The Southern student sit-in demonstrations began on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Within a year, the movement had swept through more than 100 southern cities and involved more than 70,000 activists. A new civil rights organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC—pronounced “snick”), was formed to coordinate the demonstrations. The sit-ins began in Little Rock in March 1960 when a group of Philander Smith students, labelling themselves “Arsnick,” began to sit at lunch counters in downtown restaurants , demanding equal service. At the time, segregation forced African-Americans to use separate facilities from whites. Often there were no segregrated facilities provided for them at all.
Initially, the movement met with harsh fines and stiff sentences. However, when SNCC worker Bill Hansen revived the sit-in movement in October 1962, at the request of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, white businessmen in the city agreed to desegregate downtown facilities in 1963.
The case of 1960 Philander Smith sit-in demonstrators Frank James Lupper and Thomas B. Robinson was finally heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 1964. It was the first case of its kind to be heard by the Court after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and led not only to their cases being dismissed but also more than 3,000 other cases nationwide.
In 1961, the Freedom Rides formed to test a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia (1960) that ordered the national integration of bus terminals. The initial rides, first sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and continued by SNCC, encountered violent resistance and forced federal intervention. To keep up pressure for change, the major civil rights organizations of the time set up a Freedom Rides Coordinating Committee (FRCC) to conduct follow-up campaigns of more Freedom Rides during the summer of 1961. Two delegations of Freedom Riders came to Arkansas in July 1961as part of the follow-up campaign, both heading to Little Rock to test facilities there. Although the first group, who arrived on July 10, was arrested, they were eventually released from jail. The second group, who stopped in the city a week later, was allowed to peacefully use bus terminal facilities. Little Rock formally brought an end to segregated bus terminals on November 1, 1961.