University students campaign for racial integration in Charlotte, NC, 1960


The goal was to fully desegregate the city of Charlotte, North Carolina

Time period notes

Although it lasted for five months, there were periods of time during these 5 months in which there were no protests.

Time period

February 9, 1960 to July 9, 1960


United States

Location City/State/Province

Charlotte, North Carolina

Location Description

Stores and cafeterias in downtown Charlotte
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • in front of City Council
  • Lunch Counter

Methods in 2nd segment

  • in front of City Council
  • Lunch Counter

Methods in 3rd segment

  • in front of City Council
  • Lunch Counter

Methods in 4th segment

  • in front of City Council
  • Lunch Counter

Methods in 5th segment

  • in front of City Council
  • Lunch Counter

Methods in 6th segment

  • in front of City Council
  • of the downtown shopping area
  • Lunch Counter

Segment Length

25 days


Joseph Charles Jones


Smith University students

External allies

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); local Negro civic group; White Unitarians, Catawba Presbytery Ministers

Involvement of social elites

Mayor's Committee; Reverend Sidney L. Freeman


White merchants in Charlotte

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

There was minimal pushing and shoving at one demonstration. Violence by participants was not sanctioned by leadership.

Repressive Violence

There was minimal pushing and shoving at one demonstration.


Human Rights
National-Ethnic Identity



Group characterization

Johnson C. Smith University students

Groups in 1st Segment

Catawba Presbytery Ministers

Groups in 2nd Segment

Negro Methodist Ministerial Alliance

Groups in 3rd Segment

White Unitarians
local Negro civic group

Groups in 4th Segment

Mayor's Committee

Groups in 6th Segment

Reverend Sidney L. Freeman

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Catawba Presbytery Ministers did come out in support of the protests in the 1st Segment although they did not actually join the picketing until the 3rd Segment.

Segment Length

25 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

This case was largely successful in achieving its' original goals. Racial segregation was eliminated in Charlotte, and it was done within a 2-year time frame. The organizations involved were able to survive. There was a medium amount of growth with the joining of the white Unitarians. Jones did not want large growth outside of the black community in Charlotte.

Database Narrative

During a period of five months in the spring of 1960, students and adults in Charlotte, North Carolina, participated in the sit-in movement to protest segregation. It was an attempt to end racial segregation in the public facilities in the city of Charlotte. The city government was the opposition.

Although Charlotte served as one of the more integrated cities in the South, some of it remained segregated at the start of 1960. Specifically, theaters, restaurants, public swimming pools, and the junior college were not integrated. The city itself contained a large African American population, approximately 27% of the entire population. The presence of a historically black university, Johnson C. Smith University, in the city of Charlotte certainly added to the ratio.

Sit-ins to protest segregation became widely popular in the South following the famous campaign in Greensboro, in which four Black students sat at a “whites only” lunch counter, waiting to be served (see “Greensboro, NC, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960”). This took place on February 1, 1960. It was on Thursday, February 9, 1960, that this form of non-violent resistance was used in Charlotte, North Carolina.

On February 9, approximately 100 Smith University students staged sit-ins at eight different stores in downtown Charlotte. Joseph Charles Jones, a 22-year-old theological student led the students. Jones was skilled in the technique of nonviolence.

The protests escalated, and on February 10, larger groups of students gathered at various stores in the downtown area, up to forty per group. While the college fully supported the sit-ins, the black community was a bit skeptical of the strategy being used. Though the organizers were not specifically using violent methods, many people believed it was a form of agitation that would only result in violent tactics from the opposition.

Students held off from the sit-ins after the first four days of action, resuming a few days later after receiving immense support from the Catawba Presbytery, a local religious organization. But the protests stopped once again on the 19th. The protests quickly resumed only a day later, when the Negro Methodist Ministerial Alliance provided its own support.

On February 23, police arrested multiple students after a demonstration at Belk’s Department store. Students sat at a door, repeatedly chanting the word “freedom”, and persons on the scene allegedly started to shove each other. Police only arrested the black students who were involved. On February 27, police arrested another black student. Other black students brought complaints of these arrests to City Council.

Soon after, students elected Jones President of the Student Protest Movement. Sit-ins resumed on March 18. Still, merchants refused to cooperate in the negotiation process with the protesters. On April 14, the first white person, a Northerner, joined the actions. Jones was hesitant to let the campaign get out of hand and did not necessarily want Northerners to get involved. By reducing outside interference, Jones sought to eliminate antagonism.

In May, students called off their sit-ins. The town established a Mayor’s Committee; the Committee then tried to open negotiations. Most negotiations worked but two department stores (Ivey’s and Belk Brothers) had not finished their negotiations. On June 22nd, students resumed sit-in demonstrations. In addition, Charlotte African-Americans used other tactics. They boycotted the entire downtown shopping area, which damaged Charlotte’s economy.

Students utilized various tactics throughout the summer, including boycotts, pickets, and sit-ins. On June 23, a group of ministers from Catawba Presbytery joined the pickets. On June 27, a white pastor by the name of Sidney L. Freeman joined the pickets, along with other white men and women.

The final phase occurred in the first week of July. On July 2, the chairman of the Mayor’s Committee told the protesters to hold off, and an agreement would follow. Just two days later, the Committee agreed to integrate lunch counters. Finally, on July 9, fifteen black students were served at a formerly “whites only” lunch counter. The success continued when some public parks and swimming pools were integrated as well. Later on, movie theaters, suburban shopping center lunch counters, and Charlotte and Carver Colleges were also integrated.


The Smith University students were influenced by the Greensboro students' sit-in just one week before (see "Greensboro, NC, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960") (1).


Oppenheimer, Martin. "Charlotte Sit-Ins." The Sit-In Movement of 1960. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Pub., 1989. Print.

Civil Rights Movement Veterans. "The Sit-Ins of 1960." History and Timeline. Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. <>.

Additional Notes

The NAACP provided the campaign with legal help but funding came from a local Negro civic group. The white Unitarians joining the cause gave the campaign a lot of legitimacy. Other factors helped the Movement’s success as well. The boycott provided a lot of economic pressure. Also, Negro voting strength was large so integration became a more powerful cause on politicians’ platforms. And finally, the college was open in the summer so students were able to remain there in July for sit-ins.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Samantha Bennett 28/01/2011