On this day in history, May 25, 1994 –Denny’s Restaurant Pays Historic Settlement in Racial Discrimination Suit

During the early 1990’s, Denny’s Restaurants (particularly franchises located in Southern California) were accused of widespread discrimination against black customers. Complaints alleged racially segregated customer seating and forcing black customers to pay for their meals before eating. With the assistance of the Justice Department and then-Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval Patrick, more than 4000 individuals filed claims in federal court.

The plaintiffs alleged that their rights had been violated under the provisions of Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Known as the Public Accommodations Act, Title II was developed specifically to end segregation in hotels and restaurants. The law had not been applied widely in class-action suits, where charges of discrimination are usually made by employees and not paying customers.

Fearing the negative publicity associated with widespread accusations of racial discrimination, Denny’s settled the lawsuits collectively without litigation. On May 25, 1994, Flagstaff Companies, Denny’s parent organization, agreed to pay $54.4 million – the largest settlement ever reached under federal public accommodation laws – to settle the pending federal lawsuits.

The case represented a significant victory for civil rights advocates, and $28 million was earmarked to compensate victims of Denny’s discriminatory policies. Although Flagstaff Companies did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, it did agree to retain an independent civil rights monitor to prevent future discrimination.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.

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On this day in history, May 24, 2013 –Federal Court Rules Racial Profiling in Arizona Violated Latinos’ Constitutional Rights

On May 24, 2013, Judge G. Murray Snow of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona ruled that the Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), led by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution by conducting raids and traffic stops that targeted Latinos based on race.

Statistical studies indicated that MCSO officers were between four and nine times more likely to stop a Latino driver than a similar non-Latino driver. In addition, though the MCSO’s authority to enforce federal immigration law was revoked in 2009, the office continued to conduct immigration-related raids and traffic stops for four years afterward, in violation of federal law and the Constitution. A law enforcement expert at the Department of Justice described the MCSO’s actions as the worst example of racial profiling that he had encountered.

Evidence in the case indicated that the observed racial disparities were motivated by anti-Latino bias at the highest levels of MCSO leadership. The office’s written policies encouraged the use of race as a factor in determining whether to conduct a traffic stop, and emails recovered from the accounts of high-level MCSO officials revealed they repeatedly expressed anti-Latino sentiment and shared racist images and jokes.

Further litigation in the case is pending. The MCSO appealed the district court’s ruling and negotiations regarding possible remedies, including an independent monitor of MCSO policies and practices, are ongoing.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.

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On this day in history, May 23, 1796 — Ad Offers Reward for Return of Runaway Slave to President George Washington

On May 23, 1796, a newspaper ad was submitted for publication that sought the return of Ona “Oney” Judge, an enslaved black woman who had “absconded from the household of the President of the United States,” George Washington. Ms. Judge had successfully escaped slavery two days earlier, fleeing Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and settling in freedom in New Hampshire. In the ad, she is described as “a light mulatto girl, much freckled, with very black eyes and bushy black hair. She is of middle stature, slender, and delicately formed, about 20 years of age.”

Known to the Washingtons as “Oney,” Ms. Judge was a dower slave given to Martha Washington by her father and had been held as part of the Washington estate since she was ten years old. As George Washington gained political clout, Ms. Judge traveled with the family to states with varying slave ownership rules, including Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 guaranteed slaves of non-residents freedom after living in Pennsylvania for six months, and this provision would have applied to Ms. Judge. However, to avoid enforcement of the law and emancipation of their slaves, the Washingtons regularly sent their slaves out of state to restart the six-month residency requirement.

When her eldest granddaughter, Eliza Custis, married, Martha Washington promised to leave Ms. Judge to the new couple as a gift in her will. Distressed that she would be doomed to slavery even after Martha Washington died, Ms. Judge resolved to run. On the night of May 21, 1796, while the Washingtons were packing to return to Mt. Vernon, Ms. Judge made her escape from Philadelphia on a ship destined for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She had befriended many slaves in Philadelphia and they helped her to send her belongings to New Hampshire before her escape.

The Washingtons tried several times to apprehend Ms. Judge, hiring head-hunters and issuing runaway slave advertisements like the one submitted on May 23, which offered a $10 reward for her return. Ms. Judge evaded capture. She lived, married, and had several children as a free woman in New Hampshire. She died, still free, on February 25, 1848.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.

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On this day in history, May 22, 1872 –Congress Restores Confederates’ Rights with the Amnesty Act of 1872

Even while the Civil War was in progress, the Union offered amnesty to Confederates in an attempt to encourage loyalty to the Union and begin the process of reconstruction. The Confiscation Act of 1862 authorized the President of the United States to pardon anyone involved in the rebellion. The Amnesty Proclamation of December 8, 1863, offered pardons to those who had not held a Confederate civil office, had not mistreated Union prisoners, and would sign an oath of allegiance. Another limited amnesty that targeted Southern civilians went into effect on May 26, 1864.

On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson provided for amnesty and the return of property to those who would take an oath of allegiance. Former high-ranking Confederate government and military officials, and people owning more than $20,000 worth of property, had to apply for individual pardons.

Passed by Congress and signed by President Ulysses Grant on May 22, 1872, the Amnesty Act of 1872 ended voting restrictions and office-holding disqualifications against most of the Confederate troops and secessionists who rebelled against the Union in the Civil War. The act conferred these rights to over 150,000 former Confederate troops with the exception of some 500 military leaders of the Confederacy.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.

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On this day in history, May 21, 1961 –National Guard Disperses White Crowd Threatening Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama

The Freedom Riders were an interracial group of civil rights activists who began riding interstate buses in 1961 to test Supreme Court decisions that prohibited discrimination in interstate passenger travel. Their efforts were unpopular with whites who supported continued segregation.

On May 20, 1961, Freedom Riders arriving in Montgomery, Alabama, were attacked by a white mob and several suffered serious injury. On the evening of May 21, more than 1000 black residents and civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth attended a service at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church organized by Rev. Ralph Abernathy to support the Freedom Riders. A white mob surrounded the church and vandalized parked cars. From the church’s basement, Dr. King called United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and requested help. United States Marshals soon arrived to dispel the riot; the growing mob pelted them with bricks and bottles. The marshals responded with tear gas.

When police arrived to assist the marshals, the mob broke into smaller groups and overturned cars, attacked black residences with bullets and firebombs, and assaulted black people in the streets. Alabama Governor John Patterson declared martial law in Montgomery and ordered National Guard troops to restore order. Authorities arrested seventeen white rioters and, by midnight, the streets were calm. Only then were those in the church permitted to leave. Three days later, troops escorted the Freedom Riders as they departed to Jackson, Mississippi, where they would face further resistance.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.

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On this day in history, May 21, 1961 — National Guard Disperses White Crowd Threatening Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama

The Freedom Riders were an interracial group of civil rights activists who began riding interstate buses in 1961 to test Supreme Court decisions that prohibited discrimination in interstate passenger travel. Their efforts were unpopular with whites who supported continued segregation.

On May 20, 1961, Freedom Riders arriving in Montgomery, Alabama, were attacked by a white mob and several suffered serious injury. On the evening of May 21, more than 1000 black residents and civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth attended a service at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church organized by Rev. Ralph Abernathy to support the Freedom Riders. A white mob surrounded the church and vandalized parked cars. From the church’s basement, Dr. King called United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and requested help. United States Marshals soon arrived to dispel the riot; the growing mob pelted them with bricks and bottles. The marshals responded with tear gas.

When police arrived to assist the marshals, the mob broke into smaller groups and overturned cars, attacked black residences with bullets and firebombs, and assaulted black people in the streets. Alabama Governor John Patterson declared martial law in Montgomery and ordered National Guard troops to restore order. Authorities arrested seventeen white rioters and, by midnight, the streets were calm. Only then were those in the church permitted to leave. Three days later, troops escorted the Freedom Riders as they departed to Jackson, Mississippi, where they would face further resistance.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.

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On this day in history, May 20, 1961 — Mob Attacks Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama

On May 16, 1961, mob violence in Birmingham, Alabama, threatened to prematurely end the Freedom Ride campaign organized by the Congress on Racial Equality. The Nashville Student Movement, an interracial group of twenty-two college students studying in Tennessee, volunteered to take over the ride and continue through Alabama and Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana.

The new Freedom Riders reached Birmingham on May 17 but were arrested and returned to Tennessee by Birmingham police officers under the command of Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor. Undeterred, the riders and additional reinforcements from Tennessee returned to Birmingham on May 18. Under pressure from the federal government, Alabama Governor John Patterson agreed to authorize state and city police to protect the riders during their journey from Birmingham to Montgomery.

On May 20, 1961, nineteen Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery. Abandoned by state police at the city limits, the bus continued unescorted to the bus station, anticipating the arrival of city police escorts. But Montgomery Public Safety Commissioner L.B. Sullivan had promised the Ku Klux Klan several minutes to attack the riders without police interference. The riders were met at the bus station by several hundred angry whites armed with baseball bats, hammers, and pipes. Montgomery police watched as the mob first attacked reporters and then turned on the riders. Several were seriously injured, including future United States Congressman John Lewis. John Seigenthaler, an aide to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, was knocked unconscious. Ignored by ambulances, two injured riders were saved by good samaritans who transported them to nearby hospitals.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.

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