Civil rights icon shares lessons learned during the Woolworth sit-ins in Jackson

Though she can laugh now, Mulholland says the situation was extremely volatile and dangerous

Civil rights icon Joan Trumpauer Mulholland shares lessons learned during the Woolworth sit-ins in Jackson

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - In 1963, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland was a student at Tougaloo College. While checking on her classmates who took the bold step of sitting at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Downtown Jackson, she found herself right in the middle of a non-violent protest that would get the attention of the nation.

“I wasn’t supposed to be there. But I ended up there,” said Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

This now famous photo shows Joan Mulholland as sugar is dumped on her head during the Woolworth sit-ins in 1963. (Source: MS Department of Archives and History)
This now famous photo shows Joan Mulholland as sugar is dumped on her head during the Woolworth sit-ins in 1963. (Source: MS Department of Archives and History)

She was sitting with other Tougaloo College students at the Woolworth counter when a violent and angry mob dumped ketchup, salt, sugar and other condiments on the non-violent protesters.

Mulholland said, “They were dumping all that sugar on my head, and I like to say, ‘like I wasn’t sweet enough already.’”

Though she can laugh now, Mulholland says the situation was extremely volatile and dangerous. “We really didn’t think we were gonna get out of there alive."

Not deterred by the angry mob and assaults, Mulholland continued her work against injustice. She has traveled the world educating others about the civil rights movement along with her son Loki Mulholland.

Loki Mulholland, Executive Director of The Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation, said, “So, as she says, I ruined a perfectly good retirement. But she can talk. She still has the capacity to do so. Many people were damaged, or didn’t live through the movement, or are too old. But she can, so she feels that she must.”

Mulholland reminds students to be involved. She says freedom of the press is also critical.

Mulholland explains, “Remember the demonstrators take it to the streets, the lawyers take your story to the courts, but the press takes your story to the world.”

Joan Mulholland and other Tougaloo College students staged a sit in at the Woolworth's in downtown Jackson. (Source: MS Department of Archives and History)
Joan Mulholland and other Tougaloo College students staged a sit in at the Woolworth's in downtown Jackson. (Source: MS Department of Archives and History)

Joan Mulholland says she met some of the legends during the civil rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer.

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