By Grace Lim, ’17

Just an hour away by Amtrak train, Greensboro is a city that holds huge historical significance to many. Our History 109 class on Introduction to Human Rights and Social Movements embarked on a day trip to this city to put into perspective the discussions we had in class regarding the student-led sit-in movements that first began in Greensboro and that is also widely agreed to be the primary precursor to the civil rights movement in North Carolina. Visiting the Greensboro Historical Museum, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum and the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, we not only saw pictures, videos and preserved historical artifacts detailing this historical event, we also heard from local leaders who had lived through Jim Crow legislation and gave their take on the less publicized accounts of history.

Untitled2

One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, located at the same Woolworth store where the very first sit-ins took place in 1960. Highlighting the hypocrisy behind the phrase “all men are created equal” in our Declaration of Independence, our tour guide led us through the exhibits depicting the many instances in which races were segregated and largely unequal. One striking exhibit showed an old Coke machine, which sold Coke at 2 cents on one side for whites and 5 cents on the other side for colored people. Her accounts of her own childhood growing up under Jim Crow legislation were vivid and gave us a sense of the kind of conditions and pressures blacks faced in those times, and how far we have come today in removing such injustices.

Nevertheless, the religious leaders who spoke to us at The Beloved Community Center emphasized the continuous struggle that blacks face even today, despite our general impression that racial inequality is no longer a pressing societal problem following the end of the civil rights movement. Blacks continue to face suppression in many ways, sometimes involving violence such as the 1979 shooting, or more subtly on other occasions, such as downward channeling of jobs. As North Carolina prepares for the Historic Thousands on Jones Street March on February 8th, this less glamorous past of our nation is definitely something that should be reflected upon. Overall, this trip has given me a whole new perspective and understanding on the American civil rights history, at no better place than the city where the struggle for democracy and equality began. On behalf of my class, I would like to thank the Duke Human Rights Center@FHI and the Serving Learning Program for sponsoring the trip and Professor Steve Milder for organizing and making it happen!