Clarence Henderson, The Woolworth Lunch Counter And Freedom

Clarence Henderson, The Woolworth Lunch Counter And Freedom

Clarence Henderson, The Woolworth Lunch Counter And Freedom

In 1960 Clarence Henderson sat at the Woolworth lunch counter PEACEFULLY protesting in an effort to gain an additional measure of freedom.

He did so knowing that the backlash could hurt him personally and physically. 

“In 1960, Henderson became a part of history, which was memorialized in what is now an iconic photo, when four A&T freshmen — Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, David Richmond and Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan) — sat at Woolworth’s segregated lunch counter and asked to be served.

When they were denied, Henderson and others would fill the seats over a period of months, until the counter was integrated.

The sit-in movement spread and is credited with spurring radical changes for people of color throughout the South.

Henderson, who showed up at Woolworth on the second day of the sit-ins, says that his life wasn’t immune to racism before that event — or after.

While in the Army, he recalled flyers that showed up at the Alabama military installation where he was assigned. At the time, former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, an avowed segregationist, was running for president.

“(The flyers) said: ‘Put a white man in the White House and not that ‘n-lover’ Lyndon Baines Johnson,” Henderson said.”

Think about it. Jim Crow laws were so onerous and so vindictive, yet what did Henderson and his friends do? Quietly and peacefully sit at a lunch counter and asked to be served a meal. Just as with Rosa Parks calmly and quietly with dignity moving from the back of the bus to the front, Clarence Henderson just asked for the very same freedoms and courtesies granted to all Americans… who weren’t black. 

As Governor Kristie Noem pointed out, our nation hasn’t been without its struggles and flaws. The Civil War highlighted our flaws in a very big way. As did the Civil Rights movement. Here’s the thing about Clarence Henderson’s role in the Civil Rights movement compared to today. He calmly and quietly sat at a lunch counter. When things didn’t go his way immediately, did he throw bricks through windows? NO. When he wasn’t served breakfast, lunch, or dinner, did he break windows and work to set the diner on fire? NO. Any car dealerships destroyed? Nope. Police precincts destroyed? Didn’t happen.

See the difference?? Clarence Henderson along with Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, David Richmond and Ezell Blair Jr. and so so many others during that time used our Constitutionally protected right to peaceful assembly to make their point. 

And you know what? Although it took time and hardship, along with the loss of Martin Luther King Jr, eventually they won the day. 

As Jake Tapper notes above, the first Republican that Clarence Henderson voted for was George W. Bush. And he’s been supporting President Trump for quite some time now. 

He clearly makes the point that liberal policies are HARMING, not helping Americans. 

As he says in his speech. 

“Politicians are a dime a dozen. Leaders are priceless.”

Clarence Henderson exhibited strong but quiet leadership at that lunch counter all those years ago. He was and is one of those quiet American Heroes who prevailed, who won the day, and did so while holding our Republic’s values close. He did all this without burning anything down or destroying any business. 

Those engaged in destroying many of our cities today could learn a thing or five from Clarence Henderson. 

An American Hero, Clarence Henderson is someone you should definitely know. 

Feature Photo Credit: Woolworth Lunch counter protest (Clarence Henderson on far right), public domain via Creative Commons, cropped and modified

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8 Comments
  • Scott says:

    Bravo Mr. Henderson, Bravo!

  • Cameron says:

    “When things didn’t go his way immediately, did he throw bricks through windows? NO!”

    “But riots are the voice of the unheard!” is the justification a family member uses when I point out things like that.

  • Quentin Q Quill says:

    I’m agaisnst violence at protests but the writer’s pearl clutching here is ricidulous. Look for her new book titled, “How and When Black People Should Protest” by Whitey McBlogger.

  • GWB says:

    used our Constitutionally protected right to peaceful assembly to make their point
    Nina, I think you might be missing something here. The important bit is he had a point to make.
    The miscreants rioting out there don’t really have a point to make. Their claims are basically lies. There were actual laws on the books that could be opposed and repealed back then. There was a very real divide under the law. Now they have to claim “systemic” racism and that whites are simply racist in their DNA, in order to try and bolster their credibility. So they riot – it’s their WW2 Normandy moment (because they’re absolutely delusional).

    Clarence Henderson exhibited strong but quiet leadership at that lunch counter all those years ago.
    Kudos to him. Most of the generation out there rioting don’t even know what leadership is.

    • Toastrider says:

      Yes and no. The First Amendment does not require you to have a ‘point’ — it merely states you have the right to peaceably assemble and seek redress of grievances. Even if those grievances are petty, or imaginary (‘Save the Naugas!’).

      What’s crippling them is the nonstop, relentless politically and racially driven violence, an outgrowth of the view that ‘we have the right to SHUT YOU UP if we don’t like what you say’, so common at universities these days.

      • GWB says:

        No, the 1st Amendment doesn’t require it.
        But it matters significantly to the end result, and often the means for getting there.

        If you have no point, but you’re peaceful but persistent, you’re just an annoyance – like that dude in the sandwich board on the corner, shouting “The end is nigh!” So, to make your pointless ‘change’ you end up having to scream and throw things and force people into it.

        If you have a point, then peaceful but persistent can make a great change in the world. And you seldom – in a free republic – need to resort to violence to make that change.

        That crippling violence is basically because they don’t have a real, demonstrable point. It’s all they’ve got.

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