A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 31, 2017
“We don’t serve black people."/"That’s OK. I don’t eat them.”

A “joke” was told in the days of racially segregated restaurants:

Waitress: We on’t serve black people here.
Black diner: That’s OK. I don’t eat them.


The joke has been cited in print since at least October 1957, when it was credited to a night club comic named Willie Wright. Black comedians Redd Foxx and Dick Gregory have also told the joke. American boxer Muhammad Ali is said to have told the joke in 1960, upon returning to the United States after winning a gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.


30 April 1922, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), “Mutter and Mumble” by John P. Medbury, pt. 4, pg. 5, col. 2:
MUTTER—I’m talking about food. You don’t serve children, do you?
MUMBLE—Yes, if they’re not big enough to eat by themselves.

24 October 1957, Daily Defender (Chicago, IL), “Off The Cuff: Comic Face Race Bias With Quip” by Louis Martin, pg. 8, col. 1:
What would be your reply if upon entering a restaurant a waiter should come up to you and say, “We don’t serve colored people?” Perhaps you have never had this experience.

Anyway, it happens frequently although not as often as it did ten years ago. It usually catches a victim by surprise despite the knowledge that racial discrimination may raise its head almost anywhere in the United States.

Last week in Detroit, I heard one reply to this insult which made me roar. A night club comic named Willie Wright told how he handled the situation. When he was advised, “we don’t serve colored people in this restaurant,” Willie came up with this classic, “I don’t eat them either.”

5 October 1958, Independent-Journal (San Rafael, CA), “I-J Reporter’s Notebook” by Chapin A. Day, pg. 12, col. 7:
Radio DJ Ollie Freeman told us about the cannibal who reformed and came to the United States on a visit. He went to a swank restaurant and sat down at a table.

A young waitress came up to him and declared: “Sir, are you aware of the fact we don’t serve Negroes here?”

“That’s all right,” answered the cannibal, “I don’t eat them anymore anyway.”

20 February 1960, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “On the Town” with Thomasina Norford, pg. 12, col. 1:
White waitress to colored man in restaurant in Birmingham: “We don’t serve colored men in here.” Colored man: “I don’t blame you! I don’t eat them either” (Told by Willie Lewis at Gaylorda Party).

31 March 1960, Los Angeles (CA) Sentinel, “the Big Beat” by A. S. (Doc) Young, pg. C3, col. 1:
WRONG KIND OF MENU
During the Dooto recording sessions at the Clark Hotel last Sunday afternoon, comic Redd Foxx laid an audience in the aisles with this story:

“When I was in Dixie week before last, I went into a restaurant and sat down at the counter. Almost immediately, a Caucasian waitress came over to me and said, ‘We don’t serve Negroes here.’ I told here, ‘Oh, that’s all right. I don’t eat Negroes, either’!”

1 June 1961, Harper’s Magazine (New York, NY), “The American Negro’s New Comedy Act” by Louis E. Lomax, pg. 44, col. 1:
Fifty dignified Fisk University students were jailed because they participated in the Nashville sit-ins. “Hey, man,” one student shouted to a cell mate, according to the TV script. “I sat down in Kress and the white waitress told me, ‘We don’t serve Negroes.’ I told her that was good because I don’t eat them.”

Google Books
August 1971, Ebony, “And I Ain’t Just Whistlin’ Dixie” by Dick Gregory, pg. 149, cols. 2-3:
I (Dick Gregory—ed.) remember the first time I was in the South, I went into this restaurant, and this waitress came up to me and said: “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said: “That’s alright, I don’t eat ‘em.”

Google Books
Fried Chicken
By John T. Edge
New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
2004
Pg. 6:
“This white waitress came up to me (Dick Gregory—ed.) and said, ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said, ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’

Independent (London, UK)
Boxing: Why Muhammad Ali really is the Greatest of all
No sporting icon has ever matched the popularity of the man from Louisville who was as brilliant outside the ring as he was in it

Alan Hubbard Sunday 15 January 2012 00:00 GMT
(...)
Having been barred from a local fast-food restaurant because of his colour, when he returned from Rome after winning the Olympic light-heavyweight title in 1960 he placed his gold medal on the counter and ordered a hamburger. “We still don’t serve niggers,” he was told. “That’s OK,” the then Cassius Clay is said to have cheekily replied. “I don’t eat ‘em.”

Google Books
Muhammad Ali: A Memoir:
My Views of the Greatest

By Michael Parkinson
London: Hodder & Stoughton
2016
Pg. ?:
The lady said, ‘We don’t serve Negroes.’ I was so mad I said, ‘I don’t eat ‘em, either, just give me a cup of coffee and a hot dog!’

Reddit—Jokes
A black man walks into an all white bar and orders a drink.
submitted March 31, 2017 by JackNovember
They tell him “we don’t serve negros here”
And he replies with “Good, I wasn’t planning to order any.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Bakeries/Food Stores • Friday, March 31, 2017 • Permalink