Excerpts for Sit-In : How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down


Sit-In

How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down
By Pinkney, Andrea

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2010 Pinkney, Andrea
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316070164

“We must… meet hate with love.”

These were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words that got them started.

Four hungry friends. Eager to eat.

Each took a seat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

David, Joseph, Franklin, and Ezell sat quiet and still.

With hearts full of hope.

With Dr. King’s words strong and close.

They were college students with a plan.

It was February 1, 1960.

They didn’t need menus.

Their order was simple.

A doughnut and coffee,

with cream on the side.

Woolworth’s was busy,

so the friends waited.

Patiently. Silently.

Without a fuss.

They were the only black kids at the counter.

David, Joseph, Franklin, and Ezell sat while everyone else got served.

At first, they were treated like the hole in a doughnut—invisible.

Others tried to ignore them.

The waitress watched and refused them.

This was a sign of the times:

WHITES ONLY.

This was the law’s recipe for segregation.

Its instructions were easy to follow:

Do not combine white people with black people.

Segregation was a bitter mix.

Now it was the friends’ turn to ignore and refuse.

They ignored the law, and refused to leave until they were served.

Those kids had a recipe, too.

A new brew called integration.

It was just as simple:

Combine black with white to make sweet justice

For them, integration was better than any chef’s special.

Integration was finer than homemade cake.

Integration was a recipe that would take time.

So David, Joseph, Franklin, and Ezell sat quiet and still.

With hearts full of hope.

With Dr. King’s words strong and close:

“Be loving enough to absorb evil.”

They sat straight and proud.

And waited. And wanted.

A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.

After sitting and waiting and wanting, a police officer came.

But the four friends wouldn’t leave.

The police officer didn’t know what to do.

The students were doing nothing wrong.

No crime in sitting.

No harm in being quiet.

No danger in looking hungry.

The officer left the lunch counter without doing anything.

The Woolworth’s man turned off the lights.

He announced, “Woolworth’s is closed.”

So the customers left,

including the four friends,

who went home to dinner,

where they were served first.

News had already spread about the sit-in.

David, Joseph, Franklin, and Ezell got their names in the paper.

The next day, February 2, 1960,

more students showed up at the lunch counter.

Sitting still for what was right.

No reservations needed at Woolworth’s.

The students seated themselves.

They were dressed in their best clothes.

They were polite and determined.

No guesswork for the waitress.

The young people knew the menu by heart.

They ordered. No food came.

So they sat. In silence.

And waited. And wanted.

A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.

The waitress reminded them:

WHITES ONLY.

But those kids wouldn’t budge.

They didn’t move.

Until they were served, they refused.

All they wanted was some food.

A doughnut and coffee,

with cream on the side.

To pass the time, the students read their schoolbooks.

They wrote in their journals.

They finished their homework.

They didn’t need to read the menu,

so they studied for tomorrow’s test.

What had started in Greensboro

spread faster than a grease fire.

There were lunch counter protests in

Hampton, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee;

Montgomery, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia;

and many other southern towns.

If lunch counters could go from

WHITES ONLY to ALL WELCOME,

if segregation could turn to integration,

if black people and white people could break bread together,

everyone would pass the test.

Everybody would score high.

A+ with that coffee and cream on the side.

But many folks were not motivated to make that grade.

As the sit-ins grew, angry people gave the students a big dose of hatred—served up hot and heaping.

Coffee, poured down their backs.

Milkshakes, flung in their faces.

Pepper, thrown in their eyes.

Ketchup—not on the fries, but dumped on their heads.

They yelled at the students.

“We don’t serve your kind!”

“Go home!”

“Goodbye!”

The students wanted to lash out, but couldn’t.

They wanted to strike back, but didn’t.

Sitting still was so hard.

Practicing peace while others showed hatred was tougher than any school test.

Now there were news cameras filming the sit-ins.

And viewers at home watching it all on TV.

The students were more determined than ever to show the world the true meaning of peace.

So they sat. In silence.

With hearts full of hope.

With Dr. King’s dream true and close.

These were the words that kept them going:

“We must meet violence with nonviolence.”

The students sat proud and still.

And waited. And wanted.

A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.

Soon the sit-ins grew bigger and wider.

White students joined their black friends to protest the unfair treatment by restaurant owners who would not serve food to black patrons. They also opposed segregated libraries, buses, parks, and pools.

With so many students gathered,

people got scared there would be fighting.

They were afraid of all those youngsters

grouped together for a cause.

Even though the students were committed

to peace, the police now took action.

They accused the students of loafing.

They arrested them.

They took them to jail.

The students didn’t resist.

They didn’t fight.

Instead, they sang freedom songs—to keep the peace.

They held Dr. King’s words steady and close:

“Demonstrate… calm dignity.”

Soon folks were so busy arguing about who was right and who was wrong, that they stopped going to Woolworth’s and other segregated places. Some shops were forced to integrate to keep their businesses alive. But the struggle was far from over.

In April, an activist named Ella Baker organized a student leadership conference at Shaw University in North Carolina to help the young demonstrators.

With Ella, the students formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—SNCC.

Inspired by Dr. King, they came up with powerful words of their own. These are the words that became the SNCC slogan:

We are all leaders.

When President John F. Kennedy got a taste of SNCC’s integration, he didn’t sit in; he stepped in! On June 11, 1963, the president went on TV.

He urged Americans to treat each other fairly.

He then told Congress to take action against segregation.

This became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson made the act a law.

It banned segregation in public places.

The hard work and courage of those brave students paid off.

They had taken a bite out of segregation.

Now it was time to savor equality.

Now they were ready for a big sip of freedom.

Their order was simple:

A double dose of peace, with nonviolence on top. Hold the hate. Leave off the injustice.

And oh, integration sure tasted good.

Those courageous young people enjoyed every bit.

They came back to Woolworth’s for seconds and thirds, and for many helpings after that.

When the sit-ins were all done, the students left a big tip:

A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side, is not about food—it’s about pride.

These were the words that fi lled them up.



Continues...

Excerpted from Sit-In by Pinkney, Andrea Copyright © 2010 by Pinkney, Andrea. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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