Cambridge was a city primed for the Civil Rights Movement. By the early 1960s, black unemployment topped 30 percent. And black citizens were routinely denied social and civic services. To receive hospital care, they traveled two hours to Baltimore. In 1962, three hundred black residents created the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC) to foster civil protest action. It was one of the few civil rights organizations led by women.
During a July sit-in at the Dizzyland restaurant, the owner smashed eggs on the faces of protesters. Photos of that event made the national news. On July 11, 500 protesters marched downtown. Violence escalated. Stores were set on fire, gunfire was exchanged and white mobs attacked the black protesters. The Maryland National Guard intervened the next day. They remained in Cambridge for a year, the longest instance of martial law since Reconstruction. In late July, local movement leader Gloria Richardson and John Lewis of SNCC, assisted by U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, negotiated an agreement with the Cambridge mayor that met many of the protestors’ demands.
Durham hosted one of the first Southern sit-ins on June 23, 1957. Led by protesters from Ashbury United Methodist Church, Royal Ice Cream Parlor was the site. This protest set a high precedent for the area, leading to a court case that tested the practice of legal segregation. Another wave of sit-ins began on February 8, 1960, when students from North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) sat at the lunch counters of Woolworth’s, Kress, and Walgreens. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Durham five times during this time period. On February 16, 1960, Dr. King went to Woolworth’s and gave his famous “fill up the jails” speech to more than 1,000 people at White Rock Baptist Church. Soon after, the mayor of Durham asked protesting to cease while an agreement was reached. The protests largely stopped for a few years with sporadic exceptions.
On May 28, 1963, students and teachers from Tougaloo College in North Jackson made their way to downtown Jackson to gain lunch service at the Woolworth’s near the Governor's Mansion. A white mob poured mustard, ketchup, and sugar on them. Some students were beaten, one was knocked unconscious, and another was dragged out by her hair. They sat at the counter for three hours.
The sit-in occurred two weeks before the assassination of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi leader and field secretary for the NAACP. Evers played a crucial role in coordinating the sit-in. and first alerting the press. The Jackson Woolworth’s lunch counter closed shortly after the sit-in, and segregation persisted in downtown Jackson until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
The Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, an affiliate of the SCLC, had been holding workshops for local black community leaders and students on nonviolent tactics for resisting segregation. Nashville colleges including Fisk, Tennessee A&I State, Meharry Medical, and American Baptist Theological Seminary provided an energetic base of participants who organized as the “Nashville Student Movement.” After extensive planning in the fall semester of 1959, they began a wave of sit-ins at downtown Nashville lunch counters on February 13, 1960.
These protests proved influential nationwide. The students were expert organizers who developed written rules of conduct and staged nonviolence workshops that later became a model for other protest groups. The Nashville sit-ins lasted until May 10, 1960, when a large group of black protesters marched to city hall and demanded that Mayor Ben West desegregate lunch counters. He capitulated. Leaders of the Nashville sit-ins, including Diane Nash, John Lewis, and James Lawson, became key players in the larger Civil Rights Movement.
On January 31, 1961, ten students from Friendship College requested service at the McCrory’s Five-and-Dime lunch counter. They were arrested and taken to jail. All but one refused to pay the $100 bail. The nine remaining men remained in jail for a month, refusing to pay the city for bail on sentences they believed unjust. They completed their mandated hard labor at York County Prison Farm. This “Jail, No Bail” tactic piloted by the Friendship Nine spread rapidly to other protests in the movement who refused to continue funding city governments that oppressed black citizens. The current owner of the downtown building where McCrory’s was located has turned the space into a restaurant called Five and Dine, dedicated to the efforts of the Friendship Nine and other protesters.