State Laws Mandating Private Discrimination Before 1964
The fascinating exchange between David Bernstein and Sheldon Richman points to a need for historians to explore the history of how governments encouraged and mandated private sector discrimination in the South prior to 1964. This subject is woefully understudied. For example, most historians probably don't even know that Alabama (and the city of Birmingham) required both restaurants and hotels to segregate regardless of the wishes of the owners.
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David T. Beito - 6/20/2010
Most of the successes of the sit-ins were in the Upper South or border states. I suspect that those states were less likely to have these laws. Resistance to de-segregation was much stronger in Deep South states such as Mississippi and Alabama. Many of us have seen the famous pictures of abused lunch counter customers from Jackson, Mississippi from as late as 1964.
Sheldon Richman - 6/20/2010
In some cities, desegregation of lunch counters occurred, after months of sit-ins, through an agreement between students organizations and store managers, suggesting that no law mandated segregation.