American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)

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Prominent figures of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Top left: W.E.B. Du Bois; Top right: Malcolm X; Bottom left: Martin Luther King, Jr.; Bottom right:Rosa Parks
The African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) refers to the reform movements in the United States aimed at abolishing racial discrimination of African Americans; this article covers the phase of the movement between 1954 and 1968, particularly in the South. By 1966, the emergence of the Black Power Movement, which lasted roughly from 1966 to 1975, enlarged and gradually eclipsed the aims of the Civil Rights Movement to include racial dignity, economic and political self-sufficiency, and freedom from White domination.

Several scholars refer to the movement as the Second Reconstruction, a name that alludes to the Reconstruction after the Civil War. Many of those who were most active in this movement with organizations such as SNCC, CORE and SCLC prefer the term "Southern Freedom Movement" because the struggle was about more than just civil rights under law, it was also about fundamental issues of freedom, respect, dignity, and economic and social equality.

In the 19th century, Democratic-controlled states, mainly in the South, passed racially discriminatory laws. In the South, but also elsewhere in the United States, racial violence aimed at African Americans mushroomed. This period is sometimes referred to as "the nadir of American race relations." Elected, appointed, or hired government authorities began to require or permit discrimination, in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Required or permitted acts of discrimination against African Americans fell mainly into four categories: (1) racial segregation—upheld by the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896—was legally mandated by southern states and by many local governments outside the South; (2) voter suppression or disfranchisement in the southern states; (3) denial of economic opportunity or resources nationwide, and (4) private acts of violence and mass racial violence aimed at African Americans, which were often encouraged and seldom hindered by government authorities. The combination in the southern states of these issues became known as "Jim Crow". The southern "Jim Crow" regime remained almost entirely intact into the early 1950s and contributed to the Great Migration, a steady northward flow of African Americans onwards. The situation for African-Americans outside the South was usually somewhat better, though not always appreciably so.

The Civil Rights Movement prior to 1955 confronted discrimination against African-Americans with a variety of strategies. These included litigation and lobbying efforts by traditional organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The crowning achievement of these efforts was the legal victory in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which overturned the "separate but equal" legal doctrine derived from Plessy and made segregation legally impermissible but provided few practical remedies.

Private citizens, simultaneously invigorated by the victory of Brown but frustrated by its lack of immediate practical effect, increasingly rejected gradualist, legalistic approaches as the primary tool to bring about desegregation in the face of "massive resistance" by proponents of racial segregation and voter suppression. In defiance, they adopted a combined strategy of direct action with nonviolent resistance known as civil disobedience. Acts of civil disobedience produced crisis situations between practitioners and government authorities. The authorities of federal, state, and local governments often had to respond immediately to crisis situations, and the results were often in the practitioner's favor. Some of the forms of civil disobedience employed included boycotts, beginning with the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) in Alabama; "sit-ins" such as the influential Greensboro sit-in (1960) in North Carolina; and marches, such as the Selma to Montgomery marches (1965) in Alabama.

Noted legislative achievements during this phase of the Civil Rights Movement were passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (minor in its effects, but the first anti-discriminatory federal legislation since Reconstruction), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination in employment practices and public accommodations, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that restored voting rights, the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 that dramatically changed U.S. immigration policy, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.

Mass action replacing litigation

The strategy of mass action within the court system shifted after Brown to "direct action"—primarily bus boycotts, sit-ins, freedom rides, and similar tactics that relied on mass mobilization, nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience—from 1955 to 1965. In part this was the unintended result of the local authorities' attempt to outlaw and harass the mainstream.

Churches and local grassroots organizations stepped in to fill the gap, and brought with them a much more energetic and broad-based style than the more legalistic approach of groups such as the NAACP.

The most important step forward was in Montgomery, Alabama, where longtime NAACP activists Rosa Parks and Edgar Nixon prevailed on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956. Activists and church leaders in other communities, such as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had used the boycott in recent years, although those efforts often withered away after a few days. In Montgomery, on the other hand, the Montgomery Improvement Association—created to lead the boycott—managed to keep the boycott going for over a year until a federal court order required Montgomery to desegregate its buses. The success in Montgomery made King a nationally known figure and triggered other bus boycotts, such as the highly successful Tallahassee, Florida, boycott of 1956-1957.[1]

The leaders of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Dr. King, and Rev. John Duffy, joined with other church leaders who had led similar boycott efforts (such as Rev. C. K. Steele of Tallahassee and Rev. T. J. Jemison of Baton Rouge), and other activists (such as Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Ella Baker, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Stanley Levison) to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. The SCLC, with its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, did not attempt to create a network of chapters (the way the NAACP did) but offered training and other assistance for local efforts to fight segregation, while raising funds, mostly from northern sources, to support these campaigns. It made non-violence both its central tenet and its primary method of confronting racism.

In 1957, Septima Clarke, Bernice Robinson, and Esau Jenkins, with the help of the Highlander Folk School began the first Citizenship Schools in South Carolina's Sea Islands, to teach literacy to allow blacks to pass voting tests. The program was an enormous success, tripling the number of black voters on St. John Island. The program was taken over by the SCLC and duplicated elsewhere.

Mainstream exposure

Some of the success of the Civil Rights Movement can be attributed to the invention of the television. The taping and broadcasting of the imagery of civil rights workers, sit-ins, marches and clashes brought to mainstream or middle America's conscience the severity and inhumane treatment of African Americans. In "Television News and the Civil Rights Struggle" Prof. William Thomas argues that even "in the American South, local television news coverage had immediate and significant effects" on perceptions of social equality and segregation.[1] One of the strategies of Martin Luther King was to challenge the morality of mainstream America to end the racial abuse and segregation in the South. The medium of television was particularly effective at conveying the news about the conditions of the quality of life for African Americans in the South. The programming format that brought this news was the news broadcast and documentary film making. Later, the film "Roots" by Alex Haley was said to be a turning point in the conscience of mainstream America to be able to relate to the peculiarity of African American life.

Key events

Jackie Robinson’s Major League Baseball debut, 1947

While Jackie Robinson was pre-1955, he was a pioneer of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Jackie Robinson is most well known for becoming the first African-American to play professional sports in the major leagues, but he is not often recognized as one of earlier public figures in the Civil Rights Movement. He debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers of Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947. Jackie Robinson's first major league game came one year before the U.S. Army was integrated, seven years before Brown v. Board of Education, eight years before Rosa Parks, and before Martin Luther King Jr. was leading the Civil Rights Movement. Jackie Robinson stepped into the spotlight and took the light before many of the most recognizable people in the Civil Rights Movement history.

Brown v. Board of Education, 1954

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision regarding the case called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in which the plaintiffs charged that the education of black children in separate public schools from their white counterparts was unconstitutional. The opinion of the Court stated that the "segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group." Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had established the segregationist, "separate but equal" standard in general, and Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education (1899), which had applied that standard to schools, were ruled unconstitutional. The following year, in the case known as Brown v. Board of Education, the Court ordered segregation to be phased out over time, "with all deliberate speed".

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-1956

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks (the "mother of the Civil Rights Movement") refused to get up out of her seat on a public bus to make room for a white passenger. Parks was arrested, tried, and convicted for disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. After word of this incident reached the black community, 50 African-American leaders gathered and organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott to protest the segregation of blacks and whites on public buses. The boycott lasted for 381 days until the local ordinance segregating African-Americans and whites on public buses was lifted. Ninety percent of African Americans in Montgomery took part in the boycotts, which reduced bus revenue by 60%. (W. Chafe, The Unfinished Journey, 2nd edition, 1992).

Desegregating Little Rock, 1957

Main article: Little Rock Nine
Little Rock, Arkansas, was in a relatively progressive southern state. A crisis erupted, however, when Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus called out the National Guard on September 4 to prevent the nine African-American students who had sued for the right to attend an integrated school from attending Little Rock Central High School. The nine students had been chosen to attend Central High because of their excellent grades. On the first day of school, only one of the nine students showed up because she did not receive the phone call about the danger of going to school. She was harassed by whites outside the school, and the police had to take her away in a patrol car to protect her. Afterwards, the nine students had to carpool to school and be escorted by military personnel in jeeps.

Faubus was not a proclaimed segregationist, but he had received significant pressure from the more conservative wing of the Arkansas Democratic Party, which controlled politics in that state at the time, after he had indicated the previous year that he would investigate bringing Arkansas into compliance with the Brown decision. Faubus took his stand against integration and against the federal court order that required it.

Faubus's order received the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was determined to enforce the orders of the Federal courts, even though critics charged he was lukewarm, at best, on the goal of desegregation of public schools. Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and ordered them to return to their barracks. Eisenhower then deployed elements of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect the students.

The students were able to attend high school, although they had to pass through a gauntlet of spitting, jeering whites to arrive at school on their first day and to put up with harassment from fellow students for the rest of the year. Although federal troops escorted the students between classes, the students were still teased and even attacked by white students when the soldiers weren't around. One of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown, was expelled for dumping a bowl of chili on the head of a white student who was harassing her in the school lunch line, among other incidents.

Only one of the Little Rock Nine, Ernest Green, got the chance to graduate; after the 1957-58 school year was over, the Little Rock school system made the decision to shut down completely rather than continue to integrate, and other schools across the South followed suit.

Sit-ins and Freedom Rides, 1961

Main article: Freedom Riders

The Civil Rights Movement received an infusion of energy when students in Greensboro, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta, Georgia, began to "sit-in" at the lunch counters of a few of their local stores, to protest those establishments' refusal to desegregate. These protesters were encouraged to dress professionally, to sit quietly, and to occupy every other stool so that potential white sympathizers could join in. Many of these sit-ins provoked local authority figures to use brute force in physically escorting the demonstrators from the lunch facilities.

The "sit-in" technique was not new—the Congress of Racial Equality had used it to protest segregation in the Midwest in the 1940s—but it brought national attention to the movement in 1960. The success of the Greensboro sit-in led to a rash of student campaigns throughout the South. Probably the best organized, most highly disciplined, the most immediately effective of these was in Nashville, Tennessee. By the end of 1960, the sit-ins had spread to every southern and border state and even to Nevada, Illinois, and Ohio. Demonstrators focused not only on lunch counters but also on parks, beaches, libraries, theaters, museums, and other public places. Upon being arrested, student demonstrators made "jail-no-bail" pledges, to call attention to their cause and to reverse the cost of protest, thereby saddling their jailers with the financial burden of prison space and food.

The activists who had led these sit-ins formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 to take these tactics of nonviolent confrontation further. Some SNCC activists participated in the freedom rides organized by CORE in 1961 in which activists traveled by bus through the Deep South to integrate seating patterns and desegregate bus terminals, as required by federal law.

That proved to be a dangerous mission. In Anniston, Alabama, one bus was firebombed, forcing its passengers to flee for their lives. In Birmingham, Alabama, an FBI informant reported that Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor had encouraged the Ku Klux Klan to attack an incoming group of freedom riders. The riders were severely beaten "until it looked like a bulldog had got a hold of them."

The mob violence in Anniston and Birmingham temporarily halted the rides until SNCC activists from Nashville and elsewhere arrived in Birmingham to resume them. In Montgomery, Alabama a mob charged another bus load of riders, knocking John Lewis unconscious with a crate and smashing Life photographer Don Urbrock in the face with his own camera. A dozen men surrounded Jim Zwerg, a white student from Fisk University, and beat him in the face with a suitcase, knocking out his teeth.

The freedom riders continued their rides into Jackson, Mississippi where they were arrested for "breaching the peace" by using "white only" facilities. New freedom rides were organized by many different organizations, and as riders arrived in Jackson they were all arrested. By the end of summer, more than 300 had been jailed in Mississippi.

The jailed freedom riders were treated harshly, crammed into tiny, filthy cells and sporadically beaten. In Jackson, Mississippi, some male prisoners were forced to do hard labor in 100-degree heat. Others were transferred to Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where their food was deliberately oversalted and their mattresses were removed. Sometimes the men were suspended by "wrist breakers" from the walls. Typically, the windows of their cells were shut tight on hot days, making it hard for them to breathe.

Eventually, public sympathy and support for the freedom riders forces the Kennedy administration to order the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to issue a new desegregation order. When the new ICC rule takes effect on November 1st, passengers are permitted to sit wherever they please on the bus, "white" and "colored" signs come down in the terminals, separate drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms are consolidated, and the lunch counters begin serving people regardless of skin color.

The student movement involved such celebrated figures as John Lewis, the single-minded activist who "kept on" despite many beatings and harassments; James Lawson, the revered "guru" of nonviolent theory and tactics; Diane Nash, an articulate and intrepid public champion of justice; Bob Moses, pioneer of voting registration in Mississippi—the most rural and most dangerous part of the South; and James Bevel, a fiery preacher and charismatic organizer and facilitator. Other prominent student activists included Charles McDew; Bernard Lafayette; Charles Jones; Lonnie King; Julian Bond (associated with Atlanta University); Hosea Williams; and Stokely Carmichael (who later changed his name to Kwame Ture).

March on Washington, 1963

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The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the National Mall
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Civil Rights March on Washington, leaders marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial
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Civil Rights marchers at the Lincoln Memorial
A. Philip Randolph had planned a march on Washington, D.C., in 1941 in support of demands for elimination of employment discrimination in defense industries; he called off the march when the Roosevelt Administration met the demand by issuing Executive Order 8802 barring racial discrimination and creating an agency to oversee compliance with the order.

Randolph and Bayard Rustin were the chief planners of the second march, which they proposed in 1962. The Kennedy Administration applied great pressure on Randolph and King to call it off but without success. The march was held on August 28, 1963.

Unlike the planned 1941 march, for which Randolph included only black-led organizations in the planning, the 1963 march was a collaborative effort of all of the major civil rights organizations, the more progressive wing of the labor movement, and other liberal organizations. The march had six official goals: "meaningful civil rights laws, a massive federal works program, full and fair employment, decent housing, the right to vote, and adequate integrated education." Of these, the march's real focus was on passage of the civil rights law that the Kennedy Administration had proposed after the upheavals in Birmingham.

National media attention also greatly contributed to the march's national exposure and probable impact. In his section "The March on Washington and Television News," William Thomas notes: "Over five hundred cameramen, technicians, and correspondents from the major networks were set to cover the event. More cameras would be set up than had filmed the last Presidential inauguration. One camera was positioned high in the Washington Monument, to give dramatic vistas of the marchers". By carrying the organizers' speeches and offering their own commentary, television stations literally framed the way their local audiences saw and understood the event. [2]

The march was a success, although not without controversy. More than 200,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. While many speakers applauded the Kennedy Administration for the (largely ineffective) efforts it had made toward obtaining new, more effective civil rights legislation protecting the right to vote and outlawing segregation, John Lewis of SNCC took the Administration to task for how little it had done to protect southern blacks and civil rights workers under attack in the Deep South. While he toned down his comments under pressure from others in the movement, his words still stung:

We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here—for they have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages…or no wages at all. In good conscience, we cannot support the administration's civil rights bill.

This bill will not protect young children and old women from police dogs and fire hoses when engaging in peaceful demonstrations. This bill will not protect the citizens of Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear in a police state. This bill will not protect the hundreds of people who have been arrested on trumped-up charges like those in Americus, Georgia, where four young men are in jail, facing a death penalty, for engaging in peaceful protest.

I want to know, which side is the federal government on? The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it in the courts. Listen Mr. Kennedy, the black masses are on the march for jobs and for freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won't be a 'cooling-off period'.

After the march, King and other civil rights leaders met with President Kennedy at the White House. While the Kennedy Administration appeared to be sincerely committed to passing the bill, it was not clear that it had the votes to do it. But when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22 1963,<ref name="abbeville" /> the new President Lyndon Johnson decided to use his influence in Congress to bring about much of Kennedy's legislative agenda.

Organizing in Mississippi, 1962

In 1962 Robert Moses, SNCC's representative in Mississippi, brought together the civil rights organizations in the state—SNCC, the NAACP, and CORE—to form COFO, the Council of Federated Organizations. Mississippi was the most dangerous of all the southern states, yet Moses, Medgar Evers of the NAACP, and local activists embarked on door-to-door voter education projects in rural Mississippi, while trying to recruit students to their cause. Evers was murdered the following year.

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James Meredith walking to class accompanied by U.S. marshals
While COFO was working at the grassroots level in Mississippi, Clyde Kennard attempted to enter The University of Southern Mississippi. He was deemed a racial agitator by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and was sentenced to seven years in jail. He served three years in prison and was freed when he contracted colon cancer. Two years later, James Meredith sued for admission to the University of Mississippi. He won that lawsuit in September 1962 and attempted to enter the campus on September 20, on September 25, and again on September 26, only to be blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross R. Barnett, who proclaimed that "no school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your Governor". After the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held both Barnett and Lieutenant Governor Paul B. Johnson, Jr. in contempt, with fines of more than $10,000 for each day they refused to allow Meredith to enroll, Meredith, escorted by a force of U.S. Marshals, entered the campus on September 30, 1962.

White students and other whites began rioting that evening, throwing rocks at the U.S. Marshals guarding Meredith at Lyceum Hall, then firing on the marshals. Two persons, including a French journalist, were killed, 28 marshals suffered gunshot wounds and 160 others were injured. After the Mississippi Highway Patrol withdrew from the campus, President Kennedy sent the regular Army to the campus to quell the uprising. Meredith was able to begin classes the following day, after the troops arrived.

Albany Movement, 1961-1962

Main article: Albany Movement

The SCLC, which had been criticized along with other mainstream civil rights organizations by some student activists for its failure to participate more fully in the freedom rides, committed much of its prestige and resources to a desegregation campaign in Albany, Georgia, in November 1961. King, who had been criticized personally by some SNCC activists for his distance from the dangers that local organizers faced—and given the derisive nickname "De Lawd" as a result—intervened personally to assist the campaign led by both SNCC organizers and local leaders.

The campaign was a failure because of the canny tactics of Laurie Pritchett, the local police chief, who successfully contained the movement without the sort of violent attacks on demonstrators that inflamed national opinion, and divisions within the black community. Prichett also contacted every prison and jail within 60 miles (100 km) of Albany and arranged for arrested demonstrators to be taken to one of these jails, allowing plenty of room to remain in his jail. In addition to these arrangements, Prichett also foresaw King's presence as a danger and forced his release to avoid King's rallying the black community. King left in 1962 without achieving any dramatic victories. The local movement, however, continued the struggle, and it obtained significant gains in the next few years.

Birmingham campaign, 1963-1964

Main article: Birmingham campaign

The Albany movement proved to be an important education for the SCLC, however, when it undertook the Birmingham campaign in 1963. The campaign focused on one goal—the desegregation of Birmingham's downtown merchants, rather than total desegregation, as in Albany. It was also helped by the brutal response of local authorities, in particular Eugene "Bull" Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety who had lost a recent election for mayor to a less rabidly segregationist candidate but refused to accept the new mayor's authority.

The campaign used a variety of nonviolent methods of confrontation, including sit-ins, kneel-ins at local churches, and a march to the county building to mark the beginning of a drive to register voters. The city, however, obtained an injunction barring all such protests. Convinced that the order was unconstitutional, the campaign defied it and prepared for mass arrests of its supporters. King elected to be among those arrested on April 12, 1963.

While in jail, King wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail on the margins of a newspaper, since he had not been allowed any writing paper while held in solitary confinement by jail authorities[2]. Supporters pressured the Kennedy Administration to intervene to obtain his release or better conditions. King eventually was allowed to call his wife, who was recuperating at home after the birth of their fourth child, and was released on April 19.

The campaign, however, was faltering at this time, because the movement was running out of demonstrators willing to risk arrest. SCLC organizers came up with a bold and controversial alternative, calling on high school students to take part in the demonstrations. When more than one thousand students left school on May 2 to join the demonstrations in what would come to be called the Children's Crusade, more than six hundred ended up in jail. This was newsworthy, but with this first encounter the police acted with restraint. On the next day however another one thousand students gathered at the church, and Bull Connor unleashed police dogs on them, then turned the city's fire hoses mortar, on the children. Television cameras broadcast the scenes of fire hoses knocking down schoolchildren and dogs attacking individual demonstrators, with no means of protecting themselves, to the nation.

Widespread public outrage forced the Kennedy Administration to intervene more forcefully in the negotiations between the white business community and the SCLC. On May 10, the parties announced an agreement to desegregate the lunch counters and other public accommodations downtown, to create a committee to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices, to arrange for the release of jailed protesters, and to establish regular means of communication between black and white leaders.

Not everyone in the black community approved of the agreement—Fred Shuttlesworth was particularly critical, since he had accumulated a great deal of skepticism about the good faith of Birmingham's power structure from his experience in dealing with them. The reaction from parts of the white community was even more violent. The Gaston Motel, which housed the SCLC's unofficial headquarters, was bombed, as was the home of King's brother, the Reverend A. D. King. Kennedy prepared to federalize the Alabama National Guard but did not follow through. Four months later, on September 15, Ku Klux Klan members bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four young girls.

Other events of the summer of 1963:
On June 11,1963, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, attempted to block the integration of the University of Alabama. President John F. Kennedy sent enough force to make Governor Wallace step aside, allowing the enrollment of two black students. That evening, JFK addressed the nation on TV and radio with a historic civil rights speech.[3] The next day Medgar Evers was murdered in Mississippi.[4] The next week as promised, on June 191963, JFK submitted his Civil Rights bill to Congress.[5]

Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964

Main article: Freedom Summer

COFO brought more than one hundred college students, many from outside the state, to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to join with local activists to register voters, teach in "Freedom Schools" and organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. The work was dangerous: three civil rights workers, James Chaney, a young black Mississippian and plasterer's apprentice; and two Jewish volunteers, Andrew Goodman, a Queens College anthropology student; and Michael Schwerner, a social worker from Manhattan's Lower East Side, were murdered by members of the Klan, some of them members of the Neshoba County sheriff's department, on June 21, 1964.

The national uproar caused by their disappearance forced the FBI to investigate, even though President Johnson had to use indirect threats of political reprisals against J. Edgar Hoover to force him to do so. After paying at least one participant in the crime for details about the murders, the FBI found their bodies on August 4 in an earthen dam outside Philadelphia, Mississippi. Schwerner and Goodman had been shot once; Chaney, the lone African-American, had been savagely beaten and shot three times. The FBI also discovered in the course of its investigation the bodies of several other Mississippi blacks whose disappearances had been reported over the past several years without attracting any attention outside their local communities.

The disappearance of these three activists remained in the public eye for 6 weeks until their bodies were found. Johnson used the outrage over their deaths and his formidable political skills to bring about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed July 2, which bars discrimination in public accommodations, employment and education. It also had a section about voting, but voting was addressed more substantially by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The case also underscored the extensive participation of Jewish-Americans during the Civil Rights era working in concert with African-Americans.

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964

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President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, James Farmer

COFO had held a Freedom Vote in Mississippi in 1963 to demonstrate the desire of black Mississippians to vote. More than 90,000 people voted in mock elections which pitted candidates from the "Freedom Party" against the official state Democratic Party candidates. In 1964, organizers launched the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the all-white slate from the state party. When Mississippi voting registrars refused to recognize their candidates, they held their own primary, selecting Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, and Victoria Gray to run for Congress and a slate of delegates to represent Mississippi at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

Their presence in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was very inconvenient, however, for the convention organizers, who had planned a triumphal celebration of the Johnson Administration’s achievements in civil rights, rather than a fight over racism within the Democratic Party. Johnson also was worried about the inroads that Barry Goldwater’s campaign was making in what previously had been the Democratic stronghold of the "Solid South" and the support that George Wallace had received during the Democratic primaries in the North. Other all-white delegations from other southern states had threatened to walk out if the all-white slate from Mississippi was not seated.

Johnson could not, however, prevent the MFDP from taking its case to the Credentials Committee, where Fannie Lou Hamer testified eloquently about the beatings that she and others endured and the threats they faced for trying to register to vote. Turning to the television cameras, Hamer asked, "Is this America?"

Johnson attempted to preempt coverage of Hamer's testimony by calling a hastily scheduled speech of his own. When that failed to move the MFDP off the evening news, he offered the MFDP a "compromise" under which it would receive two non-voting, at-large seats, while the white delegation sent by the official Democratic Party would retain its seats. The MFDP angrily rejected the compromise. As Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers' successor as president of the NAACP 's Mississippi affiliate, stated:

"Now, Lyndon made the typical white man's mistake: Not only did he say, 'You've got two votes,' which was too little, but he told us to whom the two votes would go. He'd give me one and Ed King one; that would satisfy. But, you see, he didn't realize that sixty-four of us came up from Mississippi on a Greyhound bus, eating cheese and crackers and bologna all the way there; we didn't have no money. Suffering the same way. We got to Atlantic City; we put up in a little hotel, three or four of us in a bed, four or five of us on the floor. You know, we suffered a common kind of experience, the whole thing. But now, what kind of fool am I, or what kind of fool would Ed have been, to accept gratuities for ourselves? You say, Ed and Aaron can get in but the other sixty-two can't. This is typical white man picking black folks' leaders, and that day is just gone."

Hamer put it even more succinctly:

"We didn't come all the way up here to compromise for no more than we’d gotten here. We didn't come all this way for no two seats, 'cause all of us is tired."

The MFDP kept up its agitation within the convention, however, even after it was denied official recognition. When all but three of the "regular" Mississippi delegates left because they refused to pledge allegiance to the party, the MFDP delegates borrowed passes from sympathetic delegates and took the seats vacated by the Mississippi delegates, only to be removed by the national party. When they returned the next day to find that convention organizers had removed the empty seats that had been there the day before, they stayed to sing freedom songs.

The 1964 convention disillusioned many within the MFDP and the Civil Rights Movement, but it did not destroy the MFDP itself. The MFDP became more radical after Atlantic City, inviting Malcolm X to speak at its founding convention and opposing the war in Vietnam.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 101964.[6]

Boycott of New Orleans by American Football League players, January 1965

After the 1964 professional American Football League season, the AFL All-Star Game had been scheduled for early 1965 in New Orleans' Tulane Stadium. After numerous black players were refused service by a number of New Orleans hotels and businesses, and white cabdrivers refused to carry black passengers, black and white players alike lobbied for a boycott. Under the leadership of Buffalo Bills players including Cookie Gilchrist, the players put up a unified front, and the game was successfully moved to Houston's Jeppesen Stadium.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had just recently been passed, likely encouraging the AFL players in their cause, which was the first boycott in history of an entire city by a professional sports event.

Selma and the Voting Rights Act, 1965

SNCC had undertaken an ambitious voter registration program in Selma, Alabama, in 1963, but by 1965 had made little headway in the face of opposition from Selma's sheriff, Jim Clark. After local residents asked the SCLC for assistance, King came to Selma to lead several marches, at which he was arrested along with 250 other demonstrators. The marchers continued to meet violent resistance from police. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a resident of nearby Marion, was killed by police at a later march in February.

On March 7, Hosea Williams of the SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC led a march of 600 people who intended to walk the 54 miles (87 km) from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery. Only six blocks into the march, however, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state troopers and local law enforcement, some mounted on horseback, attacked the peaceful demonstrators with billy clubs, tear gas, rubber tubes wrapped in barbed wire and bull whips, driving them back into Selma. John Lewis was knocked unconscious and dragged to safety, while at least 16 other marchers were hospitalized. Among those gassed and beaten was Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was at the center of civil rights activity at the time.

The national broadcast of the footage of lawmen attacking unresisting marchers seeking only the right to vote provoked a national response similar to the scenes from Birmingham two years earlier. While the marchers were able to obtain a court order permitting them to make the march without incident two weeks later, local whites murdered another voting rights supporter, Rev. James Reeb, after a second march to the site of Bloody Sunday on March 9. He died in a Birmingham hospital March 11. Four Klansmen shot and killed Detroit homemaker Viola Liuzzo March 25 as she drove marchers back to Selma at night after the successful completed march to Montgomery.

Johnson delivered a televised address to Congress eight days after the first march in support of the voting rights bill he had sent to Congress. In it he stated:

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6. The 1965 act suspended poll taxes, literacy tests and other voter tests and authorized federal supervision of voter registration in states and individual voting districts where such tests were being used. African-Americans who had been barred from registering to vote finally had an alternative to the courts. If voting discrimination occurred, the 1965 act authorized the Attorney General of the United States to send federal examiners to replace local registrars. Johnson reportedly stated to associates that signing the bill had lost the South for the Democratic Party for the foreseeable future.

The act, however, had an immediate and positive impact for African-Americans. Within months of its passage, one quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one third by federal examiners. Within four years, voter registration in the South had more than doubled. In 1965, Mississippi had the highest black voter turnout—74%—and led the nation in the number of black public officials elected. In 1969, Tennessee had a 92.1% turnout; Arkansas, 77.9%; and Texas, 73.1%.

Several Whites who opposed the voting rights act paid an immediate price as well. Sheriff Jim Clark of Alabama who was infamous for using cattle prods to counteract civil rights marches was up for reelection in 1966. Taking off the notorious "Never" pin on his uniform to get the Black portion of the vote, he was unsuccessful. At the election poll, he lost as Blacks voted for the sake of just taking him out of office by any means possible.

Blacks winning the right to vote changed the political landscape of the South forever. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, around 100 African-Americans held elective office in the U.S.; by 1989, there were more than 7,200, including more than 4,800 in the South. Nearly every Black Belt county in Alabama had a black sheriff, and southern blacks held top positions within city, county, and state governments. Atlanta had a black mayor, Andrew Young, as did Jackson, MississippiHarvey Johnson—and New Orleans, with Ernest Morial. Black politicians on the national level included Barbara Jordan, who represented Texas in Congress, and Andrew Young was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Carter Administration. Julian Bond was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1965, although political reaction to his public opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam prevented him from taking his seat until 1967. John Lewis currently represents Georgia's 5th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives, where he has served since 1987. Lewis sits on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Health Committee.

Memphis and the Poor People's March, 1968

Rev. James Lawson invited King to Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1968 to support a strike by sanitation workers who had launched a campaign for union representation after two workers were accidentally killed on the job. A day after delivering his famous "Mountaintop" sermon at Lawson's church, King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Riots broke out in over 110 cities across the United States in the days that followed, notably in Chicago, Baltimore, and in Washington, D.C.

Rev. Ralph Abernathy succeeded King as the head of the SCLC and attempted to carry forth King's plan for a Poor People's March, which would have united blacks and whites to campaign for fundamental changes in American society and economic structure. The march went forward under Abernathy's plainspoken leadership but is widely regarded as a failure.

Other issues

Kennedy Administration, 1960-63

Enlarge picture
Robert F. Kennedy speaking to a Civil Rights crowd in front of the Justice Department building, June 1963.
President John F. Kennedy's record of voting on issues of racial discrimination had been, during the years preceding his election to the presidency, scant at best. Kennedy openly confessed to his closest advisors that during the first months of his presidency his knowledge of the civil rights movement was "lacking".

For the first two years of the Kennedy Administration, attitudes to both the President and Attorney-General, Robert F. Kennedy, were mixed. On the one hand, many viewed the Administration with suspicion; a well of historical cynicism toward white liberal politics had left a sense of uneasy disdain toward any white politician who claimed to share the concerns for freedom held by African-Americans, and yet there was also a strong sense that in the Kennedys there was a new age of political dialogue to be experienced.

There was a certain naivete on the part of the Kennedy brothers, best demonstrated in Robert Kennedy's declaration in 1962 that, "the Irish were not wanted here. Now an Irish Catholic is President of the United States. There is no question about it, in the next forty years a Negro can achieve the same position."[7]

Although it has become commonplace to assert the phrase "The Kennedy Administration" or even, "President Kennedy" when discussing the legislative and executive support of the Civil Rights movement, between 1960 and 1963, a great many of the initiatives which occurred during President Kennedy's tenure were as a result of the passion and determination of an emboldened Robert Kennedy, who through his rapid education in the realities of racism, underwent a thorough conversion of purpose as Attorney-General. Asked in an interview in May 1962, "What do you see as the big problem ahead for you, is it Crime or Internal Security?" Robert Kennedy replied, "Civil Rights."[8] The President came to share his brother's sense of urgency on the matters at hand to such an extent that it was at the Attorney-General's insistence that he made his famous address to the nation.[9].

During the attack and burning, by a vast white mob, of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama, at which King was in attendance with protestors, the Attorney-General telephoned King to ask his assurance that they would not leave the building until the U.S. Marshalls and National Guard had secured the area. King proceeded to berate Kennedy for "allowing the situation to continue". King later publicly thanked Robert Kennedy for his commanding of the force dispatched to break up an attack which might otherwise have ended King's life. The relationship between the two men underwent great change over the years that they knew each other—from a position of mutual suspicion to one of shared aspirations. For Dr King, Robert Kennedy initially represented the 'softly softly' approach that in former years had disabled the movement of blacks against oppression in the U.S. For Robert Kennedy, King initially represented what was then considered the unrealistic militancy which many in the white-liberal camp had regarded as the cause of so little governmental progress.

King regarded much of the efforts of the Kennedys as an attempt to control the movement; to siphon off its energies. Yet in time he came to find the efforts of the brothers to be crucial. It was at Robert Kennedy's constant insistence, through conversations with King and others, that King came to recognise the fundamental nature of electoral reform and suffrage—the need for black Americans to actively engage not only protest but political dialogue at the highest levels. In time the President gained King's respect and the trust of the movement, via the frank dialogue and efforts of the Attorney-General. Robert Kennedy became very much his brother's key advisor on matters of racial equality—the President regarding the issue of civil rights to be the function of the Attorney-General's office and not the sole policy agenda of the executive branch.

With a very slim majority in Congress, the President's ability to press ahead with legislation relied very much on a balancing game with the Senators and Congressmen of the South. Indeed, without the support of Vice-President Johnson, many of the Attorney-General's programs would not have progressed at all.

Frustration at the slow pace of political change came, by late 1962, to be balanced by the movement's strong support for legislative initiatives: housing rights, administrative representation across all US Government departments, safe conditions at the ballot box, pressure on the courts to prosecute racist criminals. To which end King remarked by the end of the year, "This administration has reached out more creatively than its predecessors to blaze new trails [in voting rights and government appointments]. Its vigorous young men have launched imaginative and bold forays and displayed a certain elan in the attention they give to civil rights issues."[10]

From squaring off against Governor George Wallace to "tearing into" Vice-President Johnson (for failing to desegregate areas of the administration) to threatening corrupt white Southern judges with disbarment, to desegregating interstate transport, Robert Kennedy came to be consumed by the Civil Rights movement to such an extent that he carried it forward into his own bid for the presidency in 1968. On the night of Governor Wallace's capitulation, President Kennedy gave an address to the nation which marked the changing tide, an address which was to become a landmark for the change in political policy which ensued. In it President Kennedy spoke of the need to act decisively and to act now:

"We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes? Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them." [3].

Assassination cut short the life and careers of both of the Kennedy brothers and that of Martin Luther King, Jr. But not before the essential groundwork of the Civil Rights Act 1964 had been initiated, and a greater sense of the dire need for political and administrative reform had been driven home on Capitol Hill by the combined efforts of the Kennedy administration together with Dr King.

After the Assassination of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy undertook a 1966 tour of South Africa in which he championed the cause of the anti-Apartheid movement. The tour was greeted with international praise at a time when few politicians dared to entangle themselves in the dirty politics of racist South Africa. Kennedy spoke out against the oppression of the native population and was welcomed by the black population as though a visiting head of state. In an interview with LOOK Magazine he had this to say:

"At the University of Natal in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve. "But suppose God is black", I replied. "What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?" There was no answer. Only silence."[11]

American Jewish community and the Civil Rights movement

Many in the Jewish American community supported the Civil Rights Movement. The Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald funded dozens of primary schools, secondary schools and colleges for black youth. He gave, and led the Jewish community in giving to, some 2,000 schools for black Americans. This list includes Howard, Dillard and Fisk universities.

Jewish leaders were arrested with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964 after a challenge to racial segregation in public accommodations. Abraham Joshua Heschel, a writer, rabbi and professor of theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America was outspoken on the subject of civil rights and marched arm-in-arm with Dr. King in the 1965 March on Selma.

Brandeis University, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college university in the world, created the Transitional Year Program in 1968, in part response to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. The Transitional Year Program (TYP) at Brandeis was founded in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, this event compelled members of the faculty to find a means for renewing the University's commitment to social justice. Recognizing Brandeis as a university with a commitment to academic excellence, these faculty members thought it only right to extend the opportunity to participate in an empowering educational experience to students from communities that offered limited educational options.

It began by only admitting 20 black males to ensue the obvious disenfranchisement of the African American Community in the United States. The progam has developed into The TYP selects students from two broad categories with respect to background that in many cases overlap. The first group consists of students whose secondary schooling experiences and/or home communities may have lacked the resources to foster adequate preparation for success at elite colleges like Brandeis. Many times, their high schools do not offer AP or honors courses nor high quality laboratory experiences. Despite the absence of such opportunities, students have excelled in the curricula offered by their schools

The second group of students contains those whose life circumstances have created formidable challenges that required focus, energy, and skills that otherwise would have been devoted to academic pursuits. Some have served as heads of their households, others have worked full-time while attending high school full-time, and others have shown leadership in other ways.

The PBS television show From Swastika to Jim Crow explores Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement. Jewish professors, refugees from the Holocaust came to teach at Southern Black Colleges in the 1930s and '40s. There came to be empathy and collaboration between Blacks and Jews. Professor Ernst Borinski organized dinners at which blacks and whites sat next to each other, a simple act that challenged segregation. Black students empathized with the cruelty these scholars had endured in Europe.[12]

The American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, and Anti-Defamation League actively promoted civil rights.

Fraying of alliances

King reached the height of popular acclaim during his life in 1964, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His career after that point was filled with frustrating challenges, as the liberal coalition that had made the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 began to fray.

King was becoming more estranged from the Johnson Administration, breaking with it in 1965 by calling for peace negotiations and a halt to the bombing of Vietnam. He moved further left in the following years, moving towards socialism and speaking of the need for economic justice and thoroughgoing changes in American society beyond the granting of the civil rights that the movement had sought to that date.

King's attempts to broaden the scope of the Civil Rights Movement were halting and largely unsuccessful, however. King made several efforts in 1965 to take the Movement north to address issues of employment and housing discrimination. His campaign in Chicago failed, as Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley marginalized King's campaign by promising to "study" the city's problems. In 1966, white demonstrators holding "white power" signs in notoriously racist Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, threw stones at King and other marchers demonstrating against housing segregation, injuring King.

Race riots, 1963-1970

After World War II, more than half of the country's black population lived in Northern and Western cities rather than Southern rural areas. Coming to these cities for better job opportunities and to escape legal segregation, Africa Americans found segregation that existed in fact rather than in law.

While the Ku Klux Klan was not as prevalent as it was in the South, other problems prevailed in northern cities. Urban black neighborhoods were among the poorest in most major cities. Unemployment was much higher than in white neighborhoods, and crime was frequent. Blacks rarely owned the stores or businesses where they lived and mostly worked menial or blue-collar jobs for a fraction of the pay that white co-workers received. Blacks often made only enough money to live in dilapidated tenements that were privately owned or poorly maintained public housing. Blacks attended schools that were often the worst academically in the city and that had very few white students. Worst of all, black neighborhoods were subject to police problems that white neighborhoods were not at all accustomed to dealing with.

The police forces in America were set up with the motto "To Protect and Serve." Rarely did this occur in any black neighborhoods. Rather, many blacks felt police only existed to "Patrol and Control." The racial makeup of the police departments, usually largely white, was a large factor. Until 1970, no urban police force in America was greater than 10% black, and in most black neighborhoods, blacks accounted for less than 5% of the police on patrol. Arrests merely for being black were common, and as a result of racist police harassment and all the other listed factors causing a poor living standard, riots broke out in many cities.

One of the first major race riots took place in Harlem, New York, in the summer of 1964. A white Irish-American police officer, Thomas Gilligan, shot a 15-year-old black named James Powell for allegedly charging at him with a knife. Time Magazine told one version. [4] In fact, Powell was unarmed; a group of black citizens demanded Gilligan's suspension. Hundreds of young demonstrators marched peacefully to the 67th Street police station on July 17, 1964, the day after Powell's death. [5]

Gilligan was not suspended. Even though this precinct had promoted the NYPD's first black station commander, neighborhood residents were tired of the inequalities in place, and were so enraged that they looted and burned anything that was not black-owned in the neighborhood. This rebellion spread to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a major black neighborhood in Brooklyn. That summer, rioting also broke out in Philadelphia, for similar reasons.

In the aftermath of the riots of July 1964, the federal government funded a pilot program called Project Uplift, in which thousands of young people in Harlem were given jobs during the summer of 1965. The project was inspired by a report generated by HARYOU called Youth in the Ghetto,[13] and HARYOU was given a major role in organizing the project, along with the National Urban League and nearly 100 smaller community organizations.[14] Permanent jobs at living wages, however, were still out of reach of many young black men.

The following year, in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, but the new law had no immediate effect on living conditions for blacks. A few days after the act became law, a riot broke out in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. Like Harlem, Watts was an impoverished neighborhood with very high unemployment, and its residents had to endure patrols by a largely white police department. While arresting a young man for drunk driving, police officers argued with the suspect's mother before onlookers. The conflict triggered a massive destruction of property which lasted six days. Thirty-four people were killed and property valued at about $30 million was destroyed, making the Watts riot one of the worst in American history.

With black militancy on the rise, increased acts of anger were now directed at the police. Black residents growing tired of police brutality continued to rebel, and some young people joined groups such as the Black Panthers, whose popularity was based in part on their reputation for confronting abusive police officers.

Riots continued through 1966 and 1967 in cities such as Atlanta, San Francisco, Oakland, Baltimore, Seattle, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Newark, Chicago, New York City (specifically in Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx), and worst of all in Detroit. In Detroit, a comfortable black middle class had begun to develop among families of blacks who worked at well-paying jobs in the automotive industry. However, blacks who had not moved upward were living in even worse conditions, subject to the same problems as blacks in Watts and Harlem. When white police officers shut down an illegal bar on a liquor raid and arrested a large group of patrons, furious residents rioted. One significant effect of the Detroit riot was the acceleration of "white flight," the trend of white residents moving from inner-city neighborhoods to predominantly white suburbs; Detroit experienced "middle class black flight" as well. Cities such as Detroit, Newark, and Baltimore now have a less than 40% white population as a result of these riots. To this day, these cities contain some of the worst living conditions for blacks anywhere in America.

As a result of the numerous riots, President Johnson created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in 1967. The commission's final report called for major reforms in employment and public assistance sent to black communities, and it stated that the United States was moving toward separate white and black societies.

Fresh rioting broke out in April 1968 after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This time riots erupted in many major cities at once, and cities affected the most included Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

Affirmative Action helped in the hiring process of more black police officers in every major city, and as a result, blacks make up a majority of the police departments in cities such as Baltimore, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, Newark, and Detroit. Civil rights laws have reduced employment discrimination. The conditions that led to frequent rioting in the late 1960s have receded and such riots are rare, although similar riots took place in Miami in 1980, in Los Angeles in 1992, and in Cincinnati in 2001.

Black power, 1966

Main article: Black Power

Enlarge picture
A statue honoring Carlos and Smith at San José State University

At the same time King was finding himself at odds with factions of the Democratic Party, he was facing challenges from within the Civil Rights Movement to the two key tenets upon which the movement had been based: integration and non-violence. Black activists within SNCC and CORE had chafed for some time at the influence wielded by white advisors to civil rights organizations and the disproportionate attention that was given to the deaths of white civil rights workers while black workers' deaths often went virtually unnoticed. Stokely Carmichael, who became the leader of SNCC in 1966, was one of the earliest and most articulate spokespersons for what became known as the "Black Power" movement after he used that slogan, coined by activist and organizer Willie Ricks, in Greenwood, Mississippi on June 17, 1966.

In 1966 SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael began urging African American communities to confront the Ku Klux Klan armed and ready for battle. He felt it was the only way to ever rid the communities of the terror caused by the Klan. Listening to this, several Blacks confronted the Ku Klux Klan armed, and as a result the Klan stopped terrorizing their communities.

Several people engaging in the Black Power movement started to gain more of a sense in black pride and identity as well. In gaining more of a sense of a cultural identity, several blacks demanded that whites no longer refer to them as "Negroes" but as "Afro-Americans." Up until the mid-1960s, blacks had dressed similarly to whites and combed their hair straight. As a part of gaining a unique identity, blacks started to wear loosely fit dashikis and had started to grow their hair out as a natural afro. The afro, sometimes nicknamed the "'fro," remained a popular black hairstyle until the late 1970s.

Black Power was made most public however by the Black Panther Party which founded in Oakland, California, in 1966. This group followed ideology stated by Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam using a "by-any-means necessary" approach to stopping inequality. They sought to rid African American neighborhoods of Police Brutality and had a ten-point plan amongst other things. Their dress code consisted of leather jackets, berets, light blue shirts, and an afro hairstyle. They are best remembered for setting up free breakfast programs, referring to white police officers as "pigs", displaying shotguns and a black power fist, and often using the statement of "Power to the people."

Black Power was taken to another level inside of prison walls. In 1966, George Jackson formed the Black Guerilla Family in the California prison of San Quentin. The goal of this group was to overthrow the white-run government in America and the prison system in general. This group also preaches the general hatred of Whites and Jews everywhere. In 1970, this group displayed their ruthlessness after a white prison guard was found not guilty for shooting three black prisoners from the prison tower. The guard was found cut to pieces, and a message was sent throughout the whole prison of how serious the group was.

Also in 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, while being awarded the gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the 1968 Summer Olympics, donned human rights badges and each raised a black-gloved Black Power salute during their podium ceremony. Incidentally, it was the suggestion of white silver medalist, Peter Norman of Australia, for Smith and Carlos to each wear one black glove. Smith and Carlos were immediately ejected from the games by the USOC, and later the IOC issued a permanent lifetime ban for the two. However, the Black Power movement had been given a stage on live, international television.

King was not comfortable with the "Black Power" slogan, which sounded too much like black nationalism to him. SNCC activists, in the meantime, began embracing the "right to self-defense" in response to attacks from white authorities, and booed King for continuing to advocate non-violence. When King was murdered in 1968, Stokely Carmichael stated that whites murdered the one person who would prevent rampant rioting and burning of major cities down and that blacks would burn every major city to the ground. In every major city from Boston to San Francisco, racial riots broke out in the black community following King's death and as a result, "White Flight" occurred from several cities leaving Blacks in a dilapidated and nearly unrepairable city.

Prison reform

Gates v. Collier

Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, then known as Parchman Farm, is also known for the part it played in the United States Civil Rights Movement. In the spring of 1961, Freedom Riders came to the South to test the desegregation of public facilities. By the end of June, 163 Freedom Riders had been convicted in Jackson, Mississippi. Many were jailed in Parchman.

In 1970 Civil Rights lawyer Roy Haber began taking statements from inmates, which eventually totalled fifty pages of details of murders, rapes, beatings and other abuses suffered by the inmates from 1969 to 1971 at Mississippi State Penitentiary. In a landmark case known as Gates v. Collier (1972) four inmates represented by Haber sued the superintendent of Parchman Farm for violating their rights under the United States Constitution. Federal Judge William C. Keady found in favor of the inmates, writing that Parchman Farm violated the civil rights of the inmates by inflicting cruel and unusual punishment. He ordered an immediate end to all unconstitutional conditions and practices. Racial segregation of inmates was abolished. And the trustee system, which allow certain inmates to have power and control over others, was also abolished.[15]

The prison was renovated in 1972 after the scathing ruling by Judge Keady in which he wrote that the prison was an affront to "modern standards of decency." Among other reforms, the accommodations were made fit for human habitation and the system of "trusties" (in which lifers were armed with rifles and set to guard other inmates) was abolished. [16]

In integrated correctional facilities in northern and western states, blacks represented a disproportionate amount of the prisoners and were often treated as second class citizens at the hands of white correctional officers. Blacks also represented a disproportionate number of death row inmates. As a result, Black Power found a ready constituency inside prison walls where gangs such as the Black Guerilla Family were formed as a way to redress the disproportionalities, organizing Black inmates to take militant action. Eldridge Cleaver's book Soul on Ice was written from his experiences in the California correctional system and further fueled black militancy.[17]

Cold war

The international context of the actions of the U.S. federal government during these years, and in particular its need to appeal to the people in Third World, should not to be ignored. [6] In Cold War Civil Rights:Race and the Image of American Democracy, Mary L. Dudziak shows how, in the ideological battle of the Cold War, Communist crit ics could easily point out the hypocrisy of the United States's portrayal of itself as the "leader of the free world" when so many of its citizens were the object of racial discrimination and I lLOVE HECTOR ORELLANA...... She argues that this was a major factor in pushing the government towards civil rights legislation.

See also:


Individuals and organizations printed materials supporting their positions on the Civil Rights Movement on both sides of the dispute, ranging from academic books to self-printed pamphlets.

Pamphlet by black man against discrimination

Back of pamphlet

See also

African American topics
African American history
African American military history
Atlantic slave trade
Jim Crow laws
Christian Churches
Rasta  ·  Black Jews
Black Hebrew Israelites
Nation of Islam  ·  Santería
Doctrine of Father Divine
Political movements
Civil Rights (1896 to 1954)
Civil Rights (1955 to 1968)
Garveyism  ·  Black nationalism
Black populism
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NPHC · Links · 
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Literature  ·  Studies
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Activist organizations



1. ^ "The Tallahassee Bus Boycott--Fifty Years Later," The Tallahassee Democrat, May 21, 2006
2. ^ Bass, S. Jonathan (2001) Blessed Are The Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail". Baton Rouge: LSU Press. ISBN 0807126551
3. ^ "Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights," june 111963, transcript from the JFK library.
4. ^ Medgar Evers, a worthwhile article, on The Mississippi Writers Page, a website of the University of Mississippi English Department.
5. ^ Civil Rights bill submitted, and date of JFK murder, plus graphic events of the March on Washington. This is an Abbeville Press website, a large informative article apparently from their book The Civil Rights Movement (ISBN 0-7892-0123-2).
6. ^ MLK's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10 1964. This is part of the Nobel Foundation website.
7. ^ Guthman, We Band of Brothers 1971
8. ^ Bob Spivack, Interview of the Attorney General, May 12 1962
9. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur Jr, Robert Kennedy And His Times (2002)
10. ^ Martin Luther King, Jr. Nation March 3rd 1962
11. ^ Ripple of Hope in the Land of Apartheid: Robert Kennedy in South Africa, June 1966
12. ^ PBS website From Swastika to Jim Crow
13. ^ Youth in the Ghetto: A Study of the Consequences of Powerlessness, Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc., 1964
14. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970
15. ^ Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
16. ^ Goldman, Robert M. Goldman (April 1997). "Worse Than Slavery": Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice - book review. Hnet-online. Retrieved on 2006-08-29.
17. ^ Cleaver, Eldridge (1967). Soul on Ice. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. 


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  • Marable, Manning. Race, Reform and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1982. 249 pages. University Press of Mississippi, 1984. ISBN 0-87805-225-9.
  • McAdam, Doug. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1982
  • Minchin, Timothy J. Hiring the Black Worker: The Racial Integration of the Southern Textile Industry, 1960-1980. 342 pages. University of North Carolina Press. May 1, 1999. ISBN 0-8078-2470-4.
  • Morris, Aldon D. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change. New York: The Free Press, 1984. ISBN 0-02-922130-7
  • Sokol, Jason. There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975. New York: Knopf, August 22, 2006.
  • Williams, Juan. Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. ISBN 0-14-009653-1
  • Westheider, James Edward. "My Fear is for You": African Americans, Racism, and the Vietnam War. University of Cincinnati. 1993.

Documentary films

  • Freedom on my Mind, 110 minutes, 1994, Producer/Directors: Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford, 1994 Academy Award Nominee, Best Documentary Feature
  • Eyes on the Prize, PBS television series.

External links

Jewish community and civil rights

19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1920s  1930s  1940s  - 1950s -  1960s  1970s  1980s
1952 1953 1954 - 1955 - 1956 1957 1958

Year 1955 (MCMLV
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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1930s  1940s  1950s  - 1960s -  1970s  1980s  1990s
1965 1966 1967 - 1968 - 1969 1970 1971

Year 1968 (MCMLXVIII
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"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
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Racism has many definitions, the most common and widely accepted being the belief that members of one race are intrinsically superior or inferior to members of other races.
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African Americans or Black Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.[1] In the United States the term is generally used for Americans with sub-Saharan African ancestry.
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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1920s  1930s  1940s  - 1950s -  1960s  1970s  1980s
1951 1952 1953 - 1954 - 1955 1956 1957

Year 1954 (MCMLIV
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The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive region in the southeastern and south-central United States.
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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1930s  1940s  1950s  - 1960s -  1970s  1980s  1990s
1963 1964 1965 - 1966 - 1967 1968 1969

Year 1966 (MCMLXVI
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Black Power was a political movement among persons of African descent throughout the world, though it is often associated primarily with African Americans in the United States.
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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1940s  1950s  1960s  - 1970s -  1980s  1990s  2000s
1972 1973 1974 - 1975 - 1976 1977 1978

Year 1975 (MCMLXXV
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Nation millions of dollars percentage cumulative percentage
Canada 23.1192% 23.1192%
Mexico 13.5432% 36.6624%
Japan 6.6509% 43.3133%
United Kingdom 4.3964% 47.7097%
China 4.2449% 51.9546%
Germany 3.8366% 55.7912%
Korea 3.2194% 59.
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United States of America

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Self-sufficiency refers to the state of not requiring any outside aid, support, or (in hardline cases) interaction, for survival; it is therefore a type of extreme personal or collective (group-based) autonomy .
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White American
74.7% of the total U.S. population

Regions with significant populations All areas of the United States
Languages Predominantly American English  •
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Second Reconstruction is a term that refers to the American Civil Rights Movement. In many respects, the mass movement against segregation and discrimination that erupted following World War II, shared many similarities with the period of Reconstruction which followed the American
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Reconstruction was the attempt from 1863 to 1877 in U.S. history to resolve the issues of the American Civil War, when both the Confederacy and slavery were destroyed. Reconstruction addressed the return to the Union of the secessionist Southern states, the status of the leaders of
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American Civil War (1861–1865) was a major war between the United States (the "Union") and eleven Southern slave states which declared that they had a right to secession and formed the Confederate States of America, led by President Jefferson Davis.
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The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (or SNCC, pronounced "snick") was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
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Core may refer to:

In media:
  • Core (album), an album by Stone Temple Pilots
  • Core (Persefone album)
  • Core (radio station), a digital radio station in the United Kingdom
  • The Core, a 2003 science fiction film

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The 19th Century (also written XIX century) lasted from 1801 through 1900 in the Gregorian calendar. It is often referred to as the "1800s.
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United States of America

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The of American race relations refers to the period in United States history at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. According to many historians, racism in the United States was worse during this time than at any period before or since.
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State of Texas

Flag of Texas Seal
Nickname(s): Lone Star State
Motto(s): Friendship.
Before Statehood Known as
The Republic of Texas

Official language(s) No official language

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State of Mississippi

Flag of Mississippi Seal
Nickname(s): The Magnolia State, The Hospitality State
Motto(s): Virtute et armis (By Valor and Arms)

Official language(s) English

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State of Alabama

Flag of Alabama Seal
Nickname(s): Yellowhammer State, Heart of Dixie
Motto(s): Audemus jura nostra defendere

Official language(s) English
Spoken language(s) English 96.
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State of Georgia

Flag of Georgia Seal of Georgia
Nickname(s): Peach State, Empire State of the South
Motto(s): Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation

Official language(s) English

Capital Atlanta

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State of South Carolina

Flag of South Carolina Seal
Nickname(s): The Palmetto State
Motto(s): Dum spiro spero (While I breathe, I hope) and
Animis opibusque parati (Ready in soul and resource)

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The State of North Carolina

Flag of North Carolina Seal
Nickname(s): Tar Heel State; Old North State;
The Rip Van Winkle State

''Motto(s): Esse quam videri (Latin: To be, rather than to seem)''

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