In 1950, while visiting Brazil, Katherine Dunham and her group were refused rooms at a first-class hotel in São Paulo, the Hotel Esplanada, frequented by many American businessmen. Understanding that the fact was due to racial discrimination, she made sure the incident was publicized. The incident was widely discussed in the Brazilian press and became a hot political issue. In response, the Afonso Arinos law was passed in 1951 that made racial discrimination in public places a felony in Brazil.
The Afonso Arinos Law sought to punish racial discrimination by redefining racist practice as a crime rather than just a misdemeanor. It made discrimination based on race or colour in public establishments, education and employment a criminal offence punishable by a jail term or fine Under the new constitution it went further, denying bail to those convicted of racial or colour prejudice, and stipulating prison sentences. Brazil is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All-Racial Discrimination.
Afonso Arinos was a writer. In the 19th century, Afonso Arinos de Melo Franco was recognized as one of the most influential intellectuals of his time. His work is part of Brazils’ most prestigious literature and contains a strong message of social criticism.