar protest took place at Ernie’s Restaurant that same year.
Beaumont, TX – April 20, 1960, by students from Lamar Tech. More details needed.
Greensboro, NC – April 21, 1960, at the lunch counter at S.H. Kress & Co.
Starkville, MS – April 23, 1960 – more details needed.**May be the first lunch counter sit-in in Mississippi**
Dallas, TX – April 28, 1960, by students of Paul Quinn College.
Knoxville, TN – began on June 9, 1960, after delayed negotiations between downtown merchants, city officials, and Knoxville College administrators. On July 12, 1960, downtown lunch counter operators desegregated their businesses.
- Some resources indicate the protest in Knoxville began on March 7th, but others note that was when the planning began, while the actual first sit-in was June 9th.
Arlington, VA – June 9, 1960 at Peoples Drug Store located at Lee Highway & Old Dominion, as well as at the nearby Cherrydale Drug Fair. This was repeated the following day and added another Drug Fair location and a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell staged amounter-protest at the Cherrydale Drug Fair location. The sit-ins continued at lunch counters throughout the city until June 22, 1960, when successes achieved and they we integrated. (see photo below)
Baltimore, MD – June 17, 1960 – more details needed.
Fredericksburg, VA – July 1, 1960, by local students at the downtown Woolworth’s. The protest expanded to Murphy’s and Peoples. Success was achieved on July 30, 1960, as the lunch counters became desegregated.
Spartanburg, SC – July 26, 1960, at Woolworth’s lunch counter and later at S.H. Kress & Co.
Jacksonville, FL – August 14-27, 1960, sit-ins were held at downtown lunch counters by Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP members, until attacked by a mob of more than 200 whites with axe handles and baseball bats – the violent incident became known as“Ax Handle Saturday.” (see photo below)
New Orleans, LA – September 9, 1960, by four college students at Woolworth’s on Canal Street followed by a second sit-in on September 16th at the McCroy’s at 1005 Canal Street. It took two more years of protests before the lunch counters were opened to all.
- Some sources refer to a March 8, 1960, lunch counter sit-in in New Orleans, though these could not be confirmed through local resources. The same is true for one identified on March 28th.
Jackson, Tennessee – October 1960 at the Woolworth’s store on Highland Avenue.
St. Petersburg, FL – November 1, 1960, by 12 protestors at the S.H. Dress & Co. store.
Lynchburg, VA – December 14, 1960, by the “Patterson Six” (two students each from Randolph-Macon, Lynchburg College, and Virginia Seminary) at Patterson’s Drug Store lunch counter on Main Street followed by a second sit-in at Peoples Drug Store on December 15, 1960. Protests continued beyond those dates.
- Two resources note a sit-in on March 26th, but this could not be confirmed through local online sources.
Rock Hill, SC – January 31, 1961, a second sit-in was held at McCrory’s Five & Dime lunch counter by nine students from Friendship Junior College.These students were known as “the Friendship Nine.” They would be arrested but charges finally overturned in 2015.
Louisville, KY – February 9, 1961 – by student members of the NAACP Youth Council and CORE at Stewart’s Dry Goods in downtown.
Pensacola, FL – April 25, 1961, by three groups of students at the Woolworth’s, Newberry’s, and S.H. Kress & Co. lunch counters in downtown.
Macon, GA – June 2, 1961, at five department store lunch counters in the city including Woolworth’s.
McComb, MS – July 29, 1961, by two 18-year old young ladies at the local Woolworth’s store. **If the Starkville protest listed above did not occur at a lunch counter, this would be the first such protest in Mississippi.”
Huntsville, AL – January 31, 1962, at the Woolworth’s and G. C. Murphy lunch counters.
Orlando, FL – March 9, 1962, by eleven Jones ugh Schoo students at Stroud’s Rexall Pharmacy located at Church & Orange Avenues.
Gainesville, FL – 1962 – more details needed.
Sewanee, TN – 1962 – more details needed.
Pine Bluff, AR – February 1 1963, by 13 Arkansas AM&N students at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. The lights were turned out and they sat in the dark the rest of the day. Protests continued daily and numbers grew. Despite 15 students being expelled and jailing of protesters on bogus infractions, the protest eventually succeeded.
Rome, GA – March 1963, at the Murphy’s lunch counter on Broad Street.
Birmingham, AL – April 3, 1963, at lunch counters in the city, as part of the “Birmingham Campaign” organized by the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Victory was achieved on May 10, 1963, but was followed by months of racist violence directed at the African-American community that tragically culminated in the September 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young black girls.
Jackson, MS – May 28, 1963, at the Woolworth’s lunch counter (see photo below).
St. Augustine, FL – Woolworth’s on King Street in July 1963, including “the St. Augustine Four.”
Shreveport, LA – July 19, 1963, at two downtown stores – more details are needed.
Forrest City, AR – 1963, as part of “the Arkansas Project,” this was potentially a very dangerous location given the town was named for Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, founder of the KKK.
Gould, AK – 1963 – “part of the Arkansas Project”
West Helena, AR – 1963- “part of the Arkansas Project”
Jonesboro, AR – 1963 – “part of the Arkansas Project”
Warner Robins, GA – October 19, 1963, by 17 students from Fort Valley State College at the Liggett’s Drug Store lunch counter in Williams Plaza Shopping Center.
Tulsa, OK – on March 30, 1964 – more details needed
Beaumont, TX – 1964 at Shelton’s Restaurant – more details needed.
Meridian, MS – at the downtown Woolworth’s store – more details needed.
Tupelo, MS – at the downtown Woolworth’s store – more details needed.
If this topic interests you too, here are a couple of visual links to books available on Amazon* about lunch counter sit-ins.
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- links provided with each location/date