Lunch counter sit-ins as a form of civil protest began at the Woolworth in downtown Greensboro on February 1, 1960. That event caught the attention of a group of younger students in High Point who wanted to desegregate stores in their community.
The famous Greensboro Four — freshmen at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (now North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University) — sparked a wave of protests across the country, and the original Woolworth location is today the site of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Lesser known are the High Point high school students who staged their own sit-in less than two weeks later. Most attended William Penn, and on February 11 of 1960, they became the first high schoolers in the nation to carry it out.
Retired Air Force Private First Class, George H. Garlington Jr. was among them. He says leaving Woolworth he and his classmates were pelted by snowballs from a group of angry white people.
"It was a scary time," says Garlington. "It was. But we didn’t think at the time we were making history. We were just doing what we thought was the right thing when we met and planned the sit-in demonstration at the lunch counter because of their segregated policies. You know, when I start talking about that, I really get emotional because it brings back too many painful memories."
Over the next three years High Point’s Black community continued calling for the complete desegregation of the city’s public institutions. All lunch counters were integrated in 1963.
*Correction: A previously broadcast version of this story misidentified George H. Garlington Jr. as George H. Garlington Sr.