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Temp. L. Rev.


Nearly three decades ago, four black students sat down at a lunch counter in a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina, ordered a cup of coffee, and refused to move until they were served. I Unknown to the four young men at the time, their act of courage would help precipitate a series of sit-in protests and other forms of civil disobedience challenging racial segregation at lunch counters, restaurants, parks, hotels, motels, and other facilities. The desegregation of such places was a principal objective of civil rights protests, lawsuits, and proposals for legislative reform during the early 1960s.2 Equal opportunity to use and obtain the benefits of places of public accommodation is a long- cherished right in American law. In the Civil Rights Cases,3 decided in 1883, the Court posited, without deciding, 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 .... ,,4 In 1964, in his concurring opinion in Bell v. Maryland,5 Justice Douglas stated that "the right to be served in places of public accommodations is an incident of national citizenship." 6 Justice Goldberg, concurring separately in that case, declared his belief that all Americans are guaranteed "the right to be treated as equal members of the community with respect to public accommodations."17