Pittsburgh Lunch Counter, 1951


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.


Richard Saunders, "Lunch counter at corner of Diamond and Wood Streets," July 1951, (#5731), Collections of the Pennsylvania Department, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.