Downtown ceremony to commemorate 1960 sit-in with WFU and WSSU students

Sit-in historical markerBy Sarah S. Mansell

Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University and the city of Winston-Salem will commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the lunch counter sit-in demonstrations that led to the city’s desegregation with a ceremony on Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. The program will take place at the corner of Liberty and Fourth streets in downtown Winston-Salem. The public is invited to attend.

Winston-Salem’s protest began Feb. 8, 1960, one week after the more famous Greensboro sit-in. Demonstrations continued for several months, including the landmark sit-in on Feb. 23 when white students from Wake Forest joined black students from Winston-Salem State. Winston-Salem’s demonstrations were North Carolina’s first to reach a peaceful resolution, ending in a record 107 days.

A historical marker commemorating the 1960 sit-ins will be rededicated during the ceremony. It was originally unveiled at the 40th anniversary celebration in 2000. The marker was moved later that year for construction of One West Fourth Street, the building built in place of the old Kress Store.

Thomas K. Hearn Jr., president of Wake Forest; Harold R. Martin Sr., chancellor of Winston-Salem State; and Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines will speak during ceremony. Wanda Starke, of television station WXII (Channel 12), will moderate. The Burke Singers, an a cappella student group from Winston-Salem State, will provide music.

Three participants from the 1960 sit-in—Victor Johnson from Winston-Salem State, William Stevens from Wake Forest, and community leader Carl Wesley Matthews— will also be in attendance.

“There was hope that our actions would be a success and lead to social change,” said Stevens, who graduated from Wake Forest in 1960. “But we had no idea that day what our actions would look like 40 years later.”

Susan Faust, communication instructor at Wake Forest, is coordinating the event.

“Remembering how our community solved its problems and adapted to social change in an earlier day can give us inspiration and guidance for resolving current challenges,” said Faust. “The peaceful yet determined young people who sat down in order to stand up for their rights in 1960 can be our models.”

For more information, call 336-758-5891.

Categories: Community, Events, University Announcement