A sit-in or sit-down is a form of direct action that involves one or more persons nonviolently occupying an area for a protest, often to promote political, social, or economic change. A sit-in is a form of nonviolent protest.
A sit-in is similar to a sitdown strike. However, whereas a sit-in involves protesters, a sitdown strike involves striking workers occupying the area in which they would be working and refusing to leave so they can not be replaced with scabs. The sitdown strike was the precursor to the sit-in.
With the encouragement of Melvin B. Tolson and James L. Farmer students from Wiley and Bishop Colleges organized the first sit-ins in Texas in the rotunda of the Harrison County Courthouse in Marshall, Texas. This sit-in directly challenged the oldest White Citizens Party in Texas and would culminate in the reversal of Jim Crow laws in the state and the desegregation of postgraduate studies in Texas by the Sweatt v. Painter (1950) verdict.
The first organized lunch-counter sit-in for the purpose of integrating segregated establishments began in July 1958 in Wichita Kansas at Dockum Drugs, a store in the old Rexall chain. In early August the drugstore became integrated. A few weeks later on August 19, 1958 in Oklahoma City a nationally recognized sit-in at the Katz Drug Store lunch counter occurred. It was led by NAACP youth leader Clara Luper, a local high school teacher, and local students. It took years but she and her students integrated Oklahoma City eating establishments. Today, in downtown Wichita, Kansas, a statue depicting a waitress at a counter serving people honors the sit-in. (It is located at Douglas and Broadway.)
Following the Oklahoma City sit-ins, the tactic of non-violent student sit-ins spread. The Greensboro Sit-In at a Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960 launched a wave of anti-segregation sit-ins across the South and opened a national awareness of the depth of segregation in the nation. Within weeks, sit-in campaigns had begun in nearly a dozen cities, primarily targeting Woolworth's and S. H. Kress and other stores of other national chains. Probably the best organized of these were the Nashville sit-ins which involved hundreds of participants and led to the successful desegregation of Nashville lunch counters. Many of the participants in sit-ins were college students and Historically black colleges and universities played a critical role in implementing sit-ins.