March 7: “Full flush of adolescent arrogance”

tracy-simsAbove: Tracy Sims (second from left) with other members of the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination.

ON THIS DATE in 1964, eighteen-year-old Tracy Sims led a demonstration at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel. The protest targeted the lack of minority hiring by San Francisco hotels and resulted in the police dragging her and 166 others to jail for disturbing the peace.

San Francisco Examiner columnist grumbled that Sims, an African American, lacked the maturity to lead such a protest. Can “Negro leaders really expect to be taken seriously when they allow themselves to be represented in their struggle by an eighteen-year-old girl in the full flush of adolescent arrogance?” wrote Charles Denton.

The protest resulted in the city’s mayor, John Shelly, pulling Sims, plus a lawyer for the Hotel Owners Association, and others into his office to settle the dispute. Sims, Roy Ballard, and the hotels’ lawyer wound up signing a nondiscrimination policy by 33 hotels that established a goal of 15 to 20 percent minority employees at the hotels, inspections to determine compliance, and amnesty for the demonstrators — a huge victory for Sims and the other protesters.

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