Downtown Greensboro


Downtown Greensboro is known as the spot in which one of the most successful actions of the Civil Rights Movement took place . According to Andrews and Biggs ,  Greensboro was not the first city which had a sit-in (there were some similar actions in the 1940s and the 1950s). However, in 1960 an unexpected wave of sit-ins started at the core of Downtown Greensboro:

On February 1, four freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) College in Greensboro occupied the lunch counter of Woolworth’s after being refused service. The protest was repeated, with increasing numbers of students, on the following days […] The sit-ins in Greensboro inspired blacks in other cities to adopt this form of protest. After a week, sit-ins began elsewhere in North Carolina; soon the wave of protest surged into other states .

Andrews and Biggs’s paper explores how, after that specific action in the core of Downtown Greensboro, the wave expanded through almost all the Southern states in about two months. Figure 1 displays how several cities in the South joined the protest :

Figure 1. Sit-Ins in the South from February to April 1960.

We can consider Downtown Greensboro an important object of observation, the core of the Historic District of the city, the node in which an extraordinary social movement started. One physical space strongly related with the fight for intercultural values in a country which was racially segregated by law only some decades ago.

Visualizing the map of segregation

In order to understand the multicultural reality of this city, it is crucial to take a look at the geographical distribution of Greensboro regarding race. Rather than analyzing the data provided in the Census 2010 I have chosen a more intuitive way to visualize it.  To create the following images I have used the visualization tool CensusViewer . The red color represents areas with a larger white population. The green represents areas with a larger black population. The other colors represent other racial groups.

The three following images (Fig. 3, 4 and 5) display different zoom levels of the city of Greensboro.


Figure 2. Visualizing segregation 1


Figure 3. Visualizing segregation 2


Figure 4. Visualizing segregation 3

If we analyze this visual data, we can understand better the multicultural nature of this city. We can also realize that segregation is not just something which existed in the past.

If we observe the spatial distribution of the different neighborhoods of the city, we can not talk about real integration. Furthermore, this snapshot can show more useful information. Can we speculate and suspect that those train rails someday constituted a physical boundary between two worlds? Are there still two different worlds with different historical identities?

Figure 4 is specially interesting. We can see that just there, in the middle of those homogeneous realities, a neutral space talks about understanding and intercultural exchange. About unity. About mixture.

Just there, it is Downtown.

Photographic exploration

Our visual ethnography starts here, at the core of Greensboro. Downtown is not in black and white. It is about a mixture of colors. It is a historical spot to stop segregation. See through the lens. Feel Downtown colors and shapes.