Durham exhibit honors students who staged sit-in at segregated ice cream parlor

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Museum of Durham History unveiled its latest exhibit Wednesday honoring a group of civil rights trailblazers who peacefully protested segregation laws at the Royal Ice Cream parlor sit-in 64 years ago.

On June 23, 1957, Rev. Douglas Moore of Asbury Temple Methodist Church led seven young African-American students to a segregated Royal Ice Cream parlor -- formerly located between Dowd and Roxboro streets -- and sat in the section reserved for white people and ordered ice cream. Staff members refused to serve the protesters and were later asked to leave by the manager. Instead of leaving, they ordered a round of ice cream. All eight were later arrested.

The two surviving members of the group shared their memories of the event that sparked a movement that would be historic not only for North Carolina but for the country.

"Once we got in the back door, it was understood that whoever pushed that front door open was gonna push it with such force, that all seven of us were going to be able to clear it and we took the choice seats which were the booths and we just sat down and refused to get up," said sit-in participant Virginia Williams.

Fellow participant Mary Clyburne Hooks recounted the event saying, "They said, 'No we can't serve y'all.' And next thing we know, the police was coming in the door and they came over and started putting handcuffs on us and they took us down to the jailhouse."

The sit-in at the Royal Ice Cream parlor would go on to inspire other notable peaceful demonstrations like the 1960 Greensboro sit-in.

"We are honored to display this sign and are grateful for the courage of the 'Royal Ice Cream Seven'," said the Museum's executive director, Patrick Mucklow. "It serves as a reminder that Durham has a legacy of taking the lead on social justice issues, and that the sacrifice of the participants, mostly teenagers at the time, should never be forgotten."

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Sixty years ago, nine African-American teenage boys held a sit-in at the Colonial Drug Store and demanded the same service as white customers.

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