Peaceful Protests for Equality / Turning a Blind Eye to a Movement
— Downtown African-American Heritage Trail —
Lexington's Black Citizens Staged Lunch Counter Sit-ins Here
Peaceful sit-ins to protest segregated restaurants and lunch counters in Lexington stores began in July of 1959-nearly seven months before a more famous protest in Greensboro, NC. One of the Lexington sit-ins took place in 1960 at an S.S. Kresge store once located at the corner of Main and Mill Streets.
Staging sit-ins at specific Lexington stores
Black citizens weren't allowed to eat at the lunch counters of Woolworths and other stores. They were expected to purchase food and leave or stand at the snack bar. Members of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the NAACP staged sit-ins to protest discriminatory practices.
Demonstrating peacefully, black citizens worked to fill segregated lunch counters, using the intentional vacancy of a white sympathizer to fill with a black protester.
By taking over the seats, black citizens cost the stores money, since waitresses weren't allowed to serve them. Sometimes black protesters left alternating seats open to encourage
They changed Lexington in less than a year
Creative tactics and coordination with local law enforcement kept the sit-ins relatively peaceful. As a result of the protests, most lunch counters in downtown Lexington were integrated by August of 1960.
Protests Prevailed Despite Poor Media Coverage
Through the early 1960s, local news outlets denied front-page coverage to large marches down Main Street and protests against segregation at the Phoenix Hotel, the Strand Theatre, and lunch counters such as the one at the S.S. Kresge store once located at the corner of Main and Mill Streets.
Intentionally ignoring civil rights
By refusing to highlight these peaceful demonstrations, local media intentionally downplayed the civil rights movement. In 2004, The Lexington Herald-Leader issued this front-page apology:
"It has come to the editor's attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission."
Capturing the Struggle on Film
These photos of Lexington residents working to change the city's segregated ways were taken by Calvert McCann, a high school student at the time.
Because local media rarely carried photos
Erected 2018 by Together Lexington. (Marker Number 3.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Civil Rights.
Location. 38° 2.878′ N, 84° 29.945′ W. Marker is in Lexington, Kentucky, in Fayette County. Marker is at the intersection of South Mill Street and West Main Street (U.S. 25), on the right when traveling north on South Mill Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: South Mill Street, Lexington KY 40507, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. First Inauguration (within shouting distance of this marker); Lexington Courthouses / Cheapside (within shouting distance of this marker); Fayette County (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Fayette County World War I Memorial (about 300 feet away); U.S. Vice President (about 300 feet away); Silversmith Shop (about 300 feet away); African American Physicians (about 400 feet away); Slavery in Fayette Co. / Cheapside Slave Auction Block (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lexington.
Regarding Peaceful Protests for Equality / Turning a Blind Eye to a Movement.
Black Freedom Struggle (1950s-Present)
The Black Freedom Struggle was most visible during the 1950’s and 60’s where groups such as C.O.R.E, the N.A.A.C.P, and the Urban League fought against discriminatory policies. Lexington’s desegregation achievements were reached through peaceful demonstrations. The growth towards equality continues today. Local accomplishments such as the removal of confederate statues through the movement “Take Back Cheapside”, and national organizing like “Black Lives Matter” show that activism for racial equality are still necessary.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 29, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 29, 2019, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 81 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on July 29, 2019, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. 2, 3. submitted on July 30, 2019, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.