February 22nd marks an important anniversary in the history of civil rights – an event that occurred in Richmond sixty years ago.
In February of 1960, Richmond’s elegant department store – Thalhimer’s – was open to African Americans. They could shop there, but dressing rooms were segregated, along with a lunch counter and tea room. That led 34 people – many of them students at Virginia Union University – to picket and sit in. The restaurants were closed and the protesters ordered to leave. They refused, and police – with dogs – arrived to remove them. In a video made years later, Elizabeth Johnson Rice recalled the day.
“We went in there and we were arrested for trespassing. We were arrested and taken to jail. Of course the records have been expunged since then, but we did stood up that day and made a difference in the civil rights of Richmond, Virginia.”
The demonstrators became known as the Richmond 34. They’ve since been honored by the House of Delegates and welcomed to the governor’s mansion.