Desegregation of Maryland’s Restaurants: Robert Mack Bell v. Maryland


Judge Robert Mack BellIn 1960, the majority of restaurants in downtown Baltimore were still segregated and blacks were not served at all-white dining establishments. Students from Dunbar High School and Morgan State College were recruited by the Civic Interest Group to enter all-white restaurants and demand service. On June 17, 1960, a group of students entered Hooper’s Restaurant, located at Charles and Fayette Streets, and demanded service. They were asked to leave, but twelve of the students, including sixteen-year-old Robert Mack Bell, refused. They were each charged with trespassing, found guilty, and fined $10. The case was appealed and the students representation included Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Thurgood Marshall. The appellants argued that the use of the state’s trespassing laws to support segregation of public accommodations violated the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1962, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the lower court and the case was appealed to the U.S Supreme Court. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to decide if the state’s trespassing laws could be used to exclude blacks from public accommodations and sent the case back to the state appeals court.  In the meantime, the state passed public accommodation laws and Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On April 9, 1965, the convictions were reversed and the students were cleared of all charges.

Robert Mack Bell went on to graduate from Harvard Law School and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1969. He served as a judge for the District Court of Maryland, the Baltimore City Circuit Court, and the Court of Special Appeals. Since 1996, Judge Bell has served as the Chief Judge of Maryland’s Court of Appeals.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

STANDARD 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties. 

7-12: Explain the origins of the postwar civil rights movement and the role of the NAACP in the legal assault on segregation. [Analyze multiple causation]
5-12: Explain the resistance to civil rights in the South between 1954 and 1965. [Identify issues and problems in the past]
7-12: Assess the role of the legislative and executive branches in advancing the civil rights movement and the effect of shifting the focus from de jure to de facto segregation. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]

Primary Resources

  1. Materials from Criminal Court trial, November 10, 1960, from BALTIMORE CITY CIRCUIT COURT (Transcripts), 1913-1986, Transcript of Proceedings, State of Maryland vs. Robert M. Bell,, MSA T496, MSA SC 2221-12-24.
  2. Newspaper accounts of the arrests of twelve students at Hooper’s Restaurant, June 17, 1960, MSA SC 2221-12-21.
  3. Materials relating to the appeal of State of Maryland vs. Robert M. Bell,, MSA SC 2221-12-25.
  4. Newspaper accounts during the appeal process for State of Maryland vs. Robert M. Bell,, MSA SC 2221-12-26.
  5. Supreme Court Reporter, Volume 84A (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1965) 378 U.S. 226, Robert Mack BELL et al., Petitioners v. STATE OF MARYLAND, pp. 1814-1815, MSA SC 2221-12-4.
  6. Materials from Supreme Court trial, Robert Mack Bell,, Petitioners v. State of Maryland, 378 US 226, from Records and Briefs of the Supreme Court and Transcripts of Oral Arguments, MSA SC 2221-12-23.
  7. Newspaper accounts of Robert Mack Bell,, Petitioners v. State of Maryland, 378 U.S. 226, argued October 14 and 15, 1963, MSA SC 2221-12-27.
  8. GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Laws, Original) Chapter 453, Public Accomodations Law, 1963, MSA S 966, MSA SC 2221-12-5.
  9. Materials relating to Robert Mack Bell,, Petitioners v. State of Maryland, remanded to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, MSA SC 2221-12-28.
  10. Newspaper accounts of the resolution of State of Maryland vs. Robert M. Bell,, MSA SC 2221-12-29.
  11. GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Laws, Original) Chapter 453, Public Accomodations Law, 1963, MSA S 966, MSA SC 2221-12-5.
  12. Civil Rights Act of 1964, MSA SC 2221-12-30

Additional Instructional Resources

Thurgood Marshall: Justice for All. From A & E Classrooms.

Secondary Resources

Brown, Flora Bryant. “NAACP Sponsored Sit-ins by Howard University Students in Washington, D.C., 1943-1944” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 85, No. 4. (Autumn, 2000), pp. 274-286.

Irons, Peter. 16 Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court

Irons, Peter. The Courage of Their Convictions. (New York: The Free Press, 1988), pp. 130-152, MSA SC 2221-12-2.

Jones, Beverly W. “Before Montgomery and Greensboro: The Desegregation Movement in the District of Columbia, 1950-1953” Phylon (1960-), Vol. 43, No. 2. (2nd Qtr., 1982), pp. 144-154.

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Archives of Maryland Documents for the Classroom series of the Maryland State Archives was designed and developed by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse and Dr. M. Mercer Neale and was prepared with the assistance of R. J. Rockefeller, Lynne MacAdam and other members of the Archives staff. MSA SC 2221-12. Publication no. 2395.

For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Papenfuse at:
Phone: MD toll free 800-235-4045 or (410) 260-6401