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Other People’s Food Pt. 3: The Order That Changed The World

Posted by

Mar 29, 2016

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

On February 1, 1960 four African-American college freshmen sat down at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and refused to leave until they were served. Their peaceful protest quickly spread, and helped integrate restaurants across the country.

Their order literally changed the world.

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Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan) -- later dubbed the "Greensboro Four" -- knew they were taking a huge risk the day they started their sit-in at an all-white Woolworth's lunch counter:

"We were aware of people who defied segregation. We were aware of what happened to Emmett Till," McNeil says. "So all these things were operating in the background because it could have happened to us."

But they couldn't have known that their sit in would spark a wave of protests in more than 200 cities that had profound effects on how Americans eat.

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When we met Joseph McNeil (above left) for lunch at a diner on Long Island recently, he told us the idea for the protest started with a hamburger order in a Richmond, Virginia, bus station:

"I ordered a hamburger and was told I had to go to the rear of the bus station, and that ticked me off," he says. "And then I realized how deep this thing was and that it was going to stay like this -- unless we changed it."

Now in his 70s and a retired Major General of the U.S. Air Force, McNeil recalled what it was like to return to that lunch counter after it had been integrated and place his first order:

"I think I ordered apple pie and coffee," he says. "It was not good coffee -- it was bad coffee. And the apple pie...was just blah, plain. Certainly not something you'd want to break a leg over."

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Mr. McNeil isn't just picky about his apple pie -- it turns out, he's a true food lover:

"I love it when people talk about food," he says. "We live to eat."

Listen in to the full episode to hear Dan and Mr. McNeil debate the finer points of apple pie -- over dessert, of course.

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To learn more about Mr. McNeil's historic lunch counter protest, check out the Smithsonian Channel's excellent documentary, "Seizing Justice: The Greensboro Four."

And you can visit the exact lunch counter where Mr. McNeil began his protest. It's preserved in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

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Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

- "Pong" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Legend" by Erick Anderson

Photos: FlickrCC/SCFiasco; FlickrCC/Sid Sowder; FlickrCC/Lara604; Getty Images; Anne Noyes Saini

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