The First Sit-in Victory in North Carolina
Backstory and Context
On February 8th, 1960 several local students joined Carl Wesley Matthews in his initial sit-in after he was refused service at a segregated lunch counter. Twenty days later on February 28th Matthews and 21 students from Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State in what would go down as one of the most well known sit-ins from this protest in North Carolina. All of the involved protesters were arrested for trespassing and jailed. However, in the wake of the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-in movement these young protesters were not going to give up after one arrest.
The sit-in protests continued for over one hundred days until May 23rd when protest leaders and local city leaders and business people signed a desegregation agreement. Two days later on May 25th Carl Wesley Matthews was the first African American to be served at one of Winston-Salem’s newly desegregated lunch counters. This victory proved to be the most swift and one of the least publicized events in all of the Civil Rights Movement. Matthews’ sit-in protests also provided inspiration for young African American leaders who sought to achieve equality among all Americans, black or white.
This historical marker was erected almost 40 years to the day of the start of the protest. The events are now widely celebrated in the Winston-Salem area. Joint events now held between Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State have seen the return of some of the original sit-in protesters and their families. These events serve to warn the community of the dangers of hate and racism, as well as promoting the heroism demonstrated by the original protestors.