Protest against Discrimination at Mel's Drive-In, 1963
This is a picture of the Grand Opening of Mel's Drive In in December 1947
First Mel's Drive In opened in San Francisco near Mission street, seating over 75 people inside and 110 cars outside.
Protesters carry signs asking "Where are the Negro waitresses?" and encouraging would-be patrons to "drive out" instead of "drive in."
More than 100 protesters were arrested after they occupied all the seats in the restaurant and refused to leave until African Americans were hired for all positions.
Backstory and Context
In October 1963, the informal discrimination against African American workers and customers led to pickets and sit-ins against the restaurant and its owners. Although the restaurant certainly did not have any signs or official policies, yet it was well-known that Harold Dobbs only hired African Americans as kitchen help.
Formal protests against the restaurant began in October 1963, when students mostly from the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco State, came together to protest the informal but seemingly universal rules against hiring African Americans as servers. This protest continued until the first week of November, and was the largest of its kind in San Francisco.
The sit-ins may have been the reason why the mayoral candidacy of owner Harold Dobbs was not successful. The protest seems to have been effective, as the restaurant soon began hiring Black workers for all positions and made a point to quickly hire a few African Americans for "front-of-the-house' positions as a way to end the pickets and protests.
Groesbeck, Mark. Mels: The True Story Of The World’s Most Famous Drive-In (Part 1). Deep Roots Magazine. Accessed April 02, 2017. http://deeprootsmag.org/2013/07/23/mels-the-true-story-of-the-worlds-most-famous-drive-in-part-1/.
Mel's Drive-In Pickets. SF State University. Accessed April 02, 2017. http://online.sfsu.edu/socialj/Mels.html.