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The Museum of Durham History Honors the Royal Ice Cream Seven

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Leoneda Inge
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Mary Clyburn Hooks and Virginia Williams were 14-years-old when they joined the "sit-in" movement and picketed Royal Ice Cream in Durham - in June 1957.

A piece of “lost and found” history is now on display at the Museum of Durham History on West Main Street.

An old “Royal Ice Cream” parlor sign was discovered in a private collection and discarded for decades. The state’s first Civil Rights sit-in took place at the parlor in June 1957.

Reverend Douglass E. Moore of the Asbury Temple United Methodists Church led the sit-in, which included six other young people. All were arrested.

One of them was Mary Clyburn Hooks.

“We went where it said ‘white only.’ We went in that door," she recalls. "So when we went in there the white people jumped up and ran out like we were some kind of animals, or something.”

The Royal Ice Cream sit-in resulted in a court case that reached the State Supreme Court.

Alice Sharpe sits on the museum board and donated the sign in honor of her parents. She wouldn't say how much she paid for it.

“I did look at it and I thought, I can do that," she said. "It might take me a little while. But I can do that, especially in memory of my parents. So it does not take a whole lot to preserve a little bit of history. It really doesn’t.”

Virginia Williams and Mary Clyburn Hooks attended Wednesday’s event to dedicate the sign. The 84-year-old women are the last two living members of the “Royal Ice Cream Seven” who demonstrated that day 64 years ago.

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