Our first day of our trip was spent mostly on the bus but by afternoon we arrived in Greensboro, NC where we learned the stories of four college freshman at North Carolina A & T decided they would assert their human dignity by requesting to be served at the lunch counter of the local Woolworth’s. Their action sparked a movement across the country of students occupying lunch counters protesting the ban on blacks being served at local lunch counters. At stake was not just getting one’s lunch but learning that young people had the power to change their world and in the process spark a movement that would challenge Jim Crow across the South.
The example of the Greensboro/A&T Four — Frank McLain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. & David Richmond — proved that young people (they were all 17 at the time) didn’t have to wait to find their “calling”, they could act according to their conscience, and inspire thousands of other college and high school students to do the same. As one who teaches young people not much older than those four, I am reminded that it is okay to encourage, challenge, even push young people to get off the “career track” and seek to make a positive difference in their worlds here and now.