50 Years After the Lunch Counter Sit-ins
American history is everyone's story, says award-winning journalist Juan Williams.
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
In 1960, a group of African-American students sat down for lunch at a counter on Fifth Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. They were arrested and jailed for wanting to do what white Americans were allowed to do every day.
Recently, Nashville celebrated the lunch counter sit-ins around the nation that helped gain wide public support for the civil rights movement. The public library in country music's capital held a program featuring Emmy-award winning political and social writer Juan Williams. Called "A New Dialogue in Civil Rights," the program was held Saturday, February 13, 2010.
The Civil Rights movement isn't over, Williams said.
"We still have to deal with the racial separation in our society," he said. "We are today dealing with issues that need some remedy. Positive change requires that young people open their eyes and think about how to change the world once again."
Williams spoke to the Scholastic Kids Press Corps while sitting at a recreation of one of the Woolworth's Drug Store lunch counters that played such an important role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The counter was surrounded by photos of the young people — mostly African-American college students — who were courageous enough to take a non-violent stand for equal rights between races.
"I am inspired any time that people stand up for themselves and don't run away out of fear," Williams said. "These students set an example for young people to replicate in other parts of the country. It was a spark that set aflame the Civil Rights movement in American history."
The Importance of Black History Month
When Williams was a student, achievements made by African-Americans were not included in his history books. He sees Black History Month as an opportunity to focus on including that history.
"It's not about racial exclusion," he said. "It's about saying that the entire story has to be told. You have to include everybody."
Williams is not only a leading American journalist, author, and political commentator. He is an American citizen speaking out for the rights of all people.
"The whole idea of Black History Month is 'Let's bring everybody into this story,'" he said.
Celebrate Black History Month
For more on the achievements and contributions of African Americans to U.S. History, return to the Scholastic Kids Press Corps' Black History Month Special Report.
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