Campus & Community

This month in Harvard history

2 min read

Ca. March 1947 – Students organize a boycott against a local tavern that refuses to serve blacks. Mitchell Goodman ’45, “Undergraduate” columnist of the “Harvard Alumni Bulletin” (March 29, 1947), tells the tale:

“Most undergraduates are not black, because of a rather commonplace pigmentation of the skin. It is therefore hard for them to share the emotions of a man whose skin is black-and who lives in a white college community. Because they are not black, not even the full-grown undergraduates who populate Harvard today fully appreciate the problem of the Negro who may live next door. But these men who were in the Army and in combat came closer to an understanding of mutual responsibility than other college generations. They learned once that every man’s life in a crisis depends on the actions and attitudes of the next guy. They don’t seem to have forgotten.

“A local tavern, calling itself the Club 100, decided that it didn’t want the patronage of a couple of undergraduates. They were colored. ‘We have to be selective about the elements we get in here,’ was the way the management explained it in a publicity release. This speech was unsatisfactory to the Student Council and several other undergraduate organizations which called discrimination by its right name and recommended a College boycott. A University-wide Committee on Discrimination was then set up, and it asked members of the University to forego this exclusive boîte until the management could get over its colorblindness. Harvard stayed away in droves. Later a picket-line was used effectively and without incident.”

– From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower