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DePriest, Scott and Johnson meet: 1930 ca. | by Washington Area Spark
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DePriest, Scott and Johnson meet: 1930 ca.

U.S. Rep. Oscar DePriest (R-Il.) (center) is shown with Dr. Emmett J. Scott (right), the business manager and secretary-treasurer of Howard University and Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University (left), in a photograph circa 1930.

 

The three met regularly as Johnson sought continued federal appropriations for the operation of Howard University, the premier African American higher education school in the country.

 

DePriest and Johnson were both involved in the 1934 effort to end Jim Crow at the U.S. Capitol public restaurant—but in different roles.

 

DePriest’s aide, Morris Lewis, had been barred from the restaurant and DePriest introduced a resolution to investigate the House Accounts Committee’s authority to impose Jim Crow on the facility.

 

After Mabel Byrd, a civil rights advocate, was barred from the Senate restaurant, a campaign of direct action was organized where small interracial parties sought to be served in the House and Senate public restaurants—effectively launching the first civil rights sit-ins in the Washington, D.C. area and perhaps the country.

 

A group of 30 Howard University students joined the protest, but were barred from both the House and Senate cafeterias. One student was arrested for assault during the protest while four others were briefly detained for “blocking the sidewalk” outside a police precinct.

 

DePriest denounced the Howard students and other demonstrators saying that his inside strategy was the best.

 

The charges against all the students were dropped, but the sensational headlines and the reaction from white supremacist congressmen from the south caused Johnson to fear losing federal funds and he brought the students up on school charges before a faculty disciplinary committee.

 

More conservative professors on the committee advocated taking action against the students, but chair Ralph Bunche, a future Nobel Prize winner, argued that the students should be given a medal instead. Bunche’s position prevailed and no discipline was imposed.

 

DePriest’s inside strategy was easily defeated by Speaker of the House Thomas Rainey (D-Il.) who let DePriest’s effort to end Jim Crow die on the House of Representatives calendar without coming to the vote as Congress adjourned.

 

Scott was the former chief aide to Booker T. Washington from 1897-1915. After Washington died, he was briefly special advisor of black affairs to Secretary of War Newton Baker before moving on to Howard University from 1919-38.

 

For a detailed account of 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 Scurlock Studio photograph courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History: Archives Center.

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Taken circa 1930