The African-American Civil Rights Movement
(1955–1968) refers to the reform movements in the United States
aimed at outlawing racial discrimination
against African Americans
in Southern states. This
article covers the phase of the movement between 1954 and 1968,
particularly in the South
1966, the emergence of the Black Power
, which lasted roughly from 1966 to 1975, enlarged the
aims of the Civil Rights Movement to include racial dignity,
and political self-sufficiency
, and freedom from
oppression by whites
Many of those who were active in the Civil Rights Movement, with
organizations such as NAACP
, prefer the
term "Southern Freedom Movement" because the struggle was about far
more than just civil rights under law; it was also about
fundamental issues of freedom, respect, dignity, and economic and
During the period 1955–1968, acts of nonviolent
protest and civil disobedience
produced crisis situations between activists and government
authorities. Federal, state, and local governments, businesses,
educational institutions, and communities often had to respond
immediately to crisis situations which highlighted the inequities
faced by African Americans. Forms of protest and/or civil
disobedience included boycotts
such as the
successful Montgomery Bus
(1955–1956) in Alabama; "sit-ins
" such as the influential Greensboro sit-in
(1960) in North Carolina;
, such as the Selma to Montgomery marches
(1965) in Alabama; and a wide range of other nonviolent
Noted legislative achievements during this phase of the Civil
Rights Movement were passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964
banned discrimination in employment practices and public
accommodations; the Voting
Rights Act of 1965
, that restored and protected voting rights;
the Immigration and
Nationality Services Act of 1965
, that dramatically opened
entry to the U.S. to immigrants other than traditional European
groups; and the Civil Rights
Act of 1968
, that banned discrimination in the sale or rental
of housing. African Americans re-entered politics in the South, and
across the country young people were inspired to action.
After the disputed election
of 1876 resulted in the end of Reconstruction
Whites in the South resumed political control of the region.
Systematic disenfranchisement of African-Americans took place in
Southern states from 1890 to 1908 and lasted until national civil
rights legislation was passed in the mid-1960s. For more than 60
years, for example, blacks were not able to elect a single person
in the South to represent their interests in Congress.
During this period, the white-dominated Democratic Party
political control over the South. The Republican Party
of Lincoln"—which had been the party that most blacks belonged to,
shrank to insignificance as black voter registration was
suppressed. By the early 1900s, almost all elected officials in the
South were Democrats.
At the same time as African-Americans were being disenfranchised,
racial segregation was being imposed by law, and violence against
blacks mushroomed. The system of overt, state-sanctioned racial
discrimination and oppression that emerged out of the
post-Reconstruction South became known as the "Jim Crow
" system. It remained virtually intact
into the early 1950s. Thus, the early 1900s is a period often
referred to as the "nadir of American race
." While problems and civil rights violations were
most intense in the South, social tensions affected African
Americans in other regions as well.
Characteristics of the post-Reconstruction period:
- Racial segregation. By law,
public facilities and government services such as education were
divided into separate "white" and "colored" domains.
Characteristically, those for colored were underfunded and of
- Disenfranchisement. When white
Democrats regained power, they passed laws that made voter
registration more inaccessible to blacks. Black voters were forced
off the voting rolls. The number of African American voters dropped
dramatically, and they no longer were able to elect
representatives. From 1890 to 1908, Southern states of the former
Confederacy created constitutions with provisions that
disfranchised most African Americans and tens of thousands of poor
- Exploitation. Increased economic
oppression of blacks, Latinos, and Asians, denial of economic
opportunities, and widespread employment discrimination.
African-Americans and other racial minorities rejected this regime.
They resisted it in numerous ways and sought better opportunities
through lawsuits, new organizations, political redress, and labor
the American Civil Rights
). The National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People
) was founded in 1909. It fought to end race
discrimination through litigation
education, and lobbying
crowning achievement was its legal victory in the Supreme Court
decision Brown v.
Board of Education
(1954) that rejected separate
white and colored school systems and by implication overturned the
"separate but equal
established in Plessy v.
The situation for blacks outside the South was somewhat better (in
most states they could vote and have their children educated,
though they still faced discrimination in housing and jobs). From
1910 to 1970, African Americans sought better lives by migrating
north and west. A total of nearly seven million blacks left the
South in what was known as the Great Migration
Invigorated by the victory of Brown
and frustrated by the
lack of immediate practical effect, private citizens increasingly
rejected gradualist, legalistic approaches as the primary tool to
bring about desegregation
. They were
faced with "massive resistance
in the South by proponents of racial segregation and voter suppression
. In defiance, African
Americans adopted a combined strategy of direct action
with nonviolent resistance
, giving rise
to the African-American Civil Rights Movement of 1955–1968.
Mass action replacing litigation
The strategy of public education, legislative lobbying, and
litigation within the court system that typified the Civil Rights
Movement in the first half of the 20th Century broadened after
to a strategy that emphasized "direct
action"—primarily boycotts, sit-ins
, marches and similar
tactics that relied on mass mobilization, nonviolent resistance and
civil disobedience. This mass action approach typified the movement
from 1960 to 1968.
Churches, the centers of their communities, and local grassroots
organizations mobilized volunteers to participate in broad-based
actions. This was a more direct and potentially more rapid means of
creating change than the traditional approach of mounting court
—created to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott
keep the boycott going for over a year until a federal court order
required Montgomery to desegregate its buses. The success in
Montgomery made its leader Dr. Martin Luther King a nationally
known figure. It also inspired other bus boycotts, such as
the highly successful Tallahassee, Florida, boycott of 1956–1957.
In 1957 Dr. King and Rev. John
,and the leaders of the Montgomery Improvement
Association, joined with other church leaders who had led similar
boycott efforts, such as Rev. C. K. Steele of Tallahassee and Rev.
of Baton Rouge; and other
activists such as Rev. Fred
, Ella Baker
, A. Philip
, Bayard Rustin
, to form the
Christian Leadership Conference
. The SCLC, with its
headquarters in Atlanta,
Georgia, did not attempt to create a network of chapters as
the NAACP did.
It offered training and leadership assistance
for local efforts to fight segregation. The headquarters
organization raised funds, mostly from Northern sources, to support
such campaigns. It made non-violence both its central tenet and its
primary method of confronting racism.
Septima Clarke, Bernice Robinson, and
Esau Jenkins, with the help of the
School in Tennessee, began the first Citizenship Schools in
Carolina's Sea Islands.
They taught literacy to
enable blacks to pass voting tests. The program was an enormous success and
tripled the number of black voters on Johns Island.
SCLC took over the program and duplicated
its results elsewhere.
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
which the plaintiffs charged that the education of black children
in separate public schools from their white counterparts was
. 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." The
Court ruled that both Plessy v.
(1896), which had
established the segregationist, "separate but equal" standard in
general, and Cumming v.
County Board of Education
(1899), which had applied that
standard to schools, were 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
Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955–1956
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks (the "mother of the Civil Rights
Movement") refused to give up her seat on a public bus to make room
for a white passenger. She was secretary of the Montgomery NAACP
chapter and had recently returned from a meeting at the Highlander Center
in Tennessee where nonviolent civil disobedience as a strategy had
been discussed. 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 demand
a more humane bus transportation system. However, after any reforms
were rejected the NAACP, led by E.D. Nixon, pushed for full
desegregation of public buses. With the support of most of
Montgomery's 50,000 African Americans, 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 80%. A federal court ordered Montgomery's buses
desegregated in November 1956, and the boycott ended in
A young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr.
president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the
organization that directed the boycott. The protest made King a
national figure. His eloquent appeals to Christian brotherhood and
American idealism created a positive impression on people both
inside and outside the South.
Desegregating Little Rock, 1957
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 entry to the nine
African-American students who had sued for the right to attend
an integrated school, 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 white protesters 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. The Arkansas Democratic
Party, which then controlled politics in the state, put significant
pressure on Faubus after he had indicated he would investigate
bringing Arkansas into compliance with the Brown
Faubus then took his stand against integration and against the
Federal court order that required it.
Faubus' order received the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower
, who was determined to
enforce the orders of the Federal courts. Critics had charged he
was lukewarm, at best, on the goal of desegregation of public
schools. Eisenhower federalized the National Guard
ordered them to return to their barracks. Eisenhower then deployed
elements of the 101st Airborne
to Little Rock to protect the students.
The students were able to attend high school. 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
spilling a bowl of chili on the head of a white student who was
harassing her in the school lunch line.
Only one of the Little Rock Nine, Ernest
, got the chance to graduate; after the 1957–58 school
year was over, the Little Rock school system decided to shut public
schools completely rather than continue to integrate. Other school
systems across the South followed suit.
Rights Movement received an infusion of energy with a student
sit-in at a Woolworth's store
On February 1, 1960, four students Ezell A. Blair
Jr. (now known as Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Joseph
McNeil, and Franklin McCain from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical
College, an all-black college, sat down at the segregated
lunch counter to protest Woolworth's policy of excluding African
These protesters were encouraged to dress
professionally, to sit quietly, and to occupy every other stool so
that potential white sympathizers could join in. The sit-in soon
inspired other sit-ins in Richmond, Virginia; Nashville,
Tennessee; and Atlanta, Georgia.
As students across the south began to
"sit-in" at the lunch counters of a few of their local stores,
local authority figures sometimes used brute force to physically
escort the demonstrators from the lunch facilities.
The "sit-in" technique was not new—as far back as 1942, the
Congress of Racial
sponsored sit-ins in Chicago, St. Louis in 1949 and
Baltimore in 1952. In 1960 the technique succeeded in bringing
national attention to the movement. 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.
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.
In April, 1960 activists who had led these sit-ins held a
conference at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina that led
to the formation of the Student Nonviolent
(SNCC). SNCC took these tactics of
nonviolent confrontation further, to the freedom rides.
Freedom Rides, 1961
Freedom Rides were journeys by Civil Rights activists on interstate
buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United
States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia, (1960) 364 U.S.
that ended segregation for passengers engaged in inter-state
travel. Organized by CORE
, the first Freedom Ride of
the 1960s left Washington D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to
arrive in New Orleans on May 17.
During the first and subsequent Freedom Rides, activists traveled
through the Deep South
seating patterns and desegregate bus terminals, including restrooms
and water fountains. That proved to be a dangerous mission.
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 gave
Ku Klux Klan members fifteen minutes to
attack an incoming group of freedom riders before having police
The riders were severely beaten "until it
looked like a bulldog had got a hold of them." James Peck
, a white activist, was
beaten so hard he required fifty stitches to his head.
Mob violence in Anniston and Birmingham temporarily halted the
rides, but SNCC activists from Nashville brought in new riders to
continue the journey from Birmingham. In Montgomery,
Alabama, at the Greyhound Bus
Station, a mob charged another bus load of riders, knocking
unconscious with a crate and smashing Life photographer Don Urbrock in the face with his own
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.
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. As riders arrived in
Jackson, they were 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.
Public sympathy and support for the freedom riders led the Kennedy
administration to order the Interstate Commerce
(ICC) to issue a new desegregation order. When the
new ICC rule took effect on November 1, passengers were permitted
to sit wherever they chose on the bus; "white" and "colored" signs
came down in the terminals; separate drinking fountains, toilets,
and waiting rooms were consolidated; and lunch counters began
serving people regardless of skin color.
The student movement involved such celebrated figures as John
Lewis, a single-minded activist; James
, the revered "guru" of nonviolent theory and tactics;
, an articulate and intrepid
public champion of justice; Bob
, pioneer of voting registration in Mississippi; and
, a fiery preacher and
charismatic organizer and facilitator. Other prominent student
activists included Charles McDew
, Charles Jones
, Lonnie King
, Hosea Williams
Voter registration organizing
After the Freedom Rides, local black leaders in Mississippi such as
, Aaron Henry
, and others asked SNCC to help register black voters and
to build community organizations that could win a share of
political power in the state. Since Mississippi ratified its
constitution in 1890, with provisions such as poll taxes, residency
requirements, and literacy tests, it made registration more
complicated and stripped blacks from the polls. After so many
years, the intent to stop blacks from voting had become part of the
culture of white supremacy. In the fall of 1961, SNCC organizer Robert Moses began the first such
project in McComb and the surrounding counties in the Southwest
corner of the state.
Their efforts were met with violent
repression from state and local lawmen, White Citizens' Council
Ku Klux Klan
resulting in beatings,
hundreds of arrests and the murder of voting activist Herbert
White opposition to black voter registration was so intense in
Mississippi that Freedom Movement activists concluded that all of
the state's civil rights organizations had to unite in a
coordinated effort to have any chance of success. In February 1962,
representatives of SNCC, CORE, and the NAACP formed the Council of Federated
(COFO). At a subsequent meeting in August, SCLC
became part of COFO.
Spring of 1962, with funds from the Voter Education Project, SNCC/COFO
began voter registration organizing in the Mississippi Delta area
around Greenwood, and the areas surrounding Hattiesburg, Laurel, and Holly Springs.
As in McComb, their efforts were met with
fierce opposition—arrests, beatings, shootings, arson, and murder.
Registrars used the literacy test
keep blacks off the voting roles by creating standards that highly
educated people could not meet. In addition, employers fired blacks
who tried to register and landlords evicted them from their homes.
Over the following years, the black voter registration campaign
spread across the state.
voter registration campaigns—with similar responses—were begun by
SNCC, CORE, and SCLC in Louisiana, Alabama, southwest Georgia, and South Carolina.
By 1963, voter registration campaigns in
the South were as integral to the Freedom Movement as desegregation
efforts. After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
protecting and facilitating voter registration despite state
barriers became the main effort of the movement. It resulted in
passage of the Voting Rights Act
Integration of Mississippi Universities, 1956–1965
in 1956, Clyde Kennard, a black Korean
War veteran, attempted to enroll at Mississippi Southern College
(now the University of Southern
Mississippi) at Hattiesburg.
, the college president made major efforts to
prevent this going to local black leaders and the segregationist
state political establishment. He especially used the Mississippi State
, of which he was an adjunct member. This
was a notorious fascist-like government agency created to spy on
and undermine the civil rights movement. As a result, Kennard was
twice arrested on tromped-up criminal charges and eventually
sentenced to seven years in the state prison.
After three years at hard labor, Kennard was paroled by embarrassed
Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett
it became known that Kennard's treatment for colon cancer had been
Dr. McCain’s direct involvement in this abuse of the justice system
is unclear. He was certainly as aware as other intimate members of
the state political establishment were as to how fraudulent and
bogus the charges were but made no public objection.
At the very time McCain was so forcefully seeking to keep Clyde
Kennard out of Mississippi Southern, he made a trip to Chicago
sponsored by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, where he
explained the reality of Mississippi life saying that those blacks
who sought to desegregate Southern schools were "imports" from the
North. (Kennard was, in fact, a native and resident of
"We insist that educationally and socially, we maintain a
segregated society. ... In all fairness, I admit that we are not
encouraging Negro voting," he said. "The Negroes prefer that
control of the government remain in the white man's hands."
In 2006, Judge Robert Helfrich ruled that Kennard was factually
innocent of all charges.Following persistent efforts by Clyde Kennard, and other local civil rights
activists, in 1965 Raylawni Branch
and Gwendolyn Elaine
Armstrong became the first African-American students to attend
the University of Southern
They entered under very peaceful conditions
stage managed by the university administration of Dr. William David McCain
who wished to
avoid further bad publicity such as that occasioned by the Clyde Kennard
and James Meredith
James Meredith won a lawsuit that allowed him
admission to the University of Mississippi in September 1962.
James Meredith walking to class
accompanied by U.S. marshals
He attempted to enter
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
Court of Appeals
held both Barnett and Lieutenant Governor
Paul B. Johnson, Jr.
, 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 people,
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
which had been criticized 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, and divisions within the black
community. The goals may not have been specific enough. Pritchett
contained the marchers without violent attacks on demonstrators
that inflamed national opinion. He also arranged for arrested
demonstrators to be taken to jails in surrounding communities,
allowing plenty of room to remain in his jail. 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
having achieved any dramatic victories. The local movement,
however, continued the struggle, and it obtained significant gains
in the next few years.
Birmingham campaign, 1963–1964
The Albany movement was shown to be an important education for the
SCLC, however, when it undertook the Birmingham campaign in 1963.
Executive Director Wyatt Tee Walker
carefully planned strategy and tactics for the campaign. It focused
on one goal—the desegregation of Birmingham's downtown merchants,
rather than total desegregation, as in Albany. The movement's
efforts were helped by the brutal response of local authorities, in
particular Eugene "Bull" Connor
Commissioner of Public Safety. He had long held much political
power, but had lost a recent election for mayor to a less rabidly
segregationist candidate. Refusing to accept the new mayor's
authority, Connor intended to stay in office.
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
the margins of a newspaper, since he had not been allowed any
writing paper while held in solitary confinement. Supporters
appealed to the Kennedy Administration who intervened to obtain
King's release. King was allowed to call his wife, who was
recuperating at home after the birth of their fourth child, and was
released early on April 19.
The campaign, however, was faltering because the movement was
running out of demonstrators willing to risk arrest. James Bevel
, SCLC's Director of Direct Action
and Nonviolent Education, came up with a bold and controversial
alternative, to train high school students to take part in the
demonstrations. As a result, more than one thousand students
skipped school on May 2 to meet at the 16th Street Baptist Church
to join the demonstrations, in what would come to be called the
. More than six hundred ended up in jail. This was
newsworthy, but in this first encounter, the police acted with
restraint. On the next day, however, another one thousand students
gathered at the church. When they started marching, Bull Connor
unleashed police dogs on them, then turned the city's fire hoses
water streams on the children. Television cameras broadcast to the
nation the scenes of water from fire hoses knocking down
schoolchildren and dogs attacking individual demonstrators.
Widespread public outrage led the Kennedy Administration to
intervene more forcefully in 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— the
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was particularly critical, since he was
skeptical about the good faith of Birmingham's power structure from
his experience in dealing with them. Parts of the white community
reacted violently. They bombed the Gaston
Motel, which housed the SCLC's unofficial
headquarters, and the home of King's brother, the Reverend A. D.
King.Brieanna ReneeKennedy prepared to federalize the Alabama National Guard
if the need
arose. Four months later, on September 15, a
conspiracy of Ku Klux Klan members bombed the
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four young
Other events of the summer of 1963:
11, 1963, George Wallace, Governor of
Alabama, tried to block the integration of the University
President John F. Kennedy sent a force to
make Governor Wallace step aside, allowing the enrollment of two
black students. That evening, President Kennedy addressed the
nation on TV and radio with his historic civil rights speech. The
next day Medgar Evers was murdered in Mississippi. The next week as
promised, on June 19, 1963, President Kennedy submitted his Civil
Rights bill to Congress.
March on Washington, 1963
Civil Rights marchers at the Lincoln
Randolph had planned a march on Washington, D.C., in 1941 in support of demands for elimination of
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
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,"
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. 
The march was a success, although not without controversy.
estimated 200,000 to 300,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the
Memorial, where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
speakers applauded the Kennedy Administration for the efforts it
had made toward obtaining new, more effective civil rights
legislation protecting the right to vote and outlawing segregation,
John Lewis of SNCC
Administration to task for not doing more to protect southern
blacks and civil rights workers under attack in the Deep
march, King and other civil rights leaders met with President
Kennedy at the White
While the Kennedy Administration appeared
sincerely committed to passing the bill, it was not clear that it
had the votes in Congress to do it. But when President
Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the new President Lyndon Johnson decided to use his
influence in Congress to
bring about much of Kennedy's legislative agenda.
St. Augustine, Florida, 1963–1964
Augustine, on the northeast coast of Florida was famous as
the "Nation's Oldest City," founded by the Spanish in 1565.
It became the stage for a great drama leading up to the passage of
the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. A local movement, led by Dr.
Robert B. Hayling, a black dentist and Air Force veteran, had been
picketing segregated local institutions since 1963, as a result of
which Dr. Hayling and three companions, James Jackson, Clyde
Jenkins, and James Hauser, were brutally beaten at a Ku Klux Klan
rally in the fall of that year. Nightriders shot into black homes,
and teenagers Audrey Nell Edwards, JoeAnn Anderson, Samuel White,
and Willie Carl Singleton (who came to be known as "The St.
Augustine Four") spent six months in jail and reform school after
sitting in at the local Woolworth's lunch counter. It took a
special action of the governor and cabinet of Florida to release
them after national protests by the Pittsburgh Courier
, Jackie Robinson
, and others.
In 1964, Dr. Hayling and other activists urged the Southern Christian
to come to St. Augustine. The first
action came during spring break, when Hayling appealed to northern
college students to come to the Ancient City, not to go to the
beach, but to take part in demonstrations. Four prominent
Massachusetts women—Mrs. Mary Parkman Peabody, Mrs. Esther Burgess,
Mrs. Hester Campbell (all of whose husbands were Episcopal
bishops), and Mrs. Florence Rowe (whose husband was vice president
of John Hancock Insurance Company)came to lend their support, and
the arrest of Mrs. Peabody, the 72 year old mother of the governor
of Massachusetts, for attempting to eat at the segregated Ponce de
Leon Motor Lodge in an integrated group, made front page news
across the country, and brought the civil rights movement in St.
Augustine to the attention of the world.
Widely publicized activities continued in the ensuing months, as
Congress saw the longest filibuster against a civil rights bill in
its history. Dr. Martin Luther
was arrested at the Monson Motel in St. Augustine on June
11, 1964, the only place in Florida he was arrested. He sent a
"Letter from the St. Augustine Jail" to a northern supporter, Rabbi
Israel Dresner of New Jersey, urging him to recruit others to
participate in the movement. This resulted, a week later, in the
largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history—while conducting
a pray-in at the Monson.
The most famous photograph ever taken in St. Augustine shows the
manager of the Monson Motel pouring acid in the swimming pool while
blacks and whites are swimming in it. That horrifying photograph
was run on the front page of the Washington newspaper the day the
senate went to vote on passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964
In the summer of 1964, COFO
brought nearly 1,000
activists to Mississippi—most of them white college students—to
join with local black activists to register voters, teach in
"Freedom Schools," and organize the Mississippi Freedom
Many of Mississippi's white residents deeply resented the outsiders
and attempts to change their society. State and local governments,
police, the White Citizens'
and the Ku Klux Klan
arrests, beatings, arson, murder, spying, firing, evictions, and
other forms of intimidation and harassment to oppose the project
and prevent blacks from registering to vote or achieving social
On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers disappeared.
James Chaney, a young black Mississippian and
plasterer's apprentice; and two Jewish
activists, Andrew Goodman, a Queens College anthropology
student; and Michael Schwerner, a
CORE organizer from
East Side, were found
weeks later, murdered by conspirators who turned out to be local
members of the Klan, some of them members of the Neshoba County sheriff's department.
This outraged the public leading the U.S. Justice Department along
with the FBI (the latter which had previously avoided dealing with
the issue of segregation and persecution of blacks) to take action.
The outrage over this horrendous act helped lead to the passage of
the Civil Rights Act. (See Mississippi civil
rights workers murders
From June to August, Freedom Summer activists worked in 38 local
projects scattered across the state, with the largest number
concentrated in the Mississippi
region. At least 30 Freedom Schools, with close to 3,500
students were established, and 28 community centers set up.
Over the course of the Summer Project, some 17,000 Mississippi
blacks attempted to become registered voters in defiance of the red
tape and forces of white supremacy
arrayed against them—only 1,600 (less than 10%) succeeded. But more
than 80,000 joined the MFDP
Though Freedom Summer failed to register many voters, it had a
significant effect on the course of the Civil Rights Movement. It
helped break down the decades of people's isolation and repression
that were the foundation of the Jim
system. Before Freedom Summer, the national news media had
paid little attention to the persecution of black voters in the
Deep South and the dangers endured by black civil rights workers.
When the lives of affluent northern white students were threatened
and taken, the full attention of the media spotlight turned on the
state. The apparent disparity between the value which the media
placed on the lives of whites and blacks embittered many black
activists. Perhaps the most significant effect of Freedom Summer
was on the volunteers themselves, almost all of whom—black and
white—still consider it to have been one of the defining periods of
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964
Blacks in Mississippi had been disfranchised by statutory and
constitutional changes since the late 1800s. In 1963 COFO held a
Freedom Vote in Mississippi to demonstrate the desire of black
Mississippians to vote. More than 80,000 people registered and
voted in the mock election which pitted an integrated slate of
candidates from the "Freedom Party" against the official state
Democratic Party candidates.
In 1964, organizers launched the Mississippi Freedom Democratic
Party (MFDP) to challenge the all-white official party. When
Mississippi voting registrars refused to recognize their
candidates, they held their own primary. They selected 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
presence of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in Atlantic
City, New Jersey, was inconvenient, however, for the convention
They had planned a triumphant celebration of the
Johnson Administration’s achievements in civil rights, rather than
a fight over racism within the Democratic Party. All-white
delegations from other Southern states threatened to walk out if
the official slate from Mississippi was not seated. Johnson was
worried about the inroads that Republican Barry Goldwater
’s campaign was making in
what previously had been the white Democratic stronghold of the
"Solid South", as well as support which George Wallace
had received in the North
during the Democratic primaries.
Johnson could not, however, prevent the MFDP from taking its case
to the Credentials Committee. There 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 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."
The MFDP kept up its agitation within the convention, 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 official
Mississippi delegates. They were then 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 Democratic Party 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. It
invited Malcolm X
, of the Nation of Islam
, to speak at one of its
conventions and opposed the war in
Dr. King Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
On December 10, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize
, the youngest
man to receive the award; he was 35 years of age.
Boycott of New Orleans by American Football League players,
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 of New Orleans.
the leadership of Buffalo Bills
players including Cookie Gilchrist
the players put up a unified front. The game was moved to Houston and its Jeppesen Stadium.
The Civil Rights Act of
had been signed in July 1964, which likely encouraged the
AFL players in their cause. It was the first boycott
by a professional sports event of an entire
Selma and the Voting Rights Act, 1965
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
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. When he
heard that Jackson was killed, James
, director of the Selma Movement, initiated a plan to
march from Selma to Montgomery.
On March 7, 1965, acting on Bevel's plan, Hosea Williams
of the SCLC and John Lewis of
SNCC led a march of 600 people 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.
They drove the marchers back
into Selma. John Lewis was knocked unconscious and dragged to
safety. At least 16 other marchers were hospitalized. Among those
gassed and beaten was Amelia
, who was at the center of civil rights
activity at the time.
The national broadcast of the footage of lawmen attacking
unresisting marchers seeking the right to vote provoked a national
response as had scenes from Birmingham two years earlier. The
marchers were able to obtain a court order permitting them to make
the march without incident two weeks later.
After a second march to the site of Bloody Sunday on March 9,
however, local whites murdered another voting rights supporter,
Rev. James Reeb
. He died in a Birmingham
hospital March 11. On March 25, four Klansmen shot and killed
Detroit homemaker Viola Liuzzo
as she drove marchers back to Selma at night after the successfully
completed march to Montgomery.
Eight days after the first march, Johnson delivered a televised
address to support of the voting rights bill he had sent to
Congress. In it he stated:
Johnson signed the Voting
Rights Act of 1965
on August 6. The 1965 act suspended poll taxes
, literacy tests and other subjective
voter tests. It 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 taking suits to
local or state courts. If voting discrimination occurred, the 1965
act authorized the Attorney General of the
to send Federal examiners to replace local
registrars. Johnson reportedly told his concern to associates that
signing the bill had lost the white South for the Democratic Party
for the foreseeable future.
The act had an immediate and positive impact for African Americans.
Within months of its passage, 250,000, one quarter of a million,
new black voters had been registered, one third of them by federal
examiners. Within four years, voter registration in the South had
more than doubled. In 1965, Mississippi had the highest black voter
turnout at 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 had opposed the Voting Rights Act paid a quick
price. In 1966 Sheriff Jim Clark
of Alabama, infamous for using cattle prods against civil rights
marchers, was up for reelection. Although he took off the notorious
"Never" pin on his uniform, he was defeated. At the election, Clark
lost as Blacks voted to get him out of office. Clark later served a
prison term for drug dealing.
Blacks' regaining the power to vote changed the political landscape
of the South. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, only
about 100 African Americans held elective office, all in northern
states of the U.S. By 1989, there were more than 7,200 African
Americans in office, including more than 4,800 in the South. Nearly
every Black Belt
(where populations were majority black) in Alabama had a black
sheriff. Southern blacks held top positions within city, county,
and state governments.
elected a black mayor, Andrew Young, as
Mississippi, withHarvey Johnson,
Orleans, with Ernest
Black politicians on the national level included
, who represented Texas
in Congress, and Andrew Young was appointed United States
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
prevented him from taking his seat until 1967. John
Lewis represents Georgia's 5th congressional
in the United States House of
, where he has served since 1987.
Memphis, King assassination and the Poor People's March,
Rev. James Lawson invited King to Memphis,
Tennessee, in March 1968 to support a strike by sanitation workers.
They had launched a
campaign for union
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
more than 110 cities across the United States in the days that
followed, notably in Chicago, Baltimore, and in
The damage done in many cities
destroyed black businesses.
The day before King's funeral, April 8
Coretta Scott King
and three of
the King children led 20,000 marchers through the streets of
Memphis, holding signs that read, "Honor King: End Racism" and
"Union Justice Now". National Guardsmen lined the streets, perched
on M-48 tanks, bayonets mounted, with helicopters circling
overhead. On April 9
Mrs. King led another
150,000 in a funeral procession through the streets of Atlanta. Her
dignity revived courage and hope in many of the Movement's members,
cementing her place as the new leader in the struggle for racial
Coretta King famously remarked,
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. It
was to unite blacks and whites to campaign for fundamental changes
in American society and economic structure. The march went forward
under Abernathy's plainspoken leadership but did not achieve its
Kennedy Administration, 1961–1963
During the years preceding his election to the presidency, John F. Kennedy
's record of voting on issues
of racial discrimination had been scant. Kennedy openly confessed
to his closest advisors that during the first months of his
presidency, his knowledge of the civil rights movement was
For the first two years of the Kennedy Administration, attitudes to
both the President and Attorney-General
, Robert F. Kennedy
, were mixed. Many viewed the
Administration with suspicion. A well of historical cynicism toward
white liberal politics had left a sense of uneasy disdain by
African-Americans toward any white politician who claimed to share
their concerns for freedom. Still, many had a strong sense that in
the Kennedys there was a new age of political dialogue
Although observers frequently 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, many of the initiatives were the result of
Robert Kennedy's passion. Through his rapid education in the
realities of racism , Robert Kennedy 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." The President came to share his brother's sense of urgency
on the matters to such an extent that it was at the
Attorney-General's insistence that he made his famous address to
When a white mob attacked and burned the First Baptist Church in
Montgomery, Alabama, where King held out with protesters, the
Attorney-General telephoned King to ask him not to leave the
building until the U.S. Marshals and National Guard could secure
the area. King proceeded to berate Kennedy for "allowing the
situation to continue". King later publicly thanked Robert
Kennedy's commanding the force to break up an attack which might
otherwise have ended King's life.
The relationship between the two men underwent change from 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 he then
considered an unrealistic militancy. Some white liberals regarded
the militancy itself as the cause of so little governmental
King initially regarded much of the efforts of the Kennedys as an
attempt to control the movement and siphon off its energies. Yet 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 recognize 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
trust, 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 regarded the issue of
civil rights to be a function of the Attorney-General's
With a very small majority in Congress, the President's ability to
press ahead with legislation relied considerably on a balancing
game with the Senators and Congressmen of the South. Indeed,
without the support of Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who had years
of experience in Congress and longstanding relations there, many of
the Attorney-General's programs would not have progressed.
By late 1962, frustration at the slow pace of political change was
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. 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 élan in the attention they give to civil rights
From squaring off against Governor George
, 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 and later 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:
Assassination cut short the life and careers of both the Kennedy
brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The essential groundwork
of the Civil Rights Act 1964 had been initiated before John F.
Kennedy was assassinated. The dire need for political and
administrative reform had been driven home on Capitol Hill by the combined efforts of the Kennedy brothers,
Dr. King (and other leaders) and President Lyndon
In 1966, Robert Kennedy undertook a tour of South Africa in which
he championed the cause of the anti-Apartheid
movement. His tour gained international
praise at a time when few politicians dared to entangle themselves
in the politics of South Africa. Kennedy spoke out against the
oppression of the native population. He was welcomed by the black
population as though a visiting head of state. In an interview with
Magazine he said:
American Jewish community and the Civil Rights movement
Many in the Jewish-American
community supported the Civil Rights Movement. In fact,
statistically Jews were one of the most actively involved white
groups in the Movement. Many Jewish
worked in concert with African Americans for CORE, SCLC, and SNCC
as full-time organizers and summer volunteers during the Civil
Rights era. Jews made up roughly half of the white northern
volunteers involved in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer
project and approximately half
of the civil rights attorneys active in the South during the
Jewish leaders were arrested while heeding a call from Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, in June 1964, where the largest mass arrest of
rabbis in American history took place at the Monson Motor Lodge—a
nationally important civil rights landmark that was demolished in
2003 so that a Hilton Hotel could be built on the site.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a writer,
rabbi and professor of theology at the Jewish
Theological Seminary of America in New York was outspoken on the subject of civil
He marched arm-in-arm with Dr. King in the 1965
March on Selma.
University, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college
university in the world, created the Transitional Year Program
(TYP)in 1968, in part response to Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther
King's assassination. The faculty created it to renew the
University's commitment to social justice. Recognizing Brandeis as
a university with a commitment to academic excellence, these
faculty members created a chance to disadvantaged students to
participate in an empowering educational experience.
The program began by admitting 20 black males. As it developed, two
groups have been given chances. 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. For
example, their high schools do not offer AP or honors courses nor
high quality laboratory experiences. Students selected had to have
excelled in the curricula offered by their schools.
The second group of students includes 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 American Jewish
, American Jewish
, and Anti-Defamation
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
. His career after that point was filled with frustrating
challenges. The liberal coalition that had gained passage of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 began to
King was becoming more estranged from the Johnson Administration.
In 1965 he broke with it by calling for peace negotiations and a
halt to the bombing of Vietnam. He moved further left in the
following years, speaking of the need for economic justice and
thoroughgoing changes in American society. He believed change was
needed beyond the civil rights gained by the movement.
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. SCLC's campaign in Chicago
publicly failed, as Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley
marginalized SCLC'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 marchers
demonstrating against housing segregation.
Race riots, 1963–1970
By the end of World War II
, more than
half of the country's black population lived in Northern and
Western industrial cities rather than Southern rural areas.
Migrating to those cities for better job opportunities, education
and to escape legal segregation, African Americans often found
segregation that existed in fact rather than in law.
While after the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan
was not prevalent, by the 1960s other problems prevailed in
northern cities. Beginning in the 1950s, there had been deindustrialization
and restructuring of
major areas of the economies: railroads and meatpacking, steel
industry and car industry. As the last population to enter the
industrial job market, blacks were disadvantaged by its collapse.
At the same time, investment in highways and private development of
suburbs in the postwar years had drawn many ethnic whites out of
the cities to newer housing in expanding suburbs. Urban blacks who
did not follow the middle class out of the cities became
concentrated in the older housing of inner-city neighborhoods,
among the poorest in most major cities. Because jobs in new service
areas and parts of the economy were being created in suburbs,
unemployment was much higher in many black than in white
neighborhoods, and crime was frequent. African Americans rarely
owned the stores or businesses where they lived. Many were limited
to menial or blue-collar jobs, although union organizing in the
1930s and 1940s had opened up good working environments for some.
African Americans often made only enough money to live in
dilapidated tenements that were privately owned, or poorly
maintained public housing. They also attended schools that were
often the worst academically in the city and that had fewer white
students than in the decades before WWII.
The racial makeup of the police departments, usually largely white,
was a large factor. In black neighborhoods such as Harlem, the
ratio was only one black officer for every six white officers, and
in majority black cities such as Newark, New Jersey only 145 of the 1322 police officers were
Police forces in Northern cities were largely
composed of white ethnics, descendants of 19th century immigrants:
mainly Irish, Italian, and Eastern European officers. They had
established their own power bases in the police departments and in
territories in cities. Some would routinely harass blacks with or
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 15-year-old James Powell, who was
black, for allegedly charging at him with a knife. 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. 
Gilligan was not suspended. Although this precinct had promoted the
's first black
station commander, neighborhood residents were tired of the
inequalities. They looted and burned anything that was not
black-owned in the neighborhood. This unrest spread to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a major black neighborhood in Brooklyn.
That summer, rioting also broke out in
, for similar reasons.
In the aftermath of the riots of July 1964, the federal government
funded a pilot program called Project
, 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
Youth in the Ghetto.
HARYOU was given a major role in organizing the project, together
with the National Urban League
and nearly 100 smaller community organizations. Permanent jobs at
living wages, however, were still out of reach of many young black
In 1965, President Lyndon B.
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. 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 through six days of rioting.
Thirty-four people were killed and property valued at about $30
million was destroyed, making the Watts
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 riot. Some young people joined groups such
as the Black Panthers
popularity was based in part on their reputation for confronting
occurred in 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
had begun to develop among families of blacks who
worked at well-paying jobs in the automotive
. Blacks who had not moved upward were living in much
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
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
Detroit experienced "middle class black flight" as
well. Cities such as Detroit, Newark, and Baltimore now have less
than 40% white population as a result of these riots and other
social changes. Changes in industry caused continued job losses,
depopulation of middle classes, and concentrated poverty in such
As a result of the riots, President Johnson created the National Advisory Commission on Civil
in 1967. The commission's final report called for
major reforms in employment and public assistance for black
communities. It warned that the United States was moving toward
separate white and black societies.
rioting broke out in April 1968 after the assassination of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Riots erupted in many major cities at once,
including Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., West Side Riots in Chicago,
York City riot
and Louisville riots of 1968
hiring process of more black police officers in every major city.
Blacks make up a proportional 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, but not all the problems have been
With industrial and economic restructuring, tens of thousands of
industrial jobs disappeared since the later 1950s from the old
industrial cities. Some moved South, as has much population, and
others out of the US altogether. Civil unrest broke out in Miami in 1980
, in Los Angeles in 1992
, and in Cincinnati in 2001
Black power, 1966
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. 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.
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
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
Power was made most public however by the Black Panther Party which founded in
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 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.
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.
In 1970, this group displayed their dedication 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
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.
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
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.
major city from Boston to
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.
Gates v. Collier
State Penitentiary at Parchman, then known as Parchman Farm, is also known for the
part it played in the United States Civil Rights Movement.
spring of 1961, Freedom Riders came to the South to test the
of public facilities.
end of June, 163 Freedom Riders had been convicted in Jackson,
Mississippi. Many were jailed in Mississippi
State Penitentiary at Parchman.
Mississippi employed the trusty system
, a hierarchical order of inmates
that used some inmates to control and enforce punishment of other
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
. 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
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
were armed with
rifles and set to guard other inmates) was abolished.
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
were formed as a way to redress the
disproportionalities, organizing Black inmates to take militant
action. Eldridge Cleaver
Soul on Ice
from his experiences in the California correctional system and
further fueled black militancy.
There was an international context for the actions of the U.S.
Federal government during these years. It had stature to maintain
in Europe and a need to appeal to the people in the Third World
.In Cold War Civil Rights:Race
and the Image of American Democracy
, historian Mary L. Dudziak
showed how, in the ideological battle of the Cold War
critics 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. She
argued that this was a major factor in pushing the government to
support civil rights legislation.
- 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.
- Dare Not Walk Alone, about the civil rights movement
in St. Augustine, Florida. Nominated for an NAACP Image Award in
National/regional civil rights organizations:
National economic empowerment organizations:
Local civil rights organizations:
Related activists and artists
- Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Black-American Representatives and Senators by
Congress, 1870–Present – U.S. House of Representatives
- C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, 3rd
rev. ed. (Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 67-109.
- Birmingham Segregation Laws ~ Civil Rights Movement
- "The Tallahassee Bus Boycott--Fifty Years
Later," The Tallahassee Democrat, May 21, 2006
- Brown v Board of Education Decision ~
Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- W. Chafe, The Unfinished Journey
- The Little Rock Nine ~ Civil Rights Movement
- First Southern Sit-in, Greensboro NC ~ Civil
Rights Movement Veterans
- Richmond, Virginia
- Nashville Student Movemen ~ Civil Rights
- Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Founded ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- Freedom Rides ~ Civil Rights Movement
- Voter Registration & Direct-action in McComb
MS ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- Council of Federated Organizations Formed in
Mississippi ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- Mississippi Voter Registration — Greenwood ~
Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and
the Pioneer Fund by William H. Tucker, University of
Illinois Press (May 30, 2007), pp 165–66.
- Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, by
Euan Hague (Editor), Heidi Beirich (Editor), Edward H. Sebesta
(Editor), University of Texas Press (December 1, 2008) pp.
- Medgar Evers by Jennie Brown, Holloway House
Publishing, 1994, pp. 128–132.
- Carrying the burden: the story of Clyde
Kennard. From: district125.k12.il.us. Retrieved November 5,
- James Meredith Integrates Ole Miss ~ Civil
Rights Movement Veterans
- Albany GA, Movement ~ Civil Rights Movement
- The Birmingham Campaign ~ Civil Rights Movement
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail ~ King Research
& Education Institute at Stanford Univ.
- 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
- Standing In the Schoolhouse Door ~ Civil Rights
- "Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil
Rights," june 11, 1963, transcript from the JFK library.
- Medgar Evers, a worthwhile article, on The
Mississippi Writers Page, a website of the University of
Mississippi English Department.
- Medgar Evers Assassination ~ Civil Rights
- 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
- The Mississippi Movement & the MFDP ~ Civil Rights
- Mississippi: Subversion of the Right to Vote ~ Civil
Rights Movement Veterans
- Veterans Roll Call ~ Civil Rights Movement
- Freedom Ballot in MS ~ Civil Rights Movement
- MLK's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on
December 10, 1964.
- Bob Spivack, Interview of the Attorney General, May 12,
- Schlesinger, Arthur Jr, Robert Kennedy And His
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Nation March 3,
- From Swastika to Jim Crow PBS
- No Place Like Home Time Magazine.
- Dr. Max Herman.  "Ethnic Succession and Urban Unrest in
Newark and Detroit During the Summer of 1967".
- Max A. Herman, ed. "The
Detroit and Newark Riots of 1967". Rutgers-Newark Department of
Sociology and Anthropology.
- Youth in the Ghetto: A Study of the Consequences of
Powerlessness, Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc.,
- Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney and
Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc.,
- Dudziak, M.L.: Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the
Image of American Democracy
- Arsenault, Raymond. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle
for Racial Justice. New York: Oxford, 2006.
- Barnes, Catherine A. Journey from Jim Crow: The
Desegregation of Southern Transit, Columbia University Press,
- Branch, Taylor. At Canaans
Edge: America In the King Years, 1965-1968. New York: Simon
& Schuster, 2006. ISBN 0-684-85712-X
- Branch, Taylor. Parting the waters : America in the King
years, 1954-1963. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988. ISBN
- Branch, Taylor. Pillar of fire : America in the King years,
1963-1965.: Simon & Schuster, 1998. ISBN
- Breitman, George. The Assassination of Malcolm X. New
York: Pathfinder Press. 1976.
- Carson, Clayborne. In
Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1980. ISBN
- Carson, Clayborne; Garrow, David J.; Kovach, Bill; Polsgrove,
Carol, eds. Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism
1941-1963 and Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism
1963-1973. New York: Library of
America, 2003. ISBN 1-931082-28-6 and ISBN 1-931082-29-4.
- Chandra, Siddharth and Angela Williams-Foster. "The ‘Revolution
of Rising Expectations,’ Relative Deprivation, and the Urban Social
Disorders of the 1960s: Evidence from State-Level Data." Social
Science History, 29(2):299–332, 2005.
- Fairclough, Adam. To Redeem the Soul of America: The
Southern Christian Leadership Conference & Martin Luther
King. The University of Georgia Press, 1987.
- Doner, Eric and Joshua Brown,
Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and
Reconstruction. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2005, 225–238.
- Garrow, David J. Bearing the
Cross: Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference. 800 pages. New York: William Morrow, 1986. ISBN
- Garrow, David J. The FBI and Martin Luther King. New
York: W.W. Norton. 1981. Viking Press Reprint edition. February 1,
1983. ISBN 0-14-006486-9. Yale University Press; Revised and
Expanded edition. August 1, 2006. ISBN 0-300-08731-4.
- Greene, Christina. Our Separate Ways: Women and the Black
Freedom Movement in Durham. North Carolina. Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
- Horne, Gerald. The Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and
the 1960s. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
1995. Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press ed edition. October 1, 1997.
- Kirk, John A. Martin Luther King, Jr.. London:
Longman, 2005. ISBN 0-582-41431-8
- Kirk, John A. Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in
Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940-1970. Gainesville: University of
Florida Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8130-2496-X
- Kousser, J. Morgan, "The Supreme Court And The Undoing of the
Second Reconstruction," National Forum, (Spring
- Kryn, Randy. "James L. Bevel, The Strategist of the 1960s Civil
Rights Movement", 1984 paper with 1988 addendum, printed in "We
Shall Overcome, Volume II" edited by David Garrow, New York:
Carlson Publishing Co., 1989.
- Malcolm X (with the assistance of Alex Haley). The
Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House, 1965.
Paperback ISBN 0-345-35068-5. Hardcover ISBN 0-345-37975-6.
- Marable, Manning. Race,
Reform and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America,
1945-1982. 249 pages. University Press of Mississippi, 1984.
- 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, 1999. ISBN
- 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, 2006.
- Patterson, James T. "Brown v. board of education, a civil
rights milestone and its troubled legacy." Oxford University Press,
- Ransby, Barbara. Ella Baker and the black freedom movement,
a radical democratic vision. The University of North Carolina
- Tsesis, Alexander. We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil
Rights and the Law. New Haven: Yale University Press,
- 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
- Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow.
Third Revised Edition. 1955; Oxford University Press, 1974. ISBN
-  St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement and Freedom
Trail marking its sites.
- Civil Rights Resource Guide, from the Library of
- The Civil Rights Era Library of Congress
- Civil Rights Digital Library Digital Library of
- Civil Rights
Movement Veterans ~ Movement history, personal stories,
documents, and photos.
- Civil Rights Movement 1955-1965
- Civil Rights as a People's Movement American
University Course Syllabus
- Let Justice Roll Down: The Civil Rights Movement
Through Film Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
of Southern Mississippi's Civil Rights Documentation Project,
includes an extensive Timeline
- President Kennedy's Address to the nation on Civil
- NVLP's African American Oral History Archive
- Watch Documentary: FBI War on Black Americans
- What Was Jim Crow? (The racial caste system that
precipitated the Civil Rights Movement)
- History and images of the sit-in movement
Radio's Enduring Impact on the Civil Rights Movement
- Civil Rights Movement in Georgia (entry in the
New Georgia Encyclopedia)
- Black Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement
- Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project
- The Albany Movement (entry in the New Georgia
- "You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow!" PBS
documentary on first Freedom Ride, in 1947
- Materials relating to the desegregation of Ole Miss in
- Images of the Civil Rights Movement in Florida
from the State Archives of Florida
- At the River I Stand California Newsreel documentary
on Civil Rights and labor rights in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation
workers' strike. 56 minutes, 1993
- The Georgia Movement
- Snapshots in Time: The Public in the Civil Rights
Era Examines how public attitudes about civil rights evolved
based on opinion surveys taken at the time, from Public Agenda
- "The Tallahassee Bus Boycott--Fifty Years Later,"
The Tallahassee Democrat, May 21, 2006
- Integrating with All Deliberate Speed--contains video
history interviews with African American Civil Rights pioneers, a
timeline of the Civil Rights Movement and primary source materials
(photographs, speeches, historical documents).
- Rising Up: A film documenting the
students who challenged segregated spaces in 1960 Richmond,
Virginia. (Produced by the Community Ideas Stations in partnership
with University of Virginia, 2005.)
- ”The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March:
Shaking the Conscience of the Nation”, a National Park Service
Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan
- ”From Canterbury to Little Rock: The Struggle
for Educational Equality for African Americans”, a National
Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson
- Ellen Spears, Memorializing the Freedom Riders, Southern
Spaces, 29 June 2009.