Lunch Counter from Sit-In Era Is Focus of NCCU Ceremony

A section of the F.W. Woolworth & Co. lunch counter at which sit-in protests took place in Durham in 1960 will be rededicated in a ceremony at North Carolina Central University on Sunday, Feb. 5, in one of a series of Black History Month observances at the university.

The anti-segregation sit-ins in downtown Durham began Feb. 8, 1960, following by one week the similar protests in Greensboro. The Durham campaign was organized by the NAACP chapter at North Carolina College (now NCCU), led by students Lacy Streeter, Callis Brown, Robert Kornegay. Also taking part were students from the Bull City Barber College, DeShazor’s Beauty College and Hillside High School.

The protests caught the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. David Abernathy. At the request of the Rev. Douglas Moore, a local civil rights leader, the two national leaders came to Durham and visited the Woolworth’s lunch counter on Feb. 16. The store closed the counter after the sit-in demonstrations, and the students continued the protests at other stores.

On the evening of Feb. 16, Dr. King drew a standing-room crowd at White Rock Baptist Church, where he delivered his famous “Fill up the jails” speech, in which he advocated nonviolent confrontation with segregation for the first time in the South.

The Woolworth store closed in 1994, but the lunch counter was saved from salvage collectors by John Friedrick, then executive director of the N. C. School of Science and Mathematics. A portion of the counter was donated to NCCU in June 1999. Last fall it was moved from its previous location in the William Jones Building to the James E. Shepard Memorial Library, where it will be the centerpiece of a permanent civil rights movement exhibit.

The rededication event on Feb. 5 will be at the Shepard Library starting at 3 p.m. It will begin with a panel discussion, “Looking Back While Moving Forward,” moderated by Dr. Freddie Parker, professor of history at NCCU and chair of the N.C. African-American Historical Commission.

The discussion panelists will be Dr. Courtney S. Ferguson, a retired NCCU business professor; Vivian McCoy, a civil rights and community activist; Virginia Williams, who as a teenager participated in the Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in in Durham in 1957, one of the first such civil rights protests; and NCCU student leader Cassandra S. Stokes. The dedication ceremony and a reception will follow.