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ArlingtonAnniversary of lunch-counter sit-ins to be marked

Anniversary of lunch-counter sit-ins to be marked

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It was delayed a year due to the pandemic, but a commemoration marking the 1960 civil-rights sit-ins in Arlington is now beginning.

The Arlington County government had planned to mark the 60th anniversary of sit-ins at Arlington lunch counters with special programming on the Arlington Art Truck, using prints by artist Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. to immerse the public in the experience, in 2020. But the effort was a victim of the pandemic – until now.

Kennedy has created letter-pressed cards to honor the seven lunch-counter sit-ins that took place in Arlington between June 9 and 22 in 1960, as protesters aimed to draw attention to Virginia’s state-mandated segregation policies.

To pay tribute to the anniversary, Arlington Arts has placed a stand at many of the original sit-in locations; the cards can be collected there free of charge.


“It is our hope that you will visit one or more of these locations to gather your own collection of Kennedy’s cards while considering this part of the county’s history,” county officials said in announcing the initiative, which will run through late June.

Lunch counters were a familiar part of daily life in the early 1960s, but like much of the South, not everyone in Arlington was legally permitted to sit at the counter and consume food.

Retailers may not necessarily have agreed with the policy, but were required under state law to abide by it. Yet after more than a week of protests and resulting negative national publicity, the F.W. Woolworth outlet in Shirlington announced it would begin serving all patrons at its counter, a move quickly followed by most other lunch counters in the county. Ongoing court cases and the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 rendered ultimately much of Virginia’s segregation policy moot.

The locations targeted for Arlington sit-ins in 1960, with their names then and their current uses (and where cards can be collected), were:

• Lee-Harrison Drug Fair, 5401 Lee Highway, now a Mattress Firm outlet.
• People’s Drug Store, 4709 Lee Highway, now a CVS.
• Howard Johnson, Lee Highway, 4700 Lee Highway, now a Capital One Bank branch. (Cards for this site can be collected at Lebanese Taverna, 4400 Old Dominion Drive.)
• Cherrydale Drug Fair, 3815 Lee Highway, now Hair Vogue.
• Buckingham Drug Fair, 265 North Glebe Road, now a CVS. (Cards for this site can be collected at Glebe Market, 300 North Glebe Road.)

Two sites involved in the protest – an F.W. Woolworth Co. drug store and a Lansburgh Department Store outlet – eventually disappeared as part of redevelopment of what is now the Village at Shirlington. Cards from these sites can be collected at Busboys and Poets, 4251 Campbell Ave.

The initiative has been organized by Arlington Public Art and the Arlington Art Truck, programs of Arlington Arts, in collaboration with the Arlington government’s historic-preservation office, Arlington Transit and the county library system’s Center for Local History. The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is a partner in the event.

For information on the initiative, see the Website at https://arts.arlingtonva.us/arlington-art-truck/.

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