CORE's Route 40 Project: Maryland campaign for desegregation and U.S. Civil Rights, 1961


Desegregate restaurants and facilities along Route 40, regardless of attire

Time period notes

It is difficult to pin down exactly when the project began and ended, as it stemmed from and was very entangled with the Freedom Rides of the same time frame, and eventually branched out into other projects, such as the Eastern Shore Project.

Time period

Summer, 1961 to November, 1961


United States

Location City/State/Province

Route 40, from across Maryland and into Deleware

Location Description

Restaurants and other facilities along Route 40
Jump to case narrative

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • CORE announced intent to hold a massive Freedom Ride campaign along Route 40
  • Black students dress as African diplomats and are served at segregated restaurants
  • Biracial groups would enter restaurants along Route 40 and wait to be served


Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)


Baltimore's Civic Interest Group (CIG) - (an SNCC affiliated coalition of student activists), Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) from Howard University, the Northern Student Movement, the NAACP

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

The Kennedy Administration


Owners of segregated restaurants and facilities along Route 40

Nonviolent responses of opponent

None known

Campaigner violence

None known

Repressive Violence

None known


Human Rights



Group characterization

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and other activist groups; participants were both white and black and many were students from local universities.

Groups in 1st Segment

various other student groups
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
Federal Government

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Given the rapidness of growth of the project, as well as the participant overlaps in similar campaigns, it is difficult to determine the joining order of the participating groups; however, it is clear that Federal Government efforts inspired CORE to initiate the campaign, and the other groups followed.

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Shortly following a number of sit-ins and CORE's announcement of intent of the Route 40 Freedom Ride, 47 restaurants along Route 40 had agreed to desegregate. Complete desegregation of all restaurants would take more time, during which the Route 40 campaign would transform into other campaigns of a similar nature (such as the Eastern Shore Project), hence not receiving a full score; however, the project was very successful and ultimately did not fail in any of it's efforts.

Survival and Growth were given 1 and 3 points respectively, as although the Route 40 project specifically did not linger, the groups which participated in the project remained strong and went on to participate in many similar Civil Rights campaigns.

Database Narrative

In 1960 and 1961, the Washington, D.C., area experienced an increase in diplomatic representatives from Africa, causing tension and emphasizing the issue of segregation in the area. Visiting African diplomats were exposed to segregation in many restaurants, facilities, and other public accommodations, particularly along Route 40 - a primary means of travel between the embassies in Washington D.C. and the United Nations headquarters in New York - where nearly all of the restaurants and facilities were only open to white customers. African dignitaries were turned away from these establishments, despite the diplomatic license plates and insignia on their cars.

Rather embarrassed by the situation, the Kennedy Administration began to pressure restaurants and gas stations along Route 40 to serve African diplomats. There was going to be an announcement of a new policy penalizing establishments that refused service to dark-skinned foreign diplomats; however, the announcement was canceled with the realization that black citizens would be unhappy with this distinction and preferential treatment. Indeed, news of the situation was met with dissent from the black population, who thought it unjust for segregated facilities to serve African diplomats, but not American-born black citizens. A number of black students from nearby colleges dressed in traditional African garb, posing as diplomats, and were served.

Aware of the growing displeasure with the situation, and still struggling with the fact that many diplomats were being refused service, the Federal Government pressured the Maryland legislature to desegregate the commonly traveled reads between D.C. and New York. The Maryland legislature resisted, which encouraged the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to begin a campaign to compliment the Federal efforts to desegregate Route 40.

CORE had been recently working on the Freedom Riders campaigns, and through a combination of the success from those efforts and the publicity gathered by the Route 40 situation, the group had little trouble gathering volunteers for sit-ins along the Route, from Baltimore, MD to Wilmington, DE. CORE rapidly gained partners, eventually ending up with such groups as Baltimore's Civic Interest Group (CIG), the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) from Howard University, the Northern Student Movement, and the NAACP. More student groups, including Brandeis, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, New York University, and Johns Hopkins, joined the effort.

In addition to a number of sit-ins, in mid-October of 1961, CORE announced its intent to organize a massive Freedom Ride up Route 40, to occur on November 11th. The ride would have involved a series of "tests" - during which biracial groups would fill every seat and wait to be served - and protests at individual restaurants. Meanwhile, the State Department and other groups worked behind the scenes and attempted to persuade the establishments to desegregate voluntarily.

The sit-in groups were well organized and ready to move out when word came that the protest had been suspended - they had already won.

As of November 8th, forty-seven restaurants along Route 40 (thirty-five in Maryland and twelve in Deleware) had already agreed to desegregate - approximately half of the target establishments along the route. CORE officials declared a partial victory and commended the newly-integrated restaurants. Furthermore, they issued a warning that sit-ins and checks would continue; both to be sure integration was maintained in restaurants in which it had been established and to encourage the desegregation of restaurants in which it had not.

It is worth noting that the organization efforts put into the protest did not go to waste. Meeting as scheduled at Howard University, the Freedom Riders instead focused their efforts on the city of Baltimore, conducting a massive sit-in and picket demonstration there marking the beginning of a campaign to desegregate the city, which bore a resemblance to locations further south.

With about half of the restaurants and other establishments still segregated, The Route 40 Project was far from over, and the sit-ins would continue for quite some time. However, the project was ultimately successful and inspired many similar campaigns such as the Eastern Shore Project, which expanded the desegregation effort further along the coast, and the Freedom Highways campaigns, which pushed the Route 40 efforts further into the South, along US-1 and into Virginia and North Carolina. The success of the Route 40 campaign encouraged the leaders of the civil rights movements to continue and expand their efforts, and inspired confidence in all participants that a brighter future was within reach.


This campaign was influenced by the Freedom Riders (see "U.S. Freedom Rides for Civil Rights, 1961") (1).

This campaign influenced the Cambridge, Maryland, campaign for civil rights (see "Cambridge, Maryland activists campaign for desegregation, USA, 1962-1963")

The campaign influenced the Freedom Highways and the Eastern Shore Project (2).


Arsenault, Raymond. "Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice." Oxford: Oxford University Press. 394-395, 461-462, . ACLS Humanities E-Book.

Carmichael, Stokely, and Michael Thelwell. "Ready for Revolution: the Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)." New York: Scribner, 2003. 163-164. Google Books.

Catsam, Derek Charles. "Freedom's Main Line: The Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides." Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2008. 305-307. Print.

"Desegregate Route 40 Project (Aug-Dec)." Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. 2005. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. <>

"Maryland Easternshore Project (Summer)." Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. 2005. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. <>

Pinard, Maurice, Jerome Kirk, and Donald Von Eschen. "Processes of Recruitment in the Sit-in Movement." The Public Opinion Quarterly 33.3 (1969): 355-69. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. <>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Ashley Banks, 31/01/2011