National Museum of African American History and Culture

Woolworth lunch counter stools

© 2015.226.1, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Donated by the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro, NC

Browsing the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) website results in viewing many important objects. After looking through several collection and exhibition pages, I kept thinking about the counter stools from the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in. It is fascinating how a mundane object, such as a counter stool, has such a powerful connection to an important event and an entire culture.

The Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in is one of the most recognizable protests by African Americans during the Civil Rights Era. Public spaces were segregated, including restaurants. Every person should be allowed to have the right to eat in a restaurant, but that was denied to four African American students in 1960. Despite the importance of this particular protest, I personally do not know many details about the protest or the restaurant. I think it is important to learn more about this event and its significance to the Civil Rights Movement and actions to end segregation. I think these stools are impactful because of the story they tell, and without the connection to the Woolworth lunch counter protests, they would just be ordinary counter stools.

The stools are connected to several broad topics that relate to the African American experience, not only in the Civil Rights Era, but throughout history. The themes include segregation, discrimination, courage, peaceful protests, and others. The four college students who sat down at these stools experienced so much hate and discrimination, but they had the courage and resilience to peacefully fight back for basic rights that had been denied to African Americans for too long. These stools are just one of the tools used in the fight for equal rights.