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Underhill says, ‘colored people prefer segregation.’ – 1934 | by Washington Area Spark
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Underhill says, ‘colored people prefer segregation.’ – 1934

An undated photograph of Charles Lee Underhill circa 1920.


Charles Lee Underhill was a Republican United States Representative from Massachusetts serving from 1921-33.


He was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 20, 1867 and moved to Massachusetts in 1872 with his parents, who settled in Somerville.


Underhill served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1902-1903 and 1908-1913), and was a member of the State constitutional convention in 1917 and 1918.


While in the U.S. House of Representatives he served as chairman of Committee on Claims and the Committee on Accounts


After he declined to run for re-election he engaged in real estate development in Washington, D.C. from 1933 until he retired in 1941.


As former chair of the Accounts Committee Underhill testified on the history of the House of Representatives public restaurant and the committee in 1934 before a special committee investigating Jim Crow at the House restaurant.


He gave the history of 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 Rep. Oscar DePriest (R-Il.) brought an interracial group into the restaurant and it was suggested to him that this was improper. He testified that it never happened again.


For a detailed blog post on the fight against Jim Crow at the U.S. Capitol’s 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-20003 (digital file from original negative)

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Taken circa 1920