A lot of people know the history of the Greensboro Four – the four NC A&T students who started a major civil rights movement in 1960 by sitting at the segregated lunch counter at the downtown Woolworth’s and refusing to leave.

Somewhat less known, however, is the story of the Greensboro Six – the six black men who played a round of golf at the then whites-only Gillespie Golf Course five years before the Greensboro Sit-In Movement began.

Now, almost 70 years later, the City of Greensboro is telling the story of the Greensboro Six through a new project: A mural that will be put on display at the course.

Artist Vincent Ballentine has been chosen to make a “Greensboro Six” mural to be placed at Gillespie Golf Course.  Ballentine will be part of a community input session that will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3 at the Windsor Recreation Center at 1601 E. Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro.

At the event, Ballentine will share his vision for the mural and ask for input from area residents who have suggestions as to the best way to help bring the story of the Greensboro Six to life.

Wyndham Rewards, together with the City of Greensboro and First Tee-Central Carolina, chose Ballentine as the artist to create the mural that will honor the day in 1955 when six black men – led by local legend Dr. George Simkins – played a round of golf at the Gillespie Golf Course, which at the time only allowed whites to play.

After seven years of legal battles, their actions eventually led to the desegregation of the course.

And in 1961 the Greater Greensboro Open – now the Wyndham Championship – became the first PGA Tour event in the South to welcome a Black player – Charlie Sifford.

Ballentine’s final work will be formally unveiled during a special celebration at Gillespie Golf Course on Monday, Aug. 5 – ahead of the PGA Tour’s 85th annual Wyndham Championship, hosted by the Sedgefield Country Club.

Ballentine is a Brooklyn-based, “multi-disciplined visual artist” whose large-scale murals and street art have attracted national attention.  Ballentine’s works have been commissioned by the NCAA, MTV and BET as well as other high-profile entities.

In 1955, Gillespie Park was a City of Greensboro-owned course that was  operated as a private facility by a group of white citizens who leased it for $1 a year.

Play was only allowed for members and their guests. Though there was a Supreme Court ruling that had already made it illegal for a city-owned golf course to discriminate, the membership rule was a way to skirt that law.

At the time, there was a  “Negro” course in Greensboro – Nocho Park – that was said to have a whole lot of problems, including a terrible smell since it was located next to a sewage plant.

It was in December of 1955 that the Greensboro Six put down their 75 cents per player on the counter at the pro shop and then went out and began playing.

According to the NC African American Heritage Commission’s account, “It is said the head pro, Mr. Edwards, caught up with them on the fifth hole wildly gesticulating with a golf club, cursing, and threatening to have them arrested. They played on. That evening, a police officer arrested the six ‘dissidents.’”

Also, “That effort and the case of The Greensboro Six (charged with trespassing, a sentence of 30 days in jail) weaved their way through courts in our state. Middle District Court Judge Johnson J. Hayes of North Wilkesboro made a declaratory judgment. The lease of Gillespie Golf Course as a private facility was invalid. Judge Hayes ruled The Greensboro Six were unlawfully denied access to the course because of their race. It is said he planned an order to open all public courses to all citizens.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Greensboro Six or the related Mural Project at Gillespie Golf Course, visit http://firstteecentralcarolina.org/mural-project.

Photo from the NC African American Heritage Commission