The Conservation Society of San Antonio hosted a symposium, Woolworth Watch Day, on Saturday, Feb. 1. The symposium emphasized the role and history of downtown San Antonio within Alamo Plaza for Bexar County’s civil rights legacy. On Feb. 1, 1960, African American students jumpstarted lunch counter sit-ins to fight against racial segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina. The movement inspired those in the South to continue the fight for racial equality. Mary Andrews, a student of Our Lady of the Lake University in the 60s and the president of San Antonio’s NAACP youth group at the time, sent letters to San Antonio Woolworth stores requesting equal service. Andrew’s letter embodied the message that San Antonio citizens were ready for social change.
“We feel that the citizens of San Antonio are intelligent enough to accept such change,” stated Andrews. After civic leaders met on March 16, 1960, seven Woolworth downtown stores agreed to desegregate lunch counters. This victory caught the eye of Jackie Robinson who was quoted by The New York Times as saying it was “a story that should be told around the world.”
The Woolworth building within Alamo Plaza serves as a successful cornerstone that initiated social change for civil rights. However, a concern was raised for the status of the Woolworth building after 2018 when the conceptual groundwork for a new Alamo museum did not show the mapping of the historic building anymore. The Conservation Society of San Antonio is fighting for the stay and incorporation of the Woolworth building within Alamo Plaza. The history of civil rights and progressiveness for African Americans and Hispanics was cultivated on the corners of the Woolworth building. Bexar County judge Nelson Wolff expressed his frustration while calling on the Texas government.
“Not a question of can they do it, it is a question of will they do it,” Wolff stated. His message resonated heavily as the audience erupted into cheer.
The symposium continued with distinguished speakers who highlighted the historical significance of the civil rights legacy within Alamo Plaza. Everett Fly, a 2014 National Humanities Medals recipient, awarded by Barack Obama, lectured about the struggles for African Americans to gain racial equality. Fly discussed the time that African American advocates for social change during the 60s were chased approximately a mile west to a church. Incidents such as those served as a reminder that civil rights were imperative at that time.
The symposium resulted in the Conservation Society calling upon the people of San Antonio to contact the Texas government for the preservation of the Woolworth building.
“Both the Woolworth and the Alamo symbolize a fight for freedom,” an audience member yelled