First sit-in of the civil rights movement in Seattle occurs on July 1, 1963.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 4/02/2001
  • Essay 3161
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On July 1, 1963, 35 young people stage the first sit-in of the civil rights movement in Seattle in the offices of Mayor Gordon S. Clinton. They are protesting the composition of a 12-member human rights commission proposed by Clinton. They occupy the mayor's offices for 24 hours before leaving. There are no incidents and no arrests.

Mayor Clinton had asked the city council to establish a human rights commission that would write an open housing ordinance. Racial discrimination in housing in Seattle was a major source of discontent among African Americans. Clinton's nominees for the commission included only two African Americans.

Past Patience

The demonstration began with a gathering of approximately 300 people in the Fifth Avenue Plaza of City Hall. The protesters circulated a handbill, which read in part, "As citizens of Seattle and members of the Central District Youth Club, we feel humiliated by the slow process of the City of Seattle to adopt open housing. We are past the stage of patience, we also are past the stage of committees and sub committees. We want open housing today." The group was led by Rev. Nance Jackson, Bethel Christian Methodist Church and by Rev. Samuel B. McKinney, Mount Zion Baptist Church. A group of 35 proceeded to the mayor's office where they sat down.

The protesters, who were both African American and white, remained in the mayor's offices overnight. The next morning, as he arrived for work, Mayor Clinton greeted the demonstrators warmly. After 24 hours, the group left. Spokesman Eddie Givens stated that the action "has achieved our purpose in demonstrating that we want immediate action to bring us equal rights."

Voters defeated the open housing ordinance in March 1964, but the city council passed it in April 1968.


"Sit-in Begins in Mayor's Office Here," The Seattle Times, July 1, 1963, p. 1; "Youths End Sit-in at Mayor's Office," Ibid., July 2, 1963, p. 1; Howard Alan Droker, "The Seattle Civic Unity Committee and the Civil Rights Movement, 1944-1964" (Ph.D Diss., University of Washington, 1974).

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