On March 7, 1961, Atlanta business leaders seeking to stem a wave of direct action protests agreed to desegregate the lunch counters of major department stores downtown. Two months earlier students had initiated a new round of sit-ins and promised to continue them until the stores were desegregated, a tactic that King had endorsed.
As the students demonstrated, black Atlanta lawyer A.T. Walden discussed a possible agreement with a representative of Rich's department store. They approached Atlanta's Chamber of Commerce, whose members agreed that further sit-ins would have a harmful economic effect on the city.
As a result, business leaders agreed to tie the desegregation of the department stores to the desegregation of Atlanta's school system scheduled for that September. The stores would be desegregated within 30 days of the schools, and the students would cease demonstrations in return. It was King who urged students to accept the compromise, arguing that the interests of unity required it.
To read more about the tactic of sit-ins and the various other occasions on which they were used, visit The King Encyclopedia here.
To read more about King's thoughts on the sit-in movement and how it fit into the larger civil rights struggle, click here.