Rodney Powell (standing) talks with other sit-in participants at Walgreens drugstore in Nashville, Tennessee on March 25, 1960.
On February 13, 1960, members of the Nashville Student Movement and the Nashville Christian Leadership Council began a campaign of sit-ins at “whites only” lunch counters in Nashville stores. Their goal was to end racial segregation at lunch counters.
Numerous sit-ins were staged in Nashville’s central business districts. The protesters consisted mainly of black college students as well as some white students were often verbally and physically attacked. Over the course of a few months, 150 students were eventually arrested for their sit-ins. A group of 13 lawyers, including Z. Alexander Looby, represented the group.
The Nashville sit-in campaign escalated when Looby’s home was bombed (no one was injured). Later that day, a group of nearly 4,000 marched to City Hall and demanded to speak with Mayor Ben West about the violence. West admitted that he believed the lunch counters should be desegregated. Negotiations between store owners and protest leaders ended when an agreement was reached in early May. On May 10, six downtown stores began serving black customers at their lunch counters for the first time.