Greensboro Sit-Ins of February 1960

For my Website Comparison assignment, I will evaluate three sites all specifically related to the Sit-Ins that occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina, during February of 1960. They are significant to me as someone who is interested in activist movements, and their direct influence on the African-American Civil Rights Movement proved immense and undeniable.

1. Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
(An online exhibit AND digital archive of oral histories regarding the Greensboro sit-in)

twentyfivemen.jpg, originally launched Feb. 1, 1998, and updated in 2004, contains almost 100 audio clips from dozens of hours of recordings with sit-in participants, with interviews from News & Record writer Jim Schlosser, and the Greensboro Public Library.

The News & Record and the Public Library share the same goal: to lead our community to knowledge. With this site we can share the richness of this historical event in our community with the world.

With the click of a mouse, users can hear how the original four participants planned the sit-ins.


2. February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
(An online exhibit of the event, created in support of a film documentary produced in 2005 for PBS)


The Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in portrayed in FEBRUARY ONE started out with four students and a modest idea spurred on by the brutal killing of 14-year-old Emmett Till. But in just one short week, the non-violent act exploded into a mass protest that gripped the South and revived action in the Civil Rights Movement. Learn more below about how this pivotal event unfolded.

Offering an unusually intimate portrait of four men whose moral courage at ages 17 and 18 not only changed public accommodation laws in North Carolina but also served as a blueprint for non-violent protests throughout the 1960s, FEBRUARY ONE: The Story of the Greensboro Four reveals how these idealistic college students became friends and inspired one another to stage the sit-in, and how the burden of history has impacted their lives ever since.

FEBRUARY ONE tells the story of one of the most pivotal events in the Civil Rights Movement, a movement of ordinary people motivated to extraordinary deeds. This moving film shows how a small group of determined individuals can galvanize a mass movement, spur others to action and focus a nation's attention on justice and change.


3. The International Civil Rights Museum
(An online exhibit about the history of the Greensboro, NC sit-in — as a supporting part of the Museum's web site)


Under construction in the original F.W. Woolworth building, The International Civil Rights Center & Museum will honor this event and those who participated in the 1960 sit-ins and other demonstrations this action spawned. As critical to its mission to commemorate the unique role that Greensboro, NC played in advancing the civil rights movement, is the development of a stunning array of interactive multi-media presentations and historically preserved artifacts in dramatic exhibits that chronicle the broader American civil rights struggle. The Museum promises to become a compelling destination for anyone interested in American history, as well as historians, researchers, teachers, students and their parents, and the thousands who have contributed to the explosion in heritage tourism.


Site goals

Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
The goal of this site is principally to serve as a method of building community awareness, by allowing those in the greater Greensboro area to see the influence of their local society on the event, and conversely, the impact of the event on the structure of Greensboro social relations. The site also wishes to provide a larger focus in reaching the rest of the world that may be unfamiliar with Greensboro or the Sit-In Movement, and allowing it to appreciate the great significance that this event holds in the city's history. Another purpose of the site is to illustrate the Greensboro News & Record's central role in chronicling and documenting this event. The newspaper's reporters and photographers were the first media representatives to arrive on the scene, and understandably were able to gather some of the most detailed and enthralling day-by-day coverage.

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
This site's primary purpose is to serve as a promotional vehicle for an independent film, produced by PBS, entitled 'Februrary One.' It provides numerous resources for users to learn about the director and producers' goals, their interest in the event, their film-making methods, and their evaluation of the project. While the site does possess this main priority of promotion, there is a clear effort to provide a basic understanding of the event, its actors, and the impact that it had on the Civil Rights Movement as a whole.

The International Civil Rights Museum
Like the previous featured site, this site seeks to promote, though it also devotes a concerted effort to thoroughly chronicling the event and explaining its significance for the Sit-In Movement and the greater Civil Rights Movement. It is designed to provide information about the future museum that is being constructed within the former Woolworth's department store that served as the site of the Greensboro Sit-In. It provides floor plans and extensive physical layouts, as well as a discussion of the content that will be covered in the museum and the special events it hopes to conduct. The International Civil Rights Museum realizes, however, that there is a reason it has chosen this particular site for its location, and dedicates portions of the site to clarify why Greensboro and this specific event are worthy of such an institution's name.

Range of materials offered

Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
The majority of the materials housed within this digital archive are transcribed articles composed by the Greensboro News & Record's staff and which appeared in the newspaper at some point in time. These articles date from a wide range of time, from 1960 to 2002, allowing users to see how perspectives on the event have changed over the years. The site also contains a number of oral history interviews conducted by both Greensboro News & Record staff, as well as employees from the Greensboro Public Library. The subjects of these interviews range from: the students directly involved, the newspaper reporters present, the president of the Greensboro A&T College, local adult supporters and activists, and Woolworth's employees. These interviews are valuable because they represent a number of older individuals who may have possibly died, or may not be alive for much longer. The site also includes a series of photographs, both taken at the time of the event and from the years following.

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
There are not a great deal of materials within this site that may be of archival interest. The primary documents provided are mostly photographs, taken both during and following the events of February 1960. Within its 'For Educators' section, the site provides sample lesson plans for teachers who may want to incorporate this story into their classroom curriculum. The majority of the materials provided, however, are directly related to the documentary, 'February One,' and the process of its creation. There are articles and interviews conducted with the film-makers that provide significant insight into their purposes for adopting this project.

The International Civil Rights Museum
Like the 'February One' site, the majority of the material on the International Civil Rights Museum's site is related to the subject that it is promoting. The site contains a large series of floor plans, imagined physical layouts, details on proposed education programs and community events, and the content that will be presented within the museum's exhibitions. It also provides a considerable amount of written information on the founding of the museum and the organization that stands behind it. The sections of the site devoted to the event itself are the most rich in photographs, quotations from the participants, written essays on the sequence of events, and physical timelines of important dates.

Creators and audience

Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
This website was created through a collaborative effort by the Greensboro News & Record and the Greensboro Public Library. Its intended audience appears to primarily be the community members of Greensboro, North Carolina, and after this, they seek to reach further out to other Americans. The structure, content, and writing styles included within the site encourage visitors of various educational backgrounds, geographic locations, genders, races, and age levels. Since most of the archived material is composed in a journalistic style, the writing is basic and accessible. The oral history interviews are also simple to understand and the questions posed are relatively straightforward and surface-level. The visitors who would take the most away from the site range from secondary school students to academics. The material provided may be appreciated by scholars as it is primary evidence, and incorporates the voices of such a wide spectrum of people involved.

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
The main creator of this website is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which is the producer of the film documentary that it seeks to promote. Its secondary creators can be considered the film-makers of the documentary, 'February One.' It is likely that PBS held a great deal of influence over the content covered within the site, particularly in deciding the degree to which the event should be detailed. As a PBS-sponsored site, it should be apparent that the intended audience is the general public. This includes members of various race, age, gender, and education levels. As it is rather basic in the information it provides, the site would probably be best used by a casual visitor who has little knowledge on the event; scholars would find little inspiration or substance here.

The International Civil Rights Museum
This site was established by Sit-In Movement, Inc. and the board of the future International Civil Rights Museum, which is currently being built in Greensboro, North Carolina. Similar to the other two websites, this site's primary audience is the general public. This fact should be most obvious when considering that the site is a promotional product for a cultural institution devoted to the study of civil rights. As was true with the PBS site, there would not be much intellectual stimulation here for a scholar, though some academics who focus in this subject area may be quite excited to view the future plans and the content that will be covered in the museum. The site would prove most helpful for secondary school students and individuals seeking a fundamental understanding of the event.

How Documents are Treated

Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
The newspaper articles included within this site's digital archive are transcribed in text from the original printed newspaper. There are no images presented on the site of the actual newspaper section that each article was featured in; the site presents only a simple text transcription linked to from an extensive list of links. I feel that the potential impact of the articles would have been better achieved if the site had provided such images. The photographs included in the site are excellent and some are rather powerful, though most of them are not cited. There is a section devoted to the work of Greensboro News & Record photographer Jack Moebes, but few of the other photos (as accessed within the Photo Gallery) are attributed to specific photographers, nor are they accompanied by specific dates. As an historian, I would prefer that primary materials are cited as best as possible, and it should have been little difficulty to at least have included some dates with the photographs. The oral history interview clips, when clicked upon, automatically download onto one's hard drive and open up in iTunes (or one's default audio program) in the mp3 format. This may be considered either a help or a hindrance, depending on the user's preferences.

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
The principal type of primary document included on this site is the photograph. The included photographs are presented throughout the site, interspersed amongst text passages about the event and the film documentary. Unlike the Greensboro News & Record site, the photographs on February One are cited at the bottom in the form of footnotes. The major issue that arises from the presentation of these photographs is that they appear, for the most part, in rather small form. There is no option to view the photographs in a separate window or to investigate them in closer detail. This may pose a challenge for some site visitors who are seeking high-quality images. The other material included within the site is text-based, in the form of essays and interviews dealing with the event and the film. These appear in accessible, easy-to-read styles and are broken up amongst a series of pages in order to avoid overwhelming the visitor.

The International Civil Rights Museum
This website is loaded with textual information, though it is mostly created by public relations specialists and would not particularly be considered primary documents. The primary materials included are the photographs. The photographs appear in larger form than those in the previously discussed site, though they are also not able to be opened in another window to view more closely. A considerable problem is found with the citations of images, for only a portion of them are given citations. I find a great deal of trouble with this, for if the organization had the ability to provide citations for some of the photos, they should have been able to do the same for all of them. Uniformity and dependability is key to presenting a collection of primary documents online. The written material, as with the February One site, is displayed in short essays that are separated amongst multiple pages for optimal user accessibility.


Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
The poor searchability of the primary documents within this digital archive is, in my view, the major downfall of the site. I was intrigued by the amount of primary materials included, from the newspaper articles to the good-quality photographs, and the various oral history interviews. All of these materials provide for a rich, valuable historical experience on the site, and this would have been much more enhanced had there been an efficient search function. There is no search ability whatsoever, as visitors are left to scroll through extensive text hyperlinks to find the documents or images that may be of particular interest to their research. The structure of the site's different sections also makes searching more difficult, as some objects (photographs and audio clips) appear in multiple sections, yet they are not are listed in their entirety in one singular location. The value of these documents should have immediately called for some type of search option, which was never attempted.

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
As the site was established mainly as a promotional tool for this PBS film documentary, there was no major impetus for the creators to include a search function. The included photographs appear in the relevant portions of the written story. If a user had wanted to see a photo of a certain person or date, they could likely find it by looking for that point in the essay. While this may not be as efficient or precise as a search engine, it works fine for a site with such a basic level of primary material.

The International Civil Rights Museum
The searchability factor of this site is highly similar to that of the February One site. There is no real search engine through which to quickly locate primary objects that the user is looking for. The site, however, is very well organized and the multiple sections would allow for easier searching if a specific photograph was being sought after.

Rating the sites

Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
This site serves as a good resource for those seeking primary evidence in the form of newspaper articles, photographs, and oral history interviews. As someone who is quite interested in this event and similar forms of activism, I felt a high degree of excitement going through all of the archived materials. The most effective items are the audio clips, for there is no better way to form a connection with an individual than listening to his own recounting of an experience. As I stated previously, the documents are so valuable, but they lose some of their efficacy because they are organized in a manner that is not easily searchable. Some items are located in more than one section, and others only appear once. If the site's creators had made the effort to have more uniform, solidified sections, and to have included a search engine, the primary documents would have been so much better appreciated and helpful for researchers.

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
If I were an educator, I would not immediately send a student to this site to garner an understanding of the event. I think that the essays on the International Civil Rights Museum site provide a much more detailed, yet still easy-to-read account of the events of February 1960. The other two sites also do a significantly better job at considering the impact of the event on the greater Civil Rights Movement (particularly the Museum's site) and the memorialization efforts in more recent years. The most intriguing and most unique aspect of this site is, in fact, the material provided as a supplement to the film documentary. The interviews with the film-makers are interesting for those studying the event, for they provide some excellent insight as to why this event was worthy of such a project. The film-makers' stories of their many experiences in interviewing people for the film are actually great in reinforcing some racial issues that still exist in American society. For someone interested in race relations, this could be an appreciated website.

The International Civil Rights Museum
I enjoyed this website not because of the primary material it presented (the photographs), but because the plans for the future museum are truly thrilling for anyone interested in the subject area. I do think that the site's creators made a decent effort in explaining the importance of the Greensboro Sit-In and in detailing the sequence of events and people involved. I would not hesitate to send a student here who may want a fundamental base of knowledge on the Sit-Ins. There is far more detail than on the February One site, and the varied modes of presentation make the story more accessible for visitors. Not only are there written passages, but there are text-based timelines and even an interactive graphic timeline at the bottom of certain sections. I also think that, of the three sites I evaluated, this site is by far the most visually appealing. It appears the most professional and high-tech, and to some people, this is a significant aspect in judging a website.

PHRC Rating (From the Public History Resource Center)

Greensboro Sit-Ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement
Scope/Content: 11/15
Authority/Bias: 13/15
Permanence and Timeliness: 7/15
Value Added Features: 7/15
Technical Aspects: 6/15
Aesthetics/Clarity: 9/15
Overall Impression: 8/10

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
Scope/Content 6/15
Authority/Bias 8/15
Permanence and Timeliness 11/15
Value Added Features 7/15
Technical Aspects 11/15
Aesthetics/Clarity 9/15
Overall Impression 6/10

The International Civil Rights Museum
Scope/Content 8/15
Authority/Bias 13/15
Permanence and Timeliness 14/15
Value Added Features 9/15
Technical Aspects 12/15
Aesthetics/Clarity 12/15
Overall Impression 7/10

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