High Point residents commemorate Feb. 11, 1960 sit-inBy Ivan Saul Cutler, Carolina Peacemaker / February 15, 2023
In High Point, two events commemorated the nation’s first high school student sit-in that led to the desegregation of the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter: the annual performance at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts and a community gathering at the bronze relief monument to the heroic act of civil disobedience 63 years ago.
On Feb. 11, 1960, 10 days after four freshmen from N.C. A&T State University sat at Woolworth’s lunch counter on Feb. 1 in Greensboro, 24 students from then William Penn High School and two students from High Point Central High School conducted a well-planned sit-in at the High Point store.
To commemorate the historical act to achieve equality in service and accommodations, current Penn-Griffin High School students performed in orchestral presentations, dance segments and theatrical scenes by celebrated African American composers, choreographers and playwrights.
One of the 26 students on that Feb. 11th day, Daniel Bell Jr., attended the cultural arts program. Poet-educator Josephus III delivered a high energy recitation of contemporary and historic aphorisms of courage, responsibility and honor.
At the large rectangular February 11 monument on the property where the Woolworth’s store stood, sit-in organizer and leader of the annual event, Mary Lou Blakeney, spoke about fright and courage in sitting at the counter. She joined civic, community and clergy members at this year’s event on Wrenn Street.