Indiana State University Newsroom

Member of the Greensboro Four to speak at ISU Feb. 21

February 17, 2011

An important figure in U.S. civil rights history will speak at Indiana State University at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 21 about his involvement more than 50 years ago in a sit-in at an F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C.

On Feb. 1, 1960, four African-American students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (NC A&T) sat down at the lunch counter inside the Woolworth's store in Greensboro.

Following store policy, the lunch counter staff refused to serve the men at the "whites only" counter and the store's manager asked them to leave. The four freshmen -- Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond -- stayed until the store closed. Their actions sparked similar sit-ins which challenged the law and changed the nation.

Black employees of Greensboro's Woolworth's store were the first to be served at the store's lunch counter on July 25, 1960. The next day, the entire Woolworth's chain was desegregated.

Gen. Joseph McNeil, a member of the Greensboro Four, will talk about that experience and making history Monday during a presentation in the auditorium of University Hall. The presentation is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the atrium of University Hall.

A North Carolina native, McNeil and parents moved to New York shortly after he graduated high school. It was in New York where he was able to experience a much more open society. Joe came to NC A&T on full scholarship, and found it hard to live in the segregated South. McNeil's frustration with segregation hit a breaking point when he returned by bus from New York after Christmas vacation, and was not served a hot dog at the Greensboro Greyhound terminal.

McNeil earned a degree in engineering physics from North Carolina A&T in 1963. Thirty minutes after graduating, he was commissioned by the U. S. Air Force and spent six years as an officer and attained the rank of captain.

He retired from the United States Air Force Reserve in February 2001 with the rank of Major General. He served for more than 37 years and was involved in our country's efforts in Vietnam and Desert Storm. During his tenure in the Air Force, he started a series of diversity programs, which profoundly changed the culture of that institution. He last served as the mobilization assistant to the chief of the Air Force Reserves. He received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal upon retirement.

He is also retired from the Senior Executive Service of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Jamaica, N.Y. where he served for over 15 years and was the head of the Flight Standards Division for the Eastern Region of the United States, Europe and Africa. He has worked in computer sales for IBM, as a commercial banker for Bankers Trust in New York City, and as a stock broker for E.F. Hutton in Fayetteville.

This presentation is sponsored by the Terre Haute Human Relations Commission, ISU African American Cultural Center, ISU Department of Educational Leadership, ISU Office of Diversity, ISU Office of the President and Provost and the ISU Student Government Association.

For more information, contact the Office of Diversity at 812-237-2877.

Contact: Mary R. Ferguson, Office of Diversity, Indiana State University, 812-237-8513 or

Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, 812-237-3783 or