At the restaurant, Mrs. Chase fed hungry Freedom Riders fresh off the road and hosted meetings of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She let a young Thurgood Marshall use her telephone to call Robert F. Kennedy even when phoned-in lunch orders were pouring in.

“We were trying to be accepted without hurting anybody,” Mrs. Chase said in an interview with the National Public Radio program “The Splendid Table.”

“In the ′60s, here come these young people — bam! — they would just go in there and break the door down.

They were going to take chances, go to jail if they had to. We couldn’t understand that, but it worked.

A lot of mistakes were made, but sometimes that’s what it takes to change a system.”


Leah Chase, 1923-2019, chef