… especially south of the border. Here’s some background first [4th bit].
And now for some more….
- Rosa Parks and Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.–In the struggle for equal rights for non-whites, action in the 1960s–‘primarily boycotts, sit-ins, Freedom Rides, marches and similar tactics that relied on mass mobilization, nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience’–replaced litigation. Rosa Parks studied nonviolent civil disobedience at the Highlander Folk School and then on Dec 1, 1955, refused to give up her seat on a bus leading to her arrest, a simple action that started what the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott. A lot of preparation and talk led to that and subsequent actions. For example, ‘On November 27, 1955, Rosa Parks attended a mass meeting…. The discussions concerned actions blacks could take to work for their rights.’ In early December, members of the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association elected as their president newcomer Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.’ King, inspired by Gandhi, would become a leader of marches and advocate of nonviolent civil disobedience actions. He wrote in Stride Toward Freedom  that the ‘arrest was the catalyst rather than the cause of the protest: “The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices…. Actually, no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, ‘I can take it no longer.’ ” ‘ image from wikipedia.
- The SCLC–Montgomery made King ‘a national figure. His eloquent appeals to Christian brotherhood and American idealism created a positive impression on people both inside and outside the South.’ In 1957 King and others formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which ‘made non-violence both its central tenet and its primary method of confronting racism. In 1959 … the first Citizenship Schools started, in South Carolina’s Sea Islands. They taught literacy to enable blacks to pass voting tests. The program was an enormous success and tripled the number of black voters on Johns Island. SCLC took over the program and duplicated its results elsewhere.’ image from wikipedia.
- Desegregation–Meanwhile, schools in the South were desegregated, sometimes forcibly. In 1954, segregated education was declared unconstitutional . ‘Integration in Greensboro [South Carolina] occurred rather peacefully compared to that of other Southern states such as Alabama, Arkansas, and Virginia where “massive resistance” took hold.’ In Little Rock, Arkansas, Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard. ‘Faubus then took his stand against integration and against the Federal court order that required it. Faubus’ order received the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was determined to enforce the orders of the Federal courts…. Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and ordered them to return to their barracks. Eisenhower then deployed elements of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect the students. The students were able to attend high school. They had to pass through a gauntlet of spitting, jeering whites to arrive at school on their first day, and to put up with harassment from fellow students for the rest of the year. Although federal troops escorted the students between classes, the students were still teased and even attacked by white students when the soldiers were not around.’ image from wikipedia.
- Sit-ins–Sit-ins started at drug stores in Kansas and Oklahoma in 1958. ‘Protesters [in North Carolina] were encouraged to dress professionally, to sit quietly, and to occupy every other stool so that potential white sympathizers could join in. The sit-in soon inspired other sit-ins in Richmond, Virginia, Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia…. Demonstrators focused not only on lunch counters but also on parks, beaches, libraries, theaters, museums, and other public places. Upon being arrested, student demonstrators made “jail-no-bail” pledges, to call attention to their cause and to reverse the cost of protest, thereby saddling their jailers with the financial burden of prison space and food. In April, 1960 activists who had led these sit-ins held a conference at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina that led to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC took these tactics of nonviolent confrontation further, to the freedom rides.’ image from tumblr.com.
- Freedom Rides–The Freedom Rides of 1961 were violent–beatings, broken teeth, stitches, ‘wrist breakers’, filthy confinement, even a bombing–‘journeys by Civil Rights activists on interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision … that ended segregation for passengers engaged in interstate travel…. During the first and subsequent Freedom Rides, activists traveled through the Deep South to integrate seating patterns and desegregate bus terminals, including restrooms and water fountains. That proved to be a dangerous mission. In Anniston, Alabama, one bus was firebombed, forcing its passengers to flee for their lives.’ image from wikipedia.
- Voter Registration and Public University Desegregation–Even more violent was voter registration and public university desegregation, with false ‘arrests, beatings, shootings, arson, and murder’, as well as generations of ‘intent to stop blacks from voting [that] had become part of the culture of white supremacy’. When voting, there were ‘poll taxes, residency requirements, and literacy tests’ with ‘standards that even highly educated people could not meet. In addition, employers fired blacks who tried to register and landlords evicted them from their homes…. After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protecting and facilitating voter registration despite state barriers became the main effort of the movement. It resulted in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.’ image from wikipedia.
- Major Campaigns and Marches–Campaigns in Albany, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama–where King wrote ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail [which I first studied as an example of good writing] on the margins of a newspaper, since he had not been allowed any writing paper while held in solitary confinement’–led to the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug 28, 1963, at which King spoke. ‘At the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme of “I have a dream”, possibly prompted by Mahalia Jackson’s cry: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” In this part of the speech … King described his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred.’ image from wikipedia.
- Television and Politics–Television had a huge impact in garnering public sympathy. Although Southern Democrats tended to favour segregation, federally, ‘the Kennedy administration appeared sincerely committed to passing the bill, [but] it was not clear that it had the votes in Congress to do it. However when President Kennedy was assassinated, … Johnson decided to use his influence in Congress to bring about much of Kennedy’s legislative agenda. In St. Augustine, Fla, ‘the arrest of Mrs. Peabody, the 72 year old mother of the governor of Massachusetts, for attempting to eat at the segregated Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge in an integrated group, made front page news across the country, and brought the civil rights movement in St. Augustine to the attention of the world.’ Though Freedom Summer failed to register many voters in Mississippi, 1964, ‘it had a significant effect on the course of the Civil Rights Movement. It helped break down the decades of people’s isolation and repression that were the foundation of the Jim Crow system. Before Freedom Summer, the national news media had paid little attention to the persecution of black voters in the Deep South and the dangers endured by black civil rights workers. The progression of events throughout the South increased media attention to Mississippi.’ Freedom Summer led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. image from parkmangenealogy.wordpress.com.
- Civil Rights Act–After 54 days of filibuster, ‘Johnson got a bill through the Congress. On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in employment practices’, ‘in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (known as “public accommodations”).’ ‘The bill authorized the Attorney General to file lawsuits to enforce the new law. The law also nullified state and local laws that required such discrimination.’
- Voting Rights Act–Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6, suspending poll taxes, literacy tests, and other subjective voter tests. ‘The act had an immediate and positive impact for African Americans. Within months of its passage, 250,000 new black voters had been registered, one third of them by federal examiners. Within four years, voter registration in the South had more than doubled…. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, only about 100 African Americans held elective office, all in northern states of the U.S. By 1989, there were more than 7,200 African Americans in office, including more than 4,800 in the South. Nearly every Black Belt county (where populations were majority black) in Alabama had a black sheriff. Southern blacks held top positions in city, county, and state governments.’
- Protest Songs And Political Dialogue–‘It was at Robert Kennedy’s constant insistence … that King came to recognize the fundamental nature of electoral reform and suffrage—the need for black Americans to actively engage not only protest but political dialogue at the highest levels. In time the president gained King’s respect and trust, via the frank dialogue and efforts of the Attorney-General [Robert Kennedy]. Robert Kennedy became very much his brother’s key advisor on matters of racial equality.’ However, King called ‘for peace negotiations and a halt to the bombing of Vietnam. He moved further left in the following years, speaking of the need for economic justice and thoroughgoing changes in American society. He believed change was needed beyond the civil rights gained by the movement.’
- We Shall Overcome–‘Seeger was one of the folksingers most responsible for popularizing the spiritual “We Shall Overcome” … that became the acknowledged anthem of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement, soon after folk singer and activist Guy Carawan introduced it at the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. In the PBS “American Masters” episode Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, Seeger states it was he who changed the lyric from the traditional “We will overcome” to the more singable “We shall overcome”.’ [btw, today, 2013-05-03, is Seeger’s birthday.]
- Race Riots–African Americans moved north and west in search of better jobs, better education, and better laws, but ‘often found segregation that existed in fact rather than in law.’ Initially, police forces were predominantly White, even in mostly Black neighbourhoods. Also, things had changed: urban de-industrialization saw declines in ‘railroads and meatpacking, steel industry and car industry, markedly reduced working-class jobs, which had earlier provided middle-class incomes. As the last population to enter the industrial job market, blacks were disadvantaged by its collapse. At the same time, investment in highways and private development of suburbs in the postwar years had drawn many ethnic whites out of the cities to newer housing in expanding suburbs. Urban blacks who did not follow the middle class out of the cities became concentrated in the older housing of inner-city neighborhoods, among the poorest in most major cities.’ These factors led to race riots, notably in Harlem (1964) and Watts (1965). ‘In April 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, rioting broke out in cities across the country….. The conditions that led to frequent rioting in the late 1960s have receded, but not all the problems have been solved…. Civil unrest broke out in Miami in 1980, in Los Angeles in 1992, and in Cincinnati in 2001. See also: Mass racial violence in the United States‘.
- Black Power, the Black Panther Party, and Malcolm X–While King advocated a non-violent response to groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael–‘one of the earliest and most articulate spokespersons for what became known as the “Black Power” movement after he used that slogan, coined by activist and organizer Willie Ricks‘–in 1966 ‘began urging African American communities to confront the Ku Klux Klan armed and ready for battle. He felt it was the only way to ever rid the communities of the terror caused by the Klan.’ Furthermore, ‘several people engaging in the Black Power movement started to gain more of a sense in black pride and identity as well. In gaining more of a sense of a cultural identity, several blacks demanded that whites no longer refer to them as “Negroes” but as “Afro-Americans.” … Black Power was made most public, however, by the Black Panther Party, which … followed the ideology of Malcolm X, a former member of the Nation of Islam, using a “by-any-means necessary” approach to stopping inequality.’ … ‘King was not comfortable with the “Black Power” slogan, which sounded too much like black nationalism to him. SNCC activists, in the meantime, began embracing the “right to self-defense” in response to attacks from white authorities, and booed King for continuing to advocate non-violence. When King was murdered in 1968, Stokely Carmichael stated that whites murdered the one person who would prevent rampant rioting and that blacks would burn every major city to the ground. In every major city from Boston to San Francisco, racial riots broke out in the black community following King’s death and as a result, “White Flight” occurred from several cities leaving Blacks in a dilapidated and nearly unrepairable city.’
- Prison Reform–Systemic racism sends disproportionally more African Americans to jail. ‘Eldridge Cleaver’s book Soul on Ice was written from his experiences in the California correctional system; it contributed to black militancy.‘ In the early ssixties, ‘conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, then known as Parchman Farm, became part of the public discussion of civil rights after activists were imprisoned there…. In 1970 the civil rights lawyer Roy Haber began taking statements from inmates. He collected 50 pages of details of murders, rapes, beatings and other abuses suffered by the inmates from 1969 to 1971 at Mississippi State Penitentiary. In a landmark case known as Gates v. Collier (1972), four inmates represented by Haber sued the superintendent of Parchman Farm for violating their rights under the United States Constitution…. The prison was renovated in 1972 after the scathing ruling by Judge Keady; he wrote that the prison was an affront to “modern standards of decency.” Among other reforms, the accommodations were made fit for human habitation. The system of “trusties” was abolished. (The prison had armed lifers with rifles and given them authority to oversee and guard other inmates, which led to many abuses and murders.)’
- The Cold War–‘There was an international context for the actions of the U.S. Federal government during these years. It had stature to maintain in Europe and a need to appeal to the people in the Third World. In Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, the historian Mary L. Dudziak argued that Communists critical of the United States criticized the nation for its hypocrisy in portraying itself as the “leader of the free world,” when so many of its citizens were subjected to severe racial discrimination and violence. She argued that this was a major factor in the government moving to support civil rights legislation.’
In 1966 SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael began urging African American communities to confront the Ku Klux Klan armed and ready for battle. He felt it was the only way to ever rid the communities of the terror caused by the Klan.
Several people engaging in the Black Power movement started to gain more of a sense in black pride and identity as well. In gaining more of a sense of a cultural identity, several blacks demanded that whites no longer refer to them as “Negroes” but as “Afro-Americans.” Up until the mid-1960s, blacks had dressed similarly to whites and straightened their hair. As a part of gaining a unique identity, blacks started to wear loosely fit dashikis and had started to grow their hair out as a natural afro. The afro, sometimes nicknamed the “‘fro,” remained a popular black hairstyle until the late 1970s.