October 10, 1957 – President Eisenhower Apologizes to Ghana’s Finance Minister for U.S. Racism

On this day in history, an embarrassed President Eisenhower apologized to Ghanian Finance Minister Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, who, as a black man, had been refused service at a Howard Johnson restaurant in Dover, Delaware.

As “Time Magazine” reported later that month:

Two Negroes dressed in business suits strolled into a Howard Johnson restaurant near Dover, Del. one evening last week, went up to the counter and ordered two 30¢ glasses of orange juice. As they were handed the juice in containers, wrapped up to take outside, a waitress explained that they could not sit down inside because ‘colored people are not allowed to eat in here.’”

At this point one of the men asked to see the manager, identifying himself as Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Finance Minister of the new ‘African nation of Ghana; his companion was his U.S. secretary. The manager refused to bend “the rules.”

After the snub, Gbedmah raised the incident with reporters. “Time Magazine” quoted Gbedemah as saying: “If the Vice President of the U.S. can have a meal in my house when he is in Ghana,” (he had entertained Vice President Nixon during his tour of Africa the previous spring), “then I cannot understand why I must receive this treatment at a roadside restaurant in America.”

President Eisenhower apologized, as did the people of Howard Johnson. Gbedemah was then invited to breakfast at the White House. Presumably Howard Johnson did not provide the catering.

1959: Gbedemah (seated left) signs a finance agreement on behalf of Ghana with West Germany

1959: Gbedemah (seated left) signs a finance agreement on behalf of Ghana with West Germany

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