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Wilmington native discusses civil rights legacy

READ MORE: Wilmington native discusses civil rights legacy

A Williston graduate who became a civil rights icon returned to his alma mater today. Joseph McNeil spoke to students about the importance of education, respect, and non-violence.

McNeil was one of four college students who started a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro 50 years ago. The sit-in was a non-violent protest that helped set in motion the civil rights movement across the country.

McNeil graduated from Williston High School in 1959. Even though the school system was segregated, McNeil says his teachers ingrained the values that helped him become a leader in the civil rights movement.

Tuesday McNeil returned to Williston to speak to almost 300 sixth graders in hopes of continuing the vision of equality and non-violence he helped start more than 50 years ago.

"We've got to learn, all of us, how to be respectful of others and to avoid things like violence," McNeil said. "It's so destructive."

McNeil, who went on to earn the rank of Major General in the Air Force and become an engineer, says the education he received at Williston helped him find the courage to lead change in the face of extreme risk. He urged students to take advantage of the same education to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

As part of Black History Month McNeil and another member of the Greensboro 4 Dr. Franklin McCain will speak at UNCW tonight. The program is at Kenan Auditorium starting at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

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I dont understand why we

I dont understand why we have to have a "black history month" in the first place! What about white history?? Dont we deserve a month as well?

I hate what happened to the blacks in the past. Yes it was very wrong! But that was the PAST. People, we need to move on! I didnt treat anyone bad, laws have changed, why cant everyone move on. I find all the crazy! As long as everyone keeps this going year after year, the racial tensions will never improve.


Some people and organizations don't want them to get better. If they did they would be out of a cozy job.


The other 11 months of the year are white history month more or less. especially in the education system which is a sad fact in and of itself. Furthermore, in my fathers life time there have been atrocities committed in the name of racism. Perhaps the fact that those 4 little girls who died when supremacists bombed a church have parents and family that are still alive doesn't bother you but then again I have a heart. Segregation was in effect until the sixties. I think it's ridiculously cruel to act as if we're even now. Tell you what, you get back to me after you've had any sort of clue what it's like to have a cross burned in your yard or were treated legally like a second class citizen. The fact that people like you spout out your ignorance publicly is a glaring example of why affirmative action is needed/