“Edward Anderson, The first African-American to file a Lawsuit” Constantin Zand

Edward Anderson: The first African-American to file a lawsuit


Edward.W Anderson was a very famous black entrepreneur, and involved in the rise of San Diego’s civil-right movement. Originally from Kentucky and son of former slaves, he arrived in San Diego by the mid-1890’s like many other people of colour 1.Robert Fikes, “Edward W. Anderson”.He was very successful and operated several businesses. In fact, he first opened a laundry shop called “IXL Laundry” in 1888, operated in a small building. Later, the structure moved to a new location and grew to be the biggest laundry facility in the southern of California with about thirty-five employees . Later in his career he gave his name to a mortuary business “Anderson Mortuary”. Even If foremost, Edward W. Anderson is known for his entrepreneurship, he also played a key roles in the Advancement for people of color. Anderson did not only operate and manage a Laundry shop, he also bought “his uncle’s grocery store and soon after launched Economy Waste Paper Company and the even more prosperous San Diego Rubbish & Garbage Company which held an exclusive seven year city-contract”Robert Fikes, 1″Edward W. Anderson”. It Further demonstrate the importance of Anderson’s business figure in San Diego’s entrepreneurial Landscape.Anderson’s intervention, Trash collection was performed by private operator under permit to the city, Anderson had the “reputation as a man who could and would ensure that streets, curbs and back lot of San Diego were kept clean.” 2.mooney and associates ”African-American Heritage Study”. The work of Anderson helped , people to find a reliable environment inside their neighborhood. However, Anderson’s biggest fight for black freedom, happened because of a particular event.

While him and his wife tried to attend a presentation at the Fisher Opera House. The owner refuses their presence on a certain floor because of the color of their skin using “the right reserved to refuse admission to holder of this tickets” 3 Richard,”A case of discrimination.” However, the law seems favorable to Anderson’s claim since “two month earlier, one legislator of California approved a bill that mandated “ full and equal accomodation” in restaurants but also hotels, theaters, barber shops, skating rinks”3 Richard,”A case of discriminatiom”. In this way Edward and his Wife Mary filed a lawsuit for 299 dollars of damages, which was the first under “California’s newly enacted civil right law” 4.NAACP, “The Early years”. The Owner of the theater stated, “We have never encouraged colored people to occupy the orchestra circle, on account of objections by many patrons. To cause as little trouble as possible, we have sold them seats upstairs”5.sandiego union tribune. Furthermore he “did not wish to cause needless trouble or embarrassment” but the result of his action were lived as a prejudice to Anderson’s rights. As the case went to trial, the judge found the theater’s owner guilty and had to pay a fine of 150$. However, the owner named Fischer went for appeal and  the judge felt that the prejudice to the Anderson’s Family was not damaging enough and ordered a dismissal of the case. Fischer also stated that as a “private enterprise” the theater was not liable to the “civil right act”. They were not able to appeal another time ast the state Supreme Court declined. At the same time, even if Anderson’s judicial case was not successful in the outcome, he was the first black man in California to use the legal opportunity to file a lawsuit.

By the 1920’s Anderson was the leader of San Diego’s NAACP branch, also served as a president, He took part in multiple actions such as lobbies against amendment of the constitution. For example, in 1923, when they broaden the list of establishment with businesses that were selling soft drink and ice cream, increased the fine to a hundred dollars for the ones that would practice “unreasonable discrimination” 4.NAACP, “The Early years”




Fikes, Robert. “Edward W. Anderson (1871–1953) • BlackPast.” BlackPast. November 29th,2015https://www.blackpast.org/aaw/vignette_aahw/anderson-edward-w-1871-1953/.



Richard L. Carrico and Stacey Jordan, Ph.D. “Centre City Development Corporation Downtown San Diego African-American Heritage Study”, November 2004




Richard Crawford  “A Case Of discrimination”, 16th september http://www.sandiegoyesterday.com/?tag=edward-w-anderson



Written by richard, 16th September 2011

Originally published as “Discrimination takes center stage,” by Richard Crawford, in the San Diego Union–Tribune. April 24, 2010. p. CZ.1https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-discrimination-takes-center-stage-2010apr24-story.html



NAACP San Diego’s branch. The Struggle for Equality in “America’s Finest City”: A History of the San Diego NAACP

https://www.sandiegonaacp.org/about-style-4/ n



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