History’s Journey: On the Road to the Civil Rights Past, Day 1

Pitt students at the statue of the Greensboro Four, on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University.

On June 11, nine Pitt students set off on the 15th annual Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights bus tour, a nine-day, 2,300-mile journey crisscrossing five states. In addition to visiting sites associated with the fight for racial justice, students are hearing from men and women who participated in the movement.

Saturday, June 11
Day 1—The Awakening

After months of preparation for this trip, the alarm rang at 2:15 a.m. I and eight other Pitt students boarded the bus in Oakland at 4 a.m. and, after a stop in Beaver Falls to pick up additional passengers, we had a bus full of folks eager for the path ahead.

Our journey has begun.

It was a 10-hour bus ride to our first stop: Greensboro, NC. It was here that the Greensboro Four—Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond—sparked a movement by sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro. On the bus ride here, our group had watched the documentary, February One, which tells the story of these four young college students who attended the historically black North Carolina A&T State University. We visited the campus and looked at the monument constructed in honor of these four courageous men.

Our last stop of the day was the Woolworth building in downtown Greensboro where the sit-in took place. Today, the building is the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The museum gave us insight on the events of Feb. 1, 1960, and the resulting sit-ins throughout the South. It also provided an overview of the Civil Rights Movement, which we will expand upon as the trip progresses.

While the museum was an educational experience, it was also  highly emotional. Many of the exhibits presented the stories of individuals. Their stories of the pain, suffering, loss, and resolve are beyond powerful. The realness and rawness of the space, the reality of all of the social ills brought tears to my eyes.

I am thankful for this powerful day and look forward to those to come.
—Kayla Shawley, Pitt senior resident director

Photo above: A statue of the Greensboro Four on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University. In front of the statue are (from left) Pitt sophomores Krista Lee and Kristen Sadler; seniors Claire Dempsey, Caitlin McMaster, and Ava Mosbacher; Andrew Muse (A&S '16); Pitt senior resident director Kayla Shawley; and resident director Cayla Turner.

Below: The building that housed the Woolworth lunch counter—where the Greensboro Four sat in civil protest—is now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The building that housed the Woolworth lunch counter, where the Greensboro Four sat in civil protest.