Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 16:2 (Spring 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


In 1960, black youths conducted a "sit-in" in Greensboro, North Carolina to obtain the right to eat at a segregated lunch counter. Others quickly replicated sit-ins throughout the South and, just as quickly, the press labeled Greensboro the "first" sit-in. Historian David Levering Lewis, for instance, said: "There were not a few white southerners, and probably a majority of white northerners, who would have wished to say to the first sit-in students, as did the woman in the Greensboro Woolworth's, 'you should have done this ten years ago.'" Even data-oriented social scientists such as Doug McAdams portray the sit-ins as "beginning in early February of 1960 .... "

Some studies of the NAACP during the civil rights movement mention Oklahoma sit-ins but do not mention Wichita, Kansas at alLZ And yet the first modern sit-in may have been in Wichita.

These accounts are inaccurate and incomplete but they also symbolize the extent to which the civil rights movement in general has been written about almost exclusively from the perspective of what occurred in the South. Considering that journalists wrote the first accounts, it may have been their initial perspective that was responsible for the subsequent lapse by serious scholars.