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  • Hosea Williams, the son of blind and poor African American parents, was born in 1926 in Georgia. After service in World War II, the GI bill allowed him to study chemistry and gain employment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yet, even as a professional, he faced segregation in 1950s Savannah, Georgia, as he describes here in an interview done in the 1970s. By that time, Williams had left chemistry for the Civil Rights movement. He became a director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference field staff.

    Segregation Southern Style: A Recollection from the 1950s

  • By 1900, Southern laws and customs prevented African Americans from having equal access to public accommodations such as restaurants, toilets, and theaters. In some cases separate accommodations, based on local custom, also existed in the North. For example, an 1944 interview with Mary Church Terrell in the Pittsburgh Courier revealed that African Americans were allowed in to eat at public lunch counters until the end of the 19th century. She said, "I remember stopping at the drug store on the corner of 9th and F streets for service. The white clerk told me it was my last service, that the behavior of a loud Negro man there previously had caused them to alter their policy of serving colored people there." But discrimination was far from uniform as this image suggests from 1951 of a lunch counter, located at the corner of Diamond and Wood Streets in Pittsburgh, with doors that open onto the street.

    Pittsburgh Lunch Counter, 1951

  • Variety stores that sold an array of inexpensive products first appeared in the late nineteenth century from companies such as F.W. Woolworth, which started in 1878. These stores were often called "five and dimes" or "five and tens," a reference to the fact that all of their merchandise cost a nickel or a dime.  By the mid-twentieth century many five and dimes included lunch counters where shoppers could grab a quick bite to eat. Drugstores also often included these lunch counters, such as the one pictured in this 1938 photo of a counter in De Kruil Drug Store, located in Grand Rapids, MI. These lunch counters served a large assortment of snacks, lunches, and dinners—club sandwiches, toasted tuna sandwiches, meatloaf, fries, homemade doughnuts. In the South, African Americans could purchase food items but they could not sit down and eat them. Other stores included Kress, Krege's, and G.C. Murphy's. By the late 1970s, lunch counters at five and dimes were beginning to fade from the American landscape.

    De Kruil Drug Store Lunch Counter, 1938

  • This report details the physical aspects of the lunch counter from the Greensboro Woolworth store when it arrived at the National Museum of American History in 1994. Because the lunch counter was actually made up of a large number of pieces, the report deals with each element individually.

    What it Looked Like in 1994

  • Use your mouse to rotate the Woolworth's Lunch Counter by clicking and dragging either right or left.  Click on the + to zoom in and on the - to zoom out.

    Lunch Counter QTVR

  • Use your mouse to rotate the 1898 Standard Voting Machine by clicking and dragging either right or left.  Click on the + to zoom in and on the - to zoom out.

    Voting Machine QTVR

  • This article from <em>Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper</em> in 1856 depicts a "stuffer's ballot-box."  The false sides and bottom allowed "stuffers" to conceal extra ballots for their candidate. By covertly sliding the panels,  dishonest partisans could mix the forged ballots in with the legally cast votes without ever disturbing the box's lock. The possibility of this type of electoral fraud led reformers to design ballot boxes immune to stuffing. One model included a crank through which the ballot passed and imprinted with a seal to prove its authenticity.

    Stuffer's Ballot Box

  • Lucy G. Branham was raised by a suffragist mother and a physician father in Baltimore, Maryland. Following graduate school at Johns Hopkins and Columbia, she worked on various suffrage activities. She was arrested in the National Woman's Party campaign of silent picketing at the White House in September 1917 and served two months in the Occoquan Workhouse and the District jail. Branham participated in the NWP "Prison Special" nationwide tour. Activists spoke about their experiences being arrested for demonstrating for the right to vote. This photograph shows Branham speaking at an outdoor meeting during the tour. She is pictured above a large crowd, wearing prison dress and suffrage sash, with a suffrage flag and camera on a tripod behind her.

    Lucy Branham in Occoquan Prison Dress

  • How did you become interested in the voting machine as a curator?

  • How did the voting machine come to the museum?

  • Who recieved the "Jailed for Freedom" pins?

  • The Fifteenth Amendment, and the fact that the victorious North stationed federal troops in the South during Reconstruction, led to a brief period of political gains for African Americans. But white southerners began a counterattack against black voting. In some cases they used legal means, like poll taxes, but more commonly they resorted to acts of terrorist violence designed to intimidate citizens. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was one of the secret organizations that led the attacks on black voters, using lynchings, beatings and other forms of violent intimidation to keep African Americans from the polls. The KKK's activities are described in three massive volumes of testimony compiled by Congress in the 1860s, but whether constitutional or not, the actions of the Klan were successful in drastically reducing voting by African Americans. Senator Benjamin Ryan Tillman, pictured in this cartoon from 1897, often worked to disempower blacks.

    The Negro Disenfranchised

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