‘Royal Seven’ Sit-In Civil Rights Activists To Receive Honorary Degrees
North Carolina Central University (NCCU) will welcome the 60th Mayor of the City of Atlanta and movie association founder and president to address an estimated 1,044 spring 2022 graduates of the university’s juris doctor, master’s, professional and bachelor’s programs.
Agnes Moss, ‘96, founder and president of the National Black Movie Association, will address undergraduates during the baccalaureate ceremony at 8 a.m., Friday, May 6, 2022. Former City of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will speak during the graduate and professional ceremony at 8 a.m., Saturday, May 7, 2022.
139th Commencement Ceremony Speakers
As leader of the National Black Movie Association, Moss promotes equity in film education by offering community programs, resources and professional development opportunities to empower Black filmmakers. She is also the creator of the Reel HBCU Challenge, which awards scholarships to students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU). Additionally, in February 2020, Moss launched #NationalBlackMovieDay to recognize the global impact of Black films and culture. For the past two years, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, has proclaimed the third Saturday in February as National Black Movie Day in the nation’s capital.
Moss’ 20-year career includes extensive work in the communications, journalism, education and film fields. She has produced stories for television stations in Washington, D.C., as well as served as executive director for the Washington, D.C., State Board of Education, public affairs manager for the District of Columbia Board of Elections, and the chief of communications for the District of Columbia Lottery and Charitable Games. Agnes has also produced numerous commercials for businesses and has written, directed and produced two documentaries and four short films.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English degree from NCCU and a master’s degree from Trinity University. Moss is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, the City of Atlanta’s 60th Mayor, is the only mayor in the city’s history to have served in all three branches of government, serving as a judge and city councilmember before being sworn in as mayor.
Under Bottoms’ leadership, the City of Atlanta led the historically successful staging of Super Bowl LIII, which included unprecedented community benefits – a $2.4 million renovation of John F. Kennedy Park on Atlanta’s Westside, more than 20,000 trees planted throughout the community and the seamless coordination of 40 federal, state and local public safety agencies. She also established the city’s first fully-staffed Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the appointments of a LGBTQ affairs coordinator and a human trafficking fellow, the citywide elimination of cash bail bond,the closure of the Atlanta City Detention Center to ICE detainees, and the rollout of the most far-reaching financial transparency platform in the city’s history – Atlanta’s Open Checkbook.
Among her many awards include being named 2020 Georgian of the Year, 2020 BET 100 Entertainer and Innovator of the Year, Smart Cities Dive’s 2020 Leader of the Year, and one of Glamour Magazine’s 2020 Women of the Year. She is also a recipient of the Distinguished Civil Rights Advocate Award from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) Under Law. Additionally, in 2021, President Joe Biden appointed Bottoms as vice chair of the Civic Engagement and Voter Protection.
Bottom earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University and a juris doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law.
She is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, Jack and Jill of America, The Links Inc., and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She has also served on the board of Families First.
Doctor of Humane Letters Honorees
During the baccalaureate ceremony on May 6, seven individuals who were involved in the historic ‘Royal Ice Cream Sit-In’ at the then Royal
Ice Cream Parlor will receive Doctor of Humane Letters for their courage in participating in the one of the earliest acts of peaceful protest that led to a court case challenging separate accommodations in the South.
June 23, 2022, marks the 65th anniversary of the ‘Royal Seven’s’ monumental contribution to the national sit-in movement, which occurred two years before the Greensboro, N.C., sit-ins, and was critical in the fight against the Jim Crow segregation. The brave group of seven discussed testing the segregation in one of the city’s establishments and chose the white-owned ice cream parlor, as its location was in the Black community and surrounded by Black people from whom they mistakenly thought they would receive support.
After sitting in the whites-only section and being refused service, the group was arrested and transported to the Durham County jail. They were found guilty of trespassing by an all-white jury. Represented by attorneys William Marsh Jr., BS, LLB ‘53, and Floyd McKissick, L‘51, the group appealed, but lost in the N.C. Superior Court and the N.C. Supreme Court. The lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.
In June 2008, the state unveiled a highway marker on the corner of Roxboro and Dowd streets to identify the location of the civil rights demonstration. Additionally, the Durham Museum of History recognized the ‘Royal Seven’ in June 2021 with the unveiling of the original storefront Royal Ice Cream company sign that is on permanent display in the museum.
The seven pioneers include: Mary Clyburn Hooks; Virginia Williams; the late Rev. Douglas Moore, ‘49; the late Claude Glenn; the late Melvin Willis; the late Vivian Jones; and the late Jesse Gray.
NCCU will also recognize outstanding faculty who will receive awards from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and the university at the baccalaureate ceremony on May 6.
For more information on NCCU’s 139th Commencement Exercises, please visit: www.nccu.edu/commencement.