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Wilkinson part of sit-in at House restaurant: 1934 | by Washington Area Spark
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Wilkinson part of sit-in at House restaurant: 1934

Fred Wilkinson was a 40-year Howard University employee who compiled two extensive directories of Howard alumni.


He served as registrar for the school from 1920-1956 when he retired. He compiled a book of all Howard graduates early in his career and was called back by the school from retirement to complete another, which he finished in 1965. 1870-1963


He was in the office of U.S. Representative Oscar DePriest January 23, 1934 when a reporter from the Afro American newspaper came in and informed DePriest that the public restaurant at the House of Representatives was now barring African Americans. DePriest’s own aide, Morris Lewis, chimed in to tell DePriest that he had been barred from the restaurant earlier in the day.


DePriest invited Wilkinson and the Afro reporter Frederick Weaver to go with him to investigate. When they found the public restaurant closed for the day, the three entered the members and guest restaurant to see if they would be barred. They were not and were served.


It was the first, perhaps inadvertent, direct action taken against the Capitol restaurants’ Jim Crow over the next few months—effectively the first “sit-in” in a campaign for civil rights. In this instance the three were served, the ban had not been extended to members of Congress.


For a detailed blog post on the campaign against Jim Crow in the Capitol’s restaurants, see


For related images, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is from the 1928 Howard University Bison.

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Taken sometime in 1928