N.C. A&T Remembers ‘Greensboro Four’ With New Statue
Four Black college freshmen who inspired sit-in movements across the South when they ordered food from a segregated lunch counter have been immortalized with a statue.
Leaders from North Carolina A&T State University unveiled a 10-foot statue of the men, who have become known as the “Greensboro Four.”
Jibreel Khazan, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and the late David Richmond helped launch a decade of civil rights protest when they ordered food and sat down with it Feb. 1, 1960, at the downtown Woolworth’s department store. At the time, the department store allowed Blacks to eat only at a standup counter.
“Great people don’t always know that what they are doing at the time will later be perceived as something great,” says McNeil’s son, Ron McNeil. “They weren’t great at the time, but they had courage.”
The statue depicting the four men was unveiled Feb. 1 outside the university’s Dudley Memorial Building. The unveiling was part of a daylong celebration to honor the 42nd anniversary of the sit-in.
A&T also honored civil rights leaders Dr. Vincent Harding and Rosemarie Freeney-Harding with the university’s annual human rights medal.
Harding, a religion and social transformation professor at the University of Denver, and his wife were recognized for their work in the Southern Freedom movement. Harding was the founding director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta in 1968.
Hundreds of people gathered at a breakfast and later at the emotional unveiling of “February One” to hear A&T leaders, Ron McNeil and the three surviving members of the Greensboro Four speak.
“A great Indian leader once said, ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world,’ ” McNeil said. “If you see something you don’t like in this world, you change it.”
The actions 42 years ago of the Greensboro Four have allowed people to embrace their futures ever since, he said.
The statue, sculpted by A&T art professor James Barnhill, brought tears to Joseph McNeil’s eyes. “It’s a magnificent sculpture,” he said, as he glanced up at his younger self.
McCain says he wants people to see the statue as “an act of faith … representing the will and passion to be free,” and as “hope for a beloved and united community.”
But all three of the surviving men say their hope is that the sculpture serves as a reminder that change is possible.
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