Today (January 15th) would have been the 89th birthday of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  While many are celebrating and reflecting on the life and legacy of his work there is one civil rights event that took place in San Antonio over fifty years ago that gave equality to African Americans.

Did you know that in San Antonio Texas the city became the first southern city to begin integration of its small restaurants?  According to the book African Americans in South Texas History it tells a story of the events leading up to the actual day on March 16th 1960.  The book states San Antonio never actually had segregation laws in place, but the police still enforced de facto segregation.

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Racial Change on the Southern Periphery: The Case of San Antonio, Texas 1960 – 1965 the Arthur Robert A. Goldberg tells a story of the city during that difficult time.  He explains that civil rights has been granted, but not won and voluntary desegregation was an example for other cities in the state.

There was an event in Greensboro N.C. were African Americans demonstrated a sit-in at a lunch counter and they were denied service.  Meanwhile, San Antonio businesses followed suit agreeing they would refuse service to African Americans who attempted similar demonstrations.

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The San Antonio NAACP got involved and with letters, and conversations with church leaders and businessmen they wanted to move forward with Andrews wishes of integration, but were worried it would cause economic repercussions from white consumers.

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On March 16th after a lot of attention 4 African Americans were served at the once segregated San Antonio lunch counter and after 5 years the city council integrated all public areas and businesses who didn’t comply were fined.  The only backlash was from a few cancelled charge accounts and hostile phone calls.

To celebrate this milestone a banquet with both white and blacks was held in their honor and the San Antonio Interracial Committee was founded to persuade public opinion against segregation.