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Boynton v. Virginia: 1960 - Court Splits, But For Boynton

restaurant service interstate bus

On December 5, 1960, the Supreme Court decided 7-2 in favor of Boynton, the first time since 1946 it had divided on a matter of racial segregation. A strong factor in the Court's decision had been the earlier testimony of the restaurant manager who conceded that, although the restaurant received "quite a bit of business" from local people, it was primarily for the service of Trailways passengers. Describing this as "much of an understatement," Justice Hugo L. Black, in writing the majority verdict, added:

Interstate passengers have to eat, and they have a right to expect that this essential transportation food service … would be rendered without discrimination prohibited by the Interstate Commerce Act. We are not holding that every time a bus stops at a wholly independent roadside restaurant the act applies … [but] where circumstances show that the terminal and restaurant operate as an integral part of the bus carrier's transportation service … an interstate passenger need not inquire into documents of title or contractual agreements in order to determine whether he has a right to be served without discrimination.

Anticipating the Supreme Court's decision, Bus Terminal Restaurants, Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina announced that, as of August 1960, none of its establishments would be racially segregated.

The impact of this case was immense. For the first time a bridge was built between the federal government and the civil rights movement. While many obstacles remained to be conquered in the fight for racial equality, henceforth it would be a struggle fought together.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

The Negro History Bulletin Vol. 26, 15. New York: Associated Publishers, 1972.

Wasby, Stephen L., Anthony A. D'Amato, and Rosemary Metrailer. Desegregation From Brown To Alexander. Carbondale, Ill.: South Illinois University Press, 1977.

Witt, Elder. Guide To The Supreme Court. Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 1990.

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