On this date in 1960, four African-American college students changed history by walking into the Woolworth’s Lunch Counter in Greensboro, North Carolina and taking seats in the all-white section. Sit-ins started happening throughout the South almost immediately, and by the summer of 1960, 33 Southern cities had integrated restaurants. A year later, that number had risen to 126.
In 1993, a group of local leaders in Greensboro got together and formed a non-profit called Sit-In Movement Inc. to try to preserve the Woolworth’s, which dates to 1929, and turn it into a museum. But the building was in a neglected part of downtown Greensboro and local officials didn’t think the restoration plan was feasible.
Then in 2004, Save America’s Treasures stepped in. The program made a small grant of $150,000, but it was enough to change everything. The federal recognition finally got the attention of local and state leaders, who started to see that they had a treasure hidden in their midst. That one grant leveraged another $23 million in funding from public and private partners. And on this day one year ago, the museum opened its doors.
The project generated more than 150 jobs and has served as an anchor for a revitalized downtown. Residents have moved back, and the museum is now a popular draw for tourists - and field trip destination for local schools.
Save America’s Treasures, through projects like the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, demonstrates the belief that some places—like that Woolworth’s Counter in Greensboro—are worth holding on to, and taking forward.
Check back later this afternoon for information on the announcement of the 2011 Save America’s Treasures grants - and apologies to those of you who were anticipating a live blog, based on yesterday's post. We experienced some technical difficulties, and are left to recapping instead.