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Lunch Counter Sit-Ins (1960)


No Sound on Film | 1960

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  •  Doctors treat 27-year-old Felton Turner, the victim of a hate crime. On the night of March 7, 1960, Turner was kidnapped at gunpoint by four hooded white men. The assailants transported Turner to an isolated wooded area, where they beat him with chains and hung him from a tree by his feet. As the gruesome footage shows, the men also scratched two sets of “KKK” into Turner’s stomach with a knife. Turner eventually worked the ropes off his hands and feet and walked to a nearby night watchman’s house to call the police. He told police that one assailant told him that they were hired to assault him in response to the lunch counter protests staged by Texas Southern University students.  
  •  Detective D. M. Felts inspects the rope used to assault Turner 
  •  Interview with an unidentified police official, possibly Assistant Chief George Seber or Captain Weldon Waycott 
  •  Interview with a suspect in the crime. On March 16, police filed a felony charge of disfiguring against 18-year-old Ronald Gene Erickson. After nearly 24 hours of questioning, Erickson signed a statement confessing to the abduction but denied participating in the beating or mutilation of Turner. He also named three accomplices. 
  •  Turner attempts to identify one of his attackers in a police line up 
  •  Stores closing their lunch departments does not deter Texas Southern University students from continuing their peaceful protests 
  •  Lunch counter sit-in at Mading’s Drugs on March 5 
  •  Demonstration against segregation outside City Hall 
  •  A KPRC reporter speaks with Houston Mayor Lewis Cutrer 
  •  Sit in at the lunch counter of a Woolworth department store 
  •  Protest at a second Woolworth’s 
  •  White patrons crowd the remaining open counter, presumably to block civil rights protesters 
  •  Woolworth department store on the corner of Main and McKinney Streets in downtown Houston. The F. W. Woolworth Company was a five-and-dime retail chain with stores all across the United States and abroad. This location opened in 1949 as the largest Woolworth’s ever constructed, costing $8 million.  
  •  Turner speaks to a KPRC reporter 
  •  Sit-in at Mading’s Drugs 
  •  Investigators question another youth suspected in the Turner assault. Police questioned and released the three persons named by Erickson as accomplices.  
  •  Police line up 
  •  Sit-in at a Walgreen’s drug store 
  •  The tagline of “drugs with a reputation” takes on new meaning amidst the protests against segregated lunch counters 
  •  Mading’s Drugs removes the seats from its lunch counter stools to inhibit protesters 
  •  The Weingarten Supermarket on Almeda shuts down its lunch counter. TSU students began the series of demonstrations at the store on March 4. Now a post office, the property bears a Texas Historical Commission marker identifying it as the site of the city’s first sit-in. “There are few events we can point to that changed the world,” then Mayor Anise Parker said at the 2010 ceremony. “We’re here today to commemorate one event that changed the course of our city, irrevocably.” 
  •  Another store ropes off its lunch counter  
  •  Lunch counter demonstration at a Walgreen’s 
  •  Enterprising individuals take advantage of the closed lunch counters to sell sandwiches, snacks, and coffee to white city employees from a food truck outside City Hall 
  •  Deserted lunch counter 
  •  “White City Employees Only” 
  •  Picketers outside City Hall 
  •  Integrated lunch counter 
  •  Woolworth’s sit-in 
  •  Police question another youth suspected in the Turner assault 
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This unedited footage from Houston’s KPRC-TV follows the lunch counter demonstrations across Houston in March 1960 as well as the hate crime committed in retaliation. Under Jim Crow, racial segregation extended to the lunch counters at supermarkets and department, drug, and variety stores. On February 1, 1960, four African-American college students launched a protest against such racial inequality at a Woolworth department store in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Greensboro Four, as they came to be known, sat down at the white-only lunch counter and politely asked for service. When their request was denied, the students peaceably remained in their seats until the store closed. The six-month-long demonstration sparked a national movement, with students staging similar sit-ins at segregated stores across the South. Protests in Houston began on March 4, when a group of 13 Texas Southern University students sat at the lunch counter of a Weingarten’s Supermarket. The next day, demonstrators moved to Mading’s Drugs. While such activism started at stores near campus, the sit-ins eventually spread throughout Houston. This footage captures sit-ins at multiple stores, including the downtown Woolworth’s. Some operators attempt to deter protesters by closing lunch counters; others look to continue serving only white customers via food truck. Outside City Hall, protesters hold signs urging desegregation. While demonstrations were peaceful, all responses were not. On March 7, four hooded white men abducted and assaulted 27-year-old Felton Turner. The assailants told Turner they were hired to hurt him in retaliation for the lunch counter protests. The film intercuts footage of sit-ins with that documenting the law enforcement investigation into Turner’s attack. The assault further galvanized the local civil rights movement, with most city businesses desegregating by the close of 1960. Please note, this film contains sensitive footage documenting injuries to a hate-crime victim. Viewer discretion is advised.