Black L.A. 1947: Racism on the Menu as Bullock’s Tea Room Refuses to Serve Blacks

Google Street View
The former Bullock’s downtown store at 7th and Hill Streets, via Google Street View.

May 22, 1947, L.A. Sentinel
May 22, 1947: The campaign to integrate the tea room of Bullock’s downtown store apparently began with Edith Cotterell, who had an account at the department store for two years. Cotterell and two of her friends were escorted to a table, given menus and water. And then they sat.

Twenty minutes later, Cotterell asked the hostess why they hadn’t been served. She was told that the waitresses “refused to serve Negroes and there was nothing that could be done about it,” the Sentinel said.

The store’s manager, Franklin Archer, told Cotterell that the store did not discriminate, but “if the waitresses refuse to served anyone, there is nothing the management can do about it.”

Cotterell and her friends weren’t the only African Americans to receive such treatment. One prospective patron waited five hours without being served, the Sentinel said. White patrons who asked why the black customers hadn’t been served were told “It’s none of your business.”

Seven discrimination suits were filed against Bullock’s seeking a total of $12,600.

In June, Sentinel publisher Leon Washington and a photographer sued Bullock’s for a total of $50,000 after being denied service. Washington was told: “If their waitresses don’t want to serve you they don’t have to. It is their privilege to refuse anyone they don’t want to serve.”

In August, Bullock’s changed its policy and began serving black patrons after a sit-in by a mixed group of about 100 people organized by the Committee on Racial Equality.

“For the first time, Negroes were ‘served promptly, even hurriedly,’ ” The Sentinel said.

Washington praised Violet Moten Brown, associate editor of the Sentinel, for her part in drawing attention to Bullock’s racial policy.

And how much of this was covered by the Los Angeles Times? Not. A. Word.


May 22, 1947, L.A. Sentinel

May 22, 1947, Bullock's

Aug. 14, 1947, L.A. Sentinel

Aug. 14, 1947, L.A. Sentinel

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, African Americans, Downtown, Food and Drink and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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