Jawn Sandifer (Civil Rights Lawyer) 1914 -2006

During the late forties and early fifties, there were a number of groundbreaking victories in various United States’ courts which went a long towards getting the civil rights for coloured people and helped to bring an end segregation along racial lines, the most famous of these being  Brown v. Board of Education which outlawed segregation in public education facilities.

A lesser known case, but one that was used as one of the precedents in the Brown v Board of Education, was Henderson v United States. In that case, which came before the Supreme Court on April the 3rd 1950,two lawyers, Belford V. Lawson, Jr. and Jawn Sandifer, working  for the N.A.A.C.P (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) successfully argued that railroads which operate across state lines could not bar passengers from eating in dining cars because of their  race. “The denial of dining service to any such passenger subjects him to a prohibited disadvantage,” the decision, arrived at on June the 5th 1950, and delivered on behalf of the court by Mr Justice Burton, said:“The right to be free from unreasonable discriminations belongs to each particular person.”

The reason I mention this is that Jawn Sandifer, one of the lawyers in that case, died last Friday at the age of 92. Sandifer, who was born in North Carolina,  stayed with the N.A.A.C.P  for over a decade after that victory, and he eventually served as a judge, first New York Civil Court,  and later in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, from 1964 to 1992. Here is how the New York Times marked his passing away.


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