Desegregating the Jim Crow North: Racial Discrimination in the Postwar Bronx and the Fight to Integrate the Castle Hill Beach Club (1953-1973)

By Purnell, Brian | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Desegregating the Jim Crow North: Racial Discrimination in the Postwar Bronx and the Fight to Integrate the Castle Hill Beach Club (1953-1973)


Purnell, Brian, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


On a brisk, bright afternoon in late March 1953, Anita Brown, a thirty-one year old housewife, left her apartment in the Bronx River Houses, boarded a city bus and traveled three miles southeast to the Castle Hill Beach Club (CHBC). She went to apply for a seasonal membership pass, which would have given her access to the club's pools, locker areas, picnic spaces, eateries and athletic fields. If the CHBC approved Mrs. Brown's application, she would have been the first black person admitted since the club opened its doors to the public in 1928. (2)

Anita Brown had acted boldly that morning. An African American attempting to integrate a predominantly white social club in the New York City in 1953 was not commonplace. Twentieth century New York is not often thought of as a city defined by its racial tensions or patterns of racial segregation. (3) Still, New York's social development throughout the first half of the twentieth century is emblematic of the forms of racial animosities in America's northern cities that created segregated housing patterns, influenced discriminatory hiring practices and blanketed many everyday interracial interactions with discomfort and sometimes downright hostility, as occurred during Harlem's riots in 1935 and 1943. (4)

Those moments of violence, combined with the democratic spirit of the nation's wartime ethos, inspired the passage of the country's first permanent anti-discrimination legislation and the creation of the first state-level anti-discrimination oversight and investigative commission, the State Commission Against Discrimination (SCAD). Not since Reconstruction had a state acted so boldly to address racial discrimination. (5) Still, racial bigots thrived in many postwar New York City neighborhoods and large sections of its labor market. Anita Brown's story reflects these trends. "I was given an application to fill out," Brown later testified in a SCAD hearing, "and was informed that they had no vacancies at the moment." The membership staff told her that if an opening in the club became available at a later date, they would notify her and process her application. (6) Anita Brown's neighbor, Ethel Lubarsky, who was white, arrived at the CHBC membership office the same time as Brown. Lubarsky submitted her application and paid the required $5 deposit. The staff immediately assigned her a locker number and issued a key and a temporary admissions pass. After the women chatted about what had transpired at the CHBC, Anita Brown suspected that she had been the victim of racial discrimination. On April 6, with still no word from the CHBC regarding her admission application, Anita Brown filed a complaint with SCAD against the CHBC, which set in motion a ten-year process to desegregate the club's facilities. (7)

The history of the Castle Hill Beach Club's discrimination against blacks provides a small, but significant window through which to view the history of Jim Crow racism in the postwar North. For far too long, Americans have ignored the ways twentieth-century racism was a national, not merely a regional, phenomenon. Part of the problem has been the de jure/de facto dichotomy, which understood the South's legally enforced (de jure) racial segregation as evidence of that region's peculiar character. When viewed through the de jure paradigm, Jim Crow racism was merely another example of how the South's society was out of step with the rest of the country. On the other hand, the de facto paradigm presents discernable signs of racial segregation in public schools and residential communities in the North as a result of individuals' natural choices, not codified law. When viewed through this lens, the North's racial segregation seems benign and unfortunate, but nonetheless unavoidable in a free society where people chose their neighbors and where public school students attended neighborhood schools. According to this dichotomy, racism in the North was considered to be more subtle and insidious than racism in the South, and therefore impossible to identify and eradicate.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Desegregating the Jim Crow North: Racial Discrimination in the Postwar Bronx and the Fight to Integrate the Castle Hill Beach Club (1953-1973)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.