Time Era

Historic time period: 1945–Early 1970s

Students Sit for Civil Rights

On February 1, 1960, four African American college students challenged racial segregation by sitting down at a "whites only" counter lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. Politely asking for service, their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their sit-in inspired others to engage in nonviolent protests, which drew attention to the inequalities in civil rights at the time.

Many of the men who worked together to write the Constitution expressed that protesting was an important patriotic duty and an important part of a working democracy. The first amendment of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights specifically protects some rights that are tied to protest, including the rights to petition the government, gather together peacefully, and speak freely.

The National Museum of American History added a portion of the Greensboro lunch counter to its collection after it was announced that the store would be shut down. Today it is on display as one of the landmark objects in the Museum and the centerpiece of a museum theater piece called "Join the Student Sit-Ins." More information on the lunch counter.

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins is a historical fiction story about the lunch counter from the point of view of a young girl named Connie. Her perspective weaves emotions together with the historical details of the protests. You can learn more about the civil rights movement by reading Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins and by trying some of the activities below.

Read This Book

You can learn more about the American Civil Rights Movement in these books. Click on the book titles below for more information, or visit our complete bibliography.

Freedom On The Menu book cover

Featured Book

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins

by Carole Boston Weatherford

From FREEDOM ON THE MENU: THE GREENSBORO SIT-INS by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jermone LaGarrigue. Text (c) 2005 by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations (c) 2005 by Jerome LaGarrigue. Used by permission of Dial Books for Young Readers, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. All rights reserved.


  • Protest Signs

    Protest Signs

    Play and Create

    Make your own protest sign or chalk art to speak out!

    Download the PDF »
  • You Can Too!

    You Can, Too!

    Take a Trip

    Make a difference in your community, like the young people of Greensboro, N.C.

    Download the PDF »
  • Headlines

    Headlines of History

    Study in School

    Compare the story of the civil right movement told in newspapers from 1960, a work of historical fiction, and your social studies textbook.

    Download the PDF »
  • Freedom Songs

    Freedom Songs

    Use Technology

    Tune in and listen to songs that brought together members of the civil rights movement and then record your own version.

    Download the PDF »

Need the Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® ? Download it here.

Need the Adobe® Flash® Player? Download it here.

See all OurStory activities »

Smithsonian's History Explorer