David Richmond (activist)
David Richmond circa 1960
|Died||December 7, 1990 (aged 49)|
Greensboro, North Carolina, US
|Resting place||Carolina Biblical Gardens, Jamestown, North Carolina|
|Alma mater||North Carolina A&T State University|
David Leinail Richmond (April 20, 1941 – December 7, 1990) was a civil rights activist. He is best known as a member of the Greensboro Four, a group of African American college students who, on February 1, 1960, sat down at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, challenging the store's policy of denying service to non-white customers. This event is credited as gaining national sentiments for the struggle of African-American citizens during the 1960s.
Early life and education
Richmond was born on April 20, 1941, in Greensboro, North Carolina. He grew up in the then rural East White Oaks neighborhood, and received his early education at James B. Dudley High School, where he was known as a well-rounded student who belonged to many clubs and participated in many sports. After graduating, he entered North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the fall of 1959, where he majored in business administration and accounting.
On February 1, 1960, Richmond, along with three other A&T freshmen: Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil, walked together from the university's library to the downtown Greensboro Woolworth store. They purchased items from a desegregated counter, then sat down at the "whites only" lunch counter, where they were refused service. Richmond and the group stayed until the store closed, then left, to return the next day.
Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Jibreel Khazan asked for service on February 1, 1960 at the F. W. Woolworth department store's lunch counter. They were told to go to the other “stand-up counter,” which was designated for use of black people. The young men argued that they had already been served that day, showing the receipts from their earlier purchases. One of the employees, an older black woman, came out and suggested they just follow the rules and use the other counter, as did the manager, but they refused. The boys had already discussed how they distrusted adults because they had years to take action and protest these laws, but had never done anything. Eventually, a police officer came in, but since they were doing nothing but sitting and politely disagreeing with the employees, he did not know what to do with them. Their nonviolent actions had completely baffled him. McCain later recalled an older white woman coming up to him and telling him how disappointed she was. He politely asked her why, and she answered that she was disappointed it had taken them so long to do something like that. They continued sitting at the counter until the manager declared that the store was closing early; the boys were triumphant, fearing earlier that they would leave the store in handcuffs or on a stretcher.
The Greensboro Four were not the first people to nonviolently protest segregation; seven people did the same three years earlier in Durham, NC. The difference, however, was how organically the movement grew, in addition to publicity. A photo was taken during that first protest of the four young men, and this was enough to gain lots of attention. Within the next four days, the protesters grew from four young men to hundreds of students from A&T, UNC Greensboro, Bennett College, and even Dudley High School. By the second week, there were dozens of cities across the United States seeing protests from thousands of students. On July 25, 1960, only five months after the Greensboro Four took this first step towards desegregation, the first African-Americans were served at Woolworth’s. This led to nationwide desegregation of many public facilities, and is considered by some to be the true beginning of the American Civil Rights Movement .
Richmond, who married his first wife while still a student in college, was faced with the demands of his classes and the needs of his family, as well as his new-found celebrity due to the sit-ins. He began to fall behind in his classwork, eventually leaving school before receiving his degree. He became a counselor-coordinator for the CETA program in Greensboro. Due to the events of the Greensboro sit-ins, life for Richmond in Greensboro became increasingly difficult. After receiving a death threat, he was relocated to the mountain community of Franklin, North Carolina. He spent the next nine years of his life in Franklin, until his return to Greensboro to care for his ailing parents. Richmond, the only one of the Greensboro Four to return to the city, again found life there difficult. Being labeled as a "troublemaker," he faced difficulties finding employment in the city. He found work as a housekeeping porter for Greensboro Health Care Center.
Death and legacy
David Richmond seemed to be haunted by the fact that he could not do more to improve his world, and battled alcoholism and depression before his death. Richmond died of lung cancer on December 7, 1990, at the age of 49. At his memorial service, he was posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities degree by North Carolina A&T. Other honors awarded to Richmond include the Levi Coffin Award for "leadership in human rights, human relations, and human resources development in Greensboro" given by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce in 1980, and the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institution in 2010.
In 2002, North Carolina A&T commissioned a statue honoring Richmond, along with the three other members of the A&T four: Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and Joseph McNeil. In addition, the four men have residence halls named for them on the university campus.
Richmond, who was married and divorced twice, is the father of three children. With his high school girlfriend Dorothy Harrison (née Morton), he fathered a daughter, Angela Morton Obi, who was born in 1959. With his first wife, whom he married while in college, he has two children, David "Chip" Richmond Jr. and Hadelyn (Lynn) Richmond Massenburg. Richmond and his second wife, Yvonne Bryson, had no children together.
- "The A&T Four: February 1st, 1960". The F.D. Bluford Library • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- "The Greensboro Four" Archived 2011-01-25 at the Wayback Machine, North Carolina Museum of History. Retrieved November 26, 2010.
- "Richmond, David Leinail (1941-1990)". BlackPast.org v2.0. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
- "February One Biographies". Video Dialog Inc. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- "David Richmond Biography". Greensboro News & Record. Archived from the original on 20 April 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- Trescott, Jacqueline (5 February 2010). "50 years later, Greensboro Four get Smithsonian award for civil rights actions". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- "A&T History". The F.D. Bluford Library • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Retrieved 20 June 2014.