The Nashville Sit-Ins

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In late 1959, James Lawson and other members of the Nashville Christian Leadership Council’s projects committee met with department store owners Fred Harvey and John Sloan, and asked them to voluntarily serve African Americans at their lunch counters. Both men declined, saying that they would lose more business than they would gain. The students then began doing reconnaissance for sit-in demonstrations. The first test took place at Harvey’s Department Store in downtown Nashville on November 28, followed by the Cain-Sloan store on December 5. Small groups of students purchased items at the stores and then sat at their lunch counters and attempted to order food. Their goal was to try to sense the mood and degree of resistance in each store. Although they were refused service at both lunch counters, the reactions varied significantly. At Harvey’s, they received surprisingly polite responses but while at Cain-Sloan they were treated with contempt. These reconnaissance actions were low-key and neither of the city's newspapers was notified of them.

These actions marked another chapter in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.
Do you think these students should have engaged in what could have been construed as unlawful action at the time?
Explain your answerremembering that under Plessey vs. Ferguson, “separate but equal” was the law at the time.

The civil rights struggle during the 1960s was a huge turning point in our country’s history. If not for the small efforts put in for change, such as the sit-in demonstrations, these efforts would not have grown, and ultimately changed our country for the better. These sit-ins were also passive and very peaceful, causing no harm to others. Although desegregation was not what some people wanted, fighting for it was ultimately the right thing to do, even if it was considered unlawful action at the time. In the end, those students did what was right because they helped a cause they believed in.

For many years, the...
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