|| From 1896 until the 1960s in the southern United States, Jim Crow Laws effectively banned African Americans from using public facilities and basic services that were used by whites. In March 1960, thirteen students from Texas Southern University (TSU) started a non-violent movement protesting these laws and changed Houston forever. These young architects of change formed the Progressive Youth Association (PYA), meeting at the South Central YMCA or in their apartments to plan strategies. These “War Room” meetings are where they organized Houston’s first sit-in.
On March 4, 1960, the thirteen students met at a flagpole on TSU’s campus and marched in pairs one mile to Weingarten’s Supermarket (4110 Almeda Road) with the objective of being served at the lunch counter. Dozens more joined them as they marched, singing black spirituals. Though white employees refused to serve the students and patrons hurled insults at them, they sat there silently for hours, occupying all 30 counter stools in shifts. More sit-ins occurred over the following days and weeks.
The sit-in at Weingarten’s Supermarket was the first in a series of non-violent demonstrations leading to the peaceful end of segregation in public places. Houston’s lunch counters quietly desegregated on August 25, 1960. Department stores, hotels and restaurants soon followed, and Houston’s Astrodome opened in 1965 as an integrated facility. The sit-ins ended with the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Today, these thirteen unsung heroes are remembered for starting a movement that advanced civil rights and equality in Houston.