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Students from William Penn High School sit at the Woolworth lunch counter on Feb. 11, 1960. The sit-in is believed to be the first one in the nation involving high school students.

HIGH POINT — The Guilford County’s Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Thursday night recognizing the 60th anniversary of High Point high school students’ sit-in, which played a pivotal role in the nation’s civil rights movement.

The 26 William Penn High School students walked to downtown High Point on Feb. 11, 1960, to participate in a Woolworth lunch counter sit-in, one of the nation’s first staged by high school students. It occurred a few days after the better-known Greensboro sit-in, when four N.C. A&T State University students held their spots at the downtown Woolworth’s lunch counter. The county board had recognized the Greensboro Four during its January meeting.

Commissioner Carlvena Foster of High Point, a William Penn graduate who added the item to Thursday’s agenda, said she believes it’s important for the county to commemorate the event.

“This is the only movement led by high school students who had the courage and determination to take a stand against racism, and that needs to be commemorated,” Foster said. “This resolution acknowledges that the purpose of this sit-in movement is not forgotten, and it reminds the board that we need to continue to work together to bring about change with the ongoing goal of achieving equality, peace and justice in Guilford County and beyond.

She also noted that the event is coming up on its 60-year milestone and noted “many of the original sit-in movement participants still in our midst, remembering that day with great pride, seeing some progress while still carrying the same message of equal access and equal rights.”

Foster recognized Mary Lou Andrews Blakeney, one of the former High Point sit-in students, who was present at the meeting.

“We’re very blessed that we can say we had a few steps in this, too,” Blakeney said. “We’ve lost about 10 of the 26 who started the march there. Thank you so much, we are so honored for this.”

Blakeney noted High Point’s civil rights monument behind the Red Lion Hotel and invited the board to attend a prayer vigil there at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, as well as a banquet with the former students at 6 p.m. that day.

The community is invited to attend an annual celebration and performance at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts to honor the 26 individuals who participated in the High Point sit-in. Foster will be the featured speaker and students will celebrate the event through music, dramatic performance and visual arts in the Samuel E. Burford Auditorium at Penn-Griffin, in the former William Penn school location at 825 Washington St.

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde