In the photo above, taken in the summer of 1960, a young black man sits at a lunch counter in Arlington, Virginia. Two of his fellow protesters sit behind him, and a group of white men surrounds them. A white child sticks a finger in the man’s face. He smirks.

This man is a civil rights activist you probably haven’t heard of. His name is Dion Diamond.

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, Dion was a bit of a prankster, and spent much of his youth trying to, as he put it, “crash segregated society.”

In another 1960 photo, white protesters picket the integration of a Maryland amusement park. At the end of the line, you can see Dion smiling in defiance as he holds a sign of his own.


Later, as a student activist at Howard University, he appears unbothered while sitting at a lunch counter in the face of members of the American Nazi Party.


At the age of 76, Dion came to StoryCorps to talk about how he got started.


Top photo: Dion Diamond at a sit-in at a “white only” lunch counter in Arlington, VA where a young boy points a finger in his face.
Second photo: Dion Diamond smiles as he marches past a group of white protesters at Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, MD in 1960.
Third photo: George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, confronts Dion Diamond at a “whites-only” lunch counter in Arlington, VA in 1960.
Bottom photo: Dion Diamond at his StoryCorps interview in Washington, D.C.

Originally aired January 12, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.