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Origins of the Sit-in: A Sibling Remembers (Gloria Jean Blair Howard)


Many of the students who participated in the sit-ins had strong support from their families. Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan) noted, "I grew up in a home where I had a father who was very strong on the issue of civil rights. . . . If anyone did him wrong because of his race or color, he stood up." In this 1982 interview, Ezell Blair's sister, Gloria Jean (Blair) Howard, recalls how he had consulted with their father and had his full backing.


Q: Did you have any indication that your brother was going to sit in at Woolworth's?

A:I did have--I did know that they were going to sit in.... Two nights before the sit-ins, Ezell came by the house and talked with my dad alone and told him that he was really doing to do it and how they were going to do it. And my father told him that, you know, he had the full support of the family....

And my father supported him a lot, did not really have any--did not show any fear of what was going to happen to his job, because my father was a-- very supportive of anything that we did that we felt was right. And if he felt that it was right, he was very supportive.

Q: Do you remember having any fear for his safety or anything like that?

A: We had--I think it's just almost a very natural feeling that a parent would have. My brother was very small... we often thought about his size and if he ran into the opposition physically, what would he do.... Ezell was very good in organizing people. He was very good with being on like the front line and being out there. But a strength that he had was being able to organize and support people and get other people to do things.... He's excellent at supporting other people when other people have doubts and fears about doing things....

And I often felt that on many occasions when he wasn't seen and people did not see him, when he really wasn't out there like in the limelight, he was back in a dorm somewhere, talking to students who were fearful that their parents were going to lose their jobs, kids who wanted to help in some other way. And if they could not work on, could not march on the front, you know, on, on the picket lines and be active in the demonstrations,.... He could understand why they maybe could not be involved. And he was always willing to make recommendations as to other ways that you can--to support the movement other than being out on the frontline sitting down at counters and that kind of thing.


Interview with Gloria Jean (Blair) Howard, September 15, 1982, Greensboro VOICES, University Libraries, University of NC at Greensboro. [].

These four oral histories deal with the planning and execution of the sit-in at the Greensboro Woolworth's Lunch Counter on February 1, 1960.