Students sit-in, win victory for civil rights, Miami Beach, Florida, March 1960

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Time Period:  
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Miami Beach, Florida
The desegregation of department-store lunch counters and public accommodations in Miami Beach, Florida

In March 1960, a national wave of sit-in campaigns to desegregate lunch counters and public accommodations reached Miami. Miami was one of 11 Florida cities where activists organized sit-ins over the months of February and March 1960. On 4 March 1960, students from Florida Memorial College led a sit-in in in Miami, Florida. Participants included adult ministers.

Miami’s Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) was inspired by student sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina and began a sit-in campaign in March 1960 that followed up on the goal of desegregating department store lunch counters from CORE’s 1959 Miami sit-ins (See In March 1960, CORE combined their sit-ins with pickets, demonstrations, and boycotts of segregated stores. NAACP leader Father Theodore R. Gibson summarized the demonstrators’ intentions to the Miami News, “We are going to eat at those lunch counters if we have to fill up the whole of the Dade County jail.” Miami business and political leaders worried that the protests would cause negative publicity that would harm the city’s reputation with tourists.

Out of concern for the city’s image, Miami Mayor Robert King High appointed a biracial committee to discuss the desegregation of lunch counters and public accommodations with Miami merchants. Also that March, Florida Governor LeRoy Collins stated on television to Floridians that he was in support of the desegregation of lunch counters.

On 11 March 1960, Reverend Edward T. Graham led seven Black clergymen to sit-in at the lunch-counter of Burdines downtown store. The police would not allow the group to enter the building. Police workers at the site had been alerted by officials to arrest anyone involved in the demonstration.

A mass meeting of activists gathered at Mt. Zion Baptist Church after the attempted sit-in. Activists decided to boycott downtown stores. Their decision angered Mayor Robert King High, who had met with the biracial committee that same day to address the threat of future sit-ins. Activists postponed the boycott to allow officials from CORE, the NAACP, the Ministerial Alliance (a Black activist group) and the City of Miami to meet.

A white ally named John Turner became involved in these negotiations. A businessman, Turner convinced Mayor Robert King to begin meeting seriously with Black Miami community leaders. The Dade County Relations Board formed from these meetings. Local leaders involved in these meetings included Father Theodore R. Gibson and Dr. George Simpson from the NAACP, A.D. Moore and Dr. John O Brown from CORE, and Reverend Edward T. Graham from the Ministerial Alliance.

This committee proposed a plan in April 1960 that would allow all stores to open their lunch counters to Black patrons. CORE led further sit-ins over the summer to pressure the committee to push the plane and to push the governor, mayor, and city leaders to accept it. The plan went into effect 1 August 1960. With this agreement, Miami became the first Florida city to desegregate lunch counters.

Research Notes

This campaign was influenced by student sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina (1).

Anon. 2015. "The Sit-in Movement." International Civil Rights Center and Museum. International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Retrieved February 24, 2015. (

Blount, Pauline. 2011. "CORE Activists Practice Nonviolent Action at Miami Lunch Counters, 1959." Global Nonviolent Action Database. Swarthmore College, September, 29. Retrieved February 24, 2015. (

Carson, Clayborne. 1990. "State Reports." The Student Voice 1960-1965: Periodical of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1990): 9-10. Google Books. Retrieved February 24, 2015. (

Dunn, Marvin. 1997. Black Miami in the Twentieth Century. Gainsville, FL: University of Florida.

Mohl, Raymond A. 1999. ""South of the South?" Jews, Blacks, and the Civil Rights Movement in Miami, 1945-1960." Journal of American Ethnic History 18.2 (1999): 3-36. ProQuest. Retrieved February 24, 2015.

Mohl, Raymond A. 2005. South of the South: Jewish Activists and the Civil Rights Movement in Miami, 1945-1960. Gainsville, FL: University of Florida.

Morris, Aldon. 1981. Black Southern Student Sit-in Movement : An Indigenous Perspective. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan. 58. Black Southern Student Sit-in Movement : An Indigenous Perspective. University of Michigan. Retrieved February 24, 2015. (

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Erica Janko 20/3/2015