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Franklin McCain was a U.S. civil rights leader who, with three other students, is credited with starting the lunch-counter sit-ins to protest Jim Crow laws at restaurant establishments in America.

The four students earned the name the “Greensboro Four.”

McCain was a student at North Carolina A&T when he and other black student activists chose to hold a sit-in at the Greensboro Woolworth store on February 1, 1960. The students were denied service but kept coming back until the law was lifted. By the third day, over 300 people, including some white students, had joined their protest.

Franklin McCain was only a freshman when he sat down in protest. That was in February. By September, the lunch counter was open to all customers. The news of what the Greensboro Four had done spread all over the country. It sparked protests at Jim Crow establishments everywhere. Over 50 cities conducted lunch counter sit-ins within two months of Greensboro.

Franklin McCain was born in Union County, North Carolina and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. He graduated from North Carolina A&T in 1964 with a degree in chemistry and biology. McCain’s civil rights work extended to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he served as chair of the North Carolina regional committee. He went to work for the Celanese Corp. and served on the governing board of North Carolina’s state university system and Bennett College.

The Woolworth’s where McCain and the other students sparked a historical change in the fabric of civil rights history is now the International Civil Rights Center museum. The museum opened exactly 50 years after the Greensboro Four efforts. A part of the lunch counter is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Sadly, Frank McCain passed away last week from a reported “brief illness” only a few blocks away from the Woolworth’s where he helped to spark change of an entire nation.

The Greensboro Four:

Franklin McCain (Deceased)
Ret. Maj Gen. Joseph McNeil
Ezell A. Blair Jr. (Now Jibreel Khazan)
David Richmond (Deceased)

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