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We the People    Separate But Not Equal

Nebraska's promise of "Equality Before the Law" is one that has often gone unfulfilled.

For most of its history Nebraska separated black and white races by both law and social practice.

You Can't Live Here
In the 1920s when the Sheridan Park addition in Lincoln was developed, most of the parcels of land carried restrictive covenants prohibiting their sale to people other than Caucasians.

The owners of these houses in the Rathbone development in Lincoln, which were built around 1920, agreed to the development's covenant that forbid renting or selling to non-Caucasians.

A warranty deed between Rathbone Carpenter Company and Clarence E. Peterson, September 28, 1922. Section six is the race covenant.

        6. For a period of fifty years from the date of this deed, no person of other than the Caucasian race shall be or become the grantee or lessee of said property or, except as a servant in the family living thereon, be granted the privilege of occupying the same.

All that we know about this sign is based on the evidence it presents.  We know it is old. Marks on the back indicate it is cast glass, as opposed to the more modern rolled glass. Fine cutting marks indicate that skilled craftsmanship, and not a machine, was responsible for the final shape. Residue of the framing material around the edges of the front of the glass suggests it was used, as does the glue on the back.

Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co. was an organization unique to Lincoln, Nebraska, so it was likely used there. But when? A good estimate would be in the late 1920s. Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co. first introduced phone booths in 1923, a time when Lincoln had sharp division between racial and ethnic groups.

In many businesses no signs were needed.
At Kresge's, black people knew that they could buy food at the lunch counter, but could not eat it there.

The swimming pool at Omaha's Peony Park was strictly segregated until 1963.
Originally established as a gas station and café on the Lincoln Highway, Peony evolved into an extravagant amusement park. In the 1950s the park's policy of segregation came under fire, both with pickets and legal action. Peony Park closed in 1993.

Serve Your Country, Separately
During World War II the military was segregated,
and so were the services offered men and women in uniform. In Lincoln there were two USO canteens about two blocks apart: one for whites, and one for blacks. While federal troops were desegregated by President Harry Truman in 1948, the state-based Nebraska National Guard did not desegregate until 1957.

Photographer's note: African-American military personnel and others at a V-J celebration at the colored USO club, 212 S. 12th Street, Lincoln, September 22, 1945.
Photographer's note: Soldiers at the white USO club on March 4, 1944.
Photographer's note: African-American military personnel relaxing "in a lounge at the colored United Services Organization club, 212 S. 12th Street, Lincoln on September 22, 1945."
Photographer's note: Soldiers doing their laundry at the white USO club at 137 S. 13th Street, Lincoln, on March 7, 1944.

The Long Hot Summers
In the mid 1960s Omaha's packing houses began to close, and with them went the jobs that paid African-Americans a living wage. Most of the few remaining jobs opened to blacks were low paying and demeaning. Many businesses with substantial black clientele-like Coca Cola, the bus company, and many North Omaha eating establishments-refused to hire black employees.

Many businesses refused to serve blacks, and many others that did required that blacks come to the back of the building to obtain services.

Housing was likewise segregated. Banks, real estate companies, and insurance companies restricted areas in the city where services were provided to African-Americans, confining that population to North Omaha. The segregation of housing created segregated schools.

In 1966, 1968, and 1969 the racial tension in Omaha erupted into riots that caught the attention of the nation.

"Omaha, Aug 27 [1963] - MODEL PLAN DISCUSSED - Peter Kiewit, head of a worldwide construction firm and chairman of the employment subcommittee of Omaha's bi-racial committee, tells Omaha business leaders about a plan for hiring from minority groups, which he said could be a model for all cities. Others at the speaker's table (left to right) are: Committee members Dick Coyne, Fred P. Curtis, The Rev. Edward S. Foust, vice chairman Morris Jacobs, Kiewit.
Associated Press Photo Caption

"Omaha, July 8 [1963] - CIVIL RIGHTS MARCH - A predominately Negro group of about 150 marchers passes the front entrance of Omaha's Sheraton-Fontenelle Hotel during a peaceful demonstration against a 58-member bi-racial committee formed by Mayor James Dworak which held its initial meeting today. The Rev. Rudolph McNair (right) said his group feels the mayor's committee is too large to be effective. At McNair's side is the Rev. Kelsey Jones, and behind and between them is one of the white participants, the Rev. Fr. John Markoe, S.J., associate professor of mathematics at Creighton University.
Associated Press Photo Caption

"OMAHA, Neb., A contingent of Nebraska National Guardsmen prepare to move through an area on the Near North Side here, to help police disperse a crowd of jeering Negroes. It was the third straight night of disturbances in the area.
United Press International Photo Caption

"OMAHA, Neb: June 26 - SPECTATORS CONVERGE - A crowd gathers as firemen, protected by police, battle the flames from a burning business on Omaha's predominately Negro Near North Side Wednesday night where the second consecutive night of violence followed the fatal shooting by a white policeman of a 14 year old girl.
(AP Wirephoto) 1969."
Associated Press Photo Caption

"6/25/69 - OMAHA, Neb. - Omaha Policeman James Loder, 30, an adopted son of Hedy Lamarr, Wednesday was charged with manslaughter in the death of Vivian Strong, 14, (right). Vivian was shot once in the skull.
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL TELEPHOTO" United Press International Photo Caption

This killing on June 24, 1969, incited rioting and looting across the city of Omaha for the next week. Strong had been part of a crowd of onlookers watching the police investigation of a store break-in. When Strong and several other teens suddenly ran from the main group, Loder opened fire, hitting Strong in the back of the head. Loder was charged with manslaughter, but ultimately was acquitted.

"OMAHA, NEB., June 27 - RIDING SHOTGUN - Omaha policemen rode with firemen to combat sporadic fires last night in the predominantly Negro near northside. The violence in the city was apparently touched off last Tuesday by the shooting to death of a Negro 14 year old girl by a white policeman. The policeman has been charged with manslaughter.
Associated Press Photo Caption

Virtual Exhibits


Nebraska Territory,
Slave or Free?

Citizens of the 37th State

First Nebraskans (1)

First Nebraskans (2)


Separate But Not Equal

Children and Youth

Accused and Convicted

A Matter of Faith


Shadow of Intolerance

    WWI Council of Defense

   1919 Riot

   Ku Klux Klan

   Red Scare

   Farm Belt Führer

   Sexual Orientation




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Last updated 4 January 2013

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