Yesterday: In early 1960s, Capitol Theatre before integration

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 13, 2014

Local film historian Mike Cline provided this photograph sent to him by Marion Peter Holt. The inside shot of the Capitol Theatre was taken during a summer in the early 1960s before the West Innes Street movie house was integrated. African-American customers were restricted to seats in the balcony. The Capitol played an important role in the civil rights movement in Salisbury. On Feb. 27, 1962, 16 Livingstone College students were denied seats in the white section of the Capitol. After they staged a quiet protest outside of the theater, the students were arrested and spent a night in the county jail. It led to Samuel Duncan, president of Livingstone College, and merchant Wiley Lash, who later would become the first African-American mayor in Salisbury, to sit in the white section of the Capitol for an entire week of shows. “I firmly believe that if a solution can be found for the problem of the moment anywhere in the South, Salisbury is the place,” Duncan said. Other black adults and students were allowed to occupy seats in the white sections of other downtown movie theaters until, at the end of six weeks, theater managers in Salisbury lifted their racial discrimination policies and integrated the local movie houses. The Salisbury History and Art Trail marker next to the Salisbury Post courtyard, where the Capitol Theater once stood, tells the story of the Capitol’s integration.