Protest at the Majestic Theater
Civil Rights activist in San Antonio turned their attention to integrating the city’s motion picture theaters. On February 12, 1961, college students organized a stand-in at the downtown Majestic Theater (1). Theaters typically admitted blacks through a “colored” entrance and required them to sit in the balcony.
Twenty- five white or Hispanic students paired with black would attempt to buy tickets at the main entrance. When the blacks were refused admittance into the theater, the pair would move to the end of the line and start the process again (2). This non-violent protest tied up the lines at the theater for three hours. The protest caused no arrest and no change in policy had occurred that day.
Similar stand-ins also occurred in March, June, and July. The stand-ins did disrupt business and bring attention to the issue, but the stand-ins themselves did not bring about change (3). Committees negotiated for integration, and after about a year, were granted a trial desegregation.
Mixed groups of blacks and whites were allowed to buy tickets and sit anywhere in the theater in December of 1961. No public outcry occurred, turning the trial desegregation into permanent desegregation at the Majestic (4). The other twenty-seven theaters of San Antonio soon followed the Majestic.
Non-violent protest and patience worked.
1,2,3,4 Goldberg, Robert A. “Racial Changes on the Southern Periphery: The Case of San Antonio, Texas, 1960-1965.” The Journal of Southern History 49 (August 1983): 349-374