Vertical Seating at a Lunch Counter

Eli Evans grew up in Durham, NC, where his father owned Evans United, a dry goods store that served whites and blacks alike. One of the services provided by the store was a lunch counter where shoppers could get a bite to eat. In The Provincials, Evans tells the following story.

Ours was a poor people’s store and we catered to the Negro trade. In the strange contorted world of what passed for Southern liberalism just after the war, Evans United was the first store on Main Street to have restrooms for blacks; we were the only Main Street store with an integrated lunch counter, though it hadn’t been easy. When Bus Borland, the county judge, sent word that North Carolina law prohibited feeding blacks and whites together unless a wall separated them, my father told him, “Bus, you’ll have to close the store if you want me to do that.” Gene Brooks, our lawyer, called a meeting at the courthouse to point out, after exhaustive research, that the legal precedents all involved seated counters, and Bus agreed that it was so, not wanting to make a whole lot of trouble. So my father agreed to remove all the stools at the counter and instructed the carpenters to raise the counter top to elbow-leaning height so that United could proudly retain the only integrated lunch counter in downtown Durham.

Eli N. Evans, The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. Reprinted University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 27.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Vertical Seating at a Lunch Counter." (Viewed on September 24, 2021) <>.


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