International Civil Rights Center and Museum

Fifty years ago, on the afternoon of February 1, 1960, four freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College – Ezell Blair, Jr.;David Richmond; Joseph McNeil; and Franklin McCain – entered the F.W. Woolworth Store in downtown Greensboro. Walking past the stand-up/take-out-only end of the store's lunch counter that was assigned to "coloreds," they took seats on counter stools in the all-white section and requested service. Though there was no confrontation and no arrests – there was also no service.

The response by blacks spread rapidly, and within two weeks, sit-ins were taking place in cities throughout the South. By the summer of 1960, in response to the "Greensboro Four's" courageous defiance of segregationist policies and the sit-in movement launched by their actions, 33 southern cities had newly-integrated eating facilities. A year later, 126 cities offered desegregated services.

In 1993, a group of local leaders came together to form the nonprofit Sit-In Movement, Inc. to purchase the historic 1929 Woolworth Store, restore it, and reuse it as a state-of-the-art museum and educational center.

On February 1, 2010, thanks in part to a $150,000 federal challenge grant from Save America's Treasures and the community investment it helped generate, the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro Four's stand was honored with the grand opening of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Established on the site of that original sit-in, the museum commemorates this single action that became a major component of the American civil rights movement. Testimony to the power and positive impact of human courage as a catalyst for social change, permanent and rotating exhibits present a broad spectrum of America's fight for equal rights. Located in center city, this restoration and reuse was a major element in an exciting revitalization initiative that includes a new high-tech downtown minor league baseball stadium, a vibrant cultural arts center, and a range of new restaurants, theatres, and retail outlets.

Amelia Parker, executive director of the museum, said: "Save America's Treasures' impact was two-fold. It provided critical early money to help get this project off the ground. But more importantly, the government's support attached invaluable prestige and recognition that immediately signaled to state, city, and private funders that this is a historic place of national import, and a worthwhile investment for the benefit of the community, the state, and the nation."  

An example of Save America's Treasures' effectiveness to spawn economic development, the program's early investment helped leverage the additional 98% of funding needed to complete this $23 million project – millions over the government's share. This single project generated more than 150 jobs. However, the impact was not only limited to this one project – the development of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum has helped the state recognize it as an asset for heritage tourism, spurring many other economic development projects up and down Greensboro's Main Street.