State News

Marker commemorates pioneering Durham sit-in

Posted June 23, 2008 9:13 a.m. EDT
Updated June 23, 2008 6:34 p.m. EDT

— A state historical marker was unveiled Monday night near the site of a Durham restaurant where protesters held a sit-in 51 years ago.

Rev. Douglas Moore, who was 28 at the time, led seven other young blacks into the segregated Royal Ice Cream Parlor on June 23, 1957, demanding to be served in the same way as whites.

"I said we need to as Christians really take this on," Moore said.

Royal Ice Cream, which was on North Roxboro Road, was targeted because it was in the heart of the black community, he said.

"I said, 'Man, if we can't knock this out, we can't go nowhere' because blacks were right there," he said. "I didn't know how wrong I was."

The waitress refused to serve the group, so they refused to leave.

"She said, 'We can't serve you.' I said, 'Why?' I said, 'I've got money. We've got money. What else you need?'" Moore said. "'But you are black,' (she said). I said, 'No, no, no, no, no.' I said, 'We are customers.'"

The protesters were arrested and cited for trespassing and violations of segregation laws.

The Durham action predated the protest by four college students at the Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro. That sit-in on Feb. 1, 1960, is credited for helping to launch the civil-rights movement.

"It doesn't bother me because I didn't do it to get (publicity)," Moore said.

Still, he and other activists couldn't convince the state to recognize the historic significance of the Royal Ice Cream sit-in. Twice, they failed to persuade a state panel to approve a marker for the site.

"I just said somebody will find out 100 years from now," he said.

Instead, it took 50 years for the state to issue a historical marker. Three of the eight protesters were present Monday night when the marker was unveiled at Union Baptist Church, which owns the property where Royal Ice Cream once stood.

The new sign will be permanently installed later this year after Union Baptist finishes a school on the site.

"There are a lot of emotions that flood back," he said.