On February 8, 1961, just one week after students from North Carolina A&T State University started the lunch counter sit-in movement in Greensboro, students at North Carolina Central University began at sit-in of their own at the racially segregated lunch counter in the F.W. Woolworth store in downtown Durham. The protests garnered the attention of Martin Luther King Jr., who visited the protesters a week later. Rather than capitulate to the students, Woolworth’s closed the lunch counter.
The Woolworth’s store closed in 1994 but the lunch counter was salvaged by John Frederick, then the executive director of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. A portion of the lunch counter was donated to North Carolina Central University in 1999.
Now the historic lunch counter has found a new home at the James E. Shepard Memorial Library at North Carolina Central University, where it will be the centerpiece of permanent exhibit on the civil rights movement. A rededication ceremony is scheduled for February 5.