7 Civil Rights
- EARLY RIGHTS MOVEMENTS
- CIVIL RIGHTS DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD
- CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
- CIVIL RIGHTS INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
- SELECTED CIVIL RIGHTS FILMS
- SONGS OF THE MOVEMENT
- WOMEN AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
- THE ELECTION OF PRESIDENT OBAMA
- CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
- FEDERAL AND STATE CIVIL RIGHTS AGENCIES
Linda T. Wynn
Throughout the history of the United States, African Americans have struggled to obtain basic civil rights. The struggle has spanned several centuries—from the mutinies by Africans during the Atlantic crossing to the insurrections organized by their enslaved ancestors in the New World. From the founding of the Free African Society and the abolition movement to the civil rights marches and demonstrations of the twentieth century, the struggle for human equality has been an ongoing saga.
EARLY RIGHTS MOVEMENTS
THE FREE AFRICAN SOCIETY
In 1787, as a result of segregation and discriminatory practices within the Methodist Church, the Reverends Richard Allen (1760–1831) and Absalom Jones (1746–1818) formed the Free African Society in Philadelphia. (Seven years later, Allen founded the Bethel African Methodist Church, the first African Methodist Episcopal [AME] Church in America; Jones later became the rector of a Protestant Episcopal church.) The society was an important model for political consciousness and economic organization for African Americans throughout the country. It provided spiritual guidance and religious instruction, medical and financial assistance to orphans, and economic aid, burial assistance, relief to widows. The society also advocated abolition and maintained channels of communication with African Americans in the South. Like the many other African American organizations that followed, the society was rooted in religious principles. Throughout the nineteenth century, a number of mutualaid societies sprang up in African American communities in eastern cities, such as New York, Newport, and Boston, providing loans, insurance, and various other economic and social services to their members and the larger community. The societies also helped to facilitate communications between free African Americans throughout the country.
THE ABOLITION MOVEMENT
The press and the pulpit served as important tools in the antislavery movement. In 1827 Samuel Cornish (1795–1858) and John Russwurm (1799–1851) founded Freedom's Journal in New York, the first newspaper in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. Freedom's Journal, which ceased publication after only three years, was concerned not only with eradicating African enslavement but also with the growing discrimination and cruelty against free African Americans in both the South and North.
In 1847, abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1817–1895) published the first edition of the North Star, which eventually became one of the most successful African American newspapers prior to the outbreak of the Civil War (1861–1865). Douglass, who had escaped from enslavement in Maryland, became one of the best-known African American abolitionists in the country. He lectured extensively throughout the United States and England. In 1845, he published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
Although the abolition movement was dominated by whites, numerous African American leaders played a Page 402 | Top of Articlemajor role in the movement, including such figures as Henry Highland Garnet (1815–1882), Harriet Tubman (c. 1821–1913), and Sojourner Truth (c. 1797–1883).
CIVIL RIGHTS DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD
Following the Civil War, Republicans, who controlled the U.S. Congress, took up the cause of the newly freed African Americans. Between 1865 and 1875, Congress passed three amendments to the U.S. Constitution and a string of civil rights and Reconstructionist legislation. The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified December 18, 1865, abolished enslavement and involuntary servitude. The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified July 28, 1868, guaranteed citizenship and provided equal protection under the laws. The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified on March 30, 1870, protected the right of all citizens to vote. In 1866, 1870, 1871, and 1875, Congress passed civil rights legislation outlining and protecting basic rights, including access to public accommodations and the right to purchase and sell property. The Reconstruction Acts, passed between 1867 and 1869, called for new state constitutional conventions in those states that had seceded from the Union prior to the Civil War.
Reconstruction eventually produced a wave of anti—African American sentiment, though. White organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, which aimed at intimidating African Americans and preventing them from taking their place in society, sprang up throughout the North and the South. In 1871, Congress enacted the Ku Klux Klan Act as an effort to end intimidation and violence directed at African Americans. However, the act failed to eliminate the Klan and other terrorist organizations.
The civil rights and Reconstructionist legislation were difficult for many whites to accept, and they did little to change racist attitudes. The last of the civil rights acts, passed by Congress in 1875, prohibited discrimination in public accommodations. However, by the 1880s the debate as to the constitutionality of such legislation had reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruling in a group of five cases in 1883 that became known as the Civil Rights Cases, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the 1875 Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional on the grounds that the Fourteenth Amendment authorized Congress to legislate only against discriminatory state action and not discrimination by private individuals. The Court's ruling brought about an end to federal efforts to protect the civil rights of African Americans until the mid-twentieth century.
By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, lynching had become a weapon used by whites against African Americans throughout the country. Between 1882 and 1990, approximately 1,750 African Americans were lynched in the United States. Victims included women who had been accused of a variety of “offenses,” ranging from testifying in court against a white man to failing to use the word mister when addressing a white person. Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862–1931), a journalist and social activist, became one of the leading voices in the antilynching crusade by writing and lecturing throughout the United States and England against its practice.
Prior to the case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the U.S. Supreme Court had started to build the platform on which the doctrine of “separate but equal” would be based. In 1878, ruling in the case of Hall v. DeCuir, the Court declared that states could not prohibit segregation on common carriers, such as streetcars and railroads. Thereafter, segregation laws sprang up throughout the South. Three years after the Hall v. DeCuir ruling, Tennessee enacted the nation's first racial-segregation railways law.
In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court faced the issue of segregation on public transportation. At the time, as was the case in many parts of the South, a Louisiana state law was enacted requiring that separate-but-equal accommodations for blacks and whites be maintained in all public facilities. When Homer Adolph Plessy (1862–1925), an African American man traveling by train from New Orleans to Covington, Louisiana, refused to ride in the “colored” railway coach, he was arrested.
With Justice Henry Billings Brown (1836–1913) delivering the majority opinion in the Plessy case, the Court declared that separate-but-equal accommodations constituted a reasonable use of state police power and that the Fourteenth Amendment could not be used to abolish social or racial distinctions or to force a comingling of the two races. The Supreme Court effectively reduced the significance of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was designed to give African Americans specific rights and protections. The ruling in the Plessy case, which was termed the separate-but-equal doctrine, paved the way for the segregation of African Americans in all walks of life.
CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON AND W. E. B. DU BOIS
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, two figures—Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868–1963)—emerged as leaders in the struggle for African American political and civil rights. Washington, an educator and founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, was a strong advocate of practical, utilitarian education and manual training as a means for developing African Americans. (Founded in 1881, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute was based on a program at Virginia's Hampton Institute that provided vocational training and prepared its students to survive economically in a segregated society.) In Washington's opinion, education should provide African Americans with the means to become economically self-supporting. Speaking at the Cotton States International Exposition in Atlanta in 1895, Washington outlined his philosophy of self-help and cooperation between African Americans and whites:
To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their next door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”—cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.
Later, W. E. B. Du Bois dubbed Washington's address the “Atlanta Compromise.”
W. E. B. Du Bois, a young historian and Harvard graduate, challenged Washington's passive policies in a series of stinging essays and speeches. Du Bois advocated the uplifting of African Americans through an educated African American elite, which he referred to as the “Talented Tenth,” or roughly a tenth of the African American population. He believed that these African Americans must become proficient in education and culture, which would eventually benefit all. In 1905, Du Bois, along with a group of other African American intellectuals, formed the Niagara Movement. The group drew up a platform that called for full citizenship rights for African Americans and public recognition of their contributions to America's stability and progress. The movement eventually evolved into what became known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
A. PHILIP RANDOLPH
In 1941, A. Philip Randolph (1889–1979), organizer of an employment bureau for untrained African Americans and founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, came up with the idea of leading a march of African Americans in Washington, D.C., to protest discrimination. On July 25, less than a week before the scheduled demonstration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) issued Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination in the defense industry and led to the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Committee.
CIVIL RIGHTS INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
The civil rights movement suffered many defeats in the first half of the twentieth century. Repeated efforts to obtain passage of federal antilynching bills failed. The all-white primary system, which effectively disenfranchised southern citizens of African descent, resisted numerous court challenges. The Great Depression worsened conditions in both rural and urban areas. On the positive side, the growing political power of African Americans in northern cities and an increasing liberal trend in the U.S. Supreme Court portended the legal and legislative victories of the 1950s and 1960s.
THE LITIGIOUS JOURNEY TO BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA
After World War I (1914–1918), many African Americans sought graduate and professional training. However, such opportunities existed in only a few northern universities and at some privately supported African American institutions of higher learning, such as Howard, Fisk, and Atlanta universities. Concomitantly, it was believed that the public should offer graduate and professional training not only for whites but for African Americans as well. More than a few southern states took cognizance of this, and by 1935 their legislative bodies appropriated funds for out-of-state training for African Americans. African Americans were willing to seek redress from the judicial system to compel these states to carry out their obligations to their African American citizenry. As early as 1933, Thomas Hocutt of North Carolina sought admittance to the school of pharmacy at the University of North Carolina by filing a lawsuit against the university. When he neglected to establish his eligibility for admission, the court ruled against Hocutt on a legal technicality.
Beginning in the 1930s, the NAACP turned to the courts in an attempt to overcome legally sanctioned racial
segregation. Headed by attorney Charles Hamilton Houston (1895–1950), the civil rights organization successfully litigated two cases between 1935 and 1938. He, along with his assistant, attorney Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993), devised a strategy to attack Jim Crow laws by striking at higher education. Four years after joining the NAACP, Marshall wrote the charter for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), of which he became the first director. By 1950, the LDF had litigated three other important cases that chipped away at legally sanctioned segregation.
Murray v. Maryland was the first case. In 1935, Donald Gaines Murray (1914–1986), like Marshall before him, was denied entrance to the University of Maryland's School of Law because of it racial policies. Marshall argued that since there were no “black” law schools in the state with the same academic standing as the University of Maryland's law school, by denying Murray admittance, the university was violating the separate-but-equal principle as enunciated in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. He furthered argued that the disparities between the “white” and “black” law schools were so great that the only remedy would be to allow Murray to attend the university's law school. The Baltimore City Court agreed. Subsequently, the university appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals. In 1936, the state Court of Appeals ruled in the plaintiff's favor and ordered the University of Maryland School of Law to admit the aspiring attorney. Murray graduated two years later.
The same year that the Maryland Court of Appeals heard the Murray case, the NAACP took on the case of Lloyd Gaines, a graduate student attending the all-black Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Gaines, who applied to the University of Missouri Law School, was denied admittance because of his race. The state of Missouri offered Gaines a scholarship to a law school in a neighboring state. He refused the offer and filed suit against Missouri. When the Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1938, Houston defended his client on the grounds that offering him an out-of-state scholarship was no substitute for admission. Six members of the Court agreed, stating that since no black law school existed in the state of Missouri, it had to establish an equal facility or admit Gaines. Ten years later, Thurgood Marshall appeared before the Court arguing on behalf Ada Lois Sipuel (1924–1995).
Sipuel, an African American, had graduated summa cum laude with an undergraduate degree in political science from Langston University. In 1946, she applied to the University of Oklahoma Law School. Despite her excellent academic qualifications, Sipuel was denied admittance based on her race. Marshall and local attorney Amos T. Hall (1896–1971) argued her case before the Oklahoma district court, asking that the university be required to admit Sipuel. The court ruled in favor of the university. A year later, Oklahoma's State Supreme Court upheld the district court's decision. In 1948, Marshall and Amos took Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma to the U.S. Supreme Court. The country's highest tribunal reversed the lower courts and held that the state was required to provide African Americans with equal educational opportunities. Notwithstanding the Court's decision, George W. McLaurin (1887–1968) provided the case that damaged the separate-but-equal doctrine beyond repair.
McLaurin, a veteran educator with a master's degree from the University of Kansas, taught classes at Langston University until 1948, when he applied to the University of Oklahoma. In his sixties, the aspiring doctoral student wanted to pursue a degree in school administration. Although admitted to the university, he was relegated to separate niches in all areas of the educational process. McLaurin “was required to sit apart at a designated desk in an anteroom adjoining the classroom; to sit at a designated desk on the mezzanine floor of the library, but not to use the desks in the regular reading room; and to sit at a designated table and to eat at a different time from the other students in the school cafeteria.” McLaurin felt that these conditions adversely affected his ability to learn, and he sought judicial relief. His case worked in conjunction with the Sipuel suit to desegregate higher education in Oklahoma. Marshall argued his case before the state courts and lost. However, he appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he argued in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents that the school's treatment of McLaurin violated the Fourteenth Amendment. On June 5, 1950, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the appellant. Chief Justice Fred Vinson (1890–1953), writing for the Court, said that McLaurin “must receive the same treatment at the hands of the state as students of other races.”
On the same day that the Supreme Court announced its ruling in McLaurin, it also handed down its opinion in Sweatt v. Painter. In 1946, Heman Marion Sweatt (1912–1982), an African American, applied to the University of Texas's white law school. To avoid integrating its classrooms, the state of Texas had established a law school for African Americans in 1947, but the school was severely underfunded. Marshall filed suit against the university, arguing that Sweatt could not receive the same level of academic quality at the school for African Americans that he could receive if he attended the state's law school for white students. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, agreed with Sweatt. It was not possible, declared Chief Justice Vinson, for the black law school to provide the plaintiff with an education equal to that of the university law school, which had a strong faculty, experienced administrators, influential alumni, Page 406 | Top of Articlestanding in the community, tradition, and prestige. The black law school and the white law school may have been separate, but they were not equal.
The legal system in the United States is set up on the standard of stare decisis—legal precedent establishes the law. The carefully planned stratagem of the LDF's attorneys was to get the U.S. Supreme Court to render a series of rulings that buttressed racial desegregation. Successful in its line of attack, these decisions became lawful paradigms and the underpinning for deconstructing segregation in public schools, thereby revealing the defectiveness of the Court-sanctioned public policy of separate but equal.
Numerous Supreme Court decisions between the 1930s and 1954 contain strong language condemning racial discrimination. On five separate occasions between 1938 and 1950, African Americans sought admittance to white graduate or professional schools, and five times the U.S. Supreme Court ordered their admission. While the decisions did not explicitly topple the doctrine of separate but equal, they did bring into focus the far-reaching inequality between schools for African Americans and those for whites. The Supreme Court's finding of ubiquitous inequality and its unremitting refusal to sustain racial classification paved the road for its 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Much of the civil rights struggle throughout this period was carried on by the NAACP, which began chipping away at the roots of legalized segregation in a series of successful lawsuits. A major breakthrough for the NAACP came in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that discrimination in education was unconstitutional. The Brown case involved the practice of denying African American children equal access to state public schools because of state laws requiring or permitting racial segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that such segregation deprived the children of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, overturning the separate-but-equal doctrine established in Plessy.
ECONOMIC BOYCOTTS AND PROTESTS
The use by African Americans of economic boycotts and protests during their mid-twentieth-century struggle to secure their constitutional civil rights and liberties was not a new approach. In the 1800s, abolitionists in the North made use of boycotts when they refused to procure products from states that had legalized enslavement, not wanting to support the South's financial structure. Early African Americans themselves staged boycotts and protests to demonstrate against the unjust treatment they faced. After organizing several streetcar “ride-ins,” abolitionist and feminist Sojourner Truth sued a driver who forced her off his streetcar, and won. Later, in the century's last decade, journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett seized on the segregated transportation system with a demonstrated act of resistance.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, African Americans continued to employ the stratagems of economic boycotts and protests. From 1900 to 1906, African Americans in more than twenty-five southern cities organized boycotts of segregated streetcars. The principal leaders of these boycotts were clergy, businesspeople, newspaper editors, and others who followed Booker T. Washington's philosophy of accommodation, self-help, and uplift. These boycotts occurred during a period of disintegrating race relations, insidious racial violence, and white leaders' uncontrolled efforts to legally systematize the separation of African Americans and whites with de facto and de jure customs and laws. A half-century later, African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama, instituted a boycott and economic withdrawals against the city's public transportation system. Inspired by Mohandas K. Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence and direct civil disobedience, this ideology not only sustained the Montgomery bus boycott for more than a year, it also permeated other phases of the modern struggle for civil rights.
There was an economic component to the campaigns for equal and just treatment of African Americans as consumers at such places as lunch counters, movie theaters, hotels, and amusement parks, which were the immediate targets in boycotts. Another element of economic pressure was the demand for employment opportunities long denied to African Americans. “Don't buy where you cannot be a salesman” became the slogan of such efforts.
After decades of struggle, an open crusade began in the 1950s against calcified racial intolerance and discrimination, a long-enduring undertaking that proved to be the century's most problematical. Although many whites played a role in the civil rights movement, pressure from African Americans was the elemental component in raising the question of race to prominence. The country's four major civil rights organizations—the NAACP, founded in 1909; the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded 1942; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), founded in 1957; and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), founded in 1966—all employed an assortment of boycott and protest methods to effectively wield economic pressure on the social and institutional forms of injustice and inequity carried out against American blacks.
Two years before the Montgomery movement seized the nation's attention and propelled Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) into the modern civil rights movement, the Reverend T. J. Jemison initiated one of the first bus boycotts by American blacks in the South. In January 1953, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, legislative members of Baton Rouge's parish council increased the bus fare from ten to fifteen cents. The fare increase angered African American patrons, who made up more than 80 percent of the system's clientele. As in other southern cities, while the front seats of the bus were reserved for whites, African Americans were forced to sit in the back and pay full fare. At the parish council meeting on February 11, Jemison, the pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church, condemned the fare increase and petitioned the council to terminate the codified system of reserved seating on city buses. Two weeks later, the council voted to amend Baton Rouge's seating code when it passed Ordinance 222.
The amended code, which became effective on March 19, 1953, permitted black riders to sit in the front seats of the buses if they did not occupy the same seat as or sit in front of a white passenger. While the ordinance abolished set-aside seating, it required blacks riders to board the buses from back to front and white passengers from front to back. For almost three months, city bus drivers ignored Ordinance 222. In early June, they were ordered to comply with the decree. On June 15, after two drivers were suspended for noncompliance, the city's bus drivers staged a four-day strike. The day before the bus drivers ended their strike, the city's black leaders established the United Defense League to organize a bus boycott. The black community of Baton Rouge conducted a seven-day boycott, which ended when city officials reaffirmed the ordinance. Although short-lived, the Baton Rouge bus boycott served as a paradigm for similar protests throughout the South, including the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. Bus boycotts and their concomitant protests and economic withdrawals became effective nonviolent tactics used by movement leaders throughout the South.
African Americans also staged protests to secure fair wages and better working conditions, as demonstrated by the 1968 sanitation workers' strike in Memphis, Tennessee. The city's African American sanitation workers earned far less than did their white counterparts. While the primary impetus for the protest was economic, it brought into focus other societal maladies, including racial discrimination. Throughout the 1960s and into the twenty-first century, African Americans have protested with their wallets where they perceived covert remnants of racism. They have targeted such corporations as Texaco, Denny's, Coca-Cola, and Cracker Barrel, to name a few.
The efforts of African Americans to apply economic and political pressure reflected a concept put forth by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1932: they “exert[ed] coercion upon the white man's life” and, more significantly, adversely influenced the profit and loss margins of his entrepreneurial enterprises. Through boycotts and protests, African American activists and others helped make America and its citizens more aware of and sensitive to all subjugated and oppressed groups singled out and discriminated against historically.
CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE 1960s
Rosa Parks (1913–2005), a Montgomery activist, was one of the major catalysts for the civil rights movement. On December 1, 1955, after she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man—as the law required—she was arrested and sent to jail. As a result of Parks's arrest, African Americans throughout Montgomery refused to ride city buses. The Montgomery bus boycott, led by Martin Luther King Jr., was highly successful and ultimately led to the integration of all Montgomery city buses, when on November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gayle v. Browder that segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional. Unlike the Brown case, Gayle v. Browder expressly overturned the Court's Plessy v. Ferguson decision because it—like Plessy—applied specifically to transportation.
The success of the Montgomery bus boycott encouraged a wave of demonstrations across the South. College students Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, and David Richmond started the sit-in movement on February 1, 1960, after they were denied service at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Although these four students received the attention of the national media, a small cadre of Nashville students and adult leaders had begun testing the city's exclusionary racial policies in the final months of the preceding year. Twelve days after the sit-ins began in North Carolina, African American students in Nashville launched their first full-scale sit-ins. In response to white harassment, Nashville students formulated ten rules of conduct for demonstrators that later became the code of behavior for protest movements in the South. The Nashville student movement was described by Martin Luther King Jr. as among the “best organized and most disciplined movements in the South.” On May 10, 1960, Nashville became the first major city to begin desegregating its public facilities. That same year, SNCC was created and included among its members Julian Bond, H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael (1941–1998), and John Lewis.
The civil rights movement of the 1960s galvanized African Americans and sympathetic whites as nothing had ever done before, but was not without cost. Thousands of people were jailed because they defied Jim Crow laws. Others were murdered, and houses and churches were bombed. People lost their jobs and their homes because they supported the movement.
On August 28, 1963, nearly 250,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., to awaken the nation's conscience regarding civil rights and to encourage the passage of civil rights legislation that was pending in Congress. The march was a cooperative effort of several civil rights organizations, including SCLC, CORE, the NAACP, the Negro American Labor Council, and the National Urban League. It was during this demonstration that Martin Luther King Jr., in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, gave his well-known and oft-quoted “I Have a Dream” speech. More than an oration about a dream that America would at last practice the tenet expressed in the Declaration of Independence that all people are created equal, King told the nation that as far as African Americans were concerned, the country had failed to make payment on its promissory note—one that guaranteed the “unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to all. He stated, “We have come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” Eighteen days after King's speech, white racists dynamited the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four young girls attending Sunday School—Denise McNair, who was eleven years old, and Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, all fourteen years old—were killed by the explosion. King later declared that “the innocent blood of these four little girls may well serve as the redemptive force that will bring new light to this dark city…. Indeed, this tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience.”
At its zenith, the civil rights movement was the most important event taking place in the United States. Through demonstrations, sit-ins, marches, boycotts, and soaring discourse, the movement aroused widespread public indignation. It also created an atmosphere in which it was possible to make positive changes in American society.
The Albany Movement, 1961–1962. In 1961, activists in southwest Georgia's largest city, Albany, launched a movement that became the first mass movement to have as its goal the desegregation of an entire community. It was in Albany that civil rights activists first used freedom songs as an integral part of demonstrations. In mid-November 1961, the city's major black-improvement organizations selected as their president Dr. William G. Anderson. With assistance from SNCC, SCLC, and the NAACP, organizers held mass meetings and protestors held marches. By December, law enforcement authorities had arrested and jailed more than seven hundred protestors, including Martin Luther King Jr., whom Albany's civil rights leaders summoned to bring national attention to their cause.
As the movement progressed, SNCC workers like Bernice Johnson Reagon tapped the power of community singing to encourage and bring together sizeable numbers of people. In choral demonstrations of harmony, black activists in Albany sang earnestly during meetings and protests, and even while sitting in jail. Activists adapted spirituals and church songs, such as “Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “We Shall Overcome.” However, none of the civil Page 409 | Top of Articlerights advocates anticipated the nontraditional shift of Albany's police chief, Laurie G. Pritchett (1926–2000). He knew that they expected violent behavior from the police and that the press would capitalize on police viciousness as it had done in other cities across the South. Pritchett was also familiar with King's account of the Montgomery boycott in Stride toward Freedom (1958), had investigated Gandhian nonviolent philosophy, and understood the protesters' tactic of cramming the jails.
Even before King's arrival, Pritchett told reporters that Albany would not tolerate attempts by the NAACP, SNCC, or any other civil rights organization to overrun the city with demonstrations. In an attempt to circumvent the Albany movement, city officials gave Pritchett the power to act on behalf of the white community. Determined to short-circuit the protesters' efforts, Pritchett advised police officers to avoid violence, at least in front of the cameras. He also worked with law enforcement authorities in other counties to keep arrested demonstrators in their jails. In effect, Albany's police chief used the movement's strategy of nonviolence against the demonstrators, thereby denying them the opportunity to garner sympathetic publicity.
When arrests begun in Albany in December 1961, demonstrators, including King, were not arrested for noncompliance with Jim Crow laws but for such misdeeds as marching without permits, creating disturbances, loitering, trespassing, and contributing to the law-breaking behavior of minors by organizing young people to take part in demonstrations. Even the freedom riders were not exempt from Pritchett's tactics, which were highly nontraditional for southern law enforcement officials. On December 10, 1961, when SNCC conducted a ride from Atlanta to Albany, the police arrested all of the riders for “obstructing traffic.” A series of marches took place in response to the arrest of the freedom riders, and hundreds of marchers were themselves arrested in the first week. Pritchett's tactics worked, insofar as the Kennedy administration never intervened in support of the Albany movement.
Although Albany's police chief manipulated the movement with his own strategy of nonviolence, there were other possible reasons that the Kennedy Page 410 | Top of Articleadministration never stepped in to assist the city's black community in its efforts to secure civil rights. James A. Gray, chairman of the state Democratic Party, was a staunch segregationist, as well as a friend of the president. Gray controlled the city's media outlets, including the only television station and a radio station, and had influence through family with the owner of the Albany Herald. His influence therefore kept the federal government out of Albany's concerns.
Some historians have asserted that the Albany movement failed because of Pritchett and his efforts to keep black protesters from filling the jails, as they had done in other cities. Other factors included the influence wielded by Gray, the Kennedy administration's nonintervention policy, fractured unity among civil rights organizations, and King's departure from Albany in August 1962. Disputes between SCLC and SNCC, and the SNCC leaders' criticism of King as “de Lawd,” caused the NAACP to keep its distance from SNCC. However, rather than describing the Albany movement in terms of its position in the national context of the civil rights movement, it should be considered on its own terms, as a local movement. At the local level, the withdrawal of SCLC did not mark an end to black activism in Albany. Black activism continued in Albany long after August 1962, the date customarily considered to mark the end of the movement.
Civil rights leaders learned numerous lessons from their experiences in Albany that prepared them for the forthcoming battle in Birmingham, Alabama. The Albany movement underscored the importance of freedom songs and spiritual fortitude. Organizers also learned that an allout campaign was not as effective as targeting specific discriminatory practices one at a time. The Albany movement also established the importance and influential role of the press in civil rights struggles.
JUSTICE BROUGHT TO CIVIL RIGHTS CRIMES OF THE 1960s
Four men believed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan were identified as suspects in the 1963 terror campaign against the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led the original investigation. It was determined that Robert E. Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Frank Cash, and Thomas E. Blanton Jr. planted the explosive device. To its credit, the Birmingham FBI office recommended that the suspects be prosecuted. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (1895–1972) prevented prosecution and court proceedings, however, by refusing the recommendation that federal prosecutors be given testimony that identified the suspects. Five years after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, no charges had been filed and the FBI closed the case.
In 1971, Alabama attorney general Bill Baxley reopened the case. Six years later, on November 18, Chambliss, also known as Dynamite Bob, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. He died in prison in 1985. The case was reopened again in 1988 and 1997 after informants tipped off the FBI. Cash died in 1994, before a case could be launched against him. On May 17, 2000, the remaining two suspects, Blanton and Cherry, were charged with the murders of the four girls. Almost a year later, Blanton was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Almost four decades after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing—one of the most heinous acts of terrorism perpetrated against the modern civil rights movement—the final terrorist was put on trial. Bobby Frank Cherry's trial was postponed, however, after Circuit Judge James Garrett initially ruled that he was mentally incompetent and unable to assist his attorney with his defense. In January 2002, Judge Garrett reversed his ruling after “experts” convinced him that Cherry was feigning the disability. Cherry was charged with four counts of murder and four counts of arson. On May 22, 2002, a jury of nine whites and three African Americans returned a guilty verdict against Cherry, who was later sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in 2004.
Throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of the twenty-first century, civil rights cases from the 1960s and 1970s were reopened, despite the longing of some white southerners to conceal the region's racist past. In April 1998, officials in Natchez, Mississippi, reopened the investigation into the 1967 killing of Wharlest Jackson, treasurer of the Natchez NAACP. Jackson, who was killed when a bomb tore apart his pickup truck, had been promoted to a position—previously held only by whites—at a local tire plant. No one was ever arrested.
Sam Bowers, former imperial wizard for the Ku Klux Klan, was indicted and convicted in August 1998 for the 1966 murder of Vernon Dahmer Sr., president of the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, NAACP chapter. Dahmer was killed by an explosive device detonated at his home. Originally, fourteen Klansmen were tried for this murder, but only three were convicted. When authorities brought Charles Noble, another suspect in the Dahmer case, before the bar of justice in June 1999, the case ended in a mistrial. Sam Bowers died in prison in 2006.
In November 1999, Charles Caston, James Caston, and Hal Crimm were sentenced to twenty years in prison for the 1970 murder of Rainey Pool, a one-armed sharecropper from Midnight, Mississippi. Pool was beaten unconscious by a mob and thrown into the Sunflower River. Originally, seven white men were arrested, but the Page 411 | Top of Articlecharges were dismissed. Two died, one was acquitted in June 1998, and another, Joe Oliver, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in 1999. Charles Caston later died in prison.
In February 2000, the FBI reopened the investigations in the 1964 murders of black teenagers Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee in Natchez, Mississippi. Two men were arrested, but the charges were later dismissed. In 2007, James Forde Seal was tried and convicted in a federal court for the deaths of Moore and Dee.
In 2000, Ernest H. Avants was indicted on federal charges for the June 10, 1966, murder of farmhand Ben Chester White. Avants was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2003. Authorities reported that White might have been killed in a plot designed to bring Dr. Martin Luther King to Mississippi in an attempt to assassinate the noted leader of the civil rights movement.
In early 2001, officers of the court reviewed the death of black truck driver Ben Brown, who was killed on May 11, 1967, during a civil rights protest in Jackson, Mississippi. The FBI also reopened its investigation of the 1965 murder of Oneal Moore, killed on a remote stretch of Louisiana's Route 21 in Varnado. Moore and his partner, Creed Rogers, were the first African Americans hired by the Washington Parish sheriff's office. A shotgun blast to the back of Moore's head killed him instantly, while Rogers lost an eye and sustained other serious gunshot wounds in the same incident. Shortly after the shooting, police arrested suspected Klansman Earnest Ray McElveen. Although he failed to give a confirmable alibi, McElveen was released and no further arrests were ever made in the case.
Two other reopened cases include the 1951 killings in Florida of NAACP members Harry T. Moore and his wife, who died when their home was bombed, and the 1957 murder of Willie Edwards Jr., a resident of Montgomery, Alabama, who jumped off a bridge when Klansmen threatened him with a gun. Prosecutors officially closed both cases.
In January 2001, the Mississippi attorney general stated that authorities were “vigorously pursuing” possible murder charges in the 1964 slayings of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney. In 2005, after evading justice for more than forty years, Mississippi authorities finally brought Edgar Ray “Preacher” Killen, a former Klan leader, to trial for the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. The 1964 “Freedom Summer” killings in Neshoba County, Mississippi, helped spur the modern civil rights movement that led to African Americans gaining access to voting rights, education, and public accommodations. On June 21, a jury composed of nine whites and three blacks took only five and one-half hours to find Killen guilty of manslaughter. The following day, the eighty-year-old Killen was sentenced by Judge Marcus Jordan to three consecutive terms of twenty years. Despite the threat of awakening specters of the Old South, a new generation of law enforcement officials and officers of the court have become prepared to reexamine civil rights crimes perpetrated against people of African descent during the 1960s and the 1970s.
In 2007, as part of its Civil Rights—Era Cold Case Initiative, the FBI began reassessing more than one hundred unsolved or inadequately solved racially motivated murders from the civil rights period. As of late 2009, the initiative had resulted in two successful federal prosecutions, with three additional cases referred to the states for prosecution.
CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION IN THE 1990s
The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s produced significant gains for African Americans. However, historic patterns of hiring and promotion left minorities vulnerable, especially during downward spirals in the national economy. In June 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered opinions in four cases dealing with seniority systems and racial discrimination in employment. In its rulings in these cases—Lorance v. AT&T Technologies Inc., Martin v. Wilks, Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, and Ward's Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio—the Court appeared to reverse earlier civil rights rulings.
Prior to the Court's ruling in Ward's Cove, the burden of proof in job discrimination suits had been placed on employers, requiring businesses to prove that there was a legitimate business reason for alleged discriminatory practices. With the Ward's Cove decision, the Court made it more difficult for groups to win such suits by requiring workers to prove that no clear business reason existed for an employer's use of practices that result in discrimination. Civil rights organizations were quick to protest the rulings; opponents of the ruling, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, argued that the Court had undermined the protections granted by federal civil rights and equal employment legislation.
On October 16 and 17, 1990, both houses of Congress approved a bill designed to reverse the Court's decision. The proposed legislation not only reversed the ruling in Ward's Cove, but it also strengthened provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On October 22, 1990, President George H. W. Bush vetoed the bill, claiming that its provisions would encourage employers to establish hiring quotas.
This was not the first time that Congress had moved to reverse a Court action in the area of civil rights. In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which reversed the Court's 1984 ruling in Grove City College v. Bell. In the Grove City College case, the Court ruled that not all of an institution's programs and activities were covered by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited discrimination in educational programs receiving federal financial assistance.
After vetoing Congress's 1990 civil rights legislation, the Bush administration joined both houses of Congress in working on alternative bills. Following months of negotiation, the Senate passed a bill designed to provide additional remedies for deterring harassment and intentional discrimination in the workplace, to provide guidelines for the adjudication of cases arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and to expand the scope of civil rights legislation weakened by Supreme Court decisions. The House of Representatives passed the bill on November 7, and on November 21, President George H. W. Bush signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
POLICE BRUTALITY IN THE 1990s AND EARLY 2000s
In the late 1960s, incidents of police abuse sparked civil unrest, costly and violent uprisings, and a lingering distrust between minority communities and the police. In an effort to understand the causes of these incidents, President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission after Illinois governor Otto Kerner (1908–1976), who chaired the commission. On July 27, 1968, the commission released its findings: among other things, twelve “deeply held grievances” had been identified in the communities that it studied, the most intense being police practices. Despite the commission's finding, major problems in police treatment of minority communities continued.
In late 1989, a pregnant white woman, Carol Stuart, was murdered in the racially divided city of Boston. Her husband told the police that her killer was an African American male. His allegations led police to conduct a manhunt in the predominantly black neighborhood of Roxbury. African Americans in the community were outraged when it was revealed that Charles Stuart had murdered his wife. Stuart, who was having an extramarital affair and financial problems, subsequently committed suicide. Roxbury residents charged the police department with applying a “double standard of justice.” In response, Boston mayor Raymond Flynn appointed the St. Clair Commission to examine allegations of abuse of power by the police department.
In 1991, following a high-speed chase in Los Angeles, an African American motorist, Rodney King, was subdued with extreme force and arrested by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Broadcasts of a videotape of King's beating galvanized international attention on police brutality in Los Angeles, and four LAPD officers were charged with assault and the use of excessive force. In April 1992, however, a predominantly white jury found the four officers not guilty of charges filed against them. The verdict ignited one of the worst race riots in the history of the United States. Later, the federal government indicted the officers on charges that they had violated King's civil rights. In 1993, two of the officers were convicted and sentenced to prison terms.
In response to this chain of events, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley (1917–1998) created an independent commission to investigate the LAPD. In July 1991, the Christopher Commission released its findings. The report noted that “within minority communities of Los Angeles, there is a widely held view that police misconduct is commonplace.” The King beating had “refocused public attention” on “long-standing complaints by African-Americans, Latinos and Asians that LAPD officers frequently treat minorities differently from whites…employing unnecessarily intrusive practices…and engaging in use of excessive force.” Documenting the systematic use of excessive force and racial harassment by the LAPD, the report called for structural reforms and the resignation of Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates. He resigned in 1992.
Well into the 1990s, numerous other incidents of police brutality against blacks surfaced in cities across the nation. These included: the 1995 videotaped beating of Corey West in Providence, Rhode Island; the 1995 killing of motorist Jonny Gammage in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the 1996 killing of TyRon Lewis in St. Petersburg, Florida; the fatal shooting in 1996 of the unarmed Nathaniel Gaines Jr. in New York City; the alleged beating of Jeremiah Mearday in 1997 in Chicago; and the 1998 fatal shooting of Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California.
Many of these incidents, which occurred under questionable circumstances, led to protests and investigations by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and prompted a national debate on police, race, and the use of deadly force. Civil rights organizations asserted that these incidents demonstrated a discriminatory use of deadly force and revealed critical problems, such as racially motivated police brutality and unprovoked stops and interrogation of minorities based on racial profiling.
Two of the most controversial and high-profile cases of police brutality occurred in New York within a two-year Page 413 | Top of Articlespan. In 1997, law enforcement officers brutally assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, who worked as a security guard in Brooklyn, New York. In 1999, four officers from the New York City Street Crime Unit (SCU), working undercover and patrolling the Soundview neighborhood in the Bronx for a serial rapist, fired forty-one shots at Amadou Diallo, a twenty-two-year-old immigrant from Guinea.
In the Louima case, New York Police Department (NYPD) officers Justin Volpe, Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese, and Thomas Bruder from Brooklyn's Seventieth Precinct arrived at a brawl outside a nightclub at 4:00 a.m. on August 9, 1997. Louima was present, as was his cousin, who struck officer Volpe during the fracas. Volpe mistakenly believed that Louima had thrown the punch and arrested him. According to reports, the Haitian immigrant was beaten by the officers en route to the precinct. Once he arrived, Louima was taken to the restroom, where Volpe sodomized him with a wooden stick. Suffering serious internal injuries, he required numerous surgeries and was hospitalized for two months.
The four police officers were indicted for varying levels of involvement in the beating. On December 13, 1999, after pleading guilty, Volpe was sentenced to thirty years in prison, which he appealed. Schwarz was found guilty of holding Louima down while Volpe assaulted him, but Schwarz, Wiese, and Bruder were acquitted of beating Louima on the way to the precinct. On March 6, 2000, all three were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Because of his role in the bathroom assault, Schwarz was convicted for violating Louima's civil rights. On June 27, 2000, Judge Eugene H. Nickerson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York sentenced Schwarz to almost sixteen years imprisonment and ordered restitution to Louima in the amount of $277,495.
Retaining attorney Johnnie Cochran (1937–2005), Louima filed a $15.5 million civil rights violation suit against New York City, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, and individual officers. It was settled in July 2001 for $8.7 million, the highest settlement that New York has ever paid for a police brutality case.
On February 28, 2002, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the obstruction of justice convictions against Schwarz, Wiese, and Bruder, and ordered a new trial for Schwarz on the civil rights charge. Less than a month after the court overturned Schwarz's conviction, he was indicted on two counts of lying under oath. A new trial date for Schwarz was set on June 24, 2002. In July, a federal jury deadlocked on the civil rights charges but convicted Schwarz of perjury. Rather than face another trial on the civil rights charges, Schwarz agreed to a five-year sentence for the perjury charge and prosecutors dropped the other charges. Schwarz, his family, and his attorneys were barred from ever speaking publicly about the case. In March 2006, prosecutors contacted the Bureau of Prisons and recommended reducing Schwarz's sentence to forty-seven months. Prison official refused, stating that the law only allowed them to grant early freedom to terminally ill prisoners. Later in the month, a federal judge rejected Schwarz's plea for an early release.
In the Diallo case, which occurred on February 4, 1999, four officers from the New York City SCU (Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss, and Richard Murphy) fired forty-one shots—with nineteen hits—at Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who was standing in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment. The officers contended that they suspected Diallo was a sought-after serial rapist and that he had reached for a gun. Some argued that the Diallo shooting was indicative of police brutality carried out by the NYPD toward people of color.
Incensed over the circumstances of the shooting, numerous persons and organizations, including the NAACP, staged a protest rally on March 18, 1999. On March 26, 1999, the officers were indicted on charges of second-degree murder. Five days later, all pleaded not guilty. They served a thirty-day suspension from police duties without pay and were assigned desk duty. The trial began on February 2, 2000. Judge Joseph Teresi ruled that the prosecution could not reveal that three of the four officers had fired their weapons at suspects in the past.
In addition to the second-degree murder charge, the jury was allowed to consider manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. On February 23, 2000, after two days of deliberations, the jurors returned not-guilty verdicts for all the defendants. The next month, the U.S. Justice Department investigated whether a federal civil rights case was warranted. It issued a statement on January 31, 2001, that insufficient evidence existed to prove that the officers intended to use excessive force, which is a requirement to prove they violated Diallo's civil rights. Therefore, the federal civil rights charges against McMellon, Carroll, Boss, and Murphy were rescinded. On April 18, 2000, Diallo's family filed an $81 million civil suit against the city of New York. In 2004, Diallo's family agreed to accept a $3 million settlement. After the Diallo killing, the issues of police brutality and racial profiling became national concerns. Incidents of police brutality continued to occur however.
In July 2002, a videotape of sixteen-year-old African American Donovan Jackson being beaten and arrested at a gas station in Inglewood, California, captured national attention. Inglewood police officers were assisting two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, who were investigating a car with an expired vehicle registration. According to Page 414 | Top of Articlereports filed by the Associated Press, Jackson's father, Coby Chavis, was cited for driving with a suspended license and was booked for assault on a police officer. In a CNN interview, both father and son said they had no idea why the police questioned them and that they did nothing to provoke the officers. A tourist staying at a motel across the street captured video of officer Jeremy Morse picking up the prone, handcuffed Jackson, slamming him facedown onto the trunk of a squad car, and punching him. Morse put one hand on the back of Jackson's neck, punched him with his other hand, and then appeared to choke him. Two other officers attempted to intervene, with at least one trying to pull Morse away. Morse was suspended with pay, while the other officers involved were not suspended. Reminiscent of the 1991 beating of Rodney King, the incident elicited cries of racism and demands from civil rights groups for a federal investigation.
Donovan Jackson and Coby Chavis filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Inglewood, four of its police officers, Los Angeles County, and three of its sheriff's deputies on July 10, 2002. They sought unspecified damages and alleged negligence, misconduct, and violation of the constitutional rights of due process and against unreasonable search and seizure. The actions of the police were denounced publicly at all levels: the FBI opened an investigation; U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft expressed concern that the work of law enforcement had gone awry during the incident; and Inglewood mayor Roosevelt Dorn, an African American, promised that the conduct captured on tape would not be condoned “under any circumstances.” In March 2005, three years after the federal civil rights lawsuit was filed, Jackson and his family settled for an undisclosed amount.
CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Just as police brutality continued to be an issue in the twenty-first century, civil rights also remained a persistent concern.
On May 15, 2002, President George W. Bush signed bipartisan civil rights legislation intended to crack down on discrimination and retaliation in the federal workplace. Known as the Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act (No FEAR) of 2002, the law required federal agencies to pay for all court settlements or judgments for discrimination and retaliation cases, instead of allowing the agency to use a government wide slush fund. The bill's notification requirement aimed to improve workforce relations by increasing managers' and employees' knowledge of their respective rights and responsibilities. In addition to the notification requisite, the No FEAR Act also mandated reporting requirements designed to assist in determining if a pattern of misconduct exists within an agency and whether the agency took appropriate action to address any problems.
While the No FEAR Act focused on the federal workplace, race-based affirmative action in college admissions policies remained on the national radar screen. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court endeavored to resolve the issue in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The Court considered the constitutionality of an affirmation action plan used by the University of California at Davis School of Medicine, which set aside sixteen of its one hundred openings for disadvantaged and minority applicants. Alan Bakke, a white male applicant, sued the university after it denied him admission. In 1976, the California Supreme Court ruled that Bakke should have been admitted, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this decision on June 28, 1978, by a narrow margin of five to four. On a number of related legal issues, the Court was divided without a majority. Only one justice avowed that affirmative action cases should be judged on the same stringent level of scrutiny that applied to “invidious” discrimination. The eight remaining justices stated that race-conscious remedies could be used in some circumstances to correct past discrimination. In essence, the Court used two measurements to sustain affirmative action: (1) a compelling interest must exist before adopting an affirmation action plan; and (2) the plan must be narrowly tailored to suit that interest.
After the Bakke decision, institutions of higher education tailored their affirmative action plans by abolishing rigid quotas and set-asides. Implementing new plans, school officials began using a multifactored analysis that permitted admissions officers to consider their school's racial or ethnic diversity as they would consider such subjective factors as geographical diversity, life experience, interests and talents, and similar “plus factors.” Almost twenty years later, with the majority of federal judges appointed by Republican presidents, conservative appellate courts began to strike down “plus factor” plans.
In Cheryl J. Hopwood. v. Texas (1996), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—struck down the University of Texas Law School's “plus factor” affirmative action plan. Four years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Katuria Smith v. University of Washington Law School, upheld the integrity of the admissions policy and allowed the consideration of race as one of the many factors in reviewing applications for admission. The Ninth Circuit stated, “educational diversity is a compelling governmental Page 415 | Top of Articleinterest that meets demands of strict scrutiny of race-conscious measures.”
On August 27, 2001, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals—covering the states of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia—in Jennifer L. Johnson v. Board of Regents of the University of Georgia, declined to decide whether diversity in education could be a compelling interest. It did, however, strike down as unlawful a University of Georgia admissions policy that awarded “points” to applicants for qualities including minority status. According to Columbia Law School professor Michael C. Dorf, within days of the Eleventh Circuit's decision, the University of Florida said it would cease providing more than fifty minority scholarships. He surmised that further university policy changes would take place in states within the Eleventh Circuit. All of the lead plaintiffs in these cases were white females.
On May 14, 2002, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals—which includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee—handed down a narrow decision upholding the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan Law School. Barbara Grutter, the plaintiff, filed suit against the law school after being denied admission in 1997. Grutter, a white mother of two in her forties with a 3.8 grade point average and high scores on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), alleged that had she been an African American or Hispanic, she would have been admitted. As a “nontraditional student,” Grutter argued that she would have brought diversity to the student population. Using the characteristic rationale of reverse discrimination as a consequence of the school's purportedly narrow meaning of “diversity,” the litigant challenged the law school's admissions policy that alleged a desire for diversity.
As noted in the case opinion, the University of Michigan Law School's policy explicitly expressed “a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity” with special reference to the inclusion of students from groups historically discriminated against, like African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. The academy acknowledged that this guiding principle, in combination with other “soft” variables—such as letters of recommendation, the quality of the undergraduate institution, difficulty of undergraduate course selection, the quality of the applicant's essay, residency, leadership and work experience, and unique talents and interests—might result in the admittance of students with relatively low grade point averages and LSAT scores. As cited in the brief, while the University of Michigan Law School sought to enroll a meaningful number, or “critical mass,” of underrepresented minorities, it denied that such “critical mass” represented any preset number or percentage of reserved seats being held for such students.
Upholding the use of race in admissions, the Grutter v. Bollinger ruling did little to end the discussion because it was a narrow five—four decision with strong dissenting opinions. Furthermore, it supported a ruling made by the Ninth Circuit but contradicted rulings by the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits that struck down the use of race in admissions. Still, the Sixth Circuit opinion stated, “We are satisfied that the law school's admissions policy sets appropriate limits on the competitive consideration of race and ethnicity.”
Like the Grutter case, Gratz v. Bollinger was heard in the district court, was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and was then argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Brought by Jennifer Gratz, an unsuccessful applicant to the University of Michigan in 1995, and Patrick Hamacher, an unsuccessful applicant in 1997, the case ended in a summary judgment—no trial was held—in the university's favor. On December 13, 2000, the judge ruled that the pursuit of diversity as an educational benefit is a compelling governmental interest, and the university's current admission policy was constitutional. The Center for Individual Rights, which consistently challenges affirmative action policies, appealed the judgment. The University of Michigan cross-appealed regarding its admission policy from 1995 to 1998, which the judge found unconstitutional. On June 23, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a six-to-three margin, ruled in favor of Gratz.
On November 7, 2006, Michigan voters approved a referendum, known as Proposition Two or the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, calling for an end to race-sensitive admission at the University of Michigan. By a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, voters approved the public referendum that banned the use of race or sex by any agency of state government, including the state's university system, in employment or contracting decisions. Jennifer Gratz, one of the plaintiffs who had challenged Michigan's affirmative action policies, campaigned vigorously for Proposition Two, along with Ward Connerly, an African American businessman and former University of California regent who pushed through California's Proposition 209 in 1996 and Washington State's Initiative 200 in 1998. According to the New York Times, although the initiative won by 58 percent of the vote, the divide between male and female voters, as well as African Americans and whites, was far greater. The Michigan initiative, which amended the state's constitution, came in response to the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that preserved affirmative action in admissions cases involving the University of Michigan and its law school. The Court upheld the law school's admissions process, but struck down the undergraduate admissions process that awarded minority students extra points toward admittance. While voters overwhelming approved Page 416 | Top of Articlethe referendum, University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman pledged to “consider every legal option available” to continue the academy's fight for diversity.
In California, the number of black students in the state's public universities dropped after Proposition 209 was approved by voters in 1996. Proposition 209 amended the state constitution to prohibit preferential treatment “on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” The proposition's immediate effects were apparent at the University of California at Berkeley, where 8,000 students were offered admission for the fall 1998 term. Only 191 were African American, compared to the 562 black students offered admission in 1997. According to the Los Angeles Times (April 17, 2003), the overall percentage of enrolled underrepresented minorities declined at both the University of California at Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the two largest universities in the University of California system. At UCLA, the number of black students admitted from California dropped from 3.3 percent to 2.8 percent in the fall of 2003. Three years later, in the fall of 2006, ninety-six of 4,800 UCLA freshmen, only 2 percent, were African American, which represented a thirty-year low. During the same semester, the freshman class at the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan had 330 African American students, down from 499 in 2001 and 350 in the year after the Supreme Court case, when a new admissions process was adopted.
Two years after Connerly led the push for California's Proposition 209, he also led Washington State's Initiative 200, which ended affirmative action in that state. The year after Initiative 200 passed, the number of first-year minority students at the University of Washington dropped from 373 to 255. At Washington State University, the number of first-year minority students dropped from 396 to 284. The fall 2002 first-year class at the University of Washington included 138 black students, which represented just 3 percent of the class.
Opposition to affirmation action continued in numerous cities throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century. Connerly, in particular, continued his push to ban affirmative action. After his 1998 triumphant in Michigan, Connerly announced plans for similar ballot initiatives in numerous states. Initiatives were proposed in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma that gave voters the opportunity to decided if they wanted to do away with affirmative action in government-funded projects and public schools. Voters in Colorado chose to maintain affirmative action programs, while Nebraska voters eliminated affirmation action.
The issue of the value of affirmation action again reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 in Ricci v. DeStefano. This case involved firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, who filed suit against the city because they felt they were denied promotion because of their race. The case resulted from New Haven's need to fill vacancies for lieutenants and captains in its fire department. An outside firm designed a test, which the city administered to seventy-seven candidates for lieutenant and forty-one candidates for captain. After the exams were scored, seventeen white firefighters and two Hispanic firefighters were eligible for promotion. However, because no black candidates and only two Hispanic candidates became eligible for promotion after taking the exam, New Haven officials feared that the city might be susceptible to claims that the test had a “disparate impact” on minorities, in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They therefore decided not to base promotion decisions on the exam results. White firefighters, led by Frank Ricci, felt that the decision violated the Civil Rights Act's ban on intentional discrimination. The case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 22, 2009.
On June 29, 2009, in a 5–4 decision, the Court ruled in favor of the nineteen firefighters in the Ricci case. The decision overturned a lower-court ruling supported by then federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor, now a Supreme Court justice and the first Hispanic appointed to the Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the Court's majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas joined Kennedy in the majority opinion. Kennedy wrote that an employer needs a “strong basis in evidence” to believe it will be held legally responsible in a disparate impact suit. In the majority's opinion, New Haven possessed so such proof. Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer joined Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who filed a dissenting opinion. In Ginsburg's dissent, she asserted that the Court should have evaluated “the starkly disparate results” of the exams against the backdrop of historical and ongoing inequality in New Haven's fire department.
As of 2003, only one of its twenty-one fire captains was African American.
REAUTHORIZATION OF THE 1965 VOTING RIGHTS ACT
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965. Enacted to provide protection to minority communities, the Voting Rights Act prohibited any practice that abridged a person's right to vote because of his or her race. The act effectively abolished any test or device, such as literacy tests or poll taxes, that might be used to prohibit persons from registering to vote or from voting. Since 1965, temporary provisions of the act have been renewed four times, in 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006.
When the U.S. Congress amended the Voting Rights Act in 1982, some sections were made permanent. These included Section 2, which contained a general proscription on voting discrimination that could be enforced Page 418 | Top of Articlethrough federal district court litigation. The 1982 congressional action stipulated that proof of intentional discrimination is not required. Instead, the amendment focused on the electoral process and its accessibility to minority voters. Other sections of the act, such as Section 5, were extended for twenty-five years, or until July 1, 2007.
Although reauthorization had widespread bipartisan support, numerous Republican lawmakers in the House acted to amend, delay, or defeat the bill's renewal. Also known as the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, the legislation passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 390–33. On July 20, 2006, the Senate voted to pass the bill by a 98–0 vote, thereby permitting the federal government to continue its broad oversight of state voting procedures. Seven days later, President George W. Bush signed the bill into law, providing for a twenty-five-year reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act one year in advance of the 2007 expiration date.
Just as police brutality had become the center of national attention, so too did the proliferation of hate crimes against African Americans. Hate crimes are crimes against persons or property that are motivated in whole or in part by racial, ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, and other prejudices. Based on the data collected under the Hate Crime Statistics Acts of 1990 and 1996, the number of hate crimes perpetrated against African Americans and reported to the FBI increased from 2,988 in 1995 to 3,838 in 1997. By 2008, the number of reported hate-crime incidents had risen to 7,783, more than half of them racially motivated. These malicious acts of violence, similar to lynchings of the past, were intended not only to be injurious to individuals but to intimidate and dispirit an entire group of people. Such crimes included the destruction of African American churches in the South.
Between 1995 and mid-1996, hundreds of churches were set ablaze in the South, many of them African American churches. These incidents of church arson invoked grievous memories of racist violence during the 1960s, particularly the 1963 bombing of Birmingham's Sixth Street Baptist Church, in which four girls were killed. In response, President Bill Clinton declared the “investigation and prevention of church arsons to be a national priority.”
In June 1996, President Clinton established the National Church Arson Task Force and proposed a three-pronged strategy that called for prosecution of the arsonists, the rebuilding of church edifices, and the prevention of additional fires. In addition, on July 3, he signed the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, which passed both chambers of the Congress unanimously. On June 6, 1997, the National Church Arson Task Force released its report: Of the 429 incidents of church burnings, bombings, and attempted bombings investigated, 162 involved African American churches, 75 percent of which were located in the South. The majority of those convicted of destroying African American churches were white males.
Hate crimes were not restricted to the destruction of African American church buildings, though. Three of the more high-profile incidents included: the 1995 murder of two African American residents of Fayetteville, North Carolina, by three U.S. Army soldiers who identified themselves as “neo-Nazi skin heads”; the 1996 racial harassment of Bridget Ward and her two daughters who moved into a rented home in the virtually all-white Bridesburg neighborhood in Philadelphia; and the brutal murder in 1998 of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, by three white males who chained him to the back of their pickup truck and dragged him to his death. Two of Byrd's assailants, self-proclaimed white supremacists John William King and Lawrence Russell Brewer, were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1999. The third assailant, Shawn Allen Berry, was sentenced to life in prison.
Hate crimes against African Americans increased throughout the 1990s. According to the FBI's 1999 hate-crime statistics, 7876 incidents of hate crimes were reported, involving 9,301 separate offenses, of which 4,295 were motivated by racial bias. Over 50 percent of the hate-crime victims were attacked because of their race, with the bias against African Americans accounting for 38 percent of all incidents.
The trend continued the following year. For 2000, the FBI report showed 8,063 incidents, involving 9,430 separate offenses, 9,924 victims, and 7,530 known offenders. At 53.7 percent, racial bias represented the largest percentage of single-bias offenses. African Americans accounted for 36 percent of all hate-crime victims, decreasing by only two percentage points between 1999 and 2000.
The first two years of the new millennium's decade saw a continued increase. The FBI's statistics showed that in 2001, 11,451 offenses were reported, 67.8 percent of which were crimes against persons. Of the 11,430 singlebias offenses, 46.3 percent were motivated by racial bias. Within those 5,290 offenses, it was determined that 66.7 percent, or 3,529, resulted from antiblack bias. The following year, the hate-crime statistics revealed a decrease in the number incidents reported, with only 7,462. However, the majority of these were single-bias incidents, and racial bias accounted for 48.8 percent of the single-bias Page 419 | Top of Articleincidents. Again, most offenses were perpetrated against blacks.
Data collected during 2003 showed that of the 7,489, hate-crime incidents reported, 7,485 were singlebias incidents, with 51.4 percent committed because of the offender's racial bias. That year, there were 2,548 antiblack incidents and 3,032 antiblack offenses. In 2004, FBI statistics showed that of the total 7,649 reported hate-crime incidents, involving 9,035 offenses, there were 7,642 single-bias incidents, with 9,021 offenses. Racial bias motivated more than half, or 53.9 percent, of these offenses. Once more, the number of incidents and offenses related to race illustrated that antiblack hate crimes far exceeded those perpetrated against any other racial group.
By mid-decade, the number of incidents and offenses reported was holding steady. The FBI's Uniform Crime Report on Hate Crime Statistics showed 7,163 hate-crime incidents and 8,380 offenses. Of the 7,160 single-bias incidents, 54.7 percent were racially motivated. As in the decade's previous years, antiblack incidents (2,630) and offenses (3,200) led those for all other racially classified groups.
In 2006, the FBI data showed 7,722 reported hate crimes involving 9,080 incidents. Among these were 7,720 single-bias incidents that involved 9,076 offenses, 51.8 percent of which were racially motivated. As in the preceding year, antiblack incidents (2,640), offenses (3,136), and victims (3,332) led the number of hate crimes against other racial groups. In the following year, there was a slight decrease in the number of hate crimes reported to the FBI, with 7,624 incidents involving 9,006 offenses. However, the number of incidents for racial bias increased slightly to 52.5 percent, from 51.8 percent the previous year. Antiblack incidents increased to 2,658.
The upward trend continued into 2008, with 7,783 reported hate-crime incidents involving 9,168 offenses. Of the 7,783 reported incidents, 7,780 were single-bias. The FBI reported that 4,704 offenses among single-bias, hate-crime incidents were racially motivated and that 72.6 percent, or 3,413, were antiblack. (The term victim as used by the FBI may refer to a person, business, institution, or society as a whole. Also, the term known offender does not imply that the identity of the suspect is known, only that an attribute of the suspect is identified that distinguishes her or him from an unknown offender.)
One notorious incident that was not included in the FBI's hate-crime report occurred at a high school in Jena, Louisiana, in 2006. Neither Jena nor LaSalle Parish was among the FBI's reporting agencies. The Jena case began in August 2006 after an African American student sat under a tree known as a gathering spot for white students. Three white students later hung nooses from the tree.
Four months later, LaSalle Parish prosecutor Reed Walters charged six black students with attempted second-degree murder for beating Justin Baker, a white student, unconscious. The charges against the black students were later reduced, but no charges were brought against the white students who hung the nooses. The Jena Six case ignited protests by those who regarded the arrests and subsequent charges as excessive and racially discriminatory. On September 20, 2007, thousands of protesters marched on the Louisiana town. Considered the largest civil rights demonstration in years, protests were held in other cities across the country on the same day. Subsequent reaction included songs referencing the Jena Six, a plethora of editorials and opinion columns, and congressional hearings.
The Jena incident and a subsequent rash of similar nooses and other racially motivated occurrences across the nation led to civil rights protest marches that ended at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., in November 2007. Earlier in the month, hundreds of protesters marched through Charleston, West Virginia, to pressure prosecutors to add hate-crime charges against six whites accused of beating, torturing, and sexually assaulting a twenty-year-old black woman discovered in September after several days of alleged captivity in a rural trailer.
Modern technology, especially the Internet, has created an opportunity for hate groups to spread their beliefs and increase their membership. Data compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and reported in its Intelligence Report issued in spring 2006, showed that the number of hate groups operating in the United States rose from 762 in 2004 to 803 in 2005. This represented a 33 percent increase over the five-year period that began in 2000.
Hate-group activity in the United States was disturbing and widespread throughout 2008 as the number of hate groups operating in the nation continued to rise. That year, 926 hate groups were reported to be active, an increase from 888 in 2007, and more than a 50 percent increase since 2000, when there were 602 such groups. Some experts hypothesize that hate groups have been incited by the national immigration debate, but were likely fueled by two new forces that arose in 2008: the economic decline and Barack Obama's successful campaign to become America's first black president. Officials reported that Obama received more threats than any other presidential candidate. Several white supremacists were arrested for declaring that they would assassinate Obama or for purportedly conspiring to do so. The most active and terrifying white supremacist hate-group sectors during the first decade of the twenty-first century were Ku Klux Klan groups, neo-Nazis, and racist skinheads. The majority of the such groups are located in the South. The Page 420 | Top of ArticleSouthern Poverty Law Center reported 932 hate groups active in the United States in 2009. The three states with the highest number of such groups in 2009 were: Texas, with sixty-six; California, with sixty; and Florida, with fifty-one.
Ten months after his inauguration, President Barack Obama signed a new hate-crime bill into law on October 28, 2009. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act is part of newly expanded hate-crimes legislation and the first expansion of civil rights laws since the mid-1990s. It criminalizes violence or attempted violence against others because of their race, color, religion, or national origin, and adds four new categories to the list of biases—actual or perceived gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, and disability. In addition, the new law eliminates the provision that the crimes also be motivated by the victim's participation in one of several specific federally protected activities.
U.S. SENATE APOLOGY FOR LYNCHING
On February 7, 2005, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 39, apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact antilynching legislation. The resolution acknowledged that the crime of lynching succeeded African enslavement as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following the era of Reconstruction, and that it was a widely accepted practice in the nation until the middle of the twentieth century.
|[The FBI collected statistics on hate crimes from 13,241 law enforcement agencies representing over 260 million inhabitants in 2007. Hate crime offenses cover incidents motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, and disability]|
|Bias motivation||Incidents reported||Offenses||Victims1||Known offenders2|
|1The term “victim” may refer to a person, business, institution, or a society as a whole.|
|2The term “known offender” does not imply that the identity of the suspect is known, but only that an attribute of the suspect has been identified which distinguishes him/her from an unknown offender.|
|Anti-American Indian/Alaska native||61||75||76||63|
|Ethnicity/national origin, total||1,007||1,256||1,347||1,155|
|Anti-other ethnicity/national origin||412||481||517||397|
|Anti-other religious group||130||140||148||62|
|Sexual orientation, total||1,265||1,460||1,512||1,454|
Table 7-1. Offenses directed against blacks continue to represent the largest proportion of hate crimes against various groups in the United States.
Lynchings occurred throughout the United States, with documented incidents in all but four states. Between 1882 and 1968, there were at least 4,742 people, principally African Americans, lynched in the United States. Almost all of the perpetrators escaped without penalty. Between 1920 and 1940, the U.S. House of Representatives passed three antilynching measures. Even after numerous requests from civil rights groups, presidents, and House members, Page 421 | Top of Articlehowever, the Senate considered but failed to passed any legislation dealing with antilynching.
EMMETT TILL UNSOLVED CIVIL RIGHTS CRIME ACT
Shortly after passing Resolution 39, the U.S. Senate moved toward enacting legislation that would create offices in both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights—era murders. The bill was cosponsored by Senators Jim Talent and Christopher Dodd, and named the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, or the Till Bill, after Emmett Louis Till, the fourteen-year-old Chicago boy murdered in Money, Mississippi, in 1955. In coordination with state and local law enforcement officials, these investigative units within the Justice Department and the FBI became responsible for investigating and prosecuting pre-1970 cases that resulted in death and remained unsolved. The bill passed the House in June 2007, but remained stalled in the Senate for more than a year. Finally, on September 24, 2008, the bill passed the Senate, and President George W. Bush signed it into law on October 8, 2008.
There are a number of pre-1970 civil rights murders that remain unsolved. They include, but are not limited to, the January 23, 1957, murder of Willie Edwards Jr., a truck driver for Winn-Dixie. Edwards was forced at gunpoint to jump from the Tyler-Goodwyn Bridge in Montgomery County, Alabama, by Ku Klux Klan members who had mistaken him for another African American man said to have dated a white woman. Edwards's decomposed body was found three months later. His killers never went to trial. On April 9, 1962, Corporal Roman Ducksworth Jr., a military police officer stationed at Fort Ritchie in Maryland and on emergency leave to visit his ailing wife, was awaken by police officer William Kelly and ordered off a bus that had just arrived in Taylorsville, Mississippi. Minutes later, Ducksworth was shot and killed. It was alleged that the officer may have thought Ducksworth was a freedom rider testing the state's compliance with interstate desegregation laws. In all of these cases, defenseless African Americans were brutally killed in cold blood. In each case, the perpetrator or perpetrators were racially prejudiced southern white men who were never brought to justice.
SONGS OF THE MOVEMENT
Freedom songs is an all-encompassing term for compositions associated with America's civil rights movement from about 1955 to 1966. Music and singing were integral to the methods of protest used by those involved in the struggle for freedom. The freedom songs were made known through word of mouth and through civil rights organizations. Many were adapted from earlier religious songs. Zilphia Horton (1910–1956), the wife of Myles Horton (1905–1990), for example, is credited by folk singer Pete Seeger with changing hymn “I Shall Overcome” to “We Shall Overcome” in 1946. Others credit Guy Carawan of the Highland Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, with adapting the song “I'll Be Alright” into “We Shall Overcome” and introducing it during the 1960 Nashville sit-in movement.
The use of spirituals in the struggle for freedom during the antebellum era had left a profound impression on the memory of American blacks. During the civil rights movement's modern era, foot soldiers in the social revolution's forces sang numerous songs of freedom. Many freedom songs were adaptations of spirituals, modified with contemporized lyrics, and as such they allowed participants to voice the demands of the movement. Songs such as “Oh Freedom,” “I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table,” “Everybody Says Freedom,” “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus,” “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” “Ain't Scared of Your Jails,” “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “We Shall Overcome” expressed the sentiments of those struggling to gain civil rights for blacks in America. Other popular freedom songs included “Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” “Ain't Gonna Let Segregation Turn Me Around,” “Which Side Are You On?” and “We'll Never Turn Back.”
The Freedom Singers, an ensemble that included Charles Neblett, Bernice Reagon, Cordell Reagon, and Rutha M. Harris, became one of the best-known groups singing freedom songs. However, civil rights songs were recorded by many popular performers, both black and white, including Bob Dylan; Phil Ochs; Tom Paxton; Odetta; Joan Baez; Harry Belafonte; Pete Seeger; and Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Many black recording artists, including Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, the Impressions, and James Brown, shared their talents with the movement. In 1963, Simone recorded her first protest song, “Mississippi Goddam,” in reaction to violence against black Americans that year, including the murder of Mississippi's civil rights activist Medgar Evers and the killing of four young girls in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four years later, Simone recorded “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” In 1964, Sam Cooke recorded the prophetic “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions followed the next year with “People Get Ready,” which was inspired by the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the Page 422 | Top of ArticleSixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
In August 1968, four months after King's assassination and two months after the assassination of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, James Brown, known as the Godfather of Soul and Soul Brother Number One, among other monikers, recorded “Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud.” He continued his social activism and worked with such organizations as Operation PUSH and the Black Panther Party's breakfast program. Brown expressed the attitude of most American blacks when in 1969 he released the socially conscious single, “I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I'll Get It Myself).”
While the traditional songs remained prevalent in the South, other musical renderings, such as “Burn, Baby, Burn” and the “Movement's Moving On,” signaled a shift from the nonviolent movement for civil rights to the Black Power movement.
WOMEN AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Historians have long agreed that women, particularly American black women, were pivotal in the critical battles for racial equality. However, in the consciousness of the public, men pervade the communal recollection of the civil rights movement. Although most of the more visible activists were men, women stood at the nucleus of the movement. Women were vital to every phase of the effort to halt America's legal system of racial segregation, from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision to the 1963 March on Washington, and even beyond the voting rights struggle.
Rosa Parks and the wives of the movement's three prominent male leaders—Coretta Scott King (1927–2006), Betty Shabazz (1936–1997), and Myrlie Evers-Williams—were among the most important women in the struggle. One of the most iconic occasions of the modern civil rights movement is the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In spite of the vital role and leadership provided by Jo Ann Gibson Robinson (1911–1992), Daisy Bates (1914–1999), Ella Baker (1903–1986), Diane Nash, and others in planning and organizing the march, no woman was allowed to interject her voice into the activities of the day, with the exception of Mahalia Jackson (1911–1972), who sang “I Been 'Buked and I Been Scorned” before King took the podium. Although they, like Rosa Parks, Dorothy Height, Pauli Murray (1910–1985), and others, were invited to the march, the male leadership asked no woman to accompany them to the White House to meet with President Kennedy.
Many consider the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling and the murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till and the Montgomery bus boycott the following year as marking the beginning of the civil rights movement. While these events all played pivotal roles in launching the pursuit for full citizenship among African Americans, the Montgomery bus boycott signified a changed stratagem in the ongoing freedom struggle. The boycott marked a break from the litigious route taken by the NAACP, in that it used mass participation as a line of attack in the protest activities of the movement. Even though the Montgomery bus boycott was a peak in the numerous mountaintop and valley experiences that had for decades preceded the modern civil rights movement, these actions were, in fact, a mere link in the movement's chain of events. Historians and others who have analyzed the movement have documented the legal victories of the NAACP, the protest activities of black soldiers returning from World War II (1939–1945), and other similar activities, especially during the 1940s and the early 1950s. After these signal development, other direct-action protest events took place with rapidity. They included, but were not limited to, the school desegregation efforts of 1957, the early 1960s sit-ins, the 1961 freedom rides, the 1963 March on Washington, the Birmingham campaigns, the Freedom Summer campaigns of 1964, and the voting rights campaign. Throughout this period, the movement's leaders and participants devised new tactics, such as mass meetings, organizing, marches, boycotts, and other lines of attack, as they pursued their constitutional rights. From the opening salvo, women played an integral role in advancing the cause.
The participation of women in the civil rights movement did not begin with such activists as Irene Morgan (1917–2007), Margie Jumper (1914–2007), or even Rosa Parks. The roots of American black women's activism for racial equality dates back to their resistance activities in the antebellum South. Racial segregation, proscription, and antiblack mob violence increased with the empowerment of impoverished white men in the late 1820s and 1830s. Racial oppression solidified free black Americans' sense of themselves as a racial people and inspired antiracist protest. Many black women, including Maria Stewart (1803–1879), Sarah Parker Remond (1826–1894), Sarah Mapps Douglass (1806–1882), Sojourner Truth (1797–1883), Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911), and others, lent their voices to the movement for equality and justice. They organized and fought for the right to vote, access to educational opportunities, antilynching laws, and the abolishment of poll taxes and white primaries, all in an attempt to overturn Jim Crow laws. From the nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth Page 423 | Top of Articlecentury, black women maintained the practice of noncooperation with the de facto and de jure structure of Jim Crow.
After World War I, the search for connection and for significant associations became issues of discussion and demonstration in an ever-increasing black public domain. Although Jim Crow attempted to repress and contain American blacks, the 1830s minstrel character met a tough and resilient adversary in the “New Negro.” Associated with uplift and resistance, the New Negro emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century. The arrival of a new generation of creative artists that congregated in Harlem were encouraged by black movement leaders to utilize their gifts to break down racial barriers. Through civil rights organizations and their publications, they were given avenues to assert their voices.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954) participated in the founding of the NAACP in 1909. The National Urban League, which was originally established as the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes in 1910, merged in 1911 with the Committee for the Improvement of Industrial Conditions Among Negroes in New York and the National League for the Protection of Colored Women. The new organization presaged a transformation in the spirit of American blacks. Although from the 1890s to the 1950s it appeared that Jim Crow might defeat the era's New Negro, every impediment placed in their path brought forth a further commitment to their civil rights agenda.
The NAACP's Crisis magazine, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, not only took on political issues but also published fiction and poetry, which symbolized the new race consciousness of American blacks. Serving as literary editor, Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882–1961) promoted such writers as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer. Fauset's role in discovering, promoting, and giving a platform to African American writers helped to create an authentic “black voice” in American literature. A contributor to the Crisis magazine herself, Fauset, a novelist, wrote about people who adjusted to American race relations without internalizing the negative stereotypes and images that whites projected on them. Other women, like Hallie Q. Brown, Billie Holiday, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nella Larsen, among others, addressed issues of race and gender, barriers to economic and social participation in American society, and cultural issues of passing.
Musicians also lent their voices to the struggle for civil rights, as they had since the early days of the African presence in the New World, when such songs as “Follow the Drinking Gourd” were used as covert forms of communication. As Reconstruction gains slipped into Jim Crow deficits, American black music, such as jazz and blues, evolved. Delving into the emotional state of frustration, deprivation, and desolation that many in the black community experienced, the music also began to serve as a catalyst for social change. Before the 1960s, songs that promoted social activism were rare. However, in 1938, jazz singer Billie Holiday sang “Strange Fruit,” one of the earliest songs of protest. “Strange Fruit” was a powerful story about the lynching of black Americans in the South. Holiday performed the song regularly. Because of the zeitgeist of the period and the song's perspective, she was deemed a race heroine. As the effects of the Great Depression took hold in the 1930s, the Harlem or Negro Renaissance wound down. Because of the economic downturn, the prominent contributors to the cultural birth of black America departed Harlem.
During the Great Depression, black protests against discrimination increased. The economic downturn hit black women the hardest. They protested the refusal of white-owned businesses in all-black neighborhoods to Page 424 | Top of Articlehire and employ black salespersons. Because of such repudiations, the black Housewives' Leagues called for job creation and initiated “don't buy where you can't work” boycott campaigns in major cities.
As black women entered the 1940s and 1950s, they became even more involved in the movement for civil rights, with such women as Pauli Murray, Septima Clark (1898–1987), and Modjeska Simkins (1899–1992) taking an active role. In 1938, with assistance from the NAACP, Murray began a campaign to enter the University of North Carolina, an all-white educational institution. Although her case received national publicity, the university refused her admittance. Two years later, after refusing to sit at the back of a bus in Petersburg, Virginia, she was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, jailed, and fined. While a student at Howard University's Law School, she and fellow law students conducted a series of sit-ins in Washington, D.C. NAACP lawyers used a paper Murray had written about Plessy v. Ferguson as it prepared for the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case.
Septima Clark, whom the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called the “mother of the civil rights movement,” stood at the forefront of the struggle. She labored to put an end to the pay inequity between black teachers and white teachers in South Carolina. Working with the principal of Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia, NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, and South Carolina's civil rights attorney Harold R. Boulware to prepare the court case in 1945, their work came to fruition when federal district judge J. Waties Waring ruled in their favor. In 1952 Clark became affiliated with Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. After the student sit-in movement spread across the South, Clark hosted the first regional conference for students at Highlander. Like her fellow South Carolinian, Modjeska Simkins was active in the South Carolina Conference of the NAACP, especially in challenging segregation in public schools.
Black women fought to make the South and the nation adhere to U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding race, as in the case of Irene Morgan, on whose behalf Morgan v. Virginia (1946) was litigated. The same year that the Court adjudicated Morgan, another Virginian, Margie Jumper, refused to yield to the proscriptions of Jim Crow public transportation. Eleven years after Morgan and nine years after Jumper, Rosa Parks, who refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery bus, provided the impetus for the Montgomery bus boycott and the Gayle v. Browder case.
In the 1940s, women such as Ada Sipuel went to court to gain access to higher education. The NAACP brought Sipuel's case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided in her favor in Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. Modjeska Simkins, a plainspoken and forthright NAACP leader in South Carolina from the 1930s to the 1970s, assisted in drafting the petition for desegregated schools in the 1952 Briggs v. Elliott case, which was the first of five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Constance Baker Motley (1921–2005), a member of the NAACP legal team, also had a major impact on the effort to end racial discrimination. Motley helped write briefs for the 1954 Brown case and was involved in the school desegregation case in Little Rock, Arkansas, which caused Governor Orval Faubus (1910–1994) to call out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering Little Rock's Central High School. From 1961 to 1964, Motley litigated and won nine of ten civil rights cases she argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. When the movement transitioned from the courts to direct nonviolent resistance, women provided strong leadership and executed critical roles in organizing marches, leading protests, distributing leaflets, and expanding voter-registration drives.
Although the United States ostensibly entered World War II to make the world safe for democracy, at the end of the war, most of the racial restrictions enforced on African Americans remained sanctioned in the country by both custom and law. Unrepentant racialists dispossessed blacks of equal education, desegregated public accommodations, the right to vote, and other rights and privileges granted to white citizens across the South and, indeed, the country. Legally set apart from whites since 1896, racial segregation subjugated blacks from the beginning of life until the end. Yet, the civil rights activities of the 1940s and 1950s signaled a cyclonic change for the nation's race relations. Although the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision held that the separate-but-[un]equal doctrine was unconstitutional, many Americans refused to recognize the mounting frustration of the country's black citizens with the highly formalized and codified structure of racism. The 1955 Montgomery bus boycott not only seized the nation's attention, it made the world aware of America's ill treatment of its black citizens and projected twenty-six-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. into the vanguard of the modern movement for civil rights.
Many identify the Montgomery bus boycott as a key episode for the civil rights movement because it established that well-coordinated and persistent economic pressure could produce a triumphant outcome. Two years before to the 1955–1956 boycott, black women were in the forefront of another bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which served as a model for Montgomery. Although the Rosa Parks incident incited tens of thousands of people in Montgomery to boycott the transit Page 425 | Top of Articlesystem, the Women's Political Council (WPC), started by Mary Fair Burks (1920s–1991) in 1946, also played a vital role. A year before Parks was arrested, black WPC members had begun concentrating their energies on the Jim Crow bus system. Because women often bore the brunt of mistreatment from white bus drivers, in March 1954 Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, president of the WPC, met with Montgomery's mayor, W. A. Gayle, and detailed desired changes to the Montgomery bus laws. In March and October of 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith were arrested for refusing to relinquish their seats to white passengers.
Neither of these incidents, however, incited the black community like the imprisonment of Parks on December 1, 1955. When Montgomery's black community embarked on a long-term boycott, women played a critical role in sustaining it, especially the unidentified cooks, maids, and others who made long walks to and from their homes for a year to achieve the objective of desegregating the buses. In December 1956, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Gayle v. Browder, Montgomery's blacks once again began using the now-desegregated public system of transportation.
Near the end of the 1950s, women remained steadfast in the cause for civil rights and full participation in American society. Daisy Bates was an adviser and counselor to the group of black students who became known as the Little Rock Nine as they stood in the forefront of efforts to desegregate Little Rock's Central High School in 1957. Bates and the students gained both national and international attention for their steadfastness and courage when Governor Orval Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard to keep them from entering the school. As a civil rights activist and a leading member in the NAACP, Bates caught the attention of whites in Arkansas during the pretrial proceedings of the federal court case of Aaron v. Cooper, which set the stage for the desegregation of Central High School.
Two years after the Little Rock school desegregation crisis, the first major battle for voting rights in the rural South began in Tennessee's Fayette and Haywood counties. Viola McFerrin, Minnie Jamison, Wilola Mormon and their husbands, along with Gertrude Beasley and others, led blacks in an uprising against the racially restrictive voting system, causing white landowners to evict thousand of black sharecroppers from their homes. After being evicted, they were forced to live in an improvised community known as Tent City or Freedom Village. The Tennessee effort presaged the struggle that African Americans in other states would conduct to secure their constitutional right to vote. In 1959, black residents of Fayette County filed the first suit of its kind under the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Their actions sparked voter-registration drives throughout the South, especially in Mississippi and Alabama. As James Forman noted, if black participation in the electoral process could be achieved in west Tennessee, the same could happen in Mississippi.
In addition to Parks, who represents the beginning of the transformation from the litigious course to direct nonviolent protest, Ella Baker, the first staff person hired by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), blazed a trail for the organization's work. She helped organize the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage that brought thousands of activists to Washington, D.C. Through her leadership, SCLC mobilized democratic coalitions in grassroots community associations across the country. She went to Highlander Folk School to help Septima Clark enable black southerners to exercise their voting rights. Baker also worked closely with southern civil rights activists in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi and was highly respected for her organizing abilities. One of her most important contributions to the movement was helping students establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. A strong supporter of decentralized leadership, Baker encouraged the students to be their own leaders. Called the “godmother of SNCC,” Baker was one of its most highly respected adult advisers. She influenced the thinking of many of the committee's important figures, including Diane Nash, one of SNCC's founders.
Diane Nash was an indomitable force in the Nashville student movement. In 1960, she convinced Nashville mayor Ben West to declare that lunch counters should be desegregated. The next year, she was in the forefront of reviving the freedom rides aborted by the Congress of Racial Equality because of violent retaliatory action by white mobs. Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson (1942–1967), another SNCC founder and the only woman to serve as the organization's executive secretary, became involved in the civil rights movement because of her exposure to racial discrimination in her native city of Atlanta. As a SNCC field representative, Robinson helped organize chapters in the South. In February 1961, she and other SNCC leaders, including Nash, traveled to Rock Hill, South Carolina, to participate in that city's sit-in movement. Because of their “jail, no bail” tactic, they were given a thirty-day jail sentence. After Robinson took part in the 1961 freedom rides, she served a forty-five-day jail term in Mississippi's Parchman Penitentiary, where she was violently maltreated by prison guards.
SNCC members also concentrated their efforts on voter-registration drives in the Deep South. One of the most important contributors to this phase of the movement was Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977), who became a SNCC member in 1962 and a registered voter and SNCC field secretary in 1963. Hamer risked her life and that of her family in her effort to register voters across Page 426 | Top of Articlethe South. She also helped set up programs to that would be of economic benefit to underprivileged African Americans. Hamer was also a leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), founded in 1964 to challenge Mississippi's all-white delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. As a representative for the Democratic National Committee in August 1964, Hamer gained national recognition when she testified before the party's Credentials Committee. A year later Hamer, Victoria Gray (1926–2006), and Annie Devine (1912–2000) ran for Congress and contested the seating of the regular Mississippi representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although this effort failed, Mississippi's 1965 elections results were later reversed. Hamer continued to be politically active and served as a member of the Democratic National Committee from Mississippi from 1968 to 1971.
Women's participation in the civil rights movement was not limited by age or education. Six-year-old Ruby Nell Bridges became the center of one of the most vividly recalled events of the civil rights era when she entered William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1960, an event depicted in Norman Rockwell's 1964 painting, The Problem We All Live With. Bridges endured the jeers of the white racist crowd as she entered the building to begin the process of school desegregation. In school, she faced isolation from her classmates because she was not allowed to join them in the cafeteria or during recess.
As the civil rights movement transitioned toward the Black Power movement, women continued to be active participants and shared in leadership positions. Elaine Brown became the first woman to chair the Black Panther Party, founded by Huey Newton (1942–1989) and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, in October 1966. Kathleen Cleaver, a former member of SNCC and a grassroots organizer for the Black Panther Party, became the communications secretary and the first female member of the party's decision-making apparatus. Angela Davis, another SNCC activist, also became affiliated with the Black Panthers.
THE ELECTION OF PRESIDENT OBAMA
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961, Barack Hussein Obama was the son of Barack Obama Sr. (1936–1982), a native of Nyangoma-Kogelo in the Siaya District of Kenya, and Stanley Ann Dunham (1942–1995), a native of Wichita, Kansas, and a descendant of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America. Obama and his wife Michelle are the parents of two daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha (Sasha). Although he was not a neophyte to the political arena, Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, was relatively unknown when on February 10, 2007, he stood in front of the Illinois statehouse in Springfield and announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. The subsequent Democratic primaries yielded a historic first when two minorities, an African American and a woman, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, became the major candidates for their party's nomination.
Obama honed his political skills in the Illinois State Senate, where he represented the Thirteenth Legislative District. Elected in 1996, Obama worked with a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to pass bills that increased funding for AIDS prevention and care, expanded early childhood education, and attempted to curb racial profiling. After numerous death-row inmates in Illinois prisons were found to be innocent, Obama enlisted the support of law enforcement officials to draft legislation requiring the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.
Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Illinois in November 2004 and was sworn into office on January 4, 2005. His election made him only the fifth African American (after Hiram Revels [1870–1871], Blanche K. Bruce [1875–1881], Edward Brooke [1967–1979], and Carol Moseley Braun [1993–1999]) elected to serve in the U.S. Senate and the only African American senator in the 110th U.S. Congress. Obama made his debut before the American public when he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. While in the U.S. Senate, he served on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee, and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee.
As a candidate for president, Obama presented himself as a Washington outsider and a different kind of leader. He not only distanced himself from President George W. Bush's position on the Iraq War and domestic issues, but even from the positions of some in the Democratic Party. From the beginning, Obama opposed the Iraq War, which placed him on the opposing side of high-ranking black officials in the Bush administration, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Obama reiterated this position when he announced his candidacy. However, during the campaign, Obama emphasized his goals of building better schools, creating jobs, and fixing a broken health-care system. He also articulated his desire to make the United States more energy efficient and to protect the environment from global warming. His campaign for “change” voiced a theme of inclusivity across all social, economic, political, and racial lines. Obama was not the first African American to run for president. He was preceded by Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005), a Page 427 | Top of Articleseven-term U.S. congresswoman from New York, who ran in 1972; the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a civil rights activist who ran in 1984 and 1988; Alan Keyes, who ran in 1996 and 2000; and Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Reverend Al Sharpton, both of whom competed in the Democratic Party's primaries in 2000. Obama, however, was the first black candidate to capture the attention of both the media and the public.
Prior to entering the political arena, Obama, a graduate of Columbia University (1983) and Harvard Law School (1991), where he became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review, worked with a church-based organization in Chicago, Illinois, that focused on the city's economically distressed environs. He later became a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. A civil rights attorney, Obama practiced law with the Miner, Barnhill and Galland firm, where he dealt with voting rights and employment rights cases. As an activist, he directed the Illinois Project Vote campaign, which registered more than 100,000 voters and facilitated the election of President Bill Clinton and Senator Moseley Braun, the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. The same year that he graduated from Harvard Law School, Obama accepted the position of senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.
As Illinois's junior senator, Barack Obama worked to promote civil rights and fairness in the criminal justice system, as he had done throughout his career. As a civil rights attorney, he litigated cases concerning employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and voting rights. As a leading advocate for protecting the right to vote, he helped to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and led the opposition against discriminatory barriers to voting.
The core of the Obama campaign message was “change” that began at the grassroots level. To help that message resonate, he brought in young people, whose efforts became an essential element in his bid for the White House. To capitalize on his grassroots organizing experience, the campaign established “Camp Obama,” which were three-to-four-day gatherings that trained approximately fifty volunteers on how to manage phone banks, knock on doors, and register voters. Young campaign workers also contributed to a precinct-by-precinct field operation. This line of attack changed standard methods of political field organizing and transformed thousand of communities across America. The Obama campaign adopted the “Yes, We Can” slogan used earlier by Deval Patrick, the first African American governor of Massachusetts. Patrick shared with Obama the lessons he had learned during his successful campaign for the governorship.
Obama's innovative use of new modes of communication and technology, such as social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, aided in mobilizing support for his presidential bid. Students for Barack Obama, which began as a group on Facebook, became an official youth outreach program for his campaign that recruited students online and organized campaign events on university campuses. Obama and his team also used online videos and advertisements, e-mail, and text messaging to reach young adults and other voters. The campaign itself had an Internet social networking site that helped supporters create more than 35,000 local groups and host some 200,000 events in support of Obama's candidacy. This effective use of the Internet maximized opportunities for campaign volunteers to spread Obama's message of change.
As the Democratic primaries progressed, it became clear that the two front-runners were Obama and New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady of the United States. On February 28, 2008, when twenty-three states held their primaries and caucuses, Obama outranked his opponent by three states and won 847 pledged delegates to Clinton's 834. Obama's supporters included black Americans, college-educated whites, and young voters. Clinton's voting demographic included women, Latinos, and non-college-educated whites. When the primaries were over and the Democrats held their national convention in Denver, Colorado, in August, Barack Obama and Delaware senator Joe Biden received their party's presidential and vice presidential nominations. On August 27, Senator Clinton interrupted the official roll call and moved that Obama be selected by acclamation. In the general election, Obama and Biden faced the Republican nominees, Arizona senator John McCain and Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
On November 4, 2008, Obama defeated McCain in both the Electoral College and the popular vote. He received 365 electoral votes to McCain's 173. In the popular vote, Obama carried sixty-three million votes, or 53 percent, to McCain's 55.8 million, or 46 percent. The election marked the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson won the presidency in 1964 that a Democrat had won more than 51 percent of the votes. On November 4, people from all social, economic, political, and racial backgrounds reaped the benefits of the civil rights struggle.
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Countless numbers of people of all races assembled in the nation's capital to witness history, as he was sworn in as the first black president of the United States. He and his family would occupy the White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Obama is the author of Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) and The Audacity of Page 428 | Top of ArticleHope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006), both of which became best sellers. In October 2009, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee, led by chairman Thorbjørn Jagland, honored the president for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” President Obama claimed to be “surprised and deeply humbled” by the prize. He said he “viewed the decision less as a recognition of his own accomplishments and more as call to action.” On January 27, 2010, the president delivered his first State the Union address.
CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
(Some biographical profiles may appear in other chapters. To locate profiles more readily, please consult the index.)
RALPH D. ABERNATHY (1926–1990)
Religious Leader, Civil Rights Activist, Organization Executive/Founder. Born March 11, 1926, in Linden, Alabama, the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy was ordained a minister in 1948. He received his bachelor's degree from Alabama State College (now Alabama State University) in 1950 and his master's degree from Atlanta University in 1951. The alliance between Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr. stretched back to the mid-1950s. Earlier, while attending Atlanta University, Abernathy had the opportunity to hear King preach at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
After obtaining his master's degree, Abernathy returned to Alabama to serve as a part-time minister at the Eastern Star Baptist Church in Demopolis. In 1951, Abernathy moved to First Baptist Church in Montgomery. Around this time, King accepted a position at Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and Abernathy and King became close friends.
In 1955, the two organized the Montgomery Improvement Association to coordinate a citywide bus boycott. The success of the Montgomery bus boycott led to the creation of the Southern Negro Leaders Conference; the organization's name was later changed to the Southern Leadership Conference and finally the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In January 1957, Dr. King was elected the organization's president.
From the time of Martin Luther King's death in 1968 until 1977, Abernathy served as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Abernathy continued as a leading figure in the movement until his resignation in 1977, when he made an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. congressional seat. In 1989, he published his autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, which was criticized by some African American leaders for Abernathy's inclusion of details regarding King's extramarital affairs. Abernathy died of cardiac arrest on April 17, 1990.
ELLA BAKER (1903–1986)
Community Activist, Civil Rights Activist, Executive/General Manager. Ella Baker was born in 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia, to Blake and Georgianna Ross Baker, both educated people who worked hard to educate their children. The family and community in which Baker grew up instilled in her a sense of sharing and community cooperation. Baker's family imbued her with a sense of racial pride and resistance to any form of oppression. Her grandfather, a minister and community leader, was an ardent proponent of civil rights and universal suffrage, and passed his beliefs on to her.
When she was fifteen, Baker was sent to the Shaw Boarding School (now Shaw University) in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree as valedictorian in 1927. After graduation, she moved to New York City. Baker quickly became involved in progressive politics and attended as many meetings and discussions as she could. During the Depression, she was outraged at the poverty she saw in the African American areas of the city. Believing in the power of community and group action, she became one of the founders of the Young Negroes Cooperative League, a buying cooperative that bought food in bulk to distribute at low prices to members; in 1931, she became the national director of the league. When President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration started, she became involved with its literacy program. Throughout these years, she worked closely with other politically aware and motivated people, discussing and evolving a political philosophy of cooperation, equality, and justice.
In the late 1930s, Baker began working for the NAACP. Between 1940 and 1943, she served as a field secretary, traveling all over the country setting up branch offices and teaching people to fight for their rights. During her travels, Baker developed a vast network of contacts in the South that she later relied on when working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1943, she became the director of branches for the NAACP. During the 1950s, she organized fund-raising activities in New York for the civil rights struggles in the South. In 1958, Baker moved to Atlanta to work with SCLC.
While working for SCLC, Baker became disillusioned with the male, clergy-dominated organizational structure of the group. In 1960, she quit SCLC and took a job with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). When students began conducting sit-ins, Baker shifted her focus to the development of SNCC. She acted as an unofficial adviser for the group, counseling them to set up their own student-run organization rather than be subsumed under SCLC or the NAACP. Baker also helped launch the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that challenged the all-white Democratic delegation at the 1964 convention, and she acted as staff consultant for the interracial SCLC educational fund.
Baker returned to New York City in 1965, but kept working with national and international civil rights organizations. Among her other activities, she raised money to send to the freedom fighters in Rhodesia and South Africa. She remained an active organizer and speaker as long as her health allowed. Baker's belief in the power of communal action and her reliance on workers rather than leaders had an enormous impact. She worked for all of the major civil rights organizations at their time of greatest need. By the time SCLC and SNCC were formed, Baker had almost thirty years of civil rights and community organizing experience to offer. She continually strove to keep the movement people-oriented, and she succeeded in helping SNCC remain a student group. Through her philosophy and actions, Baker motivated hundreds to act and to help themselves and their neighbors.
DAISY BATES (1914–1999)
Publisher, Civil Rights Activist, Executive/General Manager. Daisy Lee Gatson Bates was born in Huttig, Arkansas, in 1914. After attending segregated schools in a district where all of the new equipment and up-to-date texts were reserved for whites, Bates spent much of her energy as an adult successfully integrating the schools of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Shortly after their marriage in 1942, Daisy and her husband Lucius Christopher Bates, a journalist, began publishing a newspaper, the Arkansas State Press. They made it a point in their paper to keep track and report incidents of police brutality and other racially motivated violence. Their paper became known throughout the state for its campaign to improve the social and economic circumstances of African Americans. Because of their work, the city of Little Rock began to hire African American police officers, and the number of race-related incidents decreased.
In 1952, Daisy Bates became the Arkansas president of the NAACP. After the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, she became involved in school desegregation efforts, and began taking African American children to white schools to register. If the school refused to register the children, she would report it in her paper. In 1957, the superintendent of schools in Little Rock decided to try to integrate the schools and chose nine students, now called the “Little Rock Nine,” to be the first African American children to attend Central High. Most white citizens of Little Rock objected. Bates organized the Little Rock Nine, accompanied them to Central High, and stood with them in the face of the state troopers that Governor Orval Faubus had sent to prevent the school's integration. For days she escorted the children to school, only to be turned away by an angry mob. On September 25, 1957, Bates and the nine students entered Central High in Little Rock escorted by one thousand troops sent by President Dwight Eisenhower. For the rest of their years at Central High, Bates kept track of the students and acted as their advocate when problems arose, frequently accompanying them and their parents to meetings with school officials.
In October 1957, Daisy Bates was arrested on charges of failing to provide NAACP membership information to city officials. The charges were later overturned. Two years later, the Arkansas State Press folded, but Bates kept active in the civil rights fight by touring and speaking. She also worked with SNCC to register voters. Her memoir of the Little Rock crisis, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, was published in 1962. Bates died on November 4, 1999.
See chapter 11, Politics.
ELAINE BROWN (1943–)
Political Activist, Author. Elaine Brown became the first woman to chair the Black Panther Party, making her the highest-ranking woman in the organization, second only to Huey P. Newton. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the party in Oakland, California, in 1966, to protect local communities from police brutality and racism.
Brown was born on March 2, 1943, in Philadelphia to Dorothy Brown, a working-class mother. Her father, Dr. Horace Scott, never publicly acknowledged his daughter. Brown received her education from the Thaddeus Stevens School of Practice and the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She attended the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and was enrolled at Temple University during the 1961–1962 school year. In 1965, she left Philadelphia for Los Angeles to pursue a career as a songwriter. Soon after arriving in Los Angeles, Brown was introduced to the Black Power movement.
Later, she began writing for Harambee (Swahili for “pulling together”), the newspaper of the Los Angeles Black Congress, a group of black organizations whose objective was to serve the needs of the black community.
By 1967, Brown had become acquainted with the Black Panther Party, and in April 1968 she joined the party's southern California chapter. By the following year, Brown was the chapter's minister of information. In 1974, with the expulsion of Seale, Brown was named party chairperson, a position she held until 1977, when she left the party and moved to France with her daughter, Ericka Suzanne Brown. During Brown's tenure as chair, the Black Panther Party sought power through political channels. One of the party's objectives was to elect a black mayor in the city of Oakland. The party registered approximately 90,000 black Democrats, and Black Panther candidate Lionel Wilson was elected the first black mayor of Oakland in 1976.
Brown is also a singer and author. Her autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story, was published in 1992. In 1998, Brown helped found Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice, an Atlanta organization that advocates for juvenile offenders who are prosecuted as adults. In addition to her memoir, she is the author of The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America (2002). Her papers have been acquired by Emory University in Atlanta.
STOKELY CARMICHAEL (1941–1998)
Civil Rights Activist, Black Nationalist. Stokely Carmichael, who was responsible for popularizing the term Black Power, was one of the most influential leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Carmichael was born in Trinidad on June 29, 1941, and moved to the United States with his family when he was eleven years old. As a teenager, Carmichael was jolted by ghetto life, and was not reassured when he entered Bronx High School of Science, where he encountered white liberals and felt he had been adopted by them as a mascot. Although he was offered scholarships to predominantly white universities, Carmichael opted to attend Howard University. In 1960, during his first year of college, he joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to assist in its efforts to desegregate public accommodations in the South. After graduation in 1964, he rejected scholarship opportunities for graduate school and went south to join SNCC. As one of its most effective organizers, he worked ceaselessly, registering and educating voters in the South. In 1966, he was elected chairperson of SNCC; however, as the organization's youngest chair, some members considered his views too radical.
Carmichael's cry for “black power” thrilled many disenfranchised young African Americans, but troubled others, who thought it sounded too militant. He was labeled as potentially violent by the media and by law enforcement authorities. Disagreement with SNCC members arose over the issues of self-defense versus nonviolence and the participation of whites in African American grassroots organizations. Carmichael resigned as chairperson in 1967, and was later expelled from SNCC.
Carmichael spent much of 1968 traveling around the world, speaking to many organizations, including some in communist countries. His travels included Ghana, where he joined the Pan-African movement. After returning to the United States, he went to work for the Black Panther Party. He was subject to almost constant harassment from the FBI because of his connection with the Panthers and Page 431 | Top of Articlebecause he had visited communist countries. In 1969, he resigned from the Black Panthers and moved to Guinea, where he was offered political asylum.
In Guinea, Carmichael turned his efforts to supporting Pan-Africanism. He organized many local chapters of the All-African People's Revolutionary Party. In 1978, to honor the two men who most influenced his Pan-African philosophical education, Guinean president Ahmed Sékou Touré and Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Touré. He died of prostate cancer on November 15, 1998, in Conakry, Guinea. Five years after his death, his autobiography, Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael was published by Scribner.
MANDY CARTER (1948–)
Civil Rights Activist, Gay/Lesbian Rights Activist. Mandy Carter was born in Albany, New York, in 1948 and spent her childhood in orphanages. She attended community college for a time in Troy, New York, but moved to New York City in 1967 with a savings of $100. There she slept in Central Park before taking a job at drug guru Timothy Leary's League for Spiritual Discovery. Carter moved to San Francisco later that year and became active in protests against the war in Vietnam. For several years, Carter was involved with the War Resisters League, among whom she first admitted her sexual orientation. She worked for the group's San Francisco offices during the late 1970s, during which time she first became active in gay and lesbian politics.
In 1982, Carter moved to North Carolina, where she continued her work with the War Resisters League, in addition to becoming involved on a national level with gay and lesbian organizations. One of her accomplishments was helping coordinate the 1987 lesbian and gay march on the nation's capital, a role she reprised in 1993. In addition to coproducing an annual festival of women's music and art, Carter became instrumental—but ultimately unsuccessful—in campaigns to unseat North Carolina's right-wing Republican senator, Jesse Helms.
Carter was more successful with smaller tasks, such as lobbying Congress against antihomosexual legislation, often sponsored by Senator Helms or Robert Dornan, a Republican from California. She has also worked to combat the Christian Right's attempts to infiltrate African American churches in efforts to stymie support of gay and lesbian rights among the congregations. Carter has done this work first in her role as liaison and later as the director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund's National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum. Carter spoke of her political activism in the 1994 volume, Uncommon Heroes: A Celebration of Heroes and Role Models for Gay and Lesbian Americans. In the wake of the 2000 presidential election fiasco in Florida, Carter became a field organizer for the investigation by People for the American Way into minority voter intimidation. This work did not effect a change in the way that Florida conducts its elections, but it did raise awareness of the continued struggle African Americans and other minority groups face when attempting to exercise even their most basic civil rights.
See chapter 16, Education.
GEORGE CROCKETT JR.
See chapter 10, Law.
ANGELA Y. DAVIS (1944–)
Women's Rights Activist, Civil Rights Activist, Professor, Lecturer, Author, Organization Founder. Angela Yvonne Davis was born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama, to middle-class parents who stressed academic excellence, political awareness, and activism. Her mother had been politically active since her college days, and Angela participated in demonstrations with her from the time she was in elementary school. To ensure a better education than she would be able to receive in the segregated schools of the South, her parents sent her to Elizabeth Irwin High School, a private progressive school in New York. The school had many radical teachers and students, and Angela soon joined a Marxist study group.
After graduation, Davis majored in French at Brandeis University and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris during her junior year. After graduating in 1965, she pursued graduate studies in philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University in Frankfurt, West Germany. In 1967, Davis returned to the United States to study at the University of California at San Diego. When she had almost completed her doctorate, she took a teaching job at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
In 1969, Davis joined the Communist Party; the regents of UCLA tried to fire her, but she fought them in court. The following year, she became involved with the Black Panther Party. Guns registered in Davis's name were used by a member of the Black Panthers in a courtroom shooting in August 1970. Believing she was involved, the FBI sought her arrest. To evade federal authorities, Davis went underground. She was placed on the FBI's ten mostwanted list, and was arrested in October 1970. In 1972, she was acquitted of all charges, but was not reinstated by the university. California governor Ronald Reagan and the state's board of regents decreed that she would never teach in California schools again.
Following her trial, Davis founded the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, a legal group providing defense for minority prisoners. In 1980 and 1984, she ran for vice president of the United States on the Communist Party ticket. A writer and philosopher, Davis has published numerous books, including: If They Come in the Morning (1971); Women, Race, and Class (1983); Violence against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism (1985); Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1988); Women, Culture, and Politics (1989); Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003); Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor (2007); and The Meaning of Freedom (2010).
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Davis remained politically active and a popular yet controversial figure. Her 1995 appointment as presidential chair in charge of developing new ethnic studies courses at University of California at Santa Cruz was heavily opposed by state Republican legislators concerned with her Communist Party affiliation. Much sought after, though often protested against, Davis has lectured around the country about “envisioning a new movement” set apart from the radicalism of the 1960s. She continues to write and to support such causes as women's rights, workers' rights, health care, and nuclear disarmament.
W. E. B. DU BOIS (1868–1963)
Organization Executive/Founder, Civil Rights Activist, Professor, Author/Editor. An outstanding critic, editor, scholar, author, and civil rights leader, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is among the most influential African Americans of the twentieth century. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on February 23, 1868, Du Bois received a bachelor's degree from Fisk University in 1888. Du Bois then entered Harvard University, where he earned a second bachelor's degree in 1890, a master of arts degree in 1891, and a Ph.D. degree in 1895, making him the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard. Du Bois later held teaching positions at Wilberforce University, University of Pennsylvania, and Atlanta University.
One of the founders of the NAACP in 1909, Du Bois served as that organization's director of publications and as the editor of Crisis magazine until 1934. In 1944, he returned from Atlanta University to become head of the NAACP's special research department, a post he held until 1948. Du Bois immigrated to Ghana in 1961 and became editor in chief of the Encyclopaedia Africana, an enormous Afrocentric publishing venture that was supported by Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah. Du Bois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963, at age ninety-five.
Du Bois's numerous books include: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638–1870 (1896); The Philadelphia Negro (1899); The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (1903); John Brown (1909); The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911); The Negro (1915); Darkwater (1920); The Gift of Black Folk (1924); Dark Princess (1928); Black Folk: Then and Now (1939); Dusk of Dawn (1940); Color and Democracy (1945); The World and Africa (1947); In Battle for Peace (1952); and a trilogy, The Black Flame (1957–1961). It is this enormous literary output on such a wide variety of themes that offers the most convincing testimony in support of Du Bois's position that it was vital for African Americans to cultivate their own aesthetic and cultural values, even as they made valuable strides toward social emancipation. In this he was opposed by Booker T. Washington, who felt that African Americans should concentrate on developing technical and mechanical skills before all else.
Du Bois was one of the first male civil rights leaders to recognize the problem of gender discrimination. He was also among the first men to understand the unique problems of African American women and to value their contributions. Du Bois supported the woman's suffrage movement and strove to integrate this mostly white struggle. Additionally, Du Bois championed the reproductive freedom of women and women's economic independence from men. He encouraged many African American female writers, artists, poets, and novelists, featuring their works in Crisis and sometimes providing personal financial assistance to them. Several of his novels, most notably The Quest of the Silver Fleece and Dark Princess, feature women as prominently as men, an unusual approach for an author of his day. Du Bois spent his life working not just for the equality of all men, but for the equality of all people.
MEDGAR EVERS (1925–1963)
Civil Rights Activist. Medgar Evers was one of the first martyrs of the civil rights movement. He was born in 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi, to James and Jessie Evers. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he enrolled in Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Mississippi, graduating in 1952. His first job out of college involved traveling around rural Mississippi and selling insurance. He soon grew enraged at the despicable conditions of poor African American families in his state and joined the Mound Bayou Chapter of the NAACP. In 1954, he was appointed Mississippi's first NAACP field secretary.
Evers was outspoken and his demands were radical for his rigidly segregated state. He fought, in particular, for the enforcement of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which outlawed school segregation. Evers also fought for the right to vote, and he advocated boycotting merchants who discriminated against African Americans. He worked unceasingly, despite the threats of violence that his speeches engendered. Evers gave much of himself to this struggle, and in 1963 he gave his life. On June 12, 1963, he drove home from a meeting, stepped out of his car, and was shot in the back and killed.
Immediately after Evers's death, the shotgun that was used to kill him was found in nearby bushes, with the owner's fingerprints still fresh. Byron de la Beckwith, a vocal member of a local white-supremacist group, was arrested. Despite the evidence against him, which included an earlier statement that he wanted to kill Evers, two trials with all-white juries ended in deadlocked decisions, and Beckwith walked free. Twenty years later, in 1989, information surfaced that suggested jury tampering in both trials. The assistant district attorney, with the help of Evers's widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, began putting together a new case. In 1990, Beckwith was arrested once again. On February 5, 1995, a multiracial jury found him guilty of Evers's assassination and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Beckwith died in 2001.
Evers did not die in vain. His death changed the tenor of the civil rights struggle. Anger replaced fear in the South, as hundreds of demonstrators marched in protest. His death prompted President John Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in July 1964. Evers's death, like his life, contributed much to the struggle for equality.
See chapter 9, National Organizations.
JAMES L. FARMER JR. (1920–1999)
Civil Rights Activist, Educator, Organization Founder. James Leonard Farmer Jr., the founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was born to James L. Farmer Sr. and Pearl Houston Farmer on January 12, 1920, in Marshall, Texas. After attending public schools throughout the South, he earned his B.S. in chemistry from Wiley College in Texas in 1938 and his B.D. in sacred theology from Howard University's School of Divinity in 1941. Active in the Christian Youth movement and onetime vice chairperson of the National Council of Methodist Youth and the Christian Youth Council of America, Farmer refused ordination when confronted with the realization that he would have to practice in a segregated ministry.
Farmer became a warrior in the struggle to dismantle America's all-encompassing system of racial segregation. In 1941, Farmer accepted a post as race relations secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Committed to direct, nonviolent protest, Farmer and a group of University of Chicago students became involved in efforts to desegregate Chicago housing. Later, in June 1942, he established CORE, the first protest organization in the United States to utilize the techniques of nonviolence and passive resistance advocated by the Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi. In June 1943, CORE staged the first successful sit-in demonstration at a restaurant in the Chicago Loop. The organization soon supplemented this maneuver with what came to be known as the standing-line, which involved the persistent waiting in line by CORE members at places of public accommodation where African Americans were denied admission.
During the early 1960s, under Farmer's leadership, CORE conducted freedom rides, voter-registration drives, and protest marches to eradicate racial segregation. In 1961, CORE introduced the freedom ride into the Page 434 | Top of Articlevocabulary and methodology of civil rights protest as the organization dispatched bus riders throughout the South for the purpose of testing the desegregation of terminal facilities. Attacked in Alabama and later arrested in Mississippi, the freedom riders eventually succeeded in securing the court-ordered desegregation of bus terminals in 1960, when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregated interstate transportation.
In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy proposed legislation to enact a civil rights bill eliminating racial segregation in public accommodations, Farmer—along with Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young Jr., and Roy Wilkins—was one of the “big four” in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. As President Johnson shepherded the civil rights bill through Congress in 1964, three CORE workers—Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney—disappeared while registering African American voters in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Outrage over their deaths and other atrocities suffered by southern citizens of African descent who attempted to register and exercise their right to vote led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Farmer left CORE in 1966 after serving as national director for five years. Three years later, he joined the administration of President Richard Nixon as assistant secretary for administration in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The appointment created a furor in some African American circles, where it was felt that it was inappropriate for a former civil rights leader to serve in the Nixon administration. In other circles, the appointment was praised by those who thought it necessary for African Americans to be represented in all areas. Farmer found that there was little substance to the position, however, and resigned at the end of 1970. During the 1970s, he developed a think tank, the Council on Minority Planning and Strategy (COMPAS), at Howard University, and the Fund for an Open Society, a nonprofit organization that granted low-interest mortgages to people planning to live in desegregated neighborhoods. His first book, Freedom, When?, was published in 1976, the same year that he broke all ties with CORE. After criticizing its leader, Roy Innis, for such actions as attempting to recruit African American Vietnam veterans as mercenaries in Angola's civil war, Farmer, along with Floyd McKissick, attempted to meet with Innis to reach an agreement on the future of the organization. These discussions failed. Disturbed over the course that the organization had taken, Farmer and a score of former CORE members attempted to create a new racially mixed civil rights organization in 1980.
Farmer entered the arena of higher education as a visiting professor at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1985. He also published Lay Bare the Heart in 1985. Farmer was celebrated for his civil rights achievements and was awarded nearly twenty honorary degrees. In January 1998, President Bill Clinton presented him with the country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Farmer, who had been in ill health, died at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on July 9, 1999.
JAMES FORMAN (1928–2005)
Civil Rights Activist, Journalist, Author. James Forman was born on October 5, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois. For a brief period, he lived with his grandmother in Marshall, Mississippi. When he was six, Forman returned to Chicago, where he began his education in the city's Catholic schools. Later, he transferred to the Chicago public school system. In 1947, Forman graduated from Englewood High School with honors. After serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War (1950–1953), he entered the University of South Carolina. Forman later transferred to Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he became a student political leader and chairman of Roosevelt's delegation to the National Student Association conference in 1956. He graduated from Roosevelt University the following year. He then entered Boston University, where he pursued a graduate degree. Later, he earned his M.A. in African and Afro-American history from Cornell University in 1980 and a Ph.D. from the Union of Experimental Colleges and Universities in 1982.
During the late 1950s, Forman became active in the civil rights struggle in the South. As a reporter for the Chicago Defender, he covered the Little Rock, Arkansas, school desegregation crisis. In 1960, under the auspices of the Congress of Racial Equality, Forman spent a year in Fayette County, Tennessee, assisting black sharecroppers who were evicted by white landowners because they sought to exercise their right to vote. Forman also traveled to Nashville, where he met Diane Nash, with whom he discussed the future of SNCC. In 1961, he joined other freedom riders protesting segregated facilities in Monroe, North Carolina. In Monroe, he was beaten, arrested, and jailed.
In October 1961, at the behest of Nash, James Bevel, and Paul Brooks, Forman became SNCC's executive secretary. Three years later, after participating in the failed effort of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to remove the bloc of all-white delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, Forman and other SNCC members were invited to Guinea by that country's government. After his return from Africa, Forman became a critic of the federal government. He also promoted Page 435 | Top of Articleeducational programs for civil rights workers to learn about Marxist and black nationalist views. As director of SNCC's international affairs, he worked to construct associations between African Americans and revolutionaries in the third world.
In the summer of 1964, under Forman's leadership, SNCC brought in almost a thousand young volunteers, black and white, to register voters, set up “freedom schools,” establish community centers, and build the new Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Among those volunteers were Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, the three young men murdered along a muddy road near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in June 1964.
When Forman left SNCC in 1968, he joined the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Forman become one of the first people to call for reparations to be paid to African Americans. He made reparations an issue in May 1969 when he interrupted a Sunday service at New York's Riverside Church to read his “Black Manifesto” and demand white churches pay $500 million in reparations for the injustices of African enslavement, racism, and capitalism.
Throughout his life, Forman remained active in the causes and struggles of blacks. He traveled to Africa and Europe on behalf of the Black Panther Party. In 1982, he planned a new March on Washington. Five years later, he lobbied against circuit court judge Robert Bork, President Ronald Regan's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Six years later, Forman campaigned against the presidential bid of David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.
Forman was the author of Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement (1968); The Political Thought of James Forman (1970); The Making of Black Revolutionaries (1972); and Self-Determination: An Examination of the Question and Its Application to the African-American People (1984). He died of colon cancer on January 10, 2005, in Washington, D.C., when he was seventy-six years old.
FRED D. GRAY (1930–)
Civil Rights Activist, Attorney, Minister, Politician, Author. Attorney Fred David Gray served as counsel for Rosa Parks and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and for those involved in the Montgomery bus boycott, the Tuskegee syphilis study, the desegregation of Alabama schools, the freedom rides, and the Selma-to-Montgomery march. In 1954, when he opened his law office in Montgomery, Alabama, Gray was one of the few African American attorneys in the state. He began his law practice when he was twenty-four and moved to the legal forefront of the civil rights movement as one of America's leading civil rights attorneys. Gray played a pivotal role in dismantling legal segregation in Alabama.
The youngest of five children, Gray was born to Abraham and Nancy Jones Gray in Montgomery, Alabama. He went to school in Alabama until 1943, when his mother arranged for him to complete his education at the Nashville Christian Institute, an African American secondary school operated by the Church of Christ. The institute placed emphasis on teaching young men to become preachers. After completing his studies at the Church of Christ academy, Gray returned to his home state and entered Alabama State College for Negroes, from which he graduated in 1951. In September of the same year, he entered Case Western Reserve University Law School in Cleveland, Ohio.
Gray finished law school in 1954, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. Gray returned to Alabama, with the intention of methodically dismantling the state's segregation laws. He also defended Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks against charges of disorderly conduct for refusing to give up their seats to white passengers. In addition, Gray served as a legal adviser to the Montgomery Improvement Association.
In 1956, Gray filed a petition that challenged the constitutionality of Alabama laws mandating racial segregation on buses, an effort that resulted in the Gayle v. Browder case. In November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation of public means of conveyances was unconstitutional. The same year, after state attorney general John Patterson outlawed the Alabama NAACP, Gray began providing legal counsel to the civil rights organization, a role he retained until 1964, when the NAACP was again allowed to operate in the state.
When the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was charged with tax evasion in 1960, Gray was a member of the defense team that won acquittal from an all-white jury. He also served as an attorney for students from Alabama State College who were expelled for their participation in sit-ins. Gray's other notable cases include Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960), which challenged the Alabama legislature after it redrew the boundaries of the city of Tuskegee to exclude black neighborhoods, thereby denying African Americans the right to vote in municipal elections. Gray also aided in the representation of Vivian Malone and James Hood in their efforts to attend the University of Alabama, causing Governor George Wallace to “stand in the schoolhouse door.” In addition, Gray served as the plaintiff's attorney in Franklyn v. Auburn University (1963), which resulted in the desegregation of the university.
Gray also participated in the 1965 Williams v. Wallace case, which resulted in the court ordering Page 436 | Top of ArticleGovernor Wallace and the state of Alabama to protect protesters as they marched from Selma to Montgomery to present grievances for being denied the right to vote, a demonstration that led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Pollard v. United States of America (1974) arose after it was revealed that the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1932–1972) denied treatment to black men with syphilis. The U.S. government was ordered to continue its treatment program.
In 1970, citizens from Barbour, Bullock, and Macon counties elected Gray to the Alabama State Legislature (1971–1975) as a representative from Tuskegee. He became one of the first two African Americans to serve in the state legislature since Reconstruction. An ordained minister of the Church of Christ, Gray served as an assistant minister at several churches in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Gray for the position of U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Alabama. However, because there was opposition, Gray asked President Carter to withdraw his name from consideration. Gray is the author of two books: Bus Ride to Justice, Changing the System by the System: The Life and Works of Fred Gray (1995) and The Tuskegee Syphilis Study: The Real Story and Beyond (1998).
In July 2002, as senior partner in the law firm Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray & Nathanson, Gray became the first African American president of the Alabama Bar Association. The recipient of numerous awards, Grey kept his promise to destroy the bastions of racial segregation not only in his native state but also in America.
FANNIE LOU TOWNSEND HAMER (1917–1977)
Lecturer, Civil Rights Activist, Organization Executive/Founder. As a poor sharecropper, Fannie Lou Hamer had only an elementary education, yet she became one of the most eloquent speakers for the civil rights movement in the South. She worked for political, social, and economic equality for herself and all African Americans. Hamer fought to integrate the national Democratic Party, Page 437 | Top of Articleand became one of its first African American delegates to a presidential convention.
The youngest of twenty siblings, Hamer was born on October 6, 1917, to Jim and Lou Ella Townsend in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She began picking cotton when she was six years old. Because she had to work full-time, Hamer dropped out of school in the sixth grade, and began working on a plantation as a sharecropper. In 1944, when the plantation's owner, W. D. Marlow, learned that she was literate, she was given a job as plantation time and record keeper. She continued in this position until 1962, when she lost her job after she tried to exercise her right to vote. Frightened by threats of violent reprisals, Hamer was forced to move away from her home and her family. Angered into action, she went to work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee helping other African Americans register to vote.
Because the Democratic Party refused to send African Americans as delegates to the national presidential convention in 1964, Hamer and others formed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Arguing that the all-white delegation could not adequately represent their state, which had a large African American population, Hamer and the MFDP challenged the Democratic delegates from Mississippi for their seats at the convention in Atlantic City. Hamer's speech on their behalf so alarmed the incumbent President Lyndon Johnson that he tried to block the televised coverage of her efforts. The MFDP lost its bid that year, but their actions did result in a pledge from the national party not to exclude African Americans as delegates at the 1968 convention. In 1968, Fannie Lou Hamer was among the first African American delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
For the next decade, Hamer remained active in the struggle for civil and economic rights. In 1969, she founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative to help needy families raise food and livestock. The cooperative also provided basic social services, scholarships, and grants for education, and helped fund minority business opportunities. Hamer became a sought-after speaker, and in the 1970s, even as her health was failing from cancer, she toured the country speaking about civil rights. Hamer died on March 14, 1977.
MYLES FALLS HORTON (1905–1990)
Civil Rights Activist, Educator, Author. Myles Falls Horton was a trailblazer in the cause of social justice within America's southern region. Horton was an activist and a founder and director of the Highlander Folk School and the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee. Concerned with developing new ideas about class and race, Horton's programs became a factor in the labor and civil rights movements. He was a controversial figure in Tennessee and throughout the South.
Horton, the oldest of four children, was born in Savannah, Tennessee, to socially active parents who imbued in him the core values of love, work, service, and education. As he matured, Horton held steadfastly to the outlook of his mother, Elsie Falls Horton, and sought to dedicate his life to serving others and building a humane society. It was through his experiences in the workplace and his educational journey that Horton advanced his personal and organizational values for social change.
Since education beyond the secondary level was not available in Savannah, Horton left home at fifteen to attend high school. He supported himself by working in a sawmill and later a box factory, where he gained an understanding of the strength of organizing and the power of collective action.
Horton received his undergraduate degree from Cumberland University in 1928. He later attended the University of Chicago and Union theological Seminary, where he studied under Reinhold Niebuhr, an outspoken advocate of socialist principles in social and economic matters. While he was a student at the University of Chicago, Horton toured the folk schools of Denmark, which were established as an experiment in populist education. While in Denmark, he decided to establish a school in the United States where students and teachers could dwell together, maintaining an unceremonious atmosphere in which they could propose and resolve problems. Horton believed that the experience itself would be the primary instructor.
In 1932, after he returned to Tennessee, Horton and Don West established the Highlander Folk School near Monteagle, Tennessee. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Highlander became a focal point for labor education in the American South. Through extension programs, Horton and his colleagues assisted striking coal miners, woodcutters, mill hands, government relief workers, and union members. Because of its activities, Highlander became the educational arm of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In 1937, Horton joined the labor union's staff and organized one of the first CIO locals in the southern textile industry. Horton recognized the similarities between workers' rights and civil rights, and he understood that as long as the races remained segregated, labor would never be free. With that in mind, Horton designed workshops that would undermine the Jim Crow system. Horton parted ways with the CIO in the 1940s over his promotion of interracial unionism.
A year before the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Horton Page 438 | Top of Articlebegan conducting workshops on school desegregation. Over the next two decades, he devoted his energy to creating programs to train and assist leaders and participants in the struggle for civil rights. The programs attracted hundreds of activists, both black and white, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Under the leadership of Septima Clark, Highlander-sponsored Citizenship Schools, first held in 1957 on the South Carolina Sea Islands, taught thousands of blacks in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama the literacy skills they needed to secure the right to vote. In the early 1960s, as sit-in protests erupted across the South and at the urging of Ella Baker, college students gathered at Highlander to explore possible directions and goals for a new era of black protest. For many years, Highlander was the only place in the South where white and African American citizens lived and worked together, an arrangement that was illegal in that strictly segregated part of the country.
Highlander's involvement in the southern labor and civil rights movements earned it both praise and hostility. Although supported by such people as Eleanor Roosevelt and Reinhold Niebuhr, as well as educators, ministers, union leaders, philanthropists, and reform groups, Highlander's staff suffered condemnation from industrialists, politicians, so-called patriotic groups, and journalists for segregationist newspapers. As Highlander became more distinguished in the struggle for racial justice, outraged southern segregationists launched a sustained assault against what they described as a “Communist training school.” Although the institution's members defended the school's dogma and teachings convincingly, their institutional practices made them susceptible in the 1950s. In 1962, following an investigation by the Tennessee General Assembly, a contrived police raid, and two sensational trials, the state of Tennessee rescinded Highlander's charter and confiscated its property.
Horton later extended the programs to Appalachia, hoping to build a multiracial alliance that would revolutionize America's economic, social, and political structure. In 1982, Horton and Highlander were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Myles Horton died on January 10, 1990. The same year, Doubleday published his autobiography, Long Haul, and Temple University Press published We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations in Education and Social Change, a dialogue between Horton and Paulo Freire.
JESSE L. JACKSON SR. (1941–)
Religious Leader, Civil Rights Activist, Organization Executive/Founder. Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. was born October 8, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1959 Jackson left South Carolina to attend the University of Illinois. Dissatisfied with his treatment on campus, he decided to transfer to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. After receiving his B.A. in sociology, Jackson attended the Chicago Theological Seminary. In 1968, he was ordained a Baptist minister.
Jackson joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1965. The following year, he became involved with SCLC's Operation Breadbasket. From 1967 to 1971, Jackson served as the program's executive director. Resigning from SCLC in 1971, he formed his own organization, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). Through PUSH, Jackson continued to pursue the economic objectives of Operation Breadbasket and expanded into areas of social and political development.
Jackson soon became the most visible and sought-after civil rights leader in the country. While he described himself as a “country preacher,” his magnetic personality had television appeal. Jackson's command of issues and his ability to reach to the heart of matters marked him as an individual of intellectual depth. Of all the civil rights leaders, Jackson was the one who could best relate to the young. In a phrase that became his trademark, “I am somebody,” Jackson was able to bring out the best in them. Jackson's PUSH-Excel program sought to motivate schoolchildren to improve academically. In 1981, Newsweek credited Jackson with building a struggling community-improvement organization into a nationwide campaign to revive pride, discipline, and the work ethic in inner-city schools. With funding from the Carter administration, the PUSH-Excel program was placed in five other cities.
The Jesse Jackson of the 1980s will be best remembered for his two runs for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. In 1983, many, but not all, African American political leaders endorsed the idea of an African American presidential candidate to create a “people's” platform, increase voter registration, and build a power base from which there could be greater input into the political process. Jackson's 1984 campaign was launched under the aegis of the National Rainbow Coalition, an umbrella organization of minority groups. African American support was divided, however, between Jackson and former vice president Walter Mondale. During the campaign, Jackson attracted considerable media coverage with controversial remarks and actions, demonstrating a lack of familiarity with national politics.
Jackson's 1988 campaign showed enormous personal and political growth. His candidacy was no longer a symbolic gesture but was a real and compelling demonstration of his effectiveness as a candidate. By the time the Democratic convention rolled around, media pundits were seriously discussing the likelihood of Jackson's Page 439 | Top of Articlenomination as the Democratic presidential candidate. “What to do about Jesse” became the focus of the entire Democratic leadership. At the end of the primary campaign, Jackson had finished a strong second to Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. He changed forever the notion that an African American president was inconceivable. Jackson took his defeat in stride and continued to campaign for the Democratic ticket until the November election.
Since the 1988 election, Jackson has worked less publicly, but no less energetically. In 1989, he moved with his Rainbow Coalition from Chicago to Washington, D.C., believing that the organization could be more effective in the nation's capital. Jackson continued to write, speak, and lead protests for social change. His primary concerns included crime, violence, drug use, and teenage pregnancy in inner-city neighborhoods, as well as voter registration, health care, affirmative action, and baseball hiring practices. In 1993, Jackson was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.
Jackson was active in foreign affairs as well. In 1991, he traveled to Iraq and convinced Saddam Hussein to begin releasing Americans held hostage after Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. In 1994, Jackson met with Fidel Castro in Cuba and, later during the year, President Bill Clinton sent him on a peace mission to Nigeria. Although many expected Jackson to run for the presidency again in 1992 or 1996, he decided against it, saying that he was too tired and the strain on his family was too severe. However, he did support his son, Jesse Jackson Jr., who was elected to the House of Representatives for Chicago's Second Congressional District on December 12, 1995. As the decade was coming to a close, Jesse Jackson Sr. Page 440 | Top of Articlecontinued to be a civil and human rights activist, as well as a political force in American society. As he had done since the mid-1980s in Syria, Cuba, and Iraq, in May 1999, Jackson successfully secured the release of three captive U.S. soldiers held as prisoners of war during the Kosovo crisis.
As the new millennium began, Jackson experienced many ups and downs. He received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton on August 9, 2000. Just months later, in January 2001, it was revealed that Jackson had been involved in an extramarital affair, fathering a daughter with the former head of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition office in Washington, D.C. The scandal threatened to end his public career, yet Jackson survived the turmoil. In August 2001, he celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition with a five-day conference in Chicago.
VERNON N. JOHNS (1892–1965)
Minister, College President, Civil Rights Activist. Vernon Neapolitan Johns is considered by some to be the father of the modern civil rights movement. One of the movement's early trailblazers, Johns was noted, along with Mordecai Johnson and Howard Thurman, as one of the three great African American preachers.
Johns was born on April 22, 1892, in Darlington Heights, Virginia. He received a B.A. degree from Virginia Theological Seminary and College in 1915 and a B.D. degree from Oberlin College in 1918. The same year he graduated from Oberlin, Johns entered the University of Chicago, where he did graduate work in theology. Because the views of African American theologians were not included in discussion about biblical interpretation and social responsibility, and because their sermons were not being published, Johns submitted the sermons of Johnson and Thurman to publishing houses. When the manuscripts were rejected, he submitted his own sermon, “Transfigured Moments,” which appeared in Joseph Fort Newton's anthology Best Sermons in 1926. The first African American to be published in the collection, Johns joined the ranks of such well-known theologians as Reinhold Niebuhr, Henry Sloan, and Willard L. Sperry.
In 1926, Johns delivered his first sermon at Howard University's Rankin Memorial Chapel and became director of the Baptist Educational Center in New York. A year later, he succeeded Mordecai Johnson as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, West Virginia. Two years later, he became president of Virginia Theological Seminary and College. Adhering to his rural roots and closeness to nature, and mindful of the needs of his people, he founded the Institute for Rural Preachers of Virginia and the Farm and City Club, which attempted to raise awareness about issues of economics among both rural and urban African Americans. Johns remained at the Virginia college until his retirement in 1934. After retiring, he spent ten years lecturing and preaching at colleges and mostly rural African American churches.
In 1947, Johns became the nineteenth pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where he served until 1952. Dexter's congregation consisted mostly of Montgomery's black middle class. In keeping with his social gospel position, Johns was a pioneering proponent of civil rights and he urged his congregation to challenged the city's Jim Crow practices. As one who practiced what he preached, Johns confronted Montgomery's segregated bus seating—long before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus—when he disembarked in protest and demanded a refund, which he received. After an African American motorist was brutally attacked by police while blacks stood watching, Johns responded with a sermon, “It's Safe to Murder Negroes in Montgomery,” in which he criticized those present for not intervening.
Johns often found himself in conflict with church officials and his congregation. Because of his unorthodox views, country manner, and the tenor of his sermons, which denounced racial segregation, many became concerned that they would come under the scrutiny of Montgomery's white community and local authorities. Given the zeitgeist of the times, Johns advocated for Montgomery's blacks in dangerous ways. Twice he attempted to prosecute white men for raping African American girls. He protested both Jim Crow public transportation policies and segregated restaurants. In 1952, Johns resigned as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. However, his early activism and challenges to the power structure paved the way for Dexter's congregation to receive the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s socially active ministry and for Johns to take a leading role in the Montgomery bus boycott. King later described Johns as “a brilliant preacher with a creative mind” and “a fearless man [who] never allowed an injustice to come to his attention without speaking out against it.”
King and Malcolm X, who followed Johns as civil rights leaders, eclipsed his contributions to the movement. But Johns was a trailblazer who did not wait to begin the struggle for freedom and equality. He died on June 11, 1965, shortly after delivering a sermon titled “The Romance of Death” at Rankin Memorial Chapel. In 1994, a television film, The Road to Freedom: The Vernon Johns Story, lifted Johns from historical obscurity. The film was directed by Kenneth Fink and coproduced by Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
VIVIAN JUANITA MALONE JONES (1942–2005)
Civil Rights Activist. A pioneering activist during the modern civil rights era, Vivian Malone was one of two African American students whose 1963 enrollment in the University of Alabama was a decisive moment in the black American struggle for civil rights. She and James Hood attracted national attention when Alabama's governor, George Wallace, tried to keep an inauguration promise to maintain “segregation forever.” Wanting to avoid violence, Robert F. Kennedy, the U.S. attorney general, negotiated what would take place when the two students enrolled. When they arrived to register for classes on June 11, 1963, Wallace blocked their entrance by standing in the doorway of Foster Auditorium. The governor read a statement citing states' right to organize education. Later that day, federalized National Guard troops escorted the two students to the school and through the halls to registration. They went to their respective dormitories, ate in the cafeteria, and experienced no further incidents that day.
The next day, Byron de la Beckwith, an outspoken opponent of equal rights for African Americans and a member of the Mississippi White Citizens Council, gunned down civil rights leader Medgar Evers in his driveway in Jackson, Mississippi. The death of Evers caused Malone, a transfer student from historically black Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, to become resolute in her determination not to surrender to the forces of violence. In mid-November, an explosion tore a hole in the street approximately 100 yards from Malone's dormitory. Despite bomb threats and other retaliatory acts, Jones remained at the university. However, the pressure proved too much for Hood, who transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit two months later. Two years after gaining admission, Malone became the first African American to graduate from the university, earning a degree in business management. Hood returned to the University of Alabama in 1995 and earned a Ph.D. in higher education.
After graduating, Malone had difficulty finding employment. She relocated to Washington, D.C., and was hired by the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Malone later moved to Atlanta and became director of civil rights and urban affairs with the Environmental Protection Agency, in which position she helped pioneer the concept of environmental justice. While at the University of Alabama, Malone met Mack Jones, a student from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, whom the university had hired to be her driver. They later married, and he became an obstetrician. Vivian Malone Jones remained active in civil rights and community organizations, including the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the National Council of Negro Women.
In October 1996, the George Wallace Family Foundation selected Jones as the first recipient of the Lurleen B. Wallace Award for Courage. The University of Alabama endowed a Vivian Malone Jones Scholarship Fund and hung her portrait in the College of Commerce building. In 2000, the university gave her an honorary doctorate. Jones died on October 13, 2005.
MARGIE JUMPER (1914–2007)
Civil Rights Activist. In 1946, Margie Jumper refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a streetcar in Roanoke, Virginia, nine years before Rosa Parks did the same on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus and two years after Irene Morgan did so on an interstate bus traveling from Virginia to Maryland. Like other cities in the South, Roanoke had invoked a Jim Crow ordinance that prohibited black and white passengers from sitting together. Roanoke's motormen and conductors could be cruel to Page 442 | Top of Articleblacks. They used racial slurs, and admonished young mothers riding with crying babies. The day that Jumper refused to adhere to Roanoke's expected code of behavior for blacks, the black section of the streetcar was nearly full, as was the white section, which was in the front; she sat in the middle of the streetcar, until a white passenger entered and asked the conductor to make her move. Refusing to do so, authorities pulled from her seat and arrested in front of Roanoke's Old City Hall. “It wasn't right, and I had the right to sit there,” she said. Later, she pleaded guilty to violating the local ordinance, paid the fine, and became one of the many unsung actors in the freedom struggle narrative.
Margie Mitchell Jumper was born on July 13, 1914, to Burrell and Mary R. Mitchell, in Martinsville, Virginia. She moved to Roanoke as a young woman. Later, she married Clarence Jumper, a cook for Norfolk and Western Railroad. Because they had no car, the streetcar was her normal mode of transportation.
A lifetime member of the national and local NAACP, Jumper served as treasurer of the organization's Roanoke chapter. Known as the Rosa Parks of Roanoke Valley, she was featured in the Roanoke Times in 1986 for her spontaneous and courageous act of protest against Jim Crow laws in 1946. In 2003, the NAACP honored her with the Reverend R. R. Wilkinson Memorial Award for Social Justice. A year after her death in 2007, the state of Virginia commemorated the life of Margie Jumper with Senate Joint Resolution No. 33.
CORETTA SCOTT KING (1927–2006)
Organization Executive/Founder, Civil Rights Activist, Women's Rights Activist, Lecturer, Diplomat, Educator, Community Activist. As the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King was ready to continue his work and perpetuate his ideals after his 1968 assassination. While her primary role in the early years of marriage concerned the rearing of their four children, she became increasingly involved in the struggle for civil rights through her husband's activities. After his death, she quickly became a dynamic activist and peace crusader.
Born on April 27, 1927, to Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurray Scott, King was a native of Marion, Alabama. During the Great Depression, she was forced to contribute to the family income by hoeing and picking cotton. Early in life, she resolved to overcome adversity, seek equal treatment, and achieve a sound education. In 1945, after graduating from the private Lincoln High School, she entered Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on a scholarship, majoring in elementary education and music. A teaching career appealed to her, but she became disillusioned when she was not allowed to teach in the town's public schools.
Musical training in voice and piano absorbed much of her time. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Antioch College, she continued her studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she earned a degree in voice. She met Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston, and they married on June 18, 1953. An exceptional young minister, King's intense convictions and concern for humanity brought her a measure of rare selfrealization early in life. Sensing his incredible dynamism, she suffered no regrets at the prospect of relinquishing her own possible career. The Kings had four children: Yolanda Denise (b. November 17, 1955; d. May 15, 2007); Martin III (b. October 23, 1957); Dexter (b. January 30, 1961); and Bernice (b. March 28, 1963).
After completing her studies in 1954, King moved back to the South with her husband, who became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Within a year, Reverend King led the Montgomery bus boycott and brought forth a new era of civil rights agitation. Two years later, he helped to organize and was elected head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Over the years, Coretta Scott King gradually became more involved in her husband's work. She occasionally performed at his lectures, raising her voice in song as he did in speech. She became involved in separate activities as well. In 1962, she served as a Woman's Strike for Peace delegate to the seventeen-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. In the mid-1960s, she sang in the freedom concerts that raised money for SCLC. When demands on her husband became too much, she filled the speaking engagements he could not keep. After his assassination, Coretta King kept many of his commitments. Soon, however, she became a much sought-after speaker in her own right.
Coretta Scott King's speech on Solidarity Day, June 19, 1968, is often identified as a prime example of her emergence from the shadow of her husband's memory. In it, she called on American women to “unite and form a solid block of women power” to fight the three great evils of racism, poverty, and war. Much of her subsequent activity revolved around plans for the creation of a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Atlanta, which she began to work on in 1969. Located in the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District and designated a national historic landmark on May 5, 1977, the site became a unit of the National Park Service in 1980. In the same year that she began developing plans for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, King also published My Life with Martin Luther King Jr., a book of reminiscences. On August 27, 1983, in celebration of the Page 443 | Top of Articletwentieth anniversary of the March on Washington, Coretta Scott King and the King Center summoned more than seven hundred organizations and convoked the New Coalition of Conscience, which represented one of the largest nonviolent and civil and human rights coalitions in the history of the United States. The number-one priority of the coalition was the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
After years of lobbying to have Dr. King's birthday celebrated as a federal holiday, Coretta Scott King and others were rewarded for their efforts when in November of 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the King holiday. The following year, Coretta Scott King was elected chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, established by Congress to formalize plans for the first legal celebration of the King holiday. On January 20, 1986, the country celebrated the first Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday. Today, Dr. King's birthday is marked by annual celebrations in many countries.
Coretta Scott King's activism extended beyond the borders of the United States. In the mid-1980s, she and two of her children were arrested for demonstrating against apartheid outside of the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. In 1986, she visited South Africa for eight days, meeting with businessmen and antiapartheid leaders. King also condemned the human rights violations of the Haitian military regime. In 1993, she implored the United Nations to impose an embargo against the nation.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change became embattled in an ugly scuffle with the National Park Service over the issue of how best to utilize some of the historic Atlanta district in which the King memorial is located. As chief executive officer, Coretta Scott King was forced to mediate between the family's desire for an interactive museum with exhibitions and programs for children and the National Park Service's plan for a visitor's center on the same site. The dispute was not resolved until April 1995, a few months after King had officially stepped down as CEO, handing the reigns of leadership over to her son Dexter.
Controversy continued to brew. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. had given nearly 83,000 documents, including correspondence and other manuscripts, to Boston University. Coretta King had hoped to regain control of that legacy, but in April 1995, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the university.
On a brighter note, Coretta Scott King remained an eloquent and respected spokesperson on behalf of African American and human rights causes and nonviolent philosophy. She was often recognized for keeping her husband's dream alive. In September 1995, King and two other famous civil rights widows, Myrlie Evers-Williams and Betty Shabazz, were honored for their influence by the National Political Congress of Black Women. King received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Boston University, Morehouse College, Princeton University, and Bates College.
After many years of serving as a staunch freedom fighter for justice and equality for all, Coretta Scott King suffered a stroke and a mild heart attack in August 2005. Two weeks before her death, she made her last public appearance at a Salute to Greatness dinner as a part of the Martin Luther King Day Celebration in Atlanta, Georgia. As she received a standing ovation, supported by her children, she waved to the crowd.
Coretta Scott King, who was called the “matriarch of the civil rights movement” by the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, spoke out “on behalf of racial and economic justice, women's and children's rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless, full employment, health care, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament and ecological sanity.” She also devoted her time and energy to AIDS education and seeking ways to curb gun violence.
On January 30, 2006, at age seventy-eight, King died in her sleep at a holistic health center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, where she had been undergoing treatment for advanced-stage ovarian cancer. The Reverend Joseph Lowery, former president of SCLC, remarked that “she bore her grief with dignity. She moved quietly but forcefully in the fray. She stood for peace in the midst of turmoil.” King's body was interred in a temporary mausoleum on the grounds of the King Center until a permanent resting place, next to her husband, could be erected.
DEXTER KING (1961–)
Civil Rights Activist, Organization Executive. The younger son of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Dexter Scott King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 30, 1961. Dexter's early days were filled with his parents' involvement in the civil rights movement. Not only did his father participate in the movement, but by the mid-1960s his mother was heavily involved as well.
King's early education occurred at both private and public academies. In 1979, he graduated from Atlanta's Frederick Douglass High School, where his interests included both music and athletics. Offered an athletic scholarship at the University of Southern California, Dexter opted to study at his father's alma mater, Morehouse College.
Dexter left Morehouse before graduating, and became involved in music video production. In collaboration with Phillip M. Jones, he produced a music video in observance of the first nationally celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. That endeavor led to an album in remembrance of Dr. King that included recordings by such performers as Prince, Whitney Houston, and Run-DMC. By 1989, Dexter King had returned to the civil rights arena when he was named president of the Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, while his mother remained as CEO. He left the job after only four months because he was concerned that he only served as a titular head. However, with the retirement of Coretta Scott King in 1994, Dexter was reinstalled as CEO in 1995 by a unanimous vote of the board of directors.
In March of 1997, Dexter King confronted James Earl Ray, the man convicted of his father's assassination, at the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility in Nashville, Tennessee. Dexter King asked Ray if he had assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. Ray stated that he had not, and Dexter began working toward Ray's release from prison. However, James Earl Ray died of liver failure thirteen months after their meeting.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. (1929–1968)
Religious Leader, Civil Rights Activist, Author, Labor Activist, Organization Executive/Founder, Minister, Antiwar Activist. Martin Luther King Jr. and his policy of nonviolent protest was the dominant force in the civil rights movement during its decade of greatest achievement from 1957 to 1968. King was the prime mover of the Montgomery bus boycott (1955–1956), the keynote speaker at the March on Washington (1963), and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1964).
King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. He was one of the three children of Martin Luther King Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Alberta Williams King, a former schoolteacher. After attending grammar and high schools locally, King enrolled in Morehouse College in 1944 when he was fifteen years old. At this time, he was not inclined to enter the ministry, but he came under the influence of Dr. Benjamin Mays, a scholar whose manner and bearing convinced King that a religious career could bring intellectual satisfaction. After receiving his B.A. degree in 1948, King attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. Graduating in 1951, King was the recipient of a J. Lewis Crozer Fellowship and the Plafker Award, given to the most outstanding student in the graduating class. In 1951, King entered Boston University to pursue a Ph.D. in theology. After completing the course work in two years and finishing his dissertation in 1955, King was granted a Ph.D.
Married by then to Coretta Scott, King returned to the South, accepting the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He made his first mark on the civil rights movement by mobilizing Montgomery's African American community during a 382-day boycott of the city's bus lines beginning in December 1955. Working through the Montgomery Improvement Association, King endured arrest and violent harassment, including the bombing of his home. In 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Alabama laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional, thereby granting African Americans equal access on the buses of Montgomery.
A national hero and a civil rights figure of growing importance, King summoned together 115 African American leaders in 1957 and laid the groundwork for a new civil rights organization, now known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King was elected its president, and he soon sought to help other communities organize protest campaigns against discrimination and to promote voter-registration activities among African Americans.
After the 1958 publication of his first book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and a trip to India the following year, where he enhanced his understanding of the nonviolent strategies of Mohandas Gandhi, King returned to the United States and subsequently resigned as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. In 1960, he returned to Atlanta where the headquarters of SCLC was located and became co-pastor with his father of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
A sympathizer with the African American southern student movement, King spoke at the organizational meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April 1960. He soon garnered criticism from the student activists, who were intent on maintaining their independence. King was arrested after participating in a student sit-in at Rich's Department Store in Atlanta on October 19, 1960. King refused to post bail and was incarcerated with the student protesters.
Three years later, in Birmingham, Alabama, where white officials were known for their anti—African American attitudes, King's nonviolent tactics were put to their most severe test. On April 16, King was arrested during a mass protest in support of fair hiring practices, the establishment of a biracial committee, and the desegregation of department store facilities. Police brutality (i.e., police dogs and fire hoses) used against the marchers dramatized the plight of African Americans to the nation and the world at large with enormous impact. Although arrested, King's voice was not silenced as he issued his Page 445 | Top of Articleclassic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to refute the criticism of white clergy. In June 1963, President Kennedy agreed to send sweeping civil rights legislation to Congress.
Later that year, King was a principal speaker at the historic March on Washington, where he delivered the “I Have A Dream” speech, one of the most passionate addresses of his career. At the beginning of the next year, Time magazine designated him as its Man of the Year for 1963. He was also named recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. After returning from Oslo, Norway, where he had gone to accept the award, King entered a new battle in Selma, Alabama, where he led a voter-registration campaign that culminated in the Selma-to-Montgomery freedom march. King next brought his crusade to Chicago, where he launched a slum rehabilitation and open housing program.
In the North, however, King soon discovered that young and angry African Americans cared little for his pulpit oratory and even less for his solemn pleas for peaceful protest. Their disenchantment was clearly one of the factors influencing his decision to rally behind a new cause and stake out a fresh battleground: the war in Vietnam. Although his aim was to fuse a new coalition of dissent based on equal support for the peace crusade and the civil rights movement, King antagonized many civil rights leaders by declaring the United States to be “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
The rift was immediate. The NAACP saw King's shift of emphasis as “a serious tactical mistake”; the Urban League warned that the “limited resources” of the civil rights movement would be spread too thin; Bayard Rustin claimed African American support of the peace movement would be negligible; and Ralph Bunche felt King was undertaking an impossible mission in trying to bring the campaign for peace in step with the goals of the civil rights movement.
From the vantage point of history, King's timing could only be regarded as superb. In announcing his opposition to the war and in characterizing it as a “tragic adventure” that was wreaking “havoc with the destiny of the entire world,” King again forced the white middle class to concede that no movement could dramatically affect the course of government in the United States unless it involved deliberate and restrained aggressiveness, persistent dissent, and even militant confrontation. These were precisely the ingredients of the civil rights struggle in the South in the early 1960s.
As students, professors, intellectuals, clergymen, and reformers of every stripe rushed into the movement, King, in a sense, forced fiery black militants such as Stokely Carmichael and Floyd McKissick to surrender their control over antiwar polemics. King then turned his attention to a domestic issue that, in his view, was directly related to the Vietnam struggle: the war on poverty. At one point, he called for a guaranteed family income, threatened national boycotts, and spoke of disrupting entire cities by nonviolent “camp-ins.” With this in mind, he began to draw up plans for a massive march of the poor on Washington, D.C., envisioning a popular demonstration of unsurpassed intensity and magnitude designed to force Congress and the political parties to recognize and deal with the unseen and ignored masses of desperate and downtrodden Americans.
King's decision to interrupt these plans to lend his support to the Memphis sanitation workers' strike was based in part on his desire to discourage violence, as well as to focus national attention on the plight of the poor, unorganized workers of the city. The men were bargaining for little else beyond basic union representation and long overdue salary considerations. Though he was unable to eliminate the violence that had resulted in the summoning and subsequent departure of the National Guard, King stayed in Memphis and was in the process of planning for a march that he vowed to carry out in defiance of a federal court injunction, if necessary. On April 3, 1968, King delivered his last and most foreboding speech, “I See the Promised Land,” better known as “I've Been to the Mountaintop.” Delivered at (the Bishop Charles H.) Mason Temple, King prophesied his demise.
Death came for King on the balcony of the African American—owned Lorraine Motel in Memphis on the evening of April 4. While standing outside with Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy, a shot rang out. King fell over, struck in the neck by a rifle bullet. At 7:05 p.m. he was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital. His death caused a wave of violence in more than one hundred major cities across the country. However, King's legacy has lasted much longer than the memories of those postassassination riots. In 1969, his widow, Coretta Scott King, organized the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Today, it stands next to his beloved Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and, with the surrounding buildings, is a national historic landmark under the administration of the National Park Service. Additionally, the Lorraine Motel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now serves as the National Civil Rights Museum.
On November 13, 2006, two U.S. presidents joined civil rights leaders, three of Dr. King's children, and thousands of others for the groundbreaking ceremony of the first monument to a black American on the National Mall. The four-acre monument will be built along the Tidal Basin between the Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln memorials. “It belongs here,” said former president Bill Clinton. In 1996, Clinton signed the bill
authorizing the creation of the monument on the site near the spot where, during the 1963 March on Washington, King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The only twentieth-century American accorded a federal holiday, Dr. King's birthday is celebrated each year with educational programs, artistic displays, and concerts throughout the United States.
MARTIN LUTHER KING III (1957–)
Civil Rights Activist, Community Activist, Political Leader, Organization Executive/Founder. Martin Luther King III, the oldest son and second child of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on October 23, 1957. Reared in Atlanta, Martin Luther King III received his primary and secondary education in the schools of Atlanta. After completing his secondary studies, King entered Morehouse College, majoring in political science and history.
King III was a child of the civil rights movement. After graduating from his father's alma mater, King devoted his energies to voter-registration campaigns, lobbying to make his father's birthday a federal holiday and pursuing political office. As a civil and human rights advocate, King has been involved in developing meaningful policy strategies to provide just and equal treatment to citizens throughout the world.
During the administration of President Jimmy Carter, King represented the president on two official delegations to promote peace in foreign countries. In 1984, as a member of the board of directors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, he went to five poverty-and drought-stricken African nations on a fact-finding mission. This mission resulted in an initiative to end starvation in Africa. Later, he focused his energy on the injustices of South Africa's system of racial apartheid and joined in the struggle to gain the freedom of Nelson Mandela.
In 1986, King entered the political arena and was elected to office as an at-large representative on the Fulton County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners. Serving until 1993, his tenancy was characterized by enactments regulating minority business participation in public contracting, ethics, purification of the county's natural water resources, and strict hazardous-waste disposal provisions. After leaving office, King returned to public speaking, worked with Atlanta youth groups, and continued to be a community and human rights activist. Later, in response to California's Proposition 209, which outlawed policies of affirmative action, he organized Americans United for Affirmative Action (AUAA), a coalition of national groups. AUAA's purpose was to safeguard affirmative action programs and to maintain the principles of equal opportunity and diversity championed by the civil rights movement. On January 15, 1998, King was sworn into office as the fourth president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a position he retained until 2004. King was the first layperson in that role. He used the SCLC platform to speak out against injustices such as the racial profiling of minorities. In 2006, King founded Realizing the Dream, an international nonprofit organization devoted to continuing his parents' humanitarian work.
JAMES MORRIS LAWSON JR. (1928–)
Educator, Civil Rights Activist, Minister. A proponent of the Gandhian philosophy of direct nonviolent protest, the Reverend James M. Lawson Jr. was one of the leading theoreticians and tacticians in the African American struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. Lawson was born on September 22, 1928, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to the Reverend James Morris and Philane May Cover Lawson, who were politically active. Although born in Uniontown, he was reared with his nine siblings in predominately white Massillon, Ohio, where he received his primary and secondary education. While growing up, Lawson was exposed to the views of Mohandas Gandhi, who introduced the passive-resistance creed against injustice, through editorials in the Cleveland Defender and the Pittsburgh-Courier. Before he graduated from high school, he and a schoolmate, provoked by the unjust treatment that African Americans received in eating establishments, entered a Massillon restaurant and insisted that they be served. This was his first sit-in. Lawson continued his protest activity by testing white-only restaurants when he attended Methodist youth meetings in small midwestern cities. From his encounters with racially prejudiced whites, Lawson discerned that the midwestern mind-set was very much akin to that in the South.
In 1947, Lawson entered Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. His collegiate experience buttressed his belief in direct and vigorous activism. He became a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation's local chapter, as well as a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), both of which were ardent advocates of direct nonviolent passive resistance to racism.
Firmly grounded the in guiding principles of nonviolence by 1949, Lawson became a “conscientious objector” as the United States immersed itself in the Cold War. Shortly after the Korean War began in 1950, Lawson's pacifism came under assault. Even though he could have taken a student or ministerial deferment, he remained unwaveringly committed to his principles as a pacifist and conscientious objector. After a warrant was issued for his arrest, Lawson turned himself in to the authorities, who charged him with violating U.S. draft laws. Found guilty in April 1951, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison. In May of the following year, Lawson was paroled from the maximum-security prison in Ashland, Kentucky. He returned to Baldwin-Wallace in the fall, and completed the requirements for a bachelor of arts degree.
After earning his degree, Lawson traveled to India to work with the Methodist Board of Missionaries. There until 1956, he studied the Gandhian philosophy of Satyagraha, or the strategy of nonviolence, which includes three basic principles: (1) the conviction that each person's opinions and beliefs represent part of the truth, and that individuals must share their truths cooperatively; (2) the refusal to inflict injury on others; and (3) commitment to communication and to the sharing of truth. According to this philosophy, violence shuts off channels of communication. The philosophy of Satyagraha also includes the willingness to shoulder any sacrifice that is occasioned by the struggle. Lawson's conviction that nonviolence is a form of power was solidified by his experience and studies in India. He asserted that nonviolent resistance is “a form of social political action. It's not an acquiescence.” Lawson fully grasped these principles and later used them to combat racial segregation in the United States.
When Lawson returned to the United States in 1956, he entered Oberlin College's Graduate School of Theology. In February of the following year, he met and had a conversation with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on campus. During the course of their conversation, Lawson gave King an abstract of his experiences. He said to King, “You know, one day I think I'll work in the South…I've had that on my mind for a long time.” According to Lawson, King responded, “Come now. We need you,” adding that, “We don't have any Negro ministers with your experience, your understanding.” Lawson responded, “I'll come as soon as I can.”
An old friend, A. J. Muste of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, arranged for Lawson to become the organization's southern secretary. Between 1958 and 1960, he served as a regional troubleshooter, moving in and out of southern cities. Headquartered in Nashville beginning in 1958, Lawson enrolled in Vanderbilt University's School of Divinity and became a member of the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference (NCLC), established in 1958 by the Reverend Kelly Miller Smith as a local affiliate of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As chair of the Action Committee, Lawson initiated a process to show that Montgomery's bus boycott victory could be replicated in Nashville. In the fall of 1958, with Lawson serving as organizer and teacher, NCLC convened an intensive weekly educational program on nonviolent activism that brought students, clergy, and laity together. During the training sessions, Lawson met, mentored, and cultivated a group of students who espoused the principles of Satyagraha. Members of this coterie of students later became many of the most widely respected student leaders in the freedom struggle across the South.
In November and December of 1959, the Reverends Lawson and Smith and students Diane Nash, Marion Berry, John Lewis, and James Bevel, among others, conducted “test sit-ins” at Nashville department stores, two Page 449 | Top of Articlemonths before the student sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, that launched the student protest known as the sit-in movement. On February 13, 1960, almost two weeks after the Greensboro sit-ins, Lawson and his group of students began full-scale sit-ins at Nashville stores. Because of its discipline and training, the Nashville student movement became the model for other movements across the South.
Lawson's involvement with Nashville's desegregation movement brought him into direct conflict with Vanderbilt University trustee James Geddes Stahlman, publisher of the Nashville Banner. On March 2, 1960, the Vanderbilt trustees gave Lawson the choice of withdrawing as a student or dismissal from the university. He refused to withdraw, and the following day, university officials expelled him.
In April 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, Lawson and the Nashville student delegation became leaders in the establishment of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Nashville group's dedication to nonviolence and the Christian ideal of the “beloved community” helped establish SNCC's initial direction. SNCC's statement of purpose, written by Lawson and sanctioned by a student conference held in Atlanta in May, accentuated the religious and philosophical beliefs of nonviolent direct action.
After being expelled from Vanderbilt's School of Divinity, Lawson went to Boston University and earned his master of theology degree. In 1961, when the freedom riders were going through the Deep South assessing the region's compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court's decree in the Boynton v. Virginia case, Lawson participated in the ride's last leg. In 1962, officials of the Methodist Church appointed Lawson to the pastorate of the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. The following month, King asked Lawson to serve as director of nonviolent education for SCLC.
After moving to Memphis in 1962, Lawson continued in the struggle for equality and justice and became a moving force in the Bluff City movement and in helping to organize Community on the Move for Equality (COME). Lawson emboldened the city's sanitation workers to think of themselves as men, which led them to employ the well-known “I am a Man” signs. In 1968, Lawson asked Dr. King to come to Memphis to draw attention to the plight of striking sanitation workers. After King's assassination, Lawson pleaded for calmness and composure in the African American community of Memphis.
Although Lawson's contribution to the civil rights movement has been less celebrated than that of others, his impact and influence was substantial and enduring.
He became noted in the struggle for African American civil rights for teaching Gandhi's nonviolent civil disobedience techniques and philosophy, which became the movement's most compelling and effective political weapon. Considered by King to be “the leading nonviolent theorist in the world,” Lawson was awarded Vanderbilt University's 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award. Almost forty-six years after the university expelled him, Vanderbilt administrators appointed him as a distinguished visiting professor for the 2006–2007 academic year.
See chapter 11, Politics.
VIOLA FAUVER GREGG LIUZZO (1925–1965)
Civil Rights Activist. Civil rights activist and martyr Viola Liuzzo was the first woman and the only white woman murdered during the African American struggle for equality and justice. The shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson by Alabama troopers on February 18, 1965, motivated civil rights leaders to stage a protest march from Selma, Alabama, to the capitol building in Montgomery, fifty miles away, to be led by Martin Luther King Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Jackson's death on February 26, and the scheduled march from Selma to Montgomery impelled Liuzzo to become engaged in the civil rights movement. Although J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, depicted Liuzzo as a northerner, she was a product of the South.
Liuzzo was born to Eva Wilson and Heber Ernest Gregg, a coal miner, in California, Pennsylvania. She later lived in Georgia and Tennessee. Liuzzo was familiar with the southern code of Jim Crow and how it relegated African Americans to a rigid second-class status. A woman with a sense of fairness who was concerned about the rights of others, Liuzzo wanted to be part of a movement that transformed injustice into justice.
In 1965, when she drove from her home in Detroit to help with the voting rights march, Liuzzo was a thirty-nine-year-old wife, a mother of five children, and a student. As she drove other activists back to Selma after the march, members of the Ku Klux Klan fired through the driver's window of Liuzzo's car, instantly killing her with two shots to the head. The tragedy shocked the nation, and President Lyndon B. Johnson condemned her slaying on national television. Liuzzo's murder caused him to order a federal investigation of the KKK, and he petitioned Congress to expand the Federal Conspiracy Act of 1870 to make the murder of civil rights activists a federal crime. Liuzzo's death helped propel passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In 1979, the Liuzzo family filed a $2 million lawsuit against the FBI, which accused the agency of negligence in its hiring of informant Gary Thomas Rowe Jr., a member of the KKK. The suit alleged that Rowe actively participated in Liuzzo's murder. U.S. district court judge Charles Joiner presided over the trial without a jury, and on May 30, 1983, found that Rowe did not shoot her and that the U.S. government was not responsible for Liuzzo's death.
Memorials in Alabama and Detroit honor Liuzzo's memory. In 1991, the Women of SCLC placed a stone marker on Highway 80 in Alabama near the site where she was murdered. Because of the scandal surrounding her death, many consider her the most controversial of the civil rights martyrs.
ZEPHANIAH ALEXANDER LOOBY (1899–1972)
Attorney, Civil Rights Activist, Educator, Politician. Known in Nashville as the dean of African American attorneys and nationally for his work as a civil rights attorney for the NAACP, Z. Alexander Looby traversed the state of Tennessee in the company of other attorneys, arguing against Jim Crowism and racial discrimination. In 1951, he and fellow attorney Robert E. Lillard became the first African Americans elected to the Nashville City Council in forty years. When the World War II—era civil rights movement began, Looby became a local and state leader.
Looby was born in Antigua, British West Indies, on April 8, 1899. His mother died when he was six or seven years old, and his father passed away when he was fifteen. As a child, Looby spent time around the magistrate court, where he listened to white barristers argue their cases. After the death of his father, Looby signed on as a cabin boy on a whaling ship headed for the United States. In 1914, he arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Eight years later, Looby earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1925, he received a bachelor of law degree from Columbia University. The following year, he earned a doctor of jurisprudence degree from New York University.
In 1937, Looby, along with Carl Cowan of Knoxville and Charles Houston of the NAACP, filed one of the first suits against segregation in Tennessee's higher educational system. This suit sought to secure the admission of William B. Redmond of Franklin, Tennessee, to the University of Tennessee's School of Pharmacy in Memphis. Redmond, a graduate of Tennessee A&I State College (now Tennessee State University), applied to the School of Pharmacy in 1936 and was denied admission. Because the state had recently enacted a statute providing a nominal tuition stipend for African American students to pursue postgraduate education outside of Tennessee, the court ruled against the plaintiff. Although Looby lost the case, his effort anticipated the litigious direction that African Americans would take in their struggle for equal access to public education. The following year, Looby, along with Cowan, Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and William H. Hastie, filed suit seeking the admission of Joseph M. Michael to the University of Tennessee School of Law. Despite the Supreme Court's 1938 ruling in the Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada case, Tennessee steadfastly held to its earlier ruling.
In February 1946, a race riot broke out in Columbia, Tennessee, after an altercation occurred between a white man and a black man. In response, the State Highway Patrol and National Guard terrorized Columbia's African American community, beating and shooting several people. The press brought the racial disturbance in Columbia to the nation's attention, and the NAACP provided legal counsel for the thirty-one African Americans indicted on charges resulting from the melee. Twenty-five of those arrested were charged with attempted murder of four police officers. The NAACP hired Looby and Maurice Weaver, a white attorney from Chattanooga, to represent the accused. Weaver and Looby worked under the direction of Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP's lead attorney. The case was moved to Lawrenceburg in a change of venue, and on October 4, 1946, an all-white jury found twenty-three of the defendants not guilty.
Looby, Weaver, and Marshall returned to Columbia in mid-November to litigate the charges against the two remaining defendants. They won acquittal for one and a reduced sentence for the other. Their successful defense of the accused incensed white law enforcement officials. As the three attorneys drove out of Columbia on their way to Nashville, they were stopped by a group of law enforcement officers with a search warrant for their vehicle. After finding no incriminating evidence, the attorneys were allowed to continue their trip, with Looby driving. About a mile down the road, a group of eight police stopped them again. The police detained Marshall and ordered Looby and Weaver to go the other way. The officers proceeded with Marshall toward Duck River, but Looby refused to leave, and thwarted the men's plan to lynch Marshall. The police officers took Marshall back to Columbia and charged him with drunken driving, but he was released by a judge. After this close encounter, Marshall remarked, “Looby was one brave man.”
In 1950, Looby, along with Carl Cowman and Avon N. Williams Jr., filed a school desegregation lawsuit in Anderson County. The attorneys successfully argued McSwain v. Board of Anderson County, Tennessee all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case resulted in the Page 451 | Top of Articlecourt-ordered desegregation of Tennessee's public schools.
When Looby entered the race for a seat on the Nashville City Council in 1951, he pledged that if elected he would seek African American representation on the Board of Education, the Civil Service Commission, and other city boards; end segregation in terminal and restaurant facilities at the Nashville Municipal Airport and racial segregation on city buses; establish a nondiscriminatory merit system in public employment and civil service; require that no city contracts be granted to firms practicing discrimination against African Americans; enforce the city's ordinance against cross burning; and prompt the city to examine its health service so it could provide better-quality care, especially in facilities available to African Americans. On May 10, Looby and Lillard were elected to the council. They became the first African Americans on the Nashville City Council in almost forty years.
As a city council member and NAACP leader, Looby was in the vanguard of the civil rights movement in Nashville. He helped to desegregate public education in the city and county, as well as public golf courses and restaurants. Looby won equal pay for African American teachers, brought action that ended segregation in the courts, and successfully compelled city leaders to dismantle racially segregated visiting hours at Nashville's Parthenon.
In 1955, in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling, Looby and his law partner, Avon Williams, in consultation with the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall, filed a class-action suit against the Nashville Board of Education. Kelley v. Board of Education of Nashville was filed on behalf of A. Z. Kelley, an African American barber. Kelley's son Robert was forced to take a bus across town to attend school, although he lived within a few blocks of an all-white school. The case was not heard until 1956, when a federal district judge ordered Nashville's board of education to prepare a plan for desegregation by January of the following year. In 1958, the board of education proposed the “grade-a-year-plan.” Looby objected to the lenient student-transfer provisions of the plan and appealed the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. Losing in the court of appeals, Looby and Williams appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1959, but the Court refused to review the case. Looby and Williams never relinquished their resolve, and in 1971 a district judge ordered Nashville to implement a massive crosstown busing plan to desegregate its public schools.
In 1955, Looby ran for reelection and successfully retained his seat in the council. The following year, amidst the hysteria surrounding Senator Joseph McCarthy, Looby was one of seventy-eight NAACP members investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. In addition to investigating anyone with possible connections to the Communist Party, the committee also listed as subversive many who promoted racial equality. Looby welcomed the probe and was positive his good standing in the community would vindicate him.
On February 13, 1960, African American students from the city's predominately black colleges and universities conducted their first full-scale sit-in, leading to the arrests two weeks later of more than seventy-five students. As their cases reached the court dockets, Looby and twelve other African American attorneys defended the young demonstrators. In the predawn hours of April 19, 1960, Looby's home was bombed. Although he and his wife escaped with minor injuries, the blast proved a catalyst for Nashville's civil rights activists to confront the city's elected officials over the practice of segregated public-dining facilities. About three thousand people marched from Fisk University to the public square, protesting the bombing. During a spirited debate on the courthouse steps, Mayor Ben West recommended that Nashville's lunch counters be desegregated. When Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of four thousand at Fisk University the following day, the audience rose to its feet when Looby entered the hall. On May 10, 1960, Nashville became the first large city in the South to begin desegregating its lunch counters when six stores agreed to accommodate African Americans in their dining facilities.
The sit-ins resumed in November because segregation continued in most eating establishments, and institutionalized racism remained intact. In 1964, Looby lost his temper after a dispute with Judge Andrew Doyle during a hearing for thirty civil rights demonstrators. He and his law partner were held in contempt of court and fined. Refusing to pay the fines, Looby and Williams were taken into custody and incarcerated. Mayor Beverly Briley arranged to have the pair's fines paid, and they were released.
In 1971, Looby retired from public office after serving for more than two decades. He continued working as an attorney until he died on March 24, 1972. Nashville recognized Looby's distinguished contributions in 1976 when it named a library and community center in his honor.
AUTHERINE J. LUCY (1929–)
Civil Rights Activist. In 1952, Autherine Juanita Lucy became the first African American to enroll in the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After university officials discovered her race, they denied her admittance. Page 452 | Top of ArticleHowever, after a three-year court battle waged by attorneys Arthur Shores and Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on her behalf, Lucy reenrolled in 1956. University officials expelled her after she attended only two full days of classes, claiming that they wished to protect her from mob violence. Thirty-two years later, the University of Alabama's board of trustees voted to overturn Lucy's expulsion, and she entered the university and earned her master's degree in education in 1992. The university also named an endowed scholarship after her and placed her portrait in Ferguson Center on campus.
Lucy was born and reared in Shiloh, Alabama. She was the last of Milton Cornelius and Minnie Hosea Lucy's ten children. After graduating from Linden Academy, Lucy entered Selma University, where she received a two-year teaching degree. In 1949 she entered Miles College in Birmingham, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English three years later.
While at Miles, Lucy met Hugh Lawrence Foster, her future husband, and Pollie Anne Myers, the woman who would thrust her into the vanguard of the civil rights movement. The two women became close friends, and shortly after graduating, Myers asked Lucy about applying to graduate school at the University of Alabama. Both women were accepted, but university admissions officials did not know that they were African American. When their race was discovered, the dean told Lucy and Myers that the admissions office had made a mistake, and he attempted to return their room deposits. He never mentioned that the decision was because of their race.
The two women retained Shores, who wrote to the university president requesting their admittance, to no avail. Shores and the NAACP took the matter to court, a battle that lasted three years. In 1955, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (II), which outlawed segregation in schools. Shores and the NAACP knew that the efforts of Lucy and Myers to gain admittance to the University of Alabama would be the first test of the decision. Because of the Brown II decision and its impact on the University of Alabama, the school's administrators tried to discredit Lucy and Myers. They secured the services of a private investigator to investigate into their backgrounds. The investigation revealed that Myers had been pregnant and unmarried at the time of her application. On June 29, 1955, the case went before federal judge Harlan Grooms, who ruled for Myers and Lucy and later expanded the ruling to apply to all people of color seeking admission to the university. In January 1956, the university board of trustees voted to deny Myers admission based on its moral codes. However, it confirmed Lucy's admission with only one dissenting vote.
Lucy entered the University of Alabama on February 1, 1956, and attended her first class two days later. A group of students began marching and protesting her presence, and by February 6, she had to navigate her way through a hostile crowd. Because of the escalating violence, the university's board of trustees voted to exclude Lucy, allegedly for her own well-being. The NAACP filed a complaint against the university, accusing it of conspiring with the mob to prevent Lucy from attending classes. The university trustees then voted to permanently expel Lucy. Judge Grooms ordered Lucy's readmission, but he refused to reverse the trustees' expulsion. Attorneys for the NAACP conceded that the expulsion was legal, and Lucy left the campus. Seven years passed before another black student was allowed to enroll at the Tuscaloosa school.
See chapter 8, Black Nationalism.
HARRY T. MOORE (1905–1951)
Educator, Civil Rights Activist, Organization Founder. One of the unsung warriors who gave his life for the cause of civil rights and racial justice, Harry Tyson Moore was born on November 19, 1905, in Suwannee County, Florida, to Johnny and Rosa Tyson Moore. He received his education in the schools of Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida. In 1925, Moore graduated from Florida Memorial College with a teaching degree. After graduation, he taught school in Cocoa for one year. In 1926, Moore began serving as principal of Titusville Colored School and later as principal of Mims Elementary School.
A member of the Florida State Teachers' Association, Moore organized the Brevard chapter of the NAACP in 1934. He investigated lynchings and mob brutality and launched a campaign against segregated schools and unequal compensation for African American teachers. In 1944, Moore cofounded and became executive secretary of the Progressive Voters' League. Under his leadership, the league successfully inaugurated a statewide voter-registration drive. Because of Moore's role in the struggle for civil rights among African Americans in the state of Florida, Brevard County officials relieved him of his duties as principal in 1946. In May of the same year, he became the first full-time, paid executive secretary of an NAACP state conference.
As the most visible and outspoken African American leader in Florida, Moore received numerous threats. The alleged rape of a Groveland white woman by four African American men in 1949 ignited four days of virulent rioting by unrestrained white mobs in African American neighborhoods. A month after the alleged incident, Page 453 | Top of ArticleMoore, to no avail, corresponded with President Harry S. Truman and Florida's congressional representatives, calling for a review of the Groveland riots and pressing for a special session of Congress to pass laws to protect the civil rights of African Americans. Because Moore sought justice for the accused individuals, he captured the ire of the Ku Klux Klan. His unrelenting campaign for racial equity also placed him at odds with local government officials. When the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the convictions and death sentences of the remaining two defendants in April of 1951, the hostilities over the Groveland case ignited once again.
In the summer of 1951, Moore earned his bachelor's degree from Bethune-Cookman College. Within months of completing his undergraduate studies, the death threats became reality when, on December 25, 1951, a bomb exploded beneath his bed. According to Ben Green's Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America's First Civil Rights Martyr (1999), Moore became the first person to lose his life for what became the modern civil rights movement. Recognizing his achievements and sacrifices, in 1952 the NAACP posthumously awarded Harry T. Moore the Spingarn Medal, the organization's highest honor.
In 1991, after new evidence surfaced, Florida governor Lawton Chiles ordered an investigation of the Moore murder, the same year that Byron de la Beckwith was reindicted for the 1965 murder of Medgar Evers. The investigation uncovered evidence implicating four members of the central Florida Ku Klux Klan, all of them deceased. By some accounts, Moore's death was as momentous as those of Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.
IRENE MORGAN KIRKALDY (1917–2007)
Civil Rights Activist. When she was twenty-seven years old, Irene Morgan Kirkaldy became the center of an important court case litigated by the NAACP after she refused to relinquish her seat to a white person on a Greyhound bus traveling from Virginia to Maryland. In 1946, Morgan v. Virginia reached the U.S. Supreme Court. By a seven—one margin, the justices outlawed racial segregation in interstate travel. The decision in this case caused the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to initiate its 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, a forerunner of the 1961 freedom rides. A trailblazer in the African American struggle, Morgan epitomized Gunnar Myrdal's contention in his classic 1944 study, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Democracy, “that the Jim Crow car [was] resented more bitterly among Negroes than most other forms of segregation.”
Eleven years before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a Montgomery bus, Morgan similarly defied the laws of racial segregation. On July 16, 1944, she rebuffed southern racial etiquette by not relinquishing her seat on a Virginia bus to a white couple. Although the actions taken by Morgan and Parks were similar, there were important differences. Morgan was on an interstate bus traveling from Virginia to Maryland, whereas Parks was riding a city bus. Morgan was in her late twenties, while Parks was in her forties. Morgan was sitting at least three rows from the back of the bus, whereas Parks was seated near the middle of the Montgomery bus. Moreover, Morgan was not affiliated with any association committed to the struggle for equality and justice. Parks, in contrast, had been involved with the NAACP and had studied at Highlander Folk School, where she learned to be resolute in her activism. Morgan retaliated in self-defense, whereas Parks adhered to the principle of nonviolent protest. Notwithstanding these differences, both women were arrested and their cases were litigated through the judicial system, where, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor.
While Morgan may not have been active in an organization fighting to secure the civil rights of African Americans, attitudinally, she possessed the spirit of Alain Locke's “New Negro,” which primarily called for human dignity, civil liberties, and racial equality. By violating Virginia's 1930 statute, which proscribed racially mixed seating on public modes of transportation, Morgan courageously defied the southern code of behavior and remained seated in defense of her rights as an American.
After putting up a defense, Morgan, who was recovering from a miscarriage, was dragged from the bus by the sheriff and his deputy and arrested. After being taken into custody, she was charged with resisting arrest and breaching Virginia's transit laws. Three months later, Morgan pleaded guilty on the first charge and paid the assessed fine of $100. However, firmly believing that she was well within her rights and that Virginia's segregation law was not applicable to interstate travelers, she refused to pay the associated fine and court costs. Morgan was resolute that she had done nothing wrong. She had paid for her seat and sat in the designated Negro section. Morgan declared she would appeal her conviction, and, if necessary, take her case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Represented by attorneys from the NAACP, Morgan's case was taken to the Virginia Supreme Court, which on June 6, 1945, upheld the state's 1930 Jim Crow statute. Morgan's attorneys appealed the state supreme court's ruling to the country's highest tribunal. Almost a year later, on June 3, 1946, the U.S. Supreme Court sustained Morgan's appeal. Morgan v. Virginia represented a spirited attack on Jim Crow transportation.
However, as with most Supreme Court decisions that moved African Americans closer to equality and justice, most southern states disregarded the Court's edict.
Less than a year later, CORE and the Fellowship of Reconciliation organized and implemented the interracial Journey of Reconciliation throughout the upper South to test the Court's decision in the Morgan v. Virginia case. An interracial group of sixteen men, eight blacks and eight whites, prepared for a two-week bus trip through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Organizers of this “freedom ride” understood that discriminatory social laws and patterns did not change because of decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court and that progress would not come without struggle. The men employed a strategy of whites sitting in the back seats, blacks in front, and both side-by-side. Their purpose was to force southern states respect the Morgan decision. During the two week journey, twelve of the men were arrested on six separate occasions. Morgan's act of refusal laid the foundation on which African Americans would construct other direct protest methods for civil liberties and equality.
Morgan faded into obscurity after the Court ruled in her favor. She became a widow when she was thirty-two. Later, she married Stanley Kirkaldy, and they reared her two children. A self-determined woman with an entrepreneurial spirit, Morgan Kirkaldy operated her own business providing maid and child-care services to families in New York. Her concern about matters of racial intolerance and social injustice continued.
After winning a scholarship in a radio contest during the 1980s, she entered St. John's University, where she majored in communications. She earned her degree in 1985, when she was sixty-eight years old. Morgan continued her education by pursuing an advance degree from Queen's College. In 1990, at age seventy-three, she was awarded a master of arts degree in urban studies.
Five years later, Irene Morgan Kirkaldy penetrated the public's consciousness when she made a brief appearance in You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow! a documentary film about the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation. Six years later, on January 8, 2001, President Bill Clinton, who was born in the South the same year as the Supreme Court decision that bears her name, awarded Morgan Kirkaldy, along with twenty-seven others, including Fred Shuttlesworth and NAACP attorneys Jack Greenberg and Constance Baker Motley, the Presidential Citizens Medal. “When Irene Morgan boarded a bus for Baltimore in the summer of 1944,” the award's approbation asserted, “she took for the first step on a journey that would change America forever.”
DIANE J. NASH (1938–)
Civil Rights Activist. Diane Judith Nash stood in the vanguard of the national civil rights and antiwar movements from 1959 to 1967. She was born in Chicago on May 15, 1938, and reared in a Catholic middle-class home. Nash received her primary and secondary education in Chicago parochial and public schools. She began her collegiate career at Howard University, then transferred in 1959 to Fisk University in Nashville, where she was projected into the struggle for civil rights.
When Diana Nash arrived in Nashville, racial segregation permeated the city. Her personal encounters with the code of “separate but unequal” led her to seek rectification. Early in 1959, she attended workshops on nonviolence directed by Reverend James Lawson under the agency of the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, an affiliate of SCLC. Nash became imbued with and an ardent supporter of the direct nonviolent protest philosophy.
In November and December of 1959, Nash was among those who “tested” the racial segregation policy of Nashville's downtown lunch counters. Elected chair of the Student Central Committee, she played a pivotal role in Nashville's student sit-in movement. Before the students could initiate their first full-scale sit-in, North Carolina A&T students staged a sit-in on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro.
When the Nashville students decided on the “jail, no bail” strategy, Nash stated to the judge, “We feel that if we pay these fines we would be contributing to and supporting the injustice and immoral practices that have been performed in the arrest and convictions of the defendants.” Responding to her query about the immorality of segregation, Nashville mayor Ben West agreed that the city's lunch counters should be desegregated. On May 10, 1960, Nashville became the first southern city to begin desegregating its lunch counters.
In April 1960, Nash became one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In February 1961, she participated in the Rock Hill, South Carolina, protests for desegregation. After being arrested, Nash and the other students refused to pay bail. When CORE's original freedom riders were beaten in Alabama and aborted the last leg of the ride to New Orleans, John Lewis and Diane Nash decided that permitting the violence of the white mob to overwhelm the nonviolence of the demonstrators conveyed the wrong message to the movement's enemies. Nash accepted the responsibility of coordinating this monumental mission.
In May, Nash coordinated the freedom rides from Birmingham, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi. Three months later, Nash became the director of the directaction Page 455 | Top of Articlewing of SNCC. Between 1961 and 1965, she worked for SCLC as a field organizer, strategist, and workshop instructor. After moving to Jackson, Nash was imprisoned for teaching African American children about the techniques of direct nonviolent protest. Holding steadfastly to the principles developed in Nashville, she chose jail rather than pay bail.
Nash's ideas were instrumental in initiating the 1963 March on Washington. She and James Bevel conceptualized and planned the initial strategy for the Selma right-to-vote movement that helped produce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Nash's civil rights activities led her to the Vietnam peace movement. She continued working for political and social transformation through the 1970s and lectured nationally on the rights of women during the 1980s. Nash continues to lecture across the country. In October 2006, the faculty of Fisk University and the Fisk Board of Trustees voted to award Diane Nash an honorary doctorate at the university's 2007 commencement exercises.
EDGAR DANIEL NIXON SR. (1899–1987)
Labor Leader, Civil Rights Activist. Edgar Daniel Nixon Sr., the fifth of eight children, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 12, 1899, to Wesley and Sue Ann (Chappel) Nixon. Edgar's mother died when he was eight Page 456 | Top of Articleyears old, and he went to live with his paternal Aunt Pinky in Autauga, Alabama. Because of segregation and the distance of the one-room school from his aunt's home, Nixon's school attendance was irregular. When he was fourteen, he became self-supporting and worked in Selma and Mobile, Alabama. Subsequent to working in the Union Station baggage room, Nixon was hired as a sleeping-car porter. Later influenced by A. Philip Randolph, he became a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Randolph recognized and helped Nixon polish his organizational skills. When he first met Randolph, Nixon was already involved in local efforts to improve the quality of life for Montgomery's African American citizens. Earlier, he had waged an unsuccessful campaign to secure a swimming pool for African Americans after two children drowned while swimming in a drainage ditch.
In 1928, with Walter White and Roy Wilkins serving as counselors, Nixon helped establish state and local NAACP chapters in Alabama. During his tenure as state NAACP president, twenty-one branches were added to the Alabama NAACP, and the local membership increased from five to approximately three thousand. In the 1930s, Nixon organized the Montgomery Welfare League to help disadvantaged persons of color secure governmental assistance. When Randolph and Bayard Rustin began organizing the 1941 March on Washington to protest discrimination in the defense industries, Nixon was part of the process that ultimately caused President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission.
During the 1940s, Nixon organized the Montgomery Voters League, and served as president of the Progressive Democratic Association, which successfully addressed the issue of African Americans serving on the city's police force. He also threatened to file suit against city officials on behalf of Oak Park residents who were suffering from city neglect. As president of the state NAACP, he challenged the rule restricting African American seating on Montgomery's buses. However, Viola White, the plaintiff in the test case, died while appeals were adjudicated for ten years after the 1944 filing. In 1944, Nixon persuaded 750 African Americans to march on the courthouse and demand their right of the franchise. The following year, he became the first African American to run for a political office in Montgomery since Reconstruction when he campaigned for a county seat on the Montgomery Democratic Executive Committee. He was defeated in that election by only two hundred votes.
On December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white man, Nixon contacted Clifford Durr, a local white attorney, who found out the charges against Parks and the amount of bail money needed to secure her release. Nixon paid the $100 bail and had Parks's trial date set for December 5, 1955. He believed that the Parks case should be tested in the courts to nullify Montgomery's bus segregation laws and that African Americans should boycott the bus company. Although he and others made plans for a boycott, the Women's Political Council (WPC) set the wheels in motion. The day of Parks's trial, African American citizens staged a boycott of the city buses, The boycott was organized by Alabama State College English professor Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, president of the WPC, and others. The one-day boycott proved successful.
Nixon, along with Ralph Abernathy, H. H. Hubbard, and Edgar N. French, laid the groundwork for a long-term bus boycott and a new organization, which Abernathy named the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). At the organizational meeting of MIA, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was elected as president and Nixon as treasurer. During his two-year tenure, Nixon personally raised approximately $100,000 and wrote checks amounting to almost $500,000 for the MIA and the boycott. He always recognized local whites who supported the movement. Nixon was the first MIA member to be indicted for boycott-related activities. Adhering to Rustin's instructions on how to throw law enforcement officials off guard, Nixon did not wait for them to come to his home and arrest him. He gave himself up, demonstrating to the other indicted individuals how to counter the offensive of the authorities.
For more than a year, thousands of African Americans in Montgomery, with “rested souls and weary feet,” refused to ride the buses. Eventually, the loss of revenue and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court forced the Montgomery Bus Company to desegregate its buses. The boycott took 65 percent of the bus company's business, which caused it to cut schedules, lay off drivers, and increase fares. The city's merchants lost revenue as well. The Supreme Court's 1956 decision in Gayle v. Browder explicitly overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which also applied to transportation. The bus company not only consented to end segregation but also agreed to hire African American drivers and treat all customers with equal deference. On December 21, 1956, African Americans boarded buses in Montgomery and sat wherever they desired.
During his lifetime, Nixon received hundreds of commendations from state and local governments and national organizations. A self-educated person, he was awarded four honorary doctorates, including one from Alabama State University. In 1975, Nixon was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for the state of Page 457 | Top of ArticleAlabama, and served as vice president. He died on February 27, 1987.
ROSA PARKS (1913–2005)
Civil Rights Activist. Rosa Parks has been called “the patron saint” and the “mother” of the civil rights movement. Her courage to defy custom and law to uphold her personal rights and dignity inspired African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama, to stage one of the longest boycotts in American history.
Born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama, she was one of two children of James and Leona Edwards McCauley. Her mother, a schoolteacher, taught Parks until she was eleven, when she entered Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. Later, she attended Booker T. Washington High School. After attending segregated schools, she went to the all—African American Alabama State College.
In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks. Eleven years later, she and her husband joined the local NAACP chapter. One of the first women to join the NAACP, Parks served as the chapter's secretary from 1943 to 1956. Parks was also a member of the Montgomery Voters League, and during the summer of 1955, she attended workshops at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, which had been active in the civil rights struggle since the 1930s.
On December 1, 1955, as Parks was riding Montgomery's Cleveland Avenue bus home from work, she was ordered by the driver to give her seat to a white man. When she refused to move, the driver threatened to call law enforcement officials. Parks was subsequently arrested and fined. Her case was the last straw for Montgomery's African American citizenry, who were as tired of being treated as underclass citizens as Parks. The Women's Political Council protested her arrest by organizing a boycott of the buses. A young, unknown minister named Martin Luther King Jr. soon became involved. Realizing the immensity of the opportunity to begin dismantling the code of southern segregation, he and other members of the community organized the Montgomery Improvement Association. African Americans and a few whites transported boycotters to and from work, and they continued, despite opposition from the city and state governments, for 382 days.
Following her trial, Park's attorneys advised her to refuse to pay the fine and court costs. Parks's case was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On December 20, 1956, the country's highest tribunal ruled Montgomery's segregated seating unconstitutional. When the boycott ended the following day, both Parks and King were national heroes. The mass movement of nonviolent social change that started in Montgomery lasted for more than a decade, and culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Because of the harassment that Rosa and Raymond Parks received during and after the boycott, in 1957 they and her mother moved to Detroit, Michigan. After working in various capacities, Parks became a staff assistant in Congressman John Conyers's Detroit office. Parks continued to be involved in the civil rights struggle, giving speeches and attending marches and demonstrations. She marched on Washington in 1963 and into Montgomery in 1965. Parks received numerous tributes for her dedication and inspiration: in 1979, she received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal; and in 1980, she became the first woman to receive the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. Three years later, Parks was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame for her achievements in civil rights.
As she approached retirement, Parks became involved in other activities, such as the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-development. In 1988, the same year that she retired from Conyers's office, Detroit's Museum of African-American History unveiled her portrait. Two years later, her birthday was celebrated in Washington's Kennedy Center. In addition to being a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the inaugural International Freedom Conductor Award in 1998, in April 1999 Congress passed legislation awarding her the Congressional Gold Medal. In 2000, the State of Alabama inducted Parks into the Alabama Academy of Honor. The same year, Alabama governor Don Siegelman awarded her the first Governor's Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage.
The honors continued in January 2001, when Parks attended the dedication of Troy University's Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, which features a statue in her likeness and an exhibit recounting her history-making encounter with the bus driver who told her to give up her seat in 1955. That same month, her former home in the South was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2002, her life story was retold in a made-for-television movie starring Angela Bassett. In 1999 Parks sued the hip-hop duo OutKast for using her name in a song without her permission. The case was settled in 2005.
In 2004, Parks was diagnosed with dementia, a disease that causes a progressive decline in cognitive function. Rosa Parks died at age ninety-two on October 24, 2005, in Detroit. Officials in both Detroit and Montgomery announced that the front seats of their respective city buses would be reserved with black ribbons in her honor until her funeral. On October 27, the U.S. Page 458 | Top of ArticleSenate passed a resolution to honor Parks by allowing her body to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute reserved for the nation's most “revered leaders. Parks became the first woman, the first American who was not a governmental official, and the second African American (the first was Jacob Chestnut, a U.S. Capitol Police officer) to be so honored. Parks was interred between her husband, Raymond, and her mother, Leona McCauley, in Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit. On December 1, 2005, the fiftieth anniversary of her arrest, President George W. Bush signed a house resolution directing that a statue of Parks be placed in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall, further immortalizing Parks's lifelong commitment to freedom, social justice, and equality.
JO ANN GIBSON ROBINSON (1912–1992)
Civil Rights Activist, Educator, Author. As president of the Women's Political Council (WPC) in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1950s, Jo Ann Gibson Robinson was one of several significant originators of the 1955–1956 Montgomery bus boycott. The youngest of twelve children, she was born on April 17, 1912, to Owen Boston and Dollie Webb Gibson, near Culloden, Georgia. The first member of her family to obtain a college degree, Robinson graduated from Fort Valley State College and taught for five years in the Macon public schools. Moving to Atlanta, she earned a master's degree in English from Atlanta University.
In 1949, Robinson joined the faculty of Alabama State College as a professor of English. Later, she joined Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and the WPC. A young organization, the WPC was founded in the fall of 1946 by Mary Fair Burks, also a member of Alabama State's English Department. Burks was inspired to organize the WPC after hearing a sermon by the Reverend Vernon Johns, the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Organized to protest racial abuse, the WPC developed a four-point program of political action: voter registration; demonstrations protesting abuse on Montgomery city buses; the education of young people about democracy; and literacy.
Because she and others faced continuing abuse by Montgomery city bus drivers, Robinson and the WPC targeted the segregated seating practices. On several occasions, the WPC sought a remedy from city officials. In May 1954, a year and a half before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and shortly after the unanimous Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Robinson corresponded with Mayor W. A. Gayle and alluded to the possibility of a boycott by African Americans of the city's public transportation system if the abuses did not stop. After Parks's arrest on December 1, 1955, Robinson played a prominent role in the Montgomery bus boycott. As a member of the executive board of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), Robinson wrote the organization's newsletter.
Martin Luther King Jr. described Robinson as “apparently indefatigable,” remarking that “she perhaps more than any other person, was active on every level of the protest.” Robinson's 1987 memoir, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, elevated her and other middle-class women from their footnote status to the center of the civil rights narrative. Robinson died five years after the publication of her memoir.
RUBY DORIS SMITH ROBINSON (1942–1967)
Civil Rights Activist. Ruby Doris Smith, the second of seven children, was born to John Thomas and Alice Banks Smith in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 25, 1942. She was no stranger to racism, but the televised images of the courage of her fellow African Americans during the Montgomery bus boycott sharply focused her resolve, at a young age, to participate in overthrowing the vestiges of Jim Crow.
Her parents' commitment to racial justice became a guiding light as Smith matured into a socially conscious being. Under the tutelage of her parents, who stressed education, Smith completed secondary school and entered Spelman College in 1959. A year later, she became involved in Atlanta's student sit-in movement. Cognizant of her “blackness” during the years of segregation, Smith became motivated by the sit-in movement ignited by students at North Carolina A&T College in Greensboro. She protested with her older sister and other students from the Atlanta University Center in their attempt to desegregate Atlanta. In April 1960, she joined other students in Raleigh, North Carolina, as they, under the leadership of Ella Baker, established the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). A strong advocate of group-centered rather than leader-centered organizations, Baker encouraged the conference attendees to institute their own organization rather than become the student branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) or another existing civil rights group. Smith took to heart Baker's exhortation that the liberation movement was more than “the right to eat hamburgers at a lunch counter.”
Smith, like other women supporters in the student sit-in movement, led in the transformation of SNCC from a coordinating office into a cadre of activists devoted to expanding civil rights for African Americans throughout the South. In February 1961, as students honored the first anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins, Smith and Diane Nash were among the SNCC members who joined the protests in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The “jail, no bail” tactic used by the Rock Hill protesters served as an emotional leap forward for the civil rights movement. The Rock Hill approach was also a response to the group's lack of money for bail. Additionally, the national SNCC organization worked with local activists, underscoring a principle of grassroots organization that later influenced the broader civil rights movement.
Smith married Clifford Robinson in 1964. She died of leukemia on October 7, 1967, when she was twenty-five years old.
See chapter 9, National Organizations.
AL SHARPTON (1954–)
Religious Leader, Community Activist, Sports and Entertainment Promoter, Organization Executive/Founder, Author. Although he has been shunned by many middle-class African Americans, Al Sharpton draws support from the ranks of the youth and the disenfranchised. Alfred Charles Sharpton Jr. was born in 1954 in Brooklyn, New York. At the early age of four, Sharpton began delivering sermons, and by the time he was thirteen he was ordained a Pentecostal minister. During and after high school, Sharpton preached in neighborhood churches and went on national religious tours, often with prominent entertainers. Soon he was befriended by a number of well-known and influential African Americans, including Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Jesse Jackson Sr., and singer James Brown.
In 1969, Jackson appointed Sharpton youth director of Operation Breadbasket. Around this same time, James Brown hired Sharpton as one of his bodyguards and later as a promoter. In 1985, Sharpton married singer Kathy Jordan, and soon became involved with fight promoter Don King. Even though Sharpton promoted boxers and entertainers, he had long been a prominent social activist. In 1971, he founded the National Youth Movement (later called the United African Movement) ostensibly to combat drug use. Many criticized Sharpton, however, for using the organization to draw attention to himself. He urged children to forsake Christmas in favor of a Kwanzaa celebration and the elderly to protest New York City police tactics.
Sharpton positioned himself in the center of the publicity surrounding the Bernard Goetz murder trial in 1984, the Howard Beach racial killing in 1986, the Tawana Brawley debacle in 1987, and the Yusef Hawkins killing in Bensonhurst in 1989. In 1988, Sharpton was accused of being an FBI informant and of giving agents information about Don King, reputed organized crime figures, and various African American leaders. In 1989 and 1990, Sharpton was acquitted on charges of income-tax evasion and of embezzling National Youth Movement funds. In 1991, he was briefly hospitalized after being stabbed by a man wielding a pocket knife.
On August 2, 1994, Sharpton announced the formation of a new political party, the Freedom Party. He aimed to counter other liberal groups by reaching African American voters that traditional, mainstream parties had ignored. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994 as a Freedom Party candidate, even participating in that year's New York Democratic primary.
Sharpton has stood at the forefront of the fight against police brutality and racial profiling. In 1999, Sharpton led a community effort to pursue the officer responsible for the 1997 arrest and sodomy of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. That same year, he led a protest in the wrongful death of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was shot to death by New York police in the vestibule of his apartment building. In 2003, Sharpton became involved in protests over the wrongful death of Ousmane Zongo, an African arts dealer from Burkina Faso who lived in New York. Like Diallo, Zongo was unarmed when a plainclothes policeman shot him in a Chelsea warehouse raid. Sharpton also organized protests after the death by police of Sean Bell in Queens in 2006. As with the earlier incidents, Sharpton claimed police brutality and racial profiling.
In the first decade of the 2000s, Sharpton continued to emerge as an outspoken national political figure. He made headlines with his protest of the U.S. Navy's use of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, for bombing operations. He was arrested on May 1, 2001, for trespassing on the island and was sentenced to a ninety-day jail term. While incarcerated, Sharpton went on a highly publicized hunger strike.
Shortly after his release, Sharpton announced that he would form an exploratory committee to evaluate a possible bid for the U.S. presidency in 2004. On January 5, 2003, he announced his candidacy for the presidential election, as a member of the Democratic Party. Sharpton insisted that he was running a broad-based campaign and sought to remind voters of the possibility that anyone, including Sharpton himself, could win with voter support. Sharpton's ten-point platform emphasized four goals: the right to vote, the right to high-quality public education, the right to high-quality health care, and equal rights for women. Despite the efforts of his detractors to use controversial episodes from his past against him, Sharpton made candid public addresses that helped to keep his issues at the forefront of the political race well beyond his March 2004 concession.
Sharpton's autobiography, Go and Tell Pharaoh, was published in 1996, followed by Al on America, published in 2002. Sharpton has also hosted radio programs and appears frequently on television talk shows. In 2009, Sharpton received international coverage when he delivered a eulogy at the public memorial service for pop star Michael Jackson.
FRED LEE SHUTTLESWORTH (1922–)
Civil Rights Activist, Clergyman. Born March 18, 1922, in Mugler, Alabama, Fred L. Shuttlesworth was once referred to as “one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Shuttlesworth earned an associate's degree from Selma University and a bachelor's degree from Alabama State College in 1955. From his 1956 founding of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights through the historic Birmingham demonstrations of 1963, Shuttlesworth was driven by a sense of divine mission to end Jim Crow restrictions in Birmingham. His intensive civil rights campaign pitted him against the city's staunchly segregationist police commissioner, Eugene “Bull” Connor, and ultimately brought him to the side of Martin Luther King Jr. and to the White House during the Kennedy administration. Throughout these struggles, Shuttlesworth demonstrated courage and persistence in the face of peril.
When Shuttlesworth sustained only a bump on the head in the 1956 bombing of his home, members of his church called it a miracle. Shuttlesworth took it as a sign that he would be protected on the civil rights mission that had made him a target that night. Standing in front of his demolished home, Shuttlesworth vigorously renewed his commitment to integrate Birmingham's public facilities and police department. The incident transformed him, in the eyes of Birmingham's blacks, from an up-and-coming young minister to a virtual folk hero and, in the view of white Birmingham residents, from obscurity to shrewd agitator.
Shuttlesworth participated in lunch-counter sit-ins and took park in the 1961 freedom rides. When he developed Project Confrontation, Shuttlesworth invited King to Birmingham to lead the city's desegregation program through mass protest rallies and marches. Although Shuttlesworth was prepared to negotiate with white leaders for a diplomatic termination of racial segregation, he believed that they would not easily relinquish an entrenched system of apartheid that was maintained through violence. Shuttlesworth set about a course to force white authorities and business leaders to recalculate segregation's cost. Bull Connor unknowingly aided Shuttlesworth in his mission. The city's image was being destroyed as television viewers across the country saw Connor directing police to use vicious dogs to attack unarmed protesters and firefighters to use water hoses to blast protesters, including children, to the ground. The images had a profound impact on Americans' view of the civil rights struggle. Although on the national level, Shuttlesworth's efforts remained unsung, he was widely revered by both black and white Alabamians as one of the most unflinching warriors for social change.
Shuttlesworth founded the Greater New Light Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1966. In 1969, he received a law degree from Birmingham Baptist College. He established the Shuttlesworth Housing Page 461 | Top of ArticleFoundation in 1988 to assist families who otherwise may not be able purchase their own homes.
Shuttlesworth has received a multitude of awards, including: the Rosa Parks Award from SCLC (1963); the Excellence Award from PUSH (1974); the Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Award from the Progressive National Baptists (1975); the Founders Award from SCLC (1977); and President's Citizens Award (2001).
After serving as pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church for forty years, Shuttlesworth announced his retirement at the beginning of 2006 and preached his final sermon in March. In 2008, Birmingham honored him by changing the name of its airport to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.
MODJESKA MONTEITH SIMKINS (1899–1992)
Civil Rights Activist, Educator. Modjeska Monteith Simkins was a key leader in the arena of African American public health and social reform and of the civil rights movement in South Carolina. Her association with progressive and vanguard movements on the state, regional, and national levels endowed her with a point of view that surpassed the confines of provincialism in the state of her birth. Simkins served in leadership positions that as a matter of course were unavailable to women in the civil rights movement.
Mary Modjeska Monteith, the oldest of eight children, was born on December 5, 1899, to Henry Clarence and Rachel Evelyn (Hull) Monteith in Columbia, South Carolina. Reared in a family with strong work ethics, a commitment to education, and a strong religious tradition, the Monteith children were also given a sense of racial pride and taught to be of assistance to those who were less fortunate. From her mother and aunts, she learned that community service was important. They helped organize medical care for tubercular patients through their involvement with the women's auxiliary of the Masons and were active members of the early NAACP. Simkins's mother was also involved in the Niagara Movement, which was organized by W. E. B. Du Bois, and often read to her children from its journal.
Simkins attended Benedict College in her native city, and earned an A.B. degree in 1921. She later attended Columbia University in New York and Morehouse College in Atlanta, and earned a graduate degree in public health at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. After earning her degree from Benedict College, Monteith taught for a year in the college's teacher-training department. The following year, she found employment teaching mathematics in the elementary education department at Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia, a job she held until 1929. It was here that her willingness to confront authority and steadfastly hold to her beliefs emerged. In 1929, she married Andrew Whitfield Simkins, an African American businessman who owned real estate and operated a service station in Columbia. Because Columbia's public school system did not allow married women to teach, Modjeska Monteith Simkins was forced to resign from her teaching position.
Simkins entered the field of public health in 1931 when she became the director of Negro work for the South Carolina Anti-Tuberculosis Association (SCATA), and she became the state's only full-time African American health-care worker. By raising funds and creating alliances with persons of both European and African descent, she had a substantial impact on the health of African Americans in South Carolina. Simkins traveled the state educating people about immunizations, maternity and child care, and sanitation. She published a newsletter and worked with African American teachers and physicians. It was during her eleven-year tenure with the Anti-Tuberculosis Association that she became a political activist, working with the NAACP and the Civil Welfare League.
In the 1930s, Simkins became active with and served as secretary of the Civil Welfare League, an organization that set about to improve municipal conditions for Columbia's African American population. The league protested against police brutality, the denial of the right to vote, substandard housing, and a multiplicity of other discriminatory practices. As one of only two women on the state NAACP board, Simkins worked with the Columbia branch of the NAACP as publicity director. In 1939, Simkins became one of the founders of the South Carolina Conference of Branches of the NAACP. Two years later, she was elected head of the publicity committee and a member of the speakers' bureau.
Because the conventional, tradition-bound administrators of SCATA considered Simkins's political activism to be seditious, they pressured her to discontinue working with the NAACP. When she refused, they discontinued funding for her position, and in effect fired Simkins in 1942. Released from employment, the independent-minded and outspoken Simkins came into her own as an agitator for civil rights. Simkins was elected state secretary of the NAACP, a position she held until 1957.
During this period, the South Carolina NAACP undertook lawsuits on behalf of the state's African American population. The first lawsuit concerned equalization of teachers' salaries across the state. When the movement for pay equity for African American teachers was launched in 1943, Simkins was the only woman on a committee of four appointed to raise funds to support the lawsuit. Once the NAACP's Teachers Defense Fund was Page 462 | Top of Articleestablished, she served as secretary of the project. In 1944, African American teachers won their case in Charleston. The following year, Columbia teachers won a similar case.
After the NAACP won the teachers' salary cases, it focused its attention on voting rights and on dismantling South Carolina's white primary. Simkins participated in planning in-court proceedings and attended courthouse sessions. She kept attorneys abreast of points they might have missed and financially supported George Elmore, the plaintiff in the first voting-rights case, Elmore v. Rice, which was won in 1947. However, the state's Democratic Party instituted strategies to get around the ruling. In an attempt to establish full voting rights for African Americans in South Carolina, the NAACP adjudicated a second case, Brown v. Baskin, which it won in 1948. The same year that the NAACP won the Elmore v. Rice case, it filed suit against Clarendon County in an attempt to force the state to provide bus transportation for both black and white students. The suit was thrown out on a technicality, but later became a demand to end racially segregated education.
The most significant civil rights case in which Simkins played a major role was the suit brought by the NAACP to end racial segregation in South Carolina's public schools and, ultimately, the country's public schools. As secretary, Simkins helped Clarendon County's NAACP chapter president, the Reverend Joseph A. Delaine, compose the statement for the school lawsuit that became Briggs v. Elliott. This case later became one of the five desegregation suits grouped together by the U.S. Supreme Court and decided as the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. The Brown case overturned the Court's 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, nullifying its separate-but-equal doctrine and terminating racial segregation in the nation's public schools.
Simkins was active in many organizations that fought against racial discrimination, injustice, and intolerance on the local, regional, and national levels. She worked with political actions groups, such as the Columbia Women's Council and the Richland County Citizens Committee. She also participated in regional organizations such as the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the Southern Regional Council, the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, and the Southern Negro Youth Congress. On the national level, Simkins was a member of the Civil Rights Congress, the National Negro Congress, and the United Negro and Allied Veterans of America.
Considered the matriarch of South Carolina's civil rights movement, Simkins died on April 5, 1992. During her memorial service, Judge Matthew J. Perry noted that she “will be remembered as a woman who challenged everyone. She challenged the white leadership of the state to what was fair and equitable among all people and she challenged black citizens to stand up and demand their rightful place in the state and the nation.”
ADA LOIS SIPUEL-FISHER (1924–1995)
Attorney, Civil Rights Activist, Educator. Ada L. Sipuel, the plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma (1948), was born on February 8, 1924, in Chikasha, Oklahoma. The daughter of a Baptist minister and a homemaker, she was reared with financial security and imbued with a strong sense of racial equality.
Sipuel attended segregated schools in Oklahoma. After completing her secondary education as valedictorian of her high school class, Sipuel entered Langston University, an African American school founded in 1897, a year after the Plessy v. Ferguson decision that enunciated the separate-but-equal doctrine. Sipuel married Warren Fisher on March 3, 1944, while she was a student at Langston. The following year, Sipuel-Fisher graduated with highest honors. The same year, Oklahoma NAACP officials asked her brother, Lemuel, to challenge the admissions policy of Oklahoma's white law school. He refused because he did not want to delay his entrance into law school with protracted litigation, having already put off his schooling because of military responsibilities during World War II. The Sipuels then suggested their daughter Ada, who accepted the challenge.
In 1946, Sipuel-Fisher applied for admission to University of Oklahoma Law School. University officials rejected her application. While the rejection notification acknowledged that the applicant was “scholastically qualified” to attend the university's law school, it stated that she could not be admitted because of Oklahoma's racial segregation laws. Her attorneys, Amos T. Hall and Thurgood Marshall, with written confirmation that her rejection was based on race, filed suit and alleged that the state failed to provide a law school for African Americans.
The arguments of Marshall and Hall were defeated in the Oklahoma court system. Consequently, they appealed Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma to the U.S. Supreme Court. In January 1948, the Court ordered the state to provide Sipuel-Fisher a legal education equal to that received by white students under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment. To comply with the Court's mandate, the State Board of Regents established a separate law school at Langston University, which Sipuel-Fisher refused to attend. Once again, she initiated litigation. Her Page 463 | Top of Articleattorneys filed a motion challenging the proposition that the Langston Law School facilities were equal to those at the University of Oklahoma. In mid-1949, Oklahoma's legislative body amended the state's statutes to allow qualified blacks to attend white professional and graduate schools, albeit on a segregated basis, and Sipuel-Fisher was admitted to the University of Oklahoma Law School. She completed her course of study and earned her law degree in 1951. She passed the bar examination the same year and practiced law in her native city until 1954, when she joined the firm of Bruce and Rowan in Oklahoma City.
Two years later, Sipuel-Fisher left the legal profession, where she had represented clients in segregation cases, to return to her alma mater to assume the position of public relations director. Later, she returned to the University of Oklahoma and earned a master's degree in history, subsequently becoming a member of Langston University's faculty. She retired in 1987. Following her retirement, Sipuel-Fisher became corporate counsel for Automation Research Systems in Alexandria, Virginia.
Sipuel-Fisher was the recipient of numerous awards. In 1981, the Smithsonian Institution named her one of the 150 African American women who had the most impact on the course of American history. In 1991, the University of Oklahoma awarded her an honorary doctorate. The following year, the governor of Oklahoma appointed her to the governing board of the state's higher education system. Shorty before her death on October 18, 1995, Sipuel completed her autobiography, A Matter of Black and White, which was published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1996. The same year that her autobiography was published, Sipuel-Fisher was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame. In 2002, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame as well.
The struggle for African Americans to gain equal access to graduate and professional schools took on significant scope when Sipuel-Fisher applied to law school. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Sipuel case was an important link in the chain of legal precedents that resulted in the Court's unanimous ruling in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which led to the end of segregated schools across the United States.
MABEL K. STAUPERS
See chapter 27, Science and Technology.
CHARLES KENZIE STEELE (1914–1980)
Minister, Civil Rights Activist. Charles Kenzie (C.K.) Steele entered the movement for civil rights in 1956 when Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Paterson, two students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanic University (FAMU), refused to surrender their seats to a white woman on a Tallahassee bus. The only child of Henry L. and Lyde Bailor Steele, he became one of Tallahassee's most committed and prominent civil rights activists.
Ordained as a Baptist minister in 1935, Steele earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1938. While at Morehouse, Steele discerned that the struggle for social justice must be part of any African American cleric's mission, a deduction his more celebrated colleague and friend, Martin Luther King Jr., also came to while studying at Morehouse. In 1952, Steele moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where he became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church.
While serving as president of the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP, Steele also became president of the Inter Civic Council (ICC), founded in May 1956 by Steele and other ministers from the Tallahassee Ministerial Alliance to direct the a bus boycott begun by black students at FAMU. The ICC's membership included people from all occupations within the community: laborers, domestic workers, ministers, professionals, business persons, and teachers. Like the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), the ICC held meetings and organized a carpool. However, it deviated from the MIA, which sought modified seating, by demanding the full integration of passengers on Tallahassee's city buses. As ICC president, Steele's fortitude and altruistic advocacy facilitated the boycott's success. Asserting that blacks in Tallahassee would “rather walk in dignity that ride in humiliation,” he and other African Americans continued despite legal and financial impediments. Despite threats and destruction of property, little physical violence occurred in Tallahassee, due to Steele's impassioned urging of nonviolence.
Steele's activities in Tallahassee catapulted him to the forefront of the national civil rights movement. Steele adhered to the principle of nonviolence as a means for attaining civil rights for American blacks. In 1956, Steele joined King as a speaker at nonviolence workshops held at Tuskegee Institute, at the annual meeting of the National Baptist Convention, and at the MIA's Institute on Nonviolence for Social Change. A year later, he was among those who united with King in Atlanta, Georgia, for the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Steele was elected as the organization's first vice president.
Even though SCLC did not conduct a major campaign in Tallahassee, Steele backed the organization's efforts in other locations. In 1962, while King was imprisoned, Steele led demonstrations during the Albany movement. After King's assassination in 1968, Steele and the ICC organized a “Vigil for Poverty” in Tallahassee to recognize those who lacked the basic needs to sustain life.
Although not widely known outside of Tallahassee, the labors of the ICC gave hope to those engaged in the freedom struggle. Steele described this engagement as “the pain and the promise” of the civil rights movement. He fervently believed that the power of love and nonviolence would conquer violence and that the promise of the movement would be fulfilled. Diagnosed with cancer in 1977, Steele continued his ministry at Bethel Baptist Church and his activism for civil rights until his death in August 1980.
LEON H. SULLIVAN (1922–2001)
Civil Rights Activist, Organization Founder, Author. Leon Howard Sullivan was born October 16, 1922, in Charleston, West Virginia. Reared by his grandmother after his parents' divorce, Sullivan attended Charleston's segregated elementary and secondary schools. After being ordained a Baptist minister when he was seventeen years old, Sullivan earned a B.A. from West Virginia State College (1943) and an M.A. from Columbia University (1947). He also attended Union Theological Seminary (1945) and earned a doctor of divinity degree from Virginia Union University.
At age twenty-one, during the first March on Washington movement (1941–1942) organized by A. Philip Randolph, Sullivan was elected president of the South Orange Council of Churches. As president, Sullivan worked with civil rights leaders such as Bayard Rustin. From 1950 to 1988, Sullivan was the pastor of the Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia. While there, he entered into a lifelong crusade to provide better job opportunities for African Americans. Using the method of direct nonviolent action taught him by Randolph, Sullivan fought racist hiring practices through protests and economic boycotts of Philadelphia businesses that employed too few African Americans.
Sullivan's campaign experienced some success, but businesses requested workers with technical skills that few African Americans possessed. A promoter of economic self-determination, Sullivan provided job training through the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC). Opening in 1964 with money from a Ford Foundation grant, the OIC offered training in electronics, cooking, power-sewing, and drafting. By 1980, the OIC operated programs in 160 cities. Sullivan also founded Zion Investment Associates, which made seed money available for new African American business ventures. His acceptance within the business community is well symbolized by his longtime membership on the boards of General Motors and Philadelphia's Girard Bank, as well as his association with Progress Aerospace Inc. and Mellon Bank.
Author of Build, Brother, Build (1969) and other works, Sullivan was the recipient of the Russwurm Award from the National Publisher's Association (1963); the Philadelphia Fellowship Communion Award (1964); the Philadelphia Book Award (1966); the American Exemplar Medal (1969); the NAACP's Spingarn Medal (1971); and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedom Medal (1987). In 1991, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Distinguished Service Award, Côte d'Ivoire's highest honor.
In the mid-1970s, Sullivan devised the “Sullivan Principles,” which successfully encouraged American-owned companies in South Africa to hire more black workers and to treat them equitably in relation to promotions and working conditions. After retiring from the Zion Baptist Church in 1988, Sullivan was made pastor emeritus and concentrated his energies on concerns in Africa, especially South Africa's system of apartheid. He called on American corporations to sell their South African investments and petitioned the U.S. government to bring sanctions against the racially biased country. Sullivan parted company with President Ronald Reagan's “constructive engagement” policy toward South Africa and, in 1987, endorsed a policy of South African divestment.
Because of Sullivan's efforts, the departure of international businesses, and the sweeping institution of international sanctions, the shackles of South Africa's system of racial segregation were unchained. Sullivan subsequently founded the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help to combat illiteracy, famine, and joblessness in Africa and to advance the concept of African self-reliance. In April 1991, Sullivan organized and co-chaired the first African and African American Summit held at Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Six months later, he officiated at the United Nations Day for Africa, a function he inaugurated to bring attention to the issue of debt relief for sub-Saharan African countries.
Sullivan died of leukemia on April 24, 2001, in Scottsdale, Arizona. A pathfinder, Sullivan made lasting contributions to the improvement of humankind throughout the world.
MARY E. CHURCH TERRELL (1863–1954)
Organization Executive/Founder, Civil Rights Activist. Mary Eliza Church Terrell, born on September 23, 1863, in Memphis, Tennessee, was the oldest child of Robert and Louisa Ayers Church. Because of the racial climate in her native city and its deficient educational facilities for African American children, Church's parents enrolled her in the Antioch College “Model School” in Page 465 | Top of ArticleYellow Springs, Ohio. She attended the public schools in Yellow Springs and in 1879 completed her secondary education in Oberlin, Ohio. Church earned her bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in 1884. The following year, she accepted a faculty position at Wilberforce College in Xenia, Ohio. After two years at Wilberforce, Church joined the Colored High School faculty in Washington, D.C. She married Robert Heberton Terrell on October 18, 1891. Residing in Washington, the Terrells became the parents of two children, their daughter Phyllis, and Mary, an adopted daughter.
Terrell became active in the feminist movement and founded the Colored Women's League in 1892. Later, this organization merged with the Federation of Afro-American Women and became the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). Organized in 1896, she was elected its first president. In 1895, Terrell was appointed to the school board in the District of Columbia and served until 1901. She was the first woman of color to serve on such a board. Reappointed in 1906, she held the position for another five years.
By 1901, Terrell operated as a leader outside the sphere of women's organizations. She wrote numerous articles denouncing racial segregation. Writing under the pseudonym Euphemia Kirk, which she soon discarded, Terrell's treatises were covered in the national and international media. Terrell sought redress for the three companies of African American soldiers dismissed after the 1906 outbreak of racial violence in Brownsville, Texas. In 1909, she was one of two African American women who signed the “Call” for the organizational meeting of the NAACP. During the women's suffrage movement, Terrell worked with other women for the 1920 ratification of the U.S. Constitution's Nineteenth Amendment. In 1940, she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World.
After World War II, Terrell aggressively fought racial discrimination. In 1950, she filed suit against Thompson's Restaurant in Washington, D.C., for not adhering to the city's 1872 and 1873 public accommodation laws. As chair of the Coordinating Committee for the Enforcement of the District of Columbia Antidiscrimination Laws, Terrell focused on other segregated facilities. She led the picket lines when she was eighty-nine years old. On June 8, 1953, the Supreme Court ruled Washington's segregated eating facilities unconstitutional in District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson. Terrell fought for more than sixty-six years for gender and racial equality. She died on July 24, 1954, two months after the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unlawful in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
WILLIAM M. TROTTER (1872–1934)
Organization Executive/Founder, Civil Rights Activist, Publisher. William Monroe Trotter was born to James Monroe and Virginia Isaacs Trotter on April 7, 1872, near Chillico the, Ohio. Reared in predominantly white, suburban Hyde Park near Boston, he excelled academically at Hyde Park Grammar School and Hyde Park High School. In 1891, Trotter entered Harvard, where he became the university's first African American Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated magna cum laude in 1895 with a B.A. degree. In 1899, after working for various employers, Trotter started his business career as an insurance agent and mortgage negotiator. Two years later, he, along with William H. Scott and George W. Forbes, founded the Guardian. A militant newspaper, it addressed the needs and aspirations of African Americans and served as an organ against racial discrimination. The same year that he cofounded the newspaper, Trotter married Geraldine Louise Pindell, who assisted in publishing the Guardian.
An ideological opponent of the “Wizard of Tuskegee,” in 1903 Trotter deliberately disrupted a meeting in Boston at which Booker T. Washington was advocating support of segregation. Subsequently, in 1905, Trotter joined W. E. B. Du Bois in founding the Niagara Movement. However, he refused to move with Du Bois into the NAACP because he felt it would be too moderate. Neither could he accept the financial and leadership role assumed by whites. Instead, Trotter formed the Negro Equal Rights League. In protest against the segregation policies of President Woodrow Wilson, Trotter led a delegation to the White House to meet with Wilson in 1914. After a heated debate between Trotter and the president, Wilson ordered the group to leave. The following year, he led demonstrations against the showing of D. W. Griffith's racist film The Birth of a Nation, which glorified the Ku Klux Klan. In 1919, Trotter appeared at the Paris Peace Conference in an unsuccessful effort to convince delegates to outlaw racial discrimination. Although the State Department had denied him a passport to attend the conference, he reached Paris by working as a cook on a ship.
Because of his strident unwillingness to work with established groups, chroniclers of the civil rights movement have been slow to recognize Trotter. However, many of his methods were adopted in the struggle for racial equality and justice in the late 1950s and 1960s, notably his use of nonviolent protest. Arrested numerous times, Trotter's purpose for consistent direct protest was to eradicate the virulent malevolence of racial segregation.
C. T. VIVIAN (1924–)
Minister, Civil Rights Activist, Author. The Reverend Cordy Tindell Vivian, a veteran of the civil rights movement, began his pilgrimage as a youth struggling to dismantle racial segregation. Cordy Tindell Vivian, better known as C. T., was born on July 28, 1924, in Boonville, Missouri, the only child of Robert and Euzetta Tindell Vivian. The Great Depression caused his mother and grandmother to lose everything, including their marriages. Because they wanted C. T. to have the best education possible, they moved to Macomb, Illinois. Macomb's school system was desegregated, and the city was home to Western Illinois University. Vivian received his primary education at Lincoln Grade School, where he first realized his leadership abilities and began to understand the power of nonviolence. Vivian then entered Edison Junior High School, and later Macomb High School, where he became a student leader. As a teenager, Vivian attended the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he taught in the Sunday School and served as president of the youth group. He graduated from Macomb High School in 1942, and entered Western Illinois University.
While Vivian was a student at Western Illinois University, he became disturbed by a number of issues, including racism. In the mid-1940s, he left the university and moved to Peoria, where he worked for the Carver Community Center as assistant boys' director. In 1947, Vivian participated in the first sit-ins in Peoria. The northern states practiced segregation by custom, in contrast to the South, where segregation was codified by law. In an effort to right Peoria's customs, Vivian became involved with an integrated group of individuals interested in opening the city's restaurants and lunch counters to all people, regardless of race.
In 1954, while working at Foster and Gallagher Mail Order Company, Vivian acknowledged his call to the ministry. Later that year, he gave his first sermon at Mount Zion Baptist Church. In 1955, Vivian moved to Nashville and entered American Baptist Theological Seminary, and later became the pastor of the First Community Church. In addition to his ministerial and academic responsibilities, Vivian worked as an editor for the National Baptist Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA. As the civil rights movement dawned, Vivian found himself in a continuous tug-of-war with the more conventional editors of the publishing board, who wanted limited coverage of the new racial protests and the rise of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The conflict led to a philosophical fissure between the board and Vivian, which caused him to leave.
In the late fall of 1956, Vivian boarded a Nashville Transit Authority bus and seated himself near the front of the half-filled vehicle. The driver ordered him to the rear. A heated debate ensued, and Vivian refused to comply with the driver's demands. The bus driver demanded that the other passengers vacate the bus, and he immediately drove Vivian to police headquarters. Earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Gayle v. Browder, had ruled in favor of Montgomery, Alabama, plaintiffs in their efforts to desegregate intrastate transportation. Notwithstanding the ruling, Nashville's law enforcement officials did not know the city's policy on segregation in buses. After calling city hall, they learned that the city was in the process of ending segregated seating on public conveyances.
In the late 1950s, Vivian joined other ministers under the leadership of the Reverend Kelly Miller Smith Sr. and established the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference (NCLC). During NCLC's organizational meeting, Vivian was elected vice president. He met the Reverend James Lawson, who had arrived in Nashville in 1958, and others, who ultimately brought down Nashville's walls of racial segregation. As NCLC vice president, Vivian's responsibilities included overseeing the organization's direct-action component. Lawson became a member of and served as chair of NCLC's Action Committee. After formulating a plan to conduct workshops on the Gandhian method of protest, NCLC leaders and students tested Nashville's policy of racial segregation in November and December of 1959. Because the news media ignored Nashville's sit-in movement, it went largely unnoticed and was relegated to a footnote by the February 1, 1960, Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-in. Twelve days after the Greensboro sit-in, Nashville students began their movement in earnest. Two months later, NCLC and the Nashville Student Committee, with the help of Fisk University economics professor Vivian Henderson, initiated an economic withdrawal that all but paralyzed Nashville's retail district.
On April 19, with the economic boycott in full swing, someone tossed dynamite into the residence of Z. Alexander Looby, a well-known Nashville civil rights attorney. Although Looby and his wife escaped with minor injuries, leaders in Nashville's black community organized a mass protest march to Mayor Ben West's downtown office. Knowledgeable about New York's silent march against lynching in the early 1900s, Vivian demanded that the silent tactic be the march's modus operandi. As some four thousands persons of both races watched, the marchers walked in silence toward the mayor's office. When West came out to meet with them, Vivian read a prepared speech critical of the mayor's leadership. The mayor became angry, and the two men argued heatedly. When Vivian asked West “if he thought segregation was moral,” the mayor answered, “No.” At Page 467 | Top of Articlethat point, the leaders of the march asked the mayor to use the standing of his office to stop racial segregation. Without delay, he appealed to all citizens to end discrimination and indicated that he believed the city's lunch counters should be desegregated. On May 10, 1960, the city of Nashville began desegregating its lunch counters.
In 1961, Vivian joined SNCC activists in the freedom rides. Earlier, because of threats of violence, CORE officials had halted its freedom ride from Washington, D.C., to Montgomery. Vivian later took part in a number of key civil rights struggles, including those in Albany, Georgia (1961); Birmingham, Alabama (1962); St. Augustine, Florida (1964); and Selma, Alabama (1965). In 1963, King assigned Vivian to SCLC's executive staff and named him national director of affiliates. He became the consultant to all SCLC organizations on issues relating to voter registration, consumer actions, nonviolent training, direct action, human relations, and community development. Two years later, on the courthouse steps in Selma, Alabama, Vivian challenged Sheriff Jim Clark during a voter-registration drive, and the sheriff assaulted him.
In 1970, Vivian published one of the first monographs on the civil rights movement: Black Power and the American Myth. Several television documentaries about the civil rights era focused on Vivian as an activist, analyst, and strategist. He was featured in Eyes on the Prize and The Healing Ministry of Dr. C. T. Vivian, both of which aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
PERRY E. WALLACE JR. (1948–)
Attorney, Educator, Collegiate Basketball Player. Attorney, law professor, and Southeastern Conference (SEC) basketball pioneer Perry Eugene Wallace was the first African American to participate in varsity sports at Vanderbilt University and in SEC basketball. Wallace is a native of Nashville, Tennessee, and the youngest of six children born to Hattie Haynes Wallace and Perry E. Wallace Sr. A graduate of Pearl High School in Nashville, he played center on Pearl's basketball team, where he was known for his slam dunks and referred to as “king of the boards.”
More than eighty colleges and universities recruited Wallace, who won All-Metro, All-State, and All-American Page 468 | Top of Articlehonors. The class valedictorian, he signed with Vanderbilt University in May 1966, which six years earlier, during the Nashville sit-in movement, had expelled the Reverend James Lawson, a student at Vanderbilt's Divinity School. Entering Vanderbilt on an athletic scholarship, Wallace played on the school's freshmen squad because the National Collegiate Athletic Association's regulations barred freshmen from participating on the varsity team. Fellow teammate Godfrey Dillard, an African American from Detroit, Michigan, joined Wallace.
During their first year, Wallace and Dillard encountered segregation at Mississippi State, the University of Tennessee, and Auburn University. Supporting each other, they remained silent about the threats they received. Later, Dillard suffered an injury that caused him to forgo varsity ball. On December 2, 1967, Wallace became the first African American student athlete to compete in the SEC. He experienced racism at its worst, particularly at SEC schools in Alabama and Mississippi. Cheerleaders led a barrage of harsh and insulting racist cheers. There were threats of beatings, castration, and lynching. He endured physical abuse on the court that referees refused to accept as fouls. Malevolent crowds abused him verbally and threatened Wallace physically throughout his SEC career. He never displayed antipathy against players who spitefully fouled him. He realized that any perceived transgression on his part could decelerate the advancement of desegregation in the SEC. He chose to play proficiently, with precision, passion, and adroitness, to beat his opponents, on and off the court.
Quietly taking the struggles of the civil rights movement to the basketball court, as Jackie Robinson did on the baseball field, Wallace played a crucial role in desegregating college basketball. In 1970, the first season after he graduated, the universities of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky desegregated their varsity teams; within the next decade, black athletes dominated SEC teams.
The first African American to complete four years in the SEC, Wallace ended his tenure as captain of the Vanderbilt varsity team and second-team All SEC. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering and engineering mathematics from the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering in 1970, Wallace earned his law degree from Columbia University (1975), where he was awarded the Charles Evans Hughes Fellowship. During the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, Wallace served as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Wallace has received numerous accolades, including induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and he has been honored as an SEC Living Legend. In 2004, Vanderbilt University retired Wallace's jersey, making him only the third athlete in the school's history to receive this honor. He was among the players and coaches featured in the documentary film Black Magic (aired on ESPN in 2008), which explored the collision of sports and America's racial turbulence during the modern civil rights era.
Wallace has been a professor of law at American University's Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., since 1991. He is director of the JD/MBA Joint Degree Program, and specializes in environmental law, corporate law, and finance.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON (1856–1915)
Lecturer, Civil Rights Activist, Educator, Organization Executive/Founder, Author. Booker Taliaferro Washington was born enslaved in Hale's Ford, Virginia, on April 5, 1856, to Jane Ferguson, a bonded woman. The first nine years of Washington's life were spent in bondage on the farm of James Burroughs, his place of his birth. After emancipation, his family was so poor that he worked in salt furnaces and coal mines from age nine. While attending school sporadically in Malden, West Virginia, Booker adopted the surname Washington. Always an intelligent and curious child, he yearned for an education and was frustrated when he could not receive one locally. When he was sixteen years old, he was allowed to quit work to go to school. His family had no money to help him, so he walked two hundred miles to attend the Hampton Institute in Virginia and paid his tuition and board there by working as a janitor.
Dedicating himself to the idea that education would raise his people to equality in the United States, Washington became a teacher. He first taught in his hometown, then at the Hampton Institute, and in 1881 he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. As head of the institute, he traveled the country constantly to raise funds from both African Americans and whites. He soon became a well-known speaker.
In 1895, Washington was asked to speak at the opening of the Cotton States Exposition, an unprecedented honor for an African American man. His “Atlanta Compromise” speech explained his major thesis, that African Americans could secure their constitutional rights through their own economic and moral advancement rather than through legal and political changes. Although his conciliatory stand angered some African Americans who feared it would encourage the foes of equal rights, whites approved of his views. His major achievement, however, was to win over diverse elements among southern whites, without whose support the programs he envisioned and brought into being would have Page 469 | Top of Articlebeen impossible. Washington penned two autobiographies, The Story of My Life and Work (1900) and Up from Slavery (1901).
In addition to Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), which still educates many today, Washington instituted a variety of programs for rural extension work and helped to establish the National Negro Business League. Shortly after the election of President William McKinley in 1896, a movement was set in motion to name Washington to a cabinet post, but he withdrew his name from consideration, preferring to work outside the political arena. One of the most significant leaders among African Americans in the early twentieth century, Booker T. Washington died on November 14, 1915.
IDA B. WELLS-BARNETT (1862–1931)
Journalist, Lecturer, Civil Rights Activist, Feminist. The oldest of James and Elizabeth Warenton Wells's eight children, Wells-Barnett was born enslaved during the Civil War in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862. After the yellow fever epidemic of 1878 claimed the lives of her parents and youngest brother, Wells-Barnett assumed responsibility for her siblings when she was sixteen years old. Leaving Shaw University (now Rust College) and passing a teachers' examination, she briefly taught in rural Mississippi to support her family. Wells-Barnett then moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and taught in the county and city public schools.
A train ride from Memphis to Woodstock was the beginning of Wells-Barnett's lifelong public campaign against the injustices faced by African Americans throughout the South. In 1884, after being forcibly removed from the first-class ladies' coach, she filed suit against the Chesapeake, Ohio, and Southwestern Railroad. Although she won in the Memphis Circuit Court, the state's supreme court reversed the lower court's decision in 1887 because the railroad company had satisfied Tennessee's 1881 statutory requirements to provide separate-but-equal accommodations.
Wells-Barnett published accounts of her experience in local African American newspapers and wrote for the African American press throughout the country. In 1889, she was elected secretary of the Afro-American Press Association. Wells-Barnett's editorials critical of the Memphis Board of Education led to her dismissal as teacher in 1891. Afterward, she became a full-time journalist and editor. The March 9, 1892, lynching of three African American male proprietors of the People's Grocery Store in Memphis caused Wells-Barnett to declare journalistic war on lynching. When her protest writings outraged white men in the South, a mob destroyed her newspaper office on May 27, 1892, and she was banished from the region.
Wells-Barnett moved to New York and continued her struggle against racial injustice and lynching as a columnist for the New York Age, edited by T. Thomas Fortune. On June 7, 1892, the New York Age published her detailed analysis of lynching, refuting the myth that, by killing African American men, white men intended to shield white women against rape. Her detailed statistics and findings formed the basis of two pamphlets, Southern Horrors (1892) and A Red Record (1895). Lecturing in Great Britain in 1893 and 1894, Wells-Barnett internationalized her antilynching campaign.
In 1893, Wells-Barnett focused her attention on the exclusion of African Americans from the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Working with Frederick Douglass, Ferdinand Lee Barnett, and I. Garland Penn, Wells-Barnett co wrote an eighty-onepage pamphlet titled The Reason Why the Colored Page 470 | Top of ArticleAmerican Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition: The Afro-American's Contribution to Columbian Literature. Later in the year, she moved to Chicago and began working for the Chicago Conservator, the first African American newspaper in the city, founded by Ferdinand Barnett.
On June 27, 1895, Ida B. Wells-Barnett married Ferdinand Barnett, and they became the parents of four children. Domesticity did not distract Wells-Barnett from her crusade. Her militant views and support of Marcus Garvey caused her to be branded a radical by the U.S. Secret Service. Wells-Barnett continued to write articles and participate in local and national affairs. In 1898, she and others met with President William McKinley to seek redress for the lynching of an African American postmaster in South Carolina. They also urged passage of a federal antilynching bill.
Wells-Barnett was one of two African American women who signed the “Call” for a conference on the Negro. Convening on May 31, 1909, the conference led to the formation of the NAACP.
A champion of women's rights, Wells-Barnett was one of the founders of the National Association of Colored Women. Believing in the power of the ballot box, she founded the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago. As a delegate to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's parade in Washington, D.C., Wells-Barnett refused to march in the back of the procession. She desegregated the parade by joining the Illinois delegation. Wells-Barnett actively campaigned for Oscar DePriest, the first African American elected as an alderman in Chicago. In 1930, she made an unsuccessful bid for an Illinois State Senate seat.
With a passion for justice, Ida B. Wells-Barnett fought for civil and human rights. One of the most important persons of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, she actively participated in the struggle from the 1890s until her death on March 25, 1931.
See chapter 11, Politics.
FEDERAL AND STATE CIVIL RIGHTS AGENCIES
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
624 9th St. NW
Washington, DC 20425
Telephone: (202) 376-7700
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
131 M St. NE
Washington, DC 20507
Telephone: (202) 663-4900
Alabama Attorney General's Office
500 Dexter Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36130
Telephone: (334) 242-7300
Alaska Human Rights Commission
800 A St., Ste. 204
Anchorage, AK 99501-3669
Telephone: (907) 274-4692
Arizona Attorney General's Office
1275 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Telephone: (602) 542-5025
Arkansas Attorney General's Office
323 Center St., Ste. 200
Little Rock, AR 72201
Telephone: (501) 682-2007
California Attorney General
1300 I St., Ste. 1101
PO Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
Telephone: (916) 322-3360
California Fair Employment and Housing Commission
455 Golden Gate Ave., Ste 10600
San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: (415) 557-2325
Colorado Attorney General's Office
1525 Sherman St., 7th Fl.
Denver, CO 80203
Telephone: (303) 866-4500
Connecticut Attorney General's Office
55 Elm St.
Hartford, CT 06106
Telephone: (860) 808-5318
Delaware Attorney General's Office
Carvel State Office Bldg., 820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE 19801
Telephone: (302) 577-8400
Florida Attorney General's Office
The Capitol, PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Telephone: (850) 414-3300
Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SE, Ste 1002,
Atlanta, GA 30334
Telephone: (404) 656-1736
Hawaii Attorney General's Office
425 Queen St.
Honolulu, HI 96813
Telephone: (808) 586-1500
Idaho Commission on Human Rights
1109 Main St., Ste 450
Boise, ID 83720-0040
Telephone: (208) 334-2873
Illinois Department of Human Rights
James R. Thompson Ctr., 100 W. Randolph St., Ste. 10-100
Chicago, IL 60601
Telephone: (312) 814-6200
Indiana Civil Rights Commission
Indiana Government Center North, 100 N. Senate Ave.,
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2211
Telephone: (317) 232-2600
Iowa Department of Human Rights
Lucas State Office Bldg., 321 E. 12th St.
Des Moines, IA 50319
Telephone: (515) 242-5655
Kansas Human Rights Commission
Landon State Office Bldg., 900 SW Jackson St.,
Topeka, KS 66612-2818
Telephone: (785) 296-3206
Kentucky Commission on Human Rights
332 W. Broadway, 7th Fl.
Louisville, KY 40202
Telephone: (502) 595-4024
Louisiana Attorney General's Office
1885 N. 3rd St.
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Telephone: (225) 326-6079
Maine Human Rights Commission
51 State House Sta.
Augusta, ME 04330
Telephone: (207) 624-6050
Maryland Commission on Human Relations
6 Saint Paul St., Ste. 900
Baltimore, MD 21202
Telephone: (410) 767-8600
Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
One Ashburton Place, Rm. 2010
Boston, MA 02108-1698
Telephone: (617) 727-2200
Michigan Attorney General's Office
G. Mennen Williams Bldg., 7th Fl., 525 W. Ottawa St.
PO Box 30212
Lansing, MI 48909
Telephone: (517) 373-1110
Michigan Department of Civil Rights
Capitol Tower Bldg., 110 W. Michigan Avenue,
Lansing, MI 48933
Telephone: (517) 335-3165
Minnesota Department of Human Rights
190 E. 5th St., Ste. 700
St. Paul, MN 55101
Telephone: (651) 296-5663
Mississippi Attorney General's Office
Walter Sillers Bldg., 550 High St., Ste
1200 Jackson, MS 39201
Telephone: (601) 359-3680
Missouri Commission on Human Rights
3315 W. Truman Blvd., PO Box 1129
Jefferson City, MO 65102-1129
Telephone: (573) 751-3325
Montana Attorney General's Office
Justice Bldg., 215 N. Sanders, PO Box 201401
Helena, MT 59620-1401
Telephone: (406) 444-2026
Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission
Nebraska State Office Bldg., 301 Centennial Mall S.,5th Fl.
PO Box 94934
Lincoln, NE 68509-4934
Telephone: (402) 471-2024
Nevada Equal Rights Commission
555 E. Washington Ave., Ste 4000
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Telephone: (702) 486-7161
New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights
2 Chenell Dr., No. 2
Concord, NH 03301-8501
Telephone: (603) 271-2767
New Jersey Attorney General's Office
Justice Complex, 25 Market St.
PO Box 080
Trenton, NJ 08625-0080
Telephone: (609) 292-4925
New Mexico Department of Work Force Solutions
Human Rights Division, 401 Broadway NE
Albuquerque, NM 87102
Telephone: (800) 841-4000
New York State Division of Human Rights
One Fordham Plz., 4th Fl.
Bronx, NY 10458
Telephone: (718) 741-8400
North Carolina Human Relations Commission
217 W. Jones St., Ste 2109
Raleigh, NC 27601
Telephone: (919) 807-4420
North Dakota Attorney General's Office
State Capitol, 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Dept. 125
Bismarck, ND 58505-0040
Telephone: (701) 328-2210
Ohio Civil Rights Commission
Rhodes State Office Twr., 30 E. Broad St., 5th Fl.
Columbus, OH 43215
Telephone: (614) 466-2785
Oklahoma Human Rights Commission
Jim Thorpe Bldg., 2101 N. Lincoln Blvd., Rm. 480
Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4904
Telephone: (405) 521-2360
Oregon Attorney General's Office
Justice Bldg., 1162 Court St. NE
Salem, OR 97310-4096
Telephone: (503) 378-4400
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
301 Chestnut St., Ste. 300
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Telephone: (717) 787-4410
Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights
180 Westminster St., 3rd Fl.
Providence, RI 02903
Telephone: (401) 222-2661
South Carolina Human Affairs Commission
2611 Forest Dr., Ste. 200
PO Box 4490
Columbia, SC 29204
Telephone: (803) 737-7800
South Dakota Attorney General's Office
1302 E. Highway 14, Ste. 1
Pierre, SD 57501-8501
Telephone: (605) 773-3215
Tennessee Human Rights Commission
710 James Robertson Pky., Ste. 100
Nashville, TN 37243-1219
Telephone: (615) 741-5825
Texas Attorney General's Office
300 W. 15th St.
Austin, TX 78701
Telephone: (512) 463-2100
Utah Attorney General's Office
Utah State Capitol Complex, 350 N. State St., Ste 230
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2320
Telephone: (801) 366-0260
Vermont Attorney General's Office
Pavilion Office Bldg., 109 State St.
Montpelier, VT 05609-1001
Telephone: (802) 828-3171
Virginia Human Rights Council
1220 Bank St., Jefferson Bldg, 3rd Fl.
Richmond, VA 23219
Telephone: (804) 225-2292
Washington State Human Rights Commission
711 S. Capitol Way, Ste. 402
PO Box 42490
Olympia, WA 98504-2490
Telephone: (360) 753-6770
West Virginia Human Rights Commission
1321 Plaza E., Rm. 108A
Charleston, WV 25301-1400
Telephone: (304) 558-2616
Wisconsin Attorney General's Office
PO Box 7857
Madison, WI 53707-7857
Telephone: (608) 266-1221
Wyoming Attorney General's Office
123 Capitol Bldg., 200 W. 24th St.
Cheyenne, WY 82002
Telephone: (307) 777-7841
Gale Document Number: GALE|CX1911700016