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How it Ended: A Black Worker's Recollections (Geneva Tisdale)


When Kress and Meyer's, two other local stores, agreed to desegregate their lunch counters, Woolworth's regional officers finally conceded as well. On July 25, 1960, the Greensboro lunch counter was finally desegregated. The first African Americans served were the black women who worked the lunch counter. In this interview, Geneva Tisdale, who was one of three black women who worked the counter, recalled the historic end of segregation in Woolworth's.

Geneva Tisdale: I was expecting. Ms. Holt told me to go home and stay there until things got, you know, to normal and she would call me back. Well, . . . when we reopened, she called me and told me that I could return to work. They had a decision to make. So she called all three of her girls out that was working behind the counter, which was black: myself and Suzie Morrison at that time, and a girl named Anita Jones. She called all three of us out to talk to us. She told us that they was going to open the counter to everybody, and she says, "Now you might be called all kinds of names; people might say something to you. I'm just trying to prepare you for what to expect." She said, "But when we open the counter," she says, "I want my girls to be the first to sit at the counter." So we were the three that was served first when they reopened the counter. I've been trying to get the story out. It was her girls; she called us her girls. . . .

She told us when they was going to open and she said, "The day we open up," she says, "I want you girls, you come into work, but bring you some dress clothes. I'm going to give you a signal when I want you to go upstairs and dress as a customer. Come and walk around in the store like you was shopping," she said. "Then come over to the counter." She told each one of to come over to the counter; she told each one of us where to sit; she wanted us to spread out, one in the front, one middle-ways, and one, you know, someplace else. She said, "I want you to order your food." And she had certain waitresses to wait on us. She said, "If you don't want your pictures in the paper, cuz I got a feeling when this will be out the cameramens will be in. I want you girls to order something, eat real quick, get up from the counter, go back upstairs, get in your uniforms, come back on the counter, and go to work." She said, "Let's see what is going to happen."

Sure enough we all went down and we ordered our lunch—something that we could eat real quick. We flew—went and put our uniforms on and we came back to the counter and start working. Sure enough as soon as we got back down there the news had gotten out. Here come the mens with the camera. People had started crowding in because someone had seen the blacks, I guess, sitting at the counter, so then they start coming in. We standing back there looking at them. They never knew that it was Woolworth girls that was the first to sit at the counter to be served after they opened it up.


Interview with Geneva Tisdale, 1998, Greensboro Sit-ins: Launch of the Civil Rights Movement. []