Royal Ice Cream Protest, 1957

Protests at Royal Ice Cream. Image from OpenDurham.

Protests at Royal Ice Cream. Image from Open Durham.

On June 23, 1957, the Royal Ice Cream sit-in began in Durham.

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. To protest, a local minister and six young African Americans went to Royal Ice Cream and took up booths on the white side. The manager called the police who charged them with trespassing.

Protests at Royal Ice Cream. Image from OpenDurham.

Protests at Royal Ice Cream. Image from Open Durham.

Found guilty 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 was held. 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.

The Royal Ice Cream sit-in helped lay the foundation for the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, which sparked the national movement for civil rights.

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3 responses to “Royal Ice Cream Protest, 1957”

  1. Charles Latner says :

    Where was this business located?

    • NC Culture says :

      Thanks for writing us!

      It looks like this business was at the corner of the North Roxboro and Dowd Streets, though it was demolished and is now home to independent school.

      Check out this page for more.

      Thanks again,
      The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Team

  2. Alex Chassanoff says :

    The Counter Histories project made a short film about this day/action as part of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Worth a watch!

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