NINETY-SEVEN. That’s how many stairs African-American movie-goers had to walk up at the Carolina Theater in Durham, North Carolina. After climbing the stairs and purchasing tickets, they sat in designated balcony seating – the only place they were allowed to sit.
Then the civil rights movement brought all kinds of changes. In July 1963, the stairway and the seating requirements were desegregated.
Today, the side entrance to the theater is unmarked. The staircase is nicely carpeted in red with wooden rails. While it is still in use, customers seem to prefer the front entrance stairs and the elevator. The elevator to the second balcony now opens to a permanent exhibit of large, black and white photographs called “Confronting Change.” This display is, perhaps, the Carolina Theater’s self-conscious examination of civil rights history.
(Adapted from the article by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, Feb. 26, 2014.)