Lower School Learns about DA Family’s Ties to Civil Rights Movement

Story by Leslie King

As part of a virtual Lower School assembly for Black History Month in February, students listened to the book Freedom on the Menu: the Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford. Weatherford focuses on the Greensboro sit-ins of 1960, with an 8-year-old girl providing a first-person account of those events and the segregated world she lives in.

The sit-ins started on Feb. 1, 1960, when four Black North Carolina A&T State University students sat down at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro and refused to give up their seats after being denied service. Over the next few days, hundreds of students joined them.

The sit-in protest launched by Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond and Joseph McNeil was soon replicated by students in college towns in 55 cities and 13 states, gaining national media coverage and increasing attention for the civil rights movement. Ultimately, their actions forced Woolworth’s and other dining facilities to integrate by that summer.

To recognize the anniversary of the key civil rights movement event, DA Lower School Director Carolyn Ronco recorded an interview with Charles McCain ’22, grandson of Dr. Franklin McCain, to help students understand the real-life ties to the civil rights movement within their own school.

“He mentioned that day was probably the best day of his life, he felt that he was actively changing the world for the better and he knew that he was just a small step in a greater process for an equal country,” Charles McCain said. “And he just felt like he and his friends were doing their part to try to make our country as equal as possible so everyone could access restaurants and have the same opportunities. He just felt that was such an inspiring day for him and he was making history.”

The elder McCain passed away in 2014 when Charles was 9 years old.

“It’s just really special to know that my grandfather was such a great part in history, and for me it’s a sense of pride knowing that’s part of my family,” McCain reflected. “And honestly I really think about almost every time I go to a restaurant, that years ago this wasn’t even possible until the civil rights movement and his movement was a big part of that.”

Watch the full interview

Read about Wendell McCain’s Middle School