Meeting in the middle in Maryland: How international and domestic politics collided along Route 40
In 1961, African and Asian diplomats traveled Route 40 frequently between their United Nation's offices and their Washington D.C. offices. Many of the eateries along the Maryland section of the highway practiced segregation, causing a storm of international media coverage and criticism in the fall of 1961. As a result, the State Department created a special office, the Special Protocol Service Section (SPSS), under the auspices of the Department of Protocol. Pedro Sanjuan, head of the SPSS, used his position to promote desegregation along Route 40. When the State Department intervened in the Maryland debate over accommodations, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) used the opportunity to promote an open accommodations bill. Maryland had a long history of integrated activism and the Route 40 campaign is one in a history of campaigns to gain equal access to restaurants, stores, and other places of business. CORE planned a freedom ride to end segregation along the highway. Students from the east coast, divided into two caravans, volunteered to leave simultaneously from opposite sides of the Maryland strip of Route 40 on November 11, 1961. According to plan, the riders would stop at different eateries until they met in the middle, unless the restaurant owners voluntarily desegregated. The Maryland General Assembly failed to pass statewide open accommodations legislation; however most restaurant owners along the Route 40 corridor in Maryland voluntarily desegregated by February 1962. This thesis examines the different forces influencing the restaurateurs.
0337: American history