Third-graders at Marion Street Elementary School hosted their annual Civil Rights Presentation and honored Joseph McNeil, a leader in the civil rights movement and member of the Greensboro Four, on Feb. 28. Administrators including Superintendent of Schools Dr. Melissa Burak, board members, families and third-graders from Waverly Park and West End elementary schools were present for the special event.
Third-grade teacher Steve Freifeld proudly introduced Mr. McNeil who has volunteered his time to visit Marion Street School since 1991 to tell his story to students. During the civil rights movement, Mr. McNeil and three of his classmates made history by staging a sit-in at Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter in Greensboro, refusing to leave until they were served.
Mr. Freifeld spoke about how Marion Street third-graders celebrate the theme “Building Bridges” throughout the year, studying bridges and taking trips to different bridges across the Long Island and the New York City area. He related this to the important lesson of bridging connections between people.
“We are very fortunate to have a man with us today who like the great bridge building engineers in history, has worked to make positive connections between people his entire life,” said Mr. Freifeld. “His actions led to changes in the way millions of people were treated in restaurants, movie theaters, libraries, public restrooms and swimming pools across the United States.”
Attendees watched a video about the Greensboro Four before Mr. McNeil addressed the crowd and answered questions from Marion Street, Waverly Park and West End students.
“We were trying to make America a great country and it required some of us to put ourselves on the line…if we were going to be successful we were going to have to be nonviolent,” he told students.
The Marion Street third-graders showed their support for Mr. McNeil by performing a show for him titled “Marion Street School Visits the Civil Rights Museum.” The students performed several songs about peace and a skit featuring important historical figures.