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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Hempstead man recalls his civil rights fight 50 years ago

The right to drink a cup of coffee at a segregated lunch counter was worth fighting for, but the coffee was not, a civil rights pioneer told the Nassau County Legislature on Monday.

The world knows Joseph McNeil, 67, of Hempstead as one of the four young black men who staged a sit-in 50 years ago when they were refused service at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C.

After that battle was won, McNeil said he went back for his cup of coffee and slice of apple pie at the "quaint, rather mundane lunch counter."

“I found the coffee was not very good ... the apple pie was marginal,” McNeil told the legislators. He had been invited by Democratic Minority Leader Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove to talk about his experience.

McNeil then posed one-by-one with legislators off to the side, holding an orange Nassau County flag and smiling for the camera.

Forgotten, for the moment, was the argument made by former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi that Nassau remains one of the most segregated suburbs in America.

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