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Perspectives&Preservation

We Shouldn’t Have to Move Out to Move Up*
Volume 4, Number 2
Fall 2006
by Denise Hester
Fayetteville Street Planning Group,
Durham, North Carolina
http://www.ncsociology.org/sociationtoday/hester.htm
We Shouldn’t Have to Move Out to Move Up*
Volume 4, Number 2
Fall 2006
by Denise Hester
Fayetteville Street Planning Group,
Durham, North Carolina
http://www.ncsociology.org/sociationtoday/hester.htm
As the title of this article suggests, neighborhood residents and businesses across the nation are affirming their right to live and conduct business in their local neighborhoods without undue pressure from big-money developers, governments and other special interest groups to move out.
Whether the players are neighborhoods opposed to big-box developments like Walmart, to commercial creep into residential areas or to high-end gentrification initiatives, the story is the same — big money interests enjoy substantial advantages over everyday working people. But there’s also another story at work here — how local planning processes place neighborhoods at a disadvantage in preserving residential communities and neighborhood commercial districts and how certain populations can be “planned out” of specific areas through the use of facially neutral planning and zoning regulations.
And finally, this article will discuss one neighborhood’s efforts to combat development pressure in Durham, North Carolina along the historic Fayetteville Street corridor, one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in North Carolina.
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7

Historian R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. speaks at ceremony

November 29, 2009
Unveiling of state highway historic marker commemorating North Carolina’s first sit-in, on June 23, 1957, at Royal Ice Cream. Corner of North Roxboro and Dowd streets.

Historian R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. speaks at ceremony

By Matthew E. Milliken

mmilliken@heraldsun.com; 419-6684

DURHAM — A quest that began nearly a decade ago to commemorate an event that occurred more than a half-century ago will finally be achieved this afternoon.

The state highway historic plaque marking the spot of the June 23, 1957, sit-in to protest racial segregation at Royal Ice Cream will be unveiled at 3 p.m. today at the corner of North Roxboro and Dowd streets.

“We are very proud of what happened here and very proud of having been designated as one of the historical events in the city of Durham,” said longtime resident R. Kelly Bryant. He started the effort to win recognition from the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program with a January 2000 letter to the state Department of Cultural Resources.

Bryant followed up with unsuccessful requests in 2001 and 2003 before mounting a successful campaign with widespread community support two years ago.

The event honored by the plaque is the first sit-in in the state of North Carolina. It took place when the 28-year-old Rev. Douglas Moore, pastor of Asbury Temple Methodist Church, led seven well-dressed young men and women into Royal Ice Cream. They entered through the back door, the one regularly used by black people, walked into the store’s front section and sat down in some of the booths reserved exclusively for white people.

The group — pared from eight to seven when a young man thought twice about the protest — declined requests by staff and a manager to leave. They also declined similar requests from police, who arrested them. Moore, Mary Elizabeth Clyburn, Claude Glenn, Jesse Gray, Vivian Jones, Virginia Williams and Melvin Willis were convicted of trespassing in Recorder’s Court on June 24. Each was fined $10 plus court costs.

The convictions were appealed, in vain, up the chain all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

The event preceded by more than two and a half years the 1960 Greensboro Woolworth’s sit-in. That sustained effort in a downtown establishment, unlike the one-time protest outside of Durham’s business district, catalyzed similar nonviolent desegregation protests throughout the state and region and remains much more famous.

Only one of the three living participants in the Royal Ice Cream sit-in is expected to attend today’s marker unveiling. But a protester who won’t come, Clyburn, said she remains proud of her role in the Durham sit-in.

“It’s extremely important for me that they finally recognized or gave us some credit for getting involved when we did in trying to do something about the terrible conditions that [were] going on then in 1957,” said Clyburn, a Newark, N.J., substitute elementary-school teacher who now goes by her married surname of Hooks.

She called the indignities forced upon blacks in Durham in the 1950s “extremely hurtful,” citing the segregated seating at the Carolina Theatre and the lack of seating at local eateries for black people.

Today, Bryant is expected to join with protester Williams and Ugo Coletta, a relative of a Royal Ice Cream owner, in unveiling the marker.

Eddie Davis is an organizer of this afternoon’s ceremony. He feels the joint unveiling will have powerful meaning for Durhamites.

“We’re looking forward to this new era of 21st-century sensibilities and to have people … put behind the old days of segregation and to look forward to the new days of unity and respect for all,” said Davis, a former North Carolina Association of Educators president.

Davis said that the successful campaign to secure the plaque began in September 2007 at a panel discussion on the sit-in when Bryant told the audience that the state had declined to recognize the event. By mid-December, endorsements for a plaque had been secured from the City Council, Board of County Commissioners, Board of Education and other local groups, and a state panel ordered that the marker be cast.

The significance of the 1957 event goes beyond its being the state’s first, Davis believes, because the legal appeals showed the potential for using courts to promote social change.

“Some people think that even though they were unsuccessful and … were found guilty along the way and did not have the guilty verdict overturned at any stage, it still raised the national consciousness within civil rights organizations,” Davis said. “So I think people recognize that even though they were unsuccessful, it still indeed helped to dismantle segregation.”

The marker was shown to the public for the first time in a June 2008 ceremony. But it was not posted beside Roxboro Street until recently because officials did not want to risk damage from construction at Union Independent School. The school, which occupies the site of the old Royal Ice Cream building — later home to Charlie Dunham’s restaurant — opened in August.___________________________________________________________________________________

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