Separate but equal

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Civil Rights 1954- 1965
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the "separate but equal" clause was unconstitutional because it violated the children's 14 amendment rights by separating them solely on the classification of the color of their skin.

Thurgood Marshall leader of the NAACP team that argued the Brown vs. the Board Case.

hief Justice Warren delivered the court's opinion, stating that "segregated schools are not equal and cannot be made equal, and hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws."_ This ruling in favor of integration was one of the most significant strides America has taken in favor of civil liberty. Plessy vs. Ferguson was now struck down.

On August 28, 1955,14 year old Emmett Till

is beaten, shot and lynched by whites after

allegedly saying "bye, baby" to a white

woman in a store in Mississippi.

Then on Dec 1st 1955 Rosa Parks took a seat on a Montgomery Bus.

  • Parks was an active member of The Civil Rights Movement and joined the Montgomery chapter of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1943.

  • She took a seat in the front row of the “colored section” the bus filled and Ms. Parks was asked to give up her seat. Parks was arrested and charged with the violation of a segregation law in The Montgomery City Code. Sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott

  • 50 African American leaders in the community met to discuss what to do about Rosa’s arrest.

  • They are led by the Ebenezer Baptist Church Minister Dr. Martin Luther King.

People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” -Rosa Parks Autobiography

Montgomery Bus Boycott

  • On December 5, 1955, through the rain, the African Americans in Montgomery began to boycott the busses.

  • 40,000 Black commuters walked to work, some as far as twenty miles.

  • The boycott lasted 382 days.

  • The bus companies finances struggled. Until the law that called for segregation on busses was finally lifted.

Martin Luther King

  • In 1955 he became involved in The Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Boycott was the start to his incredible career as the most famous leader of the Civil Rights movement.

  • Early in 1956, King’s home in Montgomery is bombed.

  • In 1957 King helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

    • A group that used the authority and power of Black churches to organize non-violent protest to support the Civil Rights Movement.

    • King believed in the philosophy used by Gandhi in India known as nonviolent civil disobedience. He applied this philosophy to protest organized by the SCLC.

    • The civil disobedience led to media coverage of the daily inequities suffered by Southern Blacks.

    • The televised segregation violence led to mass public sympathy. The Civil Rights Movement became the most important political topic during the early 60’s.

Integration of Clinton High School in Clinton, TN (1956)

  • 12 African American students integrated all white Clinton HS-first school in TN to be integrated.

  • Governor Frank Clements sent National Guard to stop rioting and enroll students in Clinton High School.

Little Rock High School - 1957

Efforts to integrate Little Rock, Ark., Central High School meet with legal resistance and violence.

Gov. Orval Faubus  predicts "blood will run in the streets" if African Americans push effort to integrate.

Faubus refused to call out his National Guard

On Sept. 24, federal troops mobilize to protect the nine African American students at the high school from white mobs trying to block the school's integration.


On October 25, more than 10,000 march down Constitution Avenue and rally at the Lincoln Memorial. The march includes delegations from most of the main universities and colleges, church, labor, and civic organizations, and from as far away as California.

Still recovering from a near-fatal stab wound, Dr. King is unable to attend, and his wife Coretta reads his address to the marchers.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a nonviolent protest group under the leadership of James Farmer (1920-1999) was established in Chicago.

In September 1959 CORE organizes a two-week workshop on nonviolent direct action called the "September Action Institute." It is held in Miami, and participants stage a series of sit-ins at the segregated lunch counters of the Jackson-Byron and Grants department stores. Both stores close their counters. The institute ends on the 20th, and Jackson-Byron tells CORE that they are reopening the counter on the following day without segregation — that all races will be served. But when the counter reopens, Blacks from CORE are refused service.

CORE resumes sit-in against Grants and Jackson-Byron on the the 23rd, occupying all of Jackson-Byron's 40 seats from 10am to 3pm. The following day, racists attack them. Miami police harass, and arrest the sit-ins on trumped up charges. The sit-ins are temporarily suppressed, but are successfully resumed by Miami CORE in 1960 when sit-ins sweep across the South.


Fayette County TN Tent City for Evicted Voters (1959-1965)

Fayette and Haywood Counties lie just east of Memphis and just north of the Mississippi state line. They're "cotton counties" and in the 1950s Blacks outnumber whites 2 to 1. Economically, culturally, and politically these two counties are more like Mississippi than Tennessee, but they are governed by Tennessee law. And unlike Mississippi, under Tennessee law Blacks are eligible to vote. There is no literacy test, no poll tax, and no "grandfather clause." However, few were allowed to vote because the two counties will not allow them to register.

When many tried to do so on August 1st, 1959, they were told they couldn’t. Most of the people in the county were still sharecroppers, living in shacks on white property-owners land. When a motion was filed to allow them to vote, they were evicted from their shacks and home by the white land owners of the county. Many white businesses refused to do business with African-Americans, meaning many had to travel over thirty miles to Memphis to the basic necessities of life.

Shephard Towles a black land-owner, allowed those evicted to build a tent-city on his land. Soon, there were hundreds of black people living on Towles’ land and in another tent city near Moscow Tennessee. In November of 1960, the new Black voters elect Republicans to county office for the first time since the end of Reconstruction more than 80 years previous. They also vote for Democratic senator Estes Kefauver who has supported them against the White Citizens Council and defended their right to vote.

On Christmas night, 1960, Jim Forman records Georgia Mae Turner in her cold, damp tent:

They say if you register, you going to have a hard time. Well, I had a hard time before I registered. Hard times — you could have named me 'Georgia Mae Hard Times.' The reason I registered, because I want to be a citizen. ... I registered so that my children could get their freedom. — Georgia Mae Turner. 

In 1962, a federal court made it clear that landowners could not use economic pressure and evict people as a way of insuring the would not vote. It tooks years for many of the tent city residents to find places to live. But, in 1965, with the Voting Rights Act, African Americans all over Tennessee were allowed the right to vote.

Four black freshmen from the North Carolina A&T University planted themselves at Woolworth five-and-dime store and refused to leave until they were served. Historian Paul Harvey noted, "The young students who integrated lunch counters in Greensboro and inspired the original SNCC organizing conference also grew up in black churches. Two of the four initial pioneering student demonstrators in Greensboro attended Shiloh Baptist Church," (Harvey 192). One of these students, Ezell Blair, was especially known for his commitment to the Christian faith. After Israel's establishment as an independent state in 1948, "Blair told his friends he would someday drink out of Woolworth's whites-only water fountain. Surely, if the Jews had found freedom after thousands of years, then one day Negroes, too, would enter their Promised Land,"The Ku Klux Klan reacts.

Led by George Dorsett — North Carolina's official State Chaplain — they heckle and harass the students. The students are not deterred. Hoping that their presence will deter white violence, the NCA&T football team joins the protests. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sends organizers to help train the students in the tactics and strategies of Nonviolent Resistance.  Finally, in July, the national drugstore chains agree to serve all "properly dressed and well behaved people," regardless of race. Non-violence according to Dr. King has worked.

Nashville Student Movement (1960-1964)

I was really feeling stifled that fall. My goodness, I came to college to grow and expand, and here I am shut in. In Chicago, I had had access, at least, to public accommodations, lunch counters and what have you. So my response was, "Who's trying to change these things?" Paul LaPrad, a white Fisk student, told me about the nonviolent workshops that Jim Lawson was conducting. They were taking place a couple of blocks off campus. — Diane Nash.

Matthew Walker, Peggy Alexander, Diane Nash and Stanley Hemphill eat at formally segregated counter in Nashville,  Tennessee. 
n Saturday, February 13, less than two weeks after the Greensboro sit-in, more than 100 students commence the Nashville Student Movement —Created by James Larson (seen below with Dr. King) it was the largest, best organized, most disciplined, and most persistent of the student sit-in groups in the South. They occupy the Kress, McClellan, and Woolworth's lunch counters. The managers close the counters rather than serve Blacks.

  On April 19, the Attorney for the Nashville Sit- In students had his home is destroyed by a terrorist bomb. More than 2,500 demonstrators — students and adults, including some whites — silently march through Nashville to the steps of City Hall. There they confront Mayor Ben West. Diane Nash then steps up to face the Mayor.

I confronted Mayor West with what his feelings were as a man, as a person. I was particularly interested in that, as opposed to his just being a mayor. I have a lot of respect for the way he responded. He didn't have to respond the way he did. He said that he felt it was wrong for citizens of Nashville to be discriminated against at the lunch counters solely on the basis of the color of their skin. That was the turning point. — Diane Nash.

Soon the downtown stores began to desegregate. Nashville becomes the first Southern city to at least begin desegregating its public facilities, though demonstrations continue in Nashville until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally makes overt, legally-sanctioned segregation illegal.

  • SNCC Led by Harvard Grad & math teacher, Moses led Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

  • Moses took SNCC into the Civil Rights movement and the African American young people joined him.

  • Pronounced Snick, the SNCC became a movement for students.

  • Moving away from the churches and religious reasons, SNCC, moved toward young activists.

  • It also demanded immediate change instead of gradual movement.

The Election of 1960 - John Kennedy and his brother Robert will help get Martin Luther King out of jail in October of 1960 (the Nixon campaign does nothing). A few weeks later, Kennedy defeats Nixon by just .002 of the popular vote — the closest presidential election in living memory (up to that time). Four years earlier, in the election of 1956, Blacks voted Republican ("the party of Lincoln") by a 60% majority. In 1960, JFK gets 70% of the Black vote. Analysts conclude that it is this dramatic shift in Black votes that gives Kennedy his narrow margin of victory in several key northern industrial states (he wins the crucial swing state of Illinois by only 5,000 votes). They attribute this sea-change in Black voting patterns to his gesture of support for Dr. King.

It is pretty conclusive now that the Negro played a decisive role in electing the president of the United States, and maybe for the first time we can see the power of the ballot and what the ballot can do. Now we must remind Mr. Kennedy that we helped him to get in the White House. We must remind Mr. Kennedy that we are expecting him to use the whole weight of his office to remove the ugly weight of segregation from the shoulders of our nation. — Dr. King.

Freedom Rides

  • organized by CORE and SNCC to force compliance with the Supreme Court’s order to integrate interstate buses by refusing to segregate while riding on buses in southern states

  • riders encountered the most violence in Alabama and Mississippi

An integrated group of Freedom Riders got as far as Anniston, Alabama where they were beaten, and the Greyhound bus was burned on May 4, 1961.

They needed Federal Government support.

President Kennedy & his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy soon got the law passed to have Federal Marshal’s protect riders on all forms of transportation.

  1. After being rejected for admission, James Meredith sued & won admission to the University of Mississippi for entrance on the grounds of racial discrimination. It required Attorney General Robert Kennedy to send in Federal Marshals and Federal troops to get him finally enrolled in October 1962.

I noticed in the hallway a black janitor and he had a mop under his arm. And as I passed him, he turned his body, twisted his body, and touched me with the mop handle. Now this delivered a message, and the message was clear: "We are looking after you while you are here." — James Meredith


Letter from Birmingham Jail

King, wrote the letter after being arrested at a peaceful protest in Birmingham, Alabama.

    • The letter was in response to a letter sent to him by eight Alabama Clergymen called, “A Call For Unity.”

    • The men recognized that injustices were occurring in Birmingham but believed that the battles for freedom should be fought in the courtroom in not in the streets.

    • In the letter, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King justified civil disobedience by saying that without forceful action, true civil rights would never be achieved. Direct action is justified in the face of unjust laws.

In the letter King justifies civil disobedience in the town of Birmingham.

    • I cannot sit idly in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

    • There can be no gain saying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts.

    • Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”

    • We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.

    • Wait has almost always meant 'never.‘”

Still, he reminded his followers that, "One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty."  Dr. King also argued that segregation was a direct violation of God's laws, writing, "segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically un-sound, it is morally wrong and sinful." 

Murder of Medgar Evers

  • On June 12th, 1963, NAACP & Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers was gunned down outside his home in Jackson.

  • The District Attorney in LaFore County Mississippi, refused to take anyone to trail because of a lack of evidence. The prime suspect Mississippi Klan Member Byron De la Beckwith seemed to have gotten away with the crime.

  • It took 31 years for Evers' killer to be brought to justice --

  • In 1994, almost 30 years later, District Attorney Robert DeLaughter got a jury in Jackson Miss. to find Byron de la Beckwith guilty of Evers murder.

De la Beckwith was given life in prison.

He died there in 2001.

1963-Governor George Wallace stands in the door at the University of Alabama

In a vain attempt to halt the enrollment of black students Vivian Malone and James Hood, Governor Wallace stood in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. This became known as the "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door".

1963 the March on Washington

 Known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom it is where Dr. King's well-known "I Have a Dream" is given.

Appropriately delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King’s speech is packed with religious references and allusion

More than 250,000 Black and White Americans celebrated in a joyous day of song, prayer and speeches. In a powerful speech, Martin Luther King Jr. stated eloquently that he desired a world were Black’s and whites to coexist equally.

The powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

…“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

…“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

…“black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

1963 - Bombing of Sixteenth St. Baptist Church Birmingham, AL

  • On September 15, less than three weeks after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a dynamite bomb planted by Klansmen explodes inside 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four young girls: Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14). More than 20 others are injured in the attack, timed to occur during a “Youth Day” tribute to the part of local young people in the Birmingham Campaign. It is the city’s 28th racial bombing. 

Civil Rights Legislation

  • In 1963, after the March on Washington, John Kennedy tried to bring about a Civil Rights package to the Congress.

  • He was killed before it could be voted on.

  • Then in 1964, the new President, Lyndon Johnson got Congress to pass the law in the “spirit of John Kennedy” the way it was originally drafted, & signed into law.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • Title I - No different standard for voting 22nd Amendment.

  • Title II & III - No discrimination in public places or private areas open to the public.

  • Title IV –End of segregated public schools

  • Title V -Withholding of Federal funds against organization who discriminate.

  • Title VI - Creation of the EEOC and illegal to discriminate on race color or creed or gender.

  • President Johnson promised to and did ENFORCE the law.

  • There was still far more to go…

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