Monday, 29 May 2017

Narrative images: Lunch at the Woolworth Counter in May 1963

"We didn’t allow fear. We had accepted we could die. Panic-attack fear immobilizes you, it doesn’t keep you alive. Stay cool. At that Woolworth counter, people were beaten. It was a total out-of-body experience for me — the kind you hear soldiers have in battle."
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

The Greensboro (North Carolina) sit-ins in 1960, the most well-known sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement, led to the Woolworth department store chain removing its racist policy of segregation in the South. It was a long way and it took a great many sit-ins. Today, the Woolworth store in Greensboro is the International Civil Rights Center and Museum (via). These photographs were taken on 28 May 1963. In the centre of the picture above are Anne Moody and Joan Trumpauer, seated on the left is Hunter Gray (via). They sat there after others had been pulled away, kicked and smeared with ketchup, mustard, sugar - anything that was on the counter (via).

"They cut my face with sharp brass knuckles, someone cut the back of my head with the jagged edge of a broken sugar container. There was a good deal of blood.
They dumped slop on us. I was burned with cigarettes, hit and had pepper thrown in my eyes. The women weren't struck, but had their hair pulled. All the air was filled with obscenities, the n-word - it was a lavish display of unbridled hatred. (...)
I saw the photo the next morning in the Jackson Daily News. Friends across the county called to say they had seen it, and we got letters from people from all over the world.
Now in textbooks, this picture reinforces my feeling that change came because of the great courage and determination of grass-roots people. I remember sitting at that counter, thinking about the indoctrination of these young people: white councils issuing special curriculums for white schools. And more sinister warnings such as: “Race mixers are communist and traitors.” The kids had been brainwashed with this poisonous stuff all their lives. I saw no free will in that mob, and I couldn’t blame the kids personally.
Fifty years on I continue to feel sorry for them. If I met any of them today, I’d say: “Let’s go have lunch.
Hunter Gray

"They wanted the "n*ggers" - both white and black - to leave."
Trip Burns


photographs via and via and via


  1. This is one horrible document of inhumanity.

  2. And not so long ago.
    Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wim, Kenneth and Derek!