Public Accommodations Act takes effect on March 27, 1890.

  • By Helen Lacy
  • Posted 3/20/2003
  • Essay 5437

On March 27, 1890, the Public Accommodations Act becomes effective, upon adoption of the Washington State Constitution. This law entitles all citizens to civil and legal rights, including access to accommodations at inns, theaters, and restaurants. The right to use all public conveyances on land or water is to be denied to no one. Any infraction of this law is punishable by a fine or imprisonment. In 1895, the Washington State Legislature removes the penalties from the law, effectively nullifying it.

The legislature gave this law the title of "Civil and Legal Rights: An Act to protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights." Section 1 and Section 2 of the law are as follows:

"Section 1. That all persons within the jurisdiction of the State of Washington shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the public accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theatres and other places of public amusement and restaurants, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all citizens of whatever race, color or nationality.

"Sec. 2. That any person who shall violate the foregoing section by denying to any citizen, except for reasons by law applicable to citizens of whatever race, color or nationality, the full enjoyment of any of the public accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges in said section enumerated, or by aiding or inciting such denial, shall, for every such offense be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined in a sum not less than fifty dollars nor more than three hundred dollars, or shall be imprisoned not less than thirty days nor more than six months."


Esther Hall Mumford, Seattle's Black Victorians 1852-1890 (Seattle: Ananse Press, 1980), 31, 32; Session Laws of the State of Washington Enacted by the First State Legislature, Session of 1889-90 (Olympia: O. C. White, State Printer, 1890), 524.

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