(CNN) — Sixty years ago, four African American college students quietly sat down at a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and waited.
They kept waiting, despite receiving no service and requests to leave. The next day, they came back and waited all over again.
Within three days of their protest beginning, more than 300 students joined the “Greensboro Four” in their sit-in. In the following months, their actions sparked a wave of similar demonstrations in restaurants and other segregated spaces throughout the South, transforming the fight against Jim Crow-era segregation and marking a turning point in the civil rights movement.
Google is kicking off Black History Month with a doodle that commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins.
Saturday’s doodle comes from the Compton-based artist Karen Collins, who is also the founder of the African American Miniature Museum. This doodle is actually a photo of a diorama that depicts the “Greensboro Four” protesting racial segregation at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on February 1, 1960.
“Organized by four Black college freshmen, the protest against segregation served as a catalyst for similar demonstrations throughout the nation,” Collins wrote in a blog post. “Today’s Doodle diorama not only pays homage to the sit-in, but also to everything that came as a result: changes in our country to make it more possible for ALL Americans—no matter their race, color, or creed—to live to their full potential.”
Collins captures black history through dioramas
Collins has been creating dioramas that capture moments in black history for 24 years through the African American Miniature Museum, a project she started with her husband Eddie Lewis.
Collins had always wanted a dollhouse as a little girl, but as the daughter of a single mom, her family couldn’t afford it, she wrote in a blog post. When she bought her first dollhouse 40-some years later, she discovered her passion for using dioramas to tell stories.
That passion gained a new meaning when her son was incarcerated, she wrote. In the midst of her pain and anguish, she started the African American Miniature Museum.
The museum began as a mobile project in the 1990s, when Collins displayed her work in venues like schools, libraries and churches as a way of contextualizing black history for children — and today, she continues to operate the museum from home. Collins says on her website that she hopes to have a permanent location someday for the more than 50 dioramas she has created, which depict events from the Middle Passage to America to the Black Lives Matter protests.
“For me, the museum was a way to turn the negativity into something positive and share the stories of our ancestors’ strength and perseverance through hardship,” Collins wrote in a blog post. “I want young people to learn about those that came before them who sacrificed to help make the lives they live today possible. Most importantly, I want them to see that we each have the power to make it through difficult times to thrive and hopefully make things better for those who come after us.”