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Harris v. Sutro: An Early Civil Rights Battle at Sutro Baths


Thursday, July 29 | 4:00 pm 5:30 pm

In this virtual talk, Elaine Elinson will present the little known case of Harris v. Sutro, where John Harris challenged segregation.

About this event

On August 1, 1897, the headlines of all three major newspapers in San Francisco announced an unusual story – John Harris sued Adolph Sutro over the color bar at the Sutro Baths.

Harris, an African American, charged that he was not allowed in the pools at Sutro Baths solely on the basis of his race.

He filed – and won – his lawsuit just one year after the United States Supreme Court ruled in the infamous Plessey v. Ferguson case that racial segregation was the law of the land.

What made this courageous man – backed by others who had fought for years for the rights of African Americans in California – stand up to a color bar imposed at San Francisco’s top new amusement center, the Sutro Baths, owned by the powerful former Mayor of San Francisco?

Working with the National Park service, writer Elaine Elinson dug deep into the archives and uncovered material that reveals a straight line from the Civil War to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the law in force in California today that prohibits discrimination on racial, gender, religious, and ethnic grounds.

Join us for a presentation on the little known – but historically significant – case of Harris v. Sutro, John Harris’s bold challenge to racial segregation.

**This event will be on Zoom. You will receive instructions 24 hours before the event on July 28th at 4PM. If you register after 4PM on July 28th, then the instructions will be emailed at 3PM the day of the event, an hour before the event starts. Please note all times are Pacific Standard Time.**

This virtual event is sponsored by the California State Library Foundation.

Register Here

About the Speaker

Elaine Elinson

Elaine Elinson

Elaine Elinson was the communications director of the ACLU of Northern California and editor of the ACLU News for more than two decades. She is a coauthor of Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines, which was banned by the Marcos regime. Her articles have been published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the San Francisco ChronicleThe NationPoets and Writers, and numerous other periodicals. She is married to journalist Rene CiriaCruz and they have one son.


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