The littles and I were able to do so many fun things during our visit to North Carolina! One of the destinations that I really wanted to go to was the International Civil Rights Museum. This stop was a lot different than the others as it wasn’t really a ‘fun’ field trip. While I had checked out the museum online, I really wasn’t sure which of the kids it would be appropriate for, if any. I ended up taking Joel, Emma, and Peanut, and just hoped that they wouldn’t be scarred for life.
It ended up being a very educational stop!
The ICRCM is located here in Greensboro as this was the location of the historic Woolworth’s sit-in, where on February 1st, 1960, 4 local college students sat at the Woolworth’s diner counter and asked to be served. Lots of people sat at the Woolworth’s counter for lunch, every day. It was a popular place. Have a seat and order up a $.60 turkey dinner, a nickel Coke, and a $.10 piece of pie, then relax while you enjoy your meal.
Unless you were black. Then, while you could order the same foods as the people who sat at the counter, you got your meal in a to-go bag and had to go eat it elsewhere.
In protest, the 4 young black college students protested with a peaceful sit-in, taking their places at the dining counter in the Woolworth’s store, and waiting/asking to be served. They stayed until the diner closed, without being waited on. They returned the next day. While it was not the first sit-in of it’s kind, the movement grew and with others volunteering to spell each other, they would take turns sitting at the counter doing their homework while waiting to be served. from open to close. day after day.
Inspired by the peaceful protests of the Greensboro students, other students began to hold sit-ins in their local towns; within 60 days, sit-ins had been/were being held in 90 cities.
The building that houses the ICRCM is the original Greensboro Woolworth’s store. Here we were led on a guided, group tour that led us though the many galleries in the 2 story museum.
Our guide explained each room’s theme, and we were led through very tastefully, professionally done areas that incorporated multiple medias to engage the visitor.
The galleries each have a theme, beginning with the ‘Jim Crow era’ of segregation. The tour shows you some of the forms of segregation, including waling through a reproduction (smaller scale) ‘Colored Entrance’ from the local train depot, and checking out a 2-sided Coke machine. The Coke machine was mounted in a wall, with the ‘white side’ being open to a whites only area, and the ‘colored’ side of the machine in a blacks-only room; same soda out of the same machine – $.05 for a bottle dispensed from the ‘white’ side of the machine, $.10 if you were ‘colored’.
The museum covered some of the differences between ‘colored’ and ‘white’ churches, schools, and businesses.
There is a wall dedicated to people killed because of racism/segregation/kkk (they aren’t all black either).
You can try out the interactive sit-in map where you can choose locations of sit-ins and see pictures and the press coverage of them.
There is even the original Woolworth’s dining counter, still in it’s original spot, still sitting on the original floor tiles! There are a couple of the counter sections that are accurate reproductions as pieces of the original counter have been loaned/given to the Greensboro Historical Museum and to the Smithsonian. In fact, the counter is longer than it was for the sit-in; eventually the store had to close the restaurant over the sit-in controversy, and when they chose to re-open and serve all customers, no matter their race, their business boomed and they had to add more seating.
The museum tour was very interesting!
Ideally, I would say that kids ages 8 and up would get the most out of a visit to the ICRMC. Peanut (6) was fine touring it, and while she got the gist of it, much of it went over her head too. There was one gallery, the Hall of Shame, that I walked the girls through at the suggestion of the tour guide (photos depicting violence and dead bodies). The girls just sat in the adjoining theater and waited for us to finish in that room.
Would Emma and Savanna chose this stop over the children’s museum? no
Did they hate it? not at all
Would I bring them back/the other kids here? Absolutely!
Joel (10) had no issues being taken through the museum (including the Hall of Shame) – in fact, it was incredibly interesting and educational for him. His only complaint with the center was that ‘they should have had a bigger exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen!’ (that’s my boy. lol.)
Tours take between an hour and an hour and a half, and the staff is very friendly yet professional. No photos beyond the lobby, and the museum is ADA accessible.
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is located in downtown Greensboro, just blocks from the free Greensboro Historical Museum, the Greensboro Children’s Museum, and the train depot. The locations are all within walking distance (we walked over to the Historical Museum when we were done), and would be a great day trip via the train if you are not camping locally. Also located between the ICRCM and the other destinations is a city park, and there are multiple sit-in or take out restaurants within a few hundred feed of the center (Subway, tacos, pizzaria, several bar & grills).
It is a great place to visit if you enjoy learning about local history!