On February 22, 1960, 200 students from Virginia Union University in Richmond marched from campus to the downtown shopping district and held a sit-in at the lunchcounter of Thalhimer’s Department Store. African Americans were not permitted to patronize the facility. The sit-in was inspired by lunchcounter sit-ins held by university students in Greensboro, North Carolina, that began earlier that month.
After refusing to leave the segregated lunchcounter, 34 Virginia Union students were arrested and convicted of trespassing. Their convictions were later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The protest marked the beginning of the Richmond Campaign for Human Dignity which successfully fought the city’s Jim Crow laws through nonviolent protest.
Recently the city unveiled a historical plaque at the site of the sit-in honoring the bravery of the college students. Four of what became known as the Richmond 34 attended the unveiling of the historical marker. Elizabeth Johnson Rice, one of the four of the Richmond 34 attending the ceremony, stated that “the time had come to make a statement. If we had not gotten arrested, things may not have changed.”