BLACK HISTORY MONTH
February 1, 1960 | The Greensboro Sit-Ins
On February 1, 1960, four young North Carolina A & T State University students (Ezell Blair, Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond) walked a few blocks from the campus downtown to Woolworth’s Department Store in Greensboro, North Carolina for the changing of history.
The “Greensboro Four” late in the afternoon sat on four bar stools at the segregated lunch counter and asked for coffee. When they were refused service, they remained at their seats until closing. The next day over twenty students returned with them including some from the all female Bennett College. The third day included over 60 persons followed by over 300 on the fourth day. With promotion of the sit-ins in the media, the sit-in tactics spread to other cities in North Carolina and eventually throughout the southeast. This Greensboro sit-in is credited as being the major and most influential sit-in of the civil rights era.
Eventually, Woolworth’s and other stores gave in to the sit-ins due to loss of financial business and the negative public relations occurring with the publicity.
February 3, 1870 | 15th Amendment (Black suffrage) passed
The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on February 3, 1870. The amendment reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The 15th Amendment guaranteed African-American men the right to vote. In addition, the right to vote could not be denied to anyone in the future based on a person’s race.
February 4, 1864 | 24th Amendment abolished Poll tax
Ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment marked the culmination of an endeavor begun in Congress in 1939 to eliminate the poll tax as a qualification for voting in federal elections. Property qualifications extend back to colonial days, but the poll tax itself as a qualification was instituted in eleven states of the South following the end of Reconstruction, although at the time of the ratification of this Amendment only five states still retained it.
Congress viewed the qualification as “an obstacle to the proper exercise of a citizen’s franchise” and expected its removal to “provide a more direct approach to participation by more of the people in their government.” Congress similarly thought that a constitutional amendment was necessary, because the qualifications had previously survived constitutional challenges on several grounds.
February 5, 1958 | President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Wharton as Minister to Romania
In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Wharton as Minister to Romania, which was another major breakthrough. Wharton at that time was the highest ranking black diplomat in the U.S. foreign service. Then in early 1961, Eisenhower appointed him Ambassador to Norway. This was the first time an African-American held such a post in a European nation. Mr. Wharton’s appointments in both Romania and Norway were in part due to the government strategy of placing prominent African-Americans in international posts in an attempt to counter the ill effects of international outrage over domestic racial discrimination.