The simple act of four college students sitting down at a store’s lunch counter in the hope of being served food helped to pave the way for one of America’s most influential legal achievements. In 1960 this “simple act” was anything but, as the four students were African American and chose to sit down at a whites-only lunch counter, one of the spaces that was segregated during that time. Their “sit-in” and many other such quiet protests that followed led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In his new book The Sit-Ins: Protest & Legal Change in the Civil Rights Era, Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Christopher W. Schmidt describes this first famous demonstration and explores the topics of constitutional rights and injustice, among others. An Illinois Tech faculty member since 2008, Schmidt won two competitions for his article “Divided by Law: The Sit-Ins and the Role of the Courts in the Civil Rights Movement,” which served as a foundation for his book. He received the 2014 Scholarly Papers Competition from the Association of American Law Schools and the 2016 Surrency Prize from the American Society for Legal History.