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Missouri State Archives
Guide to African American History

Record Group 600: Supreme Court of the State of Missouri (1804-Present)

Western Missouri landowner Charles Younger, grandfather to some members of the notorious Younger & Dalton Gang, also fathered two children by his slave-mistress, Elizabeth. He freed the children, Simpson and Catherine, in his will and made stipulations as to their education.

After his schooling in Oberlin, Ohio, and service with the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, Simpson Younger returned to Kansas City, Missouri. His racial heritage made it possible for Younger to "pass as white," and, although custom sanctioned segregation in public facilities, he did not generally occupy the black sections. In 1888, Younger attempted to attend a Kansas City theater with an African American woman. When denied his purchased orchestra seats and asked to sit in the balcony section, Younger sued the proprietor, Abraham Judah.

In 1892, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Younger v. Judah and upheld the theater's policy of segregation. The justices wrote, "When colored persons attend theatres and other places of amusement conducted and carried on by white persons, custom assigns to them separate seats. Such separation does not necessarily assert or imply inferiority on the part of one or the other. It does no more than work out natural laws and race peculiarities.The defendant's rule was no more than a reasonable regulation which he had a right to make and enforce."

In 1964, the United States Congress enacted a Public Accommodations Act that prohibited discrimination in all restaurants, theaters, stores, parks, and other public places.

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