No ‘social equality’ for Rep. Terrell: 1934

    Newer Older

    George Butler Terrell engaged in agriculture and cattle raising and served as a member of the Texas state house of representatives 1898-1902, 1906-1912, 1916-1920, 1930-1932

    He served as an elected commissioner of agriculture of Texas from 1920-31.

    He served one term in the U.S. Congress 1931-33.

    While in Congress he wrote a letter to African American U.S. Rep. Oscar DePriest who was attempting to end Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol.

    The letter said in part,

    “I note the contents of the resolution and desire to state that I was raised among Negroes in the south and they have always been my personal friends. I work with them on my farm and pay them the same price that I pay white men for the same work. I treat them well and enjoy their confidence….but I’m not in favor of social equality between the races.”

    ‘I neither eat nor sleep with the Negroes and no law can make me do so.”

    “I think this explains my position clearly.”

    DePriest had the letter read into the Congressional Record and then mockingly responded to Terrell on the House floor:

    “Nobody asked the gentleman to sleep with him. That was not in my mind at all. I do not know why he thought of it. I am very careful about who I sleep with.”

    “I am also careful about whom I eat with; and I want to say to you gentlemen that the restaurant down here is a place where one pays for what one gets. If I go in there, sit down to a table, I pay for what I get, and I am not courting social equality with you…Social equality is something that goes about by an exchange of visits from home to home and not appearing in the same public dining room.”

    “I dropped into Knoxville one night, and the Chattanooga paper in southern Tennessee published a statement that I was coming to talk about social equality.”

    “I said, ‘When the Negroes came to this country originally they were all black; they are not now, because somebody has had a good deal of social equality; social equality not sought by colored women; social equality forced upon them because of the adverse economic situation down there.’”

    For a detailed blog post on the fight to end Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol restaurants, see washingtonspark.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/origins-of-the-c...

    For images related to the fight to end Jim Crow in the US. Capitol restaurants, see flic.kr/s/aHsmcArGZz

    The photographer is unknown. The image is courtesy of the Texas Preservation Board.

    keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts