1953 June 8

Supreme Court Orders Desegregation of Washington, D.C. Restaurants


In the case of District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson, the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of Washington, D.C. restaurants. The decision was based on the validity of District of Columbia laws of 1872 and 1873, which the Court held were still in effect despite changes in the form of the District’s government over the years. The decision did not address the issue of the constitutionality of racial segregation.

Until the early 1960s, Washington, D.C., was essentially a sleepy southern town, where racial segregation prevailed. The process of desegregation began in earnest around 1953 and continued until the early 1960s. African-American students at Howard University had protested segregation in Washington, D.C. restaurants in early sit-ins on April 17, 1943, and April 22, 1944. These sit-ins preceded the famous February 1960 sit-ins that sparked a nationwide movement by 16 years.

Playwrights, working through the Dramatists Guild, forced the racial integration of theaters in Washington,  DC, in 1946 (see November 24, 1946).

Take the civil rights history tour of Washington, DC: http://washington.org/dc-itinerary/dc-itinerary-major-civil-rights-sites-1-day

Learn more about the civil rights history of Washington, DC: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/civil-rights-movement/essays/local-and-national-story-civil-rights-movement-postwar-w

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