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Belford Vance Lawson: 1936 ca | by Washington Area Spark
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Belford Vance Lawson: 1936 ca

New Negro Alliance founder Belford Vance Lawson is shown in a portrait circa 1936.


Lawson, along with John Aubrey Davis and M. Franklin Thorne, led the New Negro Alliance on a ten year campaign from 1933-43 to end discriminatory hiring practices at stores in African American neighborhoods.


Lawson, an attorney, successfully fought an attempt by Sanitary Grocery Stores (later renamed Safeway) to ban picketing in front of their stores and won a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right to protest discrimination in front of stores.


The group won some victories—primarily at small stores—but was unable to break through at the larger chains like Safeway Groceries and People’s Drug Store.


Lawson was also elected as the first president of United Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers Local 471 at the organization's founding in July 1937.


Legal discrimination did not end until the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


For more information and related images, see


For a deep dive into the 1948 cafeteria workers strike, see


Photo by Scurlock Studio. Courtesy of Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Box 618.04.98, AC0618.004.0001092.tif (scan number).

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Taken circa 1936