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“. . . . a Methodist minister, Douglas Moore, from whom [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] had “distanced himself” when both men were students at Boston University due to the radical nonviolence that Moore embraced, began leading a nonviolent sit-in 23 June 1957 at the Royal Ice Cream Parlor on Dowd Street in Durham, North Carolina. Although larger sit-ins took place in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, Moore was the lone preacher from that state who traveled great distances to attend conferences on nonviolence. By the time the major North Carolina sit-ins were in progress in 1960, Moore, the pastor of Asbury Temple United Methodist Church in Durham, had been attending SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] meetings for two years. King’s first direct contact with the sit-ins came in an 8 February phone call from Moore. King came to Durham a few days later to give support. In a speech to students at North Carolina Central University on 16 February 1960, entitled “Fill Up the Jails,” King, accompanied by Ralph Abernathy, encouraged students to persevere. “Jail, not bail,” he told them. A rally at White Rock Baptist Church with more than a thousand in attendance and a religious service at St. Joseph’s AME Church [now the Hayti Historical Center] were held in Durham the same day. The SCLC backed the students in their struggle. “1

1 David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross; Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), 129.

From my MALS thesis “Making All Things New: The Redemptive Value of Unmerited Suffering In the Life and Works of Martin Luther King Jr.” (Wake Forest University, 2000), 56-57.

King wrote to Douglas Moore upon his return to Montgomery.


The Board of County Commissioners of Durham (also known as Bull City) is trying to get Royal Ice Cream Parlor “recognized by the State of North Carolina with an “official” state marker. Of the 1,513 state markers across North Carolina, only three commemorate the Civil Rights movement.” (see more)

Here is a copy of the resolution sent to the NC Highway Historic Marker Advisory Committee:

WHEREAS, the Royal Ice Cream Parlor Sit-in occurred in Durham, North Carolina on June 23, 1957 and whereas this direct action protested the institutionalized racial segregation that existed in the Southern Region of the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, the social, legal, and educational implications of the actions of seven Durham citizens foreshadowed the civil rights movement that would unfold in North Carolina during the decade of the 1960s; and

WHEREAS, in retrospection, civil rights veterans, historians, and students increasingly point to the pivotal nature of the Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in; and

WHEREAS, in 2003, Durham’s R. Kelly Bryant meticulously researched, prepared, and submitted a formal application for an official state historic marker to be cast and erected near the site of the Royal Ice Cream Parlor; and

WHEREAS, the Highway Historic Marker Advisory Committee of the North Carolina Archives and History Department denied the Bryant request in 2003, citing a lack of historical significance; and

WHEREAS, several recent publications have increased the comprehensive awareness and the significant linkage of the 1957 events in Durham to the broader history of civil rights in North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, the 2006 publication of the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by UNC-CH Professor-Emeritus William S. Powell makes several references to Rev. Douglas Moore and the Royal Sit-in. This reference source also carries a famous photo of the Royal Sit-in participants. This photo is from the collection of Virginia Williams, who was one of those participants. The photo is a permanent part of the Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project, which is associated with the North Carolina Collection at the Durham County Library; and

WHEREAS, the 2002 edition of A History of African-Americans in North Carolina by Jeffrey J. Crow, Paul Escott, and Flora J. Hatley mentions that the 1957 Durham sit-in “presages” the modern civil rights movement in North Carolina. Jeffrey J. Crow currently directs the Office of Archives and History and serves as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources; and

WHEREAS, the 2005 book Our Separate Ways: Black Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina by Christina Greene devotes several pages to the Royal sit-in and its significance to later direct action in other cities in North Carolina and across the South; and

WHEREAS, The Durham Herald-Sun, The Raleigh News and Observer, The Triangle Tribune, The Durham News, The Carolina Times, The Independent Weekly, Bull City Rising, Bull’s Eye, Barry Ragin’s Blog, other blogs, Time-Warner Channel 14, WRAL-TV, WTVD-TV, other television stations, radio, websites, Preservation Durham, The Duke Center for Documentary Studies, The NCCU Office of Archives and Public Life, Durham Technical Community College, The North Carolina Collection at the Durham County Library, and word-of-mouth have helped to raise the collective consciousness of the importance of the Royal Sit-in; and

WHEREAS, the 50th anniversary year is a noteworthy milestone that serves to honor the courage and commitment of the Royal Seven and people of all ethnicities and cultures who have worked to eliminate racial segregation and other human barriers; and

WHEREAS, the 50th anniversary year of the 1957 Royal Sit-in brings special motivation and inspiration for improved interpersonal relations for the younger, middle, and older citizens of Durham and the entire world; and

WHEREAS, the audience members at the recent 50th anniversary commemoration of the Royal Sit-in encouraged R. Kelly Bryant to appeal the earlier denial by the Historic Marker Committee;


That we do hereby support, encourage, and endorse the efforts of R. Kelly Bryant, Virginia Williams, and others in their December 17, 2007 appeal to the Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee at the Office of Archives and History for a state-sponsored marker that commemorates the 1957 Royal Ice Cream Parlor Sit-in in Durham, North Carolina.

I tell you, then, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Matthew 21:43

“Even though it may be realistic to admit that there is hardly any news in the Sermon on the Mount for most people, the core message of the Gospel nonetheless contains a truth that no one has yet fully made true. . . . We have not yet realized what we profess to believe. Who likes to hear, for example, that the last will be first, if we happen to be first? . . . The truth, after all, is radical: it goes to the roots of a person’s life in such a way that few are those who want it and the freedom it brings with it. . . . Christians are Christians only when we increasingly ask critical questions of the society in which we live and continuously stress the necessity for conversion, not only of the individual but also of the world. Christians are Christians only when we refuse to allow ourselves or anyone else to settle into a comfortable rest. . . . As long as Christians live we keep searching for a new order without divisions between people, for a new structure that allows every person to shake hands with every other person and a new life in which there will be lasting unity and peace.”

to read the rest of this devotional see Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nouwen

February 2008