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Lunch Counter Sit-Ins

Apple Creek Cafe lunch counter
Apple Creek Cafe lunch counter

Lunch Counter Sit-Ins

In 1942, African American students sat down at the lunch counter at the Jack Spratt Coffee Shop on Chicago’s South Side.

In the 1940s, Midwestern African Americans pioneered a key strategy of the Civil Rights Movement: the Lunch Counter Sit-In.

In 1942, African American students took stools at the Jack Spratt Coffee Shop on Chicago’s South Side, sitting at the counter and refusing to leave in protest of the discriminatory treatment of black Chicagoans. Police refused to forcibly remove the students, and the restaurant relented and began serving black customers.

The protest’s success soon spread across the Midwest.

In 1944 in St. Louis, lunch counter sit-ins began, continuing on-and-off for a decade before the city’s businesses and cafeterias finally agreed to fully integrate.

In 1948 in Des Moines, activist Edna Mae Griffin, after being denied service at Katz Drugs, organized sit-ins.  Later, she sued the company for violating the state’s 1884 Civil Rights Act, with the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in her favor.  Griffin became known as the “Rosa Parks of Iowa.”

In 1958 in Wichita, Kansas, ten African American women, members of the city’s NAACP Youth Council, likewise led a successful sit-in at Dockum Drugs.

Activists in the South soon began using the sit-in strategy, famously starting in 1960 with the Greensboro sit-ins organized by civil rights icon John Lewis.

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