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Historical marker unveiled honoring ‘Richmond 34’ arrested after 1960 Thalhimers sit-in

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RICHMOND, Va. -- A state historical marker commemorating a 1960 sit-in by 34 Virginia Union University students was unveiled in downtown Richmond, Tuesday morning.

A historical marker commemorating a 1960 sit in is unveiled in downtown Richmond, Tuesday afternoon.

A historical marker commemorating a 1960 sit in is unveiled in downtown Richmond, Tuesday afternoon.

Dozens gathered at the site of the sit-in at the old Thalhimers department store on East Broad Street, now Richmond Center Stage, for the unveiling.

"Today is a monumental day," said Elizabeth Johnson Rice, one of 11 women and 23 men who refused to leave the segregated lunch counter at the store and were subsequently arrested on February 22, 1960.

Elizabeth Johnson Rice, one of the Richmond 34, helped organize the historical marker ceremony.

Elizabeth Johnson Rice, one of the Richmond 34, helped organize the historical marker ceremony.

Originally 200 students protested that day, but only 34 were arrested, tried and convicted for trespassing. The Richmond 34 protest was part of a wave of protests across the South inspired by Civil Rights sit-ins in Greensboro, NC.

In June 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions of the Richmond 34 in Randolph v. Virginia leading to the desegregation of Thalhimers and other department stores.

The marker was approved  by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which manages the program. It was paid for by a federal grant awarded to DHR and is one of 2500 around the state.

A photograph of the Richmond 34 sit in at the Thalhimer building in February 1960.

A photograph of the Richmond 34 sit in at the Thalhimer building in February 1960.

The marker reads:

On 22 Feb. 1960, 34 Virginia Union University students, 11 women and 23 men, refused to leave the segregated dining facilities here at Thalhimers department store and were arrested. Charged with trespassing, they were later convicted and fined. This sit-in was part of a wave of protests across the South inspired by recent sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina. The arrests of the Richmond 34 sparked the Campaign for Human Dignity, which organized boycotts and picketed Richmond businesses. Thalhimers and other retailers subsequently desegregated. In June 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions of the Richmond 34 in Randolph v. Virginia.