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Shootings by DC Police Spark Fight Against Brutality 1936-41

20 Apr

A campaign from 1936-41 against police brutality in Washington, D.C. was led by the local National Negro Congress, which built a broad-based coalition. They won a sharp decline in the number of police shootings, a police review board, and new political power in an early civil rights struggle in the city.


Marchers Gather to Protest Police Brutality in DC: 1941

DC rally against police brutality Sept. 14, 1941. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Historical Image Collection. All rights reserved.

By Craig Simpson

Leonard Basey was out with co-workers on the evening of August 30, 1936 enjoying a respite from the work and barracks life in the Civilian Conservation Corps camp located at 26th and M Streets NE in Washington, D.C. The unit was doing the physical labor to build the infrastructure for the National Arboretum.

Basey was part of a group of young enlistees in Company 1360 in camp NA-1-DC, an African American post with white officers.

That night, Basey was walking with five other men from the camp, who were laughing and joking loudly as they walked along M Street toward Bladensburg Road through a predominantly white neighborhood.

Later testifying that he received a phone call from someone disturbed by the noise, police officer Vivian H. Landrum left his home in the neighborhood and approached the youths near 17th and M Streets NE. Landry placed the group under arrest and walked them to a police call box near Bladensburg Road and M Street NE.

When Basey questioned the arrest Landry reportedly responded, “Shut up, and don’t give me too much lip, or I’ll fill you full of lead,” according to a companion’s later testimony reported in the Afro American.

It was then that he “grabbed Basey, who was standing sideways toward him, spun him around and shot him in the abdomen,” said Basey’s companion, according to the same article.

He was just another black man who was the victim of a police murder in Washington, D.C…. or was he?

National Negro Congress

The first national convention of the National Negro Congress (NNC) took place in February of 1936 in Chicago. The NNC was formed to fill the void left by the NAACP’s reliance on a legal and lobbying strategy and would be more of an activist organization, engaging in pickets, protests and direct action to advance the cause of African American rights.

National Negro Congress Leaders at Banquet: 1940

NNC leaders John P. Davis (left) and A. Phillip Randolph (right) in March, 1940.

The NAACP had often placed a greater emphasis on issues of concern to the black elite, while the NNC was based in the black working class and was composed of many local African American union leaders along with a significant section of the black intelligentsia.

The founding Congress contained a relatively small group of activist ministers. Two national board members of the NAACP, Roy Wilkins and Charles Hamilton Houston, also attended. The NAACP as an organization, however, boycotted the group’s formation, although a number of leaders of local chapters attended.

The NNC attracted members with political views across the spectrum, including Democrats, Republicans, socialists and communists. The NNC selected A. Phillip Randolph, the leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, as its president and John P. Davis as executive secretary. Its headquarters was established in Washington, D.C.

Local Washington NNC

In contrast to the national convention, the Washington, D.C. chapter almost immediately gained wide representation among the black clergy.  Rev. William H. Jernagin, the former president of the National Race Congress, a previous broad-based African American organization, lived in the city and attended the first NNC convention.

Longtime Rights Leader Rev. William H. Jernagin: 1940 ca

Rev. William H. Jernagin circa 1940.

Jernagin was also a local rights activist and after the convention he persuaded the influential Interdenominational Ministers Alliance to affiliate with the local NNC.

These ministers were quickly able to prevail upon the local Elks, NAACP, the New Negro Alliance and other District of Columbia groups to join with the local NNC either directly or in coalition. A minister, Rev. Arthur D. Gray, was elected president of the local NNC.

The D. C. NNC began taking up issues of race discrimination in employment and the issue of police brutality.

In the Spring of 1936, during a meeting held at the Metropolitan Baptist Church to call for freedom for the “Scottsboro Boys,” Davis called for expanding the cause to fight police brutality in the city.

According to Erik Gellman in Death Blow to Jim Crow, William Hastie, a Howard University professor, told the crowd,

It doesn’t matter whether a person is hanged by an unauthorized mob or by an organized mob known as the law.

The city commissioners and the police department didn’t know it yet, but a new force had risen to challenge police violence.

Newspapers Report Self-Defense

The day after Basey was shot, the Washington Post reported

…Landrum fired at the man when Basey and several others rushed the policeman to prevent his arrest of another man who was with them.

DC National Negro Congress President Rev. Arthur D. Gray: 1940 ca

Washington branch NNC president Rev. Arthur D. Gray.

Basey died September 1 at the Casualty Hospital at 3rd and B Streets SE. The Afro American initially reported as part of a headline, “Policeman Fires as Gang Demands his Prisoner.”

But the official story began to unravel as witnesses came forward.

In testimony before a coroner’s jury inquest on September 3, white witnesses testified that Landrum was surrounded and did not draw his gun until after the group reached the call box.

One 11-year-old white youth said “Basey had his arm drawn back as if to strike Landrum when he was shot,” according to the Afro American. But the youth admitted that Landrum and another white man had talked to him the following day about being a witness for the defense.

When Landrum himself testified, he contradicted the white witnesses and admitted that the group did not surround him and he drew his service weapon as soon as the group was arrested.

‘Vision’ Flashed Through Policeman’s Mind

He also testified that the reason none of the youths struck him was because he fired his weapon when “a vision of officer Kennedy at Truxton Circle flashed through my mind.” He was referring to a police slaying by three youths at Logan Circle in 1932.

A later letter to the Washington Post characterized Landrum’s testimony thusly,

The officers’ tale resembled that of the sportsman who arrested for catching black bass out of season, maintained that he had taken the fish in self-defense, since they had jumped out of the water and bitten him.

African American CCC Camp Under Construction: 1934

CCC Camp NA-1-DC under construction in 1934.

Landrum’s testimony and that of other defense witnesses was disputed by the other CCC youths, but also by white CCC camp commander Richmond Bowen, who came on the scene shortly before the shooting. A white gas station attendant also testified he was about 40 feet from the group and heard Landrum tell them, “Shut up unless you want some of it too.”

The first inquest jury, composed of four whites and one black person, deadlocked 4-1 in Landrum’s favor and a mistrial was declared.

A second inquest held September 6 heard 29 witnesses give essentially the same testimony, but at 10 pm returned with an inexplicable verdict exonerating Landrum.

We believe the said V. Harry Landrum discharged his gun when he believed his life was in jeopardy, such a belief being initiated by a mental process and not by any overt act or acts on the part of those under arrest.

Press Ramps Up Outrage

NNC executive secretary John P. Davis and A. S. Pinkett, head of the local NAACP, immediately called for the district attorney to ask a grand jury to indict Landrum for the killing and for a police trial board to be convened to dismiss Landrum from the force.

DC Killer Cop is Free: 1936

‘Killer Cop Free.’ Afro American, Sept. 12, 1936.

But the case really began to take on a life of its own when the Afro American published its story September 12 under the headline “KILLER-COP FREE.”

The Afro printed a dramatic report that,

Lawrence Basey was the fortieth colored person shot to death by Metropolitan police since 1925. Every officer involved has been exonerated. Most of the victims were under 21 years of age.

Adam Lapin of the Washington bureau of the Daily Worker jumped on the story.  The Afro shared their research with Lapin so he could detail the victims’ names, dates of death, ages, and officers involved.

Afro Lists Victims of DC Police Killings: 1936

List of the slain. Afro, Oct. 17, 1936.

The national Communist Party paper published the statistics and an accompanying story where Lapin gave additional details on some of the deaths, writing that all forty cases “are similar, indeed, all the police murders of Negroes in Washington follow the same pattern.”

For one example, Lapin wrote,

On December 9, 1933, Policeman Wallace M. Suthard shot in the abdomen and killed Robert Lewis, a Negro worker who had been placed under arrest suspected of breaking into a home. Suthard claimed that he shot in self-defense because Lewis reached for a gun. No gun was found on the dead man.

A furor directed at Washington’s police erupted. Other newspapers around the country, particularly the African American press, began to run stories about the police shootings.

Officials Refuse to Act

Evidence came out during the inquest that Landrum had a past record of shooting at CCC workers and had beaten another African American some years before without justification.

The NNC held a protest meeting at the YMCA at 1816 12th Street NW attended by several hundred people. The NNC called for Landrum’s immediate suspension and for his indictment on murder charges. The group said that Landrum “requires the attention of a psychiatrist” because the officer believed that black people were inherently violent.

Despite the outcry, District Attorney Leslie C. Garnett refused to bring charges against Landrum before a grand jury, telling Lapin he was “not interested in the case,” according to the Chicago Defender.

A. S. Pinkett, the local NAACP secretary, said in a statement,

Thus we have the picture of a policeman arresting men for being disorderly, when there was no disorder; the shooting to death of one of them by the arresting officer; a meaningless verdict by a coroner’s jury and lastly the refusal by the District Attorney to lay the facts before a grand jury.

YE GODS! And colored persons are expected to have faith in their governmental machinery.

The Chicago Defender reported that a few minutes after interviewing Superintendent of Police Major Ernest W. Brown, Lapin announced that,

Major Brown made it perfectly clear despite his professions of sympathy for the colored people that he is opposed to a Congressional investigation or any kind of investigation of police brutality. He won’t even undertake one himself.

The Afro American published an editorial on October 31 saying,

Citizens ought to keep pounding away at Major Brown’s door in an effort to find out whether the police chief sees any connection between the Afro American’s list of fifty deaths, forty of them colored youths, at the hands of quick-trigger white policemen here in the past ten years, and the fact that nearly half of these killings have occurred during his term of office.

We believe they could make him understand that four years is long enough to ‘get away with murder.’

With the issue still boiling in November, the District of Columbia commissioners refused to release data on police killings to the American Civil Liberties Union, according to Gardner Jackson, a representative of the group.

Unable to contain the broadening protests, authorities finally responded by retiring Landrum on a pension. On November 14, 1936, the police department announced during a conference with brutality opponents that Landrum is “mentally and physically unfit for further duty as an officer,” according to the Afro.

Rev. Ernest. C. Smith: 1940 ca

Rev. E. C. Smith (shown circa 1940) lobbied for a Congressional investigation.

Fight Against Brutality Broadens

The city commissioners and the police superintendent may have thought the issue would go away with Landrum’s retirement, but the local Negro Congress continued to pound away.

The city of Washington, D.C.’s affairs were overseen directly by the U.S. Congress, to an even greater extent than today, and in 1937 the NNC began lobbying for a House subcommittee investigation…

…to determine whether and to what extent the use of unnecessary and unlawful use of force by police officers…have become a menace to life, liberty and the general security within the District of Columbia.

The group also organized an effort to lobby for an African American magistrate in the District. The NNC, NAACP, Elks, Afro American, YMCA, Interdenominational Ministers Alliance, Howard University and the Washington Bar Association, along with other groups, lobbied local D.C. officials and President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration.

To ramp up the pressure for a congressional investigation, the alliance named itself the Joint Committee for Civil Rights in the District of Columbia and sponsored a series of weekly radio broadcasts on local station WOL. It was another new tactic in the fight for civil rights in the city.

In an account by the Afro of the second broadcast on March 23, 1937, John P. Davis reminded the listeners of the exoneration of police officer Landrum in Lawrence Basey’s death:

I want you to realize the meaning of such a verdict. A coroner’s jury has held that an officer who has a mental fear for his life has a right to kill another person who has done nothing to cause that fear, who is not armed, and who has submitted peacefully to arrest.

Sociologist E. Franklin Frazier: 1947

E. Franklin Frazier (shown in 1947) was among the leaders of the anti-brutality fight in 1937.

In April 1937, a meeting was held under the banner of the Joint Committee at the Metropolitan Baptist Church protesting three more police killings in recent months. At the meeting William C. Hueston, education director for the Elks, called for organized action to “stop this ruthless brutality on the part of the police,” reported the Atlanta Daily World.

Other prominent leaders included John P. Davis, Judge William Hastie, Rev. William Jernigan, Julia West Hamilton, Rev. E. C. Smith, Dr. E. Franklin Frazier and John C. Bruce. Similar meetings were soon organized around the city while radio broadcasts on the issue continued.

Howard U Dean of Women Lucy Slowe

Lucy Slowe was among those acting as a judge at the mock police brutality trial.

Put Police on Trial

In May the protest effort culminated with a “public trial” of Washington’s “killer cops” at the John Wesley A. M. E. Zion Church. The trial “provided a complete picture of the lawless police terror which has reigned in Washington for the past ten years,” according to the Chicago Defender.

John P. Davis of the National Negro Congress presided. Judges included Major Campbell Johnson, secretary of the YMCA; Lucy Slowe, dean of women at Howard University; Rev. Robert W. Brooks, pastor of the Lincoln Congregational Temple; the Rev. Stephen Gill Spottswood; William C. Hueston, commissioner of education of the Elks; and Dr. Victor Tulane, chemistry professor at Howard University.

Those prosecuting the case included George E. C. Hayes, of Cobb, Howard and Hayes; George A. Parker, dean of the Terrell Law School; and Edward P. Lovett, of Houston and Houston.

Major Campbell Johnson in His Office: 1942

Major Campbell Johnson was another judge in the mock police brutality trial.

“Eyewitnesses to numerous unpunished police murders, citizens who have been beaten by the police and leaders of civic associations and newspaper men who have investigated police brutality gave evidence,” according to the Chicago Defender.

Hundreds had attended each of the previous meetings and even more turned out for the trial, which included a number of whites in attendance and testifying as witnesses.

“This event demonstrated the new-style tactics of the NNC: with the theatrics in front of a large public audience, the mock trial showed how the District ought to protect citizenship rights through democratic governance,” Gellman wrote in “Death Blow to Jim Crow.”

No Victory Yet

But since many in Congress overseeing District affairs had few African American constituents, there was little interest on Capitol Hill in investigating police brutality in the city.

The White House put out trial balloons for the vacant judge position for two men: Hobart Newman, a young white attorney, and William L. Houston, founder of the firm Houston & Houston, whose son Charles was leading the NAACP legal defense effort.

However, local white officials nixed Houston’s nomination and the Roosevelt administration put forward Newman’s name for the position.

The brutality continued through the winter of 1937-38.  Incidents included the beating of a Howard University student by police and the assault by police on a black man and his wife when the man did not move his parked car fast enough. Police shot a twenty-year old African American man to death when he fled a traffic accident.

Police Shoot WWI Vet in Home: 1938

Afro American March 19, 1938 photo of Leroy Keys and the house where he was slain.

New Killing Sparks New Protests

On March 8, 1938 a distraught and delusional African American World War I veteran was making noise at his sister’s house at 2470 Ontario Road NW. When police arrived Leroy Keys began shouting at them, apparently believing they were German troops.

Keys threw small household objects through the window towards the police. Two police officers opened fire and shot him dead, despite the pleas of his sister that he needed help.

Rights groups demanded charges against the two police officers, calling the shootings “wanton and unwarranted,” and said police should have used tear gas or water to subdue the clearly disturbed man, according to the Afro American.

Two coroner’s juries deadlocked and a grand jury refused to indict.

The Afro wrote, “We think Hitler is a tyrant and a brute, a ruffian and a cur. We detest him for the way he is crushing the Jew [but] don’t forget that there is a man right here at home who has his heel on our neck.”

Thirty-six organizations joined the Keys campaign, including the United Federal Workers, which called it an “urbanized form of lynching.” Invited in to the coalition, the local Communist Party (CP) began holding open-air meetings around the city.

Martin Chancey, local CP secretary, told a gathering at 10th & U Streets NW that

We don’t hear of lynchings in Washington in the same manner as in Georgia or Alabama, but lynchings are perpetrated by those who are supposed to protect human life and property–the members of the District police force.

Chancey went on to demand suspension of the two officers involved in Keys’ death according to the Afro.

As the campaign picked up steam, another African American was shot by a police officer, this time over a bag of food.

Shot in the Back

In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 26, officer John Sobolewski saw Wallace McKnight walking north on 15th Street near Massachusetts Avenue NW carrying a package under his arm.

According to Sobolewski’s testimony, he stopped McKnight and questioned him. During the interrogation, McKnight ran away, according to Sobolewski, and he [Sobolewski] opened fire.

McKnight was shot in the back, the bullet passing through his liver, and he died the next day. The package contained a chicken, a pound of butter, a dozen oranges, two pounds of bacon, a dozen bananas, several dozens eggs and some other fruit.  McKnight worked at a restaurant on the 1700 block of K Street NW not far from where he was shot.

The Rev. Robert W. Brooks observed, “Because of the record of the police department for the last eleven years, McKnight not knowing what officer John Sobolewski might do, took [his] chances on running away,” according to the Afro.

Coroner’s Jury Orders Cop Held

Police Commissioner Melvin C. Hazen tried to head off the gathering storm on June 27 by suspending Sobolewski and ordering an investigation of the McKnight shooting and a re-opening of the Keys death matter.

He also ordered a daily roll call reading of police rules on the use of revolvers. It stated: “Members of the force shall not use their revolvers except in the most urgent cases and then only in such a manner as will not jeopardize the lives of innocent people.”

The shifting public opinion also had an effect this time at the coroner’s jury. Police Lieutenant Arthur C. Belt, commanding officer of the Third Precinct on the night of the shooting, tried to save Sobolewski by telling the jury, “I would have done the same thing under the circumstances.” But his statement only added fuel to the fire.

A packed hearing room erupted in outrage at Belt’s statement and the coroner’s jury deliberated only 10 minutes before ordering Sobolewski held for grand jury action.

Edward Felder Urges Police Chief’s Firing During Brutality Protests: 1938

Edward Felder speaking to crowd of 2,000 at 9th & Rhode Island Ave. NW on July 8, 1938. Courtesy of the Afro American, all rights reserved.

Communists Organize March

With only a little over a week’s planning, the local Communist Party organized a march on July 8th beginning at 10th & U Streets NW, led by a car carrying Mollie McKnight, the widow of the slain Wallace McKnight. The local NNC, the New Negro Alliance and other coalition partners endorsed the march, but it was the communists who led the event.

The crowd heard Communist Party speakers including Martin Chancey, Tansell Butler and Calvin Cousins. Police were present and seized signs calling for chief Brown’s ouster, but the crowd made up for this strong arm tactic with their later chants.

Kids Swarm Widow’s Car During Police Brutality Protest: 1938

Children gather on the auto that carried the widow Mollie McKnight during the police brutality demonstration July 8, 1938. Courtesy of the Afro American, all rights reserved.

Over 2,000 people, of whom about 20% were white, marched and chanted “Major Brown Must Go,” “Police Brutality Must Stop,” “Everybody Join the Parade,” and “Stop Legal Lynching.”

Estimates of those who lined the streets ranged from 10,000 to 15,000. They watched marchers carrying signs like, “You May Be Next,” “Stop Police Murders,” “Compensation for Police Victims” and “Washington is not Scottsboro.”

The march ended at Rhode Island Avenue and 9th Street NW. A second rally was held there and speakers including Edward Felder of the Young Communist League urged the firing of Major Brown.

Resolutions adopted at the rally included calls for the suspension and trials of six police officers, appointing representatives of African Americans, civil organizations and labor to the panel of D.C. Commissioners, an impartial investigation into police killings, and compensation to victims’ families.

National marches for civil rights had been held previously in the city in 1922 over lynching and 1933 over the “Scottsboro Boys.”  However, this marked the first mass action in the streets of a significant size over a local African American issue in Washington since the 1919 picketing over the Moen’s school child abuse case.

First White Officer Indicted

In mid-July, the grand jury indicted Sobolewski for manslaughter. The Afro American reported it was the first time in D.C. history that a white policeman was charged in the death of a black person.

The National Negro Congress followed up the Communist Party-led march and demands by organizing a conference of over 100 organizations at the Lincoln Temple Congregational Church on July 31.

Negro Congress Leader Doxey Wilkerson at Town Hall Radio: 1942

Doxey Wilkerson (2nd from left).

The meeting was presided over by Rev. Arthur Gray in preparation for a mass meeting to be held the next day. Among the principal NNC speakers were Doxey Wilkerson of Howard University, former judge James A. Cobb, and former judge William C. Hueston.

Alphaeus Hunton, a Howard University professor, outlined eight proposed demands to be adopted at the mass meeting. They included removal of Major Brown; denial of pension rights to former officer Vivian Landrum, who had killed Leonard Basey two years earlier; suspension and trial for officers involved in shootings and recent brutality; public hearings on police brutality; and compensation for victims.

Ministers Rally 1,200

The next day, 1,200 rallied at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church under the auspices of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, where the pastor C. T. Murray presided.

John P. Davis, national secretary of the National Negro Congress, as quoted in the Washington Post, spoke of the “terror of urban lynching” which led to an “intolerable state of affairs” as “unwarranted beatings and needless killings were perpetrated by the police.”

NAACP Counsel Charles H. Houston Speaks: 1940 ca.

Charles Hamilton Houston.

Charles Hamilton Houston, counsel to the NAACP, blamed the lack of voting rights of citizens in the District and pledged legal services to help fight police brutality.

The National Negro Congress also announced a petition drive to seek 50,000 signatures to President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress.  A collection of $170 was taken up by Rev. William Jernagin from the ministerial alliance to be divided equally between Mollie McKnight and the NNC.

The petition campaign brought new allies into the fight.  The Washington Insurance Underwriters Association pledged 5,000 signatures to be collected through its 55 agents. The American Civil Liberties Union, the American League for Peace and Democracy, and the United Federal Employees also established committees to seek signatures.

The coalition organized “flying squadrons” that went house to house seeking signatures. Both black and white ministers conducted Sunday sermons across the city to popularize the cause.

Sobolewski was acquitted of manslaughter after two hours of deliberation by an all-white jury in September. In addition, Sobolewski was also brought before a re-constituted police trial board in September where he was again exonerated. The two officers who shot Leroy Keys were also cleared of charges by a police trial board.

However, despite the coroner’s jury verdicts, the grand jury failure to act, an acquittal at trial, and the police trial board whitewashes, change was in the air in Washington.

A Year Free of Police Killings

On June 26, 1939, one year after McKnight was killed, the NNC held a meeting at the Second Baptist Church at 3rd & I Streets NW attended by 1,500 people and hailed “a year free of police killings.”

National Negro Congress leader John P. Davis: 1940 ca.

John Preston Davis.

The meeting was presided over by local NNC president Rev. Arthur Gray.  Police superintendent Major Ernest W. Brown also spoke, trying to assure the group that he took the issue seriously. Other speakers included John P. Davis, Rev. J. L. S. Holloman of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance, and Eugene Davidson of the New Negro Alliance.

The Washington Tribune saluted the work and said the “job could not have been done had it not been for the tireless energy and leadership the National Negro Congress gave to other organizations in this fight against police crimes on the Negro people of Washington.”

Rev. Gray, the D.C. NNC president, said after the campaign that the new trial board for police officers made a difference, according to Gellman’s book. The board obtained some suspensions and indictments against several police officers and Gray said, “The number of incidents has markedly decreased.”

A. Phillip Randolph Speaks at 1940 Negro Congress Convention

A. Phillip Randolph speaking at the 1940 National Negro Congress convention.

NNC Weakened

During 1939-40, the NNC was weakened by a campaign by U.S. Rep. Martin Dies (D-TX) to smear the group as a communist organization.  Then, in 1940, the president of the NNC, A. Phillip Randolph, refused to stand for re-election at the group’s Washington, D.C. national convention after delegates approved a resolution condemning the “imperialist war” in Europe and another calling for closer ties to the unions of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

The NNC’s broad political umbrella was broken. Randolph was president of the AFL Sleeping Car Porters and his departure left the NNC without its most prominent leader. The Dies attack and Randolph’s withdrawal caused a number of organizations, clergy and others to drift away.

Even with its weakened state at the national level, the organization continued to wage an effective campaign in the city to desegregate defense-related employment throughout most of World War II. Further, despite the friction at the national level, the Washington, D.C. NNC continued relatively strong relationships with both the NAACP and the clergy at the local level.

Renewed Brutality in Washington

However, as time passed the initial success achieved during the 1938 police brutality campaign began to fade.

Protests spread to the Capitol Police force after the shooting and wounding of 10-year-old Fred Walker Jr. in the Senate Office Building on June 24, 1940. Sergeant Vernon Deus was quickly suspended while rights leaders demanded his dismissal and prosecution.

A month later the NNC, along with the Elks, several churches, the NAACP and the Washington Committee for Democratic Action, held a series of protest meetings against police brutality in the 4th police precinct in the city.

Over 100 people attended a mass meeting at the Zion Baptist Church at 333 F Street SW on July 18. Leaders, including pastor A. Joseph Edwards, condemned police for intimidation of African Americans in the precinct against attending the rally.

At another rally at the Mount Lebanon Church at 814 25th Street NW on July 29, Dr. C. Herbert Marshall, local NAACP president, urged African Americans to “stick together” to achieve the rally’s purpose, to “stop the cops from beating Negroes,” according to the Washington Post.

The broad coalition against brutality, now re-named the Citizens Committee Against Police Brutality, took up the issue of a laundry workers’ strike at the Arcane-Sunshine Company, where police intervened on the side of strike breakers and beat pickets with their clubs.

On April 30, police officer Francis E. Davis arrested Robert Gray for disorderly conduct near 13th & Q Streets NW. According to Davis, Gray struck him and ran from the scene and when Davis caught up to him a scuffle ensued. Davis then shot Gray twice in the abdomen and Gray later died.

A coroner’s jury quickly cleared Davis, but the NNC demanded that the case be presented to a grand jury.

Three More Killed by Police

Three more African American men were shot to death by police officers in early August.  Police sergeant John Leach came upon an apparent robbery in an alley near the 1300 block of Ninth Street NW. Leach testified that Clarence Whitby struck him and fled, then Leach fired two shots, one striking Whitby and killing him.

Just days later, police officer Donald R. Webber came upon two men in an alley near 14th and Florida Avenue NW, standing beside an automobile.  Webber testified later that when he demanded a driver’s license from the two brothers they told him, “We don’t have to show you our driver’s permit,” according to the Washington Post.

During his testimony before a coroner’s jury, Webber testified he shot Jasper and Edward Cobb August 4 after he tried to place Jasper under arrest for being drunk and the two resisted. There were no other witnesses to the shooting, although Edward Cobb said before he died that he intervened in the arrest when Webber began beating his brother.

Longtime NNC nemesis police chief Maj. Ernest W. Brown was forced to retire just days after the three killings. Brown’s retirement was only tangentially related to the police brutality issue and was mainly due to Congressional concern over District crime rates and an internal police spying scandal.

But Brown’s departure also marked an opportunity for the anti-brutality coalition when Edward J. Kelly was named chief from among several internal candidates. Kelly had enemies within the department and needed broad political support to succeed as its head.

Stephen Gill Spottswood: 1940 ca

Rev. Stephen Gill Spottswood.

More than 1,500 jammed the John Wesley A.M.E.Z. Church August 17 for the funeral of the Cobb brothers. Rev. Stephen Gill Spottswood, pastor of the church declared, “this is not a funeral service, it is a mass meeting, protesting this occurrence,” according to the Afro American.

Spottswood continued, “They are but symbols, these two men, typical of what might happen to any of us, to you or to me. We must cooperate in decisive action to demonstrate our interest in the freedom of black men and women in the nation’s capital.”

Even as outrage against the killings was building during the month of August, coroners’ juries exonerated all the police officers in the three deaths.

Protests Escalate Again

In September, the Citizens Committee Against Police Brutality in Washington called for mass protest.

Crowd Listens to Speakers at Rally Against DC Police Brutality: 1941

Over 1,100 rally at the Metropolitan Baptist Church Sept. 7, 1941. D.C. Public Library Historic Image Collection. All rights reserved.

At the Metropolitan Baptist Church on the 1200 block of R Street NW, a crowd estimated by the Afro American at 2,000 (the FBI estimated 1,100) gathered on September 7th to hear a wide array of speakers denounce police violence.

Doxey Wilkerson, an NNC leader and Howard University professor, presided at the meeting and called the police the enforcers of a system where black people “were segregated in living conditions and public affairs and also discrimination in employment,” according to Gellman.

Wilkerson added, “Police brutality used to be considered a local problem, today it must be viewed in terms of world significance. Police brutality and racial discrimination are part and parcel of this evil we are fighting on an international front,” the Afro American reported.

Hugh Miller, white leader of the Washington Committee for Democratic Action, said “the problems of the Negro were also the problems of the white” and urged the group to fight “Hitler’s theory” of “racial superiority” demonstrated by the killings, according to Gellman’s account.

John P. Davis, the national NNC leader, demanded permanent reforms in the department, shouting, “Don’t take no for an answer,” according to Gellman.

DC Police Chief Kelly Speaks at Anti-Brutality Rally: 1941

DC police chief Kelly speaks at anti-brutality rally on Sept. 7, 1941. D.C. Public Library Historic Images Collection. All rights reserved.

Wilkerson then introduced the new police chief Major Kelly, who addressed the crowd. “As long as I am head of the police department, I will not tolerate violence against any citizen or against any police officer,” he declared, according to the Afro American.

Kelly evaded calls for grand jury action against the officers involved in the three killings by saying he was not in charge at the time and urging the crowd to lobby the district attorney, but agreed with adding civilians to the police review board

Kelly also supported hiring additional African American officers, promoting an African American to captain and ending the police practice of holding people without specific charges.

It was a remarkable achievement for the group to have the police chief at the meeting and respond favorably to specific demands.

Following Kelly, a quartet from the United Cafeteria Workers Local 471 sang spirituals.

J. Finley Wilson, leader of the Elks, led off the second half of the rally saying that government protection of African American soldiers and civilians was necessary before the Elks would “battle and defend America and make it safe for the black and white under the ‘Stars and Stripes,” according to Gellman’s account.

Other speakers included Rev. L. Collins, Curtis Mitchell, Rev. E. C. Smith, pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, and Jack Zucker, representing the Washington Industrial Council.

The rally ended with a call for marches through the streets of Washington the following week that would converge for a single rally against police brutality.

Four Marches Through the City

Protesting DC Police Brutality in Washington: 1941

One of four simultaneous marches marking each victim, Sept. 14, 1941. D.C. Public Library Historic Images Collection. All rights reserved.

A week later on September 14, four marches from different points in the city got underway involving an estimated 2,000 total participants. Each march was dedicated to one of the four recent victims.

Signs carried by protestors included, “Old Jim Crow Has Got to Go,” “Protect Our Civil Rights” and “Police Brutality is a Disgrace to the Nation’s Capital.” A hearse and an undertaker’s automobile carried signs in memory of persons shot in recent months by the police.

The treks converged at 10th and U Streets NW for a rally where about 500 remained to hear a number of speakers including Alphaeus Hunton, professor at Howard University, who reiterated the six demands put forth at the rally that were developed at the previous week’s meeting.

Demands included holding police officer Webber for grand jury action in the Cobb brothers shooting, internal police action to curb brutality, a citizens trial board to replace the current police board, appointment of 50 African American police officers, charges to be placed immediately against anyone arrested, and compensation to be granted dependents of those killed by the police.

Rev. Frank Alstork of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance argued for a peaceful solution but warned, “he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword,” according to the Washington Post.

CIO Union Speaks Against DC Police Brutality: 1941

Craig Vincent of the CIO speaks at anti-police brutality rally, Sept. 14, 1941. D.C. Public Library Historic Images Collection. All rights reserved.

Dorothy Strange of the National Negro Congress and the police brutality committee urged the crowd to sign and circulate a petition to be sent to the District government and the police department with the six demands.

Other speakers were Henry Thomas of the CIO United Construction Workers, Craig Vincent of the local CIO Industrial Council and Frank Donner, chair of the case committee of the brutality group.

In closing the rally, Doxey Wilkerson led chants of “Police Brutality has got to go” with the loudest for “Old Jim Crow has got to go,” according to the Afro American.

Aftermath

The U.S. entered World War II in December 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and  the subsequent German declaration of war.

The local NNC was weakened shortly afterwards when the National Negro Congress moved its headquarters to New York. In addition, Alphaeus Hunton, a key organizer behind the scenes, also moved to New York City. In 1943 Doxey Wilkerson, another local NNC leader, quit his post at Howard University to take a position with the Maryland Communist Party.

Rally Against DC Police Brutality on U Street: 1941

Crowd begins gather at 10th & U St. NW for anti-brutality rally, Sept. 14, 1941. DC Public Library Historic Image Collection. All rights reserved.

Other NNC organizers entered the armed services. The local NNC continued the fight for integration of war-related industries.  Mass protest activities continued up to the march demanding hiring of African American operators at Capital Transit in May 1943.

While large-scale actions faltered after this point, the local NNC continued to press for rights throughout the war and resumed larger protest activities after GIs began returning after the war ended in 1945.

The police brutality campaign marked a new chapter in the African American struggle for rights in the city. Charles Hamilton Houston of the NAACP summed up the police brutality campaign by writing,

The persistent and forceful campaign, which the Washington Council [of the National Negro Congress] and allied organizations have waged against police brutality in Washington, has been one of the most significant battles for civil rights and personal freedom and security ever conducted in the District of Columbia.

While this campaign achieved some limited reforms and curbed some of the more egregious police brutality, the lasting contribution may have been to bring new forms of mass protest to the local Washington, D.C. civil rights struggle, much as the Scottsboro campaign had done on a national scale just a few years previously.

This post was updated April 21, 2013 to reflect that officer Sobolewski was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of Wallace McKnight.


Author’s notes:

The five-year campaign against police brutality united the disparate elements among African Americans into a single unified local coalition that lasted for a significant span of time.

The effort produced both institutional reforms and an overall reduction in brutality.  Just as importantly, the campaign moved the local civil rights struggle beyond mass meetings in churches and small picket lines into mass marches in the streets. The campaign also used creative tactics from investigative reporting to utilization of radio broadcasts.

The mock trial of police practices involved every strata of the local African American community and attracted significant support from whites as well. Building off the “Scottsboro Boys” campaign, the NNC used a petition campaign to involve those unable or reluctant to join the protest activities.

The Dies Committee designated the National Negro Congress, which led the campaign, as a communist dominated organization in 1941.  Again, in the late 1940s, it was called a communist front group by the Truman administration.

The truth was significantly different. The Washington, D.C. NNC was a truly broad based organization that worked well with other rights organizations in the city.  In addressing its broad character, Thelma Dale, a youth leader and NNC member in Washington, D.C. said in a 2003 interview with Erik Gellman,

Sunday Worker on Sale at Rally Against DC Police Brutality: 1941

A woman sells the Communist Party’s Sunday Worker at an anti-brutality rally  Sept. 14, 1941. D.C. Public Library Historic Image Collection. All rights reserved.

“In Washington in the fight against police brutality, were we going to put a circle around a Communist? Martin Chancey…the head of the Communist Party in Washington, D.C. functioned fully openly. So, who were we to turn them away? We didn’t.”

For activists today, the issue of how to work independently and in coalition with others who hold different viewpoints is just as complex as it was during this era. While conditions faced are vastly different, the same questions arise.

The 1938 police brutality campaign perhaps illustrates how divergent groups can work separately, but also function together around a common goal.

During the campaign organizations independently organized around the brutality issue in the communities, but also worked within the coalition together to strengthen the broad campaign and present a united front. Those on the left did so even when they thought the demands put forward by the coalition were limited and the tactics passive.  Likewise, participants who opposed left-wing political views and sometimes their militant tactics welcomed their help in building a campaign around the brutality issue.

In this instance, it produced an ongoing movement that began to break down the worst aspects of Jim Crow in the city.

Sources for this article include Erik Gellman’s book Death Blow to Jim CrowThe Chicago Defender, The Washington Post, The Afro American, The Atlanta Daily World, The Washington Herald, The Washington Star and The Crisis. 


Craig Simpson is a former Secretary-Treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and has a BA in labor studies from the National Labor College. He can be contacted by email at washington_area_spark@yahoo.com.


Related Posts:

“Scottsboro Boys” – New Tactics & Strategy for Civil Rights
The Fight Against Jim Crow at Capital Transit
A DC Labor & Civil Rights Leader Remembered: Marie Richardson


DC Police Raid 1948 Fundraiser by Progressive Party Supporters

6 Mar
Demonstration Protests DC Police Raid on Veterans Dance: 1948

Civil Rights Congress protests police raids in 1948. Courtesy, DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

By Craig Simpson

In the fall of 1948, Washington police for the second time broke up an interracial gathering when they raided a political fundraiser at the Laborers’ Union Hall at 525 New Jersey Avenue, NW, and arrested seven people and detained two-dozen others.

About 350 people were attending the dance that began Saturday night October 9, and continued past midnight. It was sponsored by the United Negro and Allied Veterans of America to support the Progressive Party campaigns of Henry Wallace for President and Dr. John E. T. Camper for Congress in Maryland’s Fourth District. The election was a mere three weeks away when this raid occurred.

When the police entered the union hall, the band struck up “The Star Spangled Banner,” which momentarily halted the police. But when the last notes faded away, police began herding attendees into lines. The crowd responded by singing Progressive Party songs.

“They [the police] brought in a batch of index cards and police would copy the names down on the index cards and several times they would jot down the source of the identification papers,” according to the Washington Daily News.

About two dozen people refused to give their names and were detained, taken to police headquarters and eventually released after establishing their identity. The Washington Herald published their names and addresses in the next day’s newspaper.

It was almost two years into the post-World War II “red scare” and the dominos were falling at the local level.

Future Progressive Party Presidential Candidate Henry A Wallace: 1939

Henry Wallace in 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Progressive Party Fights Tide

Henry Wallace’s third-party campaign for president was a reaction to President Harry Truman’s move to the right following Franklin Roosevelt’s death and the end of World War II in 1945.  Wallace stood for peaceful relations with the Soviet Union, repeal of the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, universal health insurance, and civil rights.

Wallace refused to appear in segregated halls in the south and was often attacked with eggs and vegetables during campaign appearances. When his opponents tried to shout him down at political rallies, supporters would drown them out with labor and civil rights songs.

Dr. Camper was an African American physician who devoted his life to racial justice in Baltimore. He organized a group of African American physicians into  MeDeSo (Medical-Dental Society), which helped provide the funding for many civil rights suits, including Brown v. Board of Education.

Baltimore Civil Rights Activist Dr. John E. T. Camper

Civil rights activist Dr. John E. T. Camper in an undated photo.

Along with Juanita Jackson Mitchell, he organized a 1942 march on Annapolis by 2,000 protesters demanding civil rights in Maryland. Dr. Camper was also a founder of the Baltimore NAACP.  He was chair of the Baltimore Committee on Non-Segregation, which picketed the whites-only Ford’s Theater in that city for six years until the playhouse desegregated in 1952.

Kicking off his Progressive Party campaign, Camper said in part,

To the workers of the Fourth District who have witnessed the bipartisan attack on our living standards…I say that we stand for repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, for real price control, for a dollar minimum wage, and for wage increases to meet the rising cost of living.

No resident aware of the shameful betrayal of the Jewish people…and of the callous disregard of the rights of the Negro people can fail to support…Wallace.

Political Motivation Charged

The police denied any political motivations in breaking up the Wallace/Camper fundraiser and said they were just conducting a raid where illegal alcohol was being served.

However, the invitations to the party were under the names of Henry Thomas, leader of Laborer’s Local 74, who had helped lead police brutality protests earlier in the decade, Edward Fisher of Cafeteria Workers Local 471 that had engaged in the 11-week strike earlier caused by Cold War politics, and William Johnson of Local 209 of the Cooks, Pastry and Kitchen Workers union and a long-time civil rights leader in the city.

Among those arrested at the Laborer’s hall were Winston Edwards, national chairman of the veterans’ organization and Sidney Goldreich, acting chairman of Veterans for Wallace.

Local Progressive Party chair Clark Foreman, who was also national treasurer of the organization, said police broke up “parties composed of white people and Negroes, apparently on the theory that any such party is subversive,” according to the Washington Post.

Civil Rights Congress Denounces DC Police Raid on Progressives: 1948

D.C. Civil Rights Congress leader Thomas G. Buchanan Jr. speaks at a rally against police raids in 1948. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

The D.C. chapter of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) held a demonstration on October 18 where 150 people marched on police headquarters at 300 Indiana Ave., NW, carrying a coffin that read “Don’t Bury American Freedom” and carrying signs reading “Give Storm-trooper Tactics Back to the Nazis” and “Civil Rights Congress.”

Thomas G. Buchanan Jr., executive secretary of the local CRC branch, put perspective into the arrests saying, “The lottery charge is based on the allegation that veterans organizations were raffling off small prizes to those attending the party as a fundraising measure,” according to The Washington Herald. Such raffles were “a common practice among church groups and organizations of all types,” according to the Herald.

The CRC called for a police investigation of the incident and of police Captain Howard V. Covell, who had led the two raids.  Covell responded, “There was nothing political about those raids,” according to the Post.

Earlier Raid on Interracial Party

But eight days earlier, Washington police raided an interracial housewarming party given by Julius Kaplan at his apartment. According to Kaplan, police showed up about 1 a.m. and pretended to be looking for a fictional person named “Mrs. Schwartz,” ostensibly to tell her about a refrigerator leaking gas.

An hour later, 20 police officers showed up saying there had been a report of a shooting in the apartment. By the time the police arrived, there was only one African American still present and police demanded to search him for a weapon, according to Kaplan.

Police arrested 14 people at the address and held them at the police station until 5 a.m. before releasing them.  Kaplan said when the parents of one of the young women called the station to find out why she was being held, a police officer allegedly told them, “Communists are being questioned.” No charges were made related to a shooting.

Protests to Truman & DC Commissioners

The Progressive Party sent a telegram to President Harry Truman and the District of Columbia commissioners protesting the raids, saying in part, “We note that [Police Commissioner] Major Barrett has given as a reason for the high crime rate in Washington that he does not have enough police. We should like to call your attention that…he used nearly 50 police to break up a veterans dance on the pretext that certain individuals were selling liquor without a license and holding a raffle…”

The Washington Post editorialized that “Despite the explanation of Washington police that there was no political significance to Saturday night’s raid, local authorities have shown enough indifference to rowdyism launched against the Wallaceites to arouse suspicion that the arrests at this meeting were not entirely accidental. The case is at best a flimsy one, and, as police well know, illegal sale of liquor in Washington is by no means confined to Wallace rallies.”

The words may have rung true, but the political climate was stacked against those arrested.

Red Scare Takes Hold

Headlines about “reds” and “commies” filled the daily newspapers. The “Hollywood 10” had been convicted of contempt of Congress and sentenced to jail for refusing to answer questions about their political beliefs.

Afro Devotes Full Page to Progressive Party Convention: 1948

The Afro American covers the Progressive Party convention in July 31, 1948 edition.

The U.S. government had instituted loyalty oaths for federal employees and indicted leaders of the Communist Party on the charge of advocating insurrection. They were scheduled for trial the day before the Presidential Election.

The anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, among its many provisions, effectively barred alleged communists from holding union office.  It was used locally by a government-sponsored corporation to refuse to bargain with the cafeteria workers union, forcing an 11-week strike earlier in the year.

Wallace, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Vice-President, and Secretary of Commerce, was personally attacked as a communist sympathizer. Baltimore-based, nationally known journalist H. L. Mencken wrote that Wallace and the Progressive Party were under covert control of the communists.

Wallace ended up finishing fourth in the presidential election with about 1.2 million votes, running slightly behind segregationist Strom Thurmond in the popular vote. John Camper won 10% of the vote in the Maryland Fourth District in a three-way race, despite evidence of vote rigging by the Pollack political machine in African American precincts.

Fight in Court Against Raid Arrests

Notwithstanding the minor charges growing out of the dance at the Laborers’ hall, federal prosecutors were determined to convict the men, while those arrested battled back in the legal arena.

Edwards and Goldreich had their arrests dismissed because no police officer had actually observed them selling liquor or “operating a lottery.” Instead, police had arrested them because they said they were in charge of the dance.

However, this victory was short-lived as both still ended up facing charges for the alleged alcohol sale and lottery operation. Separate trials were scheduled for the lottery and alcohol sales.

The “illegal lottery” trial took place January 5, 1949, with the assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur McLaughlin proclaiming that the four men arrested, including Edwards and Goldreich, acted in “open defiance” of the law.

When undercover police officers testified, the “open defiance” of the law that required 35 officers to suppress on a Saturday night turned out to be chances that were being sold for 25 cents each to win three prizes—one fifth of scotch, one fifth of bourbon and a Paul Robeson “Freedom Train” record.

Veterans for Wallace: 1948

1948 Vets for Wallace button.

Police Officer Suggested Raffle

When Edwards, the head of the African American veterans organization, took the witness stand and was being questioned by McLaughlin, he testified that undercover police officer Benjamin Chaplain was the person who suggested holding the raffle to raise money.

Police testified they seized $19.80 at the event as evidence, but when Edwards testified he said he counted over $200 in proceeds two hours before the raid. “I am wondering what happened to all the money,” he said on the witness stand.

In his closing statement, prominent civil rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston argued that the raffle was conducted for a “cause” similar to church bazaars and fairs where contributions were requested. Houston went on to say that criminal intent was absent.

All were found guilty and fined; three of them were fined $50 and one $25.

Those charged with illegally selling whiskey, including Edwards and Goldreich, had a trial that stretched over three days, from January 17-19.

Leon Ransom, another well known civil rights attorney, argued that the five men charged were accepting contributions, but not selling liquor. Nevertheless, all five were found guilty.

After the trial, juror Anne Mallory filed an affidavit stating that she and other jurors understood that they could find all five guilty or all five innocent. She further stated that she believed two of the men were innocent, but Judge Aubrey B. Fennell denied the motion for a new trial. Fennell imposed fines of  $200 on all five defendants in February.

Further court appeals for both groups were unsuccessful.

Breadth of Suppression

In the overall context of the post World War II “red scare,” this was a minor incident. Those who were jailed or lost their jobs during that period suffered worse fates.

However, it illustrates the depth and breadth of the suppression of the country’s left wing movement during the period, including the use of fear and apprehension at being even remotely connected to progressive, socialist or communist issues and campaigns.

Police and the FBI routinely made files of everyone associated with left-wing activists or events. In this instance, it was those who attended a housewarming party or a dance. Authorities prosecuted minor offenses and created arrest records for others. An undercover police officer urged an act that police later conducted arrests for. Proceeds from the fundraiser went missing after police seized them.

Newspapers during this period published the names, addresses and often the employer of people even if they were not arrested or convicted of any crime. In this instance, The Washington Herald published the names and addresses of people who were booked for “investigation” and not for any crime. All the local newspapers carried the names and addresses of those arrested for minor alcohol violations in this case.

It also illustrates how those affected continued to fight back. They campaigned in elections, held demonstrations and waged court battles. The message of “Don’t Bury American Freedom” carried during the protest of these arrests turned out to be one repeated many times during the next decade.


Author’s Notes:

Sources include the following newspapers: The Washington Post, The Afro American, The Washington Daily News, The Washington Star and The Washington Herald.  Also consulted were “Hearings Regarding Communism in the District of Columbia” conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and “A Doctor’s Legacy: Dr. John E. T. Camper and the MeDeSo” by Jonathan Cahn.


Craig Simpson is a former Secretary-Treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and has a BA in labor studies from the National Labor College. He can be contacted by email at washington_area_spark@yahoo.com.


Police Break Up Unemployed Protest at White House: 1930

26 Feb

Police at the White House broke up a protest by the unemployed on March 6, 1930. The demonstration was part of the first nationwide protest response to the Great Depression that had begun the previous fall.

Protests were held in Detroit, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Seattle, Las Angeles and San Francisco among other cities. Demonstrations were also held on the same day in cities around the world.

Blacks, Whites Protest Job Losses: 1930 No. 1

Pickets arrive at the White House, March 6, 1930. Photo courtesy of the LIbrary of Congress.

The clash began when District of Columbia local Communist Party leader William “Bert” Lawrence stopped and began to speak to the crowd, police in street clothes attacked him. Uniformed police then assaulted the picketers and bystanders with tear gas and black jacks. Some the protestors fought back against the police.

Some reports said President Herbert Hoover watched the demonstration from the White House windows along with a delegation from the District of Columbia Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), while other reports had his wife watching along with the DAR.

The District of Columbia Communist Party and allied groups began preparations in the city for weeks before and police responded by arresting 10 people on April 30 for holding soapbox style speeches on the street corners near the Communist Party headquarters at 1337 7th Street NW. Similar meetings and police harassment took place at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union statue at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Unemployment Rally in DC: 1930

Meeting at 1337 7th St. NW prior to picketing, March 6, 1930. From the Library of Congress

The communists and along with others held a rally the night before at the Communist Party headquarters where speeches were given and signs were made for the next day’s demonstration. The main themes were demands for good jobs, against police brutality, Jim Crow schools in the District and lynching.

Among the organizers were Lawrence, Solomon Harper of the International Labor Defense and Edith Briscoe of the Young Communist League.

Briscoe was among those arrested at the White House picket line after she jumped on the back of a police officer he was getting ready to strike an African American demonstrator. Lawrence was detained and charged with speaking in a public place without permission.

Harper was arrested for disorderly conduct, but was acquitted. He still faced charges from an outdoor speech he gave the night before condemning the lynching of sixty-year-old Laura Wood at Barber Junction in North Carolina.

Tear Gas Quells Reds: Washington Post 1930

Jobless pickets are the lead story for the Washington Post, March 7, 1930.

Public demonstrations of this type were fairly infrequent at that time and public protests involving blacks and whites even more infrequent.

The picket in front of the White House was held with blacks and whites locking arms while picketing. Press reports estimated that several thousand nearby office workers came out to watch. The newspapers also indicate that 13 picketers were arrested with an unknown number of injured, but only one that required hospital treatment.

The demonstrations made front-page news and were the lead stories in the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun and helped put the Communist Party at the forefront of the fight against unemployment and racial discrimination in the District for the next decade.


To see still photos of the March 6, 1930 demonstration, go to the Washington Area Spark Flickr site.

The photos in the short video are courtesy of the Library of Congress. The video clips were originally from Sherman Grinberg, but are believed to be in the public domain. The clips were misidentified as part of the the 1932 bonus march in a Newsreel production. The Library of Congress has mis-dated some of the photos to a period earlier than they actually were taken.

Note: This post was updated February 28.

George Davis and the Turbulent Times of D.C. Area Transit Union—1974-80

16 Mar
George Davis, new president of the transit union: 1974

George R. Davis, ATU Local 689 president 1974-80.

By Craig G. Simpson

George Davis became president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 January 1, 1974  and headed the union during three illegal strikes.

He oversaw the opening of Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail system as well as the early stages of local jurisdictions cutting bus workers’ wages and benefits as they set up replacement bus systems in their counties and cities.

But he also successfully fought to keep a full percentage cost-of-living clause for transit workers and formed a slate that integrated the top officers of the union..

After six years of chaos within the union, he was ousted by a 2-1 margin by a rank-and-file member who had never before held a union office.

As a long-time trade unionist he initially made some good decisions, but at later critical times, he made major errors and continued to compound them one on top of the other.


George R. Davis was elected president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 shortly after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, also known as Metro) acquired four private bus companies in 1973.

For six years from 1974-80 Davis was at the helm of the union during one of its most tumultuous periods: workers went on strike on three different occasions, defying union leadership’s directives to return to work and also staging a work-to-the-rule regarding the safety features on a bus.

Davis was a veteran bus operator who started work for D.C. Transit at its Northern garage on 14th Street NW. He was elected shop steward/executive board member and later secretary-treasurer of the union before he challenged incumbent president George Apperson for president in the December 1973 union elections.

Union and company in transition

Transit workers wildcat over Metro takeover: 1973

Members of ATU Local 1131 stage a 1973 wildcat strike over Metro takeover and merger into ATU local 689.

Streetcar service ended in 1962 and the new Metrorail system would not begin opening until 1976—meaning the transit system was an all-bus system when Davis became president. Four private bus companies were bought by Metro in 1973 to create the regional Metrobus system.

The union itself was also in transition. The two independent ATU unions at the private companies in Virginia—Locals 1131 and 1079—were merged into Local 689. A dispute over whether Local 689 or the incumbent Teamsters would represent the Prince George’s garage had just been resolved in the Teamsters’ favor.

Two of the unions, Teamsters Local 922 and ATU Local 1131, had staged wildcat strikes over the issue of that merger into Local 689.

Operator ranks were initially integrated racially in 1955, and by the late 1970s black operators outnumbered white operators—most having fewer than seven years of service.

These times were right on the heels of the militant antiwar and black liberation demonstrations and protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Further, many black veterans, radicalized by their Vietnam War experience, were also entering the workforce.  Employers across the country had begun to take on unions by trying to increase worker productivity and there was a nationwide strike wave that would last the entire decade.

1973 union election

Apperson begins 3rd term as transit union president: 1971

Davis ousted three-term Local 689 president George Apperson in Dec. 1973.

Davis put together a multiracial ticket for the top five union offices in 1973: Harvey Lee of Northern Division for first vice president, James Buckner of Southeastern Division for second vice president, and Rodney Richmond of Bladensburg Division for financial secretary-treasurer–all black men. A candidate who was the incumbent recording secretary, George Delaney, was added to his ticket.

George Apperson succeeded long-time president Walter Bierwagen in 1964 and led the union battle to obtain an exact-fare policy after the shooting death of operator William Talley in 1968 and came close to calling a strike over missed pension payments by company owner O. Roy Chalk in 1970. Apperson was politically connected and served as president of the Washington, D.C. labor council.

Apperson integrated the officer ranks by adding James Shipman, a black bus operator, to his ticket as second vice-president. Shipman left mid-term and was replaced by Richmond. However, these moves were regarded by the black rank and file as token moves. At the time, the second vice president was not full-time and had no duties spelled out in the local bylaws.

Davis attacked Apperson for “spending too much time on Capitol Hill” and not tending to Local 689 affairs.

In the first competitive election since 1951, Davis narrowly prevailed, 1398-1119. His entire slate won and Rodney Richmond became the first black full-time officer of the local union.

1974 strike

Police Clear Metrobus Strikers from Yard Entrance 1974 # 1

Workers at Bladensburg garage attempt to halt a scab bus from leaving the yard in 1974.

Davis faced an immediate challenge as the new Metro management stalled on contract negotiations–the old agreement was due to expire April 30, 1974. At the center of the controversy was a cost-of-living clause that provided for quarterly increases of the same percentage that the consumer price index increased.

The union pointed to language in federal law that prohibits the use of federal funds to diminish the pay or benefits of workers, while WMATA claimed everything would be up for grabs when the contract expired.

Davis called a mass union meeting at the Washington Coliseum on May 1, 1974. It was attended by about 2,000 members who voted to strike beginning May 2nd. The unexpected strike paralyzed the city.

Metro demanded that the union return to work and pointed to the interstate compact that created Metro which provided that “all labor disputes” were subject to arbitration and that strikes were prohibited. Further the WMATA-ATU 689 labor contract language contained a no-strike clause unless the company refused to arbitrate a dispute.

U.S. District Court Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr. issued an injunction against the strike on May 3rd and ordered Davis to make a good faith effort to get the members to return to work. Davis called a mass union meeting that night at the Sheraton Park hotel on Woodley Road NW.

Davis announced that a restraining order had been issued and told the 1,000 or so assembled that, “I hate like hell to tell you this, but you’re going to have to go back to work.” He started to read the injunction, but was interrupted by shouts of “wildcat, wildcat!” and members headed for the doors before he could finish reading the judge’s order.

The following day Judge Smith angrily admonished Davis and told him he never should have used the words, “I hate like hell to tell you…” saying that those words amounted to an endorsement of a continued strike.  The judge then placed a $25,000 per day fine on the union for disobeying his order and threatened to jail Davis if he didn’t get the workers to return.

Return to work

Back to work order from the union and company: 1974

Return to work orders from the union and the company following the judge’s order to arbitrate the issues.

With the strike continuing, Judge Smith ordered WMATA and the union to arbitrate their dispute, including the cost-of-living clause, but told the arbitrators to give “great weight” to union contentions that the cost of living wage escalation could not legally be reduced. Metro offered to resume negotiations if the workers returned.

Near-normal bus service was run on May 7th and at least some union members saw the judge’s order as tantamount to victory.

It seemed like a win for Davis, who had called the initial strike, but many in the rank and file saw his order to return to work as weakness and derided what they perceived to be his fear of going to jail.

Further, Davis did a poor job of publicizing and explaining the judge’s directive on “great weight” and a number of members’ perception was that they went on strike for nothing.

Davis compounded negative feelings about the strike among the members by assessing the rank-and-file to pay the fine that the judge ordered.

Following the strike, Davis quickly negotiated an agreement with the transit authority that kept the cost-of-living clause intact. However, members voted down the agreement—largely over a paltry general wage increase—and the humiliated Davis was forced to go back to the bargaining table.

The second agreement that Davis brought back contained only minor changes, but was approved at the ratification meeting. Nevertheless, there were the beginnings of bitterness toward Davis by a section of the rank-and-file union members.

1975 safety check

ATU Local 689: No Service 1974 # 1

A bus displays a “NO Not in Service” sign with a block number “Local 689.”

The WMATA management sought to increase disciplinary penalties for workers in 1975, including harsher penalties for a number of minor offenses.

Meanwhile, the aging buses that WMATA had purchased from D.C. Transit and the other private companies in 1973 were in deplorable condition.

Basic safety features including horns and speedometers rarely worked. Some buses had no mirror on the right side and there were no convex mirrors to detect a vehicle right beside a bus.

Worse, brakes were often slack, tires were bald, and turn signals and brake lights often didn’t function.

In response to the harsh discipline and unsafe equipment and Metro’s refusal to seriously negotiate over the issues, Davis called a safety check on October 30, 1975. He put the shop stewards in charge at each division to ensure that no bus went out of the garage with safety defects.

Service put out for the morning rush hour that day from Northern and Bladensburg garages–the two largest, along with the small Royal Street garage in Alexandria–was virtually non-existent. Other garages saw delays in getting service on the street. All told about 500 buses out of 1,600 never made it into service.

An individual operator can refuse an unsafe bus, but the union acting together is legally regarded as a “concerted action,” the same as a strike–and strikes by Metro workers had already been found illegal.  WMATA headed to court to get an injunction, but the slowdown was already over.

The direct action was an overwhelming success and WMATA entered serious negotiations and modified its proposed discipline considerably. With the exception of a few disgruntled workers who wanted no change in disciplinary measures whatsoever and a few others who had neglected to fill out the proper paperwork for the day in order to get paid, Davis seemed to finally get a little credit from the rank-and-file workers.

Supplemental rail agreement

D.C. transit union president George Davis: 1978

George Davis in 1978

Davis also led negotiations in 1975 for a supplemental rail agreement to  cover the subway service that wasn’t yet operational. Besides negotiating over classifications, rates of pay, and some work and seniority rules, Davis obtained recognition language that virtually assured that all blue-collar rail workers would be represented by Local 689. Davis thereby settled any question of whether the Teamsters, who retained representation at the Prince George’s bus garage, had any claim on rail work.

Further, he solved much of the problem of disabled bus operators and mechanics. Previously, workers who were physically disqualified from their jobs had been terminated or forced to retire on disability pension if they were eligible—a small sum unless the worker had a lot of service time.

By obtaining language that permitted those disabled workers to take jobs as station attendants (later called managers), Davis enabled many workers to finish their careers as Metro employees.

It was a major victory for Local 689. Davis received little credit for obtaining union recognition for the whole subway system, but the rank and file were reassured by the designation of the station attendant position as one that could be filled by disabled workers.

It seemed as though Davis had perhaps gotten his bearings and was headed for an effective presidency.

Political challenges

Newly elected transit union officers take the oath: 1974

George Davis and Robert Delaney at the union installation of officers in 1974.

After takeover, Metro’s bus deficits began skyrocketing. The four private bus companies combined were running a deficit of about $1 million per year at the time of takeover. By 1975 Metro was running a $50 million per year deficit.

High inflation rates counted for a part of this, new federal regulations another part, unforeseen repairs on the aging buses bought from the private companies, and new, expanded bus service throughout the metropolitan area accounted for nearly all of the shortfall.

However, local political leaders focused on unionized workers’ wages and benefits—particularly the cost-of-living (COLA) clause that provided for quarterly increases of the same percentage rate as inflation in the area.

After Metro failed to modify the cost-of-living clause in the 1974 contract, its sights were set on the upcoming 1976 contract. Local politicians and the three daily newspapers in the D.C. area were beating the drum about eliminating the COLA clause.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County, Maryland began planning to operate its own bus service.

Davis testified at a public hearing against the proposed Ride On service, but unlike his predecessors Apperson and Walter Bierwagen, was only marginally politically involved or connected.

Davis also did not believe in involving the union members in this fight and did not conduct any extensive lobbying or political activity other than his testimony against what would ultimately become county or privately-run bus service in every jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C. area.

Davis also failed to grasp the dangerous effects that public opinion could have on elected leaders, and so he let the increasing attacks on both Metro and the union in the press go unchallenged.

The latter was something that began to loom large with the rank and file membership.

Caucus formed

Action Alliance formed in response to Metro attacks

An agenda from a 1976 union caucus meeting.

The dissatisfaction with Davis’s failure to respond to attacks in the media produced the first organized rank-and-file caucus in 1976.

Management contract proposals were leaked to the union membership by an unknown person(s) and if adopted would have gutted seniority rules, increased the wage progression period to five years, permitted part-time operators, eliminated the cost-of-living clause, and cut back many other pay and benefit provisions.

Not trusting the union officers to lead the fight, a few members from Western, Southeastern and Four Mile garages formed a 20-member group called Metro Employees Action Alliance.

The Alliance put union officials on the spot at union meetings by posing questions such as “I would like to know what the union’s position is regarding the poor, defective, unsafe equipment that we have been driving on the streets….?”

The caucus also raised money, formulated their own proposals for union contract changes, and hired a public relations firm to get the workers’ side of the story into the news media.

Several news features were written and printed in local newspapers as a result of caucus activity, countering some of the negative press.

However, this initial attempt at organization within the union structure fell apart within a few months due to internal dissent. Nevertheless, it spelled trouble for Davis that members were beginning to form their own organization to take on his administration.

Bicentennial

Metro general manager Ted Lutz: 1978 ca.

Metro general manager 1976-79 Ted Lutz.

The celebration of the nation’s 200th birthday was planned for nearly a year before the July 4, 1976 gathering of several hundred thousand on the Washington Monument grounds and on the national mall.

Political leaders in the region agreed to fund special bus service to handle the volume of tourists expected to flood the city in the months leading up to the celebration. On the day itself, those attending the celebration were urged to leave their cars at home and take the special buses provided from fringe parking areas into the city.

The expected crowds of tourists never materialized prior to the celebration and most of the special buses ran empty—meaning an investment of funds that had no return. The local press hammered on this as another barb directed against Metro.

However, on the day of the celebration hundreds of thousands headed downtown heeding officials pleas to use bus service. All went fairly smoothly until the celebration ended with fireworks shortly after 9 p.m.

Metro officials had not coordinated with city officials on how to move several hundred thousand people out of the downtown area quickly. As a result traffic gridlocked and tens of thousands of people were stranded on the national mall until the early hours of the morning.

While there was plenty of blame to go around, Metro took most of the criticism, leading the WMATA board of directors to initiate discussions with a private contractor, ATE, to run the Metrobus system.

Davis was ambivalent about this development, believing the union contract would be honored. Privately he expressed that it might be a good development since labor relations had been somewhat better under the private companies immediately before Metro’s takeover of the buses.

Union members, however, were concerned this was another attack aimed at their wages and benefits, and so disgruntlement with Davis’s leadership grew.

Fortunately for Davis, a new general manager named Ted Lutz was hired and he was an opponent of privatization. Within months after being hired, Lutz made strides toward improving bus service reliability and set goals that were higher than those contained in the ATE proposal.

Lutz told Metro’s board of directors in 1977, “I think we can save money, improve performance and assure an integrated bus rail transit system” by retaining the bus service in-house.

The Metro board of directors ultimately backed Lutz’s approach and Davis was spared what would undoubtedly have been another nail in his coffin.

’76 contract

Transit union president Davis in a happy moment: 1975 ca.

George Davis, right, enjoys a moment of happiness.

Davis went into the 1976 contract negotiations intending to keep the cost-of-living clause intact.

During negotiations, WMATA proposed the use of part-time operators,  believing this would cut costs and arguing that it would prevent local jurisdictions like Montgomery County from taking over Metrobus lines with lower paid workers.

Later during negotiations, they floated the idea of a “suburban rate” (a lower hourly rate) for certain less-productive bus routes as a means of lowering costs.

Davis privately believed that such concessions were necessary to preserve the bargaining unit. However he was fearful of the reaction of the rank and file to any concessions and refused to entertain a modification of the COLA, part-time work, or a suburban rate.

On April 30, 1976, the union invoked arbitration and the matter headed to a three-member panel composed of one union representative, one company representative, and a neutral arbitrator.

When the disputed cost-of-living pay increase came due for the members in the beginning of July 1976 during the arbitration process, Metro didn’t pay it even though the labor agreement between the union and Metro provided that all terms and conditions within the expired contract should remain “undisturbed” while the new agreement was being arbitrated.

Union head and attorneys confer during arbitration: 1976

George Davis (l) confers with union attorneys during an arbitration hearing before Harry Platt in 1976.

However, Davis didn’t challenge the company’s refusal to pay, indicating that the matter would be settled in the contract arbitration.

This seemingly innocuous decision would come back to haunt Davis later in his career.

When the contract arbitration award was announced in late November 1976, the full cost-of-living clause was retained and there were no new provisions for part-time work or a “suburban rate.” There was no general wage increase, but a dental plan was added for the first time. The arbitration award provided for a two-year contract.

However, arbitrator Harry H. Platt ruled that Metro could skip paying the July 1976 COLA payment—one of those that they had not paid in the interim between the nominal expiration of the contract and the arbitration award date.

In the context of the political attacks on the union that were taking place throughout the area, it seemed like a victory for Davis. He said at the time that retention of the COLA “is obviously a victory…we think we deserved it and we kept it.”

Many of the rank-and-file held a different viewpoint. They viewed Davis as responsible for the lost quarterly payment since he did not challenge the issue at the time the payment was due, and they felt the lack of a general wage increase made this a bad contract.

In the end Davis’s victory in keeping the COLA clause produced few rewards for him politically.

’76 union election

Jim Coughlin, Bladensburg shop steward & board member: 1971

Jim Coglin sought to challenge George Davis for president.

The dissatisfaction with Davis led a shop steward/executive board member from the largest bus garage, Bladensburg, to announce his intention to run for president.

James “Jim” Coglin [some spellings were Coughlin] began a series of small meetings with key figures in the union to build support at other facilities.

Coglin came from the same division as Davis’s secretary-treasurer, Rodney Richmond, so it was not clear that Bladensburg’s 1,000 workers would back him in sufficient numbers to overcome Davis’s organization throughout the system.

Coglin was also white and Davis had integrated the top ranks of the union. Nevertheless, Coglin was a serious threat to Davis. But before the nomination meeting was held in November 1976, Coglin died.

Local 689 top officers at their installation: 1977

The five top ATU 689 officers in 1977.

Davis had struck political gold and was re-elected without opposition.

What seemed like good political fortune for Davis was perhaps the opposite. Davis was already distant from the rank and file, rarely venturing into the field. And as a result of Coglin’s death, Davis didn’t campaign and make his case to the members. With hundreds hired within the last few years, many simply didn’t know him.

Ride-On

Black and white version of transit union logo: 1987 ca.

Black and white version of the Local 689 logo.

The first suburban bus system to start running was Montgomery County’s Ride On in March 1975 with two routes. By late 1977 it had taken over some Metrobus routes and had about 30 operators working out of a garage in Brookmont.

Montgomery County Executive James Gleason made clear the reasons for the start-up service in a comment to the Washington Post:

“Our intention is to lower the overall costs to the feeder bus service not only to residents of Montgomery County but elsewhere in the region by running a more efficient service.”

While some savings could be obtained by forgoing federal assistance and related costly disability and safety requirements and by purchasing sub-standard buses, the only place significant savings could occur was in the wages and benefits of operators and mechanics.

Local 689 had not done any real union organizing in many years. The last attempt had been a raid on the Teamsters Union in 1973 at the Prince George’s Metrobus garage that was halted by the International union, which had a “no-raid” agreement with the Teamsters. Prior to that, no one could remember the last organizing attempt.

Craig Simpson, ATU 689 activist and officer: 1982

Craig Simpson as a rank-and-file bus operator in 1982.

The author of this post, Craig Simpson, then a young, 25-year-old rank-and-file operator at Northern Division, had a friend named Marc Miller working at Ride On who was interested in bringing in the union.

Simpson obtained authorization cards from the union office and provided them to Miller. Miller in turn obtained signatures from 28 of the 30 Ride On operators.

The cards were turned into Rodney Richmond, the secretary-treasurer of Local 689. After several weeks Miller kept bugging Simpson about what was going on.

When Simpson went to the union hall at 300 Indiana Avenue NW, Richmond told him that the International said they weren’t interested because it was “small potatoes.”

Union activists could see the writing on the wall. If Montgomery County was successful in lowering wages and benefits for transit workers, the other jurisdictions that made up Metro wouldn’t be far behind—threatening the union’s bargaining power and creating a substandard wage and benefit package that would drag down future contracts with Metro. It was nothing short of a direct assault on transit workers.

Rodney Richmond, first black full-time ATU 689 officer: 1974

Rodney Richmond in 1974 after his election as financial secretary-treasurer of Local 689.

The challenge to organize Ride On was certainly daunting. The operators and mechanics would have to be organized into a union with no collective bargaining rights.

Union resources would have to be spent lobbying on behalf of the Ride On employees, but their union would be toothless without the collective bargaining that would result in a labor agreement.

Obtaining collective bargaining would have required a political effort since Ride 0n was set up using county employees. At the time, the Maryland state legislature informally required a resolution from the county council supporting collective bargaining legislation before they would consider it.

Collective bargaining legislation would also need majority support from the state senators and state representatives elected from the county, according to the informal requirement of the state legislature.

This meant that Local 689 would have to make a political effort without the support of the International union, if it were to pursue an attempt to organize and obtain a labor agreement for the Ride On unit. To put it mildly, politics was not Davis’s strength and no effort was made at that time.

The “small potatoes” that the ATU International cited turned into one of the 20 largest transit systems in the U.S. In 2019 the Ride On system operated 500 buses with over 1,500 operators and support personnel.

The workers are represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1994. While they have made significant gains in wages and benefits, they still lag behind Metro workers in total compensation 45 years after operations began.

Word began to spread about the failure to organize Ride On, compounding Davis’s woes.

’78 safety wildcat strike

SE Metrobus Operators Strike Over Safety

Workers at Southeastern Division, where the young woman who was assaulted worked, mill outside the facility during their wildcat strike.

Bus operator anger over assaults, usually during fare disputes, had been growing while Davis and the union seemingly took no action.

Brazen armed robberies began taking place where one robber would board through the front door of a bus and another through the back and they would rob the driver and every passenger on the bus. Other armed robbers pointed firearms at drivers at the end of the bus line while accomplices sawed off the fareboxes and absconded with them.

As the fear of armed robberies and assaults boiled, a 32-year old female bus operator at Ridge Road and Burns Streets SE was raped by a man with a knife.

Operators didn’t wait for the union to act. A strike began May 18, 1978 at the former Southeastern Bus Garage at Half and M Streets SE and spread throughout the day to the Bladensburg Road NE garage and the Northern Garage at 4615 14th Street NW.

Rev. Jerry Moore, a city council and Metro board of directors member, visited the strikers and promised action by the District to protect drivers. Metro’s general manager put out a letter outlining the steps he would take to address their concerns.

A meeting was organized at an RFK Stadium parking lot that evening. Striking drivers voted to suspend the strike for two weeks on the condition that a settlement was reached on the safety issue.

Committees were set up at most garages that in turn met with council member Moore.

Government, Management & Union Meet With Striking Drivers

D.C. council member Rev. Jerry Moore, Metro GM Ted Lutz, ATU 689 president George Davis and ATU financial secretary Rodney Richmond meet with disgruntled workers the day after a wildcat strike protesting the rape of a female bus operator.

Davis derided the committee saying, “Committees are fine, but they are not going to be there without union representation because 300 people do not represent 5,000.”

Davis, who had taken no previous action to reduce assaults, now wanted to lead. The slap at the 300 referred to those who attended the RFK parking lot meeting and actually produced results.

Moore, Metro and Local 689 officials met with some drivers the day after the strike. Moore also later held a city council hearing on the issue putting further pressure on the company to act.

The strike resulted in increased police patrols on buses (both Metro and District police), a plexiglass shield installed behind the driver, an emergency “panic button,” and repairs to and activation of non-functioning radios on the buses.

Davis, who was nowhere to be seen during the strike, attempted to take credit for the results and was quoted in the Washington Post, “I feel from what I’ve seen that there definitely has been an all-out effort by Metro to live up to its end of the bargain.”

Those active in the strike derided Davis for the blatant attempt to take credit for something that he had little to do with.

’78 Wildcat Over Cost-of-Living

Mechanics Organize Walkout Over Cost of Living

Metro mechanics at Bladensburg heavy overhaul shop make signs on the first day of the July 1978 wildcat strike.

The union and management had not been able to reach an agreement before the contract expired at midnight April 30, 1978 and Davis again invoked arbitration.

Metro workers remembered the previous contract where they had lost one payment of the COLA, and they blamed Davis for not fighting to enforce the contract language that spelled out that all provisions should remain “undisturbed” during arbitration.

Fresh off the wildcat strike over safety on the buses, frustration with the union bubbled over again at a July 18th meeting of Local 689.

Angry over WMATA’s failure to pay the quarterly cost of living (COLA), union members repeatedly demanded that the union hold a strike vote.

Davis pointed out that a strike would be illegal, based on their experience in the 1974 strike, that he was unwilling to lead another illegal strike, and he refused to conduct a strike vote. He was repeatedly shouted down by the members in attendance.

Davis gaveled the meeting closed and left the hall with other officers.  A rump meeting was then held by about 200 members who called for a strike at 10 a.m. the next day.

Few bus operators initially walked off the job, but a large number of mechanics called out sick while others made strike preparations at the Bladensburg overhaul shop. The afternoon Daily News reported that dozens of mechanics had been fired for halting work.

Anger flashed as news of the harsh discipline spread through the Metro system.

The strike spreads

Metrorail Striker at National Airport 1978

A striking worker pickets the Metro station at National Airport: in 1978: “No cost-of-living, No Work, No Reprisals.”

A meeting held at an RFK Stadium parking lot that evening of rank-and-file Metro workers called for a strike to begin at midnight around two demands:  Metro pay the COLA, and amnesty for all strikers.

Workers heeded the strike call on July 20th.  The vast majority of workers at all eight bus garages, including the Prince George’s garage (4421 Southern Ave) represented by the Teamsters, refused to work.  Subway trains, which ran only from Silver Spring to Dupont Circle and from Stadium-Armory to National Airport, were also shut down.

Davis, interviewed at his office by the Washington Post, failed to understand why workers wanted to fight the company and said, “You have employees who are hell-bent on hell-raising. I don’t have the answer to it.”

“A relatively small group is inciting this thing, and they’re getting followers,” Davis said. He added that he agreed with retaining the cost-of-living clause, but he seemingly forgot the lessons of the 1974 strike when he added, “You can’t support a legitimate gripe by illegitimate action.”

The workers held meetings at each reporting location and elected leaders.  In the absence of today’s cell phones and instant messaging, workers held regular meetings of the strike leaders and rank and file at an RFK Stadium parking lot. Pay phone numbers near each facility were exchanged.

William T. Scoggin Jr., an operator from the former Arlington Garage at N. Quincy Street and Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, VA, was elected spokesperson.

Metro responded by temporarily withdrawing discipline and obtaining court injunctions against three individual strikers from Judge Louis Oberdorfer.

But Oberdorfer went beyond listening to the lawyers from Metro and the union. He understood that strikers would listen to neither and appointed two labor lawyers–Charles “Chip” Yablonski (the son of slain reform mineworker president Joe Yablonski) and Charles Booth–to advise him of the strikers’ position and interests.

Future Local 689 president Golash and first woman officer Perrin: 1998

Michael Golash, one of the 1978 strike leaders and a future union president, is shown with Sandra Perrin, the union’s first female executive board member.

The strikers ultimately retained their own attorneys to represent them before Oberdorfer.

On Sunday, July 23 with the strikers holding firm, Oberdorfer ordered WMATA to post a $40,000 per week bond to ensure that the money for the cost of living increase was provided for, ordered expedited arbitration of the COLA dispute, ordered the union and Metro to take increased measures to inform workers their strike was illegal, and threatened to jail strikers who refused his back to work order.

During the hearing under questioning from the judge, Davis denied he attempted to get strikers to return to work by telling them that the cost-of-living issue would be settled by Friday, July 21st.

However, Melvin Brown, one of about 20 striking workers in the courtroom, provided a piece of paper to their counsel.  It was a message to the members over Davis’s signature stating that arbitration of the COLA issue would be completed by July 21st. Davis was caught in a lie in open court and the word spread quickly among the strikers.

Metro Workers Vote to Continue Strike: 1978

Mass meeting at RFK stadium where William Scoggin (with microphone) is replaced by Eugene Ray (just to the left of Scoggin) as strike leader.

A mass meeting was held that Sunday evening at an RFK Stadium parking lot attracting about 400 strikers—a relatively small number.  Scoggin urged a return to work, advising that the workers had won as much as they were going to win.

However, other speakers, including future union president Michael “Mike” Golash, urged a continuation of the strike until amnesty was granted. The television cameras were rolling when Golash came to the microphone and shouted, “Strike, strike, strike!”

In a voice vote, Scoggin was replaced as spokesperson by Eugene Ray, a bus operator from the 4-Mile Run yard located at 3501 S. Glebe Road in Arlington, VA.

On July 24, WMATA responded by re-opening the Metrorail system with supervisors and a few workers who crossed picket lines.  Scoggin’s Arlington Division went back to work along with a few scattered operators at other Divisions.  Management began circulating false rumors that other locations were already back to work.

Hindered by lack of communications, the strikers began to waver and by the afternoon of Tuesday, July 25, service was restored to normal as one location after another returned to work en-masse.

Strike aftermath

Discipline, but no termination for wildcat strikers: 1978

The arbitration award that reinstated four strike leaders with a lengthy suspension without pay.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Flannery fined three individual members for contempt of court for their roles in the strike.  WMATA fired eight strikers, suspended 86 for 1-9 days without pay and reprimanded 54.

The union took the disciplinary cases to arbitration, although it was reportedly a close vote by the executive board as to whether to arbitrate or drop the grievances with Davis in favor of arbitration.

Discipline was ultimately reduced for many who filed grievances through the union, including seven strikers whose terminations were reduced to long suspensions without pay–largely because WMATA had failed to notify employees after two previous strikes that they could be terminated for walkouts.  One fired striker, who did not file a grievance, was not reinstated.

Other than the discipline, the strike ended much as the 1974 strike with a federal judge giving a strong indication of the preferred outcome.  By ordering expedited arbitration of the disputed cost of living payment and having the disputed money put in escrow, Judge Oberdorfer all but assured the strikers of victory on the COLA issue.

Davis acknowledged after the strike that the union needed to implement reforms saying, “There are going to have to be some changes made…better lines of communications with its members.” He told a Post reporter that he was uncertain whether he would seek re-election.

“Undisturbed” arbitration

Labor arbitrator Richard Bloch: 1978 ca.

Labor arbitrator Richard Bloch in April 1979..

The outcome of the expedited arbitration of the disputed COLA payment was announced August 3, 1978—a little over a week after the strike ended–and proved Davis wrong and the members right.

Arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled that the failure of WMATA to pay the quarterly cost-of-living for the pay period ending July 1, 1978 “resulted in a substantial ‘disturbance’ of existing conditions and, therefore, is a contract violation.”

Scoggins, the deposed strike leader, told the Washington Post, “We’re very pleased…It’s what we expected. The union leadership allowed Metro to get away” without paying the cost-of-living increase.

Another Washington Post news analysis published after the strike found that the union leadership was out of touch with its members.

Douglas Feaver wrote that Davis “cannot remember the last time he was out to visit the union membership in one of the 18 garages and yards the in the areas vast bus and subway network.”

He reported that Davis spoke of the membership prior to the COLA strike, “I can’t control ‘em; I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

’78 contract arbitration

Davis celebrates second term as ATU 689 president: 1977

George Davis, shown in a 1977 photo, took the blame for the introduction of part-time work.

On August 30, 1978, the arbitration of major contract issues was completed with very mixed news for Davis and the union members.

The COLA clause was retained in full, but the panel ruled that Metro could begin hiring up to 10 percent part-time operators with no benefits or seniority.

Part-time work in the transit industry is not really part time. It’s underpaid full time. A person must work the morning and evening rush hour with four to six hours off in between. The length of their day is between 12 and 15 hours, meaning that employment elsewhere is nearly impossible.

The pay hours ranged from 5 to 6 hours per day with no sick leave, holiday pay, vacation, bereavement leave, health insurance or pension benefits.

WMATA believed that part-time employment would save them money, but after more than 30 years of experimentation they found it less costly to hire full time because they could hire more stable, reliable operators.

It was an open secret that Davis favored making concessions to forestall the creation of more suburban bus companies. So while it was a neutral arbitrator who ordered part-time work, Davis and “the union” got the much of the blame from the membership.

New caucuses formed

Caucus denounces union leadership following strike: 1978

At least two rank-and-file caucuses were active following the 1978 COLA strike.

Two organized caucuses flourished in the wake of the 1978 cost-of-living strike.

One was organized as Metro C.A.R (Committee Against Racism), led by Golash.

The other was organized by some of the strike leaders and supporters at a number of garages and shops and was called the Metro Workers Rank and File Action Caucus.

Both caucuses focused their ire on two union officers, George Davis and Rodney Richmond.

In a newsletter issued after the strike, Metro C.A.R. wrote, “First of all, we should oust sellout George Davis who once again showed his true colors (yellow) during the strike.”

The Action Caucus wrote in their newsletter, “When Rodney Richmond announced the contract terms at the special union meeting August 30th at Constitution Hall, he attacked the recent wildcat strike. He stated that arbitration was the best way to resolve disputes and defended the part-time provision, saying that if we didn’t allow part-timers then Ride On type outfits would be set up everywhere…This no-win strategy of our top elected officials must go.”

Richmond’s and Davis’s position was ultimately proved wrong as part-time work expanded to 15 percent and the COLA clause was eliminated in the 1980s at the same time as private low-wage bus service expanded rapidly in the suburban jurisdictions.

Both caucuses continued to attack the union administration and Metro up to the union elections scheduled for December, 1979.

The Metro C.A.R. caucus pressed for strike preparations for the next contract and advocated against white supremacy and against imperialist war, among other issues.

The Action Caucus held a fundraiser for workers fired during the strike, proposed more democratic bylaw changes, and investigated the union’s finances.

The 5-member investigating committee released a 7-page report in October, 1979, just two months before the union election, that found:

“For the year 1978 thousands of dollars were spent for which there is no supporting documentation…In short it is our finding that the Local has been run like a Mom and Pop grocery store rather than an institution with a budget of over $800,000 which is accountable to 4,500 members.”

The committee’s financial investigation just piled on to Davis’s and Richmond’s woes.

1980 union election

Charles Boswell, one-term ATU Local 689 president: 1980

A close associate of William Scoggin, Charles Boswell, announced he would run for president after Scoggin died.

Scoggin, the former strike leader, announced early that he would take on Davis. Walter Tucker, a bus operator at Northern Division was another strong candidate who announced his intention to run for president. Tucker had been the first black shop steward/executive board member when he was elected in 1970.

Others who would announce included Golash, who had urged members not to return to work during the strike; Ray, the strike leader who replaced Scoggin; George Goodwin, another strike leader; Thomas Toomer, a Bladensburg operator; and Will Dietrich, a gadfly from Western Division.

The 55-year-old Scoggin, viewed as a pro-strike moderate, was clearly the strongest candidate to challenge Davis, but once again lightning struck for Davis, and Scoggin died prior to nomination.

A compatriot of Scoggin at Arlington garage, Charles Boswell, entered the race in his place.

As the Local 689 election committee reviewed the records of candidates in November, 1979 after nominations, it disqualified a number of office-seekers.

The local bylaws at the time required attendance at six union meetings per year each year for a two-year period prior to nomination (but including the nomination meeting).

They also required “continuous” union membership for the two-year period prior to nomination, which meant paying your dues prior to being “suspended” from membership. Suspension occurred automatically when someone was two months in arrears in their dues.

Walter Tucker, first black board member of ATU 689: 1971

Walter Tucker, the first black voting member of the union’s executive board was disqualified in his attempt to run for president.

Among those disqualified was Tucker, who had been on workmen’s compensation and neglected to pay his union dues while he was off work. Davis probably thought he’d struck gold again—two of his strongest opponents were out of the race.

Other candidates who were disqualified, including George Goodwin, went to court and obtained  a quick settlement because of their individual circumstances to place them on the ballot and postpone the election a month until January 9th with a runoff to be held January 16, 1980 in instances where no candidate received 50 percent plus one of the vote.

Davis held a strong organizational advantage because the shop stewards in each location were largely backing him, whereas other candidates struggled to identify workers trusted by co-workers in each location who could push their candidacy.

Things started off badly for Davis on election day. When the polls opened at 6 a.m. workers at Southeastern gathered in a group of about 20 and shouted “Davis and Richmond have to go” in front of dozens of other operators. There was no response from Davis supporters.

When the polls closed at 6:00 p.m. the results were brought to the union hall on New Jersey Avenue and Davis still had some hope. When the results were tallied, Davis led the pack with 977 votes or 31 percent of the vote. Charles Boswell, the substitute for the deceased Scoggins, trailed with 740 or 24 percent of the vote.

Under the union’s bylaws at that time it meant a run-off would be held the following week. Things didn’t start out on election day much better for Davis. At Northern Division, a member of Davis’s ticket, Harvey Lee, quit handing out his literature at 7 a.m. as operators tore up Davis’s palm cards and threw them on the floor. Thereafter Lee only handed out his own cards for the next 11 hours of voting.

When the runoff votes were tallied, Davis actually lost votes. Boswell, with absolutely no union experience, handily defeated him 2196-969.

Richmond, a relatively young and bright rising star, was tarnished by his close association with Davis and lost his election as Secretary-Treasurer as well by a 2-1 margin to another rank-and-file member who never held any union office–not even shop steward.

Congratulations to first black ATU 689 recording secretary: 1977

International ATU VP Walter Bierwagen congratulates James “Tommy” Thomas, Jr. in January 1977 on his election as recording secretary.

The only top officer candidate who survived the tidal wave was Recording Secretary James M. Thomas Jr.

During his 3-year term as the recording secretary, Thomas fielded phone calls from members and worked to solve their problems over the phone. He also made regular visits to work locations before and after his office hours at the union hall.  Further, Thomas was politically active in his home state of Virginia. He would go on to win five terms as president from 1983 to 1997.

During the 1980 election, two Action Caucus members won board seats and Metro C.A.R. won one board seat out of the 15 seats available. Allies of the Action Caucus on the Unity Slate, formed to support Tucker’s candidacy, won two of the top five positions: secretary-treasurer and second vice president and also won two additional board seats.

Metro Workers Rank and File Action Caucus – 1978-80

Action Caucus members running for shop steward in 1980.

Action Caucus members would play key roles in the union in the years to come. Maurice Waller served as shop steward/executive board member from Northern Division for about 10 years; Phillip Mayo served as shop steward/executive board member from Montgomery Division for three terms, and also as an appointed business agent; Harold Hume served as shop steward from Bladensburg Shop for two terms; James Bynum served as shop steward from both the maintenance department and later among station managers, and as 2nd vice president. Craig Simpson was elected to four terms as shop steward/board member at Northern Division, serving for about 10 ½ years, as an appointed business agent for 4 ½ of those years, and as financial secretary-treasurer for about 7 ½ years.

Mike Golash from the Metro C.A.R. caucus served as shop steward/executive board member from Northern Division, financial secretary-treasurer, and as president. Gary Young served as a shop steward/executive board member for maintenance.

Afterward

Two union presidents at new transit hall: 1990

James M. “Tommy” Thomas, Jr. (left) and James “Jimmy” LaSala outside the Local 689 headquarters under construction in 1989.

Davis retired after his defeat, living in Hyattsville, Md. He remained active with the Local 689 retirees group, ultimately being elected president. However he remained bitter about his defeat and felt betrayed by those around him and refused to entertain any talk of union politics thereafter.

He is believed to have died sometime in the late 1990s without fanfare.

Richmond made a comeback. He went back to work as a bus operator at Bladensburg garage and rebuilt his base. He ran for president of the union in December 1982 against Boswell but both were defeated by James M. Thomas Jr.

Congrats to First DC Transit Union African American Officer: 1974

Rodney Richmond becomes the first black full-time Local 689 officer in 1973. Here he is shaking hands with former president and then international Vice President Walter Bierwagen at the 689 officers’ installation.

However, Richmond had support at Bladensburg and a few other locations. Instead of continuing to try to run for a top office, Richmond went back and ran for shop steward/executive board member at Bladensburg in the following election and won.

He was poised to run against Thomas again for president, but Thomas instead obtained the support of ATU International President James LaSala and offered Richmond an International vice president position. Richmond accepted and was elected at the convention that followed.

He continued to serve as ATU International vice president until his retirement and in 2020 lives in New Orleans, LA.

Davis’ replacement Charles Boswell, who had no previous union experience, was a fish out of water and struggled throughout his three-year term.

Boswell had never been late to work in his career nor received a disciplinary violation and as a result was insensitive to disciplinary issues. He was unable to relate to the new workers who had defiant attitudes toward management.

Boswell compounded his problems by appointing people with little to no union experience to key positions.

He too tried to run the union from the office and met with the same fate as Davis. Thomas, the sole survivor of the Davis-Richmond era, defeated Boswell handily for president in December, 1982. Thomas went on to serve for 15 years as the union’s first black president.

Discussion

Transit union thanks riders for accepting exact fare: 1968

An advertisement in the Washington Post signed by George Apperson thanking the public for accepting exact fare and political and religious leaders for their help in settling the issue.

It was almost pre-ordained for things to end badly for George Davis. He campaigned against his predecessor George Apperson for spending too much time on politics.

From the beginning, he failed to understand that the new Metro was composed of political representatives from Washington, D.C. and the surrounding counties and engaging in politics was paramount.

Even in the days of private companies, politics were overriding—the union settled a two-month 1955 strike and forced owner Louis Wolfson to sell the company by engaging in political action.

The political pressure after the murder of operator James Talley in 1968 forced the D.C. Transit Company to adopt exact fare—the first company in the nation to do so.

Davis’s predecessor Apperson also used political pressure in 1970 to force D.C. Transit owner O. Roy Chalk to bring his payments to the workers’ pension plan up to date.

It’s not that Davis failed to engage in any political activity. He regularly attended hearings on anti-union bills and testified. Bierwagen would accompany him to meet with pro-labor legislators whom he expected to carry the ball for the union, though they had many other issues to deal with. Davis would also dole out some political donations at election time.

But this minimal level of activity was insufficient for the forces arrayed against him and he did not rise to the challenge.

Union head calls strike vote over missed pension payments: 1970

George Apperson, Local 689 president 1964-73.

Davis also compounded his initial error of eschewing intense political action by failing to learn the lessons of the strike he led in 1974 and the slow-down he led in 1975. Both of those direct action work stoppages resulted in victory for the union, but Davis rejected the tactic (or even threatening them) thereafter.

The authorities condemn the use of illegal strikes and other direct action tactics and utilize the courts to try to break them. But many workers see labor laws as unjust and favoring the employers and don’t feel bound to obey them. Attempting to defend workers’ rights solely by using legal means often leads to defeat.

Davis’s rejection of outlawed tactics after 1975 would haunt him in 1978 when without his leadership the rank and file staged two strikes that led to improvements in safety and a payment of the cost-of-living clause under the “undisturbed” language of the contract.

He made a major error in judgment when he failed to attempt to organize the Ride On workers at an early juncture. Workers in the region are plagued 45 years later with substandard wages and benefits on transit operated by every jurisdiction that makes up the WMATA service area.

The issue of making concessions in union contracts is controversial among the members. However, it’s really a matter of fighting the company with all the tools at your disposal—direct action, mobilization of members, political involvement, lobbying, public relations, organizing—before making decisions about tactical moves in contract negotiations.

If you are able to defeat the company’s or others’ adverse action, so be it. However, if the forces against you are stronger than yours, then concessions may be necessary to preserve the bargaining unit as a fighting force and live to fight another day.

Transit union president George R. Davis: 1979

George Davis at WMATA headquarters in 1979.

The problem with Davis’s actions is that he did not use all the tools at his disposal to fight the company, the political attacks and the threat of non-union bus companies. Nor did he have fortitude to make concessionary agreements to forestall hostile action against the union and risk rank-and-file ire. It was the worst of both worlds.

He might have personally survived these major errors as president for a bit longer if he had made his case to the rank and file with regular visits to work locations.

Davis didn’t understand the changes in the workforce that were taking place. Workers in the 1970s were radicalized by the experiences of the 1960s and Davis was far removed from those struggles.

But by his own admission, he rarely spent time talking to the members where they worked. Perhaps if he had, he might have gained greater insight into their thinking and altered his own decision-making. You can’t lead union members from the union office.

It was somewhat of a tragedy for a man who spent his life trying to better the lot of workers but who ended up on the wrong side of the fight. But he repeatedly made bad choices and paid the price.

Local 689 revives the strike tactic after 40 years: 2019

Workers on strike against the substandard wages and benefits of a private Metrobus contractor in 2019.

The union revived the strike tactic in 2018-19 by staging a series of mini-job actions, primarily against Metro’s refusal to seriously negotiate over disciplinary policies. These actions culminated in a strike vote by the whole membership, after which WMATA began to engage in serious negotiations.

The transit union today is confronting head-on the challenges that privatization of transit in the area brought. A strike at Metro’s privatized Cinder Bed Road division led Metro to agree to bring the work back in-house and cancel plans to privatize the Dulles Metrorail yard.

ATU ultimately engaged in organizing the private companies in the jurisdictions that make up Metro, staging a strike in 2019 at three Fairfax Connector garages. They have organized D.C. streetcar and Circulator buses and the Alexandria DASH system as well as a number of paratransit companies.

Politics is now part and parcel of ATU Local 689’s activities and they are well known in every jurisdiction, both for lobbying and for electoral work. And Local 689 regularly attempts to turn out members for actions.

Personal Notes

Longtime union activist pushes MoCo minimum wage: 2013

Craig Simpson speaking on behalf of UFCW Local 400 at a Montgomery County, Md. minimum wage rally in 2013.

I was a young headstrong bus operator during Davis’s tenure and was a member at age 25 of the Metro Employees Action Alliance in 1976 and later the Metro Workers Rank and File Action Caucus 1978-80.

I was convinced that Davis was a sellout and the “Davis-Richmond clique” needed to go.

It was the beginning of my political involvement in the union that would result in 18 years on the union executive board beginning in 1983 before I retired in 2001–serving as shop steward/executive board member, appointed business agent and secretary-treasurer of Local 689.

As the years went by I took a more nuanced view of  George Davis.

He was trained in business unionism that emphasized grievance handling and contract negotiation and de-emphasized member mobilization for direct action, political action and organizing.

While he was a dedicated trade unionists and could be proud of the work he did maintaining the cost-of-living clause, obtaining the supplemental rail agreement and integrating the ranks of the top officers of the union, he made too many wrong decisions and failed to use all the tools at his disposal during the period 1974-80.

After I retired from Metro with 27 years of service in early 2001, I went on to do contract work for the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, Progressive Maryland, ATU Local 689 and Maryland Commons. I obtained my degree in labor studies from the National Labor College and I finished my career as executive director of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 from 2013-2016. I now administrate and write blog posts and photo descriptions for the Washington Area Spark websites.

Sources

Sources include documents of the Metro Employees Action Alliance, Metro Workers Rank and File Action Caucus and Metro Committee Against Racism (CAR), Local 689 newsletters, the Washington Post, the Washington Star, and the personal recollections of the author.

Related Blog Posts

The D.C. black liberation movement seen through the life of Reginald H. Booker [January 28, 2020 by Craig G. Simpson] The author takes you through the long activist career of D.C. black nationalist Reginald Booker who led the fight against new freeways in the city, for public takeover of the private D.C. Transit, for building the Metrorail system, for hiring, upgrading and promoting black people in the construction industry and the federal and District of Columbia government. A prominent member of the Black United Front, he also led fights against police brutality among a host of other rights issues.

Strike wave at Washington, D.C.’s Capital Transit: 1945 [May 10, 2015 by Daniel Hardin]: In the midst of a struggle over integration and pent-up wage demands following World War II, transit workers in Washington wage a battle to better their conditions and in the process set the stage to transform their union.

The DC women streetcar operators of World War II [March 20, 2013 by Craig Simpson]: In the midst of a World War II shortage of operators and a campaign by African Americans to integrate the operator ranks, the transit company hires women for the first time to pilot the city’s streetcars and buses.

The fight against Capital Transit’s Jim Crow hiring: 1941-55 [October 14, 2012 by Craig Simpson]: The long struggle to integrate Washington’s Capital Transit Company operator ranks—from World War II to the early years of the modern civil rights movement.

Related Images

ATU 689 officers

Hattie Sheehan

Frances Lewis

O. Roy Chalk

Walter Bierwagen

Group Health: 1959

No fare hike: 1966-72

Exact bus fare: 1968

D.C. streetcar women: 1943-60

Transit strike: 1974

ATU 689 birth: 1916-17

On the job murder at Metro: 1974

ATU Local 689: No Service 1974

Fighting Capital Transit racism: 1941-55

Transit strike: 1955

Transit strike: 1951

Capital Transit strikes; 1945

DC Metro wildcat strikes: 1978

Related documents

White Man’s Road Through Black Man’s Home – 1968

Second Rally to Re-Open the 69 Confiscated NE Homes – June 1969

Smash the 3-Sisters Bridge – Nov. 1969

Victory Celebration of the 3-Sisters Bridge Decision: Oct. 1971

WMATA & union letters ordering striking workers back to work – May 1974

Arbitration award on Metro strike discipline – 1978

Files of the Metro Employees Action Alliance – 1976

WMATA management proposals for contract changes – May 1, 1976

Questions to be asked at the union meeting  – May 18, 1976

Summary of Metro contract proposals circulated to union membership – circa May 22, 1976

Caucus meeting agenda – May 28, 1976

Draft notice to members of Metro’s contract proposals  – circa May 28, 1976

Files of the Metro Workers Rank and File Action Caucus

Action

Vol. 1 No. 1 – Sept. 5, 1978

Vol.1. No. 2 – Oct. 1978

Vol. 1 No. 3 – Nov. 1978

Vol. 1 No. 4 – Jan. 1979

Vol. 1 No. 5 – Jun. 1979

Vol. 1 No. 6 – Aug. 1979

Action Caucus Minutes, flyers and election flyers

Caucus minutes – 7/30/78 – 10/1/78

Turn out for the arbitration hearings flyer – 8/21/78

Report of the Local 689 audit committee – 10/2/79

A vote for Mayo-Waller-Simpson is a vote for change – election flyer 11/79

Elect the Unity Slate platform – 11/79

Letter on the disqualification of Walter Tucker as presidential candidate—11/19/1979

Vote January 9 Mayo-Waller-Simpson—1/9/80

Vote Mayo-Waller-Simpson in the runoff elections—1/16/80

Attend the new officers installation—2/80

Unofficial election results—2/80

Files of the Metro Committee Against Racism (CAR)

Metro C.A.R. – August 1978 ca.

The D.C. black liberation movement seen through the life of Reginald H. Booker

28 Jan
Booker forcefully denounces D.C. freeway plan: 1970

Reginald Booker at a 1970 D.C. Council hearing.

By Craig G. Simpson

Reginald Harvey Booker was an activist and later a revolutionary leader of many social justice movements from the mid 1950s through the 1970s in the District of Columbia; involved in early desegregation struggles, the anti-Vietnam War movement, anti-freeway and pro Metro construction battles, black worker rights and anti-police brutality efforts, among a myriad of other rights battles.

He was the target of a CIA, FBI and District of Columbia police spying and disruption campaign from at least 1968 through 1972.

Booker is sometimes briefly credited for his work in the anti-freeway battles, but died with no fanfare in 2015. He had no Washington Post obituary and has no Wikipedia page, yet he played a vital role in many of the pivotal civil rights and black liberation struggles in the District of Columbia during that era.

Warning—This is a long post that runs over 100 printed pages.

Early Life

Southwest D.C. prior to ‘Negro removal:’ 1949

4th Street SW in 1949 near Booker’s childhood home before Southwest was razed for urban renewal.

Reginald Booker was born in Philadelphia, Pa. June 20, 1941 and his family moved to Washington, D.C. when he was nine years old to 360 N Street SW where he attended Bowen Elementary School. It was at this time that Booker became aware of racial discrimination and Jim Crow in the District of Columbia.[1][2]

“I didn’t know anything about segregated schools until our family moved to Washington, D.C….next door to me lived a white family that had a little boy. We used to play together,” Booker said in a 1970 interview.

“I began to realize when I got in the sixth grade that for whatever reason blacks and whites did not attend the same school.”[3]

Urban renewal in southwest Washington forced Booker’s family to move and they settled in a home at 459 Luray Place in the Parkview neighborhood a few blocks from the Washington Hospital Center.[4]

“When I was in the seventh grade I was attending Shaw Junior High School, I became acutely aware that blacks and whites did not attend the same schools because they claimed blacks were inferior or something like that,”

“This is where I really became socially conscious when I hit seventh grade at Shaw Junior High School. Because at that time I was at Shaw the Supreme Court handed down their ’54 decision. I remember teachers had reminded us how to behave; watch our manners when we went to an integrated school.”[5]

Adolescent Activism

Youth March on Washington for Civil Rights: 1958

The 1958 Youth March on D.C.

When he was 13, he attended his first demonstrations for rights when he walked from his house to a picket line protesting Jim Crow at a Woolworth’s lunch counter at 14th Street and Park Road NW.[6]

By the time he was 16, he joined national marches in the city led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Dr. King used to make a lot of appearances in Washington speaking at rallies. I used to attend them,” Booker recalled.[7]

King led a series of national demonstrations beginning with the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom that drew upwards of 25,000 people to call on President Dwight Eisenhower to enforce the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decisions finding segregated public schools illegal.

King followed up with the 1958 and 1959 youth marches for the same purpose and these run-ups to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom cemented his national leadership of the civil rights movement and gained valuable experience staging mass demonstrations.

Booker also began reading and raising his consciousness.

“When I was in junior high school I read the Communist Manifesto. I have read it several times since then. I began to really become aware of what was going on. I’ve always been an avid reader,” Booker remembered.[8]

Booker graduated from Roosevelt High School in June 1961 where he played football as an offensive lineman.[9]

Critique of white supremacy at D.C. schools

Reginald Booker at Roosevelt High School: 1957

Reginald Booker (front row, far left) in 1957 at Roosevelt High School.

Booker spoke to Afro American reporter Chuck Stone by phone in December 1961 after an article on white supremacist practices in the District schools, including Roosevelt, was published in the Afro.

Stone interviewed Rosa K. Weiner, a white Fulbright Scholar and honors graduate of Radcliffe College, who had been a teacher at Western and Roosevelt high schools before resigning in protest of their racist practices.

Based on the interview, Stone wrote that “Several high school administrators repeatedly made derogatory statements about colored people, defended segregation in the District school system, called all colored students ‘potential criminals,” and referred to colored people as ‘coons,’” according to Weiner.

Booker, who had only graduated months before, confirmed the central charges made by Weiner.

School administrator accused of white supremacy: 1961

Vice principal Walter E. Horn.

Booker was quoted as saying, “Everything you wrote in that article was true. The white teachers at Roosevelt gave Miss Wiener a hard time because she treated the colored students decently. There were all kinds of racial segregation at Roosevelt because of [assistant principals] Mr. [Walter E.] Horn and Mrs. [Erna R.] Chapman.”

Stone said that Booker confirmed details of Wiener’s account including the barring black students from the stage crew and the refusal to permit black students to work in the school bank. “They let everybody work in the bank even Chinese, but no colored girls,” said Booker.

However, Stone said it was Booker who offered the sharpest indictment of the school system:

Vice principal accused of white supremacy: 1961

Roosevelt High School vice principal Erna R. Chapman.

“The basic track system operates. Even when colored students make “A’s” and “B’s,” they are still never promoted out of the basic track. Many white teachers are racially prejudiced against them and colored students just don’t have a chance to improve.”[10]

In perhaps his first public speaking engagement, Booker attended an April 9, 1963 hearing on reinstating corporal punishment in the schools and a policy permitting expulsion of students with disciplinary problems that was proposed by superintendent Carl Hansen.

Despite the overwhelming sentiment at the hearing in favor of the proposal, Booker testified against it, saying that Hansen’s plan “would only build resentment” among students.[11]

Booker joins CORE

Marchers demand job & housing equality in DC: 1963

A 1963 CORE demonstration in D.C.

After graduating from high school, Booker became involved with the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) that was then headed by Julius Hobson. CORE took direct action to break down segregation in this period prior to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“CORE at that time was the only organization that was doing anything in Washington,” Booker said.[12]

In the early 1960s, there were few shopping areas outside of downtown Washington, D.C. The commercial district was concentrated along 7th Street NW and F Street NW where department stores like Woodward and Lothrop, Kann’s, Garfinkel’s, the Hecht Company and Lansburgh’s were located along with a host of specialty stores.

The lunch counters and restaurants downtown were mostly integrated for customers during the Mary Church Terrell-led picketing and lawsuit of the early 1950s,[13] but employment remained largely segregated with better paying jobs reserved for whites.

“CORE integrated all of the department stores downtown. As I remember we picketed all of the department stores.”[14]

CORE picked up in 1961-62 where a group of ministers had left off in 1959, putting pressure on selective downtown stores to do meaningful hiring and promotion of black workers, using tactics of picketing, boycotts and the issuance of a “Christmas Selective Buying List” that named stores that had meaningful de-segregation policies.[15][16]

The group had success reaching agreements with Hecht’s, Lansburgh’s, Woodward & Lothrop, Kann’s, Jelleff’s, Hahn’s Shoe Store, Bond Clothes, Raleigh’s Haberdasher, William Allen Shoes, among others.[17][18][19]

Lansburgh’s was among the toughest to crack and picket lines lasted several months. The downtown store employed 1,000 workers of whom about 200 were black, but only 11 were sales clerks and 17 were in clerical jobs at the time of the picketing and boycott.[20]

Hospital desegregation

Black doctors fight hospital discrimination: 1960

1960 conference on integrating District of Columbia hospitals.

CORE also turned its attention to desegregating hospitals and began its effort at the one that almost cast a shadow on Booker’s home.

“CORE broke up discrimination in the hospitals in the District of Columbia in terms of segregating patients by race in rooms. I remember very specifically we started in the Washington Hospital Center. They’d had an admission policy segregating black and white patients according to race.”[21]

Black doctors organized through the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Washington and the Imhotep conference had pushed for admitting privileges and integrating patients, but did not engage in direct action.[22] CORE protests began at the WHC June 11, 1964[23] and days later seven were arrested for staging a sit-in in the main lobby.[24]

Tim Coleman, a spokesperson for the hospital at the time, acknowledged the practice, “The Hospital does separate its patients by race when it creates an emotional environment that contributes to the recovery of the patient.”[25]

Within a few more days of picketing, the hospital gave in and reached a settlement with the NAACP, CORE and the Urban League to assign rooms without regard to race. The agreement was brokered by hospital trustee Gilbert Hahn and called for an end to picketing and the dropping of charges against the seven arrested.[26]

“Then the rest of the hospitals began to fall in line,” Booker said.[27]

CORE began picketing Casualty Hospital next and reached an agreement similar to the Hospital Center July 17th[28]. Columbia Hospital for Women voluntarily complied before picketing started.[29]

Hobson fired from CORE

Hobson seeks D.C. Delegate post: 1971

Julius Hobson in 1971.

Prior to the hospital pickets, Hobson had been pressuring the school system to improve education for black children and charged that 10 years after the Bolling v. Sharpe decision outlawing segregation in District public schools that black children were still segregated and getting inferior education.

In March 1964, he called for a one-day school boycott on April 30th and a week-long series of pickets and civil disobedience.[30] Almost immediately mainstream civil rights organizations condemned the boycott [31]

Hobson, after meeting with school Superintendent Carl F. Hansen, later called off the boycott saying that Hansen committed to 90 percent of what he [Hobson] was trying to achieve, but vowed to monitor school system progress.[32]

Hobson’s leadership at D.C. CORE had been under attack from a group of dissidents that accused him of “undemocratic procedures.” He had been re-elected the previous month to head the local group, but James Farmer, the national director, removed Hobson and placed the local CORE chapter in receivership during the time the hospital pickets were ongoing. For a brief time two groups claiming to be D.C. CORE were staging pickets.[33]

Booker on Hobson’s firing

CORE leader James Farmer: 1963 ca.

CORE national leader James Farmer in 1963.

Booker explained that he thought Hobson was expelled for stepping on the toes of powerful people that funded moderate civil rights organizations.

“Well, under the leadership of Julius Hobson—the reason I keep stressing Hobson’s name is because Julius Hobson was the only black person in Washington at that time who had the courage to do anything public and take what was then considered a radical or revolutionary position about the position of black people in this city.”

“CORE advocated a school boycott and at that time after CORE advocated a school boycott, and after CORE attacked the hospital policies here, for whatever reasons Julius Hobson was dismissed from CORE by James Farmer, who at that time was the national director of CORE.”

“A lot of people who sit on the board of directors of these hospitals are the big named people [who] are also involved in getting finances to CORE.”

“Also when CORE advocated a school boycott here it really scared a lot of people. You see it really speaks to whether or not at that time James Farmer or people like him were really sincere and committed to carry this struggle as far as it could go…”

Formation of ACT

Gloria Richardson Dandridge returns to Cambridge: 1967

Gloria Richardson Dandridge in 1967.

“[Hobson] subsequently formed a group called ACT, A-C-T. I went along with Hobson pretty well with Charles Cassell…who was also very active in CORE and very active in the group called ACT that we formed.”[34]

Direct action advocates such as Gloria Richardson from Cambridge, Md.,; Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.); Jessica Gray of Harlem, N.Y.; Stanley Branch of Chester, Pa.; and activist comedian Dick Gregory all attempted to form a national ACT organization along with Hobson. Malcolm X sent a representative to the initial meeting.[35][36]

“So it was really the people who were really acting in terms of being publicly active in taking radical positions, or committing radical or revolutionary acts,” Booker said.[37]

ACT never really took off on a national level although Hobson continued to lead the organization for several years locally.

Booker explains his viewpoint on why civil rights organizations generally faltered in the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the belief of many that demonstrations were no longer necessary.

“I really don’t think the civil rights bill did, for all practical purposes, didn’t help out the masses of black people.”

“I think there was a lot of publicity, a lot of fanfare surrounding the civil rights bill, because the people who pushed the civil rights bill, which the civil rights bill was a liberal piece of legislation—they wanted to make the black people believe that this was going to cure all, when in fact the civil rights bill hasn’t solved anything.”

“I don’t think there was a long rang perspective in terms of this being a protracted struggle, in terms of this being an international struggle.”[38]

First leadership role

District Action for Racial Equality (DARE): 1963

The Washington Post August 17, 1963.

In 1963 while still working with Hobson within CORE, Booker joined with other activists to form the District Action for Racial Equality (DARE) as a direct action civil rights group focused on issues east of the Anacostia River.

Booker would become chair of the relatively small group.

DARE was one of the few District rights groups that supported Hobson’s call for a school boycott {along with the local SNCC chapter and Americans for Democratic Action).[39]

The group targeted the American Security and Trust Bank for picketing August 16, 1963 charging that only 73 out of more than 1,000 employees were black and only 11 of the black workers were in jobs above the blue collar level.[40]

The group also intervened in a planned eviction of eight people from a Barry Farms apartment in August 1963 after the District Welfare Department withheld assistance checks. DARE won a delay in the eviction until the mother, daughter, her sister and five children could find another place to live. DARE also expedited the payment of the withheld checks.[41]

The younger woman’s welfare was cut off because of an alleged violation of the “man in the house rule” where it was then presumed that if a man lived in the house he was taking care of the children and welfare payments were cut off. In this case the man was not the children’s father and under no legal obligation to support them.[42]

Booker and another DARE member worked on this case and brought four other Barry Farms residents to the meeting with the Welfare Department to discuss the case and related grievances.[43]

The “man in the house rule” was particularly onerous because it forced families to make a decision between splitting up to receive assistance or going without food and housing.

DARE also joined with SNCC to hold a “freedom rally” at the St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church on Shannon Place SE in Anacostia where the organizers told residents to hold rent strikes and public demonstrations to begin to address the issues plaguing the community.[44]

The rally was, in part, designed to build for a January 31, 1964 rally at the District Building the next day where, “Some 70 singing, marching students picketed the District Building…and demanded a ‘War on Poverty—Not on the Poor,’” according to the Evening Star.[45]

The protesters, organized by DARE, CORE and the Non-Violent Action Group (the SNCC affiliate at Howard), issued a flyer demanding “The city must have rent control and must create jobs by building hospitals, schools and low-cost housing that are needed.”[46]

In response to a District Commissioners order against discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, speakers promised to utilize this order in their fight against evictions by threatening to take black residents evicted from their homes and relocate them to white areas [47]

Drafted into the Army

Fort Jackson recruits at boot camp: 1965 ca.

Army recruits at boot camp at Fort Jackson, S.C. circa 1965.

Booker was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1965 where he was initially stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C.[48]

Booker was immediately faced with white supremacy in the service.

“Racism was very apparent, and very rampant in Columbia, S.C. for black soldiers… black soldiers could only go certain places in Columbia, S.C.”[49]

Booker went on to recount what led to a fight between black and white soldiers in his barracks.

‘They always had fights between black and white troops…see most of your non-commissioned officers in the army are white sergeants and a large percentage of them hail from the south. They still had their same rigid attitudes about black people, whether or not you were a solider.”

“I was involved in a race fight in our barracks where we lived then. I remember specifically, in the building that we lived we had approximately forty-four whites and we only had five blacks. Four brothers slept downstairs and one slept upstairs. One night the brother that was going upstairs was getting ready to go to bed, and they told him they didn’t want anymore ‘niggas’ sleeping upstairs.”[50]

After a few months at Fort Jackson, Booker was sent to Fort Hood, Texas.

“I was sent to Fort Hood, Texas; which is not too far from Dallas, Texas, which is notoriously racist. For example, right outside of the base at Fort Hood, Texas black soldiers could not go into certain restaurants…even though the Defense Department is supposed to put off limits, the establishment [that] does not serve all people.”[51]

After Fort Hood, Booker spent 18 months at Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he continued his civil rights activism as an active duty soldier.

Civil rights activist in the service

Protest amusement park that barred black soldiers: 1966

Protest at the Lawton, Ok. amusement park in 1966.

“After being stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, I was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma at which time I joined a local branch of the NAACP at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Because in the town, which is called Lawton, Oklahoma, there was an amusement park that was segregated, and they refused to admit black people to the park, including black soldiers.”

“On this basis, we used to picket and demonstrate at the park, the local branch of the NAACP which I was a member of and which I participated in actively.”[52]

Refused to go to Vietnam

When orders came for Booker’s unit to go to Vietnam, Booker refused.

“I was in a company that was predominately black. It was called an Ammo Company, and was scheduled to go to Vietnam. As a matter of fact, the company did go, but I didn’t go because I refused to go to Vietnam.”[53]

Booker explains at length his opposition to the Vietnam War was based on the concept of self-determination of nations and his view that the U.S. waged war against peoples of color in some excerpts from the 1970 interview.

“I think the whole question of Vietnam beside from being [a] military question [is] the question of self-determination…It’s not up to the United States to decide who’s going to rule Vietnam.”

“I think the whole war in Vietnam is a racial war…but I think if we look at the war In Vietnam we can see American troops—black troops in the United States Army in Vietnam constitute approximately 11 percent of the combat troops. They constitute at least 45 percent of the combat deaths.”

“The war is a race war. When the United States invaded Cambodia it was on the first picture that went out on UPI [United Press International], the picture of black soldiers with weapons on the Cambodians. Those Cambodians looked a lot like you and I…That’s a classic example where the white man is pitting black people against black people.”

“I think just on the subject of warfare if we look at the last two wars this country has fought, or been involved in on a major scale, they’ve been against non-white nations.”

“If we go back to the Korean War that’s still not settled, because they’ve only reached a truce at the 38th parallel. Once again the United States against an Asian country. Once again the United States psychologically partitioned Korea and called one part North Korea and one part South Korea.”

“Psychologically in the minds of people the United States has done the same thing in Vietnam. They call one part…North Vietnam and one part South Vietnam, because the United States found out that after France was defeated at the battle of Dienbienphu that Ho Chi Minh who [would] have been the popular elected president of Vietnam, the United States didn’t want that because they want to control Vietnam economically and militarily.”

“Okay we go back to the Japanese-American War. The United States had already won the war against Japan. It was not necessary to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. The reason the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japan was to tell the non-white world that we cannot be beaten; we are invincible.”

Fort Hood 3 announce refusal to go to Vietnam: 1966

The Fort Hood 3 publicly refuse orders for Vietnam-1966.

Booker explains why he thinks he was not disciplined for his refusal to go to Vietnam with his company.”

“So at the time I was in the Army this anti-Vietnam sentiment just began to surface in the Army. I don’t think they really knew how to deal with it. Plus the situation of the fact that soldiers were sort of touchy, they didn’t want to, at least on that level, do anything to the black solider that would sort of incite other black soldiers to take the same action.”

“After I got out of the service then they began to take a hard line…position. Then soldiers, both black and white, began to express their views more in terms of being opposed to the war in Vietnam.”[54]

Booker was honorably discharged in January 1967.[55]

School Boycott

D.C. School Superintendent Carl Hansen: 1961

D.C. school superintendent Carl Hansen in 1961.

Booker immediately thrust himself headlong into civil rights work upon his return to civilian life; rejoining ACT and Julius Hobson with whom he had corresponded during his time in the service.[56]

Hobson had not given up on driving Superintendent Hansen out of office and improving public education in the District of Columbia.

The D.C. Board of Education implemented two policies that Hobson targeted–an optional-transfer zones system and a track system that Booker had identified earlier.

The first gave residents “the option of transferring from nearby schools that were overcrowded and predominantly Negro to more distant schools that were integrated or predominantly white,” while the second placed students “in tracks or curriculum levels according to the school’s assessment of each student’s ability to learn.”[57]

Ability to learn was based on IQ tests and the recommendations of school personnel and which turned out later to be highly biased against lower socio-economic groups and against black students in particular.

If a student was placed in the “general” or “basic” track, they had no access to college preparatory courses.[58]

When Hobson’s daughter was placed in a “basic” track, he filed a class action suit against Hansen.[59]

While the suit was pending, the D.C. School Board re-appointed Hansen to another three-year term.

Booker to organize students

Booker organizer for student school boycott: 1967

The March 26, 1967 Washington Free Press lists Booker as organizer for the students.

ACT decided on a school boycott—the tactic that Hobson had been forced to abandon three years earlier by the opposition of other black leaders. Hobson appointed Booker as the organizer for student participation in the boycott.[60]

ACT held a meeting at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Anacostia March 29, 1967 where Hobson held a boycott planning session for about 35 people.

Booker, who had six years earlier blown the whistle on the track system, led 20 participants to a meeting about the future of Shaw Junior High School to publicize the call for a May 1st boycott of classes.

Booker and his compatriots disrupted the packed meeting of 275 people that Hansen attended, passing out flyers that called for the boycott protesting the re-appointment of Hansen.[61]

School administrators retaliated by threatening students with expulsion according to student leaders. One student was prevented by police from distributing flyers at Amidon Elementary School.[62]

William Richmond, an Anacostia student who headed a newly formed student high school group charged school officials used “serious intimidation” to stop activities related to the boycott. Richmond said that “some of us who haven’t gotten our recommendations for college yet are pretty worried.”[63]

Just prior to the boycott, Hansen circulated a memo to teachers and parents “hinting that grades might be lowered if they skipped classes,” according to the Washington Post.[64]

On the day of the boycott, ACT broadcast a four-hour “Freedom School” TV program for elementary school students and held a rally at the Sylvan Theater attended by several hundred people who later picketed at Eastern High School.

School system supplied figures showed about 1,200 absences higher than normal, concentrated in the Shaw area.  Hansen celebrated the relatively low number, but his merriment was short-lived.[65]

Hobson studies landmark D. C. school ruling: 1967

Hobson studies Judge Wright’s decision with attorney Bill Higgs.

On June 19, 1967 Judge J. Skelly Wright ruled in Hobson’s favor finding that “the Superintendent of Schools and the members of the Board of Education, in the operation of the public school system here, unconstitutionally deprive the District’s Negro and poor public school children of their right to equal educational opportunity with the District’s white and more affluent public school children.”[66]

The school board declined to appeal. Hansen quit as superintendent and attempted to appeal the decision, but the courts denied the appeal. Hobson had won his greatest victory with Booker at his side.[67][68][69]

Anti-Vietnam War

Reginald Booker urges end to war in Vietnam: 1967

Reginald Booker speaking at a July 15, 1967 antiwar rally in D.C.

Shortly after the school boycott ended, the Washington Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) held a rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument July 15, 1967 where Booker was one of the speakers.[70]

From the beginning of the antiwar movement, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and other relatively radical black organizations participated jointly in the antiwar movement with white activists.

As late as May 16, 1967, SNCC Chair Stokely Carmichael spoke at a local MOBE rally at Lincoln Memorial Temple where he told the half black, half white crowd that he was going to “build a war resistance movement or die trying.”[71]

Booker took the stage on July 15th and urged black women to have as many children as possible because “so many good black men are being killed Vietnam.”[72]

“Have them legitimately, illegitimately, any way you can have them,” he said referring to his belief in the war being genocide against black men.[73]

However, as black nationalism gained sway within the civil rights movement, more radical black groups began shunning the predominantly white anti-war movement and staging their own anti-Vietnam War protests.

Booker views on war and protests

Howard Students Confront Draft Director in Viet Protest: 1967

Howard students confront Selective Service chief Lewis Hershey in 1967.

Booker was among those who came to advocate this path and explained his thoughts in these excerpts from a 1970 interview.

“I personally think that black people should not be involved in coalitions [with] white people against the war. I think if white people in their own community want to support projects within the black community, that’s up to them. White people can take parallel action.”

“I do think it’s politically incorrect for black people not to take a position against the war. See what’s happening in the black community is that black people got caught up not working with the white man. So they don’t want to be opposed to the war because they would have been identified with working with the white man.”

“I was looking at a story in the National Observer where it said black college students…were becoming more practical. We can’t be concerned about the war ‘cause we’re still having problems at home.”

“In fact the war is based on race, and when in fact the war is designed to take off a certain segment of the unemployed black male population as well as the employed black population. This includes brothers who are coming out of college.”

“So black people got trapped, with not working with the white man they got trapped in not taking a political position against the war. I’ve heard many African brothers say man, no, we can’t work with the white man. You don’t have to worry about him, man. Let’s take a unified position against the war in the black community.”

“Now you remember when Dr. King came out against the war Roy Wilkins and these other so-called status Negroes attacked Dr. King’s position against the war. Roy Wilkins told Dr. King that [he should be] concerned about civil rights matters in the United States, and don’t worry about getting involved in international politics.”

“Dr. King could see, and he was moving along on another level of being publicly opposed to the war because of race. Because Dr. King was such a popular leader he could have attracted a mass following, not only among blacks, but among whites to oppose the war.”

“That’s one of the reasons I contend that he was killed; that he was moving toward that level. The white man saw the danger of him taking a public position against the war, knowing that if the black community being more attuned to what was going on in Asia would fall in line behind Dr King.”[74]

Antiwar actions

Panther Donald Cox at WUST: 1969

Black Panther Donald Cox speaks at the Veterans Day 1969 black antiwar rally at WUST radio station.

On April 26, 1968 Booker, a steering committee member of the Black United Front, spoke before a rally at Banneker Field by the Washington Black Anti-War Anti-Draft Union and told the crowd, “Let’s not die in Vietnam. Let’s die right here and take some these crackers with us—a drop of blood for a drop of blood, a life for a life.”

“The Viet Cong never built segregated schools or blew up churches in Birmingham, Ala., or called me a nigger. So the Viet Cong is not my enemy.”

“They’ll say a lot of this talk is revolution, but back in 1776, the white man had his revolution, and he didn’t say no prayers or sing no songs—he just took up arms,” Booker said to applause.[75][76]

The group numbering between 150-250 high school and college students then marched to the Selective Service headquarters on F Street NW.

On July 27th Booker, speaking for the Black United Front, once again took the stage with white antiwar activists—this time with Marcus Raskin of the Institute for Policy Studies and Michael Ambrose of the Federal Employees for a Democratic Society.

The event was billed as an anti-Humphrey “speak-out” in advance of the 1968 Democratic Convention and the antiwar protests that took place there.[77]Humphrey, the presumptive Democratic nominee and Richard Nixon, the presumptive Republican nominee had virtually identical positions on the Vietnam War.

Vietnam Moratoriums

Black students clash with police at White House: 1969

Black students from Coolidge H.S. clash with police near the White House during the first Moratorium.

During the Vietnam Moratorium of October 15, 1969 that involved upwards of two million people in antiwar events across the country, Booker helped organize a separate black-oriented event where he joined fellow black activists Rev. Joe Gibson and John Carter at Montgomery College in Maryland for a panel discussion on the war.[78]

He took a leading part in the D.C. chapter of the Black Coalition to End the War in Vietnam rally at WUST radio station where he spoke before 400 black people on Veterans Day 1969 just prior to the second Moratorium.[79]

Booker told the crowd that the Vietnam War is “designed to kill off unemployed black males in this country.”

“Black people are losing their lives in a senseless war in Vietnam when they should be losing their lives in Watts, Harlem, and 7th Street and Florida Avenue,” Booker continued alluding to fighting for rights at home.[80]

In May 1970 after President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the subsequent shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard, Booker joined Julius Hobson and Rev. Joe Gibson to urge demonstrators pouring into town to be peaceful.

They noted that the demonstrators would be predominantly white while the city was predominantly black with Hobson saying “…if you don’t want martial law, and if you don’t want black people to suffer, I would urge you to try to keep this thing nonviolent.”[81]

Niggers, Inc.

Booker confronts pro-freeway speaker: 1968

Booker, representing Niggers, Inc., confronts Colclough March 13, 1968.

Sometime in 1967, Booker formed a small group to organize black Americans in Anacostia called Niggers, Inc.

He was introduced at the July 1967 antiwar rally on the Monument grounds by Herb Kelsey, another black man and director of the Washington Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, as being from Niggers, Inc.[82]

By January 1968, the group was mentioned in the press.[83]

When Booker first began testifying at public hearings on transportation that were often conducted by white liberal officials, he seemed to take pleasure in watching their reaction when the name of his organization was announced.

It is said that he once baited Adm. O. S. Colclough, an executive committee member of the Downtown Progress business group that favored freeways; challenging Colclough to say the name of his group at a March 13, 1968 meeting.[84]

It was clearly part of Booker’s “in your face” style of confrontation politics after he was discharged from the Army.

The group probably gained more publicity than it had when it was active in the late 1960s when in 1975 it was revealed by the Rockefeller Commission that the four-member group was one of the targets of the CIA’s domestic spying and disruption campaigns of Operation Merrimack and Operation Chaos.[85][86]

Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis

Abbott hits highway hypocrisy: 1970

Sammie Abbott and Reginald Booker at a 1970 freeway hearing.

In the spring of 1967, Booker, a clerk with the General Services Administration, met Sammie Abbott, a white former labor organizer, Communist Party candidate for Congress, anti-nuclear activist and at that time an anti-freeway, pro-build Metro activist who was a founding member of an organization called the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis (ECTC).

Bob Levey and Jane Freundel Levey, who interviewed Booker in 2000, wrote that the two met at a tenants meeting called to protest conditions.

“One night in the late 1960s, Booker went to visit a friend who lived in an apartment complex along Eastern Avenue in Prince George’s County. The friend asked Booker to go with him to a tenants’ meeting, where residents were planning a protest over living conditions.”

“Booker spoke at the meeting about the need to organize and stay organized, to be vocal and stay vocal.”

“Afterward, a short, slight man approached Booker, He had a tuft of white hair and looked a bit like Mr. Magoo. The man said, ‘I liked the way you handled yourself,’ Booker recalls. ‘He invited me to his house to meet his family.”[87]

In an interview 30 years earlier, Booker remembered meeting Abbott under different circumstances.

“I got involved in the Emergency Committee [on the Transportation Crisis] in April of 1967…I remember that because I spoke at a rally on the Monument grounds in support of Muhammed Ali; that’s when I met Sam Abbott.”

“He explained to me what the Emergency Committee was and what they were trying to do. Subsequently I attended meetings off and on.”[88]

Booker’s memory in the 1970 interview doesn’t match up the dates. The rally he spoke at occurred in July 1967, but both men have passed on, making it difficult to know which version is correct.[89]

Regardless, the two would soon become a formidable team that drove public opposition to plans for freeways that would have crisscrossed the District of Columbia, dividing predominantly black neighborhoods and condemning several thousand black-owned homes for destruction.

Booker had been forced to move as a child during the massive urban renewal (often dubbed “Negro removal” by black activists} of southwest Washington that replaced black homes with what were then luxury low and high rises and federal government buildings.[90]

Booker recalled later, “Our family had already been uprooted by something we had no control over. I wasn’t going to let it happen to others.”[91]

ECTC origins

Build Rapid Rail Transit 1965

Sammie Abbott (far right) at a 1965 ECTC protest.

Freeway plans had been on the books since the mid 1950s, but didn’t gain widespread publicity until Abbott learned of plans to run the North Central Freeway through his home.

The ECTC was formed by Abbott of Takoma Park, Simon Cain of Lamont-Riggs Citizens’ Association, Thomas and Angela Rooney of Brookland Neighborhood Association and several others in 1965 spurred by the proposal to run the North Central Freeway through their neighborhoods.

The group became outraged when they realized that other proposed freeway alignments through white neighborhoods had been largely dropped from plans, leaving only planned highways that would run mainly through black communities.[92]

The 1959 freeway plans included two inner beltways through the city, and connecting freeways that crosscut the city as well as a new bridge crossing the Potomac to bring Virginia residents into the city.

Planned freeways had names like Inner Loop Freeway, Southwest Freeway, Southeast Freeway, North Central Freeway, Northeast Freeway, Potomac Freeway, Palisades Freeway, K Street Freeway, Industrial Freeway, West Leg, North Leg, East Leg and Center Leg and Three Sisters Bridge.[93][94]

The group, unlike many “not in my backyard” freeway opponents, opposed all planned freeways and didn’t seek to simply move the alignment out of their neighborhood.

Thomas Rooney, one of the founders, testified for ECTC at a National Capital Planning Commission hearing in 1967 attended by 750 people saying, “We will not accept any freeways. They are being used as instruments of racial injustice.”[95]

Instead of freeways, ECTC pushed to build the planned Washington Metro system.[96]

Cain, a black man, was the first chair of the group with Abbott serving as publicity director.

On the legal front, the group enlisted Peter S. Craig, a highly skilled attorney and a veteran of freeway battles, as their attorney.[97]

Despite its theme of racial injustice and the involvement of several black community leaders, the group could only mobilize a predominantly white, middle income crowd at public hearings and protests.[98]

Booker chair of ECTC

Anti-freeway activist Cassell speaks at Eastern High: 1968

Booker recruited Charles Cassell as a vice chair of ECTC.

Booker recalls that when he ascended to chair of the organization, it was to bring more militant leadership.

“In February 1968 I was elected chairman of the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis. Because it was at that time it was decided the Emergency Committee needed a different type of leadership, because the past leadership was so-called moderate leadership.”

“At that time we proceeded—to put the Emergency Committee on the map, so to speak.”[99]

Booker wasted no time. In his first public statement as chair, Booker hailed a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals to issue a February 9, 1968 temporary injunction against all D.C’s freeway plans, including acquisition of land.

“The Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis hails this decision and will redouble its efforts to unite the citizens in this fight against unwanted freeways that the highway lobby and its political stooges want to shove down our throats,” Booker said in a release.[100]

Gregory Borchardt wrote in his thesis on the D.C. civil rights movement that the ECTC then broadened its base.

“Although Abbott remained the publicity director and an essential creative force for ECTC, Booker and he worked together to develop the message and plan the campaigns.”

“ECTC also approached Marion Barry Jr. of Pride, Inc. and Charles I. Cassell of the newly formed Black United Front to serve as vice chairmen. With more prominent black leadership, ECTC began attracting a significant number of black citizens from the communities threatened by the freeways by the late 1960s.”[101]

Dynamics of race

Booker recalled that Abbott understood the dynamics of race.

“Sam had tremendous political insight and instinct. He could build a superior organization, and he understood human nature.”

“He didn’t want people to feel that he was a white man manipulating a black man. He would always defer to me. There was one public spokesman, and that was me.”[102]

Their opponents were business interests, the appointed mayor and city council and Congress through William Natcher (D-KY) chair of the House Subcommittee on District Affairs—virtually all the white political and economic interests.

The Leveys wrote about a 1967 hearing on the East Leg of the Inner Loop  in The End of Roads:

“Abbott was quick to note that the white establishment supported every inch of the highway plan. Among those who testified in favor at the 1967 hearing were the American Automobile Association, the Greater Washington Central Labor Council, the National Capital Transportation Agency, the Federal City Council, the Washington Trucking Association and the local chapter of the Automotive Trade Association.”

“Meanwhile, the cement, steel, rubber and concrete lobbies were solidly lined up behind the proposal.”

“Abbott dubbed all of the organizations ‘stooges.” He noted none of their witnesses had black skin.”[103]

White man’s road through black man’s home

White Man’s Road Through Black Man’s Home: 1968

ECTC poster designed by Abbott with the slogan popularized by Booker.

In January 1967, Abbott used the words “a white man’s road…through black men’s homes,” in testimony before the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) on the North Central Freeway.

Abbott may have used the words first, but Booker turned them into a slogan that galvanized black opposition to new highways and put the issue in stark racial terms. Abbott, a graphic arts designer, produced the dozens of posters and flyers that featured it.[104][105]

Booker was convinced that race stood behind the decisions in a city that was governed by a presidentially appointed mayor and council and overseen directly by Congress.

“The whole freeway situation was predicated on race, economics and militarism.”

“Race because the freeway was designed to always designed to come through the black community.”

“Economics because it was designed politically and economically to destroy black communities, especially black home owners, where most black people invest most of their money into buying a home.”

“Military-wise, the freeway nationally are designed to ring the big cities with highways and freeways which makes it easier to bring troops into the big cities.”[106]

Booker was no pacifist and as the battle over freeways came closer and closer to a critical juncture, Booker echoed the language of the Black Panther Party at a hearing December 3, 1968 at Hine Junior High School at 335 8th Street SE.

After charging that the current freeway plan was racist and that the planning commission and the city council were “thieves,” Booker drew applause from the crowd of about 100 when he said, “Black people should take up arms to defend their community.”[107]

Booker and Abbott led a fierce, determined, militant, uncompromising opposition to freeways and for public transportation over the next few years involving literally hundreds of public hearings, city council meetings, protests, community meetings, press conferences and other events to galvanize public opinion.

Some of the key turning point battles included a protest of increased bus fares that morphed into a demand for public takeover of the city’s private bus company; their attempt to reclaim homes condemned for the North Central Freeway in the Brookland neighborhood; a city council meeting that erupted into a near riot when the city council moved to approve freeways; and a series of demonstrations at the site of the proposed Three Sisters Bridge.

Bus boycott and public ownership

O. Roy Chalk buys transit company in the District: 1956

O. Roy Chalk purchases the Capital Transit Co. in 1956 and renames it D.C. Transit.

The bus boycott of 1968 was a pivotal moment in D.C. public transit history and Booker and the ECTC were at the center of the storm.

Up until this point in time, transit advocates had largely confined themselves to calling for more service and lower fares on the existing privately-run D.C. Transit Co. system.

However, there had been periodic calls for public subsidy or government takeover, including calls by the advisory D.C. Citizens Council, an offer to sell by owner O. Roy Chalk himself and a study being conducted by the transit authority that was then planning to build the rail system.[108][109][110][111]

It was during this bus fare campaign the ECTC demands evolved until the number one demand was calling for a takeover of the system by Metro.[112][113]

The impetus for the protest began in August 1968 when D.C. Transit applied for an emergency bus fare cash increase from 27 cents to 30 cents—an 11 percent increase and tokens from 25 cents to 30 cents—a 20 percent increase. The proposed increase was the second in less than a year.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission nearly gave the increase to the company without public hearings, but elected to hold the public forums to hear “new facts.”

The company actually made two proposals, the 30 cent fare if approved without hearings and a 35 cent cash, 30 cent token and one cent transfer fee if hearings were to take place.

The Chair of the Transit Commission, George A. Avery, said at a news conference August 15, 1968 that an increase was needed because of losses in revenue due to the disturbances following the killing of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a week-long suspension of night service carried out by the transit union following the shooting death of operator John Earl Talley.[114] The company also blamed the Poor People’s Campaign’s two-months of protests.[115]

Public Hearings

Rev. Joe Gibson opposes bus fare increase: 1970

Rev. Joe Gibson at a 1970 bus fare increase press event.

The ECTC came to the first hearing at 1815 N. Ft. Myer Drive in the Rosslyn, Va. area on August 25th loaded for bear.[116] The hearing had scarcely got underway when both Booker and Abbott were ejected by police.

As Avery opened the meeting, Booker jumped up and demanded to be heard immediately. Avery told him to wait until the appropriate time.

“You listen—this is the appropriate time to hear from us. This hearing is a sham…This three member commission is racist,” Booker shouted.

The three-member commission was made up of representatives from the District, Maryland and Virginia and all were white.[117]

Booker continued that  the meeting should be held in the District of Columbia at night instead of in Virginia during the day.

Avery tried to stop Booker from speaking, but Booker continued and Avery warned him, “If you don’t want to go to jail…go out peacefully.”

But Booker refused to stop speaking saying, “You can’t decide fares for the black people of D.C.”

As Booker was hustled out by a police officer, Abbott stood up and continued where Booker left off.

“We don’t see a black sitting up there and a majority of bus riders are black.”

Avery threatened to hold Abbott in contempt, but Abbott kept talking saying, “You made up your mind in advance to give O. Roy Chalk (D.C. Transit’s owner) a fare raise.”

Abbott was then taken out.[118]

Rev. Joe Gibson, another ECTC activist who was pastor of the Nash Methodist Church in Brookland, waited his turn to speak and told the commission, “It is time for the government…to give us a say in what happens in our life.”

The Washington Post reported:

“Rejecting the idea that D.C. Transit should get its requested fare rise to 30 cents, either in cash or by token, in order to get out of the red, Mr. Gibson suggested that the privately owned bus company go out of business and let others take over.”[119]

When a second hearing was scheduled for the District Building on September 4th, the ECTC moved into action calling for a complete overhaul of the transit commission.

A flyer issued by the group called on District residents to “speak out against highway robbery by O. Roy Chalk” and called for a 15 cent cash fare, an unlimited $1.50 weekly pass and free school fares in order to restore bus ridership.

The Washington Post wrote, “The Committee’s (ECTC’s) main purpose, however, is to reform the Transit Commission by adding Negro representation from Washington and making better service and lower fares a principal aim of the agency, Abbott said.”[120]

Reginald Booker at an ECTC meeting: 1969 ca.

Reginald Booker at an ECTC meeting circa 1969.

When Booker stood and took the microphone at the hearing he said, “I’m going to be the first black person to lead the people on the bus and refuse to pay the fare.”

“I believe in a lot of action, I believe in resistance, and I believe in revolt and I believe in revolution,” he added speaking to the crowd of 350 that crowded the council chambers.

When Avery appeared to be laughing during Booker’s testimony, Booker said, “He’s laughing…We’ll deal with him on the street.”

Gibson added that he would lead a boycott and “we shall guarantee them a loss such as they have never seen before.”[121]

Booker’s and Gibson’s remarks were coupled with testimony that applauded the possibility of bankruptcy for the company, holding that would leave the door open for public takeover.[122]

Others echoed the ECTC’s militant testimony complaining of poor service, dirty buses and a lack of air-conditioning.[123]

As if Chalk could see the writing on the wall, D.C. Transit’s parent company Trans Caribbean Airways, divested itself of the company—making it an independent firm on September 5, 1968. Chalk’s predecessor, Louis Wolfson, made the same move with the old Capital Transit Company prior to be forced by Congress to sell the transit company.[124]

At the third and final hearing, D.C. Transit’s Harvey M. Spear testified that “as a private enterprise, we can’t be expected to carry the sociological and political obligations of the government.”

He further denounced the “shocking…threats and blackmail” of speakers at the previous hearings, cited financial figures on the company’s losses and urged quick approval of the fare increase.[125]

Jack Eisen, the Post’s transit beat reporter, wrote an analysis after the hearings that he saw a divide widening between the company and the transit commission on one hand and the general public on the other. He wrote, in part:

“If D.C. Transit is losing money, as its uncontested figures show, that’s plain tough luck, the refrain ran; let it continue to lose until it is forced out of business and a public authority takes over to run the buses as a public service.”

“There is plenty of respectable support for the idea that buses should be publicly owned  and subsidized to keep fares low. Some even hold that buses should be free.”

“But a wide gulf separates this theory from reality. There is nothing in sight to suggest that Congress will provide money for subsidies. Without them even a public bus line would have to raise fares.”

Congress rejected public takeover

Brookland operators on first day of strike: 1955

Congress rejected a public takeover of D.C. buses during the 2-month 1955 strike. Shown here is Brookland Division on the first day of the walkout..

Congress had previously rejected public ownership during the two-month 1955 strike by the transit union, instead revoking Louis Wolfson’s franchise and requiring a sale where Chalk ended up buying the company.[126][127]

Eisen pointed to one flaw in the system—the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission.

“It is squeezed…by the law under which it operates, which says it must consider traffic, patronage, costs and profits, but omits any mention of public opinion.”[128]

Avery, as chair of the commission, sought relief and wrote a letter to Mayor Walter Washington and city council chair John Hechinger appealing for a public subsidy to forestall fare increases.

He wrote that when rising costs push fares “to levels which are inconsistent with sound public policy then a portion of operating the system should be assumed by the community at large.”[129]

A fare increase was granted by the commission October 29, 1968 on a temporary basis.

The approved increase lowered slightly D.C. Transit’s request—30 cent cash fare, but kept a discount for tokens at $1.05 for four tokens. Maryland, interstate, and special route fares were also increased.

The commission approved the increases on a “no-profit” basis because of a pending decision on the so-called Bebchick suits. Bebchick, the attorney for a number of civic groups, sued the commission for approving prior fare increases that provided D.C. Transit with excessive profits. The appeals court ruled in Bebchick’s favor, but a Supreme Court appeal was pending and put the decision on excess profits on hold.[130][131]

Abbott denounced the commission for acting in “obscene haste” on the increase and pointed out that if Chalk dropped his appeal in Bebchick suit and re-paid excess profits, the fare increase could have been avoided.[132]

Bus boycott and demand for public takeover

Riders let buses go by; wait for alternative rides: 1968

Bus riders wait for private cars to pick them up during the 1968 bus boycott.

The ECTC planned their boycott for December 2nd and for the first time, the demand for public ownership of the bus system was front and center.

Booker told a boycott meeting of about 65 people at Nash United Methodist Church that the demand is for public ownership of the transit system “for the riding public and not for profit.”

Booker went on to say that “black people are going to determine their own destiny in terms of D.C. Transit by any means necessary. It has been the extreme people, the militant people of the world who have made the gains.”

The question of who will control the bus system—a private company or public ownership, “rests with we the people, said Booker. “In warfare, you either win or you lose, you either kill or be killed.”[133]

Like a successful 1966 boycott led by Marion Barry and SNCC in D.C. that halted a fare increase, the boycott centered on the H Street-Benning Road NE corridor where alternative transportation would be provided, but the call was also for a city-wide boycott.[134][135][136]

The slogan for the week of the transit action was “Protest the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars for unwanted freeways for the few—and nothing for mass transit for the many.”

The boycott slogan itself was a simple, “Erase Chalk”—a demand to end the private ownership by O. Roy Chalk.

The other demands were codified as:

  1. Free bus rides for all school children “the same way they do in suburbia.”
  2. Abolition of the scrip system because it forces poor people to take long rides to redeem the scrip.
  3. Return to a $1.50 weekly pass with unlimited rides.
  4. Abolition of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Commission because it is racist with no black members.

Day of the boycott

Alternate transportation during D.C. bus boycott: 1968

An auto with the “hitchhikers thumb” in the windshield carries bus boycotters along H Street NE.

On the day of the boycott, only 40 of about 200 private vehicles that were scheduled to provide alternative service were available in the Benning corridor—cutting the boycott’s effectiveness as riders waited for private vehicles, but ultimately had to give up and take the bus.[137][138]

Rev. Gibson, the ECTC member who chaired the boycott committee, said the during the afternoon of the boycott, “I know we made a dent in him (O. Roy Chalk).”[139]

Most areas were unaffected by the boycott but the bus company conceded that “transit drivers who work in the Benning Road area every day report that the load was lighter,” according to Thomas Trimmer, the company’s transportation director.[140]

However, the main victory in the effort was solidifying around the major demand—public takeover of the private bus company.

In December 1968, fares were raised again—the third time in a year.[141]

By March 1970, transit riders were plagued with deteriorating service due to mechanical problems. More than 100 were regularly out of service on any given day–sometimes rising to as high as 125–resulting in scheduled buses being cut. Only 80 buses could be crippled on any given day to avoid cutting bus trips.[142]

1970 refusal to pay full fare

Hobson arrested in bus fare increase protest: 1970

Julius Hobson is arrested for refusing to pay the full bus fare in 1970.

On July 11, 1970, another fare protest took place as the commission raised fares from 32 cents to 40 cents. This time Edell Lydia (later Kwame Afoh) chaired a group opposed to the hike and campaigned to have riders pay only 25 cents of the 40 cent fare.

At least 16 prominent supporters of the fare protest were arrested including Julius Hobson, Marion Barry, Rev. Joe Gibson and Sam Abbott.

The coalition estimated its more than half of the bus riders on the H Street-Benning Road corridor paid less than the full fare, although these figures were disputed by the company.[143]

Hundreds march against bus fare increase: 1970

Part of the crowd that marched to the Capitol during the 1970 bus fare protests.

Days later on July 14th, Rev. Walter Fauntroy; Hobson, Booker; and James Coates, chair of the D.C. Board of Education; led a march of more than 250 people without a permit from Lincoln Park to the east gate of the U.S. capitol where more than 500 rallied, protesting the fare increase and calling for public takeover.[144]

The Black United Front and others sued the transit commission for fare increase charging the commission granted excess profits to D.C. Transit in a suit similar to Bebchick’s previous legal efforts.

At the time, the U.S. Senate had approved a takeover bill and the House was considering legislation.[145]

By October 14, 1972, the U.S. House of Representatives reversed itself and approved a Senate measure to authorize the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to take over the four private bus companies operating in the Washington area.[146]

Metro takes over the buses

 President Richard M. Nixon signed the bill days later–ending 110 years of private ownership of transit in the city. On January 14, 1973 Metro acquired the D.C. Transit and the former WV&M system in Arlington.[147] The next month on February 4th, Metro took over the former AB&W garages in Alexandria and Arlington and the former WMA garage on Southern Avenue in Maryland.[148]

As a footnote, the so-called Bebchick suits were ultimately successful producing an award worth over $8 million and vindicating the ECTC’s claims of the transit commission permitting excess profits for the D.C. Transit system.[149]

The public takeover was a resounding victory for Booker and the ECTC that adopted the demand for public takeover in the course of the fight over the 1968 fare increase.

While it had been raised in earlier years by others, when the ECTC adopted it, it galvanized public transit advocates outside their own circle around a simple and easily understood demand.

The ECTC ultimately rejected other possible paths such as lobbying for a congressional subsidy, even though precedent had been set through a subsidy for school children’s fares[150] and abandoned their previous demands of providing more power to  the Washington Area Transit Commission and diversifying its membership. In doing so, they chose the path that produced the greatest opportunity for public input.

Booker and the ECTC can be given credit for being the spearhead responsible for the creation of the region-wide publicly-owned, non-profit Metrobus system.

North Central and Brookland homes

Transit Committee Rallies to Renovate Homes: 1969

Reginald Booker speaks from the porch of a Brookland home he intends to reclaim.

Perhaps their most successful protest in terms of direct results was an attempt to reclaim 69 homes in the Brookland section of the city in 1969 that had been condemned for the North Central Freeway, construction of which had been blocked for a year by a court injunction.[151]

In a letter to Mayor Walter E. Washington, Booker wrote:

“We can only conclude, after 18 months, that the city will not meet its responsibility to the community where these 69 homes lie in shameful and wasteful deterioration. We can no longer permit the irresponsible decay of this attractive residential community…”

“Therefore, citizens will address this urgent issue by removing the boarding from these decaying residences on June 21, 1969.”[152]

On the appointed day, about 100 people mobilized by ECTC showed up in front of a block of houses on 10th and Franklin Street NE.

Booker gave a speech from the porch of a vandalized house accusing the District government of a “brazen attempt to break up black peoples’ political power because black home ownership represents black political power in this community.”

Reginald Booker Placed Under Arrest at Brookland Home: 1969

Booker is led out of the Brookland home and arrested by D.C. police.

Following his speech, Booker took a crowbar and pried off the plywood in front of television cameras and news photographers. A number of people entered the home with Booker and attempted to begin rehabilitation of the home. They were followed by D.C. police who arrested Booker and four others for illegal entry.

Abbott was also later arrested as he tried to enter the paddy wagon to join the others.[153]

The stark images created intense political pressure on the city and a few days later Mayor Washington announced the city would rehabilitate the houses and invited ECTC to help find occupants.

ECTC had won an immediate battle, but also part of a larger war. The return of the homes to the community slashed the throat of the North Central Freeway, though it would take a bit longer for It to finally die.

Their victory, however, was followed immediately by another crisis.

D.C. Council approves freeways

Stop the North Central Freeway 1969 # 1

Protesters disrupt the Aug. 9, 1968 city council meeting where chair Gilbert Hahn intends to take a vote supporting the planned freeways. Booker is standing, third from left.

Rep. William Natcher (D-Ky.), House Appropriations Committee chair withheld funds to build the subway and demanded that construction begin on the Three Sisters Bridge before he would release the rail money. Natcher did this despite a court order to the contrary and a vote of the appointed D.C. Council to abandon the project.

The D.C. City Council reversed itself and voted on August 9, 1969 to comply with the Federal Highway Act of 1968, giving in to Natcher and effectively approving the Three Sisters Bridge, the North Central Freeway and other freeway portions in order to obtain Metrorail funding.[154]

The Leveys say that the action had the approval of the Nixon Administration and wrote:

“The [city] council meeting that night was described as a ‘riot’ by the Evening Star, a ‘melee’ by the Washington Post. Fistfights broke out. Chairs were thrown. An ashtray whizzed past the ear of Council Chairman Gilbert Hahn Jr. Fourteen people were arrested.”[155] Hahn claimed the ashtray hit him.[156]

Clash with police in council chambers: 1969

A melee erupts as Chair Gilbert Hahn orders the room cleared prior to approving the freeways.

Hahn had begun the meeting, but was quickly shouted down by the crowd that demanded their speakers be heard as was customary at the beginning of council meetings. After numerous attempts to regain control, Hahn ordered the room cleared of everyone except council members, staff and security.

Hahn then conducted the vote which went 6-2 to comply with Natcher’s demands.[157]

Booker, then living on the 1900 block of Savannah Street SE, and Dennis Livingston, of D.C. Newsreel, were charged with felony assault for their tussle with guards and police while the others were charged with disorderly conduct.,[158][159][160]

In the aftermath of the hearing the ECTC prepared for the next stage of battle by first sharpening their attack and raising the level of vitriol directed against city officials.

Borchardt wrote in his thesis:

“They criticized the city’s leaders for selling out District residents and giving in to the blackmail and empty promises of ‘Congressional overlords.’ ‘The D.C. ‘Government’ now stands naked as a sham,’ an ECTC flyer alleged.”[161]

Booker later wrote in an ECTC flyer:

‘Since last June when ECTC started to publish the sins of the city’s colonial government–pointing out how our puppet mayor and puppet city council were helping to run White men’s roads through Black men’s homes – the spiteful and petty little men who govern this great city of ours have lodged some 33 criminal charges against us.”[162]

Climax at 3 Sisters Bridge

Smash the 3-Sisters Bridge: 1969

A poster calls for a rally to ‘smash’ the 3-Sisters Bridge.

The ECTC campaign against freeways would climax in a seemingly unlikely location—the proposed Three Sisters Bridge connecting Arlington with Georgetown just north of the existing Key Bridge.

Much of Booker’s and ECTC fire had been directed at planned roads through black neighborhoods and the Three Sisters Bridge was not located in any residential neighborhood and in a nearly lily-white, wealthy area of town.

Besides their general opposition to freeways, stopping the bridge meant stopping the North Leg that continued to remain in freeway plans despite the city’s verbal opposition to that alignment.

Booker consistently pointed out that the planned North Leg was to connect with the planned bridge and run through the U Street-Florida Avenue corridor—the historic Black Broadway and an overwhelming black neighborhood at that time. Booker viewed the bridge as the key to halting freeway construction.[163]

At a September 13, 1969 press conference Booker declared “war” on the District government and stated that “every tactic in the book” would be used to block the building of the freeway along U Street – T Street corridor.

“Any struggle up here will be fought on the issue of black nationalism,” he continued.[164]

3 Sisters Bridge confrontations

Protesters delay work on 3 Sisters Bridge: 1969

Students stage a sit-in at the Three Sisters Bridge site.

Students of the Vietnam War era at George Washington, American and Georgetown universities were attracted to Booker and Abbott’s militant opposition to freeways and strident attacks on white supremacy and formed a group D.C. Student Committee on the Transportation Crisis (DCSCTC).

The student group was strongly influenced by the more radical elements of the recently fractured Students for Democratic Society and the Yippies.[165]

As the beginning of construction of the Three Sisters Bridge loomed, students occupied the three islands that comprised the “Sisters.”

Battle of the Three Sisters Bridge: 1969

A bloodied student protester is arrested at the bridge site by police.

Beginning on October 10, 1969 and continuing for the next two months, the student group and adults opposed to bridge staged rallies, civil disobedience, marches and pickets that sometimes briefly halted the construction work.

Some of the protests used civil disobedience where several hundred were arrested. A few protests erupted into clashes with police.

Booker led perhaps the largest demonstration against the bridge when he headed up a 75-car caravan “Stop the Freeway Parade” through the city that featured baton-twirling youths and that culminated in a rally of about 500 people at the bridge site October 19th.[166]

At another rally on the campus of George Washington University on October 22nd, Booker told the crowd of 200 that students could create “conditions that make it impossible” to build the bridge.

“The bridge is going to be smashed,” Booker said in prophetic words–though probably not in the way he envisioned.[167]

Abbott echoed Booker’s use of Black Panther slogans during a speech to a crowd of 500 people at Georgetown University November 16, 1969—the day after a large anti-Vietnam War march.

By any means necessary

Abbott blasts D.C. freeway construction: 1967

Sammie Abbott at a 1967 freeway hearing.

The Washington Post wrote,

“Sammie Abbott, publicity chairman of the anti-freeway Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis, said “any means necessary” should be used to stop construction of the bridge, but he added that he would draw the line at any action that would tend to “split the black and white communities.”[168]

After the rally, several hundred students blocked traffic access to Key Bridge, at times clashing with police in the streets of Georgetown.

Freeway opponents conducted their own referendum on the bridge when the D.C. Board of Elections refused to place the question on the ballot by placing citizens at most polling places in the city with paper “yes” or “no” ballots that was conducted at the same time as the city’s school board election.

The ECTC demonstrated the success of their tactics in turning public opinion against the bridge when The Washington Post reported that with 47 precincts counted, 11,945 were against the Three Sisters Bridge while 5,459 favored it.[169]

While Booker and the ECTC were using confrontation politics to turn public opinion against freeways, Craig was fighting on the legal front. Borchardt said in his thesis:

“Peter Craig…manipulated the court system to continually thwart the highway lobby’s efforts to commence construction of the highway system.”

“By making powerful allies, employing creative legal arguments, and consistently winning judicial injunctions to stop highway construction, Craig led a parallel anti-freeway crusade in the courtroom.”[170]

The End of the Bridge

Call for 3-Sisters Bridge celebration: 1971

Celebration of another court victory on the 3-Sisters Bridge in 1971.

On August 3, 1970 Judge Sirica announced his decision, holding that…

“The court finds that the present design of the bridge is so substantially different from that proposed in 1964 that the public should be given an opportunity to present their views on the project as presently planned.”

“Last but not least, the cost of the present project is estimated at $20 million as compared with an estimate of $6 million in 1964.”

Sirica also ruled that no Federal-aid highway funds could be used for preliminary construction work on the bridge until tests took place to determine whether the design was structurally sound.[171]

With Natcher holding on to subway construction funds and the bridge on judicial hold, political pressure grew on Congress to release the subway funds so that at least one transportation project could move forward in the city.

In December 1971, the House overrode Natcher and voted to release the District of Columbia ‘s Metro construction funds.

Subsequent legislation allowed states to spend urban interstate funds on mass transit system. The District of Columbia was one of the first jurisdictions to take advantage of the new laws, canceling the North Central Freeway and Three Sisters Bridge and increasing funding for the planned Washington Metro system.[172]

In June 1972 Booker’s prophesy came true when Hurricane Agnes swept away the piers that had been constructed for the Three Sisters Bridge, leaving the three small islands intact, but no trace of the planned bridge.[173]

While courtroom battles, occasional protests and lobbying would continue until 1977, the freeway and bridge plans were effectively dead. Metrorail opened its first segment in 1976, completing the system in 2004 with an additional  line in Virginia where the first segment opened in 2014.

Victory

Freeway opponents picket mayor’s home: 1968

Picketing appointed Mayor Walter Washington’s home in 1968.

Perhaps even more so than the public acquisition of the private bus companies, it was an almost unbelievable victory spearheaded by the tireless Booker, Abbott, the rest of the ECTC and Craig on shoestring budgets against adversaries where there was no local elected government or congressional representation to put pressure on.

Booker reflected back in his interview with the Leveys that he became involved back in 1967 as a moral issue and that meticulous preparation for each phase in the battle and unyielding resolve were keys to victory.

“I couldn’t imagine why District officials would allow this. I had a responsibility even as one person to oppose it. What motivated me was that it was a moral question of right and wrong.”

The Leveys said Booker told them that, “to a large degree, the protesters were victorious because they planned carefully.”

The Leveys wrote, “From 1968 to 1972, ECTC conducted more than 75 street protests. It was able to draw on the ranks of anti-Vietnam demonstrators (many of them local college students ) for manpower.”

“As a result, almost no ECTC demonstration was smaller than 50 persons, and all were carefully biracial. That assured television and newspaper coverage and suggested a relentless determination that Booker believes may have worn opponents down.”[174]

Construction workers task force

Booker: hiring plan an ‘insult’ to the black community: 1970

Booker speaks at the Labor Department denouncing the “Washington Plan.”

Booker scaled back his work with ECTC in early 1970, taking on the role of chair of the Washington Area Construction Industry Task Force, although he continued to serve as chair of ECTC.[175]

The Task Force, one of many organized by the Urban League to confront discrimination in the workplace, seemed like an unlikely fit for Booker.

Booker, generally seen as a firebrand within the black community, was joining with more conservative members of the task force that included civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League, minority contractors, black business organizations and individuals.[176]

The task force sought to dramatically increase the number of black people working in the construction trades. Since the training and hiring on commercial and government construction was done primarily through the craft unions, this meant taking on organized labor as well.

The existing task force members must have thought that the confrontational tactics of ECTC may work for them as well.

Protest at Labor Department

Booker had his “coming out” when he staged a demonstration in front of the Labor Department on Constitution Ave. May 1, 1970 demanding 70-80 percent black workers on the Metro subway construction project. He was joined by his ECTC partner Abbott.

Booker pointed out to news reporters that 70 percent of the District’s population was black at that time while more than 40 people circled in front of the building.

The Labor Department was then in the process of developing a “Washington Plan” for minority hiring on all federally funded construction projects in the area.

The Department had earlier held hearings on developing the Washington Plan that Booker called a “sham,” because the task force was not allowed to question the witnesses.

Booker said the Labor Department had refused to take their demands seriously and promised to be back.

“This is just the beginning. Next time we’ll be back with 500 people…we want you to know we’re serious,” Booker told Labor Department officials during the demonstration.[177]

When the Washington Plan was announced, it set quotas of between 25 and 40 percent minority hiring for 11 skilled construction trades before the end of 1974 and lifted a freeze on Metro construction that had been in place because of the lack of black and other workers of color.[178]

Devoid of promise

Booker denounces Labor Department hiring plan: 1970

Plan is “devoid of promise.”

Booker immediately denounced the plan as “devoid of promise” and “wholly unacceptable” at a June 4, 1970 press conference at the Labor Department.

Specifically, the task force charged that the plan was diluted by including the predominantly white suburbs of Virginia and Maryland,

“It serves little purpose to offer an unemployed but eligible black construction worker residing in D.C. a job in Reston, Va. or some other remote construction site when in his own city the overwhelming majority of jobs will continue to go to whites,” the task force wrote in a letter to Secretary of Labor George P. Schultz.

The task force also blasted the Labor Department for excluding a number of crafts from the plan, including carpenters and operating engineers; for low quotas on unions like the sheet metal workers, for “discrimination committed over the years;” for “escape clauses” that make the plan unenforceable; and for not addressing the “restrictive” bonding and insurance requirements for federal contracts that are out of reach for most minority contractors.[179]

Booker explained in a 1970 interview that the task force was seeking an immediate overhaul of the whole union-sponsored apprenticeship program in order to rectify past and current discrimination.

Scrap apprenticeship programs

“We’re saying there’s no such thing as a minority hiring plan because politically we’re the majority of population numerically and otherwise [in the District of Columbia].“So we say our plan revolves around three things.”

“Number one, that we say that the government should scrap all apprenticeship programs and have specifically on the job training. Because if you have an unskilled black worker on the street, take him off the street and put him on a project and train him. The same way white immigrants got off ships and came here with no skills and now they’re owning and controlling construction industries.”

“Our plan also says that the jobs in Washington should be given out on the basis of percentage of blacks in the population; starting on every craft level. I mean the electricians, pipe fitters, steam fitters, etc., etc. This is the heart of our plan.”

“Now the government’s plan that they issued—we spoke to blacks having 80 to 90 percent of all the jobs on all construction projects with private or federal construction. The government’s plan speaks of 30 to 40 percent on a graduated scale over the years.”

“Strangely enough the government’s plan rewards the unions and the crafts that have practiced the most discrimination, with the least number of blacks being employed. They get to employ the least number of blacks.”

“On a legal level, we’re at the point of deciding whether or not to file suit against the federal government, which will probably happen in weeks to come, because even the government, as far as we can ascertain, has not lived up to its own plan. You can go now on the five biggest federal projects and they haven’t lived up to their plan.”[180]

Marxism and the black-white divide

Karl-Marx

Karl Marx circa 1870.

Booker, having studied Marx and incorporating a lot of Marxism in his outlook, felt that–contrary to Marxist beliefs–that black and white workers could never unite.

He viewed Marx as writing from and about Europe where there were not significant numbers of black workers at that time and thus he did not take into account contradictions between black and white workers.

“There cannot be coalitions between blacks and whites, because they have not solved the question of race,” Booker said.

“That’s why there can be no coming together of black and white workers because when everybody refers to Marx—when Marx wrote his dissertations on capitalism, he wrote it from a vantage point, at the time he wrote it in England, of looking at working class whites, both employed and unemployed.”

“He doesn’t speak to the issue of black workers—of black and white workers united. He just says workers unite. That ain’t gonna unite black and white workers.”

“It really boils down to the question of whether this is a struggle of race along class lines, as opposed to blacks and whites against all blacks and whites who are exploiting; or whether it’s a race struggle; black against white.”

“…during the civil rights movement I was involved with working with white workers, and they don’t see their plight. They don’t see themselves cooperating with blacks. White workers have been told that the black man is the cause of the fact that you don’t have a job; they’re the cause of all your ills..”

“I think that white people can educate white workers…It’s probably possible in their own community overall…could be educated about their situation in terms of the job, but they’re not going to be educated to the extent that it overcomes their racism. That’s what prevents uniting black and white workers.”[181]

Black and white workers can’t unite

White workers bar blacks from testifying: 1969

In 1969, Chicago white craft union workers bar blacks from testifying at a federal hearing.

Booker went further in response to an interview question and ruled out the possibility that black and white workers could ever unite.

“I’m saying under no circumstances will white workers ever see their interest with black workers, because of the fact at this particular time in this country the white workers are being organized by the government to move against the black community.”

“See this is why, for example, you had these hard hat marches [by construction workers in New York and elsewhere in favor of the Vietnam War]. This is the government’s fascist army and this Honor America Day is just an organizing tool for the federal government, to organize themselves against the black community. See the white workers interest, he feels himself being directly threatened by the black working man.”[182]

Community hearing

Community hearing told of construction job bias: 1970

Booker organized a community hearing to gain backing for sweeping changes.

Before the Labor Department released its “Washington Plan,” Booker pulled together a May 18, 1970 community hearing on discrimination in the construction industry that took testimony from groups and individuals on discrimination and solutions for the problem of black people getting skilled jobs in the industry.

Booker charged that unemployment among black laborers was “astronomical” while white laborers were brought in from as far as West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Construction Trades, Inc. chief Cordell Shelton told the group that bonding procedures effectively bar minority contractors, that existing training programs are useless and none employ blacks people as trainers or instructors. The panel then made its recommendations to the Labor Department.[183]

Booker followed up with another press conference held June 25, 1970 where he again attempted to ramp up the pressure on the federal government.

“The only thing the federal government understands is force and violence” and that soon “physical action” will be taken against construction projects that don’t meet task force goals.[184]

In November 1970 Booker was back in the news demanding that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority revise its bonding and insurance requirements after a black trucking company failed to get an award despite being the low bidder. Metro agreed to study the requirements, but made no other commitment.[185]

The task force blasted President Richard Nixon’s suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act that guaranteed a “prevailing wage”—which at that time meant a union wage—on federal construction projects.

Booker said the suspension was a “racist blow” since most black construction workers were excluded from unions and would bear the brunt of the lower wages as non-union workers.[186]

But after a year Booker left the task force for another Urban League initiated task force–perhaps his tactics proving too confrontational for the coalition’s members.

Booker proved correct

Booker proved correct in his criticism of federal and Metro hiring plans.

The Washington Post reported in November 1975, a year after the Washington Plan hiring goals were to have been met, that black skilled workers still composed a small percentage of the construction crafts.

They ranged from 8.6 percent of elevator constructors to a high of 38.9 percent of operating engineers. However, even those figures are misleading because most minority workers were concentrated among trainees and apprentices and not among the highest paid journeymen.[187]

It didn’t get much better 10 years after the Washington Plan was put into effect. None of the craft unions met hiring goals. Only an average of 10 percent of all journeymen across all construction craft unions were from a minority group.

As Booker predicted, the federal government did not enforce the plan. The District’s mayor’s office found that more than 60 percent of all reviewed building sites in the city did not meet hiring guidelines, but only two of 1,000 contractors investigated on site were barred from doing federally assisted construction which was the ultimate penalty for non-compliance.[188]

GUARD

HUD employees protest white supremacy: 1970

Black employees at HUD begin a series of protests Oct. 9, 1970.

While heading the construction task force, Booker became involved with another task force advocating for black workers in October 1970 when he helped lead protests of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) workers against discrimination within the agency.

The Government Employees United Against Racial Discrimination (GUARD) task force at the agency, HUD Employees Task Force Against Racism, called for an end to “institutional racism” and developed three demands:

  • Upgrade employees in the comptrollers division
  • Training at government expense
  • Transfer of all comptroller division supervisors who were on duty in April 1970 when the group first charged discrimination.

The group found Secretary of HUD George Romney (former presidential candidate, former governor of Michigan, father of presidential candidate and current Utah U.S. Senator Mitt Romney) unresponsive to demands and called a protest October 9, 1970.

Led by Booker, Leonard Ball (an Urban League employee assigned to GUARD), and HUD task force leader Ronald Wallace, GUARD called a sit in outside of Romney’s office where 300 workers waited seven hours to present their demands to Romney.[189]

Confrontation with Romney

George Romney 1964 RNC 02746u (cropped1)

George Romney in 1964.

When Romney emerged from his office and saw Wallace, he told him “Get back to work” and headed for the elevator.

When the elevator didn’t immediately arrive, Romney sprinted down 10 flights of stairs with the 300 employees following behind attempting to present their demands along with a petition that 600 workers had signed.

While Romney was descending the stairs, the three GUARD representatives made repeated attempts to give Romney their written demands, but Romney refused to take them.

When Romney got to his waiting limo, Ball asked him when he was going to respond to the group’s previous letter. Romney called out “None of your business.”

Once again Ball tried to shove the petition and demand letter into Romney’s hands. Instead of taking the papers, Romney shoved Ball away from the car and shouted, “Get away from the car,” slamming the door after which his driver put his foot to the floor to escape the crowd spilling out of the building.[190][191]

Romney’s information office later denied reporters’ accounts saying that “Romney said he got on the elevator and they wouldn’t let the doors close. He fought his way out and went down the stairs. They followed him…shouting obscenities.”

“He got in the car and this man Ball wouldn’t let him close the door…and he was in real trouble. Romney was holding this man out and trying to get the door shut.”[192]

The group had earlier staged a rally inside the HUD conference room attended by about 350 workers where Booker took the microphone usually used by Romney and blasted HUD discrimination.

“Here comes someone from West Virginia with a 9th grade education, wearing cheap clothes, and they get a higher grade job. Then here comes a black person, high school education, all dressed up in mod clothes, the latest styles, and they get a grade 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5—the nigger grades…” Booker said.

About 443 of the employees in the 810 employee comptroller’s division were black—but most were concentrated in lower pay grades.[193]

Hitting at “token” black people in the agency, Booker continued:

“He’s got a bush, and he looks good and he tells you to cool it and don’t rebel because he knows how you feel.”

“How in the hell can he tell you how it feels when he’s got a GS-18 and he’s eating in the executive cafeteria while you’re downstairs eating hotdogs.”

Protests continue

Protests of racism continue at HUD: 1970

Protests against white supremacist practices at HUD continued into the spring of 1971.

Protests continued October 12th when about 200 workers staged a sit-in outside the personnel office where they demanded to see their records. By the end of the day, most were able to review their records.[194][195]

Meanwhile, HUD employee protest leaders Ron Wallace and Anne Hagar set up a meeting the same day where Romney addressed several hundred workers in the L’Enfant Plaza theater where he admitted a slow response to discrimination saying the department “hasn’t been as effective as it needed to have been” in dealing with bias.

“I will admit there have been legitimate grounds for complains. But we have taken steps and will take more to see that a true equal opportunity program is established. But we can only do it in an orderly manner.”

“From now on every employee will be made aware of our [training] programs, and all vacancies will be clearly advertised.”[196]

The following day, dissatisfied with Romney’s response, another sit-in was conducted by about 100 employees where Booker told them federal workers from around the city would join them for a demonstration on October 19th and promised to escalate tactics by organizing a work slowdown.[197]

On October 15th about 150 workers protested outside the HUD building before going to the cafeteria where they heard Booker tell them that on Monday, they needed to be “ready to fight” and that black employees are not going to tolerate any more “mistreatment from supervisors.”[198]

Protest continued October with a GUARD city-wide rally at HUD October 19th[199]and finally on October 29th HUD responded granting many of the task force’s demands.

The group, which had expanded their demands to 16 points, had HUD grant 12 of them and announced the promotion of 42 employees in the comptroller’s department by November 15th with a review pending on another 200 workers.

HUD refused to transfer the supervisors in the comptrollers department, upgrade all employees below grade 10 and establish a majority black panel to study promotions.[200]

An employee spokesperson told The Washington Post that most of the solutions were “acceptable” but that at least three needed more clarification, particularly one where the group was calling for amnesty for all employees involved in the three weeks of protests.[201]

But the protesting HUD employees quickly found out that the agreement was not what it seemed and 103 employees were docked one day of pay for the October 12th sit-in. The employees immediately appealed the discipline.[202]

Booker president of GUARD

Booker denounces freeways: 1968

Reginald Booker in 1968

In April 1971, Booker was chosen as president of GUARD–the city wide task force and took a paid position with Urban Law Institute—an organization that assisted GUARD with legal help.[203]

By then GUARD had expanded to 16 federal agencies and two District of Columbia Departments—sanitation and fire–and had about 1,500 dues paying members. About 1,100 of those were federal employees.

GUARD was organized by the Urban League in early 1970 with Robert White as its president. White was the local president of the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees, the historic black postal union formed when the initial unions wouldn’t permit black people to join. When White was elected national president of NAPFE, Booker took the helm of GUARD.

Phillip Shandler wrote in his Washington Star Federal Spotlight column that “Booker has brought to GUARD a pungent style of leadership sharpened by several years of fighting freeways that threatened to displace black homes in the District.”

“Booker’s rhetoric is important in appealing to younger blacks not turned on by older union and civil rights leaders, says Leonard Ball, the GUARD coordinator on the staff of the Washington Urban League.”

“The GUARD task forces create and sustain pressure on agencies to upgrade blacks—either in direct response to GUARD demands or in negotiations with the union, Ball says.”[204]

Shandler reported that while few unions pressed discrimination vigorously, GUARD had good relations with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) at the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Census Bureau, and the Departments of Health, Education and Welfare and Housing and Urban Development.[205]

Shortly after Booker took the helm of GUARD, the HUD task force staged a four-hour demonstration of about 160 employees May 13, 1971 outside the offices of Lester Condon, assistant secretary for administration. They were seeking an affirmative action plan that HUD officials had been promised to be ready the previous week.

Condon responded similar to Romney and refused to meet with the demonstrators telling them to get back to work, but the protesters refused.

Condon followed up by issuing one-day suspension notices to about 160 workers and five-day suspension notices to four of the leaders.[206][207]

Booker responded that the agency is violating something more important than a personnel regulation—the human spirit of its minority employees in the interview with Philip Shandler.[208]

EEOC rules in employees’ favor

EEO finds ‘pattern or practice of discrimination’ at HUD: 1971

HUD found guilty of racist practices–Oct. 1971.

In October, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a decision on the original HUD suspensions for the October 13, 1970 sit-in and found a “historic pattern or practice of discrimination” that dated back to the agencies that preceded the formation of HUD.

While the findings were only recommendations, appeals examiner Julia P. Cooper recommended that discipline be set aside.

She further found that black employees were immobile in the lowest grade levels while whites moved ahead; that the department brought in black workers at the lowest hiring levels despite their experience or education; neglected to, concealed knowledge of or denied training opportunities to black workers; penalized those who complained of discrimination, and permitted white supervisors who committed these acts to continue in their positions for years.

Cooper said in her finding that testimony of the 88 witnesses “paints a picture of a waste of human potential—one totally out of focus with the trend of current law.”[209]

Further she found that HUD management made no changes until after the protests occurred.

“Other plans or minor changes were discussed or announced but it was not until the latter part of 1970, after the October 13th event here in question, that positive action to ameliorate the problems materialized,” she said.[210]

On the issue of discipline, Cooper found that that the lost pay or forced leave for participating in the protest was taken “under questionable circumstances and without fair warning and equitable application.”[211]

Cooper cited as examples of blatant discrimination a black female “of 28 years of service who reached the Grade 4 level after 18 years as a Grade 3” and Grade 5 after 10 years as a Grade 4.

Cooper cited another case of “a female with almost 30 years of government service who said she had trained many a white person, and they had gone on,” but she was not permitted to promote to supervisor.

Black workers with less service time were also affected according to Cooper. A black female with two years of college, two years of accounting, training in programming and clerical status was employed as a Grade 2 keypunch operator.

Cooper found that whites who were friendly with black workers were treated similarly where such “offending” whites received the discrimination usually reserved for black workers.[212]

Ronald Wallace, the chair of the HUD Task Force Against Racism, said his group was largely satisfied, but would continue to press “to get rid of racist supervisors.”[213]

However, Romney quickly denied the findings saying that his record “speaks for itself…”

“The percentage of minority citizens in our Washington offices has increased from 31.6 percent in 1969 to 40.5 percent at the present time.”

“The percentage of minority employees in grades 7 and above has increased from 14.3 percent in 1969 to 19.6 percent at the present time,” Romney said, perhaps not realizing he was touting incremental progress.[214]

Ironically it was Romney’s staff that initiated the hearing by notifying the Civil Service Commission of the October 1970 allegations against them. The Commission then notified EEO.[215]

The findings, however, vindicated GUARD, the HUD task force and Booker’s confrontational tactics.

Other GUARD work

Calvin Rolark, founder of United Black Fund: 1970 ca.

Calvin Rolark circa 1970.

Shortly after taking over as president of GUARD in 1971, Booker toured federal departments and agencies to rally black workers to fight against discrimination.

At a rally held in the Agriculture Department auditorium in June 1971, Booker told workers, “Don’t call that honkey boss ‘mister’ if he ain’t willing to give you the same courtesy.”

“And get his address—he’s got yours. We may have to visit him someday.”

Shandler reported that the audience “cheered appreciatively.”[216]

Booker boosted the United Black Fund (UBF) in 1971, which was only started the previous year, by pledging GUARD would be the “collecting arm” of the UBF.

The UBF was started by Calvin Rolark, a civil rights activist and publisher of the Washington Informer, in 1969 after he charged that the United Givers Fund was discriminating against black organizations.[217]

The UBF had only raised $6,000 the previous year, but in 1971 raised nearly $50,000 due in part to Booker’s drive among GUARD affiliates and a decision by the District government to permit payroll deductions.[218][219]

In August 1971, Booker denounced President Richard Nixon’s wage freeze and his pledge to reduce the government work force by five percent.

Booker said that black workers faced a “triple burden” under the freeze where wages would be frozen, they would be the first and perhaps only workers to be laid off since they were concentrated in the lower federal grades and that black workers would not be promoted and would be forced to fill in for other workers without additional pay.

Booker then led demonstrations at various departments and agencies against the freeze.[220]

The EEO hearing examiner’s findings on HUD promoted a rash of complaints to the D.C. Delegate to Congress Walter Fauntroy and he in turn held hearings on federal government discrimination.[221]

While Booker had by then moved on[222], GUARD mobilized task force affiliates to testify at the week-long hearings in September 1972 where task force members from the Government Accounting Office, Health Education and Welfare, Department of Agriculture and Department of Transportation, Commerce Department, and Walter Reed among others.[223][224][225][226]

As a result of the hearings Fauntroy sought congressional approval to give EEO the power to issue “cease and desist” orders against federal agencies instead of their advisory recommendations.[227]

MLK assassination ‘riots’

America on fire after King assassination: 1968

The District of Columbia is in flames after King is assassinated.

While Booker was engaged in the ECTC, the construction task force, and GUARD, he remained broadly active and often took a leading role in many different rights struggles through the late 1960s and through the 1970s.

He participated in street actions in the city following the murder of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968 and gave his thoughts in a May 1, 1968 hearing of the appointed city council at Eastern High School[228] on Rehabilitation of District of Columbia Areas Damaged by Civil Disorders that was later incorporated into congressional testimony on the issue.

Booker started off calling the disturbances a “revolution” and defended the property destruction and looting.

“The burning, the devastation, you can call it riots, you can call it looting. I know what black people call it and I know what I call it.”

“Any time oppressed people are so denied, and so oppressed, and the channels of the so-called usual mechanisms of dealing with these ills, if they cannot solve the problems, then black people and all other people have the right to burn and bring destruction if that alleviates their misery.”

“Does it take burning? Does it take looting? Of course, I know the people who were looting, they were only taking back what was theirs all the time.”

“I know they were taking back what was theirs because when the rebellion broke out, I was right out there in the street with my people.”

“Now, a whole lot of those hypocritical white folks, they said, ‘well, look they even burned down some of their own people so it couldn’t have been racial. They were just out to steal something.’”

“How can you steal from a crook?”

“It was pointed out recently, for example, that Safeway, on the day that welfare recipients receive checks, raise their prices.”

“Recently the Washington Post ran a series of stories on certain credit merchants on 7th Street, on how they exploit black people. How can you buy a TV that is worth $50 and end up paying $300-plus for it, and then if you don’t make all the payments it is repossessed and the man sells it over about 10 times again?”

Booker expounds on solutions

Howard students demonstrate after King’s murder: 1968

Howard students demonstrate the day after King’s murder.

Booker also called for radical change and called for a moratorium on re-building until the devastated areas could be rebuilt with black input and with black cooperative ownership.[229]

In the 1970 interview, Booker further explained his views on the prospects for black economic progress, holding that economic freedom for black people in the United States could only come through integrating a U.S. black economy with a unified African economy.

“In the first place, I am opposed to capitalism. The reason that I am opposed to capitalism, is because capitalism is based on the concept of so-called free enterprise, every man for himself.”

“It is based on—wealth for a few elite group of people and suffering for the masses of people—black people. I think the term black capitalism is a political term designed to slow down the thrusts of the black struggle. It is designed to sort of get a certain segment of black people into the so-called American mainstream.”

“If anybody understands capitalism you have to have—in order to be a capitalist you must own and control the means of production and distribution, and black people don’t own, control nor do they manufacture any goods. So according to the definition of economics that doesn’t make us black capitalist regardless of what the Nixon administration tells us.”

“I’ve heard a lot of talk about cooperatives and different economic ventures that’s really—as far as I can say—it’s really not the answer because cooperatives and things of this nature are still dependent upon the much larger white economic community.”

“I see as the only solution…unless we can own and control some means of production and manufacturing and distribution in our own community, we are still going to be tied to the white man’s economic system and exploited. That’s the root of it in terms of economics.”[230]

However Booker didn’t see the possibility of doing that solely within the United States and looked toward a broader, self-sustaining pan-African economy that black people in this country would be a part of as the solution.

Pan Africanism

MLK Jr. Assassination, 7th Street Damage: 1968 #2

7th & T Streets NW in April 1968. Booker opposed the Shaw Urban Renewal Plan as a land grab by whites.

“[In Africa] they’re not economically free, and a lot of the African nations aren’t politically free. Because the same black people have been trained at Oxford and those other universities to administer the colonies are still there.”

“If in Africa, if black people completely controlled the African continent, and relate what’s happening on the African continent here within the United States on an economic, military and political level in terms of actually working that the situation here could be changed.”

“But I don’t think unless the African continent is free economically, militarily and politically black people in this country are not going to be free.”

“As Malcolm X said, the revolution is fought over ownership and control of the land. We don’t have that within the United States.”[231]

Booker also made several specific proposals at the hearing on rebuilding after the King “riots.”

“I am asking that the District of Columbia City Council and the black members specifically, raise the question as to why the National Capital Housing Authority is the District of Columbia’s greatest slum lord?

“Why must we continue on with the usual concept of public housing by compounding all black people in the same area, and call it public housing, when in fact it is a concentration camp.

“I was reading in the paper recently where a police official admitted that in the police department recruitment efforts, very few black people were recruited. Well, I know one reason why very few black people were recruited and I am sure the black members are well aware, no black man wants to be put in the position of shooting one of his people, the so-called looting and rioting.”

But [in] this overall situation discriminatory practices in the police department in terms of promotions, in terms of everything else should be investigated.”[232]

When an urban renewal plan in response to the King disturbances was presented for the Shaw neighborhood in January 1969, it was generally applauded by business groups.[233]

However, while the plan didn’t call for massive relocation of black families and demolition of huge swaths like the SW urban renewal of the 1950s when Booker’s family was forced to move, it did call for the relocation of far more low income black families than it was replacing with low income housing in Shaw.[234]

The Washington Post reported that “R. H. Booker, speaking for the Black United Front, called land ownership in Shaw the key to ‘black revolution’ and urged residents to ‘take up arms’ to protect their property.”[235]

Black United Front

Carmichael announces return to D.C. – 1967

Shortly after this December 1967 speech at Howard University, Stokely Carmichael convened a United Black Front in the city.

On January 9, 1968 black power advocate Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) called together more than 100 black leaders in the city to establish the Black United Front (BUF) designed to speak with one voice on African American affairs in the District.[236]

Carmichael had just returned from an international trip and had announced he intended to settle in the city.[237][238]

Most local black leaders were interested in the concept and Booker was quickly elevated to the steering committee[239] and at one point served as chair of the BUF.[240]

However Carl Moultrie president of the local NAACP chapter was told by the national organization to stay clear after attending one meeting and Sterling Tucker of the Urban League was told to hold off on any organizational affiliation.

The national organization briefly relented and  Tucker accepted a position on the steering committee before being barred by Urban League altogether. Tucker stopped attending meeting in July 1968 and was eventually expelled from the organization for deliberate non-participation.[241][242][243][244]

Formation of the BUF

Sterling Tucker of the D.C. Urban League: 1970

Sterling Tucker of the D.C. Urban League in 1970.

Booker talks about the formation of the BUF in a 1970 interview and concludes that powerful white forces attempted to split the organization.

“Stokely Carmichael which I met Stokely when he first started attending Howard several years ago [1961]. As you know he worked very actively in SNCC, or the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. They had a local action group at Howard University. It was called NAG, the Non-Violent Action Group.”

“So, you see, at that time in Washington [1968] you had a lot of different black groups, and they were involved and at various times and for whatever reasons attacking each other’s positions.”

“So when Carmichael came back from his world tour he organized what was called Black United Front, and it implied just that. Because it contained all black people in Washington of every political spectrum, economic [spectrum]—literally involved in the leadership of the Black United Front.”

“You have people like Sterling Tucker, Channing Phillips, Reverend Walter Fauntroy, David Eaton and Julius Hobson, myself, who are initially in the leadership of the front. In term they were on the steering committee.”

“See at that time the basis behind forming the Black United Front was to keep down political in-fighting in the black community, and let the black community speak with one united voice about whatever we wanted.”

“It succeeded for a while in terms of having it grow a spectrum of black people, but I think the established black organizations began to put pressure on their respective representatives.

“Like Sterling Tucker from the Urban League pulled out or was forced out; Carl Moultrie…from the NAACP pulled out or was forced out. These so-called established Negroes began to pull back.”

“Because, you see, then the white man, through his propaganda meeting [media?] began to ask questions of how could these so-called established Negroes sit in a room with Stokely Carmichael?”

“Once again using those same tactics of divide and conquer not realizing that whatever—whether you’re Roy Wilkins or Stokely Carmichael, you’re still black.”[245]

Booker also talked about the effectiveness of the BUF during that period of time, finding it the most strident advocate in the black community.

“The Black United Front invariably speaks for all the black people in Washington, D.C. You know, whether or not black people want—some black people don’t want to be identified with the Black United Front publicly or being a part of its membership, they still support the Black United Front.”

“It’s true the Black United Front at this point is the loudest thing out in the black community that speaks for the black community. It speaks through the aspirations of black people.”[246]

Police Shootings

Carmichael denounces killer cops: 1968

Stokely Carmichael denounces the D.C. police shooting death of Elijah Bennett in October 1968.

In one of his first actions as a member of the steering committee of the BUF, Booker led a protest of 50 people at the home of Mayor Walter Washington July 15, 1968 demanding three white officers be fired for the shooting death of Theodore Lawson by D.C. police.

Lawson was the 17th person killed by District police in the previous 18 months, of whom six were shot in the back. Another was killed point blank by a police shotgun that “accidentally went off” during questioning.

Lawson was shot while driving away after being questioned by police. They claimed Lawson tried to run them over while witnesses said the police were well clear of the auto.

Those returning from the Booker-led demonstration also staged an impromptu protest of a non-fatal police shooting near 14th & U Streets NW and returned the following day with a picket line in front of the Safeway on 14th Street where Lawson was shot.[247]

Another police shooting occurred in October 1968 whe 22-year-old Elijah Bennett who was slain by a police officer after being stopped for a jaywalking violation at 14th and & Streets NW. Following speeches in front of the New School for Afro American Thought, the crowd that numbered perhaps 200 marched to the intersection of 14th and T Streets where they engaged in jaywalking en masse.

Joined by a growing crowd, some threw bricks and bottles–breaking windows and clashing with police. Police dispersed the crowd by midnight.

The BUF followed up with demands for an elected “Citizen Selection and Review Board” in each police precinct. The board would appoint the precinct captain and officers, set standards for behavior and hear citizens’ complaints.

They also called for a second committee composed of the chair of all precinct boards that would recruit and hire all new police officers and act as a trial board for police accused of misconduct.[248]

Legislation was introduced in the city council to expand the existing precinct advisory boards duties, but to leave appointed representatives, drawing Booker’s ire at a hearing held November 25, 1968.[249]

The effort ultimately produced no major changes as police continued to be the sole body investigating and taking action, if any, on complaints despite a mayor’s complaint review board.[250]

Wilson appointed police chief

Mayor swears in Jerry Wilson as police chief: 1969

Mayor Walter Washington swears in Jerry Wilson as D.C. police chief in 1969.

Mayor Walter Washington decided to appoint Jerry Wilson as police chief and made an announcement to that effect on July 9, 1969.[251]

Wilson was well-known for leading assaults on protesters and was the first officer to fire tear gas on 14th Street after police cleared Resurrection City in 1968 and at Howard University student protests in 1969.[252]

He was also in charge of the police units that moved to quell disturbances in the city after the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where tear gas and mass arrests were used.[253]

During Washington’s announcement, Booker, speaking for the BUF, continually interrupted the mayor shouting out repeatedly, “Mr. Mayor, I have a question.”

When Washington finally told Booker he could ask one question, Booker said:

“I want to know how you had the audacity to appoint this person who in the Washington community was the first to shoot teargas and was the first to shoot his gun—how could you foist this man on the black community?”

Washington responded quickly, “The appointment is made.”

Senate District Committee

Joseph d tydings

Senator Joseph Tydings pushed the D.C. Crime Bill that became a model for mass incarceration.

When U.S. Senator Alan Bible (D.-Nevada) retired, U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings (D-Md.) ascended to chair the Senate District Committee that oversaw the city’s affairs through appropriations and legislation for that side of Congress.

Booker, along with 15 other community leaders, signed a letter blasting Tydings as a tool of the “lily-white suburbs” and “temperamentally unsuited to the objective where the perilous and desperate needs of the inner city poor living in the growing slums of the areas are concerned…”[254]

Tydings was given the post by Senate leadership anyway, but the letter’s warnings quickly proved correct.

Senator Tydings immediately shepherded President Richard Nixon’s D.C. Crime Bill through the Senate[255] that provided for “no-knock” police raids, “preventive detention” for suspects charged with violent crimes, provided for a “three strike” rule where someone convicted of three felonies would be sentenced to life in prison, increased prison time for other offenses and permitted 16 and 17-year-olds to be tried as adults for certain felonies.[256]

The D.C. Crime Bill provided a model for similar legislation enacted nationally and in localities across the country that resulted in mass incarceration, including a far disproportionate number of black people, in the United States. In 1970 the total number of U.S. prisoners was about 200,000. By 2010 it was 1.6 million—far outstripping population growth.[257]

Police shoot Gregory Coleman

Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba: 1960

Booker read a letter by Patrice Lumumba at Coleman’s funeral.

Booker remained active in protesting police brutality and criminal justice abuses through the rest of the decade, organizing protests in August 1972 in the wake of D.C. police officer Charles Pender shooting 16-year-old Gregory Coleman in the back as he rode away on a bicycle that had been planted by police.[258][259]

Booker read a letter written by slain black leader of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, at Coleman’s memorial service.

“This letter embodies the hopes and aspirations of black people. When we walk out of the building, it could be all of us. The only criterion for what happened to Gregory L. Coleman is that he is black.”

“It is not just officer Pender who is to blame, but the whole police system. Chief Jerry Wilson is to blame and so is Mayor Walter Washington, because he has the power to remove these people and he has not. We should think about removing him,” Booker said.[260]

In September 1972, Booker and others organized a citizens tribunal to probe the Coleman shooting where a 17-member panel heard Lancelot Coleman, the youth’s father say, “as long as Nixon runs the city…and we have no voice, no home rule…it will go on and on.”

Booker, representing Government Employees United Against Racial Discrimination (GUARD), testified before the panel and blasted a proposal by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to coordinate information among area police departments and use sophisticated equipment for surveillance.[261]

Pender was charged with manslaughter and other lesser charges and after two trials was acquitted of all charges in 1976.[262]

Subsequent brutality work

‘Antagonist to white power structure’ Charles Cassell: 1972

Charles Cassell, along with Booker, called for disarming security guards in retail stores.

Booker declared in July 1973 that “all private security guards in all retail establishments must be disarmed” in the wake of a fatal shooting by a security guard. Booker and Charles Cassell called for the District to immediately pass a law prohibiting guards from carrying weapons.[263]

In November 1973, Booker called on Mayor Washington to appoint a citizens panel to investigate the police slaying of 44-year-old Lucille Morgan and a grand jury investigation as well.

Morgan was shot after she allegedly lunged at a police officer with a pair of scissors following an unspecified disturbance at a grocery store. Booker was speaking on behalf of the Coalition of Black People United for Prison Justice.

In November 1976, after a prisoner was beaten by marshals and left for approximately 20 minutes in his cell died before being checked on, Booker called for a second grand jury investigation after the first failed to call key witnesses or examine all the evidence.

Speaking as chair of the Coalition of Black People United for Justice, Booker on November 14, 1976, said that the initial investigation was a “cover-up” and continued, “We have new evidence showing that Curtis Hoston was murdered.”

Booker continued, “We know that beating of prisoners by marshals is routine. In this case they just happened to kill someone.”

The coalition presented Paul Gray, who was being held on a traffic charge at the time of Hoston’s death, to news reporters. Gray said Hoston was handcuffed behind his back “when they stomped him, when they threw him down the stairs and when they threw him against a post.”

One of the marshals kicked Hoston “in the head” after he had been placed unconscious in his cell and that Hoston was left for 25 minutes before anyone checked on him.[264]

Gray was not called as a witness before the grand jury.

Booker at a press briefing November 29, 1976 provided a list of new witnesses and called Hoston’s death, “a vicious act of murder committed under the shield of the law.”[265]

A second grand jury called new witnesses, but again cleared the marshals of wrongdoing.[266]

Fauntroy for council chair

D.C. civil rights activist Rev. Walter Fauntroy: 1971

Rev. Walter Fauntroy in 1971.

Booker was involved in many other varied aspects of black liberation and civil rights work through the years.

Continuing his confrontational style on January 23, 1969, as a Black United Front representative, he occupied the D.C. city council’s chairman’s seat while other BUF members filled the other council seats.

When city council chair John Hechinger entered the room to convene a hearing on Shaw urban renewal, Booker convened his own meeting demanding that appointed city council member Walter Fauntroy be made chair of the council.

Hechinger quickly left the room and Fauntroy entered persuading Booker and the others to leave their seats.[267]

Fauntroy, a BUF member and vice chair of the council, never made chairman. He was not re-appointed by President Nixon to the then presidentially selected council.[268]

King holiday

Call for King holiday: 1969

A 1969 “Don’t Work” poster seeking to make April 4th, the day of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,’s assassination, a holiday.

A rally in Malcolm X Park sponsored by the SCLC and the Metropolitan Community Aid Council (along with 3 other rallies at other parks) was held April 4, 1969 marking the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s slaying.

Booker addressed the crowd and urging them to put aside a debate over tactics in advancing black liberation after a group of young men seized the microphone and called for revolution.

“We should not stand here in an open forum and talk about the revolutionary struggle. If you’re talking about a revolutionary struggle you’re talking about an armed struggle.

Booker continued that with all the “FBI, CIA and other undercover agents” around “it doesn’t make sense to discuss the tactics of revolution in an open park—and let’s don’t fool ourselves brothers, that’s what all this talking is about.”

“Let’s get on with the program.”

The regular program then resumed.[269][270]

A follow-up April 17thmeeting at the District building sponsored by the Free Peoples Council drew 200 people that called for making April 4th a national holiday honoring Dr. King.

The early call for a holiday was for it to be celebrated on the date of his death rather than the date of his birth. Booker told the crowd that the only way black people can get the holiday is “to take it.”[271]

Seizure of Howard University

Howard students abandon building takeovers: 1969

Howard students end their occupation of Douglass Hall in 1970.

Howard University students escalated their protests that had been intermittently going on for almost two years in May 1969 and seized most buildings on the campus and held an effective class boycott calling for more student say over curriculum, student discipline, integrating the school with the community and general campus affairs.

Booker played the role of mediator, talking to both students and city officials in an attempt to avert a bloodbath.

After Howard obtained an injunction against the occupying students, more than 100 U.S. Marshals swept the campus arresting 20 students.

The city coordinated the sweep from a command center where Mayor Washington, Police Chief John Layton and Deputy U.S. Attorney Richard G. Kleindienst directed authorities.

Booker and Rev. Joe Gibson entered Douglass Hall as the marshals broke down the barricades and met alone with 16 students locked in a third floor room. They marched out with Booker unhandcuffed and raising their fists in black power salutes as they walked to the detention bus.

A crowd gathered around the bus and began battling marshals with rocks and bottles—later doing the same with D.C. police.[272] [273] [274]

Black Panther Party

Black Panthers seek white D.C. allies: 1969

A Black Panther flyer advertising actions in the D.C. area in the wake of the Chicago police murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.

In December 1969 after the police murder of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and member Mark Clark, rallies were held around the country to protest the police and FBI’s targeting of the group.

At least three separate rallies were held in Washington, D.C. including one December 21st at All Souls Church where Booker told the interracial crowd of 200 that black people “stand on the threshold of genocide.”

“Any black man in America in 1969 who does not possess a gun is not intelligent,” Booker said.

“The first task of black people is to collectively arm ourselves for self-defense [because] Nixon, the House of Thieves (Representatives), and the dirty dozen (Nixon’s cabinet) has declared war on us.”[275]

“Anyone who advocates social change stands to be killed because we are all revolutionaries” he continued.

The meeting also called for raising funds to establish a free breakfast for children program in conjunction with the Black Panthers who had not yet established a chapter in the city.[276]

Booker believed in defending the Panthers against attacks, but didn’t agree with their analysis.

“I support the Black Panthers because they are black people [but] I think an ideology which is based on class struggle is incorrect for the black community. I think an ideology based on the fact that our struggle is a race struggle is the correct position.”

Booker conceded there is a struggle within the black community involving class, but held that all black people have a common bond against white supremacy—and that is primary.

“You have this class antagonism within the black community based on economics…Now if two black people are sitting in a room and one has a PhD and one has a fifth grade education and we both walk out the door to face the line of white policemen armed with shotguns, they gonna shoot us both,” Booker said in a 1970 interview.[277]

Other activism

Public Domain: Nixon with Mayor Walter Washington by Jack E. Knightlinger, February 1973 (NARA)

President Nixon congratulates Walter Washington at his swearing in as appointed Mayor of the city in 1973.

Booker was part of a number of other rights actions through the years including testifying against a parking plan in April 1969 where he charged, “The parking bill is part and parcel of the freeway struggle and the urban renewal struggle which is the reclaiming of land for white America and the displacing of black people.”[278]

He was part of a June 1970 effort to urge President Nixon to appoint a member of a minority group to the Federal Communications Commission. Booker was a member of the local chapter of the Black Efforts for Soul in Television that sent a letter to Nixon.[279]

In August of the same year he denounced the appointed mayor and council when Home Rule bills for the District were being considered saying that Mayor Washington was “simply placed there to act as a buffer against angry blacks.”

“In that job, he has conducted himself commendably. But putting in people like the mayor only serves to temporarily forestall the revolution.”

“He does not represent the interests of the masses. He was put there by the White House and the Board of Trade,” Booker continued.”[280]

In September 1970, Marion Barry, Booker, Julius Hobson and the Rev. David Eaton led a march by 80 people to three embassies (French, Italian and Turkish) that they lambasted for importing drugs into the black community.[281][282]

Also in September 1970, he blasted the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for “white supremacy and racism” among its white collar employees. He charged that black people were concentrated in clerical jobs where few were in managerial positions.[283]

He was involved in an effort in early 1971 to bring the first Ali-Frazier fight to RFK stadium for $5 per seat (instead of $15 charged in other commercial venues) in an attempt to provide a low cost event and keep black dollars in the black community. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful for what was later dubbed “The Fight of the Century.”[284]

In April of 1973, Booker was involved in the first Black Assembly in the District and spoke to the gathering that was an offshoot of the national Black Assembly held in 1972 in Gary, Indiana.[285]

Booker joined an effort in 1974 to change the D.C. Charter. He was a member of the group OPEN—Organization for Political Equality Now—headed by Charles Cassell.

The group made three main criticism of the charter: presidential appointment of city judges, presidential authority to take over the city police in an “emergency,” and the prohibition against a commuter tax.[286]

Booker was one of the leaders of three days of demonstrations by Federal City College students in 1974 protesting a $1 million cut in the school’s budget by the city council.

Booker led a demonstration of more than 100 students to the D.C. Council chambers where he had been promised a meeting of the council to hear students concerns. However councilmembers did not show up and Chair John Nevius called off the meeting.

“The verdict of the people at FCC is that they (council members) pulled a Watergate,” said Booker.[287]

Barbara Sizemore

Educator Barbara Sizemore: 1970 ca.

Barbara Sizemore opposed standardized testing as biased against black children.

In 1975, Booker, who always held education close to his heart, joined the effort to protest the impending firing of school superintendent Barbara Sizemore. The activists were led by an impromptu coalition of the Black United Front, the Black Assembly and RAP, Inc., among others and headed up by Washington Informer publisher Calvin Rolark.

They charged that the closed hearings of the school board were an attempt by the white powers to remove Sizemore..[288]

Sizemore was the first black woman to head a major school system when she was appointed superintendent in Washington, D.C., from 1973 to 1975. She was ultimately fired for abolishing standardized tests. Sizemore was an opponent of standardized tests, but when they became entrenched she urged teaching students the analysis, synthesis and inference skills needed to pass them.[289]

At a city council hearing on police intelligence operations in July 1975, Booker charged that Project Progress, a federally funded community relations project, engaged in spying by monitoring political demonstrations during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Booker went on to say that the members received military training, carried weapons and that he personally witnessed Project Progress workers acting as provocateurs, throwing rocks at U.S. Marshals during the May 1969 campus takeover by students at Howard University.

John Staggers, who was head of the program, admitted that Project Progress workers attended an Army camp, but denied military training. He also admitted that the workers attended meetings of dissident groups, but denied they passed the information on to police. He also admitted they were at Howard during the disturbances, but said they were there to act as a buffer and denied they threw any rocks.

Booker said his information came from sources in the Office of Economic Opportunity that funded the program..

In 1976 Metro held hearings on terminating bus service at Anacostia Station and forcing people to ride the subway to come across the Anacostia River thereby increasing their fares and travel times.

Booker, representing the Black United Front, joined with dozens of other community activists to oppose the plan.[290]

Marion Barry

Future mayors confer at freeway hearing: 1968

ECTC vice chair Marion Barry confers with Sammie Abbott during a D.C. Council freeway hearing in 1968.

When Marion Barry was running the first time for mayor of the city in 1978 and was denounced by some of his former activist colleagues, Booker came to his defense.

“Marion has been able to do what few other grassroots political activists have done. He has made the transition from street activism to electoral politics. Some people criticize him and say he’s sold out, but he’s just changed his tactics and strategies. He has a view from the outside and the inside,” Booker told the Washington Star.[291]

Representing the Black United Front again, Booker in April 1978 blasted a proposed rate increase by Pepco, joining other community activists at a hearing.

Booker testified, “We all had these same issues in 1976. Citizens shouldn’t have to be technical experts…we pay the commissioners to be the experts.”

“The commission is not going to respond to us today because we didn’t put them there. They respond to the pressure of those (elected officials) who answer to commercial and utility interests,” Booker continued.[292]

Booker’s reported and unreported activities is much longer and wider than described here, but aforementioned give an overview of the breadth and depth of his involvement in civil rights and black liberation struggles from the mid 1950s through the end of the 1970s.

Electoral Efforts

Hobson seeks D.C. Delegate post: 1971

Julius Hobson told Booker he would never win “Man of the Year” for his uncompromising militant activism.

Booker quoted Julius Hobson as once having told him, “Reginald, you will never win Man of the Year Award for what you’re doing.”

Hobson’s prediction proved accurate. Booker tried to enter politics like other activist contemporaries of his such as Marion Barry, Charles Cassell, Hobson, Sammie Abbott, Douglas Moore, Hilda Mason and Walter Fauntroy who all won local offices at one point or another.

However his radical, uncompromising approach did not serve him well in electoral politics.

While transportation, employment and police brutality comprised most of his aggressive activism, he never forgot his initial experiences in the D.C. education system as a student thrown into the “general” track or his early efforts to change the school system for the better.

He first sought to run for D.C. school board in 1968 from Ward 8. However his friend Albert Whitaker, who was supposed to deliver the nominating petitions before the board of elections deadline, failed to show before the board’s doors were locked.

At a hearing September 24, 1968, Whitaker testified he had car trouble on the Suitland Parkway that prevented him from arriving on time. The board of elections denied Booker a spot on the ballot.[293]

This was at the height of Booker’s prominence as he was in the middle of both the bus boycott and the freeway fight and it was an open seat. It was probably his best chance winning an election, but fate turned another direction.

Booker was expected to run a strong race in 1969 from Ward 8 against the incumbent James Coates and said he was “90 percent sure” he would run.[294]

“Mr. Coates is a middle class minister who is unrepresentative of an area where most of the people are poor.” Ward 8 covered far southeast and southwest, including Anacostia and Congress Heights where most of the city’s public housing projects were and still are located.[295]

Booker predicted he would “bury Coates” in the election.[296]

However Booker did not file for this election. “Booker said yesterday [September 21, 1969] he decided ‘at the last minute’ that his commitments to ECTC and other groups would not allow him to run,” wrote the Washington Post.[297]

In 1971, Booker joined the effort to elect Marion Barry to the school board in Barry’s first electoral effort.[298] Barry won the seat by a 10,000 vote margin over incumbent Anita Allen[299] and was selected as chair of the board when it met in 1972.

In 1976, Booker ran as a write-in candidate for city council against Rev. Jerry Moore, but his vote totals were so low they were not reported with the election results.[300][301]

Booker runs for school board

Booker’s last run for school board: 1994

Booker’s last run for school board got him the most votes but the same result.

Booker took a run at school board again, this time in 1979 in Ward 1 while he was living at 2120 16th Street NW.[302] In that election incumbent Frank Smith was running with Marion Barry’s support and there were a number of other challengers.

Booker took aim at the school system “for producing high school graduates who, fundamentally, have no skills.”

The Washington Star reported, “Booker said he would like to have the curriculum re-examined and to have basic subjects such as reading, writing , speech and mathematics emphasized.”

“The school system has all resources it needs, but it needs aggressive leadership,” Booker added.[303]

Booker finished in last place of the five candidates in the balloting behind winner Frank Smith. Smith won with 1,782 votes while Booker polled only 141.[304]

Booker took one more shot at school board in 1994, this time in Ward 2 and won the largest number of votes in his electoral efforts through the years.

The Washington Post wrote that “R. H Booker, a staff member at the nonprofit United Black Fund Inc., said he is running because his 14-year-old daughter attends Jefferson Junior High and he wants ‘to see all of the schools equal in terms of money spent, facilities, teachers, materials.’”

“Booker said the first task the board should tackle is educating parents about their rights and how the board operates. He said that the school system’s payroll is ‘bloated’ and that the board should consider eliminating positions that are not relevant to classroom instruction.”[305]

Booker again finished last, this time in eighth place with 415 votes compared to winner Ann Wilcox’s 4,619.[306]

Views on women

Black liberation leader Gwen Patton: 1980 ca.

Black liberation leader Gwen Patton critiqued male supremacy among some male black nationalists.

Booker viewed the white, often well-off women who regularly spoke for the women’s liberation movement at the time as irrelevant to the black community. He further dismissed black women’s efforts and saw any uplifting of black women as downgrading black men—a view that was not uncommon among male black nationalist activists of the era.

“I think the woman’s liberation movement is a phenomenon among middle class white women who want to do what they want to do.”

“The women’s liberation movement doesn’t relate to the black community. Because a black woman’s problems, or ills, result from her oppression, and discrimination and the economic lynching of the black male; which places the black woman in a situation in some cases of having to take care of her family, if she’s on public subsidy where the man has to leave the house in order for her to get the money.”

“Or in a lot of instances there are black women who make more money than their husbands because of the fact that the white man sees it feasible, number one, he can try to use the black woman for his own personal purposes.

“That’s why I can notice, for example, in the federal government where most of the black women who are secretaries keeps the black woman right next to the white man. Then where for an example, in the federal government, some of the top positions that are held by black women, which keeps the black males down. In private industry it’s the same way.”[307]

Moynihan’s theories on the black family

DanielPatrickMoynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that the black family was “pathologically” matriarchal that in turn caused black male ineffectiveness.

Gwen Patton, a rights activist and black liberation leader of the same generation as Booker, critiqued this viewpoint of some male black nationalists—finding that it originated with Daniel Moynihan, a white sociologist who held reactionary views on black families and later became a U.S. Senator.

Patton also did work in the District of Columbia, including working with Mary Treadwell at Pride, Inc. During an interview with Against the Current published in its September-October 2008 issue, Patton said:

“I had the Black Women’s Committee incorporated — I knew this was important for tax-exempt status. [The Black Women’s Liberation Committee, formed by women in SNCC, was a forerunner of the later Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA) — eds.]”

“Early on, black women and black men were on a par. I was the first Student Body President elected at Tuskegee since it had become a co-ed school….I didn’t see all this division.”

“But Moynihan called black women Amazons and said we castrated our men. Some of our men bought into that, and then we saw the beginning of all this heavily male-dominated cultural nationalism.”

“I began to talk about the need to have a women’s perspective. There’s a terrific concept, which was formulated by SNCC’s Fran Beal — women’s “triple jeopardy” in confronting racism, sexism and class. This wasn’t in “reaction” to anything — in fact we discussed that, and reactive politics didn’t accomplish anything.”[308]

While there is not a record of Booker changing his views after 1970, he would have had a difficult time reconciling them with the black women who took leading roles within GUARD while he was president of that organization.

Booker was fighting side-by-side with black women to obtain higher pay, open up more professional jobs for women and to get rid of white supervisors who were biased against them for being black and a woman.

CIA, FBI & D.C. police spying

CIA, FBI, D.C. police surveillance of Reginald H. Booker: 1968-72

The 1975 Rockefeller Commission report on CIA activities in the U.S. revealed that Booker’s Niggers, Inc. was under surveillance.

When Rockefeller Report on CIA domestic activities was released in June 1975, buried within it on page 154 was an obscure reference to “Niggers, Inc.”—the small, four-member group that Reginald Booker led in 1968.

It turned out that Booker and the group were the subject of the CIA’s “Operation Chaos” that tracked dissidents in the United States, but had a particular focus on the Washington, D.C. area and was run through the CIA’s Office of Security.[309]

Though ostensibly concerned with the security of CIA agents and installations, the “’assets’ reported regularly, usually in longhand. The reports were not confined to matters relating to intended demonstrations at government installations.”

‘They included details of the size and makeup of the groups and the names and attitudes of their leaders and speakers.”

“In some instances, the agency identified leaders or speakers at a meeting by photographing their automobiles and checking registration records. In other cases, it followed them home in order to identify them through the city directory. Photographs were also taken at several major demonstrations in the Washington area and at protest activities of the White House.”

“Assets were instructed to include within their reports the details of meetings attended, including the names of the speakers and the gist of their speeches, any threatening remarks against United States government leaders, and an evaluation of attitudes, trends, and possible developments within the organization.”[310]

Other D.C. groups targeted

Women reject HUAC, march on White House: 1962

Women’s Strike for Peace, shown marching in 1962, was among D.C. groups target by. the CIA.

Other local groups targeted included the Mayday Tribe, Women’s Strike for Peace, the Washington Peace Center, the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the New School of Afro American Thought, the Washington Ethical Society, The Black Panthers, American Humanist Association, The War Resisters League, the Black United Front, Urban League, Washington Mobilization for Peace, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and the Nation of Islam.

The spying by the CIA began in late 1967 and continued through 1972, although intelligence gathering was turned over to the District of Columbia police in December 1968 who continued to forward reports to the CIA.

Booker’s group was first added to the list of organizations to track in August of 1968. A minimum of 12 agents, and often more, tracked the activities of groups and individuals in the District of Columbia.[311]

In 1975, the Senate “Church Committee” also investigated FBI, CIA and NSA surveillance of American citizens and further information was revealed on domestic spying activities and disruption activities in the Washington, D.C. area.

Lawsuit against D.C. police and FBI agents

Reginald Booker Arrested for Fixing Up Brookland Home: 1969

Booker is frisked when he arrested for ‘liberating’ a home in Brookland during the North Central Freeway actions.

In July of 1976 seven individuals and two organizations sued the five FBI executives in charge of a widespread spying and disruption program here and nine city police officers that they identified.

Those suing were Booker; Hobson (and his wife Tina Hobson after he passed);  Rev. David Eaton, pastor of All Souls Church; Arthur Waskow of the Institute for Policy Studies; Sammie Abbott who was by then mayor of Takoma Park; Abraham Bloom, a longtime local peace activist; and Richard Pollock, a freelance writer. The organizations were the Women’s Strike for Peace and the Washington Peace Center.

It represented the first political action damage claim for invasion of privacy from the Vietnam era.[312]

During the discovery phase, the few FBI documents released showed that Abbott, Booker and the ECTC were under surveillance at George Washington University, city council chambers, 14th and & U Streets NW and at the Three Sisters Bridge site, among other places.

A Booker speech at George Washington University during the Three Sisters Bridge demonstrations October 22, 1969 was included in the documents.

Booker began the speech, “Before we get started…I would like to acknowledge the presence of FBI agents and undercover people…Report back to the Nixon people that the bridge will be smashed.”

The documents showed that Booker was listed in the FBI’s “agitator index” and “rabble-rouser index.”

When the case went to trail in 1981, there was testimony and evidence presented that the FBI and D.C. police went far beyond surveillance.

Seeking to drive a wedge between black activists and the peace movement, the FBI created a flyer from the BUF demanding reparations from a peace group sponsoring a demonstration asking for $1 per demonstrator for “safe conduct” in the city and then issued a racist “response leaflet” showing monkeys and bananas saying “Give them bananas.”

Booker testified that while working for the Black United Front a man working as his aide was identified as an undercover D.C. police officer.

Sammie Abbott testified that while speaking at a rally near the Three Sisters Bridge he warned the crowd that police and undercover agents were prepared for any confrontation and attempted to warn the crowd against marching on the bridge site.

He testified someone in the crowd shouted “sellout” and “coward.” A confrontation between police and demonstrators later occurred, resulting in a number of arrests. Abbott testified the heckler matched the description of an undercover D.C. police officer.[313]

The suit sought $1.8 million in damages.[314] After 25 hours of deliberation the jury agreed with the plaintiffs that federal agents and police had not only spied, but circulated deliberately false information and attempted to instigate violence in order to discredit them and their political activities.

The jury found most of the defendants had violated the rights of most of those who sued and awarded a total of $711,937.50 in damages on December 23, 1981.

The total was split up among the defendants in varying amounts, depending upon how much damage the jury thought the defendants did to each plaintiff. Booker was awarded about $80,000.[315][316]

Personal life

Booker turns his back on council ‘criminals’: 1968

In 1968 Booker turns his back on the D.C. Council and says, “I’m going to face the people—not some of those criminals who sit on the city council.”

Booker lived in various places throughout the city and appears to have lived in each quadrant for at least part of his life.

He paid a personal price for his activism. While working at the General Services Administration, he was told to quit his job or be fired.

The Leveys wrote:

“One day, after he referred to the D.C. Council on television as ‘President Johnson’s ranch hands,’ Booker was called into the office of the GSA administrator.”

“He was told that his picture would henceforth be posted in the GSA security office so guards would know who he was. He was criticized for ‘embarrassing the president.’ The administrator, Lawson B. Nott Jr., suggested that Booker might be ‘happier elsewhere.’”[317]

Booker resigned.

After he learned of FBI officials and the District of Columbia police officers spying on him and conducting provocative actions infringing in his First Amendment rights, he told The Washington Star newspaper that the authorities made his personal life more challenging in those days.

He said that friends started to shun him because of FBI questioning, that agents questioned his girlfriends and neighbors, and that the surveillance caused him difficulties landing a job and getting good credit.[318]

He worked at various jobs including construction, the General Services Administration, the Youth Division of the United Planning Organization, the Urban Law Institute, and the Black United Fund as well as working as an independent contractor on employment law. He completed at least three years at the University of the District of Columbia majoring in economics.[319][320][321]

Booker had three children: Jaha Booker, Jamal Booker and Daniel Gayden.

Reginald H. Booker died at age 74 on July 19, 2015.[322]

Discussion

Kwame Afoh and Reginald Booker at bus protest: 1970

Edell Lydia Jr. (later Kwame Afoh) and Reginald Booker at a 1970 bus fare protest press conference.

Reginald H. Booker was a unique black nationalist who had a direct impact across racial lines through the anti-Vietnam War movement and his lasting work with the ECTC that resulted in a public transportation system that is superior to most in the U.S. and that continues to define the District of Columbia today.

The fights he waged through CORE to improve District of Columbia education, with the Black United Front against police brutality, and with the construction task force to increase the number of black workers in the trades were on the right side of justice, but are unfortunately still unresolved today.

His early warnings against urban renewal that displaces working class black people went unheeded, and has over time resulted in an increasingly unaffordable city for the laboring class, low level professionals and for those who seek to raise a family.

While issues of discrimination and bias are still more widespread than they should be in the federal government, his work with GUARD produced tangible results in making gains for black workers in the public sector.

Women’s rights

He was not a perfect person–no more than any of us are. His views on women were lamentable. He was right that much of the media representations of “women’s liberation” in the late 1960s dealt with upper class white women.

But he attributes the oppression of black women to the subjugation of the black man and finds that a situation where a black woman makes more money than a black male unsavory.

For all his analysis of white supremacy, he somewhat surprisingly missed the discrimination that affects black women directly. While he noted the debilitating effects of the “man in the house” rule he fails to note many other aspects where white, male supremacy both oppressed and exploited black women.

A few that he doesn’t speak to that were front and center issues of the time included the ability of black women to move into traditionally male jobs, women’s pay compared to men, affordable day care and pre-K, abortion rights, pension rights, women’s inequality within the family–all of which hit black women hard. And that doesn’t mention the black women that played leadership roles in movements for social change.

Solution to black oppression

Announce construction of new black capital city: 1971

Imari Obadele (center) at a Republic of New Africa press conference in 1971.

The question of how to guarantee black rights in the United States has vexed black revolutionaries for a long time.

The Communist Party of the 1920s and early 30s and the later Republic of New Africa led by Imari Obadele argued that a black nation should be established in a geographic area that spanned parts of five states in the southern United States.

Marcus Garvey argued that black people should ultimately return to Africa and give up on the U.S. Garvey sold shares in his companies to raise black capital for black enterprises in the U.S. and vehemently opposed socialists and communists. Others before Garvey attempted re-settlement in Liberia.

Booker and many of his pan-Africanist contemporaries did not advocate this, but instead held a view that African economic and political unity, under an afro-socialist system, held the best promise for black people in America because an economic system based in Africa could be extended into predominantly black areas in the United States thereby freeing black people from white economic domination.

Marxists of various stripes advocate socialism to overcome capitalist exploitation and oppression and have generally upheld some version of self-determination or community control in the black communities in the U.S. However, they don’t see self-determination as meaningful under capitalism, don’t see a separate land-based nation within the United States as a workable solution and don’t believe that a pan-Africanist economic system extending into the U.S. is feasible.

Role of whites

Activist Reginald Booker: 1968

Booker testifying in 1968

While not compromising on his nationalist and pan-Africanist views, It seems later in life Booker reconsidered some of his more strident rhetoric about those whites supporting black liberation and about the issue of working with whites in coalition.

Booker’s experience with white workers at the time of his 1970 interview was largely confined to his experience with workers in the building trades—the most conservative elements within the labor movement. However, his experience at GUARD where a number of white workers and government union locals supported black demands may have modified his views.[323][324]

During his 1971 interview with Shandler during his time at GUARD, Booker drew a distinction between the “honkies” who suppressed black people and those who supported the cause of black liberation. “Polarization between the races would be debilitating,” he said.[325]

When he was interviewed by the Leveys in 2000, he recognized the strength of black and white people working together in coalition, each based on their own interest, pursuing a common goal when he reflected back on his work with the ECTC.

“The whole theory was to appeal to homeowners, no matter what race they were. Our movement was unique. It was black and whites in a common effort, an integrated group, working in their own interests. That was the significant thing. It was an issue that united people.”[326]

Courts vs. Activism

There is often a false divide between the use of courts, lobbying, elections or activism to achieve a social goal. But Booker’s experience in the ECTC points to a different conclusion. Despite oaths and teaching that judges must uphold the law and not allow other considerations to come into their decisions, there’s often quite a bit of latitude within the law and public opinion plays a large role in determining what ruling a judge will make. The example of the ECTC’s confrontational tactics turning public opinion against new freeways in the District can be seen as the impetus behind much of the courts’ decisions to halt freeway work in the city–a lesson that contemporary activists should pay attention to.

Characterizations of Booker

The few descriptions of Booker are more patronizing than complimentary. Gilbert Hahn, an attorney active in the Board of Trade, an appointed chair of the D.C. Council and a frequent target of Booker’s ire over the freeway issue called him a “very nice African American man.”[327]

Hahn’s description reeks of white supremacy, belittles Booker and discounts his conviction. Booker was an intelligent, tenacious, forceful, in-your-face, unrelenting, passionate advocate for African Americans and cannot be simply dismissed as “nice.”

The Leveys paint a sympathetic picture of Booker and include an anecdote about Booker dining in Abbott’s home and the two going out for ice cream.

While the anecdote is undoubtedly true, it paints the same picture of Booker as “nice” in a more subtle way because the Levey’s long Washington Post article “The End of Roads” includes only hints of Booker’s revolutionary core.[328]

Ranking among local black leaders

Rights leader Davidson named to D.C. real estate board: 1963

Eugene Davidson of the New Negro Alliance and the NAACP in a 1963 image.

When considering his place among the most effective black activist leaders in the District of Columbia in the 20th Century who never held elected office in the city, Mary Church Terrell (though she did serve on the appointed school board) would probably have to rank first.

But Booker should rank alongside Francis Grimke, an early D.C. NAACP leader; Rev. William Jernagin, whose rights leadership in the city began at the turn of the last century with the National Race Congress and didn’t end until 50 years later; John P. Davis, the executive secretary of the National Negro Congress who took an active role in District affairs against police brutality and for integrating the defense industry and schools; Marie Richardson Harris, a labor organizer who became the first black woman to hold a full time position in a national labor union and later served as executive secretary of the local National Negro Congress, Oliver Palmer who led 5,000 overwhelmingly black cafeteria workers out of poverty to living wages with health insurance and retirement benefits; Gardner Bishop, who led a student strike for better schools for black children in 1947 and was the force behind the 1954 Bolling v. Sharpe decision that ended legal segregation of District public schools; and Eugene Davidson who headed both the New Negro Alliance of the 1930s and 40s and the D.C. NAACP of the 1950s.

Scant Recognition

New city council member Hilda Mason with husband: 1977

Hilda Mason and her husband Charles upon her election to the city council in 1977.

Booker didn’t expect public adulation for his work and when he reflected back, he was happy with his choices.

“I’m personally satisfied. I saw this as my social responsibility. It was just a natural thing for me to do,” said Booker to the Leveys.[329]

The Leveys wrote:

“On the day that the U Street-Cardozo subway station opened in 1991, D.C. Councilmember Hilda Mason invited Booker to attend a ceremony. She asked him to stand. She told the small crowd that Booker had been a leader to bring the subway to Washington. There was brief applause, but nothing more.”

“It is the only public recognition Reginald Booker has ever received.”[330]

Author’s Notes

I decided to write this when I looked for Reginald Booker’s obituary and couldn’t find one, nor any write up anywhere except the short ones in our photo descriptions on the Washington Area Spark Flickr site, a recent brief one at an online tour, African American Civil Rights, D.C. Historic Sites, and a mention of his death on the Trip Within the Beltway blog about a year after he passed.

It made me angry that no one recognized his greatness. I didn’t really know him, although I saw him speak once or twice in my early activist days–and he was larger than life then.

But somehow we had forgotten him and he died in obscurity. I hope that others will explore his rich life deeper than I have. He is deserving of far more accolades than I can ever give him.

About the Author

The author was an activist for 50 years in the Washington, D.C. area.  He attended the University of Maryland, is a graduate of the National Labor College, the former secretary-treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and former executive director of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400. In addition, worked for the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO and Progressive Maryland. He is also a former bus operator for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and currently resides in North Carolina. He can be contacted at Washington_area_spark@yahoo.com

Footnotes

[1] Interview with Reginald H. Booker, Robert Wright, July 24, 1970, Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

[2] The Insane Highway Plan That Would Have Bulldozed DC’s Most Charming Neighborhoods, Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian, October 21, 2015, HTTPS://WWW.WASHINGTONIAN.COM/2015/10/21/THE-INSANE-HIGHWAY-PLAN-THAT-WOULD-HAVE-BULLDOZED-WASHINGTON-DCS-MOST-CHARMING-NEIGHBORHOODS/, accessed January 2, 2020.

[3] Op. Cit., Interview.

[4] Hearings on Integration in Public Education Programs, Committee on Education and Labor, March 1962, Government Printing Office, 1962.,

[5] Op. Cit., Interview

[6] Civil Rights Tour: Protest – Reginald Booker, Anti-freeway activist, https://historicsites.dcpreservation.org/items/show/996, accessed January 2, 2020

[7] Op. Cit., Interview

[8] Op Cit., Interview

[9] Swift Backs Expected to Pace Roosevelt, The Washington Star, September 11, 1959, page D4.

[10] Op. Cit., Hearings on Integration in Public Education Programs.

[11] Chastisement in Public Schools is Endorsed at Board Hearing, Susanna McBee, The Washington Post, April 9, 1963, page B-1.

[12] Op. Cit,, Interview

[13] Just Another Southern Town, Joan Quigley, Oxford University Press, 2016.

[14] Op. Cit, Interview

[15] Group demands change, Edward Peeks, The Afro American, May 13, 1961, page 20.

[16] DC CORE issues guide in ‘selective buying’ bid, The Afro American, December 22, 1962, page 16.

[17] CORE keeps marching in merit hiring drive, The Afro American, March 17, 1962, page 8.

[18] Hahn Stores Reach Pact with CORE, Jean White, The Washington Post, July 30, 1961, page B-1.

[19] CORE Battles D.C. Job Bias, New Pittsburgh Courier, December 8, 1962, page 23.,

[20] Clerics with CORE in store boycott, Edward Peeks, The Afro American, February 3, 1962, page 20.

[21] Op. Cit., Interview.

[22] Black doctors fight hospital discrimination: 1960, Washington Area Spark,https://www.flickr.com/photos/washington_area_spark/49230008013/in/photolist-2i1hEeB, accessed January 3, 2020.

[23] Hospital Settles Racial Dispute, The Washington Post, June 19, 1964, page B-1.

[24] 7 Arrested In Sit-In At Hospital, The Washington Post, June 15, 1964, page B-1.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Op cit., Hospital Settles Racial Dispute.

[27] Op. cit. Interview.

[28] Race Policy Agreement Set at Casualty Hospital, The Washington Post, July 17, 1964, page B2

[29] Columbia Ends Racial Barriers, The Washington Post, June 25, 1964, page D20.

[30] D.C. School boycott Set, The Baltimore Sun, March 9, 1964, page 9.

[31] 11 Negro Leaders Hit School boycott Plan, The Washington Post, March 11, 1964, page C-1.

[32] School Head Meets with Core Chief, The Washington Post, March 24, 1964, page B1.

[33] Hobson Expelled by National Core, The Washington Post, June 21, 1964, page A6.

[34] Op. Cit., Interview.

[35] Rights Leaders Form New Group, The Baltimore Sun, April 17, 1964, page 48.

[36] Op. Cit., Interview.

[37] Op. Cit., Interview

[38] Op. Cit., Interview.

[39] Op. Cit., D.C. School Boycott Set.

[40] DARE Pickets Bank Here in Jobs Protest, The Washington Post, August 17, 1963, page C4.

[41] DARE Stalls Eviction of Family of 8, The Washington Post, October 19m, 1963, page D13.

[42] Civil Liberties Battle Mother’s Welfare Rights, The Evening Star, October 29, 1963, page A-8.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Negroes Urge Rent Strikes, The Washington Post, January 20, 1964, page A7.

[45] District Building March Demands Home Rule, The Evening Star, February 1, 1964, page A-5.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Op. Cit., Interview.

[49] Op. Cit., Interview.

[50] Op. Cit., Interview.

[51] Op. Cit., Interview.

[52] Op. Cit., Interview.

[53] Op. Cit., Interview.

[54] Op. Cit., Interview.

[55] Op. Cit., Interview.

[56] Op. Cit., Interview.

[57] Hobson v. Hansen: The De Facto Limits on Judicial Power, Beatrice A. Moulton, Stanford Law Review 20 (1968): 1252, accessed January 3, 2i020.

[58] Hobson v. Hansen, 269 F. Supp. 401 (D.D.C. 1967), Justia US Law, https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/269/401/1800940/, retrieved January 2, 2020.

[59] Julius Hobson Sr. Dies, Cynthia Gorney, The Washington Post, March 24, 1977.

[60] May Day Boycott Scheduled for D.C., The Washington Free Press, March 26, 1967, page 5.

[61] Shaw School Site Debated, The Washington Star, March 29, 1967, page C-1.

[62] Boycott Supporters Claim Intimidation by School Officials, The Washington Post, April 28, 1967, page B-1.

[63] Hansen, Critics Poised for D.C. School Boycott, The Washington Post, April 30, 1967, page A-1.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Attendance Cut Slightly in School Boycott Here, Susan Filson, The Washington Post, May 2, 1967, page A1.

[66] Op. Cit., Hobson v. Hansen.

[67] “Wright Edict Upheld on All Major Points,” Thomas W. Lippman, The Washington Post, January 22, 1969

[68] “Wright Lets Foes Fight His Ruling.” David Jewell, The Washington Post, February 20, 1968.

[69] The Courts and Social Policy, Donald L. Horowitz, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1977), page 115.

[70] Ali Still a Champ at Rally, Willard Clopton Jr., The Washington Post, July 16, 1967, page A11.

[71] Antiwar walk with Stokely Carmichael flyer: 1967, Washington Area Spark, https://flic.kr/p/2ejrz9e, accessed January 3, 2020.

[72] Op. Cit., Ali Still a Champ at Rally.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Op. Cit., Interview.

[75] Negroes Protest War at Capital Draft Site, The Baltimore Sun, April 27, 1968, page A-2.

[76] 150 Demonstrators March on District Draft Offices, Paul W. Valentine, The Washington Post, April 27, 1968, page B-2.

[77] Anti-Humphrey Rally Today, The Washington Free Press, July 27, 1968, page 6.

[78] Moratorium Activities for D.C. Area Listed, The Washington Post, October 15, 1969, page A12.

[79] U.S. Is Planning Other Wars, SCLC Leaders Tell D.C. Rally, Michael Anders, The Washington Star, November 12, 1969, page B-1.

[80] Vietnam War Denounced by Blacks, Ivan Brandon, The Washington Post, November 12, 1969, page A-7.

[81] White House Cordoned, Paul W. Valentine, The Washington Post, May 7, 1970, page A-1.

[82] Memorandum for: Chief, SR Staff – Subject Project Merrimack, Central Intelligence Agency, August 8, 1967, http://www.aavw.org/special_features/govdocs_cia_abstract01_full.html, accessed January 4, 2020.

[83] National Hotline, Diggs Dalrooth, Chicago Daily Defender, January 20, 1968, page 2.

[84] Booker confronts pro-freeway speaker: 1968, Washington Area Spark Flickr, https://flic.kr/p/2iiTdfR, retrieved January 26, 2020.

[85] Commission Rejects Any suspicion of CIA Involvement in JFK Death, Thomas O’Toole, The Washington Post, June 11, 1975, page 1.

[86] Foes of Freeway Dogged by FBI Activist Charges, Alan Frank, The Washington Post, April 4, 1977, page D-14.

[87] End of the Roads, Bob Levey and Jane Freundel Levey, The Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2000, page SMB 10.

[88] Op. Cit., Interview.

[89] Op. Cit., Ali Still a Champ at Rally.

[90] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[91] Op. Cit., Civil Rights Tour: Protest – Reginald Booker, Anti-freeway activist.

[92] Op. Cit. End of the Roads.

[93] The D.C. Freeway Revolt and the coming of Metro, Richard F. Weingroff, Federal Highway Administration, https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwayhistory/dcrevolt/, retrieved January 4, 2020.

[94] Op. Cit. End of the Roads.

[95] Making D.C. Democracy’s Capital: Local Activism, the ‘Federal State’, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., Gregory M. Borchardt, Doctor of Philosophy  dissertation, George Washington University, August 31, 2013, pp 212-214.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Ibid..

[98] Ibid.

[99] Op. Cit., Interview.

[100] Court Blocks All D.C. Action On 4 Freeways, Lee Flor, The Washington Star, February 10, 1968, page A-3.

[101] Op. Cit., Making D.C. Democracy’s Capital: Local Activism, the ‘Federal State’, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.

[102] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[103] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[104] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[105] Op. Cit., Making D.C. Democracy’s Capital: Local Activism, the ‘Federal State’, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.

[106] Op. Cit., Interview.

[107] Fauntroy Seeks ‘Out’ On Freeways Order, Roberta Horning and Lee Flor, The Washington Star, December 4, 1968, page D-4.

[108] Public Control of Transit Eyed, The Washington Post, June 8, 1968, page B-2.

[109] D.C. Heads’ Letter on Transit Seizure, The Washington Post, July 19, 1955, page A-9.

[110] Citizens Council Asks City to Purchase D.C. Transit, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, December 17, 1966, page C-1.

[111] Area Board Urged to Buy D.C. Transit, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, June 21, 1968, page A-1.

[112] Bus Protesters See Rigged ‘Fare Game,’ Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, September 7, 1968, page B-1.

[113] After 25 Years of Building, Metro Nears the Finish Line, Stephen C. Fehr, The Washington Post, September 23, 1995, page B-1.

[114] New Bus Fare Rise Is Expected Soon, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, August 16k,1968, page A-1.

[115] Bus Fare Hearing Ejects Two Critics, Roberta Hornig, The Washington Star, August 26, 1968, page A-2.

[116] Ibid.

[117] Two Ejected at Hearing on Bus Fares, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, August 27, 1968, page B-1.

[118]Op. Cit., Bus Fare Hearing Ejects Two Critics.

[119] Op. Cit., Two Ejected at Hearing on Bus Fares.

[120] Foes of Fare Hike Plan for Bus Hearing, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, September 3, 1968, page B-2.

[121] Militant Action Threatened if Bus Fares Rise, Lee Flor, The Washington Star, September 5, 1968, page B-1.

[122] Op. Cit., Bus Protesters See Rigged ‘Fare Game.

[123] Op. Cit., Militant Action Threatened if Bus Fares Rise.

[124] D.C. Transit to Drop Tie to Its Parent Firm, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, September 6, 1968, page B-1.

[125] Hearings End on D.C. Transit Bid for Fare Rise, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, September 14, 1968, page D-30.

[126] Op. Cit., D.C. Heads’ Letter on Transit Seizure.

[127] President Signs Curb on Wolfson, Alvin Schuster, The New York Times, August 15, 1955, page 34.

[128] Op. Cit., Bus Protesters See Rigged ‘Fare Game.

[129] Avery Hits Bus Firm For Refusal to Cut Its Fare Demands, The Washington Post, October 26, 1968, page B-1.

[130] Bus Fares Go Up Thursday; Cost of Tokens is Higher Now, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, October 30, 1968, Page A-1.

[131] Bus Showdown: Boycott, Fare Rise, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, November 30, 1968, page A 14.

[132] Op. Cit., Bus Fares Go Up Thursday; Cost of Tokens is Higher Now.

[133] D.C. Boycott Plan Aims at Full Takeover, Chris Wright, The Washington Star, November 12, 1968, page B-2.

[134] SNCC Claims Bus Boycott Was a 90 Per Cent Success, Richard Corrigan, The Washington Post, January 25, 1966, page C-1.

[135] Further Local Boycotts Are Considered by SNCC, The Washington Post, January 28, 1966, page C-1.

[136] Op. Cit., D.C. Boycott Plan Aims at Full Takeover.

[137] Bus Boycott Response Is Less Than Expected, George Davis, The Washington Post, December 3, 1968, page C-1.

[138] Impact of Bus Boycott Described as Not Heavy, Lee Flor, The Washington Star, December 2, 1968, page B-3.

[139] Ibid.

[140] Op. Cit. Bus Boycott Response Is Less Than Expected.

[141] D.C. Transit Fare Raised to 30 Cents, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, December 24, 1968, page A-1.

[142] Bus Service is Near Normal, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, March 31, 1970, page C-1.

[143] Fares Go Up, But Protesters Continue fight. The Washington Post, July 11, 1970, page A-4.

[144] Bus Fare Protests Directed at Capitol Hill, Walter Taylor, The Washington Star, July 15, 1970, page B-1.

[145] Bus Fare Protests Directed at Capitol Hill, Stephen Green, The Washington Star, July 15, 1970, page B-1.

[146] D.C. Bus Bill Is Approved, Goes to Nixon.

[147] No Fanfare Marks Bus Line takeover, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, Jan 14, 1973, Page A-6.

[148] AB&W and WMA Become Metrobus Divisions today, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, February 4, 1973, page M-1.

[149] Court Puts Land Deal in Limbo, Lisa Fine, The Washington Post, June 23, 1997, page MD-18.

[150] School Fare Subsidy: Margin of Profit, Jack Eisen, The Washington Post, November 3, 1970, page A-9.

[151] Op. Cit., Making D.C. Democracy’s Capital: Local Activism, the ‘Federal State’, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.

[152] Freeway Protesters to ‘Reclaim’ Houses, Richard E. Prince, The Washington Post, June 18, 1969, page C-2.

[153] House is ‘Reopened’ in Freeway Protest, Phillip D. Carter, The Washington Post, Jun. 22, 1969, page D=1.

[154] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[155] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[156] Notebook of an Amateur Politician and How He Began the D.C. Subway, Gilbert Hahn, Lexington Books, New York, 1985.

[157] Op. Cit., Making D.C. Democracy’s Capital: Local Activism, the ‘Federal State’, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.

[158] “Fists Fly at Voting on Roads: Bridge Foes Erupt as City Bows to Hill,” Jack Eisen and Ina Moore, The Washington Post, Aug. 10, 1969, page A-1.

[159] Congressional Record – House, September 18, 1969, page 47.

[160] ECTC Plans New Actions, Quicksilver Times, January 19, 1970, page 7.

[161] Op. Cit., Making D.C. Democracy’s Capital: Local Activism, the ‘Federal State’, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.,

[162] Ibid.

[163] Defeat of Freeway Claimed by Group, The Washington Post, November 11, 1969;

[164] Booker Calls for War on Freeways, The Washington Post, September 14, 1969, page A-20.

[165] ECTC Plans New Actions, Quicksilver Times, January 19, 1970, page 7.

[166] Bridge Foes State Biggest Protest, The Washington Star, October 20, 1969, page B-1.

[167] Bridge Protests Dwindle Again, The Washington Star, October 23, 1969, B-2.

[168] Police, Militants Skirmish, The Washington Post, November 17, 1969, page B-1.

[169] D.C. Voters Oppose Bridge in Poll, Paul W. Valentine, The Washington Post, November 5, 1969, page A-12.

[170] Op. Cit. Making D.C. Democracy’s Capital: Local Activism, the ‘Federal State’, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.

[171] Ibid.

[172] Ibid.

[173] The Great Society Subway, Zachary M. Schrag, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

[174] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[175] Freeway Foes Join Jobs for Blacks Drive, Stephen Green, The Washington Star, May 2, 1970, page A-20.

[176] Government to Enforce Hiring Plan, Timothy S. Robinson, The Washington Post, June 10, 1978.

[177] Op. Cit., Freeway Foes Join Jobs for Blacks Drive.

[178] U.S. Sets Quotas for Area Jobs, Leonard Downie Jr., The Washington Post, June 2, 1970, page A1.

[179] Blacks Group Denounces Washington Plan on Jobs, Eugene L. Meyer, The Washington Post, June 5, 1970, page C-1.

[180] Op. Cit., Interview.

[181] Op. Cit., Interview.

[182] Op. Cit., Interview.

[183] Equal Jobs Plan Urged for District, The Washington Post, May 19, 1970, page C-5.

[184] Warning Hurled, The Washington Post, June 26, 1970, page C-3.

[185] Black Firms Win Metro Contracts, The Washington Post, November 13, 1970, page C-2.

[186] Black Group Hits Building Pay Decision, The Washington Star, March 1, 1971, page B-4.

[187] Building Trade Unions Still Lag in Fair Hiring, Paul Valentine, The Washington Post, November 3, 1975, page A-21.

[188] 10-Year Effort Fails to Alter Racial Ratio In The Trades, Courtland Milloy Jr., The Washington Post,, March 10, 1981, page A-1.

[189] Employees Are Outrun by Romney, Joseph D. Whitaker, The Washington Post, October 10, 1970, page B-1.

[190] HUD Black Group in Sit-In Chases Romney to His Car, Leon Coates and Harvey Kabaker, The Washington Star, October 10, 1970, page A-18.

[191] Op. Cit., Employees Are Outrun by Romney.

[192] HUD’s  Romney runs away from anti-bias petition, The Afro American, October 17, 1970, page 1.

[193] HUD Gives Promotions to 42 Aides, Joseph D. Whitaker, The Washington Post, October 29, 1970, page B-5.

[194] Black Employees Protest at HUD, The Washington Star, October 14, 1970, page C-4.

[195] Employee Protests Heard by Romney, Alex Ward, The Washington Post, October 13, 1970, page B-1.

[196] Ibid.

[197] Black Employees Protest at HUD, The Washington Star, October 14, 1970, page C-4.

[198] Protest Charging HUD Bias Continues, The Washington Post, October 16 1970k page D-2.

[199] Protest Rally Slated at HUD, The Washington Star, October 16, 1970, page B-4.

[200] Black Employees of HUD Granted Most Demands, Jackie Truscott, The Washington Star, October 29, 1970 B-4.

[201] Op. Cit., HUD Gives Promotions to 42 Aides.

[202] Racist Policy in Personnel at HUD Cited, Nick Kotz, The Washington Post, October 22, 1971, page A-1.

[203] Black Workers Unite to Press Their Cause, Phillip Shandler, The Washington Star, June 6, 1971 page A-2.

[204] Op. Cit., Black Workers Unite to Press Their Cause.

[205] Ibid.

[206] 160 Black HUD Employees Face Suspension for Protesting, Eugene L. Meyer, The Washington Post, May 27, 1971, page A-5.

[207] HUD May Suspend 156 For Protesting at Work, The Washington Star, May 27, 1971, page B-4.

[208] Op. Cit., Black Workers Unite to Press Their Cause.

[209] H.U.D. Is Charged With Racial Bias, Paul Delaney, The New York Times, October 22, 1971, page 11.

[210] Ibid.

[211] Ibid.

[212] Op. Cit., HUD Discriminates New Study Finds.

[213] Op. Cit., H.U.D. Is Charged With Racial Bias.

[214] HUD is Free of Race Bias, Romney Says, Associated Press, The Washington Post, October 23, 1971, page A-5.

[215] Op. Cit., H.U.D. Is Charged With Racial Bias.

[216] Op. Cit., Black Workers Unite to Press their Cause.

[217] Contributions Drive is Launched by UBF, The Washington Post, September 2, 1971, page C-2.

[218] United Black Fund Gives $30,000 to Agencies, The Washington Post, May 25, 1972, page B-2.

[219] Op. Cit., Contributions Drive is Launched by UBF.

[220] Black Workers Ask Exemption of Freeze, Bay State Banner, August 26, 1971, page 5.

[221] Fauntroy Slates Bias Probe, Walter Taylor, The Washington Star, September 10, 1972, page D-6.

[222] HEW Job Spur Plans Assailed at Hearing, Kiki Levathes, The Washington Star, September 22, 1972, page B-5.

[223] Citizens’ Advocate Charges GAO Bias in Job Practices, Claudia Levy, The Washington Post, September 21, 1972, page C-2.

[224] Lag in Curing HEW Job Bias Cited, Claudia Levy, The Washington Post, September 22, 1972, page C-6.

[225] Op. Cit., HEW Job Spur Plans Assailed at Hearing.

[226] Fauntroy Studies Testimony on Federal Bias, The Washington Star, September 24, 1972, page B-4.

[227] Cease and Desist, The Washington Star, September 22, 1972, page A-6.

[228] Hearings Held on Rebuilding D.C.,, Irvin Ray, The Hilltop, May 3, 1968k page 3.

[229] Rehabilitation of District of Columbia Areas Damaged by Civil Disorders, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Business and Commerce,  Government Printing Office, 1968.

[230] Op. Cit., Interview.

[231] Op. Cit., Interview.

[232] Op. Cit., Rehabilitation of District of Columbia Areas Damaged by Civil Disorders, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Business and Commerce.

[233] Citizen Groups Endorse Urban Renewal Plans, The Washington Post, January 23, 1969, page B-9.

[234] Shaw Stalled In Two Areas, Eugene L. Meyer and J. Y. Smith, The Washington Post, February 23, 1972, page C-1.

[235] Op. Cit., Citizen Groups Endorse Urban Renewal Plans.

[236] D.C. Negro Leaders Work to Maintain Uneasy Coalition, Robert C. Maynard, The Washington Post, January 12, 1968, page B-1.

[237] Op. Cit., Interview.

[238] 100 Rights Leaders Attend Carmichael Meeting on Unity,” Paul Hathaway, The Washington Star, January 10, 1968, page C-1.

[239] Op. Cit., Interview.

[240] Radical Chic of Yesteryear Stays in Fashion for Barry, Robert Pear, The Washington Star, page A-8.

[241] Op. Cit., D.C. Negro Leaders Work to Maintain Uneasy Coalition.

[242] Urban League Wary of Black United Front,, Robert Maynard, The Washington Post, January 18, 1968, page A-1.

[243] Black Front Says Tucker Was Ousted, Robert Hinton, The Washington Post, February 18, 1969, page C-1.

[244] Young Gives Qualified Okay to Carmichael’s United Front, Paul Hathaway, The Washington Star, January 12, 1968, page B-3.

[245] Op. Cit., Interview.

[246] Op. Cit., Interview.

[247] Police Probing Shooting Are Confronted by 100, The Washington Star, July 16, 1968, page B-1.

[248] Black Front Presents Police Control Plan, Robert G. Kaiser, The Washington Post, October 18, 1968, page B-1.

[249] Fight Disrupts Police Control Hearing, Chris Wright, The Washington Star, November 26, 1968, page B-1.

[250] Police-Community Relations Still A Major Problem in D.C., Peter Braestrup, The Washington Post, November 12, 1969, page C-1.

[251] Wilson Picked to Head Police, Is Challenged, The Washington Star, July 8, 1969, page A-1.

[252] Wilson Favored for Position, Stephen D. Issacs, The Washington Post, July 5, 1969, page D-1.

[253] Wilson Leads in Race for Police Chief, John Matthews, The Washington Star, July 4, 1969, page A-4.

[254] Immer Group Zeros in on Tydings, William Grigg, The Washington Star, January 11, 1969, page A-22.

[255] Democrats Believe Tydings May Be In Trouble, Martha Angle, The Washington Star, July 28, 1970, page A-1.

[256] Nixon signs stiff D.C. crime bill, The Afro American, August 8, 1970, page 19.

[257] The History of Mass Incarceration, James Cullen, The Brennan Center for Justice, July 20, 2018, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/history-mass-incarceration, retrieved January 9, 2020.

[258] Youth’s Friends Consider Suing Police, Louise Lague, The Washington Star, August 21, 1972, Page B-4.

[259] Slaying of Youth on Bicycle: ‘It Was Like a Nightmare,’ B. D. Colen, The Washington Post, August 15, 1972.

[260] Op. Cit., Youth’s Friends Consider Suing Police.

[261] Black Group’s Tribunal Probes Boy’s Shooting, Lurma Rackley, The Washington Star, September 24, 1972, page B-7.

[262] Pender Cleared in Bike Slaying, Stephen Green, The Washington Post, January 28, 1976, page B-1.

[263] Metro Notebook, District, The Washington Star, July 2, 1973, page 25.

[264] New Probe of Court Death Asked, Calvin Zon, The Washington Star, November 14, 1976, page D-2.

[265] Death Probe May Reopen, Silbert Says, Jacqueline Bolder, The Washington Star, November 30, 1976, page D-1.

[266] Probe of Prisoner’s Death Again Clears U.S. Marshals, The Washington Post, January 14, 1977, page C-20.

[267] BUF Usurps Council Seats at Hearing, Vincent Cohen, The Washington Post, January 24, 1969, page A-18.

[268]Fauntroy Sees Gains From Council Service, Irma Moore, The Washington Post, February 24, 1969, page B-1.

[269]Memorial Rallies Urge Rededication to King’s Dream, The Washington Post, April 5, 1969, page A-10.

[270] Solemn Rallies and Services Honor Memory of Dr. King, John Matthews and Barry Kolb, The Washington Star, April 5 1969, page A-1.

[271] Citizens Weigh Dr. King Holiday, The Washington Star, April 17, 1969, page B-4.

[272] 20 Arrested at Howard As Campus Siege Ends, C. Gerald Fraser, The New York Times, May 10, 1969 page 14.

[273] Howard U. Campus Cleared, The Washington Post, May 10, 1969, page A-1.

[274] Boycott Cripples Howard U., The Washington Star, May 7, 1969, Page A-1.

[275] D.C. Activists Are Marked, Pro-Panther Rally is Told, Michael Anders, December 22, 1969, The Washington Star, page B-1.

[276] Black Panthers ‘Suppression’ Protested, The Washington Post, December 22, 1969, page B-2.

[277] Op. Cit., Interview.

[278] Council to Step Into Parking Jam: Solution is Still Down the Road, Eugene L. Meyer, The Washington Post, April 5, 1970.

[279] Bid Black Named Member of FCC, The New York Amsterdam News, June 6, 1970 page 23.

[280] District Mayor-Council Set Up Held not Bad but Not Enough, Richard E. Prince, The Washington. Post, August 9, 1970 page D-1.

[281] Drug Foes Stage Protest, Aaron Latham and B. D. Colen, The Washington Post, September 10, 1970, page B-1.

[282] D.C. Drug Protest Hits Offices of 3 Nations, The Washington Star, September 10, 1970, page B-4.

[283] Racism Charged to Subway Unit, The Washington Star, September 22, 1970, page B-4.

[284] Franchise attempt fails; Ali/Frazier fight still $$, Danny Simms, The Hilltop, February 19, 1971, page 1.

[285] Black Assembly Meets, Corrie M. Anders, The Washington Star, April 29, 1973, page B-6.

[286] Charter Foes Press their Fight, Lynn Dunson, The Washington Star, April 14, 1974, page B-1.

[287] Council Fails to Meet with City College Students, The Washington Star, May 11, 1974, page A-6.

[288] Tactics of 60s Revived, Paul W. Valentine, The Washington Post, May 6, 1975, page C-1.

[289] Barbara Sizemore: Advocate for Disadvantaged Students in Public Schools, Ervin Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 28, 2004, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/obituaries/2004/07/28/Obituary-Barbara-Sizemore-Advocate-for-disadvantaged-students-in-public-schools/stories/200407280153, retrieved January 13, 2020.

[290] City Aide Scores Plan to Halt Bus Routes at Metro Stops, Jack Eisner, The Washington Post, November 5, 1976, page C-4.

[291] Radical Chic of Yesterday Stays in Fashion for Barry, Robert Pear, The Washington Star, September 6, 1978, page A-8.

[292] Pepco Rate Rise Request Draws Fire at Hearing, Joanna Omang, The Washington Post, April 23, 1978, page B-2.

[293] Booker Bid Rejected in School Race, The Washington Post, September 25, 1968, page F-1.

[294] Coates Decides to Seek School Board Re-election, The Washington Star, September 16, 1969, page B-1.

[295] Booker Plans to Run for School Board, The Washington Star, July 27, 1969, page E-5.

[296] Op. Di5., Coates Decides to Seek School Board Re-election.

[297] D.C. Elections Board to Push Voter Registration, Richard E. Prince, The Washington Post, September 22, 1969, page C-2.

[298] Barry Expected to Seek D.C. School Board Seat, Lynn Dunson, The Washington Star, August 22, 1971, page B-3.

[299] Mrs. Allen, Allies Lose D.C. Vote, Richard E. Prince, The Washington Post, November 3, 1971, page A-1.

[300] D.C. Will Try Out 36 New Voting Machines Nov. 2, Philip Shandler, The Washington Star, October 17, 1976l, page B-4.

[301] Maryland, Virginia, D.C. Election Charts, The Washington Post, November 3, 1976, page A-18.

[302] District Voters Guide, The Washington Post, November 1, 1979, page DC A-1.

[303] Ward One School Board Race Takes Several Directions, The Washington Star, October 22, 1979, page B-1.

[304] District School Board Elections, The Washington Post, November 8, 1979, page C-2.

[305] Without Hall, Race is Wide Open: 8 Seek War 2 Seat on School Board, Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, October 27, 1994, page J-2.

[306] Local Races; District, The Washington Post, November 10, 1994, page C-12.

[307] Op. Cit., Interview.

[308] Interview with Gwen Patton, Against the Current, September-October 2008.

[309] Report to the President by the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, June 1975.

[310] Op. Cit., Report to the President by the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States.

[311] Ibid.

[312] Jury Weighs 1.8 Million Damage Claim by 7 Activists in Capital, Ben A. Franklin, The New York Times, December 18, 1981, page A-32.

[313] D.C. Jury Hears Activists’ ’76 Suit on Rights Issue, Laura Kiernan, The Washington Post, December 13, 1981, page B-1.

[314] Op. Cit., Jury Weighs 1.8 Million Damage Claim by 7 Activists in Capital.

[315] Jury Awards $711,937.50 to Demonstrators, Laura A. Kiernan, The Washington Post, December 24, 1981, page A-1.

[316] Hobson v. Wilson, 556 F. Supp. 1157, (D.D.C. 1982), District Judge Louis Oberdorfer, United State3s Court of the District of Columbia, June 1, 1982,

[317] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[318] Foes of Freeway Dogged by FBI, Activist Charges, Allan Frank, The Washington Star, April 4, 1977, page D-14.

[319] Op. Cit., The End of Roads

[320] Op. Cit., Ward 2.

[321] Op. Cit., Black Workers Unite to Press Their Cause.

[322] Reginald Harvey Booker, Legacy.com, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/reginald-booker-obituary?pid=175367734, retrieved January 16, 2020.

[323] Op. Cit., Black Workers Unite to Press Their Cause.

[324] Op. Cit., H.U.D. Discriminates New Study Finds.

[325] Op. Cit., Black Workers Unite to Press Their Cause.

[326] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[327] The Notebook of an Amateur Politician, Gilbert Hahn, Lexington Books, Lanham, Md., 2002.

[328] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[329] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

[330] Op. Cit., The End of Roads.

Five million photo views…what’s next for Washington Area Spark?

20 Nov

Read the story and view the images of a 1936-41 D.C. battle against police brutality.

 

We’ve now topped five million image views of nearly 4,000 images plus thousands of document downloads and close to 100,000 views of our blog posts. Interest in the history of social change-makers and would-be social change-makers keeps growing.

Whether you’re an activist seeking to hone your skills, a history buff, a researcher, looking up your family history or a student doing a term paper, the Washington Area Spark can get you started down a fascinating road.

What do we have? Digitalized images, documents and blog posts on the struggles for social and economic justice and against U.S. imperialism in the greater Washington, D.C. area that occurred prior to the advent of the Internet.

What’s coming

In the coming months we hope to publish three blog posts now being researched:

  • An unsung woman who was a heroine of the D.C. civil rights movement
  • A woman who led a militant union and fought for equality for women in the 1940s
  • The transformation of the U.S. National Student Association from a CIA-funded organization to a CIA-spied upon organization.

In addition, we hope to upgrade our website further by providing links on the blog post guide, image guide and documents pages so you can more quickly get to the categories you are interested in—rather than scrolling all the way down the page.

Our images

DC area SDS: 1963-69

See photos and read the stories of the legendary Students for Democratic Society (SDS) in action in the D.C. area.

And, as always, we will continue to upload new images and documents to our Flickr site and our documents archive of struggles for social and economic justice and against U.S. imperialism abroad that occurred prior to 1990.

Images

Browse our images for what’s interesting to you:

Our blog posts

Our blog posts can also be accessed a number of different ways. Features located on the right side of the website (at the bottom of the page on mobile) include links to:

  • Recent posts (newest to oldest)
  • Top posts and pages (recently popular)
  • Archives (select decade of interest
  • Search (enter a keyword for the subject you’re interested in)
  • Additionally, you may browse by subject in the Navigation tab at the top of the page (subjects are listed alphabetically).

TDA–The Day After the Chicago 8/7 conspiracy trial verdict: 1970. See all documents.

Our documents

Our documents can be accessed on the Documents tab at the top of the page. They are listed by subject alphabetically and within each subject by date. See local alternative newspapers and newspapers, including the vintage Washington Area spark, and a few rare national alternative newspapers by scrolling all the way down the documents page.

Where did the name come from?

We’ve gotten a few inquiries about the origins of the Spark name. The original Montgomery Spark name was a confluence of three influences:

  • The Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin published a paper called Iskra (Spark) and this was known to the Montgomery College students who started the paper, but this was not the prime reason for the selection of the name.
  • The University of Maryland Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had published a student newsletter called Spark that influenced some of the Montgomery College students.
  • Lastly the Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong had penned an essay entitled “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” Mao borrowed an old saying for his essay, but it had a dual meaning for anti-establishment Montgomery Spark. A single copy of the newspaper could influence someone to spark societal change and the paper newspaper could also literally be set afire to wreak havoc in the turbulent early 1970s.

Want to use an image?

Our most common inquiry is the use of images posted. All images are marked on the individual image page as “all rights reserved,” “non-commercial use permitted with attribution” or “public domain.” Most have the identification of the original source of the photograph or image at the end of the photo description. If you wish to use an image marked “all rights reserved” or seek a for-profit use of a “non-commercial use permitted,” you will need to contact the holder of the rights to the image.

Do you have images or documents?

Spark is a way to make images and documents from past activism available to all. If you have mementos of past activism in the greater Washington, D.C. area such as photos or flyers or alternative newspapers from events or times prior to 1990 and would like to add them to the Spark site, please contact us.

If you’d like to donate them, we’ll be glad to make arrangements. We can scan them for our site and arrange to donate them to a library. If you’d like to keep your mementos, we can scan them and return them to you.

If you have questions or need assistance, contact us at Washington_Area_Spark@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

Individuals

30 Jan

Quick links

Annie Lee Moss Halts McCarthy Momentum: 1954

This alphabetical list of links to individuals identified in our photographs is now complete and will be updated as we add new images. Links have been updated as of December 19, 2019. If you find a broken or incorrect link (or other error), please notify us at Washington_area_spark@yahoo.com

A-E

Aaron, Julia, freedom rider
Abbott, Sammie “Sam” Abdullah, social justice and highway opponent leader, mayor of Takoma Park
Abernathy Sr., Rev. Ralph David, here, here, here and here, civil rights and SCLC leader
Abt, John J., here and here, civil rights and labor attorney, chief counsel to the Communist Party USA
Abzug, Bella and here, civil rights attorney, U.S. Representative
Acanfora, Joseph, gay rights activist, Montgomery County teacher fired being gay
Ackerson, Carl, Scottsboro campaign
Ackiss, Thelma D., New Negro Alliance
Adams, Lt. Col. Charity, WWII WAC leader
Adams, Clarence , here, here, here and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Adams, Jane, women’s suffrage, ACLU, Nobel Prize
Adams, Josephine Truslow, American League for Peace and Democracy, supporter of Republican Spain
Ades, Bernard and here, Md. International Labor Defense attorney, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Agnew, Spiro T. and here, Maryland governor, U.S. Vice President, convicted of tax evasion
Ahmad, Eqbal, here, here and here, Harrisburg 8 defendant
Ajay, Alex, Original Spark and On the Move contributor
Albert, Leo, civil liberties attorney
Albert, Stewart Edward “Stew” and here,Yippie activist and Vietnam War opponent
Alda, Alan, Equal Rights Amendment leader, actor
Alda, Beatrice, Equal Rights Amendment supporter, actress, daughter of Alan Alda
Alda, Elizabeth, Equal Rights Amendment supporter, actress, daughter of Alan Alda
Alda, Eve, Equal Rights Amendment supporter, daughter of Alan Alda
Ali, Muhammad [formerly Cassius Clay], boxer, Nation of Islam, draft resister, Vietnam War opponent
Allen, Donna, Women’s Strike for Peace
Allen Jr., James W. and here, D.C. transit union leader
Allman, George, Bonus Army leader
Alott, Gordon, U.S. SenatorAlmstead, Bobbie, D.C. police first openly gay person
Alpert, Jane Lauren, part of Sam Melville group that bombed corporate targets in New York City
Ament, David, Ku Klux Klan landowner where Maryland rallies were held
Amter, Israel and here, Communist Party leader
Anderson, Marian, singer
Angales, Anna, ex-slave
Anthony, Joanna E., D.C. committee Henry Wallace for President
Apperson, George and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 president
Aponte, Sergio B., D.C. Transit operator
Armwood, George, Md. lynching victim
Astor, Nancy, member of British parliament, supporter of Hunger March
Aswell, James B., U.S. Representative, established Jim Crow in House restaurant
Atwood, Col. Harry, New Negro Alliance
Aviles, Pedro and here, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted at sedition trial
Aubrey, John, founder New Negro Alliance
Aulet, Carlos, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, turned state’s evidence at sedition trial
Ault, Paul, Williamsport, Pa. steelworker, Communist Party, Progressive Labor Movement
Ayers, William C. “Bill”, Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Bacall, Lauren, actress, opposed HUAC
Bacon, Leslie, here, and here, Mayday demonstration organizer, questioned in U.S. Capitol bombing
Baddy, Rev. R. H., Md. AME church and civil rights leader
Baez, Joan, folksinger, activist
Bailie, Helen Tufts, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) whistleblower
Baker, Ella Josephine, civil rights leader
Bancroft, Richard, here and here, Cafeteria & Restaurant Workers Union Local 471 president, California judge
Banfield, Gilbert, Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Banks, Carolyn, anti-Klan protester
Banks, Martha, ex-slave
Banks, Samuel L., Black studies educator, community activist
Baraka, Imamu Amiri, black cultural activist
Barber, Lawrence D., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Barry, Marion, black activist, D.C. political leader
Barter, Joseph and here, defied ban on interracial dance
Bates, John, Washington, D.C. civil rights activist
Bates, Ruby, here, here and here, Scottsboro accuser who recanted
Battle, Thadeus and here, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer, Young Communist League, Howard University student
Bayless, John and here, draft resister
Bayless, Leslie, here and here, civil rights activist and draft resister
Beal, Alfred, child who integrated Glen Echo Amusement Park
Beam, Harry, worker at Celanese plant
Beck, Chloeann, D.C. voting rights activist
Beck, James M., U.S. Representative, opponent of House Jim Crow
Beirne, Joseph, National Federation of Telephone Employees and Communication Workers of America leader
Belafonte, Harry and here, singer, songwriter, actor, civil rights activist
Belgrad, Herbert J., Prince George’s AFSCME union attorney
Bell, Otto G., Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Bellecourt, Vernon, American Indian Movement leader
Belton, Ethel and here, plaintiff in Belton v. Gebhart school desegregation case
Bender, George H., U.S. Representative, poll tax opponenet
Benjamin, Herbert, here, here and here, Hunger March leader, Workers Alliance leader
Bennett, [first name unknown], Washington Traffic Bureau, Bonus Army
Bentley, Elizabeth, U.S. Communist Party, Soviet spy, defected to U.S.
Bentz, Joe and here, University of Maryland College Park activist
Berger, Louis, International Labor Defense
Berkeley, Elizabeth and here, ex-slave
Berlet, Dorothy, among first women bus operator trainees
Berman, W. R., sought to assist settling transit strike
Bernstein, Carl, Washington Post journalist
Berong, Sam, /national transit union leader
Berrigan, Daniel, Catholic antiwar and anti-nuclear activist; early leader of “hit and stay movement”
Berrigan, Jerome “Jerry” and here, antiwar and hit and stay activist
Berrigan, Phillip, Catholic antiwar and anti-nuclear activist; founder of “hit and stay movement”
Bessette, Martha, Northern Virginia communications worker
Bethune, Mary McLeod, National Council of Negro Women and civil rights leader
Bick, Leon and here, civil rights activist
Biddle, Nickolas, first man wounded in Civil War (Baltimore, Md.)
Bierwagen, Walter, D.C. Amalgamated Association of Street Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees of America Division 689 president, Amalgamated Transit Union International vice president
Bigelow, Jonathan G., D.C. transit union leader
Bilbo, Theodore and here, U.S. Senator from Mississippi, member of Ku Klux Klan
Binh, Nguyen Thi “Madame”, chief delegate from the Provisional Revolutionary Government of (South) Vietnam to Paris Peace talks
Bishop, Gardner, D.C. civil rights leader
Bissell, Judith E., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Blake, William E., Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Blanton, Thomas, US Representative from Texas, opponent of integration
Blinken, S. M., National Maritime Union leader
Bloch, Emanuel, civil liberties attorney, defended Rosenbergs
Bloom, Sol, U.S. Reprewentative
Bloom, Hillarie, Mayflower Hotel striker
Bloor, Ella Reeve “Mother” Omholt and here, Communist Party labor leader
Blumberg, Dr. Albert, here, here, here and here , Maryland-D.C. Communist Party leaderr
Blumberg, Dorothy Rose, here, and here , Maryland Communist Party
Bobo, Lynn , child participant in the Longest Walk
Boddanoff, Anna, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Bogard, Ronald, attorney, sued Georgetown Unive3rsity for discrimination against gay people
Bogart, Humphrey, film and stage actor, opposed HUAC
Boggs, Martha, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striking member
Bolling, Sarah, mother of the lead plaintiff Spottswood in D.C. Bolling v. Sharpe school desegregation case
Bolling, Spottswood, here, here, here and here, D.C. Bolling v. Sharpe school desegregation case
Bonnilla, C., Washington, D.C. police officer
Bonosky, Phillip, D.C. Workers Alliance
Bookbinder, Hyman and here, AFL-CIO, American Jewish Committee, civil rights activist
Booker, Reginald, DC antiwar activist and Emergency Committee on Transportation Crisis leader
Bostick, Norvel, Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Boswell, Leora, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striking member
Boudin, Kathy, Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Boudin, Leonard and here, civil liberties attorney
Bowles, Bryant, Md. White supremacist leader
Bowman, Addison, civil liberties attorney
Bowman, Jerry, son of R. B. Bowman, Workers Ex-Servicemens’ League
Bowman, R. B., Workers Ex-Servicemens’ League
Boyd Jr., Henry Allen, Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Bradley, Lillian T.., District of Columbia voter
Branch, Julian O., New Negro Alliance
Brando, Marlon, actor, Native American rights activist
Bransome, Michael, here, here and here, draft resister
Braverman, Maurice L. and here and here, Maryland Communist Party, social justice attorney, imprisoned
Bremer, Arthur and here, attempted assassin of George Wallace
Brice, Carol and here, contralto
Brice, Mary, D.C. civil rights activist
Bricker, William “Bill”, D.C. gay activist
Briggs, Harry Jr. and here, plaintiff in Briggs v. Elliot school desegregation case
Briscoe, Edith (a.k.a. Brisker, Chappa, Villastrigo and here, Young Communist League, Communist Party, Women’s Strike for Peace
Brisker, Luba, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Bromfield, Louis, author, supporter of Republican Spain
Broadwater, J. A. B., here, here, here and here, Capital Transit official
Bromley, Bruce, attorney for the U.S. House of Representatives
Bronson, C. Dana, abortion rights activist
Brook, J. G., D.C. transit union strike leader
Brooks, Rev. R. W., Congregational minister and D.C. civil rights leader
Brooks, Rev. Robert, Lincoln Temple church, progressive minister
Brophy, John, here and here, United Mine Workers and CIO leader
Browder, Earl, chair of Communist Party USA
Brown, Elaine, Black Panther Party leader; educator
Brown, Ernest W. and here, D.C. police chief
Brown, Hubert “Rap” (Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin), black liberation and SNCC leader
Brown, Linda and here, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case
Brown, Minnie Jean, Little Rock 9
Brown, Ken, Maryland civil rights activist
Brown, Rita Mae, feminist, author, The Furies
Brown Jr., Sam W., National Student Association, Vietnam Moratorium, ACTION
Brown, Sterling, poet, chair of English Dept. Howard University
Brown, William, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Brownell, Herbert, U.S. Attorney General
Broyles, Melvin, here and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 activist
Bruce, Louis and here, Bureau of Indian Affairs commissioner
Bruce, William H., Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Bryan, John., D.C. transit union activist
Bryant, Ruth, congressional committee clerk
Buchanan, Thomas G., Washington Star journalist blacklisted, Civil Rights Congress, JFK conspiracy theorist
Buck, Jessica, instructor at union sponsored federal workers school
Buckle, Leon, Md. National Guardsman
Bucklew, M. O., Capital Transit worker
Buckley, Irving M., D.C. Transit official
Bukes, Peter, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 member
Bullard, Eugene”, black veteran beaten during Peekskill riot
Bullock, Mette, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striker
Bunche, Dr. Ralph Johnson and here, Nobel Peace Prize winner and civil rights leader
Burgess, Lillie and here, caregiver for labor leader Mother Jones in her later years
Burlak, Anne and here, labor leader, Communist Party
Burns, Paul, Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade leader
Burts, Alice, Bureau of Engraving, United Public Workers Local 3
Bush, Sgt. Scott L., Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Butler, J. Godfrey, D.C. Transit and WMATA official
Butler, Leonard, D.C. child who met Coretta Scott King
Butler, Lloyd, striking Teamster Union member
Butz, Timothy “Tim” and here, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Counterspy magazine
Byers, Rufus, manager of the Lincoln Theater
Bykowski, Edward and here, World War II vet who led demonstrations against Klan Sen. Theodore Bilbo
Bynum, Herbert “Herb”, here and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 Recording Secretary
Bynum, James, D.C. transit union activist
Byrd, Mabel J. and here, civil rights activist
Cagle, Lewis Jr., inmate, murdered Red Scare target William Remington
Calderhead, Garth W., Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 leader
Caldwell, Lawrence D., radical bank robber and cop killer
Callis, Rev. J. H., Parents League
Camper, John E. T., physician, NAACP, Progressive Party, civil rights leader
Canfield, W. H., Navy Yard worker, organized against wage cuts
Canfora, Alan, antiwar leader, wounded during Kent State University shootings
Carey, James, CIO secretary treasurer
Carlson, Eric, slain Bonus Army marcher
Carmichael, Stokely (Kwame Ture), civil rights, black liberation, SNCC, All African People’s Revolutionary Party leader
Carawan, Guy, folksinger, Highlander Research and Education Center
Carroll, Molly and here, Irish independence supporter, dropped leaflets on White House from airplane
Carrozza, Carroll, anti-Klan protester
Carter, Celestine, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Carter, John, D.C. police brutality victim
Carter, Robert L., NAACP General Counsel; judge
Casel, Jerry, American Civil Liberties Union
Case, Clifford, and here, U.S. Senator
Casey, Joseph, U.S. Representative, HUAC
Cash, Rev. Addison, Princess Anne, Md. civil rights leader
Cassell, Charles, D.C. anti-freeway, anti-war, Statehood Party leader; D.C. School Board
Castro, Fidel Alejandro, Cuban communist leader
Castro, Santiago Gonzalez, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Chalk, Claire and here, D.C. Transit official
Chalk, O. Roy, D.C. Transit owner
Champ, Bennett Clark, U.S. Senator
Chancey, Martin, D.C. Communist Party leader
Chandler, Len, singer, activist
Chandler, William C., represented William W. Remington
Chapman, Oscar, asst. secretary of Interior
Chennault, Anna, informal U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, likely CIA agent
Childs, James C., D.C. Red Caps union
Claiborne, Louis F., attorney in U.S. Solicitor General office
Clapp, Peter W., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Clark, Dudley, Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Clark, Kenneth Bancroft and here, sociologist and civil rights leader
Clark, Mamie Phipps, sociologist
Clark, Marvin and here, D.C. transit union activist
Clark, Phillip, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Clark, Ramsey, U.S. Attorney General, civil liberties attorney
Cleaver, Eldridge and here, Black Panther leader
Clemons, Mansfield, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 activist
Cleve, Harry Van, General Services Administration
Cleveland, John H., D.C. Teamsters Union Local 730, International Teamsters vice president
Coale, Ennis, opposed mandatory ROTC at U. of Md.
Cobb, Edna and here, Capital Transit streetcar operator
Cobb, James A., civil liberties attorney, prosecutor, judge
Cobb, William Montague, physician; Inhotep
Cobbs, Lillie, Bureau of Engraving, United Public Workers Local 3
Cochran, John J., U.S. Representative from Missouri, opponent of integration
Coffin, William Sloane, , Yale chaplain; anti-Vietnam War leader
Cohn, Sol and here, International Labor Defense, Communist Party, Civil Rights Congress, attorney
Coleman, Frank J., D.C. Central Labor Union leader
Collick, Lillian Blake, attempted lynching victim
Collick, Martha, attempted lynching victim
Collazo, Oscar, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, attempted assassination of Truman
Collazo, Rosa Cortez and here, Puerto Rican National Party, wife of attempted assassin Oscar Collazo, convicted of sedition
Collins, Francis, Deputy sheriff who arrested civil rights activists at Glen Echo Amusement Park
Collins, Tom, DC telephone union leader
Colman, Louis, International Labor Defense
Comer, Gordon C., Levitt Company representative, refused to sell homes to black people
Compton, Mary, one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Condron, Andrew, here, here, here, and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Conte, Richard, actor, opposed HUAC
Cook, Howard, executive director, Black Employees of the Library of Congress
Cookman, J. H., D.C. transit union leader
Coolidge, Calvin, here and here, U.S. president
Coolidge, Grace Anne Goodhue and here, wife of U.S. President Calvin Coolidge
Cooper, Ralph, Trenton 6 defendant
Copeland, Royal, U.S. Senator, discouraged integration of Senate restaurant
Corden, Sgt. Richard G. and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Cordero Andres Figueroa, here, here and here, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, attempted assassin
Costello, Catherine A., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Couming, Paul and here, refused to testify in Harrisburg 8 case
Cousins, Calvin, D.C. laundry workers union leader, Communist Party
Couth, Gwendolyn T., Bureau of Engraving, United Public Workers Local 3
Covell, Howard V., D.C. police captain
Covington, Harold, Howard student, waiter and participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Cowan, Nathan, Congress of Industrial Organizations
Cowart, Cpl. William and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Cox, C. H., D.C. Transit bus operator
Cox, Donald, Black Panther Party leader
Cox, Edward, Republican Party, husband of Tricia Nixon
Cox, James P., Catholic priest, anti-communist unemployed leader
Cox, Pearlie, columnist Washington Afro American
Cox, Tricia Nixon, Richard Nixon foundation, daughter of President Richard Nixon, wife of Edward Cox
Coxey Sr., Jacob Sechler, leader of unemployed, politician
Cross, Bill, Trail of Broken Treaties
Crow, John, Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesperson
Cullen, Marc, here, here, here, here and here, U. of Md. student beaten by police
Curran, Charles E., Catholic priest who favored birth control
Curran, Joseph, National Maritime Union leader
Curry, John W., D.C.’s first black postal worker, possibly first in the nation
Cushman, Bernard, here, and here , Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 attorney
Dabney, Gertrude, one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Dahl, Leif and here, United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing & Allied Workers of America, CIO
Dalglesh, R. H., chief engineer, Capital Transit Co.
Damato, Edward “Ed”, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW)
Damon, Anna and here, International Labor Defense and Communist Party leader
Dane, Barbara, singer; activist
Daniel, Theodora, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Danielle, Debbie, Community for Creative Non-Violence
Danzansky, Joseph B., chief negotiator of D.C. grocery employers, principal owner of Giant Food
Darrow, Clarence, prominent attorney
Davenport, Bonnie, D.C. police first openly transgender person
Davidson, Eugene, D.C. New Negro Alliance, D.C. NAACP
Davidson, Tom, antiwar activist
Davidson, William, antiwar activist
Davis, Angela Yvonne, black and women’s liberation leader, Communist Party and Committees of Correspondence leader
Davis, Benjamin “Big Ben” Jefferson and here, Communist Party leader, New York City Council member, attorney/a>
Davis, Dorothy, plaintiff in Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County school desegregation case
Davis, George, here, here and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 president
Davis, Green, white family killed by Euel Lee in wage dispute
Davis, Ivy, white family killed by Euel Lee in wage dispute
Davis, John “P.” Preston, National Negro Congress, Our World magazine, D.C. school desegregation
Davis, Michael, D.C. school desegregation, journalist
Davis, Montgomery, Washington transit horse car veteran
Davis, Ossie, actor, civil rights activist
Davis, Rennard Cordon “Rennie”, anti-Vietnam War leader, Guru Maharaj Ji
Davis, Roy V., Capital Transit bus operator
Davis, Sol Gareth “Garry” and here, World Government of World Citizens, World Service Authority
Deak, Eleanor, Red Scare victim who won reinstatement
Debs, Eugene, American Railway Union, Socialist Party candidate for President
Debs, Theodore , brother of Socialist Party candidate for President Eugene Debs
DeCesare, Rev. Anthony , civil rights activist
Delaney, Robert, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 leader
Delhome, Albert D., Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Dellinger, Dave , here and here, pacifist, antiwar leader, Chicago 8 defendant
Dellums, Ronald, U.S. Representative
De Marrias, Keith, here, here and here, Longest Walk participant
Demond, A. L., New Negro Alliance
Denham, Robert N., NLRB general counsel
Dennis, David, freedom rider
Denny, George V., moderator, Town Hall of the Air
De Priest, Oscar Stanton, here and here, U.S. Representative from Illinois, sole black congressman 1929-34
Detzer, Dorothy, here and here, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and D.C. civil rights leader
De Vorr, E. J., circulation manager Washington Star
Diamond, Dion, Non-Violent Action Group, D.C. civil rights leader
Dickstein, Samuel, U.S. Representative
Dies, Martin, U.S. Representative, HUAC
Dietrich, John Paul, here and here, Non-Violent Action Group actvist, civil rights activist
Diggs, Charles C., U.S. Representative, picketed Glen Echo
Digia, Ralph, anti-nuclear activist
Dillingham, J. Brinton “Brint”, social justice advocate, confrontation politics
Dillingham, John, social justice advocate, attorney
Dillingham Jr., Ms. William Henry [first name unknown], and here, social justice activist, mother of Brint and John
Dix, Carl., here and here, Fort Lewis 6, Revolutionary Communist Party
Doak, William N. and here, U.S. secretary of labor
Dodie, Isola, women’s rights activist
Doerfier, Raymond, Ku Klux Klan
Dohrn, Bernardine R., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Donnelly, Elizabeth, Trade Union Unity League activist
Donohoo, Robert W., federal mediator
Donohue, F. Joseph., attorney for four Puerto Ricans nationalists
Donovan, John L. and here, D.C. labor leader at Commerce Department
Diamond, Dion , D.C. area civil rights leader
Donohoo, Robert. W., federal mediator
Dorsey, Emmett, Howard University, civil rights activist
Dougherty, Dave and here, University of Maryland College Park activist
Douglas, Helen Gahagan, U.S. Representative
Douglas, Leslie, daughter of Progressive Party candidate for President Henry Wallace
Douglas, Sgt. Rufus D., Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Douglass, Anna Murray, abolitionist and wife of Frederick Douglass
Douglass, Frederick, ex-slave, abolitionist and black rights leader, DC Recorder of Deeds
Douglass, Helen Pitts, civil rights and women’s rights, second wife of Frederick Douglass
Douty, Robert, D.C. transit union activist
Drakins, Maury, D.C. transit veteran
Drew, Rev. Simon P. W.and here, sponsor of D.C. ex-slave convention, vice presidential candidate
Du Bois, Shirley Graham, Musicologist, playwright, novelist and political activist; wife of W. E. B. Du Bois
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.”, NAACP and civil rights leader
Dudley, Martha W., D.C. League of Women Shoppers, civil rights activist
Duffy, Mary, M., Irish independence supporter
Duncan, Todd, actor, singer, civil rights activist
Dundon, James, Textile Workers of America, Celanese plant
Dunkel, Gregory and here, mathematics professor, University of Maryland anti-Vietnam War leader
Dunn, John R., here, here, and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Durr, Clifford Judkins, New Deal Democrat, National Lawyers Guild leader, civil rights attorney
Durr, Virginia Foster, Southern Conference for Human Welfare, Progressive Party, civil rights activist
Dyer, Leonidas, U.S. Representative, sponosor of anti-lynching bill
Eaton, Charles, U.S. Representative
Eckford, Elizabeth, Little Rock 9
Edmonson, Gladys, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Edwards, R. K., DC telephone union leader
Edwards, Xavier and here, Interstate Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard
Eicher, Walter, Workers Ex-Servicemen’s League, Bonus Army
Einstein, Hans Albert, lynching foe, son of scientist Albert Einstein
Eisenhower, David, history professor, husband of Julie Nixon Eisenhower, son of President Dwight Eisenhower
Eisenhower, Dwight “Ike”, Commander of Allied forces in Europe WWII; U.S. President
Eisenhower, Julie Nixon, Richard Nixon foundation, daughter of President Richard Nixon, wife of David Eisenhower
Elgin, Riley, chair, D.C. Public Utilities Commission
Elkins, Wilson Homer “Bull”, University of Maryland president
Elmes, Rev. Arthur F., D.C. civil rights activist
Elrich, Marc and here, student activist, Montgomery County council, executive
Emerson, Ralph, National Maritime Union leader
English, Collis, Trenton 6 defendant
Epton Jr., William Leo “Bill”, Harlem Progressive Labor Party leader
Eckstein, Ernestein, early black lesbian rights activist
Escute, Esteban Quinones and here, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Evans, Ahmed (Fred), black nationalist, imprisoned for life
Evans, Dr. Hiram W., Imperial Wizard, Ku Klux Klan
Evans, Sonja , anti-draft activist
Evans, Viola , Longest Walk (1978) participant
Ewell, Ailene, leader Washington Council of Negro Women

F-J

Farley, Jasper J., D.C. transit union activist
Farrar, Leonard C., National Forum Association, DC civil rights activist
Fauntroy, Rev. Walter, here, here, here and here, civil rights activist, D.C. Delegate to Congress
Fawcett, Maxine, Maryland Ku Klux Klan, bride in Klan wedding
Fehsenfeld, Robert and here Cambridge, Md. white supremacist
Felder, Edward, D.C. Young Communist League, D.C. Communist Party USA
Ferraro, Bob and here, University of Maryland College Park activist
Ferrell, Frank J., African American Knights of Labor leader
Ferrick, Mary, Irish independence supporter
Fesperman, Bill, Patriot Party leader
Fialani, Domenick, Young Communist League leader
Finwick, Ernest, D.C. Red Caps union
Field, Frederick Vanderbilt, Civil Rights Congress leader
Finley, Max , D.C. polling place clerk
Finney, Nathaniel, transit union member
Firestone, Shulamith, feminist
Fisher, Ovie Clark, U.S. Representative, opponent of cafeteria workers
Flatley, Judith A., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Flaxer, Abram, United Federal Workers, United Public Workers leader
Fleming, Phillip, Federal Works Administration administrator
Fletcher, A. B., Navy Yard worker, organized against wage cuts
Fliegelman, Ronald D., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Flowers, Warren and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 activist
Floyd, Pauline, women’s rights, first woman admitted before Supreme court
Fluharty, George T., Capital Transit barn foreman
Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley , Industrial Workers of the World, American Civil Liberties Union, Communist Party chair, jailed
Fonda, Jane, actress, anti-Vietnam War activist
Ford, James W. “Jim”, here, here and here, Communist Party candidate for U.S. Vice President
Forer, Joseph, here, here and here, D.C. civil liberties attorney
Forrest, McKinley, Trenton 6 defendant
Fortuna, Sgt. Andrew, here and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Foster, William Z., labor and Communist Party USA leader
Foushee, Thomas, D.C. transit union activist
Fox, Brad, antiwar activist, Youth International Party
Fox, Morris, here, here and here, D.C. Transit executive
Fox, Richard , U. of Md. antiwar activist
Foy, Rev. James D., D.C. Methodist church and civil rights leader
Frankfeld, Phillip and here and here, Maryland Communist Party leader, imprisoned
Frankfeld, Regina and here and here, Maryland Communist Party leader, imprisoned
Fraser, J. M., original 1866 Ku Klux Klan member, member in second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan
Frazier, E. Franklin, sociologist, civil rights activist
Friedan, Betty and here, author, women’s rights leader
Friedman, Daniel M., second assistant U.S. Solicitor General
Froines, John, antiwar activist, Chicago 8 defendant
Fuerst, John A., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Fuller, Elaine and here, D.C. antiwar activist, Committee of Returned Volunteers
Furman, Gertrude, one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Gannon, Mary, D.C. labor leader
Gandia, Julio Pinto, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party leader, convicted of sedition
Gardner, Frazier, Disabled Veterans Ernie Pyle chapter
Gardner, William L., refused to testify in Harrisburg 8 case
Garner, Helen and here, civil rights activist
Garner, John Nance and here, Speaker of the House, Vice-President, supporter of Jim Crow
Garrett, A. Sheridan and here, Irish independence supporter
Garrett, Laura M., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Gary, Enoch B., Md. state police superintendent
Gee, Sylvia, here, here, here and here, Black Employees of the Library of Congress
Gellert, Hugo and here, Anti-Horthy League, artist
Gelston, George M., here and here, Md. National Guard commander during Cambridge crisis
Gerber, E. B., Capital Transit investor
Germina, Major, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Gibson, Joel L. and here, D.C. civil rights activist, Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis
Gibson, John, Asst. Secretary of Labor
Giddings, E. Cleveland, here, here, here and here, Capital Transit executiveGilbert, David J., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground, Revolutionary Armed Forces Task Force
Gilbert, Ronnie, The Weavers, singer
Giles, James, here and here, Md. man falsely convicted of raping white woman
Giles, John, here and here, Md. man falsely convicted of raping white woman
Gilman, Elisabeth, Maryland Socialist Party leader
Gilmore, Margaret and here, United Public Workers leader, Bureau of Engraving, D.C. civil rights leader
Gittings, Barbara and here, lesbian rights activist
Glick, John “Ted” , here, here and here, SDS, Harrisburg 8 defendant—case severed from others
Glover, Ron, Maryland Ku Klux Klan leader
Goldberg, Lt. Joshua L., Jewish Navy chaplain
Goldman, Emma, American anarchist
Gompers, Samuel, American Federation of Labor leader
Goodrick, Richard, federal labor conciliator
Goodman, Phillip, D.C. anti-freeway activist
Gordon, James, black child refused admittance to Kentucky schools
Gordon, Jerry, National Peace Action Coalition leader
Gordon, Teresa, black child refused admittance to Kentucky schools
Gorman, Francis, United Textile Workers union leader
Gormely, James J., Amalgamated Transit Union representative
Gorsuch, Dickinson and here, son of Maryland slave owner Edward Gorsuch, wounded during Christiana incident
Gorsuch, Edward and here, Maryland slave owner, slain during Christiana incident
Graham, Rev. Billy, conservative evangilist
Grant III, Ulysses S., National Park & Planning Commission, Government Services, Inc., opponent of cafeteria workers
Gray, Rev. Arthur D. and here, D.C. National Negro Congress president, D.C. NAACP president
Gray, Catherine, New Negro Alliance
Grayson, Francis DeSales and here, Martinsville 7, executed
Grayson, Sarah, first known D.C. black or black female bus operator
Green, Abner, American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born leader
Greene (later Britt), Gwendolyn, D.C. area civil rights activist, Maryland state senator
Green, J. E., Salt Lake City transit union leader
Green, James., Free Euel Lee campaign
Green, Robert A., U.S. Representative from Florida, opponent of integration
Green, William, here and here, AFL labor leader
Greene Jr., Ralph Waldo “Petey”, community organizer, D.C. radio and TV host
Greenblatt, Robert and here, anti-Vietnam War leader
Greenleaf, Robert Webster, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer, killed in action
Greer, Steven “Nick”, George Washington University Students for Democratic Society leader
Gregory, Richard “Dick” Claxton, here, here and here, comedian, civil rights and peace activist
Gregory, Karl D., Levitt refused to sell Bowie, Md. home to him
Gresham, William L., D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Griffin, William L., civil rights activist arrested at Glen Echo Amusement Park
Griggs, Sgt. Lowie and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Grimke, Rev. Francis, Presbyterian minister and civil rights activist
Grinnell, Charles and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 Recording Secretary
Groppi, James, here and here, civil rights and anti-Vietnam War leader
Groves, Eugene and here, National Student Association
Gruening, Ernest and here, U.S. Senator
Guiles, Rev. R. E. and here, DC AME church and civil rights leader
Gumbo, Judy Clavir (last name Albert) and here, Yippie and Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell activist
Gurge, Harold, striking Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen member
Guttmann, Rev. Reinhart B., Md. Congress of Racial Equality activist
Haessler, Gertrude and here, labor activist
Haile, Roy Bartee, here, here, here and here, wounded in police shooting that killed People’s Party II leader Carl Hampton; John Brown Revolutionary League
Haggerty, Mary, antiwar activist
Hairston Frank and here, Martinsville 7, executed
Hairston, Howard Lee and here, Martinsville 7, executed
Hairston, James Luther and here, Martinsville 7, executed
Hall, George, interracial dancer
Hall, Gus and here, Communist Party USA chairman
Hall, Ms. John P. (no first name) , anti-nuclear weapons activist
Halpern, Seymour, U.S. Representative, picketed Glen Echo
Hamilton, Julia West and here, Federation of Women’s Clubs, YWCA, National Association of Colored Women, women’s rights and civil rights activist
Hamilton. Col. West A., National Guard, D.C. school board
Hampton, Carl, People’s Party II, slain by police
Hampton, Joe Henry and here, Martinsville 7, executed
Handelsman, Leonard, Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Hannah, R. E. , D.C. transit union leader
Hanway, Castner and here, local man who refused to help slavers during Christiana incident, charged with treason
Hardy, Joan , opposed Japanese imperialism
Hardy, Kenneth, D.C. corrections director
Harper, Solomon, here and here, Communist Party organizer; inventor
Harriman, Florence Jeffrey , former U.S. ambassador to Norway
Harris, Marie Richardson , United Public Workers, National Negro Congress leader, imprisoned
Harris, Wesley [a.k.a. Robert Jackson], escaped slavery
Hart, Gertrude V., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Hart, William Henry Harrison, attorney, founder of the NAACP, civil rights leader
Hartley Jr., Fred A., U.S. Representative, anti-labor activist
Hartzell, Anne, District of Columbia Nurses Association leader
Hastie, William H. , here and here, Governor of the Virgin Islands, federal judge, dean of Howard Law School, civil rights leader
Havoc, June, actress, dancer, writer, and stage director, opposed HUAC
Hawk, David, Vietnam Moratorium Committee
Hayden, Tom, anti-Vietnam War leader; Chicago 8; married to Jane Fonda
Hayes, Denis and here, Earth Day coordinator
Hayes, George E. C., lead attorney Bolling v. Sharpe, Annie Moss and Marie Richardson cases; Public Utilities Commission
Hayes, John W., Knights of Labor leader
Hayes, L. J. W., New Negro Alliance
Hayes, Roland, singer
Hays, Lee and here, The Almanac Singers, The Weavers, singer
Hays, Pati and here, University of Maryland College Park activist
Haywood, Harry, Communist Party, Scottsboro campaign
Haywood, Alan S., Congress of Industrial Organizations
Haywood, William Dudley “Big Bill”, here and here, Socialist Party, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) leader
Headley, Alice, here and here, transit union member
Heberlie, James E., Washington transit veteran
Heckler, Margaret Mary and here, U.S. Representative
Hellerman, Fred, The Weavers, singer
Henderson, Edwin Bancroft “E. B.”, D.C. schools, black basketball, Fairfax Co., Va. NAACP
Henry, Rev. John, D.C. Baptist minister and civil rights activist
Henry, Rev. Laurence G., D.C. area civil rights leader
Henshaw, (first name unknown), here and here, Capital Transit Northern Division superintendent
Herman, Bill, DC telephone union leader
Hershey, Lewis B., U.S. Selective Service director
Herter, Christian, Massachusetts governor, Secretary of State
Hess, Karl, Barry Goldwater speechwriter, New Left figure, Libertarian Party
Hickerson, Harold, Bonus Army leader
Hill, James R., Capital Transit streetcar operator
Hilliard, David, Black Panther Party leader
Hinton, William “Bill”, author, chronicled revolutionary China</a
Hircsh, Barbara, anti-Vietnam War activist</a
Hobson, Julius Wilson, D.C. civil rights activist, D.C. school board and city council member
Hobson, Jr., Julius and here, son of D.C. activist Julius Hobson; candidate for D.C. Council
Hobson, Tina Lower and here, wife of D.C. activist Julius Hobson
Hockenberry, Clint, student who sued Georgetown University for discrimination against gay people
Hodges, Thelma, Capital Transit streetcar operator
Hodgkins, E. R., D.C. transit union strike leader
Hoffman, Abbie Howard, Yippie leadser
Hoffman, Claire, U.S. Representative, opponent of cafeteria workers
Holcombe, Bryce P., D.C. painters’ union leader
Holden, James A. and here, federal mediator
Holmes, Louyco, D.C. Red Caps union
Holtzman, Elizabeth and here, women’s rights activist, U.S. Representative
Homer, R. R., attorney, Parents League
Hopkins, Samuel, helped drive off slavers during Christiana incident
Horne, [no first name—Ms. Samuel H.], D.C. voting rights activist
Hoskins, Samuel, Washington Afro American
Howard, Elbert “Big Man”, here, here, here, here , here and here, Black Panther Party leader
Howard, Michael, steelworkers and cannery workers organizer, Communist Party
Howard, Perry Wilbon, civil rights attorney, Republican national committee from Mississippi
Houston, Charles Hamilton, NAACP, Howard Law School, civil rights attorney
Hoxha, Enver, Albanian communist leader
Hruska, William, Bonus marcher, slain by police
Hubbard, Karen, anti-nuclear weapons activist
Hudgin, Robert, Virginia Ku Klux Klan grand dragon
Hueston, William C., Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World, civil rights activist
Huggins, Ericka, here, here and here, Black Panther Party; educator; jailed two years
Hughes, Christine Ray, aide to U.S. Representatives Mitchell and Dawson
Hughes, Langston and here, Harlem Renaissance poet, writer
Huiswoud, Otto , Communist Party leader
Hull, Cordell, Secretary of State
Hume, Harold, D.C. transit union activist
Hunton, W. Alphaeus, Civil Rights Congress and Council on African Affairs leader
Huston, John, director, screenwriter and actor, opposed HUAC
Hutchins, Paul S., office employees union leader
Hutchinson, G. T., Capital Transit training instructor
Hutchinson, Ralph, anti-nuclear activist
Hutchinson, Robert W., personnel director at the Library of Congress
Ickes, Harold, secretary of Interior
Idol, H. A., sought transit service during strike
Ifshin, David, here, here, here, here and here, National Student Association president, Democratic Party attorney
Ingram, Jimmy, D.C. labor leader
Issac, Frank, Navajo veteran protested discrmination
Jackson, Ms. [no first name] Bowen, Maryland civil rights activist
Jackson, Donald and here, D.C. transit union activist
Jackson, Rev. E. Franklin and here, DC NAACP leader
Jackson, Jesse, civil rights leader, presidential candidate
Jackson, Joseph and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 activist
Jackson, Mamie, D.C. Green Guards
href=”https://flic.kr/p/2hX6eo2&#8243; rel=”noreferrer nofollow”>Jackson, Marion H., National Council of Negro Women
Jackson, Mike, here, here and here, University of Maryland College Park activist
Jackson, Regina, D.C. teacher
Jacobs, John G., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Jacobs, Samuel, congressional aide
Jaffee, Naomi E., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Jenison, Alice W., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Jenkins, Noah and here, D.C. transit union activist
Jernigan, William Henry, here and here, pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, civil rights leader
Jimenez, Jorge Luis, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Joel, Super Yippie (last name unknown), Youth International Party
Johnson, Agnes, U.S. Labor Department employee
Johnson, Col. Campbell, U.S. Army, YMCA, civil rights activist</a
Johnson, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird”, First Lady (President Lyndon Johnson)
Johnson, Dale, opponent of Chilean dictatorship, Rutgers professorJohnson, Douglas E., D.C. Red Caps union
Johnson, Harelyn, attempted to desegregate Arlington, Va. schools, daughter of Harold Johnson
Johnson, Harold, Arlington, Va. civil rights activist
Johnson, Harold G., Methodist minister, first black minister in a D.C. area white congregation
Johnson, James Weldon and here, NAACP and civil rights leader
Johnson, Jerome, D.C. civil rights activist
Johnson, Lenore, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Johnson, Lyndon B., here and here, U.S. President
Johnson, Mordecai Wyatt, here, here and here, Howard University president
Johnson, Nelson, Workers Viewpoint Organization, victim of Klan and police attack
Johnson, Rita, attempted to desegregate Arlington, Va. schools, daughter of Harold Johnson
Johnson, Terrence , killed two police officers in Hyattsville jail
Johnson, William S. and here, D.C. cooks union, civil rights activist, Communist Party
Jones, Bessie, Georgia Sea Island Singers
Jones, Claudia, black Communist Party leader, deported
Jones, Edmond L., here and here, Capital Transit attorney
Jones, J. Charles, civil rights leader, ACCESS
Jones, Jeffrey C. “Jeff”, Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Jones, Lenora H., D.C. resident offered herself for execution in place of Sacco and Vanzetti
Jones, Lois M., art teacher, Howard University
Jones, Mary Harris ‘Mother’, labor leader
Jones, R. M., National Maritime Union leader
Jones, William, Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Jones, William N., Afro American journalist
Jordon, David Starr, white supremacist, WWI opponent
Jupiter, Page, victim of attempted lynching, later executed
Justesen, Thomas M., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground

K-O

Kaiser, Henry, Retail Clerks Local 400 attorney
Kameny, Franklin, D.C. and national gay rights leader
Kaslick, Selma, D.C. United Office and Professional Workers, CIO; civil rights activist
Kauffman, Mary, Civil Rights Congress attorney
Kaye, Danny, actor, singer, dancer, comedian, musician, opposed HUAC
Kazana, Imani, civil rights leader
Keech, Richmond B., vice chair, D.C. Public Utilities Commission
Keene, Mary, here, and here, Irish independence supporter
Keith, Earl, Md. state police captain
Keith, Rudolph “Skip” and here, U.S. Air Force, gay rights advocate
Kelly, Edward J. and here, D.C. police commissioner</a
Kelsey, Herb and here, D.C. anti-Vietnam War leader
Kennedy, Robert and here, U.S. Attorney General
Kent, Rockwell, artist, supporter of Republican Spain
Kerr, Marion, D.C. Green Guards
Keyes, Evelyn, actress, opposed HUAC
King, Clarence, Washington Railway & Electric Co. owner
King, Coretta Scott, civil rights leader, wife of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King Jr., Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and civil rights leader
Kirkland, Lane, AFL-CIO president, Group Health Association
Kitt, Eartha and here, singer, actress, dancer, antiwar activist
Klein, Arthur, U.S. Representative, supported D.C. cafeteria workers union
Klein, Norman, arrested in 1st Red Scare
Kleindienst, Richard, Deputy Attorney General
Kline, Henry, deputy marshal during Christiana incident who helped slavers
Knight, J. Lynn and here, D.C. transit union activist
Knutson, Harold, U.S. Representative
Koo, Benjamin, interracial dancer
Koontz, Roger, striking Teamster Union member
Kuden, Dr. Harold , Association of Gay Psychologists
Kuhn, Fritz Julius, German-American Bund leader
Kun, Bella, Hungarian Soviet leader
Kunstler, William, here, here and here, left-wing defense attorney
Kurshan, Nancy, Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH)
Lacey, Rev. Graham G., D.C. civil rights activist
La Follette, Robert M., Progressive Party, U.S. Senator
La Garde, Dick and here, Longest Walk participant
Landstrum, Else, National Maritime Union activist
Lane, Dr. O. A., Parents League
Lane, Thomas, Brig. General
Lanon, Al , National Maritime Union leader, Communist Party leader
LaRicci, Anthony, Maryland Ku Klux Klan leader
Larose, Tawna Sanchez t, Long Walk for Survival participant
Lasser, David and here, Workers Alliance leader
Lavagnino, Jerry, D.C. Green Guards
Law, Oliver, here and here, first black commander of an integrated American unit, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, killed in action
Lawrence, Thomas J., D.C. Street Protective Railway Union
Lawrence, William “Bill”, here and here, D.C. Communist Party leader
Lawson, Belford Vance, here and here, civil rights attorney, New Negro Alliance
Lawson, John Howard, Hollywood 10
Lebron, Dolores Lolita, here, here and here, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, attempted assassin
Lebron, Juan Bernardo, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Ledoux, Urbain J. “Mr. Zero”, advocate for the unemployed, developer of earned media
Lee, Euel “Orphan Jones”, Md. conviction for murder overturned due to exclusion of black people from jury, later executed
Lee, Gilbert, federal mediator
Lee, Harvey, transit union activist
Lee, Ulysses, Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Lee, Wayne, here and here, refused mandatory ROTC at UMD
Legg, R. E., Maryland trooper wounded during U. of Md. antiwar demonstrations
Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich and here, Russian revolutionary, first leader of Soviet Union
Lesser, Sue, here, here, here, here, here, and here, AFSCME activist
Levenson, Leonard, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Levine, Samuel, Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union attorney
Levinson, David, International Labor Defense attorney
Levner, William, New York Teachers Union, AFL
Lewis, Elijah, charged with treason for Christiana incident
Lewis Frances, Capital Transit streetcar operator
Lewis, John L., mineworkers and CIO labor leader
Lewis, John Robert and here, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader, freedom rider, U.S. Representative
Lewis, Kathryn and here, labor activist, daughter of John L. Lewis
Lewis, Morris., aide to U.S. Rep. Oscar DePriest, denied service in House restaurant
Lewis, Wilhelina, Bureau of Engraving, United Public Workers Local 3
Liebknecht, Karl, German communist leader
Lingo, Carlotta, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Lipman, Lena, interracial dancer
Little Bobbie (whole name unknown), bagpiper during Coxey’s Army
Little, Joan and here, killed her jailer in self-defense, acquitted of murder
Lively, Walter, NAACP, CORE, Student Peace Union, Students for Democratic Society, U-Join, Black Workers Congress
Lockley Roy G., Arlington, Va. Police officer
Logan, Rayford, National Negro Congress
Lohmeyer, Morris, Maryland National Guard
Lomack, Bertha, New Negro Alliance
Lovett, Edward P. and here, Howard University professor, NAACP attorney, civil rights activist
Luthhardt, Charles T., Fighting American Nationals leader, anti-integration
Lutz, Theodore, D.C. Metro general manager
Lydia, Edell [Kwame Afoh] and here, D.C. black nationalist activist, Pan Afrikan Nationalists of South Florida
Lynd, Staughton and here, antiwar leader, civil rights activist
Lyttle, Bradford, Committee for Non-Violent Action, draft resister
Lyttle, Mary, antiwar activist
MacArthur, Douglas, U.S. Army general
Machtinger, Howard N., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Mack, Gunner, D.C. radio personality
Magid, Larry, anti-Vietnam War activist, National Student Association Center for Educational Reform, tech writer
Mahoney, Annie, evicted at age 90
Makeba, Miriam, singer, songwriter, actress, civil rights activist
Mallory, Arenia, founder of industrial arts school
Mandel, Marvin, Maryland governor; jailed for corruption
Mann, James E., Washington transit horse car veteran
Manner, Paul H., Prince George’s AFSCME chief negotiator
Manuilsky, Dimitri Z., Ukrainian Foreign Minister
Mao Zedong, here and here, Chinese communist leader
Marcantonio, Vito Anthony “Marc”, U.S. Representative, American Labor Party
Mardian, Robert, Asst. Attorney General
Markward, Mary, secretary, D.C. Communist Party; FBI informant
Marshall, Dr. C. Herbert and here, civil rights activist, National Medical Association leader, D.C. NAACP
Marshall, Esther T., D.C. civil rights activist
Marshall, Thurgood, NAACP General Counsel; U.S. Solicitor General; U.S. Supreme Court
Marshall III, George, Secretary of State
Martin, [first name unknown], woman who accompanied recanted Scottsboro accuser Ruby Bates
Martin, Hazel, interracial dancer
Martin, Lewis, ex-slave
Martin Jr., Robert Anthony (later known as Stephen Donaldson), here and here, pacifist, gay rights activist
Martinez, Maximino Pedraza, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Mason, Charles, civil rights activist, husband of Hilda Mason
Mason, Hilda M., here and here, D.C. board of education, D.C. councilmember, Statehood Party
Mathias, Charles “Mac”, here and here, U.S. House of Representatives (R-MD)
Matlovich, Leonard, U.S. Air Force, gay rights advocaste
Matos, Armando Diaz, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Matthews, David, Baltimore National Workers Organization
Matthews, J. B., HUAC investigator
Matthews, Ralph, D.C. civil rights activist, Afro American newspaper
Matthews, Rives, target of free press suppression
Mayes, Crystal, civil rights activist
Mayfield, Rufus “Catfish”, D.C. community activist
Mayo, John, New Negro Alliance
Mazique, Edward C., physician, Medico-Chirurgical Society of Washington
Mazique, Jewel, D.C. labor, civil rights and women’s activist
McAlister, Elizabeth, here, here, here, here and here, hit and stay activist, Harrisburg 8 defendant
McCabe, Harry, U.S. Marshal
McCann, Patrick “Pat”, University of Maryland activist, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, PGCEA and MCEA teachers unions
McCloud, Charles, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
McCloud, Isabelle, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
McCoy, George and here, inmate; murdered Red Scare target William Remington
McCullough, Celeste M., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
McDaniel, Frances, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striking member
McDonald, David, United Steel Workers
McDonald, Duncan, United Mine Workers leader
McDonough, William F., National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
McFadden, Louis Thomas, U.S. Representative, opposed House restaurant Jim Crow, Nazi sympathizer
McGarraghy, Joseph C., employer attorney for hotels
McGee, Willie, executed for raping a white woman, subject of nationwide campaign to free him
McGlasson, Amy B., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
McGuigan, Francis J.., president of Retail Clerks Local 400
McGuire, Raymond (and wife), DC freeway opponents
McGuire, Virginia and here, D.C. NAACP leader
McIntyre, Francis, U.S. Assistant Director of International Trade
McKenzie, John, Trenton 6 defendant
McKinnie, Lester and here, D.C. SNCC leader
McMichael, Jack, Methodist minister, American Youth Congress leader, peace activist
McLaughlin, Neil Rev., here, here and here, Harrisburg 8 defendant
McLaughlin, Robert E. and here, D.C. Commissioner, D.C. Public Utilities Commission
McNamara, Patrick V., U.S. Senator
McPherson, Janet, Mother Jones Collective
McRobie, Austin., Capital Transit worker
Meade, William B., Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 leader
Meany, William George and here, AFL and AFL-CIO, labor leader
Medina, Angel Luis, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, turned state evidence at sedition trial
Medina, Juan Francisco, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Medina, Julio Flores, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Meiselman, Mariam and here, Baltimore, Md. garment worker activist
Melnicoff, Paul, here, here, and here, D.C. activist
Menz, Anne, refused to testify in Harrisburg 8 case
Merrill, E. D. and here, president of Capital Transit, refused to hire black operators
Meyer, Agnes, wife of Washington Post publisher
Meyers, George A., Md. Textile union leader, Md. CIO leader, Md. and national Communist Party leader, imprisoned
Middleton, Jimmy, D.C. Metro wildcat strike
Mikulski, Barbara Ann and here, U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative
Miller, Alvin C. and here, white supremacist
Miller, H. B.., D.C. Transit streetcar operator
Miller, Hugh, Washington Committee for Democratic Action
Miller, John E., U.S. Representative, upheld Jim Crow at House restaurant
Miller, Judy, House Banking and Currency Committee
Miller, Kelly , Howard University dean of Arts and Sciences, NAACP
Miller, L. I., D.C. transit union strike leader
Miller, Marc T.., student activist, Montgomery County Freedom Party
Miller, William Newton, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Milliken, Helen, Equal Rights Amendment leader, wife of Michigan governor William Milliken
Millner, Booker T. and here, Martinsville 7, executed
Mills, Alexander W., Unemployed Council
Mills, Clyde, labor conciliator
Mills, Jake and here, D.C. transit union activist
Mills, Sue V., anti-busing leader, Prince George’s County Council
Mills, Walter Thomas, Progressive Party
Mindell, Jacob, Communist Party leader, jailed
Minh, Ho Chi, Vietnamese communist leader
Miranda, Raphael Cancel, here, here and here, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, attempted assassin
Misty (no last name) and here, participant in conference on homosexuality
Mitchell, Arthur W., black U.S. Representative
Mitchell, Clarence, here and here, NAACP lobbyist
Mitchell, Curtis and here, Howard University graduate, civil rights activist
Mitchell, John, Attorney General
Mitchell, Jonas E., D.C. Red Caps union
Mitchell, London, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 member
Molotov, Vyacheslav M., Soviet communist leader
Monova, Michael, Cambridge, Md. civil rights activist
Montgomery, S. A., D.C. transit union strike leader
Montgomery, Viola and here, mother of Scottsboro defendant
Mooney, Carol, women’s rights activistMooney, John B., San Francisco transit union leader, brother of imprisoned labor leader Tom Mooney
Mooney, Mary, mother of imprisoned labor activist Tom Mooney
Mooney, Rena Hermann, wife of imprisoned labor leader Tom Mooney, activist
Mooney, Tom and here, imprisoned labor leader
Moore, Douglas “Doug”, Black United Front, D.C. City Council
Moore, Jerry, D.C. Councilmember
Moore, Loyd, Prince George’s AFSCME striking member
Moore, Richard B., International Labor Defense
Moreno, Antonio Herrera, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Morris, L. W., Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 leader
Morrow, E. Frederic, White House administrative officer
Morse, Wayne and here, U.S. Senator
Moss, Annie Lee, Army signal corps clerk, accused by Sen. Joseph McCarthy of being a communist
Moss, Sgt. Howard G., Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Moss, Lauree, anti-Vietnam War activist
Moton, Robert Russa, principal of Tuskegee Institute
Mouton, William L. “Red” and here, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Moynihan, Patrick Henry., U.S. Representative from Illinois, opponent of Jim Crow
Mulholland, Joan Trumpauer, here and here, Non-Violent Action Group, D.C. civil rights leader
Mumford, L. Quincy, Librarian at the Library of Congress
Mundy, Kenneth, defense attorney
Murphy, George B. and here, National Negro Congress, civil rights activist, son of Afro American editor George Murphy
Murray, Rev. Dr. Anna Pauline “Pauli”, Episcopal priest, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights activist
Murray, Donald Gaines, plaintiff in U. of Md. desegregation case, civil rights attorney
Murray, Phillip, United Steel Workers and Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) leader
Murray, Robert, D.C. transit union strike leader
Murrell, Larry, child who integrated Glen Echo Amusement Park
Nabritt Jr., James, civil rights attorney, president of Howard University
Nader, Alan, here, here and here, University of Maryland and D.C. area activist
Nanton, Robert, Retail Store Employees Local 400 striking member
Nelson, G. H., San Antonio transit union leader
Nelson, Steve, Communist Party leader
Newman, Craig, here and here, D.C. activist, AFSCME 1072 leader
Newton, Huey and here, Black Panther Party
Nhu, Madam (Tran Le Xuan), South Vietnamese leader, wife of President Ngô Đình Diệm
Nichols Jr, Cary, D.C. voting rights activistNieves, Miguel Vargas and here, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Nishida, Tai, Long Walk for Survival participant
Nix, James, here, here, here and here, Black Employees of the Library of Congress
Nixon, Richard M., here, here, here, here, here and here, U.S. President
Nixon, Russell, National Guardian
Nixon, Thelma Catherine “Pat”, First Lady of President Richard M. Nixon
No Last Name, Harry and here, Regional Addiction Prevention participant
No Last Name, Sheldon , child participant in the Longest Walk
Norman, Duncan and here, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Norris, Ida, here and here, Scottsboro mother
Norton, Dr. Joseph, Association of Gay Psychologists
Novak, Mike, United Auto Workers
Nowell, Virginia, D.C. Green Guards
Nuttle, Marilyn, Trail of Broken Treaties
O’Brennan, Kalthleen, Irish independence supporter
O’Brien, Helen, here, here, and here, Irish independence supporter
O’Dwyer, Paul, New York City Council, civil liberties attorney
Oglesby, Alexander, Frederick Douglass Post 21 of the Grand Army of the Republic veterans
O’Hair, Madalyn Murray, atheist and anti-school prayer leader
O’Hair, Garth Murray, atheist and anti-school prayer leader
O’Hair, William Murray, plaintiff in anti-school prayer case, later Christian Baptist minister
Olabes, Donna, American Civil Liberties Union
Olivera, Serafin Colon and here, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, acquitted of sedition
Olmstead, Mildred Scott, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom leader
O’Neal, Eugene “Gene” and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 recording secretary
Orr, Rezin and here, Amalgamated Transit Union leader
Ortiz, Florentino, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Ortiz, Murielo, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Ortiz, Sancha, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Osborne, John, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Ottinger, Bill, D.C. Metro wildcat strike
Owens, Sarah E. Boulware and here, first African American woman knowingly hired as a D.C. Transit bus operator
Owens, Thomas, United Rubber Workers

P-T

Pace, John, here, here and here, Workers Ex-Servicemens League leader, Bonus March
Padget, William, local man who helped slavers during Christiana incident
Palmer, A. Mitchell, U.S. Attorney General, led first Red Scare
Palmer, Charles, here, and here, National Student Association president
Palmer, Eleanor, Washington Telephone Traffic Union activist
Palmer, Oliver, DC cafeteria union leader
Param, Annie, ex-slave
Parker Barrington, civil liberties attorney, federal judge, son of George Parker
Parker, Bill, Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Parker, Carl and here, inmate; murdered Red Scare target William Remington
Parker, Charlie, Prince George’s AFSCME union leader
Parker George A., founder Terrell School of Law; father of Barrington Parker
Parrish, Theodore, here, here, here and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 recording secretary
Parrott, Ethel, Bureau of Engraving, United Public Workers Local 3
Parsons, Lucy, anarchist leader, wife of Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons
Patak, John, interracial dancer
Patler, John, American Nazi Party, assassin of George Lincoln Rockwell
Patrick, Ann, Dry cleaning presser, cast ballot in union vote
Patterson, James O’Hanlon, U.S. Representative, favored Jim Crow House restaurant
Patterson, Janie, here and here, Scottsboro mother
Patterson, Leonard, Trade Union Unity League spokesperson
Patterson, Louise Thompson, here and here, Communist Party, civil rights leader
Patterson, Mary Louise, daughter of William L. and Louise T. Patterson
Patterson, Samuel, chair of Scottsboro Defense Committee
Patterson, William L., Communist Party and civil rights leader
Pattillo, Melba, Little Rock 9
Perrin, Sandra M., here and here, D.C. transit union activist
Perry, Hardy, transit union member
Perry, Milton, Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, “Boy Wonder Preacher”
Peters, A. J., Boston, Ma. police chief
Pettigrew, Robert and here, first black D.C. bus operator knowingly hired
Phillips, Rev. Channing, D.C. civil rights; Coalition of Conscience, first black man to receive votes for U.S. president at a Democratic Party Convention
Phillips, Louise, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Phillips, Nick, Revolutionary Communist Party
Phoebus, Harry T., Md. commissioner of labor
Pickens, William, NAACP, Department of Treasury
Piercy, Marge, feminist author
Pigasus, Ms., here, here and here, Yippie presidential candidate’s first lady
Pinchot III, Gifford., Md. civil rights activist
Pinn, Rev., Parents League
Porter, Charles O., U.S. Representative, picketed Glen Echo
Porter, John, imprisoned labor leader
Potofsky, Jacob , Amalgamated Clothing Workers president
Potryuski, Walter, musician at interracial dance
Pollock, Robert G., Ohio labor leader
Posado, Maurice, American University student, subject of campaign to prevent deportation
Potts, Virginia, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striker
Powderly, Terence, Knights of Labor leader
Powe, Ralph, civil rights, civil liberties attorney
Powell Jr., Rev. Adam Clayton, civil rights leader, New York City Council, U.S. Representative
Powell, Jeffrey D., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Powell, Josephine, Scottsboro mother
Praier, J. H., Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Pratt, Lowell D., D.C. SNCC organizer
Preller, C. F., D.C. Central Labor Union leader
Pressman, Lee, CIO General Counsel, Communist Party ally
Pringle, Claude, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Proctor, Michael A., civil rights activist arrested at Glen Echo Amusement Park
Pugh, James H., Montgomery County judge—Giles Brothers, Glen Echo, Washington Free Press
Pullium, Morris., Capital Transit shop worker
Purnell, Julia P. and here, Alpha Kappa Alpha
Quigley, Patrick, Baltimore National Workers Organization
Quinlan, William, Chicago transit union leader
Quinn, Maura and here, Irish independence supporter
Rainey, Henry Thomas and here, U.S. Speaker of the House, opponent of desegregating House restaurant
Randolph, Asa “A.” Phillip, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and civil rights leader
Rankin, Jeanette, First woman U.S. Representative, voted against U.S. entry into WWI and WWII
Rankins, Pfc. Samuel D., Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Ransom, Leon and here, Howard Law School acting dean, NAACP attorney, civil rights activist
Raskin, Marcus, Institute for Policy Studies, Boston 5, father of U.S. Rep. Jaime Raskin
Rauh, Joseph L. and here, civil rights and civil liberties attorney
Raum, Rev. A. F. T. , Methodist clergyman who ministered the D.C. Ku Klux Klan
Raven, Robert, Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Ray, Eugene, D.C. Metro wildcat strike leader
Ray, Gloria, Little Rock 9
Rayburn, Laura J., adjunct professor who sued Georgetown University for discrimination against gay people
Reading, Sue, original and revived Washington Area Spark contributor, social justice activist
Reagan, Judy, lesbian activist; folksinger
Reagon, Bernice Johnson., Freedom Singers; Sweet Honey in the Rock
Reed, Cal, antiwar activist
Reed, Thane, anti-nuclear activistReeves, Daniel, son of civil rights lawyer; Democratic Party activist Frank Reeves
Reeves, Deborah, daughter of civil rights lawyer; Democratic Party activist Frank Reeves
Reeves, Elizabeth, wife of civil rights lawyer; Democratic Party activist Frank Reeves
Reeves, Frank D., civil rights lawyer, Democratic Party activist
Reid, Herbert O., D.C. civil rights attorney; advisor to Democratic officials
Reimers, Elizabeth, Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training
Remington, William, Red Scare target, killed in prison
Remon, John, vice president C&P Telephone
Renfrow, Rudolph, New Negro Alliance
Renfrow, Ruth Kelso, Missouri Federation of Women’s Clubs
Reuben, Ida, Md. state senator
Reuther, Walter, United Auto Workers president
Reynolds, Irene, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striker
Rexrode, George, here and here, D.C. transit union activist
Rhine, Henry, United Federal Workers, Washington Industrial Council
Richardson, Gloria (married name Dandridge), Cambridge, Md. civil rights and labor leader
Richardson, Griffin, D.C. Red Caps union, Communist Party, father of Marie Richardson Harris and Thomas “Tommy” Richardson
Rice, Cora, Maryland NAACP
Rich, Knoxie, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Richmond, Rodney and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and International leader
Ricketts, Thomas Parker, D.C. transit veteran
Risling Sr., David, Longest Walk (1978) participant
Rizzo, Anthony, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Robbins, Lucy and here, American Federation of Labor, Debs Freedom Conference
Roberts, Helen, immigrant rights activist
Robeson, Eslanda., anthropologist, wife of Paul Robeson
Robeson, Paul, black activist, singer, actor
Robey, Henry, striking Teamster Union member
Robins, John, Somerset County, Md. state’s attorney
Robinson, David “Oops”, D.C. transit union activist
Robinson, George W. and here, president, D.C. Red Caps union
Robinson, Jackie, here, here, here and here, baseball star, civil rights activist
Robinson, Perry Ray, antiwar and civil rights activist
Robinson, Verdie, New Negro Alliance
Robinson-Williams, Mabel Ola., NAACP, wife of Robert F. Williams
Rockwell, George Lincoln, American Nazi Party leader
Roddy, B. J. and here, Irish independence supporter
Rodgers, Helen and here, defied ban on interracial dance
Rodriguez, Irvin Flores, here , here and here , Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, attempted assassin
Rogers, Bob, staff member, D.C. Council
Rogers, William P., U.S. Attorney General; U.S. Secretary of State
Romney, Kenneth, House Sergeant at Arms, condemned civil rights demonstrators
Roosevelt, Eleanor, here and here, First Lady, wife of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Roosevelt, Franklin D., U.S. President
Roosevelt Jr., Franklin D., U.S. Representative, supporter of permanent FEPC
Roosevelt Jr., Theodore and here, government, business, military leader, son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
Rose, Blanche, D.C. Green Guards
Rosenberg, Ethel and here, convicted atom spy, executed
Rosenberg, Julius and here, convicted atom spy, executed
Rosenberg [later Meeropol], Michael, here and here, son of executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Rosenberg [later Meeropol], Robert, here and here, son of executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Rosenberg, Sophie, here and here, mother of executed Julius Rosenberg and mother in law of executed Ethel Rosenberg
Ross, Louis, Washington, D.C. civil rights activist
Ross, Malcolm, Fair Employment Practices Commission
Ross, Margaret, DC telephone union leader
Ross, Paul, civil liberties attorney
Rosser, Amelia and here, Irish independence supporter, first woman to speak on floor of House of Representatives
Roth, Robert H., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Rothman, Paul, National Maritime Union leader
Rotter, Celia and here, Debs Freedom Conference
Rubin, Jerry Clyde, Yippie and anti-Vietnam War leader
Rucker, Bernard “Bunny” and here , Va. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Rudd, Nancy A., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Rudd Mark W., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Ruiz, Francisco Cortez, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, turned state’s evidence for sedition trial
Russell, Charles Edward, muckraking journalist, Socialist Party, a founder of NAACP
Russell, Richard and here, first black D.C. streetcar operator knowingly hired
Russell, Theresa Hirshl, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and D.C. civil rights leader
Rustin, Bayard, national civil rights leader
Ryan, Carson and here, BIA and DC civil rights activist
Ryan, James, J., student who sued Georgetown University for discrimination against gay people
Sacco, Nicola, here and here, anarchist, executed
Sales, Robert, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 activist
Sanakiewicz, Harriet, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striker
Saunders, Marvous, here and here, civil rights activist arrested at Glen Echo Amusement Park
Saunders, William “Pop” and here, one of the first black D.C. bus operators and the first Metrorail operator
Savage, Kathleen, here, here, and here, Irish independence supporter
Scarlet, Joseph, charged with treason for Christiana incident
Schauer, Donna Lee, Capital Transit bus passenger
Schloss, Leonard, general manager Glen Echo Amusement Park
Schneiderman, Rose, Women’s union leader
Schniderman, Saul, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, U. of Md. AFSCME 1072; Library of Congress AFSCME 2910
Schwellenbach, Louis B., Secretary of Labor
Scoblick, Anthony, here, here, here and here, Harrisburg 8 defendant
Scoblick, Mary.Cain, here, here and here, Harrisburg 8 defendant
Scoggin, Bob and here, Ku Klux Klan
Scoggin, William T., D.C. Metro wildcat strike leader
Scott, Emmett J., business manager and secretary reasurer, Howard University
Scotti, Pacific, striking Teamster Union member
Seale, Robert “Bobby” George, Black Panther leader
Sector, Frank B., Scottsboro campaign
Seeger, Pete and here, The Almanac Singers, The Weavers, singer
Sellers, Cleveland, SNCC and civil rights leader
Sexton, Joan, D.C. swimming pool integration activist
Shakur, Afeni, Black Panther leader
Shank, Elizabeth, Mayflower Hotel striker
Sharps, Amos, D.C. Red Caps union
Sharpe, Carol, D.C. voting rights activist
Sheehan, Frank J., president of D.C. grocery employers
Sheehan, Hattie, Capital Transit bus operator
Sheils, Sean, Irish Republican Army
Shelton, Alton, Maryland Klan</>
Shepard, John (Sheppard Strudwick), actor, opposed HUAC
Shindell, Len, here and here, Baltimore National Workers Organization, United Steelworkers of America
Shooer, William , National Labor Relations Board
Shostek, Sidney and here, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer, killed in action
Sigmon, William L. and here, slain police officer
Simms, William F. and here, D.C. transit union leader
Simons, William “Bill”, Washington Teachers Union president
Simpson, Craig G., ATU Local 689 secretary-treasurer, UFCW Local 400 executive director, social justice activist, Spark administrator
Simpson, Helen and here, mother of Spark contributors Bob and Craig Simpson
Simpson, Robert “Bob”, University of Maryland SDS, AFSMCE 1072, Official Irish Republic Club, Venceremos Brigade, Chicago activist
Tate, U. Simpson, National Negro Congress leader
Simpson, William L., World War II soldier, father of Spark contributors Bob and Craig Simpson
Sistrom, Joe, producer and writer, opposed HUAC
Skardis, John R., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Skinner, Cpl. Lowell and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Slick, Grace Barnett, singer and counter-culture activist
Slowe, Lucy, dean of Howard University women
Smeal, Eleanor, Equal Rights Amendment leader, National Organization of Women, Feminist Majority Foundation
Smirnovsky, Mikhail N., Soviet Charge D’Affairs
Smith, Ernest C., pastor Metropolitan Baptist Church, civil rights activist
Smith, George C., Parents League
Smith, Dr. J. Holmes, opposed British jailing of Nehru and Ghandi
Smith, Luther, D.C. transit union activist
Smith, Roberta B., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Smith, Roland R., Bowie State College student government president
Smith, Sam., alternative journalist, D.C. Gazette, Progressive Review
Smith, Therell, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Snow, Maj. B. C., D.C. Public Utilities Commission
Snow, Vernon, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer, killed in action
Snowden, O. Phillip, Howard student, participant in Capitol restaurant desegregation effort
Snyder, Mitch, Community for Creative Non-Violence
Sobell, Helen. and here, wife of convicted atom spy Morton Sobell
Sobell, Mort, son of convicted atom spy Morton Sobell
Sobell, Morton, convicted atom spy, imprisoned
Sobell, Rose, mother of convicted atom spy Morton Sobell
Sobell, Sydney, daughter of convicted atom spy Morton Sobell
Sotomayor, Gonzalo Lebron, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, turned state’s evidence at sedition trial
Spangler, Ernest, D.C. hotel workers leadert
Spears, Harvey M., D.C. Transit attorney
Spencer, Samuel, and here, D.C. Commissioner
Spiegel, Michael L., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Spock, Dr. Benjamin, pediatrician, author, antiwar leader
Spottswood, Stephen Gill, pastor John Wesley AME Zion church, civil rights activist
Springer, Maida, American Federation of Labor
Spritzer, Ralph S., first assistant U.S. Solicitor General
Stachio, William, United Auto Workers
Stalin, Josef, here and here, Soviet communist leader
Starnes, Mabel, D.C. Green Guards
Starr, Mo and here, participant in conference on homosexuality
Starr, Dr. Dorothy , participant in conference on homosexuality
Stearns, Richard, National Student Association
Steele, Thomas W., D.C. voting rights activist
Steelman, John, chief of staff to President Harry S. Truman
Stein, Annie, Washington, D.C. labor and civil rights leader
Stein, Barry Phillip., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Steinem, Gloria and here, women’s rights leader
Steinger, Dr. Klaus, East German journalist; analyst
Stephens, Claire, D.C. transit union activist
Stevenson, Barry, evicted with blind mother and blind grandmother
Stevenson, Bernice, blind woman evicted with blind grandmother and two children
Stevenson, Irene, blind grandmother evicted with blind duaghter and two children
Stevenson, Joyce, evicted with blind mother and blind grandmother
Stewart, C. T., Navy Yard worker, organized against wage cuts
Stone, Gertrude B., Washington, D.C. civil rights activist
Stone, Isadore Fenstein “I. F.” and here, muckraking journalist, anti-fascist
Stone, Joyce Fenimore, Washington, D.C. civil rights activist
Strange, Dorothy, National Negro Congress
Streeter, John J., Progressive Party
Stewart, James, one of first Philadelphia black motormen
Strong, Lt. Col. George E., labor conciliator
Strong, Katherine, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Strum, Bill , here and here, University of Maryland College Park activist
Strumpf, Marc, here, here and here, Montgomery County Freedom Party, University of Maryland student government president
Stutson, Sandy, here, here, here and here, Black Employees of the Library of Congress
Sullivan, Sgt. Laurence G., Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Sulloway, Cyrus, U.S. Representative
Summers, Ernest A., Arlington, Va. Police officer
Surasky, Jack., Capital Transit investor
Sweeney, Alvin, Northern Virginia labor leader
Swinglish, John, refused to testify in Harrisburg 8 case
Tabankin, Margery, National Student Association president, Democratic Party
Talley, John Earl, slain D.C. transit operator
Tanner, Ms. F. S., Parents League
Tanz, Alfred, D.C. Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer
Taylor, Glen, U.S. Senator; vice presidential candidate for Progressive Party
Taylor, James, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Taylor, John Clabon and here, Martinsville 7, executed
Taylor, Joseph D. “J.D.”, here, here, here and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 activist
Taylor, Lois, D.C. Afro American reporter
Taylor, Sarah, Bureau of Engraving, United Public Workers Local 3
Teague, Walter , U.S. Committeee to Aid the National Liberation Front, social justice activist
Templin, Rev. Ralph, opposed British jailing of Nehru and Ghandi
Tenneson, Pfc. Richard, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Tennyson, David, Grand Army of the Republic veteran
Terrell, Mary Church, National Council of Negro Women and civil rights leader
Terrell, Rep. George Butler, U.S. representative and proponent of segregation in House
Terry, Juanita, first black aide to a white U.S. Representative
Thomas, Bill and here, Longest Walk participant
Thomas, Henry and here, Communist Party; Laborers Local 74; witness against former comrades
Thomas, Jefferson, Little Rock 9
Thomas, James, Cambridge, Md. white supremacist
Thomas, James H., boarded desegregated Virginia bound bus
Thomas, John A., Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 Secretary Treasurer
Thomas, W. F., Navy Yard worker, organized against wage cuts
Thomas, Jr. James M. “Tommy”, here, here, here and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 president</>
Thompson, Charles, National Negro Congress
Thompson, Mayme, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Thompson, Micki Jo, Washington Telephone Traffic Union striking member
Thompson, Rev. R. W., Parents League
Thompson, Sadie and here, ex-slave
Thorne, M. Franklin, New Negro Alliance
Thorpe, James, Trenton 6 defendant
Thurmond, Edward, D.C. Red Caps union
Tibbs, Celestine, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Tieger, Joseph “Buddy”, draft resister
Tigar, Michael, “Movement” attorney
Timm, Eros A., here and here, radical bank robber, cop killer
Timmerman, Douglas H., D.C. voting rights activist
Tippett, Tom, union activist, journalist, author
Tobias, Channing and here, secretary national council YMCA, civil rights
Tola, Michael, Mayday organizer, suspect in Capitol bombing
Tompkins, Esther M., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Toney, Charles, civil rights activist, John Deere
Torres, Manuel Rabago, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Torresola, Doloes Otero, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, wife of slain attempted assassin Griselio Torresola, convicted of sedition
Torsell, Carolyn, here, here, here and here, Black Employees of the Library of Congress
Townsend, Francis and here, promotor of alternative pension plan to Social Security
Trevellick, Richard. F., organizer of first national labor conference
Triplett, James A., D.C. Red Caps union
Truman, Harry, here, here here and here, U.S. President
Trumbo, Dalton, Hollywood 10
Truth, Sojourner (Isabella [Belle] Baumfree), ex-slave, abolitionist, feminist
Tubman, Harriet, here, here and here, escaped slavery, spy for Union Army, abolitionist
Tucker, Sterling, D.C. Urban League, D.C. City Council
Tuomi, Sirkka, one of first Women’s Army Corps (WAC), Maryland Communist Party
Turner, Leon, here, here, here and here, Black Employees of the Library of Congress

U-Z

Underhill, Charles Lee, U.S. Representative, favored House Jim Crow
Underwood, Albert and here, civil rights activist
Uran, Andrew, unemployed, auctioned by Urbain LeDoux
Usera, Vincent, Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer, lived in D.C. after the war
Van Stavern, W. H., D.C. transit union leader
Vance, Susan Ford, Equal Rights Amendment leader, daughter of U.S. President Gerald Ford
Vance, Tyne, granddaughter of U.S. President Gerald Ford
Vanzetti, Bartolomeo and here, anarchist, executed
Velez, Angel Luis Arzola , Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, convicted of sedition
Vernon, William Tecumseh, AME bishop, university president, Registrar of the Treasury
Vincent, Craig, Washington Industrial Union Council
Voorhis, Jerry, U.S. Representative, HUAC
Vorys, John, U.S. Reprewentative
Waddle, C. H., automobile dealer, supporter of Father Cox
Wade, Bob, University of Maryland College Park Students for a Democratic Society
Waldron, Rev. J. Milton, Parents League
Walker, Harold, Attica Survivors Committee
Walker, March, American University student, sought to prevent deportation of fellow student
Wallace, George Corley, white supremacist governor of Alabama and presidential candidate
Wallace, Henry, New Deal Democrat, Progressive Party candidate for President
Waller, Maurice, here, here, here, here and here, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 activist
Wallaert, Steven, Alexandria, Va. Air Traffic Controllers union president
Walls, Carlotta, Little Rock 9
Walsh, James (wife of—name unknown)., Irish independence supporter
Ware, A. L., commuted by horse during transit strike
Ware, Amy, ex-slave
Warfield, Adj. Gen. Edwin., Md. National Guard commander during campus occupations
Warren, Rep. Lindsay and here, U.S. Representative and enforcer of segregation at House cafeteria
Washington, Cecil and here, civil rights activist arrested at Glen Echo Amusement Park
Washington, Walter, Washington, D.C. mayor
Waters, Walter W., Bonus Army leader
Watkins, Steve., D.C. Metro wildcat strike
Watson, Henry, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Watts, Glen, D.C. telephone union leader, Communications Workers of America union leader
Weaver, David, D.C. transit union activist
Weaver, Frederick C. and here, Afro American reporter and civil rights activist
Weaver, Margaret E., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Webb, Harold, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Weiss, Charles, Association of Gay Psychologists
Weiss, Lawrence M., Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground
Welch, Selena, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Welcome, Verda , Md. State senator
Wellen, Margaret E., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Wenderoth, Rev. Joseph, here and here, Harrisburg 8 defendant
Wesley, Dr. Charles Harris, AME minister, Howard dean and Washington, D.C. civil rights leader
Weston, Robert, W., judge, D.C. Public Utilities Commission
Whalen, Patrick “Paddy” B., Communist Party, Baltimore labor leader
Wheaton, Rev. Phil , opponent of Chilean dictatorship
Wheeler, Roger, labor arbitrator
Whelcher, Claude J. , Maryland Ku Klux Klan, groom in Klan wedding
White Sr., Compton, U.S. Representative, opponent of integration
White, Don, Prince George’s AFSCME striking member
White, George H., last black U.S. Representative of Reconstruction era
White, John P., mine workers labor leader
White, Walter, NAACP leader
White, Pfc. William C. and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Whitehurst, Christine, among first women bus operator trainees
Wilbert, George A., Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 leader
Wiggins, Elsie, Plymouth Congregational Church NAACP club
Wilcox, Mamie Williams, here and here, Scottsboro mother
Wilkens, Roy, here and here, NAACP leader
Wilkerson, Cathlyn Platt, Weather Underground and DC SDS leader
Wilkerson, Doxie A., here, here and here, Howard University professor, civil rights activist, Communist Party USA
Wilkinson, Frederick D., Howard University registrar
Wilkinson, Garnet C. , D.C. administrator of black schools
Williams, Anne, social justice activist
Williams, Rev. E., Parents League
Williams, Ms. [no first name] Earl, Maryland civil rights activist
Williams, Hosea and here, civil rights and Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader, Georgia elected official
Williams, Joan, D.C. civil rights activist
Williams, Lelia, D.C. transit union activist
Williams, Matthew and here, Md. lynching victim
Williams, McRae, D.C. Red Caps union
Williams, Preston, D.C. transit union veteran
Williams, Robert F. and here,NAACP, Revolutionary Action Movement
Williams, Smallwood and here, bishop of D.C. Bible Way Church, civil rights activist
Williamson, Harold E., opponent of Rosenbergs execution
Willis, E. B., Progressive Party
Williston, Peggy, New Negro Alliance
Willmen, Carl, Cambridge, Mds. Civil rights demonstrator
Willoughby, Lillian, anti-nuclear activist
Wills, Pfc. Morris R. and here, Korean War POW who refused repatriation
Wise, William, Dorchester County Citizens Association, segregationist
Wilson, Dagmar Searchinge, anti-nuclear testing and anti-Vietnam War leader
Wilson, Horace, Trenton 6 defendant
Wilson, James Finley and here, Grand Exalted Ruler of the I.B.P.O.E. of W. and civil rights leader
Wilson, Jerry, D.C. police chief
Wilson, John, Princess Anne, Md. civil rights activist
Wilson, Mary L., one of D.C.’s first all-woman jury
Wilson, Will R., Asst. Attorney General
Wind, Tom and here, Longest Walk participant
Winkowsky, Joseph, anti-imperialist activist
Wolfre, Herb , striking Teamster Union member
Wolfson, Cecil, Capital Transit investor
Wolfson, Louis., here and here, principal owner Capital Transit, coporate raider
Woll, Matthew, AFL labor leader
Wood, Charlie, Vintage Spark contributor
Wood, Leroy H. and here, D.C. Communist Party leader, imprisoned
Wood, Tom, antiwar activist
Woodcock, Leonard and here, United Auto Workers president
Woodard, Mark, U. of Md. student strike leader
Woods, Arthur, New York City police commissioner
Woods, Peter, helped drive off slavers during Christiana incident
Woodson, Granville, New Negro Alliance
Woodson, Minnie, D.C. School Board
Woodward, Robert, Washington Post journalist
Worthy, William, Afro American journalist, civil rights and right to travel activist
Wright, Billy and here, D.C. transit union leader
Wyatt, Jane, actress, opposed HUAC
Wyman, Bill, Vietnam Veterans Against the War
X, Malcolm [Little], Nation of Islam, black liberation spokesperson
Yarrow, Peter, social justice activist, member of singing group Peter, Paul and Mary
Yeldell, Joseph P. and here, D.C. appointed councilmember; D.C. administrator
Yergan, Max and here, National Negro Congress leader, later FBI informer, supporter of apartheid
Young, Andrew, civil rights leader, U.S. Representative
Young, Charles, son of Col. Charles Young, Scottsboro activist, aided Soviet Union
Young, Coleman, Detroit, Mich. mayor
Young, Gary, D.C. Metro wildcat strike leader
Young Horse, Floyd, Trail of Broken Treaties
Zabel, John O., Progressive Party
Zais, Jim , D.C. Gay Activist Alliance leader
Zanbower, Cortes , worker at Celanese plant
Zerubin, Georgi, Soviet ambassador
Zerubin, Mrs. (name unknown), wife of Soviet ambassador
Zetkin, Claire, German communist leader
Zhou Enlai, Chinese communist leader
Zimring, O. David , here and here, Labor Bureau of the Middle West
Zucker, Jack and here, United Shoe Workers

Image Guide

30 Jan

Our images are housed on Flickr and can be accessed it a number of different ways: Albums (images that are related or of the same event), Camera Roll (in the order of the date of the image), Photostream (in order of the date the image was uploaded), and by using the search feature at the top of the Flickr page.

Image Albums by Subject

Mayday: May 3, 1971

Mayday, May 3, 1971

 

Quick links by subject

Anarchism

Emma Goldman

Abbie Hoffman in D.C.

Cathlyn Platt Wilkerson

Jerry Rubin

Sacco & Vanzetti: 1920-27

D.C. Weather bombings: 1971-7

Big Bill in DC: 1915

First Red Scare: 1919-25

Antiwar

(See Vietnam War for Indochina conflict)

Daniel Berrigan

Phillip Berrigan

Dagmar Wilson

Women’s Strike for Peace

Anti-Korean War: 1950-53

Hit and stay: 1967-75

World Citizen: 1948-49

War against Iraq: 1991

Student Peace Union: 1958-67

Debs in DC: 1921

Antiwar: 1917

Women against war: 1920-81

Jeanette Rankin: 1914-40

Women’s International League: 1915-90

No forced ROTC: 1930-70

Anti-draft protests: 1947-80

Youth Congress: 1934-41

Pre-war peace pickets: 1941

No nukes: 1950-85

Harrisburg 7: 1971-72

Civil Liberties

Civil Rights Congress: 1940-46

DC Democratic Action: 1940-46

George E. C. Hayes

Freedom House: 1969

Annie Lee Moss

Clifford and Virginia Durr

William Worthy

Chicago 8/7 conspiracy: 1968-70

Cafeteria Local 471

Madalyn Murray O’Hair: 1963

First Red Scare: 1919-25

DC Red Scares

Marie Richardson remembered

Police raid Progressives: 1948

No-Knock: 1970

Free Press battle: 1969

Surveying police surveyors: 1971-73

Catholic U strike: 1967

Civil Rights and Black Liberation before 1955

D.C.’s Red Summer: 1919

Eisenhower on civil rights: 1953-60

C. Herbert Marshall

Civil Rights Congress: 1946-46

NAACP in D.C.

‘Young Thurgood’ Marshall

Frank D. Reeves

E. B. Henderson

Va. Klan

The Klan in D.C.

Marian Anderson in D.C.

Walter White

George E. C. Hayes

Eugene Davidson

John Preston Davis in D.C.

Charles Hamilton Houston

Clifford and Virginia Durr

A. Phillip Randolph in D.C.

W. E. B. Du Bois in D.C.

Oliver Palmer

“Marc” Marcantonio in D.C.

Pauli Murray

William L. Patterson

David Levinson

Paul Robeson in D.C.

Ex-slave convention: 1916

Capitol cafes: 1934-90

Safeway Jim Crow: 1935-41

Black postal clerks: 1868-1971

Frederick Douglass: 1818-1895

Cafeteria Local 471

Laundry strike: 1937

Interracial dance: 1929

Adam Clayton Powell in DC: 1940-70

Jim Crow at U.S. Engraving: 1947-50

Anti-lynching action: 1934-35

Maryland lynch mobs: 1930-40

Parents League: 1919

VA school segregation: 1954-66

DC’s fighting barber: 1947-54 (Gardner Bishop)

DC parks & pool integration: 1949-54

DC New Negro Alliance: 1934-43

DC National Negro Congress: 1936-55

Mary McLeod Bethune

Truman at NAACP: 1947

African American GAR: 1900-35

Youth Congress: 1934-41

For fair employment: 1941-50

Abolish poll taxes: 1940-48

Gone with the Wind: 1940

Interracial strike: 1937

Georgia lynching protest: 1946

DC Scottsboro action: 1932-35

Free Willie McGee: 1945-51

Bilbo has got to go: 1945-46

Mary Church Terrell: 1863-1954

Martinsville 7: 1951

No police brutality: 1941

No police brutality: 1936-40

No VA Jim Crow?: 1946

DC Jim Crow Theaters: 1922-54

Anti-lynching campaign: 1922

MD crab strike: 1938

Marie Richardson remembered

Fighting Capital Transit racism: 1941-55

Civil Rights and Black Liberation after 1955

Muhammad Ali in the DMV

D.C. fire bias: 1971-85

Eisenhower on civil rights: 1953-60

Welfare rights: 1965-72

Ralph Featherstone

The last delivery

Jesse Jackson in D.C.

AKA in D.C.

Plasterers’ Union: 1964

NAACP in D.C.

Hosea Williams in D.C.

‘Young Thurgood’ Marshall

RAP: 1970-79

Rufus “Catfish” Mayfield

Frank D. Reeves

E. B. Henderson

Coretta Scott King in D.C.

L. D. Pratt: 1965-67

Va. Klan

The Klan in D.C.

Howard Cook

Rev. Douglas Moore

Gwendolyn Britt (Greene)

No. Va. civil rights: 1938-68

D.C. food deserts: 1965-1990

Eugene Davidson

A. Phillip Randolph in D.C.

W. E. B. Du Bois in D.C.

Cleveland Sellers

Julius Hobson

Angela Davis in D.C.

Stokely in the DMV

Gloria Richardson Dandridge

Rap Brown in the DMV

Overturn Bakke: 1977

Police brutality: 1966-72

King in DC: 1956-68

VA school segregation: 1954-66

Youth march: 1959

Adam Clayton Powell in DC: 1940-70

Malcolm in DC: 1961-63

NoVa theater Jim Crow: 1962-63

Goodman, Schwerner, Chaney: 1964

Wallace in MD: 1964-72

MD school segregation: 1954-74

Rats cause riots: 1967

Poor People’s march: 1968

20th Anniversary march: 1983

Giles-Johnson: 1961-67

King holiday: 1968-86

DC civil rights: 1965-70

DC civil rights: 1960-64

Bowie State: 1968

UMD Black Student Union: 1968-75

Stadium pickets: 1963-90

Terrence Johnson: 1979-80

March on Washington: 1963

Laurence G. Henry: 1960-61

March on DC: 1958

Cambridge, MD rights: 1963-67

DC Selma reaction: 1965

Prayer Pilgrimage: 1957

Demand open housing: 1963-67

MD civil rights: 1960-68

MLK assassinated: 1968

Glen Echo picket: 1960

Rockville, MD sit-in: 1960

Homes not roads: 1969

100 hour Hiser picket: 1960

DC rights warrior: 1960

Resistance to the Klan in MD:

African Liberation: 1972-86

DC Black Panthers: 1969-74

VA restaurant sit-ins: 1960

Racism at the Library of Congress: 1971-73

Children’s march for survival: 1972

Communists

Patrick B. “Paddy” Whalen

William Remington

George A. Meyers

Fidel in D.C.

Martin Chancey

End war; jobs now: 1971

Laundry strike: 1937

Cafeteria Local 471

Federal workers school

Interracial Dance: 1929

Communist Assn.: 1944

Anti-Deng protests: 1979

May Day: 1935

MD crab strike: 1938

Seamen march on DC: 1937

Md.-D.C. communists: 1920-65

Release John Porter: 1928

Bicentennial protests: 1976

Hunger Marches: 1931-32

Immigration rights: 1930

Rosenberg execution: 1953

Celanese strike: 1936

Passaic strike: 1926

Madalyn Murray O’Hair: 1963

DC unemployed protest: 1930

DC Red Scares

Marie Richardson remembered

Sammie Abbott appreciation

DC Scottsboro action: 1932-35

No police brutality: 1936-40

Police raid Progressives: 1948

Spanish Civil War: 1936-39

First Red Scare: 1919-25

D.C. Area Miscellaneous

Mother Jones Collective: 1970-72

Jews for Urban Justice: 1968-72

Washington Free Community: 1968-74

Welfare rights: 1965-72

DC Democratic Action: 1940-46

Price protests: 1946-73

Henry Wallace in D.C.

Anti-Semitism in the DMV

RAP: 1970-79

Ralph W. “Petey” Greene

Sam Smith

D.C. alternative periodicals

D.C. food deserts: 1965-1990

Charles Cassell

Jerry Wilson 

J. Brinton “Brint” Dillingham

Radical bank robbery: 1971

Prince George’s protest: 1971

No freeways; build Metro: 1964-74

No fare hike: 1966-72

Protest election: 1968

CCNV: 1973-1990

D.C. voting rights: 1932-73

Group Health: 1959

Hit and Stay: 1968-75

Police raid Progressives: 1948

Sammie Abbott appreciation

Free Press battle: 1969

Surveying police surveyors: 1971-73

Fight Against Fascism

Nazi saboteurs: 1942-46

Spanish Civil War: 1936-39

Wallace in MD: 1964-72

Responding to the right: 1940-85

Liberation of Dachau: 1945

Off to fight fascism: 1942-45

Anti-fascist protests: 1930s

Resistance to the Klan in MD:

Housing

Homes not roads: 1969

D.C. area housing: 1944-70

Immigrant Rights

Sacco & Vanzetti: 1920-27

Anti-deportation: 1940

Immigrant rights: 1977

Mt. Pleasant riot: 1991

Immigration rights: 1930

Meeting at Central Presbyterian: 1973

LBGT

Kameny in D.C.

Pauli Murray

LBGT rights: 1975-90

DC LGBT rights: 1965-74

MoCo gay teacher fired: 1972-73

Labor Movement

Independent truckers: 1973-80

Greyhound-Trailways strikes: 1941-93

GPO strike: 1970

D.C. fire bias: 1971-85

WMA bus: 1922-73

VA public transit

ATU 689 officers

Navy Yard ‘Rosies’: 1917-62

Plasterers’ Union: 1964

Patrick B. “Paddy” Whalen

Construction unions: 1939-46

Union representation elections: 1937-80

International Women’s Day: March 8th

Postal pay disputes: 1934-81

Washington Teachers Union: 1967-68

Walter Bierwagen

Craig Simpson

George A. Meyers

Phillip Murray

A. Phillip Randolph in D.C.

Joseph Beirne

Oliver Palmer

Gloria Richardson Dandridge

Mary Gannon

David Levinson

Va. public workers: 1970-90 

Telephone Traffic Union: 1944-47

Capitol cafes: 1934-90

Prince George’s strike: 1980

Railroad workers: 1877-1990

Benefit reductions: 1970-901944-47

Nurses strike: 1978

Labor law reform: 1947-78

Safeway Jim Crow: 1935-41

Black postal clerks: 1868-1971

Government union: 1934

Patco strike: 1981

Laundry strike: 1937

Cafeteria Local 471

Federal workers school: 1937

Big Bill in DC: 1915

Price controls: 1946

Navy Yard wage cuts: 1921

Jim Crow at US Engraving: 1947-50

Tom Mooney in DC: 1939

Release John Porter: 1928

John L. Lewis in DC: 1935-69

Postal employees: 1934

Terrence Powderly: 1849-1924

Group Health: 1959

Debs in DC: 1921

Hotel workers: 1930-90

Celanese strike: 1936

DC truck strikes: 1938-50

Transit strike: 1955

Transit strike: 1951

Samuel Gompers: 1850-1924

Passaic strike: 1926

Solidarity Day: 1981-82

Stadium pickets: 1963-90

D.C. Labor meetings

Government workers: 1928

Communications workers: 1940-80

ATU 689 birth: 1916-17

D.C. area strike wave: 1945-46

Capital Transit strikes: 1945

Mother Jones 1837-1930

Taft-Hartley protests: 1947

Seamen march on DC: 1937

WPA protests: 1936-40

Interracial strike: 1937

DC streetcar women: 1943-61

MoCo teachers strike: 1968

MD crab strike: 1938

Marie Richardson remembered

Fighting Capital Transit racism: 1941-55

Post busts pressmen’s union: 1975

News workers: 1949-75

K. Graham burned in effigy: 1975

DC Metro wildcat strikes: 1978

Farmworkers Safeway boycott: 1973

Transit strike: 1974

Confrontation at Mineral Pigment: 1973

On the job murder at Metro: 1974

Racism at the Library of Congress: 1971-73

Terps at issue in hotel fight: 1974

Union fight at Lanham hotel: 1974

Hotel workers hit GOP: 1974

Say no to Rhodesian chrome: 1973

Caucus pickets steel talks: 1977

Farah boycott: 1973

May Day picket: 1974

Teamsters strike Safeway: 1969-74

Meatcutters strike betrayed: 1973

Retail clerks: 1960-79

ATU Local 689-No Service: 1974

Union staff strike NEA union: 1974

Peoples Drug strikes: 1960-74

Fairfax Hotel strike: 1974

Painters union: 1937-40

Longshore battle: 1951-54

Wartime strikes: 1942-45

First Red Scare: 1919-25

Marijuana

Narcs off campus: 1974

Honor America Day: 1970

Yippie smoke-in: 1973

Legalize pot: 1979

Miscellaneous

National alternative periodicals

Revolutionary culture

Random radicals

Statement flags: 1930-75

National Liberation & Anti-Imperialism

(For Indochina War, see Vietnam War)

Peace Corps critics: 1966-73

Puerto Rican sedition trial: 1954-55

Fidel in D.C.

British out of Ireland: 1969-98

GW Sino Soviet: 1969

DC Area SDS: 1963-69

War against Iraq: 1991

Spanish Civil War: 1936-39

NSA-CIA to NLF: 1967-71

Palestine protest: 1971

Puerto Rican nationalists: 1950-54

Irish republicans: 1919-21

No to imperialism: 1920-90

African liberation: 1952-86

Free 12 Iranian artists: 1973

Say no to Rhodesian chrome: 1973

CIA out of Greece: 1974

Down with the Shah: 1974

Keep out of Mideast war: 1973

Antiwar: 1917

Native Americans

Long Walk for Survival: 1980

Clash at the BIA: 1971

Longest Walk: 1978

Trail of Self Determination: 1976

BIA takeover: 1972

Native American miscellaneous

Prison Rights

Rebellion against system: DC jail 1972

DC Women’s Detention Center: 1973

Tear the walls down: 1973

DC jail uprising trial: 1974

Slave Resistance/Revolts/Military Action

Harriet Tubman

Escape from slavery: 1853-58

Frederick Douglas: 1818-1895

Fight for freedom: 1861-65

MD slave revolt: 1845

African American GAR: 1930-35

Christiana Riot: 1851

Socialism

Socialist Party in the DMV

Debs in D.C.: 1921

People’s Party: 1972

Students

Marc T. Miller

American University strike: 1970

Freedom House: 1969

Cathyln Platt Wilkerson

Narcs off campus: 1974

Catholic U strike: 1967

Youth Congress: 1934-41

Anti-deportation: 1940

NSA-CIA to NLF: 1967-71

DC area SDS: 1963-69

No forced ROTC: 1930-70

GW Sino Soviet: 1969

Bowie State: 1968

UMD Black Student Union: 1968-75

Howard U protests: 1967

U of MD ignites: 1970

Cutbacks and layoffs must stop at the U. of MD: 1973

ROTC off campus: U of MD 1971

U of MD antiwar protests: 1972

Terps at issue in hotel fight: 1974

MoCo teachers strike: 1968

Rennie Davis at Montgomery College: 1973

Transit in the D.C. Area

WMA bus: 1922-73

VA public transit

Hattie Sheehan

Frances Lewis

O. Roy Chalk

Walter Bierwagen

Group Health: 1959

No fare hike: 1966-72

Exact bus fare: 1968

D.C. streetcar women: 1943-60

Transit strike: 1974

ATU 689 birth: 1916-17

On the job murder at Metro: 1974

ATU Local 689: No Service 1974

Fighting Capital Transit racism: 1941-55

Transit strike: 1955

Transit strike: 1951

Capital Transit strikes; 1945

DC Metro wildcat strikes: 1978

U.S. National Domestic Politics & Issues

Farmers’ protest: 1969-85

No social security cuts: 1981

Earth Day: 1970

Price protests: 1946-73

Townsend pension plan: 1936

Bicentennial protests: 1976

Chippewas protest on the Mall: 1970

Throw the Bum Out: 1973-74

Wanted: William E Colby 1973

Madalyn Murray O’Hair: 1963\]

Unemployed

Welfare rights: 1965-72

Jobs march: 1980

Mr. Zero in DC: 1921-32

Hunger marches: 1931-32

Bonus Army: 1932-34

Coxey’s army: 1894-44

Jobless: 1949

Youth Congress: 1934-41

D.C. unemployed protest: 1930

WPA protests: 1936-40

Unemployed League: 1934

Workers Alliance: 1935-40

Cutbacks and layoffs must stop at the U of MD: 1973

No cuts in jobless benefits: 1975-77

Veterans

Anti-Vietnam War GIs

Bonus Army: 1932-34

Dewey Canyon III: 1971

African American GAR: 1930-35

Vets march on the White House: 1974

Servicemen demand bonus: 1973

VA target of vets picket: 1974

Vets hit military court: 1974

Demanding justice at Justice: 1974

Vietnam War

Muhammad Ali in the DMV

Anti-Vietnam War GIs

Dr. Spock in D.C.

Rennie Davis in the DMV

Abbie Hoffman in D.C.

Dagmar Wilson

Jerry Rubin

Feds for Peace: 1969-72

End war; jobs now: 1971

Protest election: 1968

S. Viets protest U.S: 1954-75

DC area SDS: 1963-69

Antiwar: 1967

DC antiwar: 1971

DC antiwar: 1970

NSA-CIA to NLF: 1967-71

Dewey Canyon III: 1971

Chicago 8/7 conspiracy: 1968-70

DC Weather bombings: 1971-75

DC Anti-Vietnam War: 1968

DC Anti-Vietnam War: 1966

Hit and stay: 1967-75

Largest Anti-Viet War protest: 1971

Moratorium: Oct. 1969

Anti-draft protests: 1947-72

Howard U protests: 1967

Moratorium: Nov. 1969

Mayday: May 5, 1971

Honor America Day: 1970

DC anti-Vietnam War: 1965

Mayday: May 4, 1971

Mayday: May 3, 1971

Mayday: May 2, 1971

Mayday: May 1, 1971

March on Pentagon: 1967

Republican convention: 1972

Rennie Davis at Montgomery College: 1973

U of MD ignites: 1970

Counter-Inaugural: 1969

Inauguration protest: 1973

ROTC off campus: U of MD 1971

DC Anti-Vietnam War: 1972

U of MD antiwar protests: 1972

Final march: Vietnam War 1975

March on the Pentagon: 1972

Wanted: William E. Colby: 1973

Harrisburg 7: 1971-72

Women’s rights

Navy Yard ‘Rosies’: 1917-62

Hattie Sheehan

Frances Lewis

Emma Goldman

International Women’s Day: March 8th

Angela Davis in D.C.

Dagmar Wilson

Pauli Murray

Gloria Richardson Dandridge

Mary Gannon

Washington Telephone Traffic: 1944-47

Nurses strike: 1978

Abortion rights: 1989

Green Guards: 1940

Women’s vote: 1910-20

Women against war: 1920-80

Jeanette Rankin: 1914-40

Women’s International League 1915-90

Universal childcare: 1971

DC streetcar women: 1943-60

Women’s rights: 1969-81

MD crab strike: 1938

Marie Richardson remembered

Washington Area Spark Historical

Washington Area Spark

Spark and On The Move mastheads

Photographers of Spark & On the Move

Images published in Spark

Images published in On The Move

Spark and On The Move in action: 1973-74

Spark and On The Move trivia

Two children at Spark house: 1972

Mike Quatro concert: 1972

Craig Simpson

Sue Reading

Robert “Bob” Simpson

Laura Bigman

Alex Ajay

Origins of the civil rights sit in–U.S. Capitol: 1934

26 Feb

Howard students take direct action at the Capitol: 1934

Howard University students protest Jim Crow at the Capitol-1934.

By Craig Simpson


In the first organized, sustained sit-in demonstration against Jim Crow in the Washington, D.C. area and perhaps in the nation, a series of interracial groups took seats and demanded service at the public U.S. Capitol restaurants in 1934. They were buttressed by a group of 30 African American Howard University students who were barred, and their leaders were later arrested when they sought to enter the public House and Senate restaurants.


The impetus to the campaign began January 23, 1934 when Morris Lewis, secretary to the only African American U.S. Representative Oscar DePriest (R-Il.), was denied service along with his son at the House of Representatives public restaurant at the U.S. Capitol.

Background

At that time there were five restaurants within the Capitol complex. The House of Representatives operated a public restaurant (sometimes called the café or the grill) where Lewis was denied service. Across the hall was the House restaurant set up for members and their guests. A third restaurant was a small room adjacent to the kitchen in the basement where African American workers on Capitol Hill ate.

The restaurants were under the direct supervision of the Accounts Committee chaired by Rep. Lindsay Warren (D-N.C.).

The Senate also operated two restaurants—one for members and guests located within the Capitol building and another public restaurant or café located in the Senate Office Building.

Last African American congressman from Reconstruction era: 1901

After Rep. George White left office in 1901, there is not another African American in Congress until Oscar DePriest in 1929.

After the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision legalizing “separate but equal” in 1896, Jim Crow laws and practices began sweeping the country, and Washington, D.C. was no exception.

In a 1934 interview with the Afro American, John H. Paynter of 51st Street NE recalled the times before Jim Crow was introduced into the Capitol,

In the late 1880s and early 90s an era which takes its place as the Golden Age of least restrictive privilege for the colored citizen of the District; it was not unusual for our ladies and gentlemen to lunch at the House restaurant with no evidence of discourtesy.

The last African American representative of the post-Civil War era was George Henry White (R-N.C.), who left office in 1901. No other African American would be elected to Congress until DePriest, who took office in 1929.

Call for Jim Crow

Sulloway outrages white supremacists: 1902

Rep. Cyrus Sulloway regularly dined with an African American in 1902.

The calls for Jim Crow in the Capitol restaurants began quickly after White’s departure.

The Louisiana newspaper The Rice Belt Journal in 1902 lamented that

Congressman [Cyrus] Sulloway [R-N.H.], the giant of the house, who hails from New Hampshire, almost daily has as his guest in the house restaurant his negro messenger, and the two, sitting at one table, break bread together and discuss the questions of the day. 

In 1903 the Indiana paper, the Daily Ardomreite, decried President Theodore Roosevelt’s Republican policies regarding African Americans.

They [African Americans] are making more conspicuous appearances than ever at public places usually given over to the whites. At the capitol, in both the senate and the house…restaurants, negroes have been served along with the whites, though not at the same table.

Rep. J. O’H. Patterson: Wanted Jim Crow House restaurant: 1907

Rep. James Patterson is astonished in 1907 at mixed dining in the Capitol.

Rep. James O’Hanlon Patterson (D-S.C.) challenged the admission of African Americans to the House restaurant in 1907 when he spied a black clergyman from Boston dining with white women.

The Washington Post reports:

Mr. Patterson entered the restaurant at the lunch hour, when the place was crowded. Seated at one of the tables was a very dark-skinned colored man and a couple of white women of apparent refinement and respectability.

The latter were chatting with the colored brother in the most friendly fashion, and apparently treating him as an equal. Mr. Patterson states that he was amazed at the sight. 

The Post quotes Patterson himself:

My first impulse was to go over and interview that Boston clergyman, as it was a practical demonstration of the social equality of the races that grated on me and I was mad clear through.

However I refrained, by an effort, from making an unseemly exhibition of myself and sought the manager of the restaurant for an explanation.

To my astonishment, he told me that the portion of the restaurant set aside for the general public was free to anybody who wished to be served, regardless of color and that he was powerless to prevent such an exhibition of social equality as that which so enraged me.

Patterson failed in his attempt to impose Jim Crow at that time.

William Vernon: Object of Jim Crow attempt at U.S. Capitol: 1909

Register of the Treasury William Vernon.

The next widely publicized move against admitting African Americans to the House public restaurant occurred May 13, 1909 when the African American Register of the Treasury William Tecumseh Vernon and a companion entered and sat at a table near future Vice President and current Rep. John Nance Garner (D.-Tx.) and Rep. Martin Dies Sr. (D.-Tx.).

According to the New York Daily Tribune,

Mr. Garner and his companion had given their order for food, when Mr. Vernon and his friend entered. At another table the three other Southern members were preparing to eat. The entrance of the register was greeted with protests, and when he had seated himself Mr. Garner announced that his order would have to be cancelled if negroes were allowed in the restaurant.

He was followed by his colleagues, and they immediately went to the proprietor, to whom they expressed themselves in unmeasured terms. He declared that he was powerless to interfere and advised that the Speaker be consulted.

Mr. Garner heard from L. White Busbey, the Speaker’s secretary, that the restaurant was a public one, and that if Mr. Garner and his friends desired privacy they should go to the dining room set apart for member of Congress.

This information served to cool the anger of the Southerners, although there are still mutterings about a boycott on the restaurant.

Garner wants Jim Crow U.S. Capitol restaurant: 1909

Rep. John Garner protests Vernon’s presence in the dining room-1909

However, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1912 and quickly set the standard for Jim Crow in Washington, D.C. when he segregated the federal government with separate dining areas, bathrooms, workspaces and directed other forms of discrimination.

By the first session of the new Congress in April 1913, Democrats held a comfortable majority in the House and a slim majority in the Senate. Southern Democrats of the “Solid South” played a disproportionately large role and, among other issues, turned their attention to the administration of the Capitol building.

W. Tyler reported on a Democratic caucus meeting in September 1913 for the Chicago Defender:

…it was voted to dismiss all the Negro employees at the Capitol, and give their places to white men. This is to include the barbers and waiters, who are employed at the Capitol building and in the Senate and House Office Building, as well as the messengers and laborers.

The white supremacists did not carry through on all their plans, but the stage was set for Jim Crow within the law-making building of the nation’s capital.

Segregation comes to the Capitol restaurants

Jim Crow was formally extended to the Senate lunchroom in the Capitol building in 1917. Archibald Grimke, a founder of the NAACP and the Washington, D.C. branch president, protested, but he was told it was the new policy of the superintendent appointed by Wilson.

Rep. Aswell establishes Jim Crow in House restaurant: 1921

Rep. James Aswell’s letter triggers Jim Crow in House restaurant-1921

In December 1921, Rep. James B. Aswell (D-La.) wrote a letter to the chairman of the Accounts Committee, Clifford Ireland (R-Il.), that had recently been given oversight of the House restaurant, protesting the seating of African Americans.

The New York Times reported that Aswell observed “four negroes eating in the restaurant the last few days” and demanded to know under whose authority they were admitted. The letter said in part:

Is this to be the practice of your committee under the present administration? Gentlemen of the House should have this information now so they may know whether to keep their families, friends and themselves away.

The Afro-American wrote,

Colored people here paid little attention to Aswell’s letter.

Any attempt on the part of the Republican administration to prevent their entering a government institution supported out of their taxes will, it is said, only forge another weapon to be used against the party in the next election.

Aswell was given assurances that henceforth “the restaurant would be restricted to whites-only,” according to the Times.

Despite the Afro’s bluster, Jim Crow had come to the U.S. Capitol

Oscar DePriest

DePriest attempts to end Jim Crow at House restaurant: 1934

Rep. Oscar DePriest circa 1930.

DePriest was born in Alabama to former slaves who were freed during the Civil War. In the period after federal troops were withdrawn from Alabama in 1874, DePriest’s parents stayed in Alabama as white supremacists consolidated their rule. However, continuing violence against African Americans, including on the DePriests’ doorstep, caused them to flee in 1878.

DePriest went to Salina Normal School in Kansas where he studied bookkeeping and teaching. Moving to Chicago, he made a fortune in construction, real estate and the stock market.

He was elected in 1914 as Chicago’s first black alderman and built an African American political machine under the patronage of Republican Mayor William Thompson.

DePriest was an advocate of opening trade unions to African Americans and assisted an ultimately unsuccessful effort in the early 1920s to recruit African Americans working in Chicago’s meatpacking plants into the local union.

Thompson selected him to fill a vacancy on the ballot for Congress in 1928 and he was elected the first African American U.S. representative outside the South and the first in the 20th Century.

DePriest was a conservative Republican but survived Roosevelt’s landslide election in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression that elected a heavily Democratic Congress. DePriest’s political machine was able to overcome a Democratic edge in party registration within his district and retain black Republican votes that were shifting to the Democratic column elsewhere.

He is credited with speaking out forcefully against Jim Crow during speeches in the South, but was not a believer in the direct action that was then being put into practice by communists and other radicals and being adopted locally by the liberal New Negro Alliance.

He earned the ire of Chicago communists and other progressive forces in the African American community over his refusal to introduce a resolution in Congress regarding the “Scottsboro Boys,” evicting unemployed workers from his real estate holdings, voting against the World War I veterans bonus bill, opposing higher taxes on the wealthy, and for a speech saying he was “not interested in social equality.”

The communists disrupted his speaking events and in turn he opposed them at every opportunity.

During his tenure in Congress he introduced civil rights bills, but had little to show for it except the requirement that the Civilian Conservation Corps ban discrimination based on “race, color, or creed.” However the CCC was initially set-up as Jim Crow in the South and by 1935 this was extended across the nation.

During his five years on the Hill, up until the point where his aide was refused service, he had made no moves to end Jim Crow within the Capitol.

At the time of that incident he was weighing his options in an intra-party Republican fight in Chicago between supporting incumbent committeeman William E. King and ambitious second ward alderman William L. Dawson. A second fight was brewing with both King and Roscoe Simmons challenging incumbent state senator Adelbert Roberts.

DePriest needed to calculate his political moves carefully to maximize his ability to turn out Republican votes against an expected strong Democratic challenge in the fall.

New restaurant management

In the ensuing years after Jim Crow was introduced into the Capitol restaurants, it was enforced sporadically until Warren hired Patrick Henry Johnson to manage the House of Representatives’ restaurants in 1933.

Johnson was a former state senator from Patego, N.C.—Warren’s home state—and had no previous restaurant experience when he was brought in.

While under the tutelage of the former manager Frank Verdi, he reportedly said “n_____s steal and I am going to watch them,” according to the Afro American.

When Johnson took over, he removed African Americans from cashier and other key positions and put them back to work as waiters or busboys, placing white men in their positions.

Johnson next issued his order to bar all African Americans from the public café and the restaurant, effective Tuesday, January 23, 1934.

Lewis reacts

Aide Morris Lewis and Rep. Oscar DePriest: 1929

Morris Lewis (left) with DePriest in 1929.

Lewis gave a statement to a congressional hearing later where he said:

On Tuesday, January 23, 1934, about noon, as I frequently have done for the past four or five years, accompanied by my son, I went to the Coffee Shop of the public restaurant of the House of Representatives.

We took seats as usual. Almost immediately the cashier approached me and touched me on the shoulder, with the announcement that, “This restaurant is reserved for white people and colored people will not be served.”

Lewis summoned the manager and demanded an explanation. Johnson told reporters afterward:

They demanded to know who was responsible for the order not to serve them. I told them the House Accounts Committee. Then they said they were American citizens and refused to be insulted like that.

Lewis said he sought Warren in his office but was told he was on the floor of the House. Lewis then sent a note calling for Warren but was told he wasn’t on the floor. He returned to Warren’s office and after 30 minutes was led into an anteroom where Warren’s secretary told him the congressman could not be seen.

Lewis then returned to DePriest’s office. Before Lewis could tell DePriest about the events, a reporter for the Afro American arrived and asked DePriest if he knew about the new order barring African Americans.

DePriest enraged

The Afro American described DePriest’s reaction:

DePriest became enraged immediately. Bouncing to his feet from behind his large desk, the Congressman turned to his secretary Morris Lewis to see if he had received such notice.

The Afro reported the conversation between the two as follows:

Lewis: Why I went in there to eat this morning and the cashier tapped me on the back and said that the coffee shop was reserved for white.

DePriest: You mean to tell me that they wouldn’t let you eat in there?

Lewis: They certainly wouldn’t.

Wilkinson part of sit-in at House restaurant: 1934

Frederick Wilkinson-1934.

DePriest turned to Frederick Wilkinson, the Howard University registrar who was seated in the office, and said, “Come on Fred, you and Mr. Weaver [Afro American reporter Frederick Weaver], we’ll eat in there, or find out why.”

Through the hallways from his office, on the Capitol subway and through the halls of Congress on his way to the coffee shop, DePriest stopped everyone he could and told them about the discrimination.

Upon arriving at the coffee shop, the group found it closed for the day. However the restaurant for members was open and the three went in, took seats and placed an order for bean soup. They were served without incident—testing whether the ban extended to the members’ restaurant and perhaps unwittingly launching the first sit-in of many over the next two months protesting racial discrimination in the Capitol building.

After inquiring of the waiter as to who the manager of the coffee shop was, DePriest called Johnson over. According to the Afro, the conversation went as follows:

DePriest: Who gave you orders to keep colored people from eating across the hall in the public coffee shop? I know you didn’t make any such rules.

Johnson: Those were Mr. Warren’s orders.

DePriest: That’s all I want to know. That’s all, you may go back.

When the group finished their soup, they headed for Warren’s office, but according to the secretary he wasn’t there.

DePriest, parting ways with Wilkinson, headed for the office of Speaker of the House Thomas Rainey (D-Il.). According to the Afro Rainey feigned ignorance saying, “Why I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“I’ll draft a resolution tonight and introduce it in the morning,” DePriest responded, according to the Afro.

DePriest headed back to his office, again telling everyone he saw about the affront.

The Associated Press reported DePriest’s words as he talked to someone in the hall:

I didn’t know anything about it until a few minutes ago. If the Democrats are going to act that way toward the Negroes, we might as well have a showdown now.

It seems funny to me that a man with money to pay for is food whether he be Jew, Gentile or Negro should be refused food in a public restaurant.

That is a public restaurant and everybody ought to have a right to eat there. I am going to insist on a square deal for Jews, Gentiles and Negroes.

I am going to see to it that Negroes are going to eat there, or we can close it. I’m going to put it to a vote on that resolution, which I am having drafted right now.

Warren holds firm to Jim Crow

Rep. Warren, chief architect of Jim Crow at House restaurant: 1934

Rep. Lindsay Warren (left)–1934.

With reporters swirling around the Capitol, Warren was bombarded for comment and issued a statement on the event.

In refusing to serve two Negroes today in the House restaurant, Manager P. H. Johnson of the restaurant was acting on my orders and instructions. The restaurant has been operated by the Committee of Accounts since 1921.

It has never served Negro employees or visitors, nor will it so long as I have anything to do with it.

Warren said that as a member of Congress, De Priest had a right to eat there, but as for others…

…if we let one Negro employee eat in the restaurant, we’ll have to let all of them. It always has been the rule to feed only white people in the restaurant.

The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Associated Press and the African American press, among others, spread the story across the nation.

DePriest’s resolution

Atlanta paper highlights DePriest Jim Crow resolution: 1934

Atlanta World calls it a ‘showdown for rights.”

The Afro American reported that DePriest offered a resolution the following day that read:

Resolved, that the committee on accounts of the House of Representatives be and it is hereby instructed to rescind any and all rules, instructions or orders of said committee whereby any citizen is discriminated against on account of race, color or creed in the public restaurant, grill room or other public facilities under the supervision of the House of Representatives.

The Afro trumpeted that the resolution might be the “Waterloo” for Jim Crow and a headline blazed “Action may lead to far-reaching fight.”

However, the Afro had reported the resolution prematurely. That was only a draft of what DePriest intended to introduce before he was told the Speaker of the House wanted to talk to him.

Rainey stalls Jim Crow House restaurant vote: 1934

Speaker of the House Thomas Rainey.

After a telephone call with Speaker Rainey, DePriest agreed to hold off open debate and was given the privilege of inserting his remarks in the Congressional Record for the day at a later date, according to the Afro.

The Associated Press reported Rainey had a brief conversation where he told DePriest, “Don’t you do anything about that matter until I see you.”

After their undisclosed conversation at the meeting between the two of them, DePriest offered a different resolution.

Instead of the planned bar on discrimination resolution, DePriest offered one alleging that the Accounts Committee received jurisdiction over the House restaurants in a special resolution adopted during the 67th Congress in 1921, and that as such that authority had expired at the end of that session without any renewing resolution.

DePriest’s resolution asked that an investigation be undertaken by a committee of five appointed by the Speaker of the House to determine whether the Accounts Committee exceeded its authority when it ordered discrimination against African Americans.

After hearing about DePriest’s resolution Warren responded by telling the Associated Press:

There has been a place in the basement of the Capitol building where colored people have been served since the restaurant was first established. That’s where they will continue to eat.

DePriest explained to an Afro reporter why he backpedaled on his promise to hold a floor debate on banning Jim Crow:

It is going to be a party fight and I think I owe Mr. [Bertrand] Snell, the [minority] leader, the courtesy of awaiting his return before starting the row on the floor. I have nothing against Mr. Rainey or any other leaders but this fellow Warren.

You might think it is a simple matter to get the highest legislative body in the land to take a stand against discrimination against any class of citizens. But that is not true. These men know that they have not got a legal leg to stand on, yet many of them secretly are in favor of discrimination and so are their constituencies. They don’t want to be put on the spot…All except the dyed-in-the-wool race haters, realize that morally and legally their attitude on such an issue is slimy.

DePriest had fallen into a trap, but wouldn’t find out until later.

Rainey, seeking to contain a national debate over Jim Crow when so many of his party supported it, sent the resolution to the Rules Committee, where he intended it would simply die without debate or action.

DePriest again challenged the seating policy on January 25th when he and Lewis went this time to the House public restaurant Lewis had been barred from two days earlier.

The New York Amsterdam News, an African American newspaper, reported that the appearance caused a “mild sensation” but the two were served uneventfully.

DePriest criticized

DePriest got criticized from all sides.

The Cleveland Gazette questioned why DePriest ignored the situation earlier, blasting him because he “waits until there is a Southern Democratic Congress to make a stir about it, something that should have been done long ago—when both Houses of the Congress were Republican.”

DePriest also came under fire from some African Americans for not pressing for a ban on discrimination and refraining from an open debate. Feeling the pressure, he released a statement on January 27th:

I understand the impression has gone out that I am not going to insist upon bringing my resolution to the floor for debate and vote. The rules of the House on an unprivileged resolution require that it go to the Committee on Rules for hearings.

That committee can give it a hearing and report it out favorably or unfavorably, or it can pigeon-hole the resolution.

If the committee refuses to act on my resolution I shall draft a petition to take it from the committee and bring it to the floor for action. This cannot be done until after the resolution has been in the hands of the committee without action for thirty days.

I have no intention of letting up in this fight without securing either approval or disapproval of the attitude of the Committee on Accounts on tis matter of race discrimination in the public restaurants and other appurtenances of the House of Representatives.

A sample House of Representatives restaurant menu: 1933

A 1933 menu from the House restaurant.

Lewis told the Associated Negro Press (ANP) that he and DePriest had not dined at the House public restaurant:

It is reported in the white press that I ate at the House restaurant last Thursday. I have not dined at the House restaurant since I was refused last Tuesday, January 23 1934 and I do not intend to again eat there until the bar against my racial group is removed.

But in the same article the ANP carried an account of the incident that said,

The two sat along the wall near the center of the room and necks were craned from all sides as they took their seats.

The Associated Press had also reported on the second dining with a slightly different take. It is unlikely that black and white reporters could have both had a case of mistaken identity on high profile, easily recognizable figures like DePriest and Lewis.

Instead, it can be inferred that DePriest had abandoned direct action and deferred to Speaker Rainey on how to handle the issue and was doing damage control. He was plainly worried that the direct action would offend his congressional colleagues and cost him support for his resolution.

In its January 28th edition, the Afro American ran a headline “Rep. Rainey hopes to end Jim Crow,” a further indication of the trust that was being placed in the Congressional leadership and the process. But both the Afro and DePriest would ultimately have to face the reality of the American legislative process.

DePriest continued to react defensively to criticism. He told the ANP:

Of course, I have no intention of turning back. Counter attacks will be set up against me Already the daily press has been filled with nasty little reports designed to throw the people off the track and to cause my motives to be questioned.

I have received word from my own district that I plotted for my secretary to be insulted so that I might have a good issue to use back home. How silly! Up until last Tuesday Mr. Lewis had been taking his meals regularly in the Capitol Coffee Shop. It was not until Tuesday that the Jim Crow rule was invoked against him. The issue was brought to me.

Congressional Support for DePriest

Rep. Cochran says Jim Crow okay: 1934

Rep. John Cochran: “I don’t care about colored people eating in the public coffee shop.”

The situation was relatively quiet in February while DePriest waited out the 30 days the Rules Committee had to consider his resolution before he could petition members of Congress to bring it to the floor in the event the committee chose not to act on it.

Republicans generally pledged support for DePriest and some liberal Democrats did the same.

Rep. John J. Cochran (D-Mo.), a member of the Accounts Committee, said Warren never brought the matter to the committee.

I don’t care about colored people eating in the public coffee shop. We have a private place in which to eat and take our personal friends and I don’t want to be involved in the matter. That is Warren’s responsibility and he will have to wiggle out of it the best he can.

Acting Minority Leader Rep. Joseph W. Martin (R-Ma.) believed many representatives would support DePriest:

Undoubtedly a majority of the Republicans will support him when the resolution comes up. The Republicans don’t believe in discrimination. They will support him in the Rules Committee.

Rep. James M Beck (R.-Pa.) said he was prepared to take to the House floor to defend DePriest and “the rights of colored people.”

Fuel to the fire

Byrd expulsion from Senate restaurant sparks sit-ins: 1934

Mabel Byrd circa 1928.

A firestorm broke out again on February 21st when it was reported that a party of three women and one man, including African American Mabel Byrd, had been barred from the Senate restaurant.

The group from Chicago included Cook County commissioner Amelia Seers, Sarah Paul Paige and Trevor Bowen, along with Byrd. The group had been attending hearings on the Costigan-Wagner anti-lynching bill.

When the party entered, a waitress told them, “If that woman is colored, she can’t eat in here.”

Seers told the Associated Press that after a “dignified” argument with the “individual” in charge, they were refused permission to eat and were evicted by Senate Office Building police officers.

According to Seers, a police officer grabbed Byrd’s elbow so forcefully it caused her to pass out as he expelled her from the restaurant.

The Atlanta Daily World reported that Byrd was dragged unconscious through the corridors and down the stairs to the police headquarters within the Capitol before being placed under a doctor’s care.

Copeland denies Senate restaurant is Jim Crow: 1934

Senator Royal Copeland in 1936.

Senator Royal S. Copeland (D.-N.Y.), chair of the Senate Rules Committee that oversaw the restaurant, stated that the Byrd party was not barred because of race but because the restaurant was full and there were no tables available, according to the Afro.

Byrd adamantly denied Copeland’s version saying, “There were plenty of tables available,” according to the Afro.

Copeland further denied that the restaurant barred African Americans. However, Copeland then ordered the restaurant to reserve a table for African Americans—setting up another version of Jim Crow, according to the New York Amsterdam News and other African American news outlets.

It was the first of the changing official stories.

The Washington Tribune reported Chester Jurney, sergeant-at-arms at the Capitol, contradicted Copeland and said,

If Miss Byrd had investigated the matter quietly and in a ladylike manner, she would have found that the particular waitress who had refused to serve her was in the wrong. Instead of doing that, she immediately flew into a tantrum and disrupted the lunch hour quiet of the restaurant with screams and cursings.

Sears hotly denied Jurney’s account, “absolutely untrue!”

Sears went on to explain that a plainclothes officer supported the waitress’s order to bar Byrd. The Atlanta Daily World quotes Sears:

In the meantime, uniformed men came and seized Miss Byrd. She did not curse, but rightfully told them not to touch her inasmuch as she had committed no crime and created no disturbance, any more than anyone else in the party of four.

Byrd after her removal from Senate restaurant: 1934

Mabel Byrd: 1934

Byrd was the first African American admitted to the University of Oregon, later transferring to the University of Washington. There she was not permitted to board on campus with other students because of her race and had to stay off-campus with a professor. She earned a degree in liberal arts.

She became involved with the civil rights movement of the time, working with the YWCA and NAACP, which included working with W.E.B. DuBois. After working at Fisk University on segregation issues, she was hired to insure equal conditions and employment opportunities for African Americans under the National Recovery Administration. She had been recently appointed to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Consumer Advisory Board.

Her standing in the African American community and with liberals made little difference.

Two days after Byrd was expelled and Copeland made his initial remarks that there was no ban on African Americans, a reporter for the Afro American went into the Senate public restaurant and was served without a problem—the first of many people other than DePriest and Lewis to knowingly challenge Capitol segregation.

Another unidentified group of three people—one white woman, who was reportedly a writer for a communist newspaper, and two African Americans—entered the Senate restaurant and were served without incident, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Later Copeland would admit the waitress had in fact barred the Byrd party and rescinded his order for a separate table. He continued to deny, however, that the Senate public restaurant barred African Americans and reminded an Afro reporter that someone from his newspaper had been served subsequent to the Byrd incident.

For those seeking to bar African Americans on the Senate side, the problem was a little more complicated—there was no separate restaurant to serve African Americans like on the House side.

However, as events unfolded over the next few weeks, it became clear that orders were given to the restaurant to discourage, delay and make excuses as to why African Americans couldn’t be seated, instead of outright barring and giving race as the reason.

Sit-ins begin in earnest

Dorothy Detzer, executive secretary of Women’s Int. League: 1939

Dorothy Detzer testifying before Congress in 1939.

Dorothy Detzer and Dorothy Cook, secretary and assistant secretary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, began coordinating a series of small interracial groups of people to demand service at the Capitol restaurants.

The plan was to bring one African American each day into the restaurants in the company of a group of white people and force the end of Jim Crow or gain publicity that would aid in its demise.

Most were familiar to each other, having worked together on anti-lynching legislation and other liberal causes or attended meetings of the NAACP Interracial Committee in the city.

A group led by Cook attempted to meet with Sen. Copeland on Friday, March 9th over the Dorothy Byrd expulsion, but Copeland was unavailable.

The interracial group proceeded to the House Restaurant, where they seated themselves and ate a light lunch without interference from the management.

“It was about four o’clock in the afternoon and there were a very few dining there at the time,” said Cook. According to the Afro, red roses were given to the women of the party.

The following week, on March 13th another group returned to the Capitol and went to the House Restaurant and they were served without incident.

Theresa Russell among peace delegates at the White House: 1932

Theresa Hirshl Russell (second from left)–1932.

The group included Charles Edward Russell, of the local NAACP Interracial Committee; Theresa Hirshl Russell, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Charles Russell’s wife; Harland Glazier, secretary of the socialist party in D.C.; and Ralph Bunche, professor of political science at Howard University.

Part of the group, along with others who joined them (Margaret Jones, member of the Interracial Council; Dorothy Alden former World Peaceways, Dorothy Cook, Harlan Glazier; Dr. Howand Beale, former professor of Bowdoin College and the Rev. R. W. Brooks of the Lincoln Temple Congregational Church) met Copeland in his office.

Copeland “expressed himself as strongly opposed to any form of segregation or discrimination in the Capitol cafes. He reiterated his previous statement that the Mable Byrd incident was unfortunate, and that the head waitress was absolutely wrong in her refusal to serve her,” according to the Afro.

But these small, quick victories were only temporary.

The next day the House restaurant refused service to a mixed group that included John F. Whitfield, pastor of the Christian Colored Church, and Leonard. C. Farrar, secretary of the National Forum Association, and three white persons: Charles Edward Russell, Harlan E. Glazier and Robert Shestick of the Citizens Party, according to the United Press International.

‘Yes, we don’t serve colored’

Dr. Wesley joins direct action aimed at Jim Crow: 1934

Dr. Charles Wesley circa 1941.

On March 15th Dr. Charles H. Wesley, an African American professor of history at Howard University, was refused service in yet another interracial group.

Wesley was told, “We don’t serve colored people here,” according to the Afro.

Wesley went to restaurant at noon Thursday with three white friends: Dr. Howard K. Beale, historian on the staff of the University of Chicago and research historian at the Library of Congress; Rev. Russell J. Clinchy, pastor of the Fourteenth Street Congregational Church in the city; and Katharine Wilfrey, a social worker.

Wesley told the Afro that the party took a table and then the following occurred:

When the waiter came to my table he told me the manager wanted to know my nationality and that he had told him to ask me. The waiter offered to serve me at his table, but I declined, because I feared he might lose his job.

Wesley said the manager then came over to the table:

Johnson: What nationality are you?

Wesley: I am an American citizen.

Johnson: But I mean what race?

Wesley: According to your definition, I am colored.

Johnson: Well then, you can’t be served here.

Wesley: You are excluding me then on the basis of race, because I am colored?

Johnson: Yes, we don’t serve colored.

Beale: Dr. Wesley is our guest. He did not come here of his own accord. We invited him. Do you mean to say our guests cannot be served here? Dr. Wesley is a master of arts of Yale, and a doctor of philosophy of Harvard. We were at Harvard together, and he is now my guest. I want him to be served.

Johnson: We’ll serve you three (indicating the three whites), but not him (pointing at Wesley).

Beale: Why?

Johnson: It is against the rules.

Wesley: Who made the rules?

Johnson: The committee, of which Congressman Warren of North Carolina is chairman.

The party stayed at the table for an hour and drafted a resolution signed by three white members of the party protesting the group’s treatment and the policy. They attempted to deliver it to Warren, who was having dinner in the private House members’ restaurant, but they were barred. Instead, they left their protest at Warren’s office.

“For Members Only”

‘Race problems roots in capital’ – 1942

D.C. a blueprint for Jim Crow across the country?

Sometime during the day of March 16th, Johnson put up a cardboard sign outside the public restaurant at the House that read, “For Members Only.”

The Post reported it was the first time ever that the public had been formally barred from the restaurant. Even to the Washington Post reporter this was thinly disguised discrimination.

Johnson told an African American man in the presence of a Post reporter that he would not be admitted to the restaurant. When the man asked why? Johnson responded, “Because you are a Negro.”

Weaver, a reporter for the Afro, questioned Johnson about his admitting obvious members of the public to the restaurant who were white:

Johnson replied, “Any white person who wants to can eat in there and we don’t intend to let no n______s eat in there if that’s what you want to know.”

The Afro reported:

Johnson stood by the door and told white people passing by who looked at the sign, “That’s all right, you may walk right in.”

Some would respond, “But the sign says….”

“Yes, but that doesn’t apply to you,” Johnson would reply.

When asked by the Afro reporter why he would post signs and then allow persons other than members to enter, Johnson responded:

“That rule is enforced at our discretion, but we don’t intend to let no n_______s eat in there if that’s what you want to know, and I hope, God damn it, you don’t like it; it would suit me fine.”

A waiter, hearing the commotion, asked what was going on and when told said:

“Come on in here. I will serve you and I wish he would fire me for doing it.”

‘Because I’m not a n________r”

After his order was taken and the reporter served a bowl of soup by waiter Harold Covington, Johnson came in with police and, according to the Afro said,

Waiter fired for serving African American at Capitol: 1934

Harold Covington, the waiter who served Weaver. 

Johnson: Didn’t you see that sign on the outside?

Weaver: Yes, but didn’t you tell me that it was public for everyone except n______s?

Johnson: I certainly did, and why did you come in here?

Weaver: Because I am not a n_______r.

Police officer: All right, let’s go. You’re just looking for trouble. This man is manager of this place and if he don’t want you in here you can’t come in, that’s all. Let’s go.

Outside Weaver met Rev. P. D. Perryman, an African American, and related the incident.

Johnson turned Perryman away as several police officers strode up explaining that African Americans were barred.

As Perryman walked away, Johnson called him back for a “clarification,” further explaining that if his Senator or Congressman accompanied him, he would be admitted.

Second Group tries to eat

Ryan takes oath as education director at BIA: 1930

Dr. W. Carson Ryan (center)–1930.

On Friday, March 16th a second group tried to eat in both the House restaurant and the Senate restaurant.

Dorothy Alden, recently of World Peaceways, and Dr. W. Carson Ryan, Director of Education at the United States Indian Service, were to meet James Herring, an African American professor of art at Howard University, but Herring didn’t show up.

Afro American reporter Florence Collins volunteered to take Herring’s place and the group headed for the House café. There they ignored the “For Members Only” sign, entering the restaurant “amid frowns, curious stares and a tense excitement,” according to Collins.

Collins reported that Johnson angrily approached and began an exchange:

Johnson: Is that woman colored?

Ryan: She is a United States citizen.

Johnson: But, is she colored?

Ryan: The lady is a friend of ours, who is within her rights. We just left the anti-lynching hearing and came here to get some lunch.

Johnson: I said, “Is that person colored?”

Alden: Well, what if she is?

Johnson: Now, you people know that I cannot serve colored persons here I think you are acting pretty rotten putting me in this position. I have been courteous to you folks all the way, and I think it is a shame the way you are acting.

Alden: Well, what are we doing wrong? We are entirely within our rights as American citizens. What authority have you to refuse to serve us?

Johnson: I take my order from Congressman Warren. That is all that I can do. I have strict orders not to serve colored people. Now you people know what is going on.

Alden: Know what?

Johnson: You know the publicity that this place has been getting. Haven’t you seen it in the daily papers? You have been coming here all this week embarrassing me with these actions. You know our policy.

Johnson walked away, but reporters had gathered outside the restaurant entrance and they began quizzing the party. After the interviews, the group tried to find Warren but he was not in his office. He was paged on the floor but the House page said he could not be located.

The group, minus Ryan but picking up Dorothy Detzer and Dorothy Cook of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, headed for the Senate side.

The party waited to be seated, but when seats opened up the manager beckoned an all-white group.

Detzer then led Collins to two vacant seats at a long table that was partially occupied by white diners.

A waiter told the two they could not be served and Detzer asked for the manager.

Peace activist Dorothy Detzer takes on Jim Crow: 1934

Dorothy Detzer in 1934.

E. Meaney, the manager of the Senate restaurant, told her if she sat at a separate table with the reporter she would be served. The exchange continued:

Meaney: You have no right to do this. You should have some respect and consideration for other white people in here. You have no business sitting here with these people, with your er, er, friend.

Detzer: I have been coming here for nine years and I have never been refused before.

Meaney: I cannot refuse to serve you.

Detzer: Then serve me.

Meaney: You mean serve you —alone?

Detzer: Bring me my order, bring it here to me now.

Meaney stared for a few seconds.

Meaney: Ah, come now, you know you wouldn’t have me do that.

Detzer: Are you refusing to serve me?

Meaney: Oh, you know that isn’t right. Don’t have me do that. Take another table with the rest of your party and you will all get served.”

Meaney walked away shortly afterward and Detzer told Collins, “Sit tight, they can’t harm you. We’ll sit it out.”

After more time, a table for four opened up and the group was seated together. All were served.

The Senate policy toward African Americans had been clarified—no outright refusal, but no service, if at all possible, either.

The Washington Post reported a separate incident where two unidentified women, one black and one white, were also refused service within the Capitol on March 16th .

Waiter fired

Noted psychologists Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark: 1945 ca.

Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark circa 1945.

Harold Covington, a junior at Howard, was fired from his waiter’s job March 16th for serving the Afro American reporter Frederick Weaver—who was also a student at Howard University—during the incident over Johnson’s use of the n-word.

Word spread quickly to the Howard University campus and Kenneth Clark, a junior at the time and editor of the campus newspaper The Hilltop, wrote an editorial blasting segregation at the Capitol and inspiring students to stage a protest.

Clark and his wife Mamie would go on to do pioneering work as psychologists among African American children. Their research showed the debilitating effects of Jim Crow on African American children and provided the scientific evidence for ending the so-called “separate but equal” education with the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954.

Clark was only a young student in 1934 and his editorial marked the beginning of his long career as a civil rights researcher, practitioner and activist.

Howard students confront Jim Crow

Gilbert Banfield—student who protested U.S. Capitol Jim Crow: 1934

Gilbert Banfield, a Howard student who protested Jim Crow at the Capitol.

Clark, Weaver, Covington and several other students rallied other underclassmen to participate. They made signs and arranged for cabs to take the group to the Capitol the next day.

The all-male group of students dressed in their best clothes and headed for what must have been very unfamiliar territory to them.

They arrived at the Capitol about 1:00 p.m. and marched through the halls to the public House restaurant.

A dozen Capitol police officers formed a line in front of the doorway to the café and refused to let any of the group enter, giving no reason for the blockade

“We want to eat!” shouted the students. Restaurant manager Johnson shouted back, “Well you cannot eat, so get out!”

When the students began congregating in the hall, the police ordered them to move and when they didn’t move fast enough, began shoving them toward the street entrance. “We didn’t do anything, all we want to do is eat,” said one of the students.

William E. Blake—student who protested U.S. Capitol Jim Crow: 1934

William E. Blake, Howard student who protested Jim Crow at the Capitol.

The first few students who went through the revolving door jammed it shut so the remaining students couldn’t be expelled. However, police quickly cleared the door and the rest of the students were forced out.

After talking among themselves, they engaged the police in a conversation and asked to be permitted to enter the building.

Police agreed on the condition that no disturbance was raised and no corridors blocked.

After marching to the Senate cafeteria and finding it closed—determined later to be on the orders of the sergeant-at-arms–the group decided to send a delegation composed of Clark, Weaver, Covington and O. Phillips Snowden to confront Johnson, the white manager of the House restaurant.

Police blocked the group from approaching the House restaurant and particularly singled out Covington.

At this point Harry Parker, a long-time African American doorman for the Ways and Means Committee, grabbed for Covington’s arm and said to him, “Why don’t you boys go along about business and not clutter up the hallways?”

Covington took a swing at him and Parker retaliated, with the two exchanging blows.

Afro journalist Fred Weaver, center, at Capitol protest: 1934

L-R, William E. Jones, Frederick Weaver and Henry Allen Boyd Jr. leave the Capitol after the demonstration.

Police quickly separated them and arrested Covington on charges of disorderly conduct and assault.

After the arrest, the group went to the First Precinct police station and were told Covington wasn’t there. After going to police headquarters, they were referred back to the First Precinct.

While they were waiting on the outside of the First Precinct for a bondsman to arrive, a plainclothes officer arrested Dudley Clark, Kenneth Clark, Weaver and Snowden and charged them with blocking the sidewalk.

However when Captain W. E. Holmes was informed of the charges, he dropped them and had the records of the arrests destroyed.

Kenneth Clark: student who protested U.S. Capitol Jim Crow: 1934

Kenneth Clark in 1934.

Reflecting back years later, Clark remembered that when Holmes learned that the group had been protesting racial discrimination he shockingly said, “Let these young men go. Take their names off the books. They should be praised, not arrested.”

The students then returned to campus.

The mainstream press played up the disturbance, with UPI writing,

A group of students was pushed bodily along the corridor and outside the Capitol by the police. Several demonstrators struck at the police. A series of wrestling matches followed but gradually the entire group was dispersed.

The New York Times headline read, “Students Rush Congress Restaurant in Vain Effort to test Rule Barring Race.”

The Washington Star headline was “SUSPENSION ASKED IN DEMONSTRATION, Suggested for 30 Howard Students for House Restaurant Disorder.”

The Baltimore Sun’s banner read “30 Negro Students Routed from House Demonstration; Howard University Group Hustled Out by Police After “Members Only” Sign is Ignored—One Arrested for Punching Capitol Employe.”

Reaction to demonstrations

DePriest refused to aid any of the direct action demonstrators saying that protest “would do no good and only cause trouble,” according to the Washington Post.

In another statement to the Atlanta Daily World, DePriest said,

There is no use getting excited about this situation. I am proceeding in an orderly way and I am confident that the House will back me in my efforts to stop this wholly un-American conduct on the part of Mr. Warren and restaurant attachés.

Ulysses Lee—student who protested U.S. Capitol Jim Crow: 1934

Ulysses Lee, one of the so-called Howard “radicals.”

DePriest would apologize to his colleagues on the floor of the House of Representatives during a March 28th speech later in the month:

I am very sorry that those boys came down here from that university the other day as they did. If they had consulted me I would have told them to stay away from here…they are just like the uncontrolled youth of any college or school. There are very few colleges which do not have some radicals in them.

But the Afro published an editorial March 24th with the headline “Keep Up the Agitation Against Capitol J.C. [Jim Crow].

The newspaper praised Theresa Russell when Warren’s secretary told her that the policy was not to serve black people “and that’s the end of it.” Ms. Russell replied, “It is not the end, it is only the beginning.”

O. Phillip Snowden—student who protested U.S. Capitol Jim Crow: 1934

O. Phillip Snowden, another of the so-called Howard “radicals.”

The Afro did not call out DePriest by name for calling the students “radicals” but ran an editorial March 31st called “Thirty radicals.” It read in part:

If radicals is the worst name that can be found for these students, Howard University should consider that a compliment.

The radicals have always been the beacon lights of history. They came from the high, they came from the low. Look at the Declaration of Independence, and you will see an illustrious roll of radicals on that immortal scroll.

I apprehend that if there is anything at all in Darwinian theory of the origin of the species, then the first monkey who slid down the trunk of a tree was the first radical; and why? Because he upset the established and ordained order of things.

The conservative monkeys looked at him and shrieked at him from the tree tops. The tail hold that was good enough for their fathers was good enough for them, and the conservative monkeys called him a radical, a communist, an anarchist and a fool, but the radical monkey lifted up his face in hope to heaven, stood erect and walked, and in the lapse of the ages the radical became a man and the conservative has remained a monkey.

Should be kicked out of Howard

Rep. Thomas L Blanton (D-Tx.) said the students should be kicked out of Howard University along with President Mordecai Johnson.

We saw a bunch of them [communists] right here in this Capitol last Saturday, when 20 or 25 colored students from Howard University marched on this Capitol in a body insisting on violating the rules and regulations, attacked our good friend Harry, who though a colored man, has the respect, high esteem and warm friendship of every man who has been in Congress for the past 20 years and exemplified the teachings of Mordecai Johnson, the president of Howard University, who has preached communism on several occasions.

Rep. Warren said the demonstration by Howard University students was the “supreme outrage,” and that he was particularly shocked by the “obscene language used by the students,” according to the Washington Star. Warren went on to say that the restaurant was making a profit over the past year, but had lost money in the 10 days since demonstrations began.

Kenneth Romney, sergeant at arms of the House called for suspension of the 30 students saying they had “disgraced” the institution and should be punished.

Charges against students

No fee for attorney who takes student protest case: 1934

Atty. Perry Howard charged no free.

Covington was scheduled for trial on his assault and disorderly charges on March 19th, but Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hart requested additional time to study the case.

There were nearly 20 witnesses, including students, Capitol police, the restaurant manager and Parker.

On March 29th, the day before the trial was scheduled , Hart dismissed the case against Covington, citing a lack of evidence.

Covington’s attorney Perry W. Howard refused payment for his services saying:

You young students were fighting against something that many old people are afraid to speak against. I feel you were right and as long as young people of my race are chastised for doing the right, I am always ready to fight for them; I am glad to have been of service to you.

Howard said he was prepared to prove that Covington did not actually strike Parker, but struck at him when Parker advanced upon him.

The students’ version of events was vindicated over the exaggerated stories printed in the mainstream press.

Howard wasn’t the only one in Washington, D.C. to offer the students services for free.

Four African American taxi associations volunteered their services to transport the students back and forth to Capitol Hill and bail bondsman J. Walter Stewart bailed out Covington on a $400 bond without charge.

Expel the students?

DePriest, Scott and Johnson meet: 1930 ca.

President of Howard Mordecai Johnson, Rep. DePriest and Howard treasurer Emmet Scott circa 1930.

However, Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University, considered expelling the students. He feared a call by southern congressmen to cut the school’s substantial federal appropriations.

The matter was sent to the school disciplinary committee composed of a number of professors at the school.

Johnson addressed the committee and made it clear that the leaders should not get their diplomas and that all should receive some type of suspension. Each student testified and then was dismissed from the room.

The more conservative elements wanted to take action against the students. Part-time Afro reporter Frederick Weaver was particularly singled out and charged with duping the other students into staging the protest. Clark was also singled out for his editorial.

Bunche--Give protesting students a medal of honor: 1934

Ralph Bunche circa 1946.

But the chair of the committee, Ralph Bunche, said that a medal of honor should be given rather than punishment. Bunche, an influential political science professor who would get a Nobel Prize 25 years later, threatened to resign if the students were punished.

A second factor they considered was the issue of the University’s professors who took part in the protests organized by Cook. Bunche, the chair of the disciplinary committee, had participated in a March 13th “dine-in,” at the Capitol, albeit without incident. If the students were punished, what should happen to the professors?

In a battle as old as the debate between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois over the “Atlanta compromise,” the progressive elements within the faculty committee won out and in the end the university took no action.

Protests dampened

Charles Russell, NAACP founder and muckraking journalist: 1935 ca.

NAACP founder Charles Edward Russell circa 1935.

DePriest’s condemnation of the protests and Howard’s threat against the students effectively ended the series of direct action sit-ins, but protest on other levels continued.

Following the students’ confrontation at the Capitol, the Civic National Forum sponsored a meeting at the Twelfth Street Christian Church on March 18th where Russell, an NAACP founder, told the crowd:

You are not barred from the restaurant because you are colored or your skin is dark. You are suffering because of the sins of my ancestors in holding you as slaves.

Russell was making the point that under House restaurant manager Johnson’s rules, diplomats from African countries, tourists from Japan or China, and the darkest skin people visiting from the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Greece, Italy or Turkey would all be served, but not African Americans.

Russell continued:

I do solemnly urge that you do not drop this fight against this great evil. Our great trouble is that we start things and then drop them.

NAACP boycott of D.C. Safeway stores: 1941

Rev. R. W. Brooks (2nd from right) at a D.C. Safeway boycott in 1941.

Glazier, the local Socialist Party leader, said

If Congress puts its stamp of approval on segregation under the dome of the Capitol, it will become a national policy and you will see the results of it everywhere.

Never has any situation within my lifetime been as dreadful as segregation sponsored by the national government.

Other speakers included Rev. Brooks, Alden, Theresa Russell, Detzer, Farrar and pastor of the church Rev. J. F. Whitefield.

DePriest petitions for resolution

After 30 days had elapsed without the House Rules Committee taking action on his resolution for an investigation into Jim Crow at the House Restaurant, DePriest filed a petition to discharge the resolution for consideration on the House floor.

DePriest needed 145 signatures to accomplish this. He took the House floor on March 21st with a 45-minute speech that borrowed time from other representatives.

Some excerpts:

If we allow this challenge to go without correcting it, it will set an example where people will say Congress itself approves of segregation. Congress itself approves of denying one-tenth of our population equal rights and opportunity: why should not the rest of the American people do likewise.

No ‘social equality’ for Rep. Terrell: 1934

Rep. Terrell ‘Neither eats nor sleeps” with African Americans.

DePriest read into the record a letter he received from Rep. George R. Terrell (D-Tx.), which read in part,

I note the contents of the resolution and desire to state that I was raised among Negroes in the south and they have always been my personal friends. I work with them on my farm and pay them the same price that I pay white men for the same work. I treat them well and enjoy their confidence….but I’m not in favor of social equality between the races.

I neither eat nor sleep with the Negroes and no law can make me do so.

I think this explains my position clearly.

In his remarks, DePriest responded:

Nobody asked the gentleman to sleep with him. That was not in my mind at all. I do not know why he thought of it. I am very careful about who I sleep with.

I am also careful about whom I eat with; and I want to say to you gentlemen that the restaurant down here is a place where one pays for what one gets. If I go in there, sit down to a table, I pay for what I get, and I am not courting social equality with you…Social equality is something that goes about by an exchange of visits from home to home and not appearing in the same public dining room.

I dropped into Knoxville one night, and the Chattanooga paper in southern Tennessee published a statement that I was coming to talk about social equality.

I said, “When the Negroes came to this country originally they were all black; they are not now, because somebody has had a good deal of social equality; social equality not sought by colored women; social equality forced upon them because of the adverse economic situation down there.”

In his closing remarks, DePriest implored his fellow representatives to sign the petition:

Again. I ask every member of this House who believes in a square deal, Democrats and Republicans alike, to sign this petition. I do not care where you live, you ought to be willing to give me and people I represent the same rights and privileges under the dome of the Capitol that you ask for yourselves and your constituents.

Rep. Warren: ‘mob of toughs and hoodlums from Howard University’--1934

Rep. Warren calls Howard protesters “hoodlums and toughs.”

Rep. Lindsay Warren took to the House floor March 23rd to defend his actions in regard to the implementing of Jim Crow at the House public restaurant.

He claimed that he was only carrying on the practices of his predecessor as chair of the House Accounts committee and that African Americans were being treated equally because they had a restaurant in the basement where service was a little faster and prices a little cheaper since it was located next to the kitchen.

Then he talked about the demonstrations:

One day last week a lot of Communists came down to see us. Another day they described themselves as Socialists; another day a demonstration was made by those claiming to be representatives of the International Labor Defense.

Last Saturday, the supreme outrage occurred when a mob of toughs and hoodlums from Howard University came right down and almost precipitated a riot.

Filth, vulgarity and profanity rang out through the corridors down there. The police told me that never in their lives had they ever taken such insults.

Three splendid ladies pushed their way out of the restaurant into that mob, came to my office and told me that they would never put their foot in there again on account of the vile and horrible language that had been used in their presence.

However, at the end of Warren’s 20-minute speech the remaining 10 representatives necessary to bring the issue to the House floor affixed their signatures to DePriest’s petition, insuring a vote on his resolution by the House scheduled for April 9th.

Forty-eight northern Democrats and five members of the Farmer-Labor Party were among the 145 signing DePriest’s petition.

Communists join the fray

The communists had composed one of the interracial groups testing the Senate restaurant and they and their allies had done some lobbying on the Capitol restaurant issue while attending to other issues, but had played a marginal role in the Capitol restaurant Jim Crow fight.

The local Communist Party focus during those weeks was on the third Bonus March in the city, the campaign to free the “Scottsboro Boys,” the anti-lynching bill being taken up on Capitol Hill, and the activities of the local Unemployed Council.

However, they were now ready to jump into the fray with both feet.

The communists organized a meeting April 5th that drew together sponsors including Gertrude Thorpe, the League of Struggle for Negro Rights; Maurice Gates, National Student League; Antoinette Lyles; Rev. R. C. Collins; Lorita Boston; Peter Warner, Young Communist League; L. Williams, International Labor Defense; and Harold Spencer, Communist Party.

Supporting the meeting were Cook of the WILPF, Rev. Whitefield, and Farrar.

The meeting formed the United Conference to Fight Discrimination (UCFD) and proposed to hold demonstrations and confront those upholding Jim Crow at the Capitol.

Delay on resolution vote

DePriest was forced to ask for a delay of the vote on his resolution because it came at the same time as the Illinois primary elections that he was heavily involved in.

Days before the primary, DePriest backed upstart alderman William Dawson against incumbent Committeeman William King. King was also running against incumbent state senator Adelbert Roberts. DePriest backed a third candidate, Robert Simmons, for that post.

Despite DePriest taking time away from Congress to mobilize his machine and campaign for his endorsed candidates, both Dawson and Simmons lost—making DePriest the enemy of the victors King and Roberts. DePriest’s odds in the fall general election had taken a turn for the worse.

In the interim period before the vote was re-scheduled, the Rules Committee reported out the resolution favorably. That simply meant that the report of the Rules Committee would be taken up before DePriest’s petition on the same resolution.

It appeared that DePriest’s resolution would finally come to a vote sometime around May 2nd.

‘It was Barzini all along’

Speaker Rainey avoids lets clock run out: 1934

Speaker Rainey-Restaurants serve the same food, so no discrimination.

From the beginning, DePriest had placed his faith in Speaker Rainey and thought that Rep. Warren was the culprit.

However, like The Godfather book and movie, Warren wouldn’t have been able to withstand the onslaught unless he had backing.

Russell had written Rainey a letter on behalf of the Interracial Committee of the NAACP in March protesting the Jim Crow restaurants within the Capitol and asking for Rainey to end the practice.

Rainey wrote back on April 10th:

I am in receipt of your circular letter, written as chairman of the Inter-Racial Committee, protesting against “unjust and unconstitutional discrimination” against colored Americans in the public restaurant controlled by Congress.

On the House side of the Capitol Building, we have a restaurant in which colored citizens are served and a much larger restaurant in which white citizens are served, the reason for the difference in size being that there are more whites to be served than there are colored people.

Both restaurants are under the dome of the Capitol. In both restaurants the same food is served coming from the same kitchen.

In the colored restaurant, the prices are a little cheaper for the reason that the restaurant is nearer the kitchen.

Both restaurants have tiled walls, tiled floors and tiled hallways on the outside.

Is it the position of you and your organization that the restaurant where white people are now served should be turned over to the colored people and colored people served there, and white people to be served in the restaurant where colored people are now served?

This would be quite impossible on account of size. Or is it your position that both races be permitted to mingle in the same restaurant?

At the present time, whites are not admitted to the colored restaurant and colored people are not admitted to the white restaurant.

It does not appear to me that there are any racial distinctions. They all have the same service and are well served.

Is it your position that prices should be raised in the colored restaurant and that they be required to pay the same prices as the white people pay?

Very truly yours, Henry T. Rainey

Three months earlier Rainey had “never heard of such a thing.” It seems now he knew a great deal.

It was becoming clearer to all, except perhaps DePriest, that the “investigation” to be voted on would be a sham. Even with a favorable vote on the resolution, Rainey would appoint the majority of the investigating committee. It was Rainey who likely offered the “investigation” resolution to DePriest during their meeting in January as a substitute for DePriest’s straightforward draft resolution prohibiting discrimination, thereby avoiding a vote on the underlying issue.

‘No respectable Negro will take part’

The Communist Party and allied groups called a demonstration at the Capitol April 27th, which DePriest immediately denounced.

The Baltimore Sun reported DePriest saying:

I know nothing whatsoever about this demonstration, but obviously it is being fostered by communists and red agitators. I trust that no respectable Negro will take part, and I denounce the idea as a deliberate move by communists to make capital out of the restaurant situation.

No friend of mine will take part, and I want no law-abiding citizen to be misled into believing that he will help me by joining the movement.

The cause I am interested in will be further advanced by the course I am following rather than by the brute force the Reds are trying to provoke.

The flyer for the protest was mildly worded and called for no confrontation, instead urging people to

Come and picket in front of the Capitol—Stop Jim-Crowism in Government restaurants.

DePriest’s declared opposition undoubtedly affected turnout and fewer than a dozen people arrived for the picket line, which quickly dispersed after finding that Rainey was not in the Capitol, according to the Star.

DePriest’s resolution voted on

Rainey called forth DePriest’s resolution for a vote May 2nd. Under the rules adopted, there would be no debate.

The Speaker called for a voice vote in which the “nays” sounded louder than the “yeas.” A division of the house was then called for and 237 stood for yes and 114 stood for no.

Rep. Louis T. McFadden (R-Pa.) then called for a roll call vote. As each senator’s name was called, the “No’s” would be called out loudly and answered equally as loudly by a “Yes.” Rainey had to use his gavel a number of times to restore order. The roll call vote ended with the same total as the division of the house.

Rep. Beck to defend African American rights: 1934

Rep. Beck opposes Jim Crow on House floor.

After the vote, James M Beck (R-Pa.) remarked:

It may be premature at this time to anticipate what that committee will report, but it will, I believe, find it difficult to justify the exclusion from a public restaurant, maintained by the government of the United States, of any class of citizen because of their color or race….to which nearly one-tenth of all the people of the United States belong, is unfair and invidious. 

As the House restaurant is now managed, a man or woman, whether a citizen or an alien, can freely enter. An alien from Japan, China, New Zealand, Patagonia, or an Eskimo from the frozen regions of the Arctic Circle can come into the restaurant and no one will say him nay.

Only the Negro citizen is excluded, and this notwithstanding the fact for this benefit and to prevent discrimination against him in the most important of all rights, that of suffrage, the 15th amendment to the constitution was ratified by states, which forbade any such discrimination either by the United States or by any state ‘on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Rep. Green says shut restaurant down: 1934

Rep. Robert Green proposed to close the restaurant and sell the assets.

But the opponents weren’t dead. Rep. John J. Cochran (D-Mo.), who had earlier said, “I don’t care” about African Americans eating in the restaurant, offered a resolution that “No Negro shall be permitted to eat in the house restaurant unless accompanied by a member of Congress.”

Rep. Robert A. Green (D-Fl.) had another solution and introduced a resolution that proposed the House shut down the restaurant and auction off its fixtures.

Cochran gave several reasons for voting against the DePriest resolution and then said:

Another reason that I opposed the resolution is that in my opinion it was introduced for political reasons, the author desiring to further his political interest in the recent primary in Chicago.

As a member of the Committee on Accounts I can say the restaurant has been conducted under the same rules as it was conducted when the Republican Party was in power…

DePriest’s resolution had passed but now even he was somewhat circumspect and told the Afro:

So far it has been an overwhelming victory, but the fight has just begun. I will not be satisfied until my constituents are accorded the same rights and privileges as those of white representatives.

Rainey appointed the three Democrats and named John E. Miller (D-Ark.), Francis Walter (D-Pa.) and Compton I. White (D-Id.). Only White had favored DePriest’s resolution. Rainey permitted DePriest to recommend the two minority party members.

McFadden calls for end to Jim Crow at House restaurant: 1934

Rep. McFadden (l) was isolated with his anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler views.

It is unclear if DePriest chose P. H. Moynihan (R-Il.) and Louis T. McFadden (R-Pa.)—the two minority party members of the committee. But whether he or Rainey ended up making the call, the choices of Moynihan and McFadden certainly didn’t help DePriest’s cause.

Moynihan was a freshmen congressman with no influence among Democrats or Republicans.

McFadden had been ostracized by the Republican Party over his attempt to impeach President Herbert Hoover, rampant anti-Semitic comments and reported speeches supporting Adolph Hitler.

‘Ally of southern lynchers’

On May 5th a five-person delegation met with Speaker Rainey in his office where they called him “a chauvinist, a communist-hater and an ally of southern lynchers,” according to the Afro.

Capitol police were out in extra strength to guard against any disturbance or direct action by the radicals.

Members of the delegation were E. A Taylor, chair of the delegation from the UCFD; Gertrude Thorpe, leader of the UCFD; Harold Spenser, Thomas Brown and E. Matthews, all of the Washington Unemployed Council.

During the meeting when Rainey said “Colored people get all rights guaranteed them under the Constitution,” Thorpe asked him whether he was “just ignorant or a liar?”

Rainey dismissed the group saying,

You are just a bunch of communists. Colored persons are not permitted to eat in other restaurants throughout the country, why pick on this one?

One delegate responded,

Mr. Rainey, the excluding of colored persons from the House restaurant is a violation of the Constitution of this country. What action will you take against it?

“None,” said Rainey

Rainey was then told,

Colored and white workers are beginning to see through your hypocrisy and are organizing to force your administration to stop discrimination against colored people.

Committee Hearing

The select committee conducting the investigation held a hearing June 7th where DePriest’s secretary Morris Lewis described how he had eaten in the restaurant for five years before he was barred.

Lewis continued,

To stop this effort of colored people to gain service in the restaurant a sign was placed on the ‘Public restaurant’ reading ‘for members only.’ This turned out to be the grossest kind of subterfuge as all persons other than colored people, regardless of membership in the House, are freely admitted and served.

Lewis ended his testimony requesting that the order barring African Americans be rescinded.

Warren testified that the Accounts Committee passed resolutions vesting in him the power to run the restaurant without consulting them.

When questioned whether the race policy had been consistently applied, he reversed his earlier claims that African Americans had always been barred and said it was “more or less permissive” that the African American secretaries or other employees of representatives could eat in the House restaurant.

Underhill says, ‘colored people prefer segregation.’ – 1934

Former Rep. Underhill says, ‘colored people prefer segregation.’

He went on to describe the “colored” restaurant in the basement and when questioned again about whether colored are permitted in the white restaurant, Warren again admitted, “It has been permissive.”

Former chair of the Accounts Committee Charles Underhill (R-Ma.) testified on the history of the restaurant and the committee before offering his own views that “colored people prefer segregation.”

He testified that the issue of race had never come up in his tenure except when DePriest brought an interracial group into the restaurant and it was suggested to him that this was improper. He testified that it never happened again.

Committee sides with Jim Crow

White joins majority to uphold Jim Crow in the House: 1934

Rep. Compton White changes his vote–upholds Jim Crow.

The following day on June 8, 1934, the majority of the select committee found there was no discrimination against African Americans. White, who had voted for DePriest’s resolution, turned around and voted against ending Jim Crow.

The report was approved on a straight party-line vote with the three Democrats voting for it and the two Republicans voting against it.

Both majority and minority submitted their report to the House of Representatives.

The text of the majority report read:

The committee to whom was referred the subject matter of House Resolution 236, having held hearings and completed the investigation as therein directed, report as follows

The first inquiry direct to be made by the said resolution is. “By what authority the Committee on Accounts controls and manages the conduct of the House Restaurant.”

The authority was vested in the Committee on Accounts by a resolution unanimously adopted by the House of Representative son June 2, 1921, reading as follows:

Resolved, That there should be paid out of the contingent fund of the House such sums as may be necessary to make such alterations and improvements of the rooms occupied by the restaurant of the House of Representatives and to re-equip the restaurant with sanitary fixtures and utensils as may in the judgment of the committee on Accounts be deemed advisable and necessary, and until otherwise ordered by the House the management of the House restaurant and all other matters connected therewith shall be under the direction of the Committee on Accounts.

There have not been any additional orders or directions given by the House.

The second and only other inquiry made is. “By what authority said committee or any member thereof issued and enforced rules or instructions whereby any citizen of the United States is discriminated against on account of race, color, or creed in said House restaurant, grill room or other public appurtenances or facilities connected therewith under the supervision of the House of Representatives.”

Miller defends Jim Crow at the U.S. Capitol: 1934

Rep. John Miller sides with majority, says there is no discrimination.

Since the Committee on Accounts has had control of the restaurant under and by virtue of the resolution hereinbefore set forth, at the first session of each Congress the following resolution has been unanimously passed by the said committee:

“That the chairman by authorized to report out all death resolutions without a meeting of the committee and that the chairman be empowered to use his own discretion to dealing with members in regard to telegraph, telephone, and all other matters of accounts, including the management of the House restaurant and all rules and regulations pertaining to same.”

Under this resolution, the Committee on Accounts has delegated to its chairman the duty of making and enforcing rules for the management of the restaurant The restaurant was established for the use and convenience of Member of the House of Representatives.

It is not a public restaurant nor was it intended by the House that it should be operated as such It now operated as it has been since it was first established, for the use and convenience of the Members of the House and there has been no discrimination in serving the Members of the House or their guests.

Therefore we recommend that the authority to operate and control the restaurant remain vested in the Committee on Accounts and that the committee continue to operate the restaurant for the convenience and use of the Member of the House and their guests.

Moynihan votes to end Jim Crow at House restaurant: 1934

Rep. Patrick Moynihan (right) calls for an end to Jim Crow in the minority report.

The minority report read as follows:

The undersigned members of the Select Committee of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker pursuant to House Resolution No. 236, report—

(1) That the Accounts Committee, by House resolution adopted June 2, 1921, has full control and management of the restaurant of the House of Representatives.”

(2) That in practice the chairman of said committee has been permitted to assume full personal control of the management of said restaurant.

(3) That an important adjunct to said restaurant is that section set apart for the public and designated ‘Public.’”

(4) That in issuing an order, rule, or regulation denying service in said public restaurant to any person on account of race or color said chairman exceeded his authority, in violation of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution”

(5) It is recommended that said discriminatory order rule or regulation be forthwith rescinded.”

DePriests’s attempt to rely on a technical argument that the special resolution giving power to the Accounts Committee over the restaurant expired back in 1921, though correct, was simply ignored.

The majority dodged the issue of Jim Crow by defining all the restaurants as being operated by and for the members of Congress. DePriest and his guests would be served, but no discrimination against the public could occur since the restaurants were private.

Those pushing for opening the House restaurant to all hoped to substitute the minority report for the majority report when the issue came to the House floor. As a privileged motion it was placed on the calendar, but with no specific time that it would come up.

Throughout the six-month campaign, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt was silent on the matter.

He made overtures to African Americans such as having African American singers Etta Moton and Lillian Evanti perform at the White House in February and entertaining African American former Harvard University classmates at the White House, but never weighed in publicly on the issue of Jim Crow at the Capitol.

Roosevelt made the political calculation that he was heavily dependent on Rainey for his New Deal agenda. It wouldn’t be until 1941 that he took a major step toward implementing African American rights with his executive order for a Fair Employment Practices Commission.

As time ran out, Speaker Rainey played his last card and let the report die on the calendar as Congress adjourned at 11:05 p.m. June 18th. It was one of Rainey’s last acts (or inactions) for he died two months later before the next session of Congress met.

Aftermath

DePriest blamed the Democrats who appointed a majority of the select committee and African Americans who voted for Democrats during a speech reported on by the Atlanta Daily World in Youngstown, Ohio,

If a Negro votes to sustain a party who always had their foot on his neck. I cannot understand that Negro.

Rev. L. B. Bunn of Michigan hit DePriest at a Baptist youth conference in Washington, D.C. reported on by the Afro,

It would have been far better if Congressman DePriest had not offered this question as a political gesture. He should have left it to us a little longer. It has been put down that colored folks shall not eat in the cafes of the Houses of congress. We have given ourselves a lot of unfavorable publicity in this matter.

Channing Tobias, headed African American YMCA: 1940 ca.

Channing Tobias (left) says unity is key.

Dr. Channing Tobias, senior secretary of the African American branch of the YMCA said at a New York conference of the association,

…when Congressman Oscar DePriest was waging the fight against racial discrimination in the House of Representatives restaurant there was no time then for colored people to be quibbling whether every move made was correct; the struggle to put an end to Jim Crow under the roof of a federal building in the nation’s capital, was too important in its implications for differences; we should have all been behind Mr. DePriest.

Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, writing in the NAACP magazine The Crisis, said,

The Howard students and some of their teachers, staged a demonstration, which was a legitimate and justifiable method of letting the world know what discrimination we suffer. Yet it was futile and will undoubtedly be used to attack the Howard appropriation. It was worth the price.

Kenneth Clark was unrepentant when speaking to the National Student Federation, an association of student governments, conference at Columbia University,

I have no apologies to make for participating in the protest of such an ungodly crime, and if my participation places me in the category of a hoodlum, I am proud to be one. If seeking our rights as American citizens makes us communists, then I am also proud to be among the ranks of communists.

Jim Crow continues on Capitol Hill

Rep. Mitchell drops Jim Crow fight at U.S. Capitol: 1935

Rep. Arthur M. Mitchell

DePriest was defeated by Democrat Arthur M. Mitchell 53%-47% in November 1934. There were a number of reasons for his defeat, including DePriest’s opposition to Roosevelt’s New Deal relief programs, his backing the wrong horses in the Republican primary, who in turn worked against him in the general election, corruption allegations made shortly before the election, and his failure to get a vote on the Capitol restaurant issue.

When Mitchell took office in January 1933 he let it be known he had no interest in the House restaurant issue.

He told the Afro his predecessor tried to make an issue out of it,

…and when the smoke had cleared away, conditions were worse. Several colored persons lost their jobs as a result of the fight, and the colored public is still barred.

With DePriest gone, Johnson took down the “Members Only” sign outside the House public restaurant and it formally became public again.

Their shameless hypocrisy knew no bounds.

Even after DePriest’s efforts had failed back in June, some of the waiters had continued to serve African Americans who presented themselves.

With DePriest gone, Johnson had all the waiters and busboys re-apply for their jobs. and replaced five waiters who had served soup to African Americans the previous year with men from North Carolina.

He had been gradually slipping in waiters and bus boys from his home state one at a time in 1934, but when he carried out a mass firing at this juncture, it caused a small stir since some representatives’ favorite waiters had been among those canned.

When asked to comment, Warren said no one was fired “except for inefficiency,” according to the Afro.

In March 1935, several African American women who were part of a “peace mission” from Father Divine’s Los Angeles Temple joined several white women and were turned away at the House restaurant. Mitchell declined to get involved, saying the issue was too small, according to the Afro.

In June of the same year, a bill for 1936 legislative appropriations provided $15,000 for the operation of the Senate restaurant and kitchens. An amendment nicknamed the “DePriest amendment” was placed on the bill to bar the use of funds for the restaurant because of continued discriminatory practices.

However, without Mitchell’s support, the amendment was quickly stripped away by Senator Millard Tydings (D-Md.), chair of the subcommittee on Senate appropriations. The following year a similar appropriation was made in the House without objection.

CIO chief John L. Lewis cracks a rare smile: 1937

CIO chief John L. Lewis testified against Rep. Warren.

In 1938, the issue was raised in the news again when the NAACP and John L. Lewis, head of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, opposed the nomination of Lindsay Warren to be comptroller general of the United States based on his role in the Capitol restaurant segregation.

Part of DePriest’s speech was adapted during the debate over Warren and credited to him as “some white people being so particular about the people they ate with and not so particular about the people they slept with.”

However, Warren was confirmed despite the controversy.

In 1942, Mitchell’s own secretary Christine Ray Hughes took a seat in a new House restaurant open to the public and was served without incident.

Ray Hughes, confidential aide to black congressmen: 1948

Ray Hughes, Rep Mitchell’s confidential secretary, is barred from new House restaurant.

However, Rep. John Rankin (D-Miss.) led a delegation to the office of Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) to protest an African American’s presence in the restaurant.

Thereafter Hughes did not return to the restaurant.

Mitchell was criticized in the Afro American for not speaking out, but their words made no difference.

The Chicago Defender ran an article in 1943 on the problems of African American workers in the federal and downtown areas getting meals and raised the issue of enforcing the 1871 and 1872 laws banning discrimination, but no one filed suit at that time.

The issue bubbled up again on March 8, 1947 when columnist Drew Pearson reported that Thomas S. Thornton, an African American World War II veteran recently hired in the Senate Post Office, was told he couldn’t eat in the Senate Office Building luncheonette.

Senator C. Wayland Brooks (R-Il.), chair of the Rules Committee, followed up by making an announcement that there was “no rule against such use.” While not much different from Copeland’s statement in 1934, this effectively ended Jim Crow in the Senate restaurants.

Jim Crow in the press galleries of the House and Senate ended the same year when Louis Lautier, a reporter for an African American news service was initially denied a press pass. Lautier took his case to the Senate Rules Committee where chairman Brooks, ordered the gallery to admit him. Lautier became the first black reporter in the press galleries since the 1870s.

Following Senate restaurant issue, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution in the House to “clarify the matter once and for all” as to whether African Americans were able to eat in the House cafeterias and restaurants. However, the resolution died without much fanfare.

Juanita Terry, first black aide to white representative: 1949

Juanita Terry, aide to Rep. Helen Douglas.

Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas (D-Ca.) took office in 1945 and brought on Juanita Terry in January 1948 as the first African American aide for a white representative. Douglas persuaded the operator of the House public restaurant to desegregate so that Terry could take her meals there sometime in 1950.

However, that success would be fleeting. Douglas lost a high-profile Senate campaign to Richard M. Nixon in November, 1950 after Nixon famously redbaited her as “the pink lady.”

Clarence Mitchell, the long-time NAACP lobbyist on Capitol Hill recalled that during the late 1940s there was “an on-again, off-again” policy on admitting African Americans to the House public restaurant.

He remembers specifically that African Americans were barred in 1950, but said the barrier dropped sometime before the 1953 decision in the Thompson Cafeteria case —during the period when picket lines were set up in front of chain stores and restaurants in the city that were barring African Americans.

Predecessors of the organized sit-in

Direct action campaign to halt Jim Crow streetcars: 1864

Sojourner Truth waged a one-woman campaign against Jim Crow on city streetcars.

The origins of the sit-in in the Washington, D.C. area can be traced back further than the Capitol protests, but they were single persons either taking direct action or seeking to use the subsequent arrest as a basis to file suit to challenge the discrimination.

The earliest in the post-Civil War period was the 1865-66 one-woman campaign on the city’s streetcars by Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree) who campaigned to enforce the city’s ban against Jim Crow on the trolleys by using direct action. She would board the cars and sit in the white sections and refuse to move and if a driver of the horse-drawn vehicles passed her up, she would report them to the company.

In 1868, Catharine Brown boarded the whites-only car in Alexandria, Va. bound for Washington, D.C. The rail service was provided by the Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria Railroad Company. She refused to move to the “colored” car and was forcibly ejected. She sued and her case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court where she prevailed, since the railroad’s charter was in the District of Columbia, where Jim Crow cars were prohibited.

Later, African Americans would go into the city’s restaurants after passage of 1872 and 1873 laws banning discrimination in public accommodations, take seats and be denied service, be overcharged or be made to wait lengthy periods of time. The discriminatory actions by the restaurants resulted in lawsuits against the proprietors.

W. H. H. Hart – Refused Jim Crow on Maryland train: 1905

W. H. H. Hart defies Jim Crow rail car and is jailed 3 days.

In 1905, W. H. H. Hart, who would later be a founder of the NAACP, refused to give up his seat on a train bound for Washington, D.C. upon arrival in Maryland and move to a Jim Crow car. Hart was arrested and spent three days in jail. Hart sued that Maryland’s Jim Crow law could not apply to interstate travel. He won his case but was awarded only $1 in damages.

The sit-in refined and expanded

After the Capitol Restaurant campaign, Samuel Wilbert Tucker, a Howard University law graduate, organized a sit-in at the all-white Alexandria public library in 1939.

Tucker had a group of African American men to one-by-one enter the library and ask for a library card. Upon refusal, each man would take a seat at a table in the library—ultimately occupying nearly all the tables.

As expected, police arrived and arrested the group for disorderly conduct. Tucker didn’t intend this to be an ongoing tactic, but as a case to be used to file suit.

Alexandria, Virginia public library sit-in 1939

Arrested at the Alexandria, Va. library for a sit-in in 1939.

The library, fearing the outcome of a court suit, entered into prolonged negotiations over the issue. Tucker became ill and in his absence community leaders settled for construction of an “equal” library for African Americans.

Tucker was outraged and after the new library was built, refused an invitation to apply for a library card, writing back,

I refuse and will always refuse to accept a card to be used at the library to be constructed and operated at Alfred and Wythe Streets in lieu of [a] card to be used at the existing library on Queen Street for which I have made application.

In 1943 the Howard University chapter of the NAACP revived the tactic when they took on a nearby restaurant—and a year later—one downtown.

A student at the school, Ruth Powell, had been carrying on a one-person sit-in on her own at cafes that refused to serve African Americans. She would sit on a stool for hours staring at the waiter or waitress that refused to serve her.

At the same time a Howard Law School student, William Raines, was circulating the idea of occupying stools as a technique for desegregation. There was no law requiring segregation, so Raines reasoned that peacefully waiting for service was no crime and they could not be legally arrested. At the same time, white customers would not be served because the seats were occupied, putting economic pressure on the business.

NCNW Women of the year: 1946

Pauli Murray is one of the “Women of the Year” in 1946.

After a survey of the campus where students gave overwhelming support to the idea of a campaign to desegregate the city, Pauli Murray and three other female students walked to the Little Palace cafeteria on nearby U Street NW.

Murray had earlier staged a sit-in with another woman on an interstate bus in Virginia in 1940, refusing to sit in the “colored” section. The NAACP refused to take up her case, allegedly citing a lower court tossing out a key argument, but others believed it was because she wore trousers and would present a “bad image.”

Murray would go on to graduate first in her class at Howard, but was refused admittance to the law school because of her gender. She termed her experiences at Howard “Jane Crow.” She went on to earn a doctorate of law at Yale and pursued a civil rights career. In the 1970s she changed careers, becoming one of the first women priests in the Episcopal Church.

Murray and two others went inside the U Street restaurant and sat down while one student stayed outside as a lookout for any trouble.

Every five minutes or so another student would arrive, and soon the small restaurant was packed. Panicked, the manager closed the cafeteria instead of serving the group.

The students went outside and picketed the restaurant for two days until the management relented and agreed to serve African Americans.

The following year, students decided to directly challenge Jim Crow in the downtown area. Close to 70 students went to the Thompson’s Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Fifty-five students went inside and sat down while a dozen or so others picketed outside.

After four hours, the restaurant management in Chicago gave the go-ahead to serve the students. The action was a resounding victory.

However, like their predecessors in the Capitol protests, they were quickly quashed by the Howard University administration, which was still fearful of losing federal grant money. Defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory.

Mary Church Terrell 90th Birthday: 1953

Mary Church Terrell’s 90th birthday in 1953.

The tactic would be revived again in 1950 when Mary Church Terrell led the Coordinating Committee for the Enforcement of the D.C. Anti-Discrimination Laws.

Terrell and two other African Americans and one white person took a table at Thompson’s Restaurant on 14th Street NW. They were arrested and filed suit to enforce the so-called “lost civil rights laws” of 1872 and 1873.

The group didn’t stop there, but staged boycotts and pickets of chain stores and restaurants over the next three years, desegregating many before the U.S Supreme Court upheld the “lost laws” and outlawed segregation in public accommodations in the District of Columbia.

However, it wasn’t until 1960 that the tactic exploded nationwide, beginning with the Greensboro, N.C. sit-in and spread locally by Howard University students into the Washington, D.C. area at segregated facilities in Arlington, Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland.


Author’s Notes

Activist and reporter Frederick C. Weaver: 1934

Afro American activist reporter Frederick C. Weaver at the Mar. 17, 1934 Jim Crow protest by Howard students.

Were the corruption allegations against DePriest before the election the product of Democratic Party skullduggery? That’s a topic for someone else’s research project.

We are fortunate that the reporters for the Afro American were also activist fighters against Jim Crow. They have given us a glimpse into the actual events and real words used and conversations that took place during this fight.

We are also fortunate that the campaign took place within the U.S. Capitol where there were an abundance of reporters from around the country always on the lookout for a story and so we have multiple sources for the events. Further, the speeches were often in the Congressional Record.

DePriest was somewhat deluded to believe that a Democratic Majority Leader dependent on southern segregationist representatives for his position would be either on his side or fair, so DePriest was wrong to reject direct action.

It is not possible to know whether continued direct action coupled with the legislative approach would have been successful, but it is much more likely that there would have been an up or down vote on the issue of segregation.

Direct action, however, probably could not have been sustained in this fight for much longer in any event.

Dorothy Cook, who was coordinating the interracial groups seeking service in the restaurants, expressed her frustration with finding African Americans willing to be denied service.

“They promise to go, but back out at the last moment. However one can scarcely blame them for it is a very humiliating thing to do.”

The reasons were probably not entirely humiliation. Most of her recruits were professionals who were in fact concerned about respectability and feared the social repercussions of having their names splashed across newspapers in a confrontation that may result in arrest.

But for working class African Americans in 1934 who cared little about social consequences, the U.S. Capitol was a distant and alien place that few black people entered on any regular basis, except those who worked there. As a target, it might as well have been on the North Pole.

Deprived of Howard’s students and professors, there would be few other places to turn for African Americans willing to be refused service.

Cook would also have found it difficult to sustain the protest with her white compatriots as well. The Socialist Party and its allies provided the base of support for the protest. They were not primarily activists, but were instead more focused on speakers, meetings, lobbying efforts and elections.

An alternative was the Communist Party that had ties to both black and white workers, but this was not their campaign and their focus was elsewhere.

Conflicted Howard president halts students’ sit-ins: 1934

Mordecai Johnson circa 1930.

Mordecai Johnson was a complicated figure who was more sympathetic to left-wing thought than might appear from this post.

In his defense, he was under attack for alleged communist sympathies and threatened with removal from his post by the trustees in 1931. In 1933 several congressional representatives again attacked him as a communist and threatened to cut Howard’s subsidy from the federal government.

Johnson placed Howard and its position as the preeminent African American University above the immediate concerns of fighting specific Jim Crow battles. He believed that producing the highest quality professionals trumped activism against Jim Crow—despite his own personal sympathies for the struggle.

NAACP founder and advocate of action W. E. B. Dubois: 1945

W. E. B. Du Bois circa 1945.

DuBois believed Johnson was wrong for this and felt that rising action on the part of African Americans against white supremacy was more important than any funding loss to the school.

Johnson’s actions in tamping down the nascent student activists of 1934 and 1943-44 may have deprived the larger civil rights movement of the impetus it would not receive until the mid 1950s and 1960s.

In the end, the fight against Jim Crow at the Capitol was a bridge too far.

However, the use of direct action won some temporary successes during the battle. The Senate public restaurant was at least nominally integrated and several interracial parties succeeded in getting served at the House public restaurant.

These tactical successes helped lay the seeds for the future sit-in movement of 1960. As such, it was an important step in a very long battle.

[Update February 8, 2019: An interracial group of 50 Civil Rights Congress demonstrators in Washington, D.C. entered a Jim Crow restaurant in Union Station sat down and demanded service on August 5, 1948. At a rally later the same day of about 4,000 on the Washington Monument grounds, Albert Kahn, author and head of the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order, praised the temporary desegregation of a the restaurant.

“We were establishing a precedent that we will see followed here,” he said to the crowd’s applause.”

The larger rally had been called after Congress scuttled anti-poll tax legislation and also called for low cost housing, price rollbacks, repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and the draft.]


The author was an activist for 50 years in the Washington, D.C. area.  He is a graduate of the National Labor College, the former secretary-treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and former executive director of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400. In addition, worked for the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO and Progressive Maryland. He is also a former bus operator for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and currently resides in North Carolina. He can be contacted at Washington_area_spark@yahoo.com


Sources include:

The Afro American, The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The Washington Tribune, The Chicago Defender, The New York Amsterdam News, United Press International, Associated Press, The Crisis, The Congressional Record, The Baltimore Sun, the Associated Negro Press, Children, Race, and Power: Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s Northside Center by Markowitz and Rosner; Ghetto: The Invention of a Place the History of an Idea by Mitchell Duneier; Jim Crow’s Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision by Peter Irons; Journal of Negro Education, Winter 1966, Oscar De Priest and the Jim Crow Restaurant in the US House of Representatives by Elliott M. Rudwick; From Megaphones to Microphones: speeches of American women, 1920-60 by Sarkela, Ross and Lowe; Racism in the Nation’s Service: Government Workers and the Color Line in Woodrow Wilson’s America by Eric S. Yellen; Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America by Cameron McWhirter; The Black Past Remembered and Reclaimed, website: http://www.blackpast.org


Appendix A

 Honor Roll

 A partial list of participants in direct action

To end Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol

Some of the African Americans participants

Rev. R. W. Brooks—pastor of the Lincoln Temple Congregational Church at 11th and R Streets NW and active in the “Scottsboro Boys” campaign, the campaign against police brutality and other civil rights causes in the city.

Dr. Charles Wesley—professor of history at Howard University. Wesley would go on to write 15 books on African American history and serve as president of Wilberfore University and Central State University, both in Ohio.

Ralph Bunche —professor of political science at Howard University went on to gain the first doctorate of political science at Howard later in 1934. He won a Nobel Prize as a negotiator for the United Nations in 1950, continued work for the UN and was named under-Secretary of the United Nations in 1968.

Oscar DePriest—The only African American U.S. representative 1929-35, the first African American elected to Congress in the 20th Century, first African American elected to Congress outside the South.

Morris Lewis—Aide to Rep. Oscar DePriest, the only African American aide working on Capitol Hill 1929-35.

Frederick Wilkinson–Howard University registrar.

John F. Whitfield–Pastor of the Christian Colored Church.

Rev. P. D. Perryman–Baptist minister from New York.

Leonard C. Farrar–Executive secretary of the National Forum Association.

Harold Covington—House restaurant waiter and student at Howard University.

Florence Collins—Reporter for the Afro American.

Frederick Weaver—Reporter for the Afro American and Howard University student.

A. Taylor– United Conference to Fight Discrimination.

Thomas Brown—Washington, D.C. Unemployed Council.

Matthews—Washington, D.C. Unemployed Council.

Some of the white participants:

Charles Edward Russell—a Pulitzer Prize winner; muckraking journalist as famous as contemporaries Upton Sinclair and Lincoln Steffens; one of three white founders of the NAACP, member of its national board and member of the local NAACP Interracial committee; and former Socialist Party member who split with the organization over its opposition to U.S. entry into World War I.

Dorothy Detzer—Executive Secretary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (1924-46); and former relief officer for the American Friends Service Committee in Austria and Russia after World War I.

Dorothy Cook —Assistant executive secretary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Harlan E. Glazier—Head of the local chapter of the Socialist Party.

Theresa Hirshl Russell—Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, wife of Charles Russell.

Margaret Jones–Member of the Interracial Council.

Dorothy Alden–Former World Peaceways,

Robert Shestick–Citizens Party.

Dr. Howard K. Beale–Historian on the staff of the University of Chicago and research historian at the Library of Congress.

Rev. Russell J. Clinchy–Pastor of the Sixteenth Street Congregational Church in Washington, D.C.

Katharine Wilfrey–Social worker.

Dr. W. Carson Ryan, Director of education at the United States Office of Indian Affairs, a specialist in education surveys and a leader in educational reform efforts.

Harold Spencer—Washington, D.C. Unemployed Council and the Washington, D.C. Communist Party.

Gertrude Thorpe—United Conference to Fight Discrimination and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights.

African American Howard Students:

Kenneth Clark—A leader of the student demonstrations, Clark and his wife Mamie would go onto do pioneering work as psychologists among African American children. Their research showed the debilitating effects of Jim Crow on African American children and provided the scientific evidence for ending the so-called “separate but equal” education with the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954.

Frederick Weaver—Weaver, a great grandson of Frederick Douglas, was also the reporter for the Afro American where he both participated and covered much of the battle. Weaver was one of the targets of the Howard administration and they acted two years later to suspend him when he was a second year law student for writing a critical article for the Washington Tribune about one of the Deans at the school. He went onto become assistant Recorder of Deeds in the District of Columbia before moving to New York to form his own public relations firm, becoming a close ally of Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, but later becoming critical of the congressman.

Harold Covington—Covington was both a student and the waiter that was fired for serving Frederick Weaver in the House restaurant.

O. Phillip Snowden—This Capitol campaign would not be Snowden’s last civil rights fight. In 1943, he and two others sued a Howard Johnson’s in New Jersey when it refused to serve them.

Dudley Clark

H.Robinson

Fred Durrah

Henry Allen Boyd, Jr.

O. Thompson

E. Fernandis

William Ford

Irving Barnes

William. D. Jones

T. Jones

R. Elliot

L. Parker

William E. Blake

A . J. Cary

W. Shumate

William H. Bruce

L. Berry

Gilbert Banfield

C. Gittens

W. Campbell

O. Cowan

Ulysses Lee

And at least 10 other Howard students, perhaps a dozen or more persons who sought restaurant service and those who attended the communist’s picket line remain unknown.


Want to see or read more?

Addition images: Capitol Cafes

Want to read more about civil rights struggles during this period in time?

1939 the background of the struggle for a Marion Anderson concert.

1938-41 Campaign against police brutality

The 1930s campaign for the ‘Scottsboro Boys’ in the D.C. Area

Against the cold wind: The 1948 cafeteria workers strike

2 Jan

By Craig Simpson


1,400 members of a predominantly African American union in Jim Crow Washington, D.C. take on both a company intent on union busting and the Taft Hartley Act in a 78-day strike in the frigid winter of 1948 that included battles on the picket line, between the AFL and the CIO, and between President Harry Truman and Congress.


Cold winds blow on DC cafeteria workers: 1948

A mass picket outside the Federal Works Administration during the 1948 cafeteria strike.

Two cold winds swept into Washington, DC in the winter of 1947-48: a brutally cold season and the onset of the Cold War. For the cafeteria workers in government buildings in the District of Columbia neither development was welcome.

The contract between United Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers Local 471, the largest of one of the few predominantly African American unions, and Government Services, Inc. (GSI), the dominant private provider of cafeteria services to federal buildings, was set to expire at midnight on December 31, 1947.

The recently enacted anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act required all union officers to sign affidavits that they were not communists if their unions were to utilize provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.

GSI staked out a position that unless the Local 471 officers and those of the parent United Public Workers of America (UPWA), CIO, signed affidavits, they would not recognize the union, enter into negotiations or sign a contract.

Officers of both Local 471 and the UPWA refused to sign the affidavits, saying it was just an excuse for GSI to engage in union-busting and that the absence of such affidavits only returned labor relations to the pre-NLRB days and did not preclude negotiating a contract. Further, the umbrella organization for the local’s UPWA parent union, the CIO, was encouraging non-compliance as a tactic to blunt the Taft-Hartley law.

Taft-Hartley Act

Caravan to Oppose Taft-Hartley Act: 1947

A car caravan in Washington, DC in June 1947 urges a presidential veto of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Within the labor movement, there was still considerable debate over how to address the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act.

President Truman’s veto of the Act was overridden by Congress June 23, 1947. The necessary votes came from a Republican dominated Congress with the help of a large number of defecting Democrats. It was in response to 12 years of gains by labor unions culminating in the strike wave of 1945-46 that resulted in wage gains and increased membership for unions.

It also came after World War II as the United States began confronting the Soviet Union over influence in Europe and elsewhere.

To this end, Truman and others sought to cripple the still considerable influence of the Communist Party in all sections of U.S. society. While Truman vetoed the Act and was overridden by Congress, he had previously implemented a “loyalty” program in the federal government in March, 1947 that effectively barred government employment of communists and others with left-wing beliefs.

The new Taft-Hartley law placed sweeping restrictions on unions, including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. It outlawed secondary strikes, secondary boycotts and sympathy strikes designed to pressure employers. For example, it would be illegal for a union to organize a boycott of advertisers during a newspaper strike.
  2. It permitted employers to wage anti-union campaigns in their workplaces, including holding captive audience meetings. Since union organizers could generally be barred from workplace facilities, this tilted union organizing drives in favor of the companies.
  3. The Act permitted states to enact so-called “Right to Work” laws that allow workers covered by union contracts to opt out of union membership or service fees. This meant that unions had to represent workers who paid nothing into the union, and further meant that unions had to devote resources to recruiting members instead of representing members. Twenty-eight states as of this writing have right-to-work laws.
  4. The law also barred members of the U.S. Communist Party and other left-wing individuals from holding office in labor unions if those unions sought to utilize the National Labor Relations Board.

Pressman confers with CIO’s Phillip Murray: 1938

Lee Pressman (left) confers with CIO president Phillip Murray.

At the time, communists or communist allies led 16 international unions in the CIO—including the UPWA—and they covered over 1 million of the 3.6 million CIO members. Lee Pressman, a communist ally, was the general counsel of the CIO. The communists and their allies also held major and minor offices in many other unions and in state and local labor councils.

There were two umbrella labor federations at that time. The American Federation of Labor (AFL), founded in 1886 with its affiliate unions largely organized along craft lines and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) that began when a handful of unions formed a caucus within  the AFL in 1935 to organize industries across craft lines—all workers would be in a single union in a plant or factory. The AFL subsequently expelled the CIO unions , who went on to form their own labor federation. The two federations were bitter rivals.

There was extensive debate within the labor movement over whether to comply with the non-communist affidavits. At the time of the AFL and CIO conventions in 1947, approximately 80% of the total labor unions in the U.S. had not yet complied.

The 1947 AFL convention

Lewis visits Roosevelt at the White House: 1939

Mine workers chief John L. Lewis is shown outside the White House in 1939.

The issue was taken up by the AFL convention in October, 1947.

One issue facing the two  labor federations was whether the federation leaders had to sign affidavits in order for their affiliate unions to comply with the Act.

The NLRB, by coincidence, ruled on the second day of the convention that the officers of a labor federation did not have to sign the affidavits for their affiliate national unions to be compliant with the Act.

However, the AFL also faced the problem of its 1,390 local trade and federal labor unions that were directly chartered by the AFL in the same manner that any local union is chartered by its national union. This meant the AFL officers would have to sign affidavits if the directly chartered unions were to utilize the National Labor Relations Board.

Unlike the CIO, the AFL had few communists or other left-wing individuals holding major positions and no communist or ally led any national union.

John L. Lewis, the mine workers chief who had headed up the CIO industrial union organizing drives of the 1930s, had returned to the AFL and addressed their convention in August of 1947 and urged the group to refuse to sign the affidavits in order to render the Act meaningless.

“All we needed to do when we met in Chicago [at the AFL executive council meeting], was to do nothing and the act would have been discredited, there would have been no cases filed before the [National Labor Relations] Board, and its only functions would have been functions solely in the interests of the employer thus exposing its true nature as a weapon of class war, and effectively neutralizing it.”

“The signing of the affidavit isn’t the only thing that an organization has to do to conform to this act. This act is a trap, a pitfall for the organizations of labor and I am surprised that those who have been attempting to analyze it haven’t looked down the road just a few months or a year to find out some of the things that are inherent in this act.”

“This act was passed to oppress labor, to make difficult its current enterprises for collective bargaining, to make more difficult the securing of new members for this labor movement, without which our movement will become so possessed of inertia that there is no action and no growth, and in a labor movement where there is no growth there is no security for its existence because deterioration sets in and unions, like men, retrograde.”

Lewis was no left-winger, but understood that the Act restricted workers’ ability to fight the companies and opened up the unions to government intervention in their internal affairs.

George Meany, American Federation of Labor leader: 1940

AFL secretary-treasurer George Meany in 1940.

George Meany, the AFL’s secretary-treasurer, argued that officers of the federation must comply in order to “give federal labor unions the opportunity to qualify by signing the non-communist affidavit and meeting the other requirements of the law if they so desire.”

Meany proposed an AFL constitutional change that would make the executive council members instead “vice presidents” and “honorary” members of the executive council. This was a move that was apparently pre-approved by the NLRB and it would permit the heads of its affiliated national and international unions to make their own decisions. He argued:

The reason for this is that 13 members of the executive council are in a dual capacity in this American Federation of Labor. While they are members of the executive council they are also officers of international unions.

Meany also argued that it was a monetary issue. The AFL received more revenue from the quarter of a million members in the federal unions than was paid in by 75% of the international unions represented at the convention, and that revenue represented approximately half the total revenue of the AFL.

The 1947 AFL convention ignored Lewis’s plea and voted overwhelmingly to comply with the affidavit section. The only unions to vote against Meany’s plan were Lewis’s mineworkers and the typographical union.

President Green and secretary-treasurer George Meany were directed to sign the affidavits. Vice presidents of the federation—the representatives of individual unions—were re-classified as “honorary” and not officers. The decision as to whether individual unions would sign was left to those unions.

Union rushes to turn in anti-communist affidavit: 1947

The AFL’s Office Employees union president Paul S. Hutchings (left) became the first national union to turn in non-communist affidavits September 12, 1947.

Lewis left the AFL shortly afterward and never signed the affidavit. Most other major AFL union leaders quickly signed the affidavits as they sought a tool to drive out their internal opponents—communist or not—and to use in raiding other unions for their members such as the CIO unions that had not signed affidavits.

The AFL Office Employees International Union signed even before the AFL convention. Among the UPWA’s rival AFL unions that signed was the Hotel and Restaurant Union. Competition with the CIO unions had prevailed over opposition to Taft-Hartley.

The 1947 CIO convention

The CIO leadership initially supported a non-cooperation stance with the Taft-Hartley Act at their executive council meeting and refused to sign affidavits. Major unions, including the Steelworkers, International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the United Electrical Workers all refused to sign.

At the October, 1947 CIO convention in Boston, though, a long-simmering battle between the left-wing and the right-wing of the CIO was coming to a head. Murray continued to play the peacemaker and worked to steer the federation along a middle course.

But the dynamics of the CIO began to change in 1946 when anti-communist Walter Reuther narrowly defeated the communist-backed moderate incumbent R. J. Thomas for president of the UAW at their convention. Reuther won by 124 votes out of 8,764 cast.

George Marshall at the 1947 CIO Convention: 1947

George Marshall (center) shakes hands with Phillip Murray at the 1947 CIO convention.

A split also began to widen over the communist opposition to the U.S. Marshall Plan in Europe. Secretary of State George Marshall himself was invited to the CIO convention by Murray and gave a speech—a clear repudiation of the communist-allied unions.

The 1946 elections, where anti-labor Republicans had gained control of both houses of Congress, also frightened both the left and right wings of the CIO. But their solutions were different.

Truman seized the coal mines in 1945 and used a similar tactic against railroad workers to break their strike in 1946. Locally, he ordered the Capital Transit Co. seized by the government to halt a transit strike in 1945.

As a result of these and other anti-labor actions, the communist aligned unions began looking toward a third-party while the right-wing of the CIO began trying to make peace with Truman to blunt Republican control of Congress…and did so when he vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act.

Murray, never a supporter of the Communist Party, had valued the solidarity of the CIO over anti-communism and steered a centrist position. By early 1947, though, he was moving to the right.

At a closed session of the CIO’s executive council in the spring of 1947, Murray launched an attack on communists within the labor movement, saying:

“If Communism is an issue in any of your unions, throw it to hell out and throw its advocates out along with it. When a man accepts office to render service to workers, and then delivers service to outside interests, that man is nothing but a damned traitor.”

The formal resolution at the 1947 CIO convention on the Taft-Hartley Act characterized the law as “infamous…a triumph of repression…a legal monstrosity” and declared that the CIO “cannot and will not acquiesce in a law which makes it a crime to exercise rights of freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly”, and called for an “unceasing campaign” to secure its repeal.

In wording that became important for Local 471, the resolution went on to say that the CIO would not permit the law “to become an instrument for destroying existing contract conditions” and that a contract “is and must remain the workers’ bulwark against insecurity and exploitation.”

Missing from the resolution was any specific direction on whether to file or not file the affidavits—a compromise having been worked out ahead of time.

Instead CIO President Phillip Murray declared that he “had some personal convictions that ran very deep” and that he was “determined to neither file or sign.”

However, Murray also made it clear during his remarks that each CIO union was free to decide the issue for itself.

Petitions urge veto of Taft-Hartley anti-labor act 1947

CIO leaders pose with half a million signatures urging a veto of the Taft Hartley Act in 1947. Truman’s veto was overridden by Congress.

Thus, the October, 1947 CIO convention in Boston temporarily maintained the façade of a united organization, but opened the door for CIO union leaders to sign the affidavits.

Shortly afterward the CIO United Auto Workers directed their national officers to sign the affidavits at their 1947 convention. Walter and Victor Reuther used this resolution to force compliance among the locals and to drive communists out of leadership of some of their largest local unions.

The Communist Party and the left-wing unions

The Communist Party itself seemed unsure how to proceed in regards to the non-communist affidavits, and as a result there was not a unified response among the unions where it exerted influence.

While overall pursuing a policy of non-compliance, some Communist Party members who were union officials resigned their party membership while continuing to meet regularly with Communist Party officials, skirting the law.

Others communist union officials simply changed their Communist Party status from “open” or “closed” to “secret.”

As the effects of the law began to be felt, some left-wing unions mimicked the AFL and re-named the offices that communists or their allies held in an effort to put them outside the definition of “officers.”

Most communist-influenced unions, however,–like the UPWA, United Electrical Workers, Agricultural Workers, Mine, Mill and Smelter–refused to sign.

Jim Crow town

African American parents picket & boycott DC schools: 1947

African American parents stage a picket and boycott of a inferior segregated school in Washington, D.C. in Dec. 1947.

In the late 1940s, the District of Columbia was still a distinctly southern town. Jim Crow laws required segregation of parks and recreation facilities and public schools.

An 1872 law passed by the District that prohibited discrimination in entertainment establishments, restaurants, bars and hotels was ignored. Likewise an 1873 ordinance that required public facilities to be open for “any respectable, well-behaved person without regard to race, color or previous condition of servitude” was also ignored. These were the so-called “lost laws” that had been removed from the city code without being repealed.

Restrictive covenants in a number of areas of the city prohibited the sale of property to African Americans. Where such covenants did not exist, custom often enforced segregation as rigidly as the covenants.

Private sector employment was also largely segregated, with classified ads specifying whether the applicant should be black or white.

Within the U.S. government, in 1913 President Woodrow Wilson reversed the gains that African Americans had made after the Civil War when he re-segregated the federal workforce and introduced separate work areas, eating and bathroom facilities for blacks and whites into the government buildings and firing or demoting a significant number of African American federal employees.

Segregation in government began to break down during the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt. For example, the Interior Department dismantled separate eating and bathroom facilities in the 1930s.

African American postal clerks union meeting: 1932

A meeting of the D.C. African American Local 148 of the National Federation of Post Office Clerks in 1932.

Much of the rest of the overt Jim Crow federal segregation only began to be dismantled on the eve of World War II when Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 in 1941. It barred discrimination in the federal government and in defense-related industries. Roosevelt backed his order with a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) designed to enforce the order.

Unfortunately the District’s most contentious case involved the Capital Transit Company that refused to hire African American operators and conductors for its streetcars and buses while it cut service in the city for lack of white workers.

The FEPC issued an order for the transit company to desegregate, but never enforced the order. The FEPC expired with the end of World War II and supporters were unable to muster the votes in Congress over a southern filibuster to continue it.

The AFL unions in the city still largely barred African Americans or required separate black and white locals. There were long-standing predominantly black unions among sleeping car porters and within the Post Office. However, with the advent of the CIO in 1937, black workers began flocking into its desegregated unions.

D.C. Laundry workers vote union: 1937

D.C. Dry cleaning workers staged a 3 week strike and voted to unionize in 1937.

Predominantly black unions were formed among cafeteria workers and in the dry cleaning plants. Within the federal government, African Americans joined the UPWA at the Bureau of Engraving, Library of Congress and elsewhere.

Within the AFL, the predominantly African American redcaps formed a union in 1933. The longstanding laborers’ and cooks’ unions were strongholds of black progressives. The American Federation of Teachers chapter at Howard University likewise provided a pool of black progressives.

Many of these union leaders and members were active and an integral part the city’s civil rights movement.

The city, like most of the rights movement across the country, awoke to new tactics during the “Scottsboro Boys” campaigns of the 1930s, where communist advocates for African American rights began taking their campaigns out of the churches and into the streets.

From 1938-41, the left-wing National Negro Congress led a campaign against police brutality, marching in the streets and employing other new tactics while the New Negro Alliance led a boycott campaign against businesses in the black community that would not hire African Americans.

The NAACP’s embrace of Marian Anderson’s quest for a venue in Washington, D.C. in 1939 produced what was effectively the largest rally for civil rights in the country.

Protesting Capital Transit’s Jim Crow hiring policies: 1943

2,000 people march calling for hiring African American as D.C. streetcar and bus operators in 1943.

A campaign that united the disparate currents within the black community to desegregate the Capital Transit Company held a march and rally of 2,000 people in 1943.

World War II interrupted many of the campaigns, but after the war rights activists resumed their campaigns. The post-World-War-II world was a different one, however.

Local civil rights activists had worked well together in the late 1930s and early 1940s, despite rivalries at the national level. However, when there was a brutal lynching of four African Americans in Georgia in 1946, the National Negro Congress and the NAACP organized separate marches in Washington.

Likewise the campaigns to continue the FEPC and to eliminate the poll tax were largely organized by two separate wings of the civil rights movement—the left wing around the communists and the moderates around the NAACP.

The Truman administration initially continued Roosevelt’s policy of treating all wings of the movement equally. He personally met with a delegation headed by the left-wing Paul Robeson in the fall of 1946.

Truman at NAACP: 1947

In 1947 Harry Truman becomes the first President to address an NAACP convention.

In 1947 Harry S. Truman became the first president to attend an NAACP convention, held in Washington, D.C., where he announced his support for a law barring discrimination in employment in both the public and the private sector.

By this time Truman had already issued his order barring communists in the government. The U.S. Attorney General developed a list of organizations that were labeled communist, and it included the National Negro Congress.

Truman was also increasingly worried about a possible independent bid for president on a pro-labor, pro civil rights, peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union platform by popular former vice president Henry Wallace and backed by communists and other left-wingers. Such a campaign, while unlikely to win, would draw votes away from him and aid his likely Republican opponent, Thomas Dewey.

His appearance before the NAACP convention was, in part, intended to further drive a wedge between that organization and the Civil Rights Congress and the National Negro Congress, two groups allied with the Communist Party—and signal which side was acceptable.

Cafeteria workers union

Local 471 had its origins in a predominantly black independent union organized by cafeteria worker Rosa Lewis early in 1937.

The independent Cafeteria Workers Union immediately took a progressive stance and attended the International Labor Defense meeting in June 1937. There it endorsed anti-lynching legislation, called for freedom for the “Scottsboro Boys” and denounced chain gangs.

The union’s 500 members joined with the newly formed CIO affiliated Cafeteria and Restaurant Union in August, 1937 during a meeting at Garnett-Patterson Junior High School.

Belford Vance Lawson: 1936 ca

Belford Lawson is elected the first president of Local 471 in 1937.

The CIO initially paid for three full-time workers: two organizers and a business agent and elected attorney Belford V. Lawson, Jr. as president of the new organization. Lawson was also a founder and one of the driving forces of the New Negro Alliance in the city.

The group then conducted an organizing drive within the federal cafeterias. Local activists Thomas and Marie Richardson, the children of Griffin Richardson who was one of the organizers of the Red Caps union a few years earlier,  assisted in the effort.

The company agreed to a preferential ballot supervised by the NLRB, contending at the time that they were a quasi-government agency and not subject to a formal NLRB election.

The company agreed to honor the results and the Cafeteria and Restaurant union won recognition on May 25-26, 1938 by a vote of 542-119 of Welfare and Recreation Association (later renamed GSI) employees.

At the time of its recognition by GSI, the workers had no sick pay or vacation and the workers earned far less than a living wage.

The local was based in the government cafeterias such as those at Labor, Commerce, New Interior, Old Interior, Justice, Supreme Court, War and Munitions and Farm Credit Buildings, but quickly took up organizing in the private sector and won elections at the Horn Café and the Norfolk Grill.

Cafeteria workers strike Government Printing Office: 1938

The rival AFL Hotel & Restaurant union stages a 17-day strike at the Government Printing Office in 1938.

An established rival, the predominantly white AFL affiliate, the Hotel and Restaurant Union, quickly became more militant with arrival of the CIO, staging a 17-day strike in 1938 at the Government Printing Office, winning increases in pay, holidays and vacation and limiting hours of work.

However, the CIO union came to dominate the unionized cafeterias across the city and by 1944 Oliver Palmer, one of the initial organizers of the union, was serving as business agent of Local 471. Palmer also served on the executive boards of the local National Negro Congress, local Congress of Industrial Organizations and the national board of the UPWA.

In 1946, Richard Bancroft, the African American former national president of the left-wing American Student Union and a graduate of Howard University, became president of the Local 471 after fighting in the Marine Corps in the Pacific during World War II.

Black workers strike for better conditions: 1941

Local 471 also organized private sector cafeterias like the S&W shown during this 1941 strike.

The two activist African American leaders were a powerful duo to head the union, both Palmer and Bancroft having backgrounds in leadership and organizing.

By 1946, the union had grown to 5,000 members covered by 15 different contracts, including cafeteria workers in 54 different government buildings—some of which had multiple cafeterias.

According to a 1946 Afro American newspaper article, Palmer estimated “that since the time the first union contract was signed in 1938 until present, wages of cafeteria employees in the District have risen over 100 per cent or from a $10 weekly average to $22.50 a week.”

1947 dispute with GSI

Strike begins at government cafeterias: 1947

President Richard Bancroft passes out picket signs at the onset of the 1947 cafeteria strike.

GSI took an aggressive posture in bargaining the 1947 contract agreement demanding an end to union dues check-off, offering small wage increases despite rising inflation and seeking to weaken the grievance arbitration clause, among other demands.

The union had priorities of its own such as wage gains, improved vacation, 15 days sick leave per year, a hospitalization plan and arbitration of all suspensions and discharges. The date of retroactivity of contract provisions was also an issue.

A tentative agreement was reached with the union negotiating committee in late December but was rejected by the union membership, primarily because of insufficient wage increases.

The union sought to continue negotiations while working under an extension of the 1946 contract. However, GSI refused to grant an extension.

Work stopped on January 7, 1947 at the 50 GSI facilities by an estimated 2,200 workers who ordinarily fed 128,000 federal government workers. The union termed the work stoppage a lockout while the company labeled it a strike.

GSI sought to open the cafeterias with supervisory staff, but many closed or severely curtailed hours and operations.

Two large government facilities were unaffected by the strike. National Food Corporation instead of GSI operated the Pentagon and Agriculture Department cafeterias.

In the instance of the Pentagon, negotiations were proceeding “satisfactorily” according to the union and the management. At Agriculture there was an agreement ready for signature providing for a 10 ½ cent hourly increase.

The union called a mass meeting at the Shiloh Baptist Church at 9th & P Streets NW, where picket assignments were given and arrangements were made for feeding strikers and providing other assistance.

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Denounces Transit Hiring: 1942

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, shown here speaking in D.C. in 1942, headed the 1947 strike support committee.

The union also set up a citizens’ committee meeting to support the strike where at least 12 organizations pledged cash, food and moral support. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D. -N.Y.) was named chairman of the Emergency Committee to Support Cafeteria Workers.

Represented organizations included the Washington chapter of the National Negro Congress, CIO Industrial Union Council, the Washington chapter of the UPWA, National Council of Negro Women, Episcopal Church League for Industrial Democracy, Columbia Typographical Union 101, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the AFL Pastry Cooks and Kitchen Employees Local 209, Washington chapter of the Substitute Printing Union, Southern Conference for Human Welfare, the American Veterans Committee chapters 11 and 341 and the local chapter of the AFL Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union.

Picketing was extended to nearly all government cafeterias while negotiations continued.

After eight days, an agreement to end the work stoppage was reached with the assistance of federal mediators.

The union and the company agreed to submit certain items to arbitration, including: the amount of wage increase, retroactivity of the contract, whether all discharges would be subject to arbitration, check-off for union dues, guaranteed work weeks for full-time employees, wage differentials for part-time workers, sick and annual leave and a hospitalization benefit.

When the arbitrator’s decision was rendered March 13th, the union won nearly all of its demands in the one-year agreement.

A ten-and-a-half cent per hour raise was granted in line with the contract negotiated at the Agriculture Department. Fifteen days of annual sick leave was implemented after five days absence, vacation was improved from 12 to 15 days annually after 18 months of service, arbitration of all discharges and suspensions was continued, continued deduction of union dues, the probationary period was reduced from three months to two months, retroactivity went to the January 14th date both parties had agreed was the maximum prior to agreeing to arbitration.

The only union demands that went the company’s way were a failure to gain a hospitalization plan and improvements in the definition of “full time worker” that would have given a part time differential to a larger group of employees. There were no concessions to the company in the agreement.

While the company made no statement, their initial attempt at weakening the union had failed and instead, the union was greatly strengthened.

Lull before the storm

Following the 1947 strike, the corporation came under the scrutiny of a Senate Civil Service subcommittee on various charges of maladministration, inefficiency, failure to pay the federal government money due, “haywire” purchasing and evasion of priority regulations during World War II.

At the same time, it was revealed that GSI was a member of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). This gave a number of senators pause since the organization was supposed to be non-profit and GSI’s board was composed entirely of government officials except for two who were former government officials. Pro-labor senators were also concerned because NAM was the leading business organization that advocated for the Taft-Hartley Act.

Phillip Fleming, key figure in 1948 cafeteria strike: 1936

Lt. Col. Phillip Fleming, head of the Federal Works Administration.

However, Federal Works Administrator Philip B. Fleming dismissed most of the charges, saying that abandoning GSI operation of federal cafeterias might return thousands of workers to the old days of “bringing cold food from home in paper bags” and buying box lunches from peddlers “up and down the streets.”

After Fleming’s testimony, Congress did not pursue the issue further.

More serious was the failure of 40 GSI cafeterias and food bars to qualify for District of Columbia licenses in May, 1947 due to unsanitary conditions. GSI requested additional funds for cafeteria repairs, but were turned down by the House Appropriations Committee, which held that such repairs should be made out of regular operating funds.

By August, about half of the food service facilities had passed inspection and were set to receive licenses while repairs continued on the others.

Then in October, 1947, it was revealed that GSI was operating its federal food service at a loss. GSI’s comptroller Samuel Goodacre warned that higher wage demands in the upcoming contract with Local 471 would put further stress on the operation and make an already weakened business unsustainable. He called upon the board to raise prices.

But the GSI board repudiated Goodacre and voted not to raise prices and agreed to partially cover the deficit with profits from park concessions. Goodacre resigned shortly afterward. In retrospect, it is clear the GSI board had decided to try to break the union at this point in order to lower labor costs.

A chill sets in

Government agencies had drastically shrunk in the post World War II period. And particularly large reductions were made in the year since the last Local 471 contract.

For the upcoming 1948 contract, there were 50 facilities covered that served about 80,000 meals per day. About 1,600 workers were in the bargaining unit.

Negotiations for a new contract between GSI and Local 471 opened November 28, 1947 and promptly halted. The agreement then in force was set to expire December 31, 1947.

GSI board chair General U. S. Grant III: 1928 ca.

Gen. U. S. Grant III, chair of the board of GSI.

GSI president Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant III demanded that officers of both Local 471 and its parent UPWA both file non-communist affidavits. Grant also demanded that the unions publish financial statements called for under the Taft-Hartley Act.

Grant was the grandson of the Civil War general and former President. He served in the Philippine-American War, World War I and World War II, but his politics were different from his grandfather.

In 1928-29, he served as Inauguration chair for President Herbert Hoover. W. E. B. Dubois believed Hoover saw African Americans as “sub men.” Walter White of the NAACP called Hoover, “the man in the lilly White House.”

In regards to his attitudes toward African Americans, in 1948 while Grant headed the National Capital Planning Commission he called the charges that local institutions were entrenching segregation “false and unjust” despite rampant Jim Crow under the purview of the commission.

Grant would still later resign his chairmanship of a Civil War Centennial commission after he declined to intervene when an African American commission board member was refused admittance to a Jim Crow hotel. Grant’s inaction prompted a NAACP boycott of the centennial events.

The union refused to discuss the demand to sign the non-communist affidavits and stated it would clarify its position on the affidavits later.

A statement released after the negotiating session and approved by Grant said GSI “did not want to be placed in a position where the only recourse open to the union was to call a strike in any controversy.”

This was a smokescreen because the contract between GSI and Local 471 contained a grievance procedure with binding arbitration and strikes were only permitted upon expiration of a contract.

Palmer responded on behalf of the union days later in a letter to Grant charging that it was a “clear violation of the law for an employer to seek to impose upon a bargaining agent conditions or qualifications as a precedent to collective bargaining.”

Palmer continued that the union would not consider filing the non-communist affidavits unless “it becomes necessary” and only after it is considered and approved at a membership meeting.

“Almost too astonishing to merit comment,” was Grant’s response.

Preparing for battle

Both sides began positioning themselves for the coming battle.

The union filed a 30-day strike notice against GSI with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Meanwhile, the national AFL Hotel and Restaurant Union began canvassing GSI cafeterias with a leaflet that read in part,

“We have signed for the protection of our members the necessary affidavits that our leaders are not Communists.”

“For labor leaders to refuse to comply with the law, such refusal which might lead to a strike, is not leadership.” 

“The entire strength of the Washington Central Labor Union and the American Federation of Labor is yours if you want it.” 

Cafeteria Local 471 leader Oliver Palmer: 1958 ca.

Cafeteria workers union business agent Oliver Palmer.

Palmer charged that the AFL membership drive was “company inspired” and pointed out that fraternal “relationships between local AFL unions and our union has been very good over the course of the years.”

That move by GSI failed when the AFL withdrew its organizing attempts in mid-December.

The union leaders already had support for their position in refusing the affidavits since they had brought the issue to a union membership vote back in July. The members voted overwhelmingly to support their leaders. The position was re-affirmed in December when members again voted to support their leaders.

The next salvo by GSI came on December 19th when GSI moved to deny recognition to the union.

GSI filed a petition for a representation election with the National Labor Relations Board. They knew the NLRB would deny the petition under the Taft-Harley Act, since Local 471 had not filed the necessary affidavits. Grant said,

“Our decision to petition the NLRB came as a result of the claim of these same union officials that our employees on December 12 voted to support them in their refusal to sign non-Communist affidavits and file financial statements.” 

In regard to the financial disclosure issue, Palmer responded,

“Our union members know a lot more about the financial situation in their union than the government or anyone else has been able to learn about GSI’s books.”

Local 471 set up another broad support committee, the Citizens Committee in Support of the Cafeteria Workers, which Grant quickly labeled “misinformed” and “misled.”

The union announced it contacted the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for assistance with negotiations.

Even before FMCS’s position was known, GSI quickly rejected its help, once again taking the position that the affidavits and financial statement provisions in the Taft-Hartley Act must be complied with before GSI would negotiate.

In response, the union released a letter from NLRB general counsel Robert N. Denham that stated that the Remington-Rand Corp. could enter into a contract with the CIO United Electrical Workers, even though the union had not filed non-communist affidavits.

Cafeteria workers union at the Pentagon (4): 1964

Pentagon cafeteria workers in 1964.

Meanwhile, A. C. Boehm, general manager of the Pentagon post restaurants in behalf of the National Food Corp. said contract negotiations with Local 471 were proceeding satisfactorily and that non-communist affidavits like those demanded by GSI are “not an issue.”

GSI’s position did not waver.

At a December 22nd union meeting at the Shiloh Baptist Church, members unanimously authorized their leaders to call a strike.

In a meeting with Grant on December 29th, The CIO’s Washington Industrial Union Council president Henry Beitscher told GSI that Local 471 had the full support of the CIO and that its three and a half million members were in the same category as local cafeteria workers, having refused to submit affidavits.

Grant told reporters that he would inform the board, but it “would not change the situation whatsoever.”

On December 31st, the union announced that a strike by its 1,600 members at GSI would begin officially at midnight. However, due to the four-day holiday weekend, picketing would not begin until Monday, January 5th.

Later Palmer said he would wait until a membership meeting on January 4th before formally calling a strike.

Meanwhile, the NLRB regional office dismissed GSI’s petition for an election as to whether Local 471 was a “certified” bargaining agent under the Taft-Harley law.

GSI immediately interpreted the NLRB decision as having “advised the corporation that the United Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers, Local 471, UPW-CIO is disqualified as a bargaining agent,” according to the Washington Post.

The text of the letter released by the NLRB said nothing about disqualifying the union.

Grant gave a statement to the press, “Since this union cannot legally represent our employees, there can be no legal strike.”

The eve of battle

Over the long weekend Local 471 members who worked at 18 Pentagon cafeterias and snack bars ratified a new contract with the National Food Company on January 2nd. The union bargaining committee at the Pentagon was the same as the one that GSI refused to negotiate with.

The Pentagon agreement contained a 6 ½-cent per hour raise and established sick leave of up to 12 days per year, among other improvements.

GSI promptly announced the same day that it would grant a 6 ½-cent raise to all employees who stayed on the job. Such a move was “phony as a three dollar bill,” the union responded.

Palmer released a statement that read in part:

“GSI employees are only too well aware of the company’s schemes to enslave them and will not swallow any of the lying propaganda designed to break their union and will not accept the phony offer which has no guarantees. The employees know that the company has never kept its word and they are determined to fight for their rights as free men.”

“We have reports from the cafeterias this morning that wherever GSI’s announcement was made, it was greeted with scorn by the employees who have learned exactly what to expect from this evil minded management. The employees knew weeks ago that GSI would make just such a fake offer on the eve of a strike.”

Grant released a statement that said GSI had informed employees “any work stoppage was being called by unauthorized union officials.”

NLRB's non-communist affidavit for unions: 1955 ca.

A copy of a non-communist affidavit similar to the one Local 471 officials refused to sign.

Grant continued to try to gain public support by more red-baiting:

“We have heard charges that UPWA’s leadership is communist-inspired and think it is our duty to have this matter clarified before contracting for employment exclusively within government buildings.”

Grant further charged that Local 471 officials did not represent the wishes of their membership.

“The seeds of the present labor disturbance were undoubtedly sown during last year’s negotiations which culminated in a strike because the union said its membership repudiated an agreement signed by union officials.”

“Remembering last year’s fiasco, the corporation decided that it must be assured this time by these officials that they were fully qualified to sign a binding agreement which could not be overturned during the contract period.”

The Washington Post reported, “Palmer has maintained that the membership’s rejection of the agreement last year was ‘simply an instance of union democracy.’ He said the agreement had been signed under the condition that it be ratified by the workers.”

GSI employees rallied at the Shiloh Baptist Church at 1500 9th Street NW on January 4th, the day before cafeterias were scheduled to reopen.

The union members heard Bancroft urge them to “die on their feet fighting like free men rather than submit to slavery” and correctly predict that their “fight before it ends will become the concerns of the Democratic National Committee and the White House,” according to the Washington Post.

Palmer addressed the workers about the need to strike, saying, “if there were an alternative, we would take it, but there is no alternative.”

In an important signal that Local 471 had support beyond a spectrum of left-leaning organizations and individuals, Mary McLeod Bethune, president of the National Council of Negro Women and former close advisor to President Roosevelt, sent a message, “God bless you, give you courage, give you faith.”

GSI meanwhile hired 250 replacement workers to assist 350 supervisors in keeping the cafeterias open with a limited menu and announced that further replacements would be hired depending on how many workers supported the strike.

GSI sets out union-busting case against Local 471: 1948

GSI’s Washington Post ad to the public on the first day of the strike.

“The corporation is extremely sorry that such a senseless, useless strike is to take place. It could have been prevented very easily if union officers had taken an oath against communism,” J. C. Niehuss, a GSI official, told the Washington Post.

In a last-minute effort to stave off a strike, national CIO vice president Allan S. Haywood appealed to Maj. Gen. Phillip B. Fleming, Federal Works Administrator, to intervene in the dispute. The Federal Works Administration leased space to GSI at no cost and split the profits with them.

In an advertisement published in the Washington Post, GSI reiterated its position and made its final argument to the employees and the general public:

“The strike—which is robbing hundreds of employees their pay envelopes—is caused by the political interests of radical labor leaders who point blank refuse to disassociate themselves from a foreign ideology.”

‘We fight against GSI slavery’

Cafeteria workers picket in the sleet and rain: 1948

Cafeteria workers picket outside the Commerce Dept. January 6, 1948 in the sleet and rain.

The outside temperature January 5th reached a high of 43* F, relatively balmy for January. But perhaps in a sign of things to come, that would soon change with average temperatures for the month only reaching 28.8 degrees –a full ten degrees below normal.

Picket lines were set up at nearly all government cafeterias except the two that were requested to be closed by the agencies—Labor and the Supreme Court. Oscar Chapman, undersecretary of the Interior Department, made a request that Interior also be closed during the strike, but Grant refused the request citing another agency that also used the cafeteria.

Picketers carried signs such as: “We fight against GSI slavery,” “GSI refuses to bargain,” and “On strike for a living wage.”

On the first day of the walkout, Palmer estimated the strike to be “more than 95 percent effective.”

GSI spokesperson Niehuss said that about one-third of the normal workforce was in the cafeterias, including supervisors and 300 new workers hired over the weekend. He said 200 more strikebreakers that had been hired would join them.

Seeking to break the unity of the strike Niehuss continued, “The indications are that many workers didn’t report for work because they wanted to see what the next fellow would do. Now that they see they won’t be alone, we expect they will be drifting back.”

Appeal for aid for cafeteria strikers: 1948

An ad published in the Washington Post by the strike support committee appealing for funds.

The union had prepared for a long strike and set up soup kitchens for workers at the Shiloh Baptist Church and at the union’s offices at 1015 M Street NW.

The Washington Post surveyed six cafeterias where managers reported an average customer volume of less than 50 percent, with menus cut by about 60 percent.

Meanwhile the Post wrote an editorial that condemned the union for not signing the non-communist affidavits, but found that to be irrelevant for negotiations and charged GSI had switched positions.

“An informal election conducted by the government originally confirmed Local 471 as a bargaining agent because of GSI’s contention that its position as a quasi governmental agency made the Wagner Act inapplicable. Thus GSI’s insistence that certification be a prerequisite to bargaining in this case represents a complete switch from its previous stand.”

“In any event, it seems to us that an acceptable settlement on this score [differences over wages and benefits] should not be difficult if GSI were to forego its legalism and make a real effort to get together with the union. On this point it is significant that the union already has concluded an amicable agreement with the operators of the Pentagon cafeterias and is in the process of reaching a similar agreement at the Department of Agriculture.”

On the second day of the strike, the union picket lines were up again at all agencies as a snowstorm moved in.

Cafeteria service improved with the hiring of additional replacement workers, but skilled workers such as cooks and bakers remained scarce.

GSI spokesperson Niehuss announced that the strikers’ jobs were being permanently replaced. “GSI cannot take back anyone whose job has been filled.”

On another front, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced it would not be further involved with any union whose leaders refused to sign non-communist affidavits, depriving the union of another source of government intervention.

Rev. Jernigan with BYPU youth: 1943

Rev. William Jernigan was among those who signed an appeal to President Truman.

Union supporters including Mary Church Terrell, past president of the National Association of Colored Women; Rev. William Jernigan, executive secretary of the Fraternal Council of Negro Churches; Belford Lawson Jr., former president of Local 471, Washington attorney and national president of Alpha Phi Alpha; Joseph L Townsend, dean of the Howard University medical school; and Dr. E Franklin Frazier, Howard University professor sent a telegram to President Harry Truman expressing concern over “GSI’s refusal to bargain.”

“We urge you to use your good offices to induce this company which operates on property of the United States Government, to bargain in good faith in the American way with the union of its employees.”

Once again, the union support represented a broad spectrum of backing within the African American community.

On January 7th, GSI was providing near-normal service with 750 strikebreakers and pre-cooked meals provided by vendors. However, the number of meals served was still well below the pre-strike level.

The union hit GSI for creating a health hazard by hiring employees without required physical examinations.

The Post editorialized, “GSI, although it has long recognized the union’s authority to represent cafeteria employees, seems to have seized upon the [Taft-Hartley non-communist] affidavit clause as a convenient union-busting bludgeon.”

Palmer issued another statement on the issue:

“This is an obvious attempt to capitalize on the witch hunt hysteria which now dominates the nation’s capital. Never before has anyone, in or out of public life, raised and questioned whatever about the loyalty of government cafeteria employees or their representatives.”

“We deeply resent the slur upon our members contained in GSI’s argument on this issue It is typical of the contempt management has shown for its Negro employees for the past 27 years.”

CIO asks Truman to intervene

CIO and Steelworkers president Phillip Murray: 1942

CIO President Phillip Murray personally met with the strike leadership and asked U.S. President Truman to intervene.

On January 8th, CIO president Phillip Murray himself met with the union on strike strategy and sent a letter to President Truman asking him to order the board of trustees of GSI  “to refrain from union-busting activities” and to meet with Local 471. The GSI board was composed largely of current or former government officials selected by the heads of the various federal departments.

Murray charged the federal government with intervening on the side of GSI and urged Truman to stop the government from its “partisan intervention into the situation” and to set up a “collective bargaining conference” to settle issues in the strike.

Murray also charged that Federal Works administrator Fleming used federal building guards to escort strikebreakers to and from the cafeterias.

GSI spokesperson Niehuss condemned Murray’s involvement:

“He may find he has chosen strange bedfellows by inserting himself so strongly in this dispute after three top government agencies have refused to intervene.”

“Does he not realize that the entire government is requiring loyalty statements from its employees?”

Meanwhile Charles Sands, an international representative of the AFL Hotel and Restaurant Workers announced renewed plans to recruit GSI workers.

Sands passed out two leaflets—one to strikers and the other to strike breakers—asking them to join his union and seek collective bargaining rights. The leaflets charged Local 471 with “striking over a political issue.”

In support of Local 471, Clarence Mitchell, national labor secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) met with GSI head Grant, urging him to submit the strike issues to a third party.

The local NAACP pledged its support to Local 471 and urged GSI to bargain with the union:

“We the representatives of over 10,000 citizens of the District of Columbia…urge you [GSI] to recognize the basic good intentions of Local 471 and begin negotiations with it toward the amicable settlement of the present strike.”

GSI spokesperson Niehuss announced that any striker that failed to report to work by January 9th “will receive their final check,” reiterating that GSI intended the strikebreakers as permanent replacements.

Niehuss also claimed that he had 1,000 workers on the job serving 60,000 of the usual 80,000 government employees. He claimed that by January 12th, the beginning of the second week of the strike, “normal” service would be resumed at nearly all cafeterias.

But Niehuss added, “There are still some jobs open for regular employees who want to come back.”

The union ridiculed the claim and facetiously responded, “by Wednesday they’ll say they’re competing with the Waldorf Astoria.”

As the strike began its second week on January 12th, the union modified its picketing strategy and staged a mass picket where hundreds of strikers encircled the Federal Works Administration building demanding the agency order the cafeterias closed during the dispute.

Congress begins to insert itself

Fred Hartley of anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act: 1940 ca.

Rep. Fred Hartley, one of the sponsors of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act. 

Congress began inserting itself into the dispute as Rep. Fred Hartley (R-N.J.), one of the authors of the Taft-Hartley Act, urged union members to rid “yourself of your leaders, elect good, honest Americans not afraid to sign a simple statement that they do not believe in the Communist Party platform.”

Rep. Fred E. Busby (R-Il.) read a report compiled by GSI into the Congressional Record, naming five UPWA and Local 471 officials as communists.

But Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (D-N.Y.) urged President Truman in an open letter to intervene in the dispute:

“Although this company is a quasi-governmental enterprise whose trustees are leading officials of the United States government, it has pursued the worst anti-Negro labor policy of any corporation in the nation. In the 27 years of its existence, this company which fattens on government support, has never placed a Negro worker in a supervisory, managerial or even in a cashier’s position.”

On January 15th in temperatures that ranged from the teens to the 20s another mass picketing took place at the Interior Department at 18th & C NW, and a scuffle at the Navy Department on Constitution Avenue between a strikebreaker and pickets resulted in three arrests—all union members.

Two more union members were arrested at the National Gallery of Art on January 17th in a confrontation with a strikebreaker.

The calls for Truman to intervene could not be ignored by the President. By this point in time, Truman had written off the left wing politically but CIO president Murray, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, and the NAACP were all necessary supporters for what was expected to be a tough election in 1948.

At the same time Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and had just passed the Taft-Harley Act. Public opinion polls had supported restrictions on labor and the Republicans were ready to jump on Truman for any sign he was “soft” on communism.

Federal intervention after all?

Rev. Brooks at cornerstone ceremony for Lincoln Temple: 1928

Rev. Dr. Robert W. Brooks (standing beside table) led a delegation to the Labor Department.

As the strike entered its third week January 19th, Rev. Dr. Robert W. Brooks led a delegation of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance into a 40-minute meeting with Secretary of Labor Lewis B. Schwellenbach, asking for his intervention in the dispute.

When he emerged, Brooks told the Washington Post, “The Secretary told us he is certainly working on it. He is doing all he can and asked us to give him until tomorrow night to see if a plan he has will work out.”

GSI personnel director J. C. Niehuss responded that the union no longer represented cafeteria employees who had been hired as permanent replacements:

“Even if the union complied with the Taft-Hartley Act tomorrow, we still couldn’t bargain with a union that doesn’t represent our workers,”

Scabs wanted in Cafeteria Local 471 strike: 1948

GSI ad for strike-breakers in the Washington Post.

As frustrations mounted, three different confrontations between strikers and strikebreakers occurred resulting in the arrests of eight. Six strikers were arrested, including four women, while two strikebreakers were arrested.

Bancroft declared the union was having success in turning back strikebreakers and told reporters that many had only waited to pick up their paychecks on Friday and would not return to work on January 19th “now that they have learned the real issues.”

But despite Bancroft’s bravado, the strikers by this point were becoming desperate. Strikebreakers had largely filled their jobs, and while many of the hot meals were not prepared on-site, the cafeterias were operating close to normally.

Battle takes on national significance

Clare Hoffman (R-Mi.) immediately called a meeting of a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor for January 20th.

At the hearing, Hoffman grilled Schwellenbach about his potential intervention and whether he was trying to subvert the Taft-Hartley Act by forcing an employer to bargain with a union that had not signed the affidavits.

Schwellenbach placed Local 471’s refusal to sign affidavits in context when he testified the Labor Department “contacted 57,000 unions” about complying with the Taft-Hartley provisions. “As of last week we had only 10,003 comply.”

A breakthrough occurred on January 21st when it was revealed that President Truman asked Labor Secretary Schwellenbach “to investigate the whole situation” and to attempt to settle the strike.

Schwellenbach immediately asked for a legal opinion on whether (1) an employer is barred from negotiating with a union if the non-communist affidavits are not filed and (2) if they are not barred, are they required to negotiate?

Schwellenbach also said he would meet with Maj. Gen. Fleming, the administrator of the Federal Works who held the power to close cafeterias and terminate the GSI contract upon six months notice or immediately for non performance.

Niehuss, usually quick to comment, said, “Now that it’s in the hands of the government, we feel we needn’t say anything. Our case is well-known: we believe our position is legally and morally correct.”

Palmer commented, “At last the President has seen fit to step into a situation that has become a national disgrace. GSI—which uses government property and equipment—has been embarrassing the Administration.”

The battle began taking on national significance as the CIO executive council voted full support for the strikers and urged Truman to intervene, while the New York Times reported on Schwellenbach’s involvement.

The Department of Labor solicitor, William S. Tyson, issued a memorandum opinion January 23rd.

Tyson held:

  1. The national policy is to encourage free and voluntary collective bargaining between employers and employees.
  2. The National Labor Relations Act as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (Taft-Hartley) does not prohibit employers from bargaining collectively with unions representing a majority of their employees even though the union has not filed the affidavits and organization and financial statements provided for in Section 9 (f) and (h) of the Act.
  3. The ability of a union to secure board certification because it has not filed the affidavits and organization and financial statements provided for in Section 9 (f) and (h) of the act does not disqualify the union from acting as the bargaining representative of the employees, and does not therefore bar the employer from bargaining with the union.

Tyson reiterated that the union is barred from seeking the assistance of the NLRB but that the Taft-Hartley law, nevertheless, made it a duty for employers and employees to “exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements.”

Tyson further said that the NLRB’s dismissal of a petition by GSI for a representation election “does not bar the employer from continuing to bargain with a union of his employees.”

Contradicting the Federal Mediation Service, Tyson quoted Section 204 of the Act and said, “…where these efforts in collective bargaining failed, the parties should utilize the assistance of the mediation service.”

Tyson conceded that enforcement of this section of the Act without the involvement of the NLRB was problematic, but noted that the Act incorporated provisions for filing suits in federal district courts without regard to compliance with the affidavits section.

What Tyson did not say was that in this situation the federal government could close cafeterias or terminate GSI’s contract in order to force a settlement.

Congress acts against the union

Rep. Clare Hoffman aids union busting: 1948

Rep. Clare Hoffman, chair of the House subcommittee investigating the GSI strike.

Representative Clare E. Hoffman (R-Mi.) accused the Truman administration of trying to nullify the Taft-Hartley Act.

“What is the President trying to do? Sabotage the Taft-Hartley Act, which it is his sworn duty to enforce by suggesting that it need not be used?”

“The question of whether GSI may bargain with Local 471 is not the issue The real issue is whether the Administration can force GSI to bargain with union officials who refuse to comply with the Taft-Hartley law—union officials who do not deny they are Communists.”

Hoffman scheduled a hearing of his House Education and Labor Subcommittee for January 26th.

Meanwhile GSI responded that they were studying Tyson’s opinion, but that their first reaction was that it would have “no effect,” according to Niehuss.

“There will be no settlement with Local 471, unless it can prove it represents our present employees.”

Bancroft, speaking on radio station WQQW, responded:

“We of the union say to GSI, ‘Your permanent employees are on strike.’ This strike with its attendant picketing will not end until every striker is back on the job every strikebreaker is fired and we have a union contract to guarantee decent wage and working conditions.”

Hoffman’s hearing

Hoffman’s intentions were clearly signaled when committee staff accompanied by U. S. deputy marshals raided the union’s former offices on January 26th at 930 F Street NW at 9 a.m. prior to the opening of the subcommittee hearing.

Alfred Bernstein, UPWA negotiations director, told the committee that F. Albert Reiman, a committee staff member, deputy marshal James Collins and three other men came to the office and demanded custody of union records.

Bernstein said they arrived with blank subpoena forms, asked people for their names, and then filled in the blanks.

The only people present were Bernstein and a UPWA secretary named Lila Pollin.

Bernstein testified at the hearing that they persisted “even after I told them I had no authority over records and didn’t even know if there were any there.”

Pollin testified that when the men showed up, records were “in the process of being moved” to a new office. She added that she had no knowledge of what records were available since some furniture and filing cabinets had been moved.

Pollin was read a list of organizations from U.S. Attorney General Tom Clarke’s list of “subversive organizations” and asked if she was a member of any. Pollin denied she had any connection with the Communist Party or any of the organizations listed.

During Bernstein’s questioning, Hoffman asked if Bernstein had ever refused to take a loyalty test

“Of course not. I resent that question. I proved my loyalty in the jungle. I volunteered for military service; if I hadn’t, I would have been over the legal age limit too.”

Bernstein termed the tactics “a witch hunt at its worst” and said after the hearing that Hoffman’s committee is “Hell-bent on breaking the strike.”

Hoffman said he hoped to have Bancroft and Palmer testify at the hearing on January 27th.

When Robert N. Denham, general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, testified Rep. Wint Smith (R-Ka.) asked, “Isn’t the employer under a duty not to bargain with a union that fails to file the Communist affidavits?”

“Not exactly. It’s his privilege to bargain or not bargain as he wishes,” replied Denham.

Meanwhile Schwellenbach announced he had “a very general discussion of the whole situation with Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant III, GSI president with no conclusions reached.”

At his hearing on January 28th, Hoffman learned that none of the five union officials he sought had been served with subpoenas.

Hoffman was seeking UPWA president Abram Flaxer, secretary-treasurer Eleanor Nelson, organization director Robert Weinstein along with Local 471 officials Palmer and Bancroft.

Hoffman said he wanted to ask them if they were communists:

“I don’t want to charge anyone with being a communist. But I would like them to tell us.”

Hoffman promptly recessed the hearing, but scheduled another to be held on February 2nd.

CIO chief meets with Labor Secretary Schwellenbach: 1946

CIO chief Phillip Murray and Labor Secy. Louis Schwellenbach during the 1946 steel strike.

On January 31st Schwellenbach met with Local 471 officials in his Labor Department offices for 90 minutes.

At the meeting were Local 471 officials Oliver Palmer, Richard Bancroft and UPWA attorney and negotiator Alfred Bernstein. Assistant Secretary John Gibson was also present.

Schwellenbach did not talk about the substance of the discussions, but commented on Hoffman’s attempt to subpoena the union.

“When they called up for the appointment I told them: ‘you come in the front door and go out by the front door. And if you see anyone serving subpoenas, take them.’”

“I have never seen anybody dodge a subpoena very long,” added the one-time federal judge and U.S. Senator.

Flaxer was served his subpoena later on January 31st when he arrived for an appointment with Schwellenbach. Flaxer and CIO organizing director Allan S. Haywood conferred with the Labor Secretary for 90 minutes.

Palmer and Bancroft were never found by the marshals, but announced they would attend the hearing voluntarily.

Union officials testify

On February 1st the union called for a mass meeting where they called upon the members to rally at Hoffman’s hearing and prepared them for what to expect.

As the strike began its fifth week, Hoffman’s hearing made for a wild night February 2nd as hundreds of cafeteria workers jammed the House Education and Labor Committee hearing room where one of Flaxer’s attorneys was thrown out, the representative for the NAACP was cut off by Hoffman, and upon adjournment Hoffman was booed by union members who attempted to follow him to his office.

Flaxer to organize state, local government workers: 1937

UPWA head Abram Flaxer in his office.

When Flaxer was called to testify, Hoffman refused to permit him to read a statement. Instead, for 30 minutes, Hoffman fired questions like:

“Were you ever a member of the Communist Party?” and “Are you now or have you ever been affiliated with…?” and then listed one by one the organizations listed by the Attorney General as subversive as well as others.

Flaxer repeatedly responded:

“For me to answer this question would be inimical to the best interests of the strikers because it assumes that the issue is my political beliefs and not the economic needs of the strikers.”

“My second reason is that this question invades and violates my freedom of opinion.”

As same line of questioning continued, Flaxer began answering, “same answer, same reason.”

At the request of Rep. Arthur Klein (D-N.Y.), Flaxer was permitted to give his statement that read in part,

“Finally, by answering the question, I feel that I would be lending aid and comfort to the current drive to destroy civil liberties in our country.”

“Nor can I, by answering this question, aid and abet the red-baiting hysteria which in the hands of labor-hating employers and their allies is sweeping this country.”

“The sole purpose of the committee is to give strength to the company’s strike breaking endeavors.”

“I submit that the entire inquiry amounts to an abuse of congressional power. In this instance, such abuse helps only a sweatshop employer intent on preventing Negro workers from enjoying the benefits of unionism.”

During the two hours of questioning Flaxer stated that in refusing to sign the non-communist affidavits, the UPWA was following the general CIO policy of noncompliance with the Taft-Hartley Act.

Flaxor: We do not have to comply with the Taft-Hartley Act. We have no benefits under it. We have been thrown back 50 years by the Taft-Hartley Act.

Hoffman: Do you think that’s far enough?

Joseph Forer, defender of civil rights: 1949 ca.

Attorney Joseph Forer

One of Flaxer’s attorneys was forcibly ejected from the hearing when Rep. O. C. Fisher (D-Tx.) asked another UPWA attorney, Joseph Forer, “Are you the same Forer who defended Gerhart Eisler?”

Eisler was a Communist Party member who was initially charged with refusing to answer questions before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1947. He had two trials in 1947—one for refusing to answer HUAC questions and the other for immigration violations.

Eisler was sentenced to one and three years in prison respectively and was the subject of deportation hearings along with five immigrant labor leaders. Eisler would later jump bail in 1949 and flee to the German Democratic Republic where he worked for many years. It was alleged by his detractors that he was Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s personal representative within the Communist Party USA.

When Fisher asked his question, Nathan R. Witt, Flaxer’s other attorney jumped to his feet and objected. A shouting match followed with Witt blasting Fisher for questioning an attorney about his clients, while Hoffman called House Office police to remove Witt.

Flaxer also testified that the Taft-Hartley Act had no direct effect on his union, with a few exceptions.

Hoffman: Well, all right. The Taft-Hartley Act provides that your union can, if it wishes, force an employer to bargain, does it not?

Flaxer: No. The Taft-Hartley Act does not provide that.

Hoffman: So you say that if you comply with the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act you still cannot bargain collectively?

Flaxer: No; we cannot bargain collectively regardless of compliance.

Hoffman: Sure you can.

Flaxer: But the point I am trying to make is that we do not fall under the Taft-Hartley Act, and we do not have to be concerned by its provisions as an individual union.

Hoffman: But you will concede, will you not, that if you want the benefits of the Taft-Hartley Act, you must comply with its terms.

Flaxer: Well, sir we have no benefits deriving from the Taft-Hartley Act, especially us.

Flaxer was pointing out that as a union of overwhelmingly government employees, the Taft-Hartley Act, except the one provision that bars federal employees from striking, did not cover them.

This testimony was troubling for Local 471, because Flaxer was clearly more concerned with the larger issues that his union faced than the specific situation at GSI where the Taft-Hartley Act was applicable.