Sewanee Inn

The Sewanee Inn and Claramont Restaurant, facilities operating on land owned by the University, refused lodging and food to all African Americans. Under pressure from organizations such as ESCRU and its own faculty and staff, the Board of Trustees of the University made a limited attempt to encourage the operator, Mrs. Clara Shoemate, to discontinue her policy of segregation. Events came to a head in June of 1961 when a group of white trustees, clergy, and faculty members, accompanied by a group of black graduate students, attempted to have a meal at the restaurant. All were refused service and as a result, ESCRU issued a public call for a ‘sit-in’ at the restaurant to protest Mrs. Shoemate’s actions and policies. Although the ‘sit-in’ was supported by many of the faculty and students at the University, many called for gradual desegregation in contrast with ESCRU’s immediate approach. To avoid the penalties of law imposed by the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s, Mrs. Shoemate closed both her hotel and restaurant in defiance. [Sources]