Durham’s civil rights heritage

Martin Luther King Jr. visits Durham, February 1960
Jan. 31, 2013 @ 11:04 AM

During the civil rights era, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., made five public appearances in Durham. The most dramatic was on Feb. 16, 1960, when he visited the Woolworth's lunch counter downtown, which had been closed after sit-in demonstrations there the previous week. The lunch counter sit-in movement had begun Feb. 1, 1960, at the Greensboro Woolworth’s and was sweeping the Jim Crow South. With King are Garson McLeod, Durham County sheriff’s deputy, at left; Rev. Douglas Moore, who led Durham's first sit-in, at the Royal Ice Cream Company, in 1957; and an unidentified man.

Although the Royal Ice Cream sit-in Moore organized did not get a lot of support from the black community, it set the stage for future protests locally and beyond. It is documented that the Greensboro Woolworth’s protesters knew about and were perhaps inspired by the Royal Ice Cream sit-in. By the time the 1960 sit-ins reached Durham, the views of the town’s black citizens had changed, with most being in favor of the protests.