Woolworth Building

San Antonio, Bexar County

Sites associated with recent history are also at risk. Consider the lunch counter sit-in movement that began 56 years ago in 1960 and represented the earliest attempt to use direct action, rather than litigation, to provide desegregation of public accommodations for all people. Yet, today, the success of these bold accomplishments is at risk of being forgotten in the history of Texas. The site of the first lunch counter sit-in at Texas at Weingarten’s Super Market is today marked only by a Texas Historical Marker, as the building has been demolished. In San Antonio, the Woolworth Building is the site of the first successful desegregation of a lunch counter resulting from such direct action, but it’s future is questionable.

Other sites in Texas cities, including Corpus Christi, Marshall, Houston and Dallas, are at risk because they have not been identified and recognized for their significance within the Civil Rights Movement in Texas. Indeed, lunch counters have long since gone out of fashion and most have been removed. Many were removed during the 1960s as a direct result of the success of the lunch counter sit-in movement. Removal of the lunch counters by store owners allowed them to avoid the conflict of desegregating the space. But, the buildings themselves still remain as powerful reminders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in Texas.

An iconic structure built about 1921 on Alamo Plaza represents San Antonio’s leading role in the desegregation of lunch counters in 1960; its preservation should stimulate a greater awareness of the importance of preserving the legacy of the modern Civil Rights era.