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.


In a sit-in, protesters usually seat themselves and remain seated until they are evicted, usually by force, or until their requests have been met. Sit-ins have been a highly successful form of protest because they cause disruption that draws attention to the protest and by proxy the protesters' cause. The forced removal of protesters and sometimes the answer of non-violence with violence often arouses sympathy from the public, increasing the chances of the demonstrators reaching their goal. Sit-ins usually occur indoors at businesses or government offices.

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.


Sit-ins were first widely employed by Mahatma Gandhi in Indian independence movement and were later expanded on by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and others during the American Civil Rights Movement. In the 1960s, students used this method of protest during the student movements, such as the protests in Germany. The Young Lords in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood used it successfully a whole week to win community demands for low income housing investment at the Mckormick Theological Seminary.

American Civil Rights Movement

Sit-ins were an integral part of the non-violent strategy of civil disobedience that ultimately ended racial segregation in the United States. The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) conducted sit-ins as early as the 1940s. Ernest Calloway refers to Bernice Fisher as "godmother of the restaurant 'sit-in' technique. Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) labor delegates had a brief, spontaneous lunch counter sit-in in 1947 during their Columbus, Ohio convention..

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.

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