Lunch Counter

Illinois NAACP picket Woolworth’s lunch counter

Woolworth’s department store

110 E. Jefferson St., Bloomington

Location notes: Building still standing, corner of Main and Jefferson streets.

The Civil Rights movement as we know it emerged during the mid-1950s and escalated into the 1960s. On February 1, 1960, students sat down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. This gained national attention and sparked youth sit-ins at chain store counters across the South. Although often beaten, arrested or harassed, the students were trained in non-violet tactics and held their spot without seeking retribution. This galvanized the nation’s attention.

This location was once a Woolworth’s store, a discount department store which included a lunch counter. Many lunch counters in Bloomington did not serve Black customers until the 1940s or 1950s. In October 1960, the Illinois State NAACP held its convention in Bloomington. Although the Woolworth’s lunch counter was not segregated by 1960, the Illinois NAACP had a peaceful picket demonstration outside Woolworth’s to pressure the national chain stores to serve African American customers in the South. They also picketed Kresge’s, another lunch counter down the block on the East side of the Courthouse Square.

For additional African American Civil Rights stops, visit Herman Schroeder, Segregation, Civil Rights Battles, and African Episcopal Church. Or use our map feature to customize your personal Social Justice Walking Tour through downtown Bloomington.

Additional information can be found at the following links:

Reflections on the Greensboro Lunch Counter, National Museum of American History video