U.S. Supreme Court

BELL v. MARYLAND, 378 U.S. 226 (1964)

378 U.S. 226

No. 12.
Argued October 14-15, 1963.
Decided June 22, 1964.

Petitioners, Negro "sit-in" demonstrators, were asked to leave a Baltimore restaurant solely because of their race, refused to do so, and were convicted of violating Maryland's criminal trespass law. The convictions were affirmed by the highest state court. Subsequent to that affirmance, and prior to disposition of the case on writ of certiorari in this Court, the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland enacted "public accommodations" laws, applicable to Baltimore, making it unlawful for restaurants to deny their services to any person because of his race. Held: The judgments of the Maryland Court of Appeals are vacated and reversed and the case is remanded to that court, so that it may consider whether the convictions should be nullified in view of the supervening change in state law.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, 12 Negro students, were convicted in a Maryland state court as a result of their participation in a "sit-in" demonstration at Hooper's restaurant in the City of Baltimore in 1960. The convictions were based on a record showing in summary that a group of 15 to 20 Negro students, including petitioners, went to Hooper's restaurant to engage in what their counsel describes as a "sit-in protest" because the restaurant would not serve Negroes. The "hostess," on orders of Mr. Hooper, the president of the corporation owning the restaurant, told them. "solely on the basis of their color," that they would not be served. Petitioners did not leave when requested to by the hostess and the manager; instead they went to tables, took seats, and refused to leave, insisting that they be served. On orders of Mr. Hooper the police were called, but they advised that a warrant would be necessary before they could arrest petitioners. Mr. Hooper then went to the police station and swore out warrants, and petitioners were accordingly arrested.

The statute under which the convictions were obtained was the Maryland criminal trespass law, 577 of Art. 27 of the Maryland Code, 1957 edition, under which it is a misdemeanor to "enter upon or cross over the land, premises or private property of any person or persons in this State after having been duly notified by the owner or his agent not to do so." The convictions were affirmed by the Maryland Court of Appeals, 227 Md. 302, 176 A. 2d 771 (1962), and we granted certiorari. 374 U.S. 805 .

We do not reach the questions that have been argued under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. It appears that a significant change has taken place in the applicable law of Maryland since these convictions were affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Under this Court's settled practice in such circumstances, the judgments must consequently be vacated and reversed and the case remanded so that the state court may consider the effect of the supervening change in state law.


MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG concurs as respects Parts II-V, for reversing and directing dismissal of the indictment.


I reach the merits of this controversy. The issue is ripe for decision and petitioners, who have been convicted of asking for service in Hooper's restaurant, are entitled to an answer to their complaint here and now.


The whole Nation has to face the issue; Congress is conscientiously considering it; some municipalities have had to make it their first order of concern; law enforcement officials are deeply implicated, North as well as South; the question is at the root of demonstrations, unrest, riots, and violence in various areas. The issue in other words consumes the public attention. Yet we stand mute, avoiding decision of the basic issue by an obvious pretense.

The clash between Negro customers and white restaurant owners is clear; each group claims protection by the Constitution and tenders the Fourteenth Amendment as justification for its action. Yet we leave resolution of the conflict to others, when, if our voice were heard, the issues for the Congress and for the public would become clear and precise. The Court was created to sit in troubled times as well as in peaceful days.

There is a school of thought that our adjudication of a constitutional issue should be delayed and postponed as long as possible. That school has had many stout defenders and ingenious means have at times been used to avoid constitutional pronouncements. Yet judge-made rules, fashioned to avoid decision of constitutional questions, largely forget what Chief Justice Marshall wrote in Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87, 137-138:

"Whatever respect might have been felt for the state sovereignties, it is not to be disguised that the framers of the constitution viewed, with some apprehension, the violent acts which might grow out of the feelings of the moment; and that the people of the United States, in adopting that instrument, have manifested a determination to shield themselves and their property from the effects of those sudden and strong passions to which men are exposed. The restrictions on the legislative power of the states are obviously founded in this sentiment; and the constitution of the United States contains what may be deemed a bill of rights for the people of each state."

Much of our history has shown that what Marshall said of the encroachment of legislative power on the rights of the people is true also of the encroachment of the judicial branch, as where state courts use unconstitutional procedures to convict people or make criminal what is beyond the reach of the States. I think our approach here should be that of Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177-178, where the Court spoke with authority though there was an obviously easy way to avoid saying anything:

"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.

"So if a law be in opposition to the constitution; if both the law and the constitution apply to a particular case, so that the court must either decide that case conformably to the law, disregarding the constitution; or conformably to the constitution, disregarding the law; the court must determine which of these conflicting rules governs the case. This is of the very essence of judicial duty."

We have in this case a question that is basic to our way of life and fundamental in our constitutional scheme. No question preoccupies the country more than this one;   it is plainly justiciable; it presses for a decision one way or another; we should resolve it. The people should know that when filibusters occupy other forums, when oppressions are great, when the clash of authority between the individual and the State is severe, they can still get justice in the courts. When we default, as we do today, the prestige of law in the life of the Nation is weakened.

For these reasons I reach the merits; and I vote to reverse the judgments of conviction outright.


The issue in this case, according to those who would affirm, is whether a person's "personal prejudices" may dictate the way in which he uses his property and whether he can enlist the aid of the State to enforce those "personal prejudices." With all respect, that is not the real issue. The corporation that owns this restaurant did not refuse service to these Negroes because "it" did not like Negroes. The reason "it" refused service was because "it" thought "it" could make more money by running a segregated restaurant.

In the instant case, G. Carroll Hooper, president of the corporate chain owning the restaurant here involved, testified concerning the episode that gave rise to these convictions. The reasons were wholly commercial ones:

"I set at the table with him and two other people and reasoned and talked to him why my policy was not yet one of integration and told him that I had two hundred employees and half of them were colored. I thought as much of them as I did the white employees. I invited them back in my kitchen if they'd like to go back and talk to them. I wanted to prove to them it wasn't my policy, my personal prejudice, we were not, that I had valuable colored employees and I thought just as much of them. I tried to reason with these leaders, told them that as long as my customers were the deciding who they want to eat with, I'm at the mercy of my customers. I'm trying to do what they want. If they fail to come in, these people are not paying my expenses, and my bills. They didn't want to go back and talk to my colored employees because every one of them are in sympathy with me and that is we're in sympathy with what their objectives are, with what they are trying to abolish . . . ." (Italics added.)

Here, as in most of the sit-in cases before us, the refusal of service did not reflect "personal prejudices" but business reasons. Were we today to hold that segregated restaurants, whose racial policies were enforced by a State, violated the Equal Protection Clause, all restaurants would be on an equal footing and the reasons given in this and most of the companion cases for refusing service to Negroes would evaporate. Moreover, when corporate restaurateurs are involved, whose "personal prejudices" are being protected? The stockholders'? The directors'? The officers'? The managers'? The truth is, I think, that the corporate interest is in making money, not in protecting "personal prejudices."


I leave those questions to another part of this opinion and turn to an even more basic issue.

I now assume that the issue is the one stated by those who would affirm. The case in that posture deals with a relic of slavery - an institution that has cast a long shadow across the land, resulting today in a second-class citizenship in this area of public accommodations.

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments had "one pervading purpose . . . we mean the freedom of the slave race, the security and firm establishment of that freedom, and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppressions of those who had formerly exercised unlimited dominion over him." Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 71.

Prior to those Amendments, Negroes were segregated and disallowed the use of public accommodations except and unless the owners chose to serve them. To affirm these judgments would remit those Negroes to their old status and allow the States to keep them there by the force of their police and their judiciary.

We deal here with public accommodations - with the right of people to eat and travel as they like and to use facilities whose only claim to existence is serving the public. What the President said in his State of the Union Message on January 8, 1964, states the constitutional right of all Americans, regardless of race or color, to be treated equally by all branches of government:

"Today Americans of all races stand side by side in Berlin and in Vietnam.

"They died side by side in Korea.

"Surely they can work and eat and travel side by side in their own country."

The Black Codes were a substitute for slavery; segregation was a substitute for the Black Codes; the discrimination in these sit-in cases is a relic of slavery. 4  

The Fourteenth Amendment says "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." The Fourteenth Amendment also makes every person who is born here a citizen; and there is no second or third or fourth class of citizenship. See, e. g., Schneider v. Rusk, 377 U.S. 163, 168 .

We deal here with incidents of national citizenship. As stated in the Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 71-72, concerning the federal rights resting on the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments:

". . . no one can fail to be impressed with the one pervading purpose found in them all, lying at the foundation of each, and without which none of them would have been even suggested; we mean the freedom of the slave race, the security and firm establishment of that freedom, and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppressions of those who had formerly exercised unlimited dominion over him. It is true that only the fifteenth amendment, in terms, mentions the negro by speaking of his color and his slavery. But it is just as true that each of the other articles was addressed to the grievances of that race, and designed to remedy them as the fifteenth."

When we deal with Amendments touching the liberation of people from slavery, we deal with rights "which owe their existence to the Federal government, its National character, its Constitution, or its laws." Id., at 79. We are not in the field of exclusive municipal regulation where federal intrusion might "fetter and degrade the State governments by subjecting them to the control of Congress, in the exercise of powers heretofore universally conceded to them of the most ordinary and fundamental character." Id., at 78.




The problem in this case, and in the other sit-in cases before us, is presented as though it involved the situation of "a private operator conducting his own business on his own premises and exercising his own judgment" as to whom he will admit to the premises.

The property involved is not, however, a man's home or his yard or even his fields. Private property is involved, but it is property that is serving the public. As my Brother GOLDBERG says, it is a "civil" right, not a "social" right, with which we deal. Here it is a restaurant refusing service to a Negro. But so far as principle and law are concerned it might just as well be a hospital refusing admission to a sick or injured Negro (cf. Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, 323 F.2d 959), or a drugstore refusing antibiotics to a Negro, or a bus denying transportation to a Negro, or a telephone company refusing to install a telephone in a Negro's home.

The problem with which we deal has no relation to opening or closing the door of one's home. The home of course is the essence of privacy, in no way dedicated to public use, in no way extending an invitation to the public. Some businesses, like the classical country store where the owner lives overhead or in the rear, make the store an extension, so to speak, of the home. But such is not this case. The facts of these sit-in cases have little resemblance to any institution of property which we customarily associate with privacy.


There is no specific provision in the Constitution which protects rights of privacy and enables restaurant owners to refuse service to Negroes. The word "property" is, indeed, not often used in the Constitution, though as a matter of experience and practice we are committed to free enterprise. The Fifth Amendment makes it possible to take "private property" for public use only on payment of "just compensation." The ban on quartering soldiers in any home in time of peace, laid down by the Third Amendment, is one aspect of the right of privacy. The Fourth Amendment in its restrictions on searches and seizures also sets an aura of privacy around private interests. And the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments lay down the command that no person shall be deprived "of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." (Italics added.) From these provisions those who would affirm find emanations that lead them to the conclusion that the private owner of a restaurant serving the public can pick and choose whom he will serve and restrict his dining room to whites only.

Apartheid, however, is barred by the common law as respects innkeepers and common carriers.


The debates on the Fourteenth Amendment show, as my Brother GOLDBERG points out, that one of its purposes was to grant the Negro "the rights and guarantees of the good old common law." Post, at 294. The duty of common carriers to carry all, regardless of race, creed, or color, was in part the product of the inventive genius of judges. See Lombard v. Louisiana, 373 U.S., at 275 -277. We should make that body of law the common law of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments so to speak. Restaurants in the modern setting are as essential to travelers as inns and carriers.

Are they not as much affected with a public interest? Is the right of a person to eat less basic than his right to travel, which we protected in Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160 ? Does not a right to travel in modern times shrink in value materially when there is no accompanying right to eat in public places?

The right of any person to travel interstate irrespective of race, creed, or color is protected by the Constitution. Edwards v. California, supra. Certainly his right to travel intrastate is as basic. Certainly his right to eat at public restaurants is as important in the modern setting as the right of mobility. In these times that right is, indeed, practically indispensable to travel either interstate or intrastate.


The requirement of equal protection, like the guarantee of privileges and immunities of citizenship, is a constitutional command directed to each State.

State judicial action is as clearly "state" action as state administrative action. Indeed, we held in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 20 , that "State action, as that phrase is understood for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment, refers to exertions of state power in all forms."


Maryland's action against these Negroes was as authoritative as any case where the State in one way or another puts its full force behind a policy. The policy here was segregation in places of public accommodation; and Maryland enforced that policy with her police, her prosecutors, and her courts.


Segregation of Negroes in the restaurants and lunch counters of parts of America is a relic of slavery. It is a badge of second-class citizenship. It is a denial of a privilege and immunity of national citizenship and of the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment against abridgment by the States. When the state police, the state prosecutor, and the state courts unite to convict Negroes for renouncing that relic of slavery, the "State" violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

I would reverse these judgments of conviction outright, as these Negroes in asking for service in Hooper's restaurant were only demanding what was their constitutional right.

MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, and with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS joins as to Parts II-V, concurring.


I join in the opinion and the judgment of the Court and would therefore have no occasion under ordinary circumstances to express my views on the underlying constitutional issue. Since, however, the dissent at length discusses this constitutional issue and reaches a conclusion with which I profoundly disagree, I am impelled to state the reasons for my conviction that the Constitution guarantees to all Americans the right to be treated as equal members of the community with respect to public accommodations.


The Declaration of Independence states the American creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This ideal was not fully achieved with the adoption of our Constitution because of the hard and tragic reality of Negro slavery. The Constitution of the new Nation, while heralding liberty, in effect declared all men to be free and equal - except black men who were to be neither free nor equal. This inconsistency reflected a fundamental departure from the American creed, a departure which it took a tragic civil war to set right. With the adoption, however, of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, freedom and equality were guaranteed expressly to all regardless "of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214, 218 .


The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments do not permit Negroes to be considered as second-class citizens in any aspect of our public life. Under our Constitution distinctions sanctioned by law between citizens because of race, ancestry, color or religion "are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality." Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81, 100 . We make no racial distinctions between citizens in exacting from them the discharge of public responsibilities: The heaviest duties of citizenship - military service, taxation, obedience to laws - are imposed evenhandedly upon black and white. States may and do impose the burdens of state citizenship upon Negroes and the States in many ways benefit from the equal imposition of the duties of federal citizenship. Our fundamental law which insures such an equality of public burdens, in my view, similarly insures an equality of public benefits. This Court has repeatedly recognized and applied this fundamental principle to many aspects of community life. 3  


Of course our constitutional duty is "to construe, not to rewrite or amend, the Constitution." Post, at 342 (dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE BLACK). Our sworn duty to construe the Constitution requires, however, that we read it to effectuate the intent and purposes of the Framers. We must, therefore, consider the history and circumstances indicating what the Civil War Amendments were in fact designed to achieve.

In 1873, in one of the earliest cases interpreting the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, this Court observed:

"[N]o one can fail to be impressed with the one pervading purpose found in . . . all [these Amendments], lying at the foundation of each, and without which none of them would have been even suggested; we mean the freedom of the slave race, the security and firm establishment of that freedom, and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppressions of those who had formerly exercised unlimited dominion over him . . . ." Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 71.



The Fourteenth Amendment was in part designed to provide a firm constitutional basis for the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27, and to place that legislation beyond the power of congressional repeal. 7 The origins of subsequently proposed amendments and legislation lay in the 1866 bill and in a companion measure, the Freedmen's  Bureau bill. 8 The latter was addressed to States "wherein, in consequence of any State or local law, . . . custom, or prejudice, any of the civil rights or immunities belonging to white persons, including the right . . . to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and estate, are refused or denied to negroes . . . ." Cong. Globe., 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 318. A review of the relevant congressional debates reveals that the concept of civil rights which lay at the heart both of the contemporary legislative proposals and of the Fourteenth Amendment encompassed the right to equal treatment in public places - a right explicitly recognized to be a "civil" rather than a "social" right. It was repeatedly emphasized "that colored persons shall enjoy the same civil rights as white persons," that the colored man should have the right "to go where he pleases," that he should have "practical" freedom, and that he should share "the rights and guarantees of the good old common law."


Underlying the congressional discussions, and at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, was the assumption that the State by statute or by "the good old common law" was obligated to guarantee all citizens access to places of public accommodation. This obligation was firmly rooted in ancient Anglo-American tradition. In his work on bailments, Judge Story spoke of this tradition:

"An innkeeper is bound . . . to take in all travellers and wayfaring persons, and to entertain them, if he can accommodate them, for a reasonable compensation; and he must guard their goods with proper diligence. . . . If an innkeeper improperly refuses to receive or provide for a guest, he is liable to be indicted therefor. . . ." Story, Commentaries on the Law of Bailments (Schouler, 9th ed., 1878) 476. 17  

. . . . .

"The first and most general obligation on [carriers of passengers] is to carry passengers whenever they offer themselves, and are ready to pay for their transportation. This results from their setting themselves up, like innkeepers, and common carriers of goods, for a common public employment on hire. They are no more at liberty to refuse a passenger, if they have sufficient room and accommodations, than an innkeeper is to refuse suitable room and accommodations to a guest. . . ." Id., at 590, 591.



Evidence such as this demonstrates that Mr. Justice Harlan, dissenting in the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 26 , was surely correct when he observed:

"But what was secured to colored citizens of the United States - as between them and their respective States - by the national grant to them of State citizenship? With what rights, privileges, or immunities did this grant invest them? There is one, if there be no other - exemption from race discrimination in respect of any civil right belonging to citizens of the [378 U.S. 226, 303]   white race in the same State. That, surely, is their constitutional privilege when within the jurisdiction of other States. And such must be their constitutional right, in their own State, unless the recent amendments be splendid baubles, thrown out to delude those who deserved fair and generous treatment at the hands of the nation. Citizenship in this country necessarily imports at least equality of civil rights among citizens of every race in the same State. It is fundamental in American citizenship that, in respect of such rights, there shall be no discrimination by the State, or its officers, or by individuals or corporations exercising public functions or authority, against any citizen because of his race or previous condition of servitude." Id., at 48.

The Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, reacting against the Black Codes, 21 made certain that the States could not frustrate the guaranteed equality by enacting discriminatory legislation or by sanctioning discriminatory treatment. At no time in the consideration of the Amendment was it suggested that the States could achieve the same prohibited result by withdrawing the traditional right of access to public places. In granting Negroes citizenship and the equal protection of the laws, it was never thought that the States could permit the proprietors of inns and public places to restrict their general invitation to the public and to citizens in order to exclude [378 U.S. 226, 304]   the Negro public and Negro citizens. The Fourteenth Amendment was therefore cast in terms under which judicial power would come into play where the State withdrew or otherwise denied the guaranteed protection "from legal discriminations, implying inferiority in civil society, lessening the security of [the Negroes'] enjoyment of the rights which others enjoy . . . ." Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S., at 308 .

Thus a fundamental assumption of the Fourteenth Amendment was that the States would continue, as they had for ages, to enforce the right of citizens freely to enter public places. This assumption concerning the affirmative duty attaching to places of public accommodation was so rooted in the experience of the white citizenry that law and custom blended together indistinguishably. Thus it seemed natural for the Supreme Court of Mississippi, considering a public accommodations provision in a civil rights statute, to refer to "those customs which we call the common law, that have come down to us from the remote past," Donnell v. State, 48 Miss., at 680, and thus it seems significant that the various proposals for federal legislation often interchangeably referred to discriminatory acts done under "law" or under "custom." 23 In sum, then, it was understood that under the Fourteenth Amendment the duties of the proprietors of places of public accommodation would remain as they had long been and that the States would now be affirmatively obligated to insure that these rights ran to Negro as well as white citizens.

The Civil Rights Act of 1875, enacted seven years after the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically provided that all citizens must have "the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement . . ." 18 Stat. 335. The constitutionality of this federal legislation was reviewed by this Court in 1883 in the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 . The dissent in the present case purports to follow the "state action" concept articulated in that early decision. There the Court had declared that under the Fourteenth Amendment:

"It is State action of a particular character that is prohibited. Individual invasion of individual rights is not the subject-matter of the amendment. It has a deeper and broader scope. It nullifies and makes void all State legislation, and State action of every kind, which impairs the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, or which injures them in life, liberty or property without due process of law, or which denies to any of them the equal protection of the laws." 109 U.S., at 11 . (Emphasis added.)

Mr. Justice Bradley, writing for the Court over the strong dissent of Mr. Justice Harlan, held that a proprietor's racially motivated denial of equal access to a public accommodation did not, without more, involve state action. It is of central importance to the case at bar that the Court's decision was expressly predicated:

"on the assumption that a right to enjoy equal accommodation and privileges in all inns, public conveyances, and places of public amusement, is one of the essential rights of the citizen which no State can abridge or interfere with." Id., at 19.

The Court added that:

"Innkeepers and public carriers, by the laws of all the States, so far as we are aware, 24 are bound, to the extent of their facilities, to furnish proper accommodation to all unobjectionable persons who in good faith apply for them." Id., at 25. 25  

This assumption, whatever its validity at the time of the 1883 decision, has proved to be unfounded. Although reconstruction ended in 1877, six years before the Civil Rights Cases, there was little immediate action in the South to establish segregation, in law or in fact, in places of public accommodation. 26 This benevolent, or perhaps passive, attitude endured about a decade and then in the late 1880's States began to enact laws mandating unequal treatment in public places. 27 Finally, three-quarters of a century later, after this Court declared such legislative action invalid, some States began to utilize and make available their common law to sanction similar discriminatory treatment.


In the present case the responsibility of the judiciary in applying the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment is clear. The State of Maryland has failed to protect petitioners' constitutional right to public accommodations and is now prosecuting them for attempting to exercise that right. The decision of Maryland's highest court in sustaining these trespass convictions cannot be described as "neutral," for the decision is as affirmative in effect as if the State had enacted an unconstitutional law explicitly authorizing racial discrimination in places of public accommodation. A State, obligated under the Fourteenth Amendment to maintain a system of law in which Negroes are not denied protection in their claim to be treated as equal members of the community, may not use its criminal trespass laws to frustrate the constitutionally granted right. Nor, it should be added, may a State frustrate this right by legitimating a proprietor's attempt at self-help. To permit self-help would be to disregard the principle that "[t]oday, no less than 50 years ago, the solution to the problems growing out of race relations' cannot be promoted by depriving citizens of their constitutional rights and privileges,' Buchanan v. Warley . . . 245 U.S., at 80 -81." Watson v. City of Memphis, 358 U.S. 526, 539 . As declared in Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 16 , "law and order are not . . . to be preserved by depriving the Negro . . . of [his] constitutional rights."



My Brother DOUGLAS convincingly demonstrates that the dissent has constructed a straw man by suggesting that this case involves "a property owner's right to choose his social or business associates." Post, at 343. The restaurant involved in this case is concededly open to a large segment of the public. Restaurants such as this daily open their doors to millions of Americans. These establishments provide a public service as necessary today as the inns and carriers of Blackstone's time. It should be recognized that the claim asserted by the Negro petitioners concerns such public establishments and does not infringe upon the rights of property owners or personal associational interests.

Petitioners frankly state that the "extension of constitutional guarantees to the authentically private choices of man is wholly unacceptable, and any constitutional theory leading to that result would have reduced itself to absurdity." Indeed, the constitutional protection extended to privacy and private association assures against the imposition of social equality. As noted before, the Congress that enacted the Fourteenth Amendment was particularly conscious that the "civil" rights of man should be distinguished from his "social" rights. Prejudice and bigotry in any form are regrettable, but it is the constitutional right of every person to close his home or club to any person or to choose his social intimates and business partners solely on the basis of personal prejudices including race. These and other rights pertaining to privacy and private association are themselves constitutionally protected liberties.

We deal here, however, with a claim of equal access to public accommodations. This is not a claim which significantly impinges upon personal associational interests; nor is it a claim infringing upon the control of private property not dedicated to public use.



In my view the historical evidence demonstrates that the traditional rights of access to places of public accommodation were quite familiar to Congressmen and to the general public who naturally assumed that the Fourteenth Amendment extended these traditional rights to Negroes. But even if the historical evidence were not as convincing as I believe it to be, the logic of Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 , based as it was on the fundamental principle of constitutional interpretation proclaimed by Chief Justice Marshall, 36 requires that petitioners' claim be sustained.




The constitutional right of all Americans to be treated as equal members of the community with respect to public accommodations is a civil right granted by the people in the Constitution - a right which "is too important in our free society to be stripped of judicial protection." Cf. Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 7 ; Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 . This is not to suggest that Congress lacks authority under 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, or under the Commerce Clause, Art. I, 8, to implement the rights protected by 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the give-and-take of the legislative process, Congress can fashion a law drawing the guidelines necessary and appropriate to facilitate practical administration and to distinguish between genuinely public and private accommodations. In contrast, we can pass only on justiciable issues coming here on a case-to-case basis.

It is, and should be, more true today than it was over a century ago that "[t]he great advantage of the Americans is that . . . they are born equal" 37 and that in the eyes of the law they "are all of the same estate." The first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay, spoke of the "free air" of American life. The great purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment is to keep it free and equal. Under the Constitution no American can, or should, be denied rights fundamental to freedom and citizenship. I therefore join in reversing these trespass convictions.


MR. JUSTICE BLACK, with whom MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and MR. JUSTICE WHITE join, dissenting.

This case does not involve the constitutionality of any existing or proposed state or federal legislation requiring restaurant owners to serve people without regard to color. The crucial issue which the case does present but which the Court does not decide is whether the Fourteenth Amendment, of itself, forbids a State to enforce its trespass laws to convict a person who comes into a privately owned restaurant, is told that because of his color he will not be served, and over the owner's protest refuses to leave. We dissent from the Court's refusal to decide that question. For reasons stated, we think that the question should be decided and that the Fourteenth Amendment does not forbid this application of a State's trespass laws.


We would reject the contentions of the petitioners and of the Solicitor General in this case and affirm the judgment of the Maryland court.


This case is but one of five involving the same kind of sit-in trespass problems we selected out of a large and growing group of pending cases to decide this very question. We have today granted certiorari in two more of this group of cases. We know that many similar cases are now on the way and that many others are bound to follow. We know, as do all others, that the conditions and feelings that brought on these demonstrations still exist and that rights of private property owners on the one hand and demonstrators on the other largely depend at this time on whether state trespass laws can constitutionally be applied under these circumstances. Since this question is, as we have pointed out, squarely presented in this very case and is involved in other cases pending here and others bound to come, we think it is wholly unfair to demonstrators and property owners alike as well as against the public interest not to decide it now. Since Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137 (1803), it has been this Court's recognized responsibility and duty to decide constitutional questions properly and necessarily before it. That case and others have stressed the duty of judges to act with the greatest caution before frustrating legislation by striking it down as unconstitutional. We should feel constrained to decide this question even if we thought the state law invalid. In this case, however, we believe that the state law is a valid exercise of state legislative power, that the question is properly before us, and that the national interest imperatively calls for an authoritative decision of the question by this Court. Under these circumstances we think that it would be an unjustified abdication of our duty to leave the question undiscussed. This we are not willing to do. So we proceed to state our views on the merits of the constitutional challenges to the Maryland law.


Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides in part:

"No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This section of the Amendment, unlike other sections, is a prohibition against certain conduct only when done by a State - "state action" as it has come to be known - and "erects no shield against merely private conduct, however discriminatory or wrongful." Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 13 (1948). 12 This well-established interpretation of section 1 of the Amendment - which all the parties here, including the petitioners and the Solicitor General, accept - means that this section of the Amendment does not of itself, standing alone, in the absence of some cooperative state action or compulsion, 13 forbid property holders, including restaurant owners, to ban people from entering or remaining upon their premises, even if the owners act out of racial prejudice. But "the prohibitions of the amendment extend to all action of the State denying equal protection of the laws" whether "by its legislative, its executive, or its judicial authorities." Virginia v. Rives, 100 U.S. 313, 318 (1880). The Amendment thus forbids all kinds of state action, by all state agencies and officers, that discriminate   against persons on account of their race. 14 It was this kind of state action that was held invalid in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), Peterson v. City of Greenville, 373 U.S. 244 (1963), Lombard v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 267 (1963), and Griffin v. County School Board, 377 U.S. 218 (1964), and that this Court today holds invalid in Robinson v. Florida, ante, p. 153.

Petitioners, but not the Solicitor General, contend that their conviction for trespass under the state statute was by itself the kind of discriminatory state action forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment. This contention, on its face, has plausibility when considered along with general statements to the effect that under the Amendment forbidden "state action" may be that of the Judicial as well as of the Legislative or Executive Branch of Government. But a mechanical application of the Fourteenth Amendment to this case cannot survive analysis. The Amendment does not forbid a State to prosecute for crimes committed against a person or his property, however prejudiced or narrow the victim's views may be. Nor can whatever prejudice and bigotry the victim of a crime may have be automatically attributed to the State that prosecutes. Such a doctrine would not only be based on a fiction; it would also severely handicap a State's efforts to maintain a peaceful and orderly society. Our society has put its trust in a system of criminal laws to punish lawless conduct. To avert personal feuds and violent brawls it has led its people to believe and expect that wrongs against them will be vindicated in the courts. Instead of attempting to take the law into their own hands, people have been taught to call for police protection to protect their rights wherever possible. It would  betray our whole plan for a tranquil and orderly society to say that a citizen, because of his personal prejudices, habits, attitudes, or beliefs, is cast outside the law's protection and cannot call for the aid of officers sworn to uphold the law and preserve the peace. The worst citizen no less than the best is entitled to equal protection of the laws of his State and of his Nation. None of our past cases justifies reading the Fourteenth Amendment in a way that might well penalize citizens who are law-abiding enough to call upon the law and its officers for protection instead of using their own physical strength or dangerous weapons to preserve their rights.

In contending that the State's prosecution of petitioners for trespass is state action forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment, petitioners rely chiefly on Shelley v. Kraemer, supra. That reliance is misplaced.


It seems pretty clear that the reason judicial enforcement of the restrictive covenants in Shelley was deemed state action was not merely the fact that a state court had acted, but rather that it had acted "to deny to petitioners, on the grounds of race or color, the enjoyment of property rights in premises which petitioners are willing and financially able to acquire and which the grantors are willing to sell." 334 U.S., at 19 . In other words, this Court held that state enforcement of the covenants had the effect of denying to the parties their federally guaranteed right to own, occupy, enjoy, and use their property without regard to race or color. Thus, the line of cases from Buchanan through Shelley establishes these propositions: (1) When an owner of property is willing to sell and a would-be purchaser is willing to buy, then the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which gives all persons the same right to "inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey" property, prohibits a State, whether through its legislature, executive, or judiciary, from preventing the sale on the grounds of the race or color of one of the parties. Shelley v. Kraemer, supra, 334 U.S., at 19 . (2) Once a person has become a property owner, then he acquires all the rights that go with ownership: "the free use, enjoyment, and disposal of a person's acquisitions without control or diminution save by the law of the land." Buchanan v. Warley, supra, 245 U.S., at 74 . This means that the property owner may, in the absence of a valid statute forbidding it, sell his property to whom he pleases and admit to that property whom he will; so long as both parties are willing parties, then the principles stated in Buchanan and Shelley protect this right. But equally, when one party is unwilling, as when the property owner chooses not to sell to a particular person or not to admit that person, then, as this Court emphasized in Buchanan, he is entitled to rely on the guarantee of due process of law, that is, "law of the land," to protect his free use and enjoyment of property and to know that only by valid legislation, passed pursuant to some constitutional grant of power, can anyone disturb this free use. But petitioners here would have us hold that, despite the absence of any valid statute restricting the use of his property, the owner of Hooper's restaurant in Baltimore must not be accorded the same federally guaranteed right to occupy, enjoy, and use property given to the parties in Buchanan and Shelley; instead, petitioners would have us say that Hooper's federal right must be cut down and he must be compelled - though no statute said he must - to allow people to force their way into his restaurant and remain there over his protest. We cannot subscribe to such a mutilating, one-sided interpretation of federal guarantees the very heart of which is equal treatment under law to all. We must never forget that the Fourteenth Amendment protects "life, liberty, or property" of all people generally, not just some people's "life," some people's "liberty," and some kinds of "property."


We, like the Solicitor General, reject the argument that the State's protection of Hooper's desire to choose customers on the basis of race by prosecuting trespassers is enough, standing alone, to deprive Hooper of his right to operate the property in his own way. But we disagree with the contention that there are other circumstances which, added to the State's prosecution for trespass, justify a finding of state action.


Finally, and controlling here, there is nothing whatever in the material cited to support the proposition that the Fourteenth Amendment, without congressional legislation, prohibits owners of restaurants and other places to refuse service to Negroes. We are cited, only in passing, to general statements made in the House of Representatives to the effect that the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to incorporate the "principles" of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. 31 Whether "principles" are the same thing as "provisions," we are not told. But we have noted the serious doubt that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 even dealt with access to privately owned facilities. And it is revealing that in not one of the passages cited from the debates on the Fourteenth Amendment did any speaker suggest that the Amendment was designed, of itself, to assure all races equal treatment at inns and other privately owned establishments.


We are admonished that in deciding this case we should remember that "it is a constitution we are expounding."]   We conclude as we do because we remember that it is a Constitution and that it is our duty "to bow with respectful submission to its provisions." And in recalling that it is a Constitution "intended to endure for ages to come,"  we also remember that the Founders wisely provided the means for that endurance: changes in the Constitution, when thought necessary, are to be proposed by Congress or conventions and ratified by the States. The Founders gave no such amending power to this Court. Cf. Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 345 -346 (1880). Our duty is simply to interpret the Constitution, and in doing so the test of constitutionality is not whether a law is offensive to our conscience or to the "good old common law," 41 but whether it is offensive to the Constitution. Confining ourselves to our constitutional duty to construe, not to rewrite or amend, the Constitution, we believe that Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment does not bar Maryland from enforcing its trespass laws so long as it does so with impartiality.

This Court has done much in carrying out its solemn duty to protect people from unlawful discrimination. And it will, of course, continue to carry out this duty in the future as it has in the past. 42 But the Fourteenth Amendment of itself does not compel either a black man or a white man running his own private business to trade with anyone else against his will. We do not believe that Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment was written or designed to interfere with a storekeeper's right to choose his customers or with a property owner's right to choose his social or business associates, so long as he does not run counter to valid state 43 or federal regulation. The case before us does not involve the power of the Congress to pass a law compelling privately owned business to refrain from discrimination on the basis of race and to trade with all if they trade with any. We express no views as to the power of Congress, acting under one or another provision of the Constitution, to prevent racial discrimination in the operation of privately owned businesses, nor upon any particular form of legislation to that end. Our sole conclusion is that Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, standing alone, does not prohibit privately owned restaurants from choosing their own customers. It does not destroy what has until very recently been universally recognized in this country as the unchallenged right of a man who owns a business to run the business in his own way so long as some valid regulatory statute does not tell him to do otherwise.