Becoming America Year 3

Primary Source Page

Inmaculada Peters

Inma's Lesson page

Blacks at Harvard: a documentary history of African-American experience at ...
By Werner Sollors, Caldwell Titcomb, Thomas A. Underwood

In the spring of 1893 a Negro at Harvard Law School named William H. Lewis - a brilliant scholar and later an All-American football player as well -- was twice denied service at a Harvard Square barbershop. Within the Yard, though, there seemed to be remarkably little prejudice. -- quoted from The Guardian of Boston: William Monroe Trotter (1970).

Information regrading the Barbershop Incident in May 1893.

Bill was denied a haircut because of his color.

Fighting Bill Lewis from the History Channel - story about barber

Harvard Crimson Articles:
Obituary : 1/3/1949 -
Article about Barbershop incident: 5/26/1893 -

Great Biography of William H. Lewis - around the time of his being appointed Asst. Attorney General in Boston:
Article from the Critic entitled Boston Letter - see paragraph 3 - June 3, 1893 - Mention of barbershop incident -

On June 16, 1897, William H. Lewis was a speaker at the funeral of the Governor Andrew - Check out paragraph 12 where he discusses the haircut incident -

From "In Freedom's Birthplace: A study of the Boston Negroes" by John Daniels
published in 1914

In 1893, William H. Lewis, a young Negro then attending Harvard University Law School, and an ardent recruit to the ranks of the agitators for equality, was refused service in a barber shop in Cambridge.^ He and Wilson went before the Legislature and asked that not only barber shops, but all places open to public patronage, be included in the scope of the law. The Act of 1885 was in consequence amended, and made to include "barber shops or other public places kept for hire, gain, or reward, whether licensed or not."^ The ast revision of the law was made two years later. It
increased the maximum fine to three hundred dollars, made imprisonment of not more than one year an alternative or additional penalty, and provided also for the recovery of damages, of not less than twenty-five nor more than three hundred dollars, by the person subjected to discrimination.^

By 1895, therefore, the Negro's civil rights — that is, his share in all public privileges of whatever sort — had been made fully equal, in Boston and Massachusetts, to those of other elements of the community. So far as it was possible for the law to accomplish, all obstacles to the Negro's largest opportunity were removed, and he was placed abreast of his white fellow-citizens.
  • Acts and Resolves, 1885, chap. 316.

More information from this book - secondary Primary Source page

Tie in to the Great Migration -

check out Kerri's Summer Institute day 3 -
wiki entry - Blog Entry
Information from Day 3 of the Summer Institute includes information about Mr. Lewis and what Boston was like in the 1890s thru 1920's

Also Kerri's Fall Seminar - seminar #5 -

New York Times and Boston Globe Newspaper articles about William Henry Lewis -

Amherst’s football team in 1891. Holding the ball is William Henry Lewis, Class of 1892. At the time, he and classmate William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson (top row, third from left) were the only African-Americans to play football at a predominantly white college.

external image William_H._Lewis_%281892%29.jpg

All-American Football lists - Lewis named to the 1892 and 1893 teams for Harvard -

Amherst Magazine Article Blazing the Trail
Mass Historical Society - with picture of him as lawyer

William H. Lewis arguing case in court. Image from BPL via Mass Historical society web page -

News article - gets high office
From Amherst College magazine article on Lewis -

Correspondence between William H. Lewis and W.E.B. Du Bois - June 21, 1912 mentions going to 20th Reunion at Amherst

From the Massachusetts Bar Association -
Massachusetts Law Review
A Brief History of African-Americans on the Superior Court*
By Julian T. Houston

The experience of the great African-American trial lawyer, William Henry Lewis, provides a painful illustration of the injustice. Lewis, a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, as well as the first black All-American football player, was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 as the first black assistant United States attorney in American history. Assigned to the Boston office, his first prosecution was United States v. James Michael Curley for defrauding the Civil Service Commission, a trial which he won handily. The jury took 90 minutes to return a guilty verdict and Lewis's career as a trial lawyer was launched. In 1911, Lewis was appointed by President William Howard Taft as an assistant attorney general in the United States Department of Justice, becoming the first black sub-cabinet officer in American history. Plagued by racial prejudice throughout his tenure in Washington, however, Lewis resigned in the spring of 1913 and returned to Boston to enter the private practice of law. After learning that the lame-duck governor, Eugene Foss, like Lewis a Republican, had a vacancy to fill on the superior court before Foss's term expired, Lewis set out to secure the appointment. He traveled to New Haven and met privately with former President Taft. Taft agreed to write a letter to Foss recommending Lewis for the vacancy; however, the letter, which warned Foss that he would have to decide "breathing the atmosphere of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts … whether the time has come to take a step which would be a radical one," provided only lukewarm support. Lewis later met with Foss and was hopeful to the end, but Foss never made the appointment. According to Edith Porton, Lewis's former secretary, "Mr. Lewis never got over it."4

Yale - wiki - lesson 9-12 on WHLewis

Negro thought in America, 1880-1915: racial ideologies in the age of Booker ... By August Meier

Law notes, Volume 15

interesting - look in the right hand column and a lawyer was appointed to the Supreme Bench.
Then look at William H. Lewis' appointment and it mentions his color.

Harvard Crimson Archives for 1893