"Another Victory for the Forces of Democracy": The 1949 New Jersey Civil Rights Act
- Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 85, Number 3, Summer 2018
- pp. 362-393
- Additional Information
In the middle decades of the twentieth century, African Americans in New Jersey, like those in neighboring northeastern states, suffered pervasive discrimination in public accommodations, employment, housing, and education. This was true despite the fact that New Jersey lacked the state-mandated segregation common south of the Mason-Dixon line, and also that state civil rights laws in force since the 1870s ostensibly barred most such discrimination. Beginning in the late 1930s, activists in the NAACP and allied organizations began a concerted effort to overturn segregation throughout the state. Inspired by the nation's battle against tyranny abroad during World War II and prompted by fair employment measures enacted by New York and the federal government, these advocates pressed for truly effective civil rights legislation. Supportive state officials (notably Governor Alfred Driscoll), after desegregating public schools via the new state constitution of 1947, enacted a sweeping civil rights bill in 1949 banning discrimination in public accommodations and gave enforcement power to a potent state agency. This opened hotels, restaurants, and other amenities to minorities so effectively that New Jersey's actions provided a model later followed by Pennsylvania, New York, and other neighboring states.