"We as a group of intelligent young people only desire our equal rights under the Constitution. We feel that we are American citizens because we were born here." – Protestor, Shelby Sit-Ins, as quoted in Greensboro Daily News
Young people in Shelby joined the wave of sit-ins that swept the nation following the Greensboro Sit-Ins on February 18, 1960. On this date, after being denied service, as many as 75 students staged sit-ins at Smith’s Drug Store and at the lunch counter at the local bus station. Unlike other sit-ins, the Shelby Sit-Ins were primarily organized by high school students, most of whom attended Cleveland High School. The majority of the protestors dispersed quickly, but three young Black men remained. They were forcibly removed by the police.
Following the February 17th sit-in, the City of Shelby arranged a meeting with the hopes that they could settle the community's concerns. On February 25, 1960, Black community leaders, Shelby City Council, a group of drug store owners, and members of the Shelby Ministerial Association met. The store owners refused to consider integration.
Two days later, on February 27th, a picket and sit-in occurred at local department and drug stores, drawing approximately 50 protestors. During the protest, three white people took a picket sign from a Black teenager and used it to physically assault him. This attack was the first reported occurrence of racially motivated violence during the sit-in movement in North Carolina.
Adapted from an essay submitted with historical marker application by the City of Shelby, NC
Image: The Charlotte Observer, February 19, 1960, p. 3
Aldon Morris, "Black Southern Sit-In Movement: An Analysis of Internal Organization," American Sociological Review 46, no. 6 (1981).
Christopher W. Schmidt, The Sit-Ins: Protest and Legal Change in the Civil Rights Era (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2018): 22.
“Negro Protest is Spreading,” Statesville Record and Landmark (Statesville, NC), February 19, 1960.
“Shelby Hit by Sitdown Movement,” Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, NC), February 19, 1960.
The Associated Press, "Race Picket In Shelby Beaten," Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, NC), February 28, 1960.
The Associated Press , "Sitdown Strikes Move to Conference Tables But Protests Continue," Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill, NC), February 28, 1960.
The Associated Press, 'Tensions Mount in Tar Heel Cities," High Point Enterprise (High Point, NC), February 28, 1960.
“Three,” Daily Times-News (Burlington, NC), February 19, 1960.