The four footprints in front of Woolworths

Sue Polinsky, the conference organizer of ConvergeSouth, the conference Maryam and I spoke at yesterday, gave us a tour around Greensboro, North Carolina last night. We started in front of Woolworths.

Out front are four footprints.

The significance of what four people did here on February 1, 1960 can’t be understated.

They sat at this lunchcounter.

And waited for service.

And waited. And waited. And waited.

That’s how the civil rights movement in the United States started. UPDATE: at least that’s what the plaque out front says, although other events, like Rosa Parks’ bus ride, happened earlier.

It wasn’t lost on me as we continued our tour that at one point a couple of police officers passed us. One is white. One is black. Working together.

And the evening was punctuated even further when later in the evening we met an editor of the local newspaper. He is black.

Neither of those things would have been seen here in 1960.

Four people changed the world. It’s a reminder to all of us to speak up when things just aren’t right. Or take our place at the lunch counter and wait for service.

Their footprints are cast in bronze and laid in the sidewalk in front of the store where they changed history.

I remember reading about them in school when I was a kid and I had no concept that someday I’d be visiting the store where they changed history.

Thanks to Ed Cone, Ben Hwang, and Sue Polinsky for inviting us to Greensboro and giving us a tour around town. It was a fantastic day.

On Friday we were given a key to the city. That’s the first time I’ve been honored that way. I thought they saved such things for dignitaries or really famous people. Me? I’m just a blogger. But it was a thrill and quite an honor.

After listening to Elizabeth Edwards speak (really great, non-political speech on value of communities) Maryam and I hosted a session we titled the 10 ways to a killer blog. Luckily people took notes. Here’s Daniel Conover’s Xark notes and Anton Zuiker’s notes.

Edwards was a real thrill to meet. She stayed in our session, which was most gracious, and then gave Maryam a nice interview, which I taped. After the camera was off we asked her if John was really going to run for President and she said that unless something bad happens that’s the way it’s headed.

She’s seen more than her fair share of bad, by the way (I was reading her book). She’s a breast cancer survivor and her oldest son died in a car wreck. Something about her struck me as very real and down-to-earth. Probably cause she’s weathered these tough tests.

I heard that several people decided not to come to the conference because Elizabeth was speaking. That was their loss. I don’t understand that kind of behavior. I always learn something from people who are different, or believe differently, from me. It was punctuated cause Elizabeth didn’t utter a single political word the whole conference, including in Maryam’s interview.

Anyway, thanks to Greensboro. Your hospitality got to us. Wish we didn’t have to go home so soon.

37 thoughts on “The four footprints in front of Woolworths

  1. The video of you and Maryam receiving the key to the city is nice: Scoble lost for words… Hehehe – we’ll never see *that* happen again! What a great gesture from Greensboro. Congrats to you both!

    Like

  2. The video of you and Maryam receiving the key to the city is nice: Scoble lost for words… Hehehe – we’ll never see *that* happen again! What a great gesture from Greensboro. Congrats to you both!

    Like

  3. Robert, for a couple of years I’ve been reading your excellent blog, always peering up at you — figuratively, because you’re a blog giant, and literally, because of your header picture — but yesterday I saw you on level. It was an honor to see how you interacted with the rest of us, how down to earth you are, how sweet you and Maryam were together. I had to leave dinner early last night, so didn’t get a chance to tell you this face to face: thanks for being an inspiration.

    Like

  4. Robert, for a couple of years I’ve been reading your excellent blog, always peering up at you — figuratively, because you’re a blog giant, and literally, because of your header picture — but yesterday I saw you on level. It was an honor to see how you interacted with the rest of us, how down to earth you are, how sweet you and Maryam were together. I had to leave dinner early last night, so didn’t get a chance to tell you this face to face: thanks for being an inspiration.

    Like

  5. Robert — I regret that I didn’t get to meet you yesterday. I had hoped that I would get a chance to talk later in the day, but I suspect you had to leave early. I feel gratified that we at least got to exchange thoughts on the importance of headlines.

    You and your lovely wife were such a refreshment. I only wish everyone were as authentic and open-hearted as the two of you.

    Should you ever make it to Charlotte, please drop me a line, as I should love to show you around and share pithy apopthegms.

    Peace,
    Dave

    Like

  6. Robert — I regret that I didn’t get to meet you yesterday. I had hoped that I would get a chance to talk later in the day, but I suspect you had to leave early. I feel gratified that we at least got to exchange thoughts on the importance of headlines.

    You and your lovely wife were such a refreshment. I only wish everyone were as authentic and open-hearted as the two of you.

    Should you ever make it to Charlotte, please drop me a line, as I should love to show you around and share pithy apopthegms.

    Peace,
    Dave

    Like

  7. Not to understate the importance, but I’d go back to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass for “where the civil rights movement was born”. There were plenty of courageous people between them and the 1950s/1960s as well, and it was a lot more dangerous for them after US troops stopped occupying the south in 1877. After a certain political party demanded that we do so, I might add.

    Like

  8. Not to understate the importance, but I’d go back to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass for “where the civil rights movement was born”. There were plenty of courageous people between them and the 1950s/1960s as well, and it was a lot more dangerous for them after US troops stopped occupying the south in 1877. After a certain political party demanded that we do so, I might add.

    Like

  9. Yeah…Robert, you kind of forgot a few things…like Brown v Board of Education, which was started by a father who decided that his little girl was no longer going to have to take a rather dangerous route to school just because she was black.

    The lawyer on that one was Thurgood Marshall.

    The civil rights movement in this country is hundreds of years old.

    Like

  10. Yeah…Robert, you kind of forgot a few things…like Brown v Board of Education, which was started by a father who decided that his little girl was no longer going to have to take a rather dangerous route to school just because she was black.

    The lawyer on that one was Thurgood Marshall.

    The civil rights movement in this country is hundreds of years old.

    Like

  11. And Dave…political parties swap positions constantly. What one or the other did a hundred or more years ago is meaningless unless you’re completely ignorant about such things.

    Like

  12. And Dave…political parties swap positions constantly. What one or the other did a hundred or more years ago is meaningless unless you’re completely ignorant about such things.

    Like

  13. Robert, you HAVE heard of PR right 😛

    I’m not saying it wasn’t a watershed event in the modern civil rights movement, that would be ridiculous. But it wasn’t the start either. However, “This was an important moment” doesn’t sound as good.

    Like

  14. Robert, you HAVE heard of PR right 😛

    I’m not saying it wasn’t a watershed event in the modern civil rights movement, that would be ridiculous. But it wasn’t the start either. However, “This was an important moment” doesn’t sound as good.

    Like

  15. @5 John Edwards…”real people” Really? This is a guy that has more money than people will EVER dream of having..even after this life. A guy that got rich chasing ambulances. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wouldn’t put trial lawyers in the category of “real people” regardless of what side of the aisle they are on.

    Look, I agree that it’s a shame real people have virtually no shot at getting elected in this country, but please don’t but John and Elizabeth in that category.

    I mean, do “real peoople” do this?:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2108216/slideshow/2108085/entry/2108087/speed/100

    Do real people amass an almost $100MM fortune suing doctors and healthcare providers (you can partially thank Edwards and his ilk for high cost of healtcare. Malpractice insurance premiums, anyone?

    We all know that the majority of funding Edwards gets for his political campaigns are from trial lawyers, right? Sounds like “real people” to me.

    I understand the Edwards have to come across as “real people”, Afterall, who loves a trial lawyer (unless he’s getting you out of a murder conviction, or winning you unfathomable amounts of money from those evil HMO’s)

    I sure there are many “real people” out there trying to run for office and working for “the little guy”. Edwards, however, is not one of them.

    Like

  16. I loved Elizabeth Edwards too! It was just as refreshing for me to discover how down to earth both you and Maryam are as well. Great presentation! Sure hope you make it back to Greensboro another time.

    Like

  17. I loved Elizabeth Edwards too! It was just as refreshing for me to discover how down to earth both you and Maryam are as well. Great presentation! Sure hope you make it back to Greensboro another time.

    Like

  18. @5 John Edwards…”real people” Really? This is a guy that has more money than people will EVER dream of having..even after this life. A guy that got rich chasing ambulances. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wouldn’t put trial lawyers in the category of “real people” regardless of what side of the aisle they are on.

    Look, I agree that it’s a shame real people have virtually no shot at getting elected in this country, but please don’t but John and Elizabeth in that category.

    I mean, do “real peoople” do this?:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2108216/slideshow/2108085/entry/2108087/speed/100

    Do real people amass an almost $100MM fortune suing doctors and healthcare providers (you can partially thank Edwards and his ilk for high cost of healtcare. Malpractice insurance premiums, anyone?

    We all know that the majority of funding Edwards gets for his political campaigns are from trial lawyers, right? Sounds like “real people” to me.

    I understand the Edwards have to come across as “real people”, Afterall, who loves a trial lawyer (unless he’s getting you out of a murder conviction, or winning you unfathomable amounts of money from those evil HMO’s)

    I sure there are many “real people” out there trying to run for office and working for “the little guy”. Edwards, however, is not one of them.

    Like

  19. Oh yeah, the “Lawyers are TEH EVUL” meme. Hey LayZ, you gonna bring up the equally old saw about the infamous McDonald’s case?

    As well, I find it interesting that in the states which HAVE limited Malpractice awards, because the nice insurance people insist that’s why Malpractice premiums are SO high, why there hasn’t been an astounding drop in Malpractice rates. Could it be the insurance companies were full of crap? No, big business is NEVER full of crap. Maybe we should just disallow suing over malpractice en toto?

    And of course, it’s not like the government has ever arrested the wrong person, based on flimsy evidence. They’ve never bribed a witness. Or arrested someone for being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. Nope. Never happens. The government is always perfect in thought and deed.

    Like

  20. Oh yeah, the “Lawyers are TEH EVUL” meme. Hey LayZ, you gonna bring up the equally old saw about the infamous McDonald’s case?

    As well, I find it interesting that in the states which HAVE limited Malpractice awards, because the nice insurance people insist that’s why Malpractice premiums are SO high, why there hasn’t been an astounding drop in Malpractice rates. Could it be the insurance companies were full of crap? No, big business is NEVER full of crap. Maybe we should just disallow suing over malpractice en toto?

    And of course, it’s not like the government has ever arrested the wrong person, based on flimsy evidence. They’ve never bribed a witness. Or arrested someone for being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. Nope. Never happens. The government is always perfect in thought and deed.

    Like

  21. Thx for investing time at that last-minute ‘living with geeks’ interview at ConvergeSouth and your humor, ideas, & BANANA PUDDING (will we ever be the same?!). Enjoy the week.

    Like

  22. Thx for investing time at that last-minute ‘living with geeks’ interview at ConvergeSouth and your humor, ideas, & BANANA PUDDING (will we ever be the same?!). Enjoy the week.

    Like

  23. John,

    I didnt’ say NEVER. I didn’t say businesses never made mistakes, or the govt is infallable. Where did I say ALL in reference to trial laywers. I’m not the one that made that leap, you did. Jump to conclusions much? You’re smarter than that.

    As for the malpractice rates issue, again, you are smarter than that. When was the last time your insurance premimums went DOWN not based on your demographic? When was the last time your insurance company said “you know, we think we are charging you too much. So,we lowered your rates” Happens about as often as a tax is repealed. But, nice try!

    My point was, Edwards is completely beholden to the trial lawyer lobby, and he got rich by chasing ambulances,so to speak. So by any “real people” barometer he does not qualify. Did he earn is money for his clients? By all means he did. Would I hire him if I felt I was wronged by a company? Absolutely. But, go do your typical man on the street interview and see how high up trial lawyers rank on the “real people” meter. That’s all I’m sayin’

    Like

  24. John,

    I didnt’ say NEVER. I didn’t say businesses never made mistakes, or the govt is infallable. Where did I say ALL in reference to trial laywers. I’m not the one that made that leap, you did. Jump to conclusions much? You’re smarter than that.

    As for the malpractice rates issue, again, you are smarter than that. When was the last time your insurance premimums went DOWN not based on your demographic? When was the last time your insurance company said “you know, we think we are charging you too much. So,we lowered your rates” Happens about as often as a tax is repealed. But, nice try!

    My point was, Edwards is completely beholden to the trial lawyer lobby, and he got rich by chasing ambulances,so to speak. So by any “real people” barometer he does not qualify. Did he earn is money for his clients? By all means he did. Would I hire him if I felt I was wronged by a company? Absolutely. But, go do your typical man on the street interview and see how high up trial lawyers rank on the “real people” meter. That’s all I’m sayin’

    Like

  25. Robert, I’m wondering when you and Maryam’s interview of Elizabeth Edwards will be released as a podcast or something we can hear/see?

    Someday I hope to meet you and Maryam–I had hoped to go to CS. Alas, I will have to keep chasing you online! I’ll be looking for other good stuff at the Business blogging Summit you are doing in Seattle at the end of the month.

    Elizabeth is amazing, isn’t she?

    B

    Like

  26. Robert, I’m wondering when you and Maryam’s interview of Elizabeth Edwards will be released as a podcast or something we can hear/see?

    Someday I hope to meet you and Maryam–I had hoped to go to CS. Alas, I will have to keep chasing you online! I’ll be looking for other good stuff at the Business blogging Summit you are doing in Seattle at the end of the month.

    Elizabeth is amazing, isn’t she?

    B

    Like

Comments are closed.