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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $42.99

320 pp.
20 b/w illustrations, 6.125" x 9.25"


Publication date:
January 2016

Imprint: OUP US

Just Another Southern Town

Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation's Capital

Joan Quigley

In January of 1950, Mary Church Terrell, an 86-year-old charter member of the NAACP, headed into Thompson's Restaurant, just a few blocks from the White House, and requested to be served. She and her companions were informed by the manager that they could not eat in his establishment, because they were "colored." Terrell, a former suffragette and one of the country's first college-educated African American women, took the matter to court. Three years later, the Supreme Court vindicated her outrage: United States v. Thompson was decided in June 1953, invalidating the segregation of restaurants and cafes in the nation's capital.

In Just Another Southern Town, Joan Quigley recounts an untold chapter of the civil rights movement: an epic battle to topple segregation in Washington, the symbolic home of American democracy. At the book's heart is the formidable Mary Terrell and the test case she mounts seeking to enforce Reconstruction-era laws prohibiting segregation in D.C. restaurants. Through the prism of Terrell's story, Quigley reassesses Washington's relationship to civil rights history, bringing to life a pivotal fight for equality that erupted five years before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Montgomery bus and a decade before the student sit-in movement rocked segregated lunch counters across the South.

At a time when most civil rights scholarship begins with Brown v. Board of Education, Just Another Southern Town unearths the story of the nation's capital as an early flashpoint on race. A rich portrait of American politics and society in the mid-20th century, it interweaves Terrell's narrative with the courtroom drama of the case and the varied personalities of the justices who ultimately voted unanimously to prohibit segregated restaurants. Resonating with gestures of courage and indignation that radiate from the capital's streets and sidewalks to its marble-clad seats of power, this work restores Mary Church Terrell and the case that launched a crusade to their rightful place in the pantheon of civil rights history.

Readership : General readers interested in civil rights history, African-American history, and legal history; scholars of 20th-century US history and politics, civil rights history, and legal history.

Prologue: January 27, 1950
1. On to the Battlefield
2. The Greatest Woman that We Have
3. They Come Standing Erect
4. An Example for All the World
5. The Radicalization of Mary Church Terrell
6. Segregation Will Go
7. This Thing Can Be Licked
8. A Bigger Step Is in Order
9. Eat Anywhere
Epilogue: Until Full and Final Victory

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Joan Quigley is a lawyer and journalist who lives in Washington, D.C. She is the author of The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy.

Brown v. Board of Education - James T. Patterson
Grand Expectations - James T. Patterson
From Jim Crow to Civil Rights - Michael J. Klarman
Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement - Michael J. Klarman
Freedom Riders - Raymond Arsenault

Special Features

  • The first trade book on United States v. Thompson, a landmark case in the earliest days of the civil rights movement.
  • Brings attention to the indomitable Mary Church Terrell, who has been overlooked by civil rights scholarship.
  • A lively courtroom drama that considers questions of the Supreme Court's role as an arbiter of social change.