The holiday of Juneteenth celebrates the day when the last people trapped in American slavery were finally freed on June 19, 1865. But the struggle for true freedom and equality certainly didn’t end there. Almost a full century later, the United States was still upholding racist laws, beliefs, and systems. In 1960, one of these laws—segregation—would be challenged over a lunch counter.
In February of that year, a group of Black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, refused to leave their seats at a Woolworth’s diner, even though they were denied service. As they recruited fellow participants over the following days, word of their protest against segregation spread and similar sit-ins took place across the United States. By July, around 70,000 protestors had performed sit-ins and Woolworth’s desegregated all of their lunch counters.
The site of the Woolworth’s Lunch Counter Sit-In is likely the most famous dining scene in the larger story of civil rights. But there are many other restaurants that have either played pivotal roles in that history or have become living tributes to it. Some, like New Orleans’s Dooky Chase restaurant or Mississippi’s Big Apple Inn, have provided delicious meals as well as safe havens for progressives and protestors. Others, like the Sweet Home Cafe in Washington, D.C., are newer creations built with the explicit goal of educating eaters about the intersection of food and Black history in the United States.
Beyond food, these 6 restaurants serve incredible stories of perseverance, compassion, and joy across Black history.