The Baton Rouge lunch counter protests of 1960 were inspired by the Greensboro protests of that same year. A group of Southern University students were expelled from school because of their peaceful protests in support of Greensboro, but their case was overturned on December 11, 1961 with help from the NAACP and President John F. Kennedy.
In February 1960, four Black students engaged in a peaceful protest by sitting and ordering lunch at a whites-only lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, N.C. The watershed moment of the civil rights movement led to a flurry of support from around the nation as the students were met with violence and insults.
The Southern University group was inspired to desegregate their own local eating spaces in the state of Louisiana. The school’s president warned students that their participation in the protests would lead to their expulsion, but the students prevailed. A series of peaceful protests took place at a Kress department store lunch counter, a Greyhound bus station, and Simon’s Drug Store. In all, sixteen students were forced to leave Southern University.
The NAACP’s legal department took up the case. Headed by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the case made its way to the Supreme Court. With Marshall arguing on behalf of the students in the Garner v. Louisiana case, it was unanimously decided by the justices that the students should not have been expelled for their protests. President Kennedy’s administration supported the group by filing a legal brief on their behalf.
In 2013, Southern University awarded seven honorary degrees to students expelled over the protests.
PHOTO: Jackson State