It took more than Tweets to challenge segregation
September 28, 2010 by Lew Powell
“One crucial fact about the four freshmen at the Greensboro lunch counter — David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeil — was their relationship with one another. McNeil was a roommate of Blair’s in A. & T.’s Scott Hall dormitory. Richmond roomed with McCain one floor up, and Blair, Richmond, and McCain had all gone to Dudley High School. The four would smuggle beer into the dorm and talk late into the night in Blair and McNeil’s room….
“It was McNeil who brought up the idea of a sit-in at Woolworth’s. They’d discussed it for nearly a month. Then McNeil came into the dorm room and asked the others if they were ready. There was a pause, and McCain said, in a way that works only with people who talk late into the night with one another, ‘Are you guys chicken or not?’ Ezell Blair worked up the courage the next day to ask for a cup of coffee because he was flanked by his roommate and two good friends from high school.”
— Malcolm Gladwell, arguing in The New Yorker (Oct. 4) that the tight bonds typical of the civil rights movement are far more effective at bringing about change than “the kind of activism associated with social media” such as Twitter and Facebook.