Landmark Sit-Ins Before Woolworth’s

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina’s black history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit from our state’s African American’s past. Though the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins are famous for sparking a national movement, they weren’t the first such action. Protest actions prior to 1960, though sometimes isolated and without wider impact, took place across the state and region. A 1957 protest in Durham had wider consequence, leading to a court case testing the legality of segregated facilities. The Royal Ice Cream Company had a doorway on one street with a “White Only” sign and one on another marked “Colored Only.” A partition divided the restaurant in two. On June 23, 1957, a local minister and six others assembled at the church to plan the protest. The young African Americans went to Royal Ice Cream and took up booths. The manager called the police who charged them with trespassing.

Royal Ice Cream ProtestersFound guilty of trespassing the next day, each of the protesters was fined $10 plus court costs. On appeal the case went to Durham County Superior Court and a jury trial. An all-white jury rendered a guilty verdict on each defendant. The case was then appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court, which upheld the law regarding segregated facilities. Attorneys appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.

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