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Clarence Lee Harris Papers

Identifier: MSS 0141

Scope and Contents

The Clarence Lee Harris Papers date from approximately 1916 to 1997 (bulk 1960 to 1990) and contain scrapbooks, clippings, correspondence, manuscripts, memorabilia, a photograph and printed materials. The materials relate to Harris' experiences of and opinions about the 1960 Woolworth sit-ins and his close tracking of civil rights and race-related topics in the United States for the next three decades.

The core of the collection are the ten scrapbooks Harris assembled, which contain materials dating from 1957 to 1990. The scrapbooks include newspaper and magazine articles, Harris' account of the sit-ins, his opinions about the effects of the sit-ins, and his comments on articles and books released about the sit-ins.

Three folders of loose clippings, mostly from 1990 to 1997, that did not make their way into a scrapbook are also included.

Harris' correspondence includes letters to the editor and other correspondence regarding: an oral history interview; the disposition of the lunch counter seats involved in the sit-ins; finding a repository for Harris' collection; and Harris' desire to publish his life story.

The manuscripts in this collection include Harris' draft recollections and opinions of the sit-ins and his notes, disagreements and reviews of work published by other authors about the sit-ins. Most of these manuscripts are found in final typed form in the scrapbooks.

Printed materials include corporate histories of Woolworth, for whom Harris was a devoted company man for most of his life, and two books published on the sit-ins and the civil rights movement with which Harris took issue.


  • circa 1916-1997
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 1990


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical or Historical Information

Clarence Lee "Curly" Harris (1905-1999) was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. He grew up and attended high school in Durham, North Carolina, where he began his career at the F.W. Woolworth Company store, in 1923, as Assistant Stock Room Manager. He continued working at Woolworth's after school and at night during his 5.5 years at Trinity College (now Duke University), from which he graduated in 1928 with a major in accounting and business law.

From 1929 to 1933 Harris worked as Assistant Manager at the Durham Woolworth's. In 1933 he was transferred to the Harrisonburg, Virginia store and promoted to Store Manager. He managed the Wilmington, North Carolina store from 1937 to 1947, and the Raleigh store from 1947 to 1955, when he was transferred to the Greensboro, North Carolina store. He remained at the Greensboro store until his retirement in 1969.

On 1 February 1960, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan), Frank McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, four young African-American students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (NC A & T), entered the downtown Greensboro Woolworth's and sat at the "whites only" lunch counter. Although a Woolworth's waitress told them "we don't serve Negroes here," the four students refused to leave their seats for the rest of the day. During the following days and months the four students were joined by other students in their sit-in demonstration, until the lunch counter was integrated in July. Sit-in protests spread to over one hundred cities across the United States during the next year, and are considered the onset of the 1960s civil rights movement.


1.60 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials



Clarence Lee "Curly" Harris (1905-1999) was the manager of the Greensboro Woolworth's store where the first sit-ins of the civil rights movement began on 1 February 1960.

The Clarence Lee Harris Papers date from circa 1916 to 1997 (bulk 1960 to 1990) and contain scrapbooks, clippings, correspondence, manuscripts, menus, a photograph and printed materials. The materials relate to Harris' experiences of and opinions about the 1960 Woolworth sit-ins and his close tracking of civil rights and race-related topics in the United States for the next four decades.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into the following series: Clippings, Correspondence, Manuscripts, Memorabilia, Printed Materials, and Scrapbooks.

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Clarence Lee Harris in March 1997.

Related Materials

Other civil rights related material can be found in Mss091, Edward Burrows Papers, 1948-1982.

Offensive Language Statement

The UNC Greensboro University Libraries collects, preserves, and makes accessible unique and historical materials for learning and research. The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are offensive and objectionable. These materials represent the opinions and actions of their creators. By providing access to these records in our reading room and through our digital collections, we recognize that archives and rare books can play a vital role in holding those creators accountable and in helping us learn from the past.

Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.

Processing Information

Processed by Hermann Trojanowski, March 1998 Encoded by Michelle Belden, February 2008
Clarence Lee Harris Papers
Hermann Trojanowski
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Other Unmapped
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Revision Statements

  • April 20, 2021: This finding aid underwent changes in Spring 2021 after a reparative archives review. The following link leads to the legacy version of this finding aid:

Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US