Mel’s Drive-In Protest 1963


“By the 1960s, San Francisco’s widespread racist employment patterns ushered in a series of social protest movements led by the city’s progressives aimed at promoting equal rights and job opportunities for African American residents of the city. The Civil Rights Movement was expanding northward after major protests in the American South where most of the African American population was concentrated at the time. African Americans were a minority in San Francisco, but racism limited job opportunities and had been prompted the creation in 1958 of a largely ineffective municipal Fair Employment Practices Committee. Among the local businesses in the Bay Area targeted for their discriminatory hiring practices was Mel’s Drive-In, a restaurant chain with locations in San Francisco and Berkeley co-owned by Mel Weiss and City Supervisor Harold Dobbs. The sit-in at Mel’s Drive-In garnered a large number of participants, from local college students to community activists, and became the first mass sit-in of the Bay Area Civil Rights Movement. … The probe found that Black employees of Mel’s Drive-in were relegated only to behind-the-scenes jobs, such as kitchen positions. DAG chairman Sheridan once stated that African Americans workers of the establishment were, ‘always out of sight. They’re janitors, dishwashers, and people like that.’ Essentially, Mel’s Drive-In did not employ African Americans in any position which required the worker to come into direct contact with patrons. … An umbrella organization, the Ad Hoc Committee was made up of a loose collection of civil rights organizations, both formal and informal, nationally recognized and locally grassroot, who together acted as a unified front in the interests of the Ad Hoc Committee to fight against racial forms of discrimination. According to former leader of the Ad Hoc Committee Tracy Sims, now known as Tamam Tracy Moncur, ‘it was a combination of the W.E.B. DuBois Club, students from Berkeley, and the NAACP… [which had actually]… started at Mel’s Drive-In’. …”
FoundSF
W – Mel’s Drive-In
Protest against Discrimination at Mel’s Drive-In, 1963 (Audio/Video)


Police arrest protesters engaged in passive resistance, November 3, 1963, at Mel’s Drive-in restaurant on Geary Blvd.

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