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Counter Histories: The Struggle to Desegregate Jackson

The Southern Foodways Alliance presents Counter Histories, a series of short films documenting the struggle to desegregate southern restaurants during the Civil Rights Movement. In this piece we hear from Colia Clark, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Bill Minor, Daphne Chamberlain, and Reverend Ed King about the historic sit-in at the 1963 Woolworth's lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi. 

"When you break bread, you're coming together, even if you feed your enemy," says Clark. 

Locals and activists reflect on the segregation that remained alive in Jackson businesses, restaurants, and other public facilities despite the movement for social change in other parts of the South.

With the help of a dynamic Tougaloo College professor, a group of students and black and white protesters staged a sit-in at Woolworth's counter cafe and asked to be served equally. Other community members formed a picket line further down the street. "To not be served at the lunch counter was morally indefensible," a protester says. 

Powerful and emotional photographs chronicle the hateful reactions to the sit-in at the cafe, which turned violent when people began throwing condiments, drinks, and other objects at protesters. One protester was beaten unconscious. "It looked like we might not make it out of there (alive)...I had an out of body experience." The pictures were shown around the world. 

Trumpauer Mulholland emphasizes that every individual, including students today have the same power as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King to effect change: "They can identify their cause and go change the world."

Visit Southern Foodways to learn more about their initiative to document the oral histories and varied cultural cuisines of the American South.

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