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On Feb. 1, 1960, four African American college students—Ezell A. Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil and David L. Richmond—sat down at this “whites only” lunch counter at the Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, N.C., and politely asked for service. Their request was refused, and when asked to leave, the students remained in their seats in protest.

For the six months that followed, hundreds of students, civil rights organizations, churches and members of the community joined the protest and boycotted the store. Their commitment ultimately led to the desegregation of the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter July 25, 1960. Their peaceful sit-down was a watershed event in the struggle for civil rights and helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South.

To learn more about freedom and justice in American history, visit the National Museum of American History’s “Separate is not Equal” online exhibition website.