As part of a tradition spanning over two decades, third grad students at Lynbrook’s Marion Street School paid tribute to Joseph McNeil, one of the leaders of the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-ins that helped desegregate the South.
2013 marked the 22nd year that McNeil has come to the school to give students a living history lesson about the civil rights movement.
McNeil answered questions about how he and three classmates made history by staging a sit-in at Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter in Greensboro, refusing to leave until they were served.
“It felt good to be part of the civil rights movement and to be doing the right thing,” McNeil said. “We didn’t let the bullies win – we were strong. What started as a nonviolent protest by four young boys grew into a peaceful protest of more than 1,000 asking that we treat all human beings with dignity and respect.”
Each year, to honor McNeil, the students put on a show illustrating some aspect of the civil rights movement. This year the students titled their show “Paving the Road to the White House” in honor of President Barack Obama’s election to a second term.
The show traced the history of all the famous people – from Abraham Lincoln to Rosa Parks to Jackie Robinson – who stood up for justice, walked across the color barrier and marched for equal rights to pave the way for the first black president to take his place in the White House. The show featured special appearances by other historical figures who fought for equal rights, including Harriett Tubman, Stephen A. Douglas, Susan B. Anthony, Ruby Bridges and President Obama himself.
At the end of the show, students presented McNeil with a giant poster depicting scenes from his life. As an added treat, they invited a third-grade class from neighboring West End School to share the experience of meeting McNeil.