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Charles Russell, NAACP founder and muckraking journalist: 1935 ca. | by Washington Area Spark
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Charles Russell, NAACP founder and muckraking journalist: 1935 ca.

Charles Edward Russell, a Pulitzer Prize winner; muckraking journalist as famous as contemporaries Upton Sinclair and Lincoln Steffens; is shown in a photograph circa 1935.


He was one of three white founders of the NAACP, member of its national board and member of the local NAACP Interracial committee.


He was a former Socialist Party member who split with the organization over its opposition to U.S. entry into World War I.


During the fight against Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol restaurants in 1934, Russell joined one of the interracial groups to seek service and recruited others to join these groups that attempted to desegregate the restaurants through direct action.


The group Russell joined sought service March 13, 1934 at the House of Representatives public restaurant after African American U.S. Representative Oscar DePriest’s (R-Il) confidential secretary Morris Lewis was barred.


Russell’s group included Theresa Hirshl Russell, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Russell’s wife; Harland Glazier, secretary of the socialist party in D.C.; and Ralph Bunche, professor of political science at Howard University and future Nobel Prize winner.


This group was served without incident.


Russell returned the next day with another group composed of John F. Whitfield, pastor of the Christian Colored Church, and Leonard. C. Farrar, secretary of the National Forum Association, and three white persons: Russell, Glazier and Robert Shestick of the Citizens Party.


This time Russell’s group was barred from the House public restaurant.


Russell spoke at a rally later in the city and urged the group:


“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.”


The enforcement of Jim Crow in the Capitol building against Lewis in the House restaurant and Mabel Byrd in the Senate led to 10 days of small parties of interracial diners seeking service in the restaurants—sometimes successfully—in an attempt to desegregate the restaurants.


Approximately 30 Howard University students came to the Capitol on March 17th attempting to gain service in the House and Senate restaurants but were barred by police. One was arrested at the Capitol and four others at the precinct house where they went to bail out their fellow student. Charges were all dropped later.


This series of protests marked the first sit-in demonstrations for civil rights in the nation’s capital and perhaps the country.


DePriest offered a resolution for an investigation that passed the House, but the investigating committee, the majority appointed by the Democratic Speaker of the House, found that the restaurant was a private one operated for the members of the House and their guests and therefore no discrimination occurred. This was despite the white public being admitted without a member of Congress and African Americans barred.


Speaker Rainey ran out the clock as Congress adjourned in order to avoid a debate and vote on the investigating committee report.


Jim Crow continued in the Capitol for nearly 20 more years.


For a detailed blog post on the fight 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-20121 (digital file from original negative)

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Taken circa 1935