Students peacefully protested segregation in 1960 sit-in

The sit-in movement of the 1960s began in February and gained momentum throughout the South. Black students engaged in peaceful protests by sitting at segregated lunch counters at five-and-dime stores. These non-violent demonstrations gained public attention and played a significant role in the civil rights movement.

Hillsborough Connection

On Feb. 29, 1960, a series of daily sit-ins started at F.W. Woolworth in downtown Tampa. About 40 students from George S. Middleton and Howard W. Blake High Schools, led by the NAACP Youth Council president and the NAACP state president, banded together to peacefully protest segregation.

Tampa Mayor Julian Lane ordered the Tampa Police Department to escort the young protesters after the first day of the sit-ins. Days later, Lane appointed a Bi-Racial Committee to quell racial tensions and encourage racial equality.

By September 1960 a total of 18 department stores in Tampa had desegregated lunch counters. Unlike many other Southern cities during the 1960s, Tampa achieved this through nonviolent means.

The Tampa F.W. Woolworth store closed in the early 1990s and is currently vacant. However, the historical marker stands as a testament to the power of peaceful protest and grassroots activism.

Woolworth sit historical marker
The Woolworth Sit-in historical marker, side 1.

Historical Marker Inscription

Tampa's Former F.W. Woolworth Store

Woolworth's variety store was the scene of a pivotal event that started on February 29, 1960. Clarence Fort, President of the N.A.A.C.P. Youth Council and Reverend A. Leon Lowry, N.A.A.C.P. State president, led about 40 students (from George S. Middleton and Howard W. Blake High Schools) in a peaceful sit-in at F.W. Woolworth's lunch counter at 801 North Franklin Street. At the time, Tampa Mayor Julian B. Lane assigned police to escort the young protestors and after about a week Lane agreed to appoint a Bi-Racial Committee to look into the demonstrators' complaints. By September, Tampa's lunch counters were integrated without the violence seen in many other parts of the country.

Woolworth sit in historical marker
The Woolworth Sit-in historical marker, side 2.

Marker location

The marker is at the intersection of East Polk Street and North Franklin Street, on the right when traveling west on East Polk Street.

The Woolworth Sit-In historical marker was erected in 2018 by the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council, Tampa Woolworth Project.

Learn more about the Woolworth Sit-in

Learn more about the Woolworth Sit-in in a Hillsborough County produced video Honoring Woolworth Sit-in Protestors.

Last Modified: 1/26/2024, 8:38:26 PM

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