Long before the mass sit-ins of the lower South, Dion Diamond was testing the limits in his hometown of Petersburg, Virginia. He would participate in his own one-man sit-ins at “whites-only” establishments until someone called the police. He went on to study at Howard University, where he and a group of classmates decided to form the Nonviolent Action Group, to push back against the segregation of Northern Virginia. The group began sit-ins at a lunch counter in Arlington, Virginia that quickly drew crowds of counter-protestors. Within two weeks, Arlington was desegregated.
Soon after, Diamond joined the Freedom Riders further south. He rode a Greyhound bus from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi as part of a May 24th, 1961 Freedom Ride. Diamond was arrested the following day in Jackson for his involvement, and imprisoned for two months on the death row wing of Parchman State prison.
After several years in the civil rights movement, Diamond earned a degree in sociology and the post-Civil War period of Reconstruction from the University of Wisconsin, and went on to earn a graduate degree in education from Harvard. He entered the workforce in civil service and later moved on to financial consulting.