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Nashville Sit-Ins Challenge Segregation, 1960

Time Capsule-Historic Images and Recollections (Historic Events)


Over a hundred students entered three Nashville establishments known to draw the color line on February 13, 1960. After the employees of Woolworths, The S. H. Kress Department Store, and the McClellan store refused to serve the students, they occupied the lunch counters for two hours until the managers of these establishments declared that they were no longer open for business. The students left without incident but word of their action spread throughout the community. In response, Nashville's black community launched a boycott and series of sit-ins against these and seven other downtown stores until six of those establishments agreed to serve all customers regardless of race on May 10th.

Four Nashville students including Diane Nash participate in the Nashville sit-ins
White counter-protesters attacked the students on Feb 27, 1960. Police responded by arresting the students even though they offered no resistance and charged them with disorderly conduct
Future Congressman John Lewis was among the student leaders who were arrested on Feb 27, 1960 for protesting against segregation. Lewis would become one of the founding members and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).


On Feb 27, white supremacists attacked the Nashville protesters and the police arrested and charged 81 of the students with disorderly conduct. Prior to this attack and mass arrest, the nonviolent nature of these demonstrations inspired students and community members to begin or continue their own protests against segregated lunch counters. On April 19, white supremacists bombed the home of Z. Alexander Looby, the black attorney who represented the students, just as an integrated school had been bombed in Nashville three years prior. These attacks and bombs only united the black community of Nashville and brought many fair-minded white citizens to call for an end to both violence and segregation in their city.  


Houston, Benjamiin. The Nashville Way: Racial Etiquette and the Struggle for Social Justice in a Southern City (Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South. Athens, GA. University of Georgia Press, 2012.

Nashville Sit-Ins. Civil Rights Digital Library. Accessed April 19, 2017.

Arcade and 5th Ave
Nashville, TN
  • African American History
User Created Tours That Include This Entry
This location was created on 2014-08-05 by David J. Trowbridge .   It was last updated on 2017-04-19 by Clio Admin .

This entry has been viewed 1158 times within the past year


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