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African American Resources

Desegregation in San Antonio - 1960

  On March 7, 1960, the Youth Council of the local San Antonio Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent letters to the Joske's, S. H. Kress and Woolworth department stores downtown reminding management that people of certain races were banned from their dining facilities and asking for a change:  

 "Youth of all races in San Antonio go to school, ride the buses,
enjoy municipal recreational facilities together, but they cannot
eat together in your store.  Help the youth of San Antonio realize
that the principles stated in the Holy Bible and the Constitution
of the United States can be a living reality in San Antonio by
abolishing this discriminatory practice in your store.  We feel the
citizens of San Antonio are intelligent enough to accept such change.
  Please inform us of your decision..."

The letters were signed by Mary Lillian Andrews, president of the local
Youth Council and a 1959 graduate of Incarnate Word High School (right).

In 1954, prodded by a lawsuit from the NAACP, San Antonio desegregated municipal facilities such as parks, golf courses and tennis courts but on June 19th, the 89th anniversary of emancipation in Texas, the City Council made law of a de facto segregation for municipal swimming pools.  This law remained in effect until March 22, 1956, when Ordinance # 20,307 desegregating all municipal facilities passed unanimously.  

However, this ordinance only applied to city-owned facilities, not those owned by the county or state, nor those privately owned.  And so, downtown restaurants remained off-limits to African-Americans.

The day after the letters were sent to Joske's, Kress and Woolworth's, more letters were sent to Neisner's, Grant's, H. L. Green and McCrory's department stores asking that they, too, desegregate their dining facilities.  The deadline for responses was set for Thursday, March 17 - after which time, it was indicated that orderly sit-down strikes and demonstrations would begin.  Demonstrations and sit-ins had begun around the country, including the Woolworth's sit-in in Greensboro, N.C. on February 1.

The Youth Council had received no responses by March 12, so a massive Youth Council rally was held on Sunday, March 13 at Second Baptist Church, where forces were mobilized for sit-down demonstrations with over 500 "sitters" identified and ready for call at "S-hour" on Thursday.

Reverend C. Don Baugh, who was white and was Executive Director of the San Antonio Council of Churches, publicly announced a meeting of religious leaders and business executives for Wednesday, March 16.  In reality, the meeting was secretly held a day earlier on March 15.  African-American pastors in attendance were Rev. P. L. Woods, district superintendent for the Methodist Church; the Rev. S. H. James, pastor of Second Baptist Church and chairman of the public relations committee of the Baptist Ministers association; J. E. Taylor, prominent in Catholic interracial work, and local realtor, S. J. Davis.  Reverends Woods and James worked on the formal statement which read:

     Leaders of all San Antonio religious groups, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant, in a closed meeting with representatives from retail drug firms, variety stores and a large department store today agreed to a quiet and orderly policy of no discrimination at their eating facilities.  They discussed their plans with leaders of the Negro community who expressed general satisfaction with the decision and with the efforts being made to solve the problem amicably.  The businessmen reserved their right to halt any demonstration in their stores by any individual or group.  They stressed that they intended to serve all customers with their regular courtesy.  It was the unanimous feeling of the group that the relationship between Negroes and whites in San Antonio is a happy one.  The hope was expressed that within a month many other business firms would join in this program of integration.

This statement was jointly issued by Rev. Baugh; Msgr. James M. Boyle, representing Archbishop R. E. Lucey; Rabbi David Jacobson, Temple Beth-El; Cecil A. Ray, superintendent of missions, San Antonio Baptist Association, the Reverend Woods and Mr. James.

“All Quiet At Lunch Counter – All was orderly Wednesday morning as lunch counters in several San Antonio stores were opened to Negroes. Only two took advantage of the integrated service in downtown store above during breakfast hours. They are shown going through line behind white customers, who paid little attention." – San Antonio Express Staff Photo. (courtesy of UTSA Digital Collections)
The stores agreeing to integration were not identified
and were not to be publicly disclosed until the NAACP
mass meeting held Thursday night at New Mount
Pleasant Baptist Church.  The stores integrating
were H. L. Green, F. W. Woolworth, S. H. Kress, Neisner's, Grant's, McCrory's and Sommers Drug Stores.
  Sears, Roebuck & Co. indicated that they were already
serving without regard to color or race.  Wolff & Marx
indicated that they had a small dining facility and were
planning to close it, as it was losing money.  Joske's
stated that they were awaiting a decision from their
New York headquarters and would continue their
current policy for the time being.  The NAACP
agreed at the mass meeting to schedule no
demonstrations for 30 days as a show of good will.

(Jet Magazine - March 31, 1960)