This Day in History

May 28, 1963: Woolworth Sit-in in Jackson, Mississippi

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights

On May 28, 1963, students and faculty from Tougaloo College staged a sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi.

This was the most violently attacked sit-in during the 1960s. A huge mob gathered, with open police support while the three of us sat there for three hours. I was attacked with fists, brass knuckles and the broken portions of glass sugar containers, and was burned with cigarettes. FBI agents were observing inside but took no action. — Tougaloo College professor John Salter (Hunter Bear), seated in photo on video below with Tougaloo College students Joan Trumpauer (now Mulholland), and Anne Moody (author of Coming of Age in Mississippi).

The Southern Foodways website, Counter Histories, offers a short film on the Jackson sit-in.

Counter Histories: Jackson, Mississippi from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.

For three hours, the group endured insults and attacks by an increasingly violent white mob. Tougaloo student Memphis Norman was physically thrown from his seat and kicked in the head as he lay on the floor. The rest of the white mob slapped the protesters, hit them with items from the lunch counter, and even burned cigarettes on their skin. Others dumped drinks on the protesters or laughed as others covered them in sugar, mustard, and ketchup. Jackson Daily News photographer Fred Blackwell took the now iconic photo of the sit-in that depicted the anger of the white mob. [Source.]

Learn more about the Jackson sit-in in the book We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired and related website.

The Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement also offers important information and resources, as does the book Coming of Age in Mississippi.