But the movement, which aimed to challenge the segregated interstate bus facilities, really began in the Commonwealth of Virginia's capital city, according to State Senator Henry Marsh.
Marsh was a friend of Bruce Boynton, a Howard University student who in 1958 refused to leave a whites-only section of restaurant within a bus terminal in Richmond.
Marsh says that case sparked the "freedom rider" initiative in which activists rode buses into the segregated south.
Marsh says the events that followed galvanized the civil rights movement. "That led to the passage of the voting rights act," he says.
But Marsh says this current generation has forgotten its history, and has a sense of entitlement that could cause it to repeat history.
"I'm glad to have this celebration of 50 years after the sit-in so we can see how we got where we are now," says Marsh.
Marsh says the fact that many people, especially African Americans, have lost their right to vote, find themselves jobless, struggling, and asking for representation in the legislative process suggests there are still aspects of slavery present in modern society.