Interview with Dr. John O. Brown

You were involved in CORE during the early years of the desegregation effort here in Miami. Tell me that story about the royal castle and the --


Oh, we had a real time here in, in Miami with CORE. Originally the, the emphasis on, in the Civil Rights Movement was based around the legal decisions that were rendered in the NAACP cases. Ah, the school suit, I was involved in the school desegregation seat[SIC] suit, ah, and the bus suit that we filed here, a golf suit was filed here and I became a participant in that also. But we found that only a handful of people were involved. So we were looking for an organization that would involve the people from the streets, the grassroots movement. And after investigating, we found the answer to be in the organization called CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality and we immediately started our sit-ins, the first sit-ins that we had here were at McCrory's and W.T. Grants and I'm proud to say that these sit-ins occurred prior to the student sit-ins that occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina. Of course that was the student sit-in movement. Ours involved grown-ups and people, mainly professionals, here in the City of Miami, and another interesting point was that over half the individuals who were involved in these sit-ins in Miami were White, not just, not just Black alone. And, ah, after we started in the ten cent stores we decided to take the Royal Castle chain which was a hamburger chain. And, ah, we didn't meet the resistance that you found in the, what you would call the deep South, although Miami is deeper South than any of the rest of them, ah, that was because of for several reasons. Miami was the glitzy city, you know, and it's basic industry was tourism. And everybody came to Miami to have a good time and the city fathers did not want to see any trouble spots here. We wanted a trouble-free area. We could not project the nation an area where we were having racial violence. And they did everything in the world to keep everything quiet. And we did not meet the resistance here. At the Royal Castles, we would go in, the first couple of times, we would go in and buy approximately 40 or 50 hamburgers and as the manager said, "you're going to have a good time tonight aren't you?" And we said, "we sure are." Then the next thing, you'd look up and see 40 or 50 people with the hamburger in their hands, sitting at his counters. The police would come and they would ask, "well what are you crying about?" He says, "these people are sitting here," he says, "well what, where did they get the hamburgers?" "Did you sell them to them?" He said, "Yep, I sold it to them." He says, "well you have nothing to complain about to him. You sold them the hamburgers." So then it went down to the point where we would have to send in one or two people to get one or two hamburgers and have about 40 or 50 people in the parking lot. As soon as we would get a sufficient number of hamburgers then we would all storm in again. So it became sort of like a cat and mouse game. So there were those little times that it was almost, it was, it was humorous. And although the penalty could have been death at that time because it was, it was still a tense situation here in Miami.


Stop now.