Events to recognize MLK
(Jan. 2, 2003)
A civil rights activist who led sit-ins at a lunch counter in a Greensboro department store in 1960 will be among the speakers participating in programs at East Carolina University on Jan. 15 and 20 to recognize the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Franklin E. McCain of Charlotte was among the original four black students from North Carolina A&T College who were refused service at a Woolworth's department store lunch counter on Feb. 1, 1960. The store's lunch counter provided food service only to white customers and not to blacks.
McCain, a retired textile chemist, will discuss his experiences with civil rights on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. in Mendenhall Student Center's Hendrix Theatre. The program is free and the public is invited.
Dr. Lawrence M. Clark will give the second Martin Luther King presentation on Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. in the Great Room in Mendenhall Student Center. Clark is a former associate provost and mathematics professor at North Carolina State University. He helped to establish NCSU's West Africa Initiative that promotes collaborative research and study between NC State and three universities in Ghana.
Dr. David Dennard, an ECU history professor and the chairman of the ECU MLK Committee, said the speakers will offer their perspectives on milestones in civil rights during the 1950s and 60s and on the things that have taken place since.
A candlelight vigil in remembrance of King will be held prior to the Jan. 20 presentation. The vigil will start at 6 p.m. at the top of College Hill Drive on the ECU campus. Participants will march from College Hill to the student center for the MLK Day address by Clark.
The sit-in at the Greenboro department store lunch counter is considered one of the most important events in civil rights history because it spawned a national movement that ultimately brought down segregation in the South.
McCain, along with Joseph McNeil, David Richmond and Ezell Blair Jr. were students at N.C. A&T and lived in the same residence hall when they defied the whites-only policy at Woolworth's. Other downtown restaurants in Greensboro had similar policies.
McCain emerged as the organizer of the demonstration. He was quoted in the Greensboro News and Record on the first day of the sit-in as saying, "We like to spend our money here, but we want to spend it at the lunch counter as well as the counter next to it."
After six months of protests, the store integrated its lunch counter on July 25. The original faded Formica lunch counter and four '50s -era stools went on display in the Smithsonian in 1995.
ECU holds programs annually in observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. An MLK Observance Committee, the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, the Student Union Cultural Awareness Committee and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity sponsor the programs.