To mark the 61st anniversary of San Antonio’s peaceful lunch counter integration, the San Antonio branch NAACP led a procession in front of the Woolworth Building on March 16th.
Marchers carried signs honoring the leaders who helped make Civil Rights history at a time when other Southern cities experienced sit-ins and racial strife.
San Antonio’s Woolworth on Alamo Plaza was one of seven local stores that desegregated their lunch counters without sit-ins on March 16, 1960.
See the Express -News article, “‘Doing the right thing’: Coalition observes anniversary of Alamo Plaza civil rights milestone noted by Jackie Robinson.”
The Coalition for the Woolworth Building also created a video chronology:
Recording of “Places of Color” panel discussion coming soon.
The Coalition for the Woolworth Building presented “Places of Color: Preserving San Antonio’s Underrepresented Narratives” as a virtual Dream Week event on January 20th. We focused on Alazán Courts, the 1875 foundation of the St. James AME Church, and the Woolworth Building, a World Monuments Fund 2020 Watch Site. These endangered historic sites physically connect us to overlooked stories in our shared heritage, speaking to the struggle for equity and justice.
We hope this event inspires you to actively support preservation of these sites by contacting public officials.
Everett Fly, MLA spoke on “American Cultural Landscapes: Black Roots and Treasures” for the Frederick Law Olmstead lecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He discusses the issue of recognizing Civil Rights and indigenous history on Alamo Plaza at 53:28.
Everett has received several awards for his ongoing contributions to African American history and to historic preservation, including a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2014 and a San Antonio Power of Preservation Foundation “Champion of Preservation Award” in 2018. Most recently, he received one of the Conservation Society’s 2020 “Texas Preservation Hero” awards. We continue to be most grateful for his participation in the Coalition for the Woolworth Building.
With the release of the Alamo Plaza Existing Buildings Historical Assessment report, we now have confirmation from the experts at John G. Waite Associates, Architects that the Crockett Block, Palace Theater Arcade, and Woolworth Building are structurally sound, retain their historic significance, and are suitable for reuse as a world-class museum!
Highlights from the findings (p.4) include:
Just to set the record straight, we learned from the report that we were mistaken about the location of an Express-News integration photo taken on March 16, 1960. The photo, which showed African Americans being served in a cafeteria line, had originally been identified by the photographer and by the institution holding it as Woolworth’s. It turned out to be Kress instead.
However, the photo of integration leader Mary Lillian Andrews sitting at a lunch counter with a friend that appeared in JET magazine (p. 21), has been confirmed by the report (and by Ms. Andrews’ brother) as having been staged at Woolworth’s. According to the report, Woolworth’s is the only one of the six integrated stores still standing that retains any physical evidence of its eating facilities (see report, p. 82).
On August 25, for the first time since World Monuments Fund (WMF) listed the San Antonio Woolworth building on the 2020 Watch, the Alamo Trust published an image relating to their proposed treatment of Alamo Plaza. The WMF responded with a post emphasizing the need to find a solution that preserves the building, while interpreting the site’s diverse history.
The National Standard, the official newsletter of the National Federation of Tourist Guides Association, included an article about the Woolworth Building in its summer issue.
From June 3 to June 19th, we presented an eight video series of San Antonians speaking out about the importance of preserving the Woolworth Building as part of the vital, but under-told, story of African Americans in American history. You can support their efforts by contacting the government officials listed on our Call to Action page.
Deborah Omowale Jarmon, Executive Director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum.
“San Antonio’s lunch counters integrated 60 years ago” – San Antonio Express-News, Mar. 16.
“Editorial: Remembering S.A.’s civil rights history” – San Antonio Express-News, Mar. 14.
“Woolworth in spotlight as architects, historians fight to save it” – Rivard Report coverage of our Feb 1 Woolworth Watch Day Symposium: “Integrating History: The Role of Alamo Plaza in Bexar County’s Civil Rights Legacy.” Missed it? View the video.
World Monuments Fund CEO Speaks Out from Alamo Plaza
Benedicte de Montlaur interview courtesy of David Arias-Rios, Jan 31.
“World Monuments advocate touts keeping Woolworth site” – San Antonio Express-News, Jan 31.
January 20th – MLK March
“More than 300,000 in San Antonio March, Celebrate and Reflect on MLK Jr.” – Texas Public Radio, Jan. 20.
January 17th – “Remember Black History on Alamo Plaza!”
“San Antonio Conservation Society trying to save historic building downtown” – News 4 SA (WOAI), Jan. 17.
Group hands out free donuts, advocate to save Woolworth building” – KSAT 12 News, Jan 17.
Event marks desegration milestone, sparks debate about Woolworth Building – San Antonio Express-News, Jan. 17.
“Alamo Plaza Redesign Should Not Leave Woolworth Building Behind” – Aaronetta Pierce for The Rivard Report, Nov. 28.
“Editorial: Preserve the Woolworth Building” – San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 24.
“Remember the Woolworth! Celebrating the Battle That Didn’t Happen” – Rick Casey for The Rivard Report, Nov. 12.
“Wolff calls for protecting Woolworth Building in downtown San Antonio” – San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 8.
“Woolworth Building makes major list . . .” – KENS 5 News, Nov. 5.
“Why is the Woolworth Building Downtown Being Singled Out for Preservation?” – News Radio 1200 WOAI, Oct. 31.
“San Antonio’s Woolworth Building . . . makes global list of endangered sites” – San Antonio Express-News, Oct. 30.
Woolworth Building selected as one of 25 World Monuments Watch sites for 2020! This international listing recognizes that our site combines great historical significance with contemporary social impact.
“Woolworth Building Honor is Potential Snag in Alamo Plaza Redevelopment” – News Radio 1200 WOAI, Oct. 30.
The Society of Architectural Historians wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott supporting our cause.
The Coalition for the Woolworth Building enthusiastically welcomed the San Antonio Branch NAACP as an official affiliate.
View video – Conservation Society Executive Director Vincent Michael and historian Everett Fly, representing the Coalition for the Woolworth Building, discussed the importance of preserving San Antonio’s Civil Rights sites with Randy Beamer on WOAI News 4.
The Texas Historical Commission gave San Antonio an extra reason to celebrate May as Preservation Month. Members voted unanimously to approve the Woolworth Building’s State Antiquities Landmark designation. This honor not only officially recognized the building’s ties to national Civil Rights history, but granted the building an additional level of protection under the Texas Antiquities Code.
Architectural Digest – “World Monuments Fund Pledges to Support Architectural Treasures”
CNN – “25 of the world’s most endangered places”
New York Times – “Bears Ears and Notre-Dame Named to 2020 World Monuments Watch”
Toronto Star – “The new Alamo battle to save site of lunch counter desegregation”