The Guilford County Board of Education has unanimously approved a new name for the lobby at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts in High Point. The move celebrates the nation’s first high school student-led lunch counter sit-in.

Lunch counter sit-ins as a form of civil protest began at the Woolworth in downtown Greensboro on February 1, 1960. But lesser known in history, this event caught the attention of a group of students in High Point who wanted to desegregate stores in their community. 

They staged their own sit-in less than two weeks later. 

Retired Air Force Private First Class, George H. Garlington Jr. was one of 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."

For years, a student-painted mural has adorned the wall in Penn-Griffin’s lobby to commemorate that day. And now, it will be further memorialized with the February 11 Lobby. During the school board’s public hearing on May 22, Joe Barnes was an enthusiastic supporter.

"It’s good to be at the right place at the right time," he says. "On behalf of my godmother who was one of the original 26 students from historic William Penn High School, we agree 100% with that proposal, and thank you for the consideration of naming the hall February 11th, 1960."

The actions of Barnes’ godmother and her classmates marked a turning point in the civil rights struggle, and 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.

300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.