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Ryan takes oath as education director at BIA: 1930 | by Washington Area Spark
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Ryan takes oath as education director at BIA: 1930

W. Carson Ryan, Jr., (center) takes oath of office as Commissioner of Education, Bureau of Indiana Affairs in August 1930.


Ryan was a nationally known educator with specific expertise in conducting educational surveys.


He previously worked for the U.S. Bureau of Education from 1912-20. He received his doctorate from George Washington University and was appointed professor of education at Swarthmore in 1921.


He studied educational systems around the word during this period before being hired at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


He quickly made a biting denunciation of the educational system administered by the BIA and called for a whole approach that included nutrition, health care and an education that fit the needs of the native community and moved to end the policy of assimilation.


After serving for six years at the BIA, he moved on to become president of the Progressive Education Association.


Ryan continued to be active in the fight for African American and other minority rights and against the curtailment of civil liberties.


Late in life in 1964 he was a sponsor of the Committee to Abolish the House Committee on Un American Activities.”


While at the BIA, he joined an ongoing sit-in campaign at the U.S. Capitol to desegregate the public restaurants in the building.


On March 17, 1934, Dorothy Alden, Ryan and Afro American reporter Florence Collins attempted to eat at the House public restaurant.


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.


In the end the group was not served, but moved to the Senate public restaurant (minus Ryan) and after a similar exchange were finally seated and served.


The campaign ultimately failed, but it marked the first organized, sustained sit-in campaign for civil rights in the Washington, D.C. area and perhaps the country.


For a detailed blog post on the campaign against Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol restaurants, see


For related images, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is a Harris and Ewing photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-hec-35988 (digital file from original negative).

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Taken in August 1930