CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - For Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield, honoring the lasting footprints left by four pioneers who altered American history in his Guilford County hometown runs deep.
“As a child growing up in Greensboro myself, I visited Woolworth’s with my parents many times," he said. “It is surreal to celebrate the history of the Greensboro Four.”
Franklin McCain, David Richmond, Joseph McNeil and Ezell Blair were the teenage North Carolina A&T students who, 60 years ago this month, sat in at the downtown Greensboro Woolworth’s until they were served.
Franklin McCain Jr. clings to the cherished legacy of his late father and makes the point that demonstrators of that era didn’t have the benefit of social media to stay organized.
“They couldn’t sit at home behind a computer and tweet out something and have one million followers, but yet they were able to get hundreds of thousands of people to follow them by word of mouth," McCain said.
During the final week of Black History Month 2020, the Charlotte Hornets recognized surviving family members of the pioneers, sent its players to visit the sit-in exhibit at the Levine of the New South, and hosted a forum showcasing the courage of these student foot soldiers.
Enlightening words came from former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye.
“Everybody has something they can do to make a positive difference in their family in their community," Frye said. “This is a great celebration and it brings it back to life for me.”
For Fred Whitfield, recognition is more than a celebration. Recognition of what the disenfranchised of that day carried out is a lesson for today’s NBA players.
“For our players they are so young and they don’t know anything about the history. It’s a learning experience,” Whitfield told WBTV.
Filmmaker Ken Burns once called Black History Month the coldest and shortest month of the year.
The 29 days this February is more than a learning experience, such as endeavor from the Hornets front office boldly passes the torch from one generation to the next during a month that bears significant meaning.