1960's Civil Rights
Civil Rights in the 1960's
The 1960's was a volatile time for race relations in the United States. African Americans were growing frustrated with a feeling of second class citizenship as they are blocked from polling places, restaurants, hotels, sporting events, schools and more.
Even with the passage of federal legislation much of what was promised to black Americans never came to be and when it did it was a hard fought battle to achieve it. Because the image of progress was being widely spread and some parts of the United States had begun to integrate and allow access to the polls many Americans discounted the oppression most black citizens faced in our country.
It wasn't until the Selma March where police were filmed violently and indiscriminately beating women, children and peaceful protesters to a backdrop of government officials and confederate flags that the country took notice. These images were broadcast nationwide as a breaking news story during one of the most viewed programs of the decade.
From that moment forward the Civil Rights movement had the full support of the majority of America and new legislation would soon pass including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965 officially desegregating public places and removing obstacles for the African American community to access polling places.
While these were great steps forward resistance continues to this day as Africans Americans and all people of color fight for equality in the justice system as shown in the 2020 Spring Protests in response to the killing of George Floyd.
Task 1: Watch the Introductory Video to this Unit (5 minutes)
Task 2: Review the provided videos and attached links for the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960's (20 minutes)
Task 3: Complete a Timeline by Selecting FIVE (5) Significant Civil Rights Moments Throughout the Decade (1960 - 1969) to Show Shifting Interests of Americans in the 1960's (25 minutes)
Use the Timeline on Google Classroom
Include the Date, a Title, an Image and Description for each of the events/entry selected
Task 4: Submit Completed Timeline to Google Classroom
Woolworth Lunch Counter Protests
It was Feb. 1, 1960, when four black students sat down at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., and ordered coffee. As TIME reported, “the white patrons eyed them warily, and the white waitresses ignored their studiously polite requests for service.”
Six years had passed since the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown vs. The Board of Education declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional — separate facilities were inherently unequal, argued Chief Justice Earl Warren — but Southern states (and even some cities in the North) clung desperately to their traditions of racial exclusion. Challenging Jim Crow through the legal system was a gradual, piecemeal process, and large numbers of Americans were growing impatient.
The four young men, freshmen at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, remained seated until closing time, and returned with 300 more students a few days later, determined to integrate the whites-only five-and-dime. (https://time.com/3691383/woolworths-sit-in-history/ )
The Greensboro sit-ins inspired mass movement across the South. By April 1960, 70 southern cities had sit-ins of their own. Direct-action sit-ins made public what Jim Crow wanted to hide–Black resistance to segregation. By directly challenging segregation in highly visible places, activists grabbed the attention of the media. In Nashville, where activists had engaged in nonviolent workshops with James Lawson since 1959, SNCC leader Diane Nash remembered “being in the dorm any number of times and hearing the newscasts, that Orangeburg had demonstrations, or Knoxville, or other towns. And we were really excited…The movement had a way of reaching inside you and bringing out things that even you didn’t know were there.” The sit-ins told Black youth that they had power to capture national attention. “Before seeing these sit-ins,” SNCC’s Charlie Cobb said, “Civil Rights had been something grown-ups did.” (https://snccdigital.org/events/sit-ins-greensboro/ )
Weeks earlier, King had scolded Life magazine photographer Flip Schulke for trying to assist protestors knocked to the ground by authorities instead of snapping away. “The world doesn’t know this happened because you didn’t photograph it,” King told Schulke, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Race Beat.” This time, however, television cameras captured the entire assault and transformed the local protest into a national civil rights event. It took hours for the film to be flown from Alabama to the television network headquarters in New York, but when it aired that night, Americans were appalled at the sights and sounds of “Bloody Sunday.”
Around 9:30 p.m., ABC newscaster Frank Reynolds interrupted the network’s broadcast of “Judgment at Nuremberg”—the star-studded movie that explored Nazi bigotry, war crimes and the moral culpability of those who followed orders and didn’t speak out against the Holocaust—to air the disturbing, newly arrived footage from Selma. Nearly 50 million Americans who had tuned into the film’s long-awaited television premier couldn’t escape the historical echoes of Nazi storm troopers in the scenes of the rampaging state troopers. “The juxtaposition struck like psychological lightning in American homes,” wrote Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff in “The Race Beat.” (https://www.history.com/news/selma-bloody-sunday-attack-civil-rights-movement )
Selma to Montgomery March
The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks--and three events--that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. On "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a "symbolic" march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery.
Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators. "The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups...," said Judge Johnson, "and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways." On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965--the best possible redress of grievances. (https://www.nps.gov/places/alabama-the-selmatomontgomery-march.htm )
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965
During 1956, a group of Southern senators and congressmen signed the “Southern Manifesto,” vowing resistance to racial integration by all “lawful means.” Resistance heightened in 1957–1958 during the crisis over integration at Little Rock’s Central High School. At the same time, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights led a successful drive for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and continued to press for even stronger legislation. NAACP Youth Council chapters staged sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters, sparking a movement against segregation in public accommodations throughout the South in 1960. Nonviolent direct action increased during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, beginning with the 1961 Freedom Rides.
Hundreds of demonstrations erupted in cities and towns across the nation. National and international media coverage of the use of fire hoses and attack dogs against child protesters precipitated a crisis in the Kennedy administration, which it could not ignore. The bombings and riots in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 11, 1963, compelled Kennedy to call in federal troops.
On June 19, 1963, the president sent a comprehensive civil rights bill to Congress. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28 roused public support for the pending bill. After the president’s assassination on November 22, the fate of Kennedy’s bill was in the hands of his vice president and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, and the United States Congress. (https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/civil-rights-act/civil-rights-era.html )
Civil Rights Act of 1964
This act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. (https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=97 )
Civil Rights Act of 1965
This act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. (https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=100 )
Martin Luther King Jr.
During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.
Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. (https://thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king/ )
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a well-known civil rights activist who had a great deal of influence on American society in the 1950s and 1960s. His strong belief in nonviolent protest helped set the tone of the movement. Boycotts, protests, and marches were eventually effective, and much legislation was passed against racial discrimination.
King's accomplishments are numerous. They include:
Providing leadership in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955
Delivering his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963
Being an advocate for nonviolent protest in the Memphis Sanitation Worker Strike in 1968
Being instrumental in establishing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, a civil rights organization that supports the philosophy of nonviolence
At 6:05 P.M. on Thursday, 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King was shot dead while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. News of King’s assassination prompted major outbreaks of racial violence, resulting in more than 40 deaths nationwide and extensive property damage in over 100 American cities. James Earl Ray, a 40-year-old escaped fugitive, later confessed to the crime and was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. During King’s funeral a tape recording was played in which King spoke of how he wanted to be remembered after his death: “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others” (King, “Drum Major Instinct,” 85).
King had arrived in Tennessee on Wednesday, 3 April, to prepare for a march the following Monday on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. As he prepared to leave the Lorraine Motel for a dinner at the home of Memphis minister Samuel “Billy” Kyles, King stepped out onto the balcony of room 306 to speak with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) colleagues standing in the parking area below. An assassin fired a single shot that caused severe wounds to the lower right side of his face. SCLC aides rushed to him, and Ralph Abernathy cradled King’s head. Others on the balcony pointed across the street toward the rear of a boarding house on South Main Street where the shot seemed to have originated. An ambulance rushed King to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead at 7:05 P.M. (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/assassination-martin-luther-king-jr )