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Rep. Warren: ‘mob of toughs and hoodlums from Howard University’--1934 | by Washington Area Spark
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Rep. Warren: ‘mob of toughs and hoodlums from Howard University’--1934

U.S. Rep. Lindsay Warren (D-N.C.) is shown in his office April 24, 1938

 

Warren was the point person in 1934 as chair of the House Accounts Committee for imposing Jim Crow in the U.S. House of Representative public restaurant when he gave orders to bar African Americans.

 

A six-month fight against Jim Crow in the Capitol’s restaurants began when U.S. Rep. Oscar DePriest’s (R-Il.) confidential secretary, Morris Lewis, was barred from the House public restaurant along with his son in January 1934.

 

Another instance of Jim Crow occurred when Mabel Byrd was forcibly removed from the Senate public restaurant in February.

 

The enforcement of Jim Crow in the Capitol building 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.

 

On the House floor, Warren called the Howard demonstrators "toughs and hoodlums" and described their speech as "filth, vulgarity and profanity."

 

Some southern Democratic congressmen called for the students to be expelled and the president of the school, Mordecai Johnson, to be fired Romney chimed in calling for suspension of the 30 students saying they had “disgraced” the institution and should be punished.

 

Johnson brought the students to the faculty disciplinary committee for action recommending expulsions and/or suspensions. However, the chair of the committee, Ralph Bunche—a future Nobel prize winner—said they should be given medals instead. Bunche prevailed and no discipline was imposed on the students.

 

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 of the House Thomas Rainey (D-Il) let the clock run out as Congress adjourned in June to avoid a debate and vote on the issue.

 

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 washingtonspark.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/origins-of-the-c...

 

For related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsmcArGZz

 

The photographer is unknown. The image is a Harris and Ewing photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Call Number: LC-H22-D- 3827 [P&P]

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Taken on April 24, 1938