Black Experience

Students Who Protested Virginia’s Jim Crow Laws Honored

The 200 Virginia Union University students who marched in 1960 into downtown Richmond for a sit-in at the segregated counter of a department store diner were honored this month by the city.

At the time, African-Americans were not permitted to patronize the Thalhimer’s department store, which resulted in the students’ quiet protest that was inspired by lunch counter sit-ins held earlier that month by black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina.

After refusing to leave the segregated counter, 34 of the Virginia Union students were arrested and convicted of trespassing. Their convictions were later overturned by the Supreme Court.

The protest marked the beginning of the Richmond Campaign for Human Dignity which successfully fought the city’s Jim Crow laws through nonviolent protest.

Richmond officials unveiled a historical plaque at the site of the sit-in honoring the bravery of the college students.

“The time had come to make a statement,” said Elizabeth Johnson Rice, one of the four of the Richmond 34 attending the ceremony. “If we had not gotten arrested, things may not have changed.”

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