Where open for business
means opening up history.
On February 13, 1960, 124 students from Nashville’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities walked into the downtown locations of Woolworth, Kress and McClellan, sat down at their lunch counters and asked to be served – to no avail. The students also targeted Walgreen’s, W.T. Grant, as well as Harvey’s and Cain-Sloan department stores. Their goal was to desegregate Nashville lunch counters. The student protesters experienced no violence until February 27th. On that day, at both Woolworth and McClellan, white resisters threw the students from their seats, punched, kicked and spat upon them. Nashville police arrested only the student protesters. Eighty-one students were arrested and charged with loitering and disorderly conduct. Two days later, the court fined each student $50. The students took a principled stand, refused to pay the bail, and spent 33 1/3 days in jail. Because of the April 19th bombing of attorney Z. Alexander Looby’s home, a diverse crowd of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 people silently marched from Tennessee A&I (now Tennessee State University) to the courthouse, where Mayor Ben West met them at the steps. After an intense dialogue between Mayor West and the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash stepped forward and asked the mayor if he “recommended that lunch counters be desegregated.” The mayor agreed, and the next morning The Tennessean read: “Integrate Counters’ – Mayor.” On May 10, 1960, Nashville became the first major Southern city to begin desegregating its public facilities, when six downtown stores, led by Harvey’s and Cain-Sloan, opened their lunch counters to African-Americans. The Nashville Student Protest Movement, which was aimed at desegregating all public facilities, did not end until 1964.