On February 1, 1960, Franklin McCain and three other North Carolina A&T college freshmen – Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond –enter a F.W. Woolworth’s store in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at the store’s segregated, “whites only” lunch counter, ordered coffee, and changed the course of American history.
Following store policy, Woolworth’s refused to serve the “Greensboro Four” at the lunch counter that day, and then closed early to force the young man out of the store. But the next day several more students showed up to “sit-in” at the counter. Within a few more days, hundreds of people were participating in the daily protests. By the end of the month, the Greensboro citizens had sparked demonstrations in towns and cities across the country.
Frank and his three friends had spent months discussing society’s injustices, particularly those based on skin color. They decided to confront Woolworth’s to bring attention to such social injustice. As a direct result of their determination, Woolworth’s officially desegregated by the end of July, 1960, just six months after the four brave young man had first sat down at the counter and ordered coffee. The Greensboro Four’s actions received worldwide attention and played a critical role in stimulating passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1960.
Franklin Eugene McCain was born in Union County, North Carolina, but grew up mostly in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, he came back to North Carolina in 1959 to attend A&T. He graduated from A&T in 1964 with a B.S. In chemistry and biology. He later earned a Masters in Arts from AT&T and also attended North Carolina State University and Princeton University. He went on to work for Celanese as a chemist and eventually led the company’s Shelby, North Carolina office. He has held positions at numerous organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. North Carolina A&T State University bestowed an honorary Doctor of Philosophy and Humanities on Dr. McCain in 1991. Dr. McCain and his wife have 3 sons.
The NSSF is privileged, and humbled, to have Dr. McCain serve as the Honorary Referee of the 2010 New Balance Nationals.
These four A&T freshman envisioned and carried out the lunch counter sit-in of February 1,1960 in downtown Greensboro. Their courage act against social injustice inspired similar progress across the nation and is remembered as a defining moment in the struggle for civil rights.
-Engraved on the February One Monument on NCA&T’s campus.