Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins

Children’s Books for Black History Month

Review by Elizabeth Kennedy, Guide

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins is the historic story of the Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-ins is told, in picture book format, from the perspective of a young African American girl. The story and the dramatic illustrations provide a realistic glimpse of the past. The reader learns what life was like for African Americans in 1960 in Greensboro, from just prior to the sit-ins at the Woolworth’s lunch counter to its ultimate integration. A detailed Author’s Note provides background information. Attention to historical accuracy and a story that engages the reader’s interest make Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Insa good book for ages seven-12.

Many of the heroes and heroines of the Civil Rights Movement were ordinary people who chose to take a stand against injustice. Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Insby Carole Boston Weatherford, tells the story of the historic sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, from the perspective of a young African American girl named Connie.

At the beginning of 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina, as in other parts of the country, there are still many places that serve “whites” only. For example, when Connie and her mother go downtown to shop at Woolworth’s, they are not allowed to sit at the lunch counter. Everywhere downtown there are signs and if a sign says, “white,” Connie knows not to go there, but if it says, “colored,” it’s okay. In fact, Connie reports, there are signs on “water fountains swimming pools, movie theaters, even bathrooms.” The only person Connie knows who has ever disobeyed the signs is her great aunt from New York, who says, “I’m too old for silly rules.”

Connie and her family go to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr when he comes to speak in Greensboro. Then, her brother and sister join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. When they go door-to-door to get people to sign up to vote, Connie goes with them.

On February 1, 1960, when Connie and her mother go downtown to Woolworth’s, they are shocked to see four of Connie’s brother’s college friends sitting at the Woolworth’s counter seeking to be served like other customers, despite the fact that they are African American. They are staging a sit-in in protest of Woolworth’s policy. Others join the protest, including Connie’s older brother and sister and Connie helps make posters for the protesters. After months of protests, the Woolworth’s counter is integrated and Connie and her brother and sister are able to enjoy lunch together at the Woolworth’s counter.

In an Author’s note, Weatherford goes into detail about the four college students who became known as the “Greenboro Four,” the successful integration of the Woolworth’s counter, the spread of sit-ins in the South and subsequent challenges to segregation in public places. A photograph of several of the students is included.

Because the book deals with a child’s feelings about what’s happening, it makes the story of the Greensboro sit-ins more meaningful for young readers. In addition, the story itself is told with attention to historical accuracy and the author’s note provides even more historical background.

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