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Blacks Fought For Own Sense Of Place

Sun., May 18, 1997

The words “segregation” and “Spokane” don’t seem to go together. Segregation was something that happened in the Jim Crow South.

Yet a different brand of segregation thrived in the northern states, including Spokane and the Northwest, through the 1930s, the ‘40s, the ‘50s and even into the ‘60s.

Even without Jim Crow laws, Spokane’s black residents were restricted to a relatively few restaurants, clubs, hotels and jobs, sometimes by policy, more often by social pressure.


In 1900, a black man was denied service in a Natatorium Park restaurant. He sued and lost.

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong once left Spokane in a huff the night before a big concert, when told that the Davenport Hotel had lost his reservations and had no rooms available.

Sammy Davis Jr. was once decked by a bellhop after Davis was denied a room in a Spokane hotel.

One of the most popular nightspots in Spokane was the black-owned and operated Club Harlem - yet most nights, it did not allow black customers.

A black theatergoer sued the Pantages Theatre in 1919 for restricting him to the balcony. He won, and Spokane theaters were never segregated again.

To find out more about the history of segregation in Spokane, see today’s IN Life section.

The area’s first Community Congress on Race Relations will be held Tuesday. For a preview and calendar, see IN Life, page E10.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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