On March 30, 1964, four months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his Civil Rights Act finally entered into the Senate for debate only to be filibustered for over two months. In late May, just a few blocks from the Texas School Book Depository, Clarence Broadnax decided to grab a late lunch at the Piccadilly Cafeteria in downtown Dallas. Upon standing in line, he was quickly approached by employees and told that black people weren’t served at the Piccadilly, but Broadnax refused to leave and was taken to jail. Released immediately, he returned to the Piccadilly and was arrested a second time. This time, they held him until the restaurant closed. Upon returning to the closed Piccadilly, he was met with local reporters and interviewed about the incident. Dallas NAACP leader, Juanita Craft, saw the interview and contacted Clarence that night to organize an estimated 350 protesters to meet him at the Piccadilly the following day, May 30th.
Protesters gathered at the Piccadilly Cafeteria for 28 straight days. Led by Broadnax, along with the Reverend Earl Allen and Bishop College student Ted Armstrong, they endured several injunctions to leave, along with hundreds of counter-protestors, including the Jaycees of Dallas and Mississippi who marched a street-wide Confederate flag down Commerce Street.
During the protests, on June 19, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed both houses of Congress. Following an agreement made by the manager of the Piccadilly Cafeteria and Rev. Allen, the demonstrations ceased on June 27. On July 2, President Johnson signed the act into law.
We were excited to re-discover this footage and we hope that it will shed new light on an often forgotten portion of the Civil Rights Movement in North Texas. We are happy to report that footage of the Piccadilly Cafeteria protests will eventually be included in the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s new “Upstanders” exhibit upon the opening of their new permanent location.
View additional footage of the Piccadilly protests and their corresponding news scripts in the NBC 5/KXAS (WBAP) News Collection.
View a 2008 panel discussion at the Sixth Floor Museum featuring Rev. Allen and Mr. Broadnax