Winston-Salem’s 1960 lunch counter protest inspiration for downtown celebration

The 1960 Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in by Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University students led to a desegregation agreement among local merchants in Winston-Salem. Forty-one years later, their actions are the inspiration for “Moving Forward: A Conversation About Race Relations,” to be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 27, at the old Woolworth building, located at 408 Liberty St.

The program will feature a panel of speakers who will address the past, present and future of race relations in Winston-Salem. Admission is free and open to the public. Parking will be available nearby.

“The purpose of this event is not just to remember the past, but to build on it,” said Susan Faust, a communication instructor at Wake Forest. Faust and N.C. State Rep. Larry Womble organized the program.

WXII-TV’s Wanda Starke will be master of ceremonies. The panel will include the Rev. Jerry Drayton, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and a long-time civil rights activist; Bill Tatum, Winston-Salem’s NAACP president; and Carl Crothers, executive editor of the Winston-Salem Journal. Students from local colleges and high schools will provide perspectives from the city’s youth.

Winston-Salem Mayor Jack Cavanagh and leaders from both universities will open the program. A question and answer period will follow the speakers’ presentations. Gospel choirs from Winston-Salem State and Wake Forest will also perform.

The program will conclude with a reception at the Adam’s Mark Winston Plaza Hotel.

Lunch counter protests in Winston-Salem began on Feb. 8, 1960, when local resident Carl Wesley Matthews was denied service at the whites-only lunch counter of a Kress store. Demonstrations against segregated lunch counters continued for several months, including the historic sit-in by students from Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State on Feb. 23. Both universities celebrated the sit-in’s 40th anniversary last February with a series of events that welcomed back eight of the 21 students.

For more information, call 336-758-5891.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Community, Events