Recollections of the Greensboro Sit-ins

Sister Edwina Whittington was on mission to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal School in Greensboro, North Carolina as teacher and principal from 1961 to 1965. Later in life, she recalled the Daughters’ solidarity with protesters participating in the Greensboro sit-ins to desegregate the city:

“One evening the parents of our school children had planned a meeting to prepare for the celebration of our graduates of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School. At that time the school children were all black.

I went over at the appointed time, but no one showed up. I waited awhile because this was so unusual. There were always quite a number of them present for any activity of the Church or School. They were always so cooperative!

After half an hour, I decided to go back to the convent to listen to the radio. As soon as I entered the convent, I saw the other three Sisters avidly listening to the news. The news station stated that now Greensboro was on the map because the first sit-down strike was in progress at the downtown square.

Now I knew why the parents had not attended the meeting. All of the black fathers and their oldest sons (our graduating class of boys were sitting in the square. Eventually, they were all arrested and marched off to an old empty warehouse because there were too many to put in jail.

The next day, Saturday, Father McCormick, C.M., came to see me and told me that he had seen them and they had been packed into the room and they had nothing that they needed.

I said, ‘Please go back and tell the guards that these men always went to Mass on Saturday at 9:00 A.M.’ That gave us, the Sisters, time to tell the wives of these men to pack the things that they would need and to bring them to Church for the 9:00 Mass on Sunday morning.

True to their word, the guards came with the men in two large busses, in time for the 9:00 Mass. We all celebrated Mass together and after it, one woman started the Rosary out loud. Then, the guard in charge came to me to say, ‘That’s enough; no more prayers can be said. I have to get these men back to the warehouse.’ When the Rosary was finished, the women went out of the Church and formed two lines with their bags of supplies. They left a large space in the center of the two lines for the men and their guards to march through. When the mean and their guards came out in formation, the women rushed up to their husbands and sons, gave them the prepared bags, and then went back to form their lines. The civil authorities kept the men for four days and then let them go to their homes.”

Citation: Daughters of Charity Archives, Province of St. Louise, “Recollections by Sr. Edwina Whittington,” RG 11-1-2, Greensboro, NC – Our Lady of Miraculous Medal School Collection, Box 1, Folder 7

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Filed under Civil Rights, Desegregation, Greensboro, North Carolina

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