CIVIL RIGHTS LETTERS DEFENSE VOTING SENATOR SIGNED 1963 1964 Mississippi Burning: 3 VERY RARE LETTERS ALL HANDSIGNED BY MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR , WHO WAS PART OF THE COMMITTEE OF APPROPRIATIONS, LEVERETT SALTONSTALL
2 DEAL WITH THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND ONE WITH WITH RESPECT TO THE "CUT-BACKS IN DEFENSE CONTRACTS AND THE CLOSINGS OF MILITARY INSTALLATIONS"
THE CIVIL RIGHTS LETTERS ARE AMAZING!
THE FIRST LETTER IS 1 PAGE AND DISCUSSES CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS IN MISSISSIPPI WHERE "YOUNG PEOPLE ARE ASSISTING IN THE VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVES AND OTHER PROJECTS. I HAVE BEEN IN TOUCH WITH THE JUSTICE EPARTMENT ON THIS MATTER AND ALSO WITH RESPECT TO THE EFFORTS TO LOCATE THE MISSING STUDENTS."... referring to theMurders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner (Mississippi Burning)
The disappearance of the three men was initially investigated as a missing persons case. The civil rights workers' burnt-out car was found near a swamp three days after their disappearance. An extensive search of the area was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), local and state authorities, and four hundred United States Navy sailors. The three men's bodies were not discovered until two months later, when the team received a tip. During the investigation it emerged that members of the local White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County Sheriff's Office, and the Philadelphia Police Department were involved in the incident.
The murder of the activists sparked national outrage and an extensive federal investigation, filed as Mississippi Burning (MIBURN), which later became the title of a 1988 film loosely based on the events. In 1967, after the state government refused to prosecute, the United States federal government charged eighteen individuals with civil rights violations. Seven were convicted and received relatively minor sentences for their actions. Outrage over the activists' disappearances helped gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.NOTE THAT Saltonstall voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964, as well as the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
THE 2ND LETTER IS 2 PAGES AND DISCUSSES A PETITION FOR CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION, CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION PASSED 1957, 1960. "THE QUESTION NOW BEFORE CONGRESS IS WHAT ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION SHOULD BE ENACTED TO INSURE FURTHER THAT THE CIVIL RIGHTS GUARANTEED TO ALL OUR CITIZENBS CAN BE FULLY ENJOYED"
THE SENATOR "FILE A BILL IN MARCH (1963) TO MAKE THE CIVIL RIGHTS COMISSION A PERMANENT AGENCY. HE ALSO "SPONSORED SEVERAL OTHER CIVIL RIGHTS MEASURES INCLUDING S. 1750
SALTONSTALL, Leverett, (Great-grandson of Leverett Saltonstall [1783-1845]), a Senator from Massachusetts; born in Chestnut Hill, Middlesex County, Mass., September 1, 1892; attended the public schools and Noble and Greenough School, Dedham, Mass.; graduated from Harvard University in 1914 and from its law school in 1917; during the First World War served in the United States Army as a first lieutenant 1917-1919; admitted to the bar in 1919, and commenced practice in Boston, Mass.; member of the board of aldermen of Newton, Mass., 1920-1922; assistant district attorney of Middlesex County, Mass., 1921-1922; member, State house of representatives 1923-1936, serving as speaker 1929-1936; unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1936; Governor of Massachusetts 1939-1945; chairman of the National Governors Conference 1943-1944; elected as a Republican to the United States Senate, November 7, 1944, to fill the vacancy in the term ending January 3, 1949, caused by the resignation of Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., but did not assume office until January 4, 1945, after completion of his term as Governor; reelected in 1948, 1954 and 1960 and served from January 4, 1945, to January 3, 1967; was not a candidate for reelection in 1966; Republican whip 1949-1957; chairman, Committee on Armed Services (Eighty-third Congress), Republican Conference (Eighty-fifth through Eighty-ninth Congress); trustee and director of several mutual investment funds and charities; resided in Dover, Mass., where he died June 17, 1979; interment in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Mass.
DOVER, Mass., June 17 (AP) — Leverett Saltonstall, who served 22 years in the United States Senate and occupied a seat of power in Massachusetts politics for more than four decades, died today at his Dover home. He was 86 years old.
Mr. Saltonstall died of heart failure, according to his son, William. He was recently hospitalized at the Faulkner Hospital in Boston for a heart condition, but had been home for a week, his daughter Susan said.
“His heart couldn't keep up with what he wanted to do,” she said. “He wanted to come home.”
With his old New England family name, his inherited wealth, his craggy Yankee face and his homely fondness for raising chickens, the lanky Mr. Saltonstall seemed to many voters to be a tower of integrity in Massachusetts politics.
So strong was his rapport with the people of his state that despite the Democratic Party's enduring strength in the state, they three times elected him Governor — in 1938, 1940 and 1942 — and four times elected him Senator, in 1944, 1948, 1954 and 1960.
Because of his stunning victory for Governor in 1938 over James Michael Curley, the Mayor of Boston, a defeat that ended 40 years of Democratic Party “Beacon Hill machine” rule, Mr. Saltonstall was frequently suggested as a possibility for the highest national offices. But in the low‐keyed manner of his patrician upbringing, the Senator, a gaunt figure noted for his long face and protruding chin, simply ignored his supporters.
Dig deeper into the moment.Special offer: Subscribe for $1 a week.The respect that he inspired was underscored in World War II, when a truck drivers’ strike threatened to tie up motor transport throughout New England.
Fearing chaos, Governor Saltonstall made a surprise appearance at a meeting of strikers. He appealed to them, in his twanging New England accent, to go back to work. As a World War I veteran, he told them that American fighting men needed support at home, and he declared ringingly that “many little children will have no milk unless you go back.
“Go back, and I give you my solemn promise that I will see to it personally that you get justice,” he said, ending his speech. “Please go back.”
For an instant the meeting hall was silent. Then a single truck driver began to clap. Soon others joined in, cheers broke out, and the whole hall burst into a thunderous ovation. Within hours the men were back on the job, and the Governor then engineered a compromise settlement.
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After Upended a Dying Woman’s Rome Dream, Her Twin Stepped InContinue reading the main storyMr. Saltonstall's rapport with the voters was nourished, during his 22 years in the Senate, by his careful serving of Massachusetts’ interests. One of his campaign brochures advertised him as as “the man who has done the MOST for Massachusetts” and listed the Federal expenditures that he had helped to bring to the state. He worked closely with Massachusetts’ Democratic senators on state matters, and he was admired in Washington as a skillful doer of small favors for his constituents.
The Senator's clout with the electorate was in some ways remarkable, however, because he was not an outstandingly dynamic legislator. Modest and laconic—by Senate standards — he was three times blocked by his Republican fellow senators from becoming the party's leader in the Senate. He was criticized by the American Federation of Labor as having voted against labor interests. And Senator Styles Bridges, the crusty New Hampshire Republican, once said, “The trouble with Lev Saltonstall is that he agrees with the last man who speaks with him.”
But Senator Saltonstall was diligent and conscientious — his daughter Susan once called him fondly “an old work horse” — and by late 1965, when he announced his impending retirement from Capitol Hill, he was the third‐ranking Republican in Senate seniority, the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and the ranking Republican on two powerful Senate bodies, the Appropriations and Armed Services committees.
Mr. Saltonstall was first elected to the Senate to replace Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, also a Republican, who had quit to join the Armed Forces. He won by 400,000 votes and became known for his strong support of civil liberties and foreign aid.
Despite the Senator's prominence in Washington, he maintained a spartan weekend lifestyle on his 90‐acre farm in Dover, 15 miles south of Boston, where he clad his gangling frame in work cloths, mowed grass, milked cows, sawed wood and looked after his 1,600 chickens.
Mr. Saltonstall's roots in the Boston area went back three centuries to 1630, when his British‐born ancestor, Sir Richard Saltonstall, founded the town of Watertown, seven miles west of the city.
Leverett Saltonstall was born Sept. 1, 1892, in Chestnut Hill, a fashionable Boston suburb, the son of Richard Middlecott Saltonstall, a lawyer, and Eleanor Brooks Saltonstall, whose multimillionaire father, Peter C. Brooks, was descended from an Englishman who came over on the same ship as Sir Richard.
After attending the Noble and Greenough School in Boston, Leverett Saltonstall entered Harvard College, as nine generations of Saltonstalls had done before him. There he joined the Hasty Pudding and Porcellian clubs and, in 1919, became a Harvard hockey immortal by scoring a tie‐breaking overtime goal against a Princeton team whose captain was the renowned Hobey Baker.
Mr. Saltonstall graduated later that year and went on to Harvard Law School, where he was a B student and got his LL.B. in 1917, the year after he married his dancing‐school sweetheart, Alice Wesselhoeft. He then did World War service as a field artillery lieutenant in France, without seeing combat, and, after being admitted to the Massachusetts bar, entered practice in Boston with his uncle, Endicott P. Saltonstall, and went on to become a partner in the law firm of Gaston, Snow, Saltonstall & Hunt.
In 1920, Mr. Saltonstall began his five decades in Massachusetts political life by being elected to the board of alderman of Newton, a residential community just west of Boston.
In 1923 he began 13 years of service in the rough‐and‐tumble Massachusetts House of Representatives, and from 1929 to 1936 he was its speaker, although in 1929 a critic declared before the chamber that Mr. Saltonstall “was born with a diamond‐studded spoon in his mouth; he knows only one side of life — the couponclipping side.”
Mr. Saltonstall ran for lieutenant governor in 1936 and was defeated, but he came back strongly in 1938, when he won a substantial victory over his Democratic opponent, James M. Curley, and became the first Republican governor of Massachusetts since the Depression.
An adherent of Unitarianism, a small Protestant sect long associated with New England, Mr. Saltonstall was president of the Board of Overseers of Harvard University from 1943 to 1949 and was the holder of 30 honorary degrees.
A man to whom public office was a public trust, he served the common weal with great distinction and great devotion for more than 46 years.
When he stepped down from the Senate at the age of 74 in January 1967 to become a gentleman farmer on his Dover estate and to work in civic, charitable and cultural endeavors, he said:
“I wanted to quit when I was still doing the job rather than just fade away in the Senate … Too many of my Senate colleagues overdid it. They stayed on too long—napping through committee hearings when they should have packed up and gone home.”
If “Salty” or “Lev,” as he was affectionately known to countless friends, admirers and constituents, had chosen to run for reelection, there was little doubt that victory would have been his. But he didn’t, since he was not sure he could give his best for six more years.
Saltonstall at the American LegionSaltonstall at the American Legion’s 23rd Annual Convention in 1941. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department.
Before retiring after 22 years in what has been called the world’s most select club, the Republican leader had held the ranking minority role in no fewer than seven Senate committee posts.They included the most powerful in Congress: Appropriations, Defense, Legislative, Armed Services, Preparedness, Small Business and Government Procurement, as well as assignments on nine others.
When he was elected to the Senate after three highly successful two-year terms as governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1939-1944, a newspaper characterized the patrician Proper Bostonian as “reflecting in his bearing and character much of the thing that in bygone years won for Boston the title of the ‘Athens of America’: he is what men call a scholar and a gentleman, sort of survivor of the people who moved through the pages of the ‘Flowering of New England.’
Sen. Saltonstall was first elected to the Senate in 1944 to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, who had resigned to join the Armed Forces of World War II.
He won by a majority of 561,000 votes, the largest margin ever given a candidate for statewide office. He was reelected in 1948, 1954 and 1960.
Saltonstall admires portraitU.S. Senator Saltonstall, center, laughingly admires his portrait after it was hung in the State House yesterday beside portraits of nine other former Governors. At left is Governor Bradford and at right is G.H. Edgell, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, who was appointed chairman of the state art commission by Saltonstall (February 23, 1947). Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department.
In the Senate, he was known as “a senator’s senator,” possessing the Yankee traits of tidiness, unfailing courtesy and caution, coupled with integrity, modesty, thoroughness, tenacity and a shrewd grasp of political realities.
One of the most prompt and faithful of the senator’s attending committee hearings and Senate sessions, he usually preferred to work through the amendment of bills rather than direct sponsorship. His hand touched thousands of pieces of legislation.
As a leading senator, he was closely associated with such national legislation as Internal Affairs and Aid, Selective Service, Unification of Armed Services, Veterans Benefits, the Marshall Plan, the National Act Against Discrimination in Employment, the National Science Foundation, Child Health, Displaced Persons, Anti-Filibuster, the Cape Cod National Park, NASA, the Atomic Commission and the Nuclear Control Treaty with Russia.
Known on Capitol Hill as “the gentlemanly gentleman from Massachusetts,” the senator was noted for his modus operandi. At a hearing on a highly controversial issue he would courteously listen to every witness, apply the principles of his cautious New England heritage, then search for the middle ground. As a dogged rounder-upper of facts and a careful weigher of them in order to get the full picture, he had a reputation for ‘fairness and integrity’. As one columnist put it, when the Republican leader retired: “He will not be remembered as an imaginative, brilliant, aggressive leader. Fair, cautious, decent are more descriptive.”
Not one of the visibly powerful or flashy men of the Senate, despite his seniority, he made his mark instead as a modest, quiet gentleman with the personal quality of simplicity. People would do things for him they would not do for a sharper, abrasive colleague.
Saltonstall on Memorial DaySenator Saltonstall speaks at Memorial Day exercises held in Newton (May 31, 1950). Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department.
No orator—just a good, common, garden variety of speaker who spoke little on the Senate floor—he did his work in committee, where the basic decisions are made.
He would sit for hours in the mark-up sessions for bills or on the conference committees between the House and Senate to work out differences in a bill. While others argued and shouted, he would sit silent, writing slowly on a scratch pad and finally say in that broad-A accent of his: “How about this?” for compromise language. In addition to the influence and respect he held in Washington in his day, the senator and three-term governor had another distinction. His tall, lean figure, which he carried ramrod straight, was topped by what has been called “the most distinctive face in United States public life,” “a well-worn American antique,” “The Mayflower Compact,” and “a face that hasn’t changed in 300 years.”
It was a kindly, honest-looking, craggy face with its heavy-lidded blue eyes, long nose, wide-spaced teeth, lean cheeks and jutting jaw all capped by a full head of hair.
Some of his admirers regarded his physiognomy as a cross between two other American stalwarts, Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. “Oh, God love him, he looks just like a farmer,” we remember overhearing one woman say to another at one of his political rallies.
Leverett A. Saltonstall (September 1, 1892 – June 17, 1979) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts. He served three two-year terms as the 55th Governor of Massachusetts, and for more than twenty years as a United States Senator (1945–1967). Saltonstall was internationalist in foreign policy and moderate on domestic policy, serving as a well-liked mediating force in the Republican Party. He was the only member of the Republican Senate leadership to vote for the censure of Joseph McCarthy.Contents1Early years2Military service and entry into politics3Governor of Massachusetts4U.S. Senator5Death and legacy6See also7References8Sources9External linksEarly years
Miss Eleanor Brooks (Mrs. Richard Middlecott Saltonstall), John Singer Sargent, 1890Leverett Saltonstall was born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, to Richard Middlecott Saltonstall and Eleanor Brooks Saltonstall. The Saltonstall family, a wealthy Boston Brahmin family, had deep colonial roots, as did that of his mother. Saltonstall was able to trace his ancestral roots to the Mayflower; his grandfather and great-grandfather, both also named Leverett Saltonstall. His father was a lawyer; his mother was the daughter of Peter C. Brooks III, a beneficiary of the large fortune of his same-named grandfather.
He was educated at the private Noble and Greenough School, and then attended the Evans School for Boys in Mesa, Arizona, an upper-crust ranch school, along with Nicholas Roosevelt, nephew to family friend Theodore Roosevelt. He then entered Harvard, graduating in 1914, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1917. He was active in varsity sports at Harvard, notably serving as captain of the Junior Varsity crew team that won the prestigious Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1914 – the first American crew ever to do so. He also played football and hockey, scoring a dramatic overtime goal in a 1914 win over the legendary Hobey Baker's Princeton team.
Saltonstall married Alice Wesselhoeft (1893–1981) of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, in 1916, while still in law school. Together they had six children, including Emily (1920–2006), at one time the daughter-in-law of Richard Byrd and a former WAVE; Peter Brooks Saltonstall, killed in action on Guam in 1944; William L. Saltonstall (1927–2009), a member of the Massachusetts Senate; and Susan (1930–1994), a horse breeder.
Military service and entry into politicsAfter graduation, Saltonstall entered the United States Army. He served as a first lieutenant in the 301st Field Artillery Regiment in the 76th Division in World War I, spending six months in France. He was discharged in 1919, and then entered the law firm of his uncle.
Saltonstall, a socially progressive Republican, entered politics as an alderman in Newton, Massachusetts, serving from 1920 to 1922, while simultaneously serving as second assistant district attorney of Middlesex County under his uncle, Endicott Peabody Saltonstall, from 1921 to 1922. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives that same year; there he rose to the position of Speaker of the House, which he held from 1929 to 1937.
In 1930 Saltonstall became a compatriot of the Massachusetts Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Governor of MassachusettsSee also: 1939 Massachusetts legislature, 1941–1942 Massachusetts legislature, and 1943–1944 Massachusetts legislatureIn 1936, Saltonstall decided to seek the Republican nomination for Governor of Massachusetts. In the party convention, conservative forces prevailed in securing the nomination for John W. Haigis. Saltonstall's friends were able to engineer his nomination for lieutenant governor. Both Haigis and Saltonstall were defeated by their Democratic rivals, although Saltonstall's margin of defeat, just over 7,000 votes, was small enough to merit a recount; he demurred. He ran again for governor two years later, and won a decisive victory over former Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, who had been involved in a bruising Democratic primary fight against the incumbent Charles F. Hurley.
He was reelected in 1940 and 1942; the 1940 election win was by an extremely narrow margin. During his tenure, Saltonstall mediated a Teamsters strike, reduced taxes, and retired 90 percent of the state's debt. He served as President of the National Governors Association from 1943 to 1944. In 1944, he also served as the fifth President of the Council of State Governments.
U.S. SenatorIn 1944, Saltonstall was elected to the United States Senate in a special election to fill the unexpired term created by the resignation of U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. He was re-elected three times, serving from 1945 to 1967. Early in his first term, in April 1945 he was one of a dozen Senators and Congressmen who toured the Buchenwald Concentration Camp at the invitation of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower to attest to the reality of Nazi atrocities. Those he defeated included John H. Corcoran in 1944, John I. Fitzgerald in 1948, Foster Furcolo in 1954, and Thomas J. O'Connor in 1960. During his tenure in the Senate, he served as the Senate Republican Whip and on five influential Senate committees. He also served as the chair of the Senate Republican Conference, 1957–1966. He was viewed as a political moderate, and served as a mediating force between the party's conservative and progressive wings. He was an unspectacular but effective legislator, good at drafting legislation and finding compromise language. When he left office, after more than thirty years in politics, he had few political enemies. Saltonstall voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964, as well as the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Death and legacySaltonstall opted not to run for reelection in 1966, in part to provide an opportunity for his seat to Edward Brooke, a rising star in Massachusetts Republican circles. He retired to his farm in Dover, where he spent his remaining years as a gentleman farmer.
Leverett Saltonstall died of congestive heart failure in 1979 aged 86, and is buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts. The Saltonstall Building in downtown Boston is named for him.The civil rights movement[b] in the United States was a decades-long campaign by African Americans and their like-minded allies to end institutionalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation in the United States. The movement has its origins in the Reconstruction era during the late 19th century, although it made its largest legislative gains in the mid-1960s after years of direct actions and grassroots protests. The social movement's major nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience campaigns eventually secured new protections in federal law for the human rights of all Americans.
After the American Civil War and the subsequent abolition of slavery in the 1860s, the Reconstruction Amendments to the United States Constitution granted emancipation and constitutional rights of citizenship to all African Americans, most of whom had recently been enslaved. For a short period of time, African American men voted and held political office, but they were increasingly deprived of civil rights, often under the so-called Jim Crow laws, and African Americans were subjected to discrimination and sustained violence by white supremacists in the South. Over the following century, various efforts were made by African Americans to secure their legal and civil rights. In 1954, the separate but equal policy, which aided the enforcement of Jim Crow laws, was substantially weakened and eventually dismantled with the United States Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling and other subsequent rulings which followed. Between 1955 and 1968, nonviolent mass protests and civil disobedience produced crisis situations and productive dialogues between activists and government authorities. Federal, state, and local governments, businesses, and communities often had to immediately respond to these situations, which highlighted the inequities faced by African Americans across the country. The lynching of Chicago teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi, and the outrage generated by seeing how he had been abused when his mother decided to have an open-casket funeral, galvanized the African-American community nationwide. Forms of protest and/or civil disobedience included boycotts, such as the successful Montgomery bus boycott (1955–56) in Alabama, "sit-ins" such as the Greensboro sit-ins (1960) in North Carolina and successful Nashville sit-ins in Tennessee, mass marches, such as the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham and 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches (1965) in Alabama, and a wide range of other nonviolent activities and resistance.
At the culmination of a legal strategy pursued by African Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 under the leadership of Earl Warren struck down many of the laws that had allowed racial segregation and discrimination to be legal in the United States as unconstitutional. The Warren Court made a series of landmark rulings against racist discrimination, such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964), and Loving v. Virginia (1967) which banned segregation in public schools and public accommodations, and struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage. The rulings also played a crucial role in bringing an end to the segregationist Jim Crow laws prevalent in the Southern states. In the 1960s, moderates in the movement worked with the United States Congress to achieve the passage of several significant pieces of federal legislation that overturned discriminatory laws and practices and authorized oversight and enforcement by the federal government. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964), explicitly banned all discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in employment practices, ended unequal application of voter registration requirements, and prohibited racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and in public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 restored and protected voting rights for minorities by authorizing federal oversight of registration and elections in areas with historic under-representation of minorities as voters. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.
African Americans re-entered politics in the South, and young people across the country were inspired to take action. From 1964 through 1970, a wave of inner-city riots and protests in black communities dampened support from the white middle class, but increased support from private foundations. The emergence of the Black Power movement, which lasted from 1965 to 1975, challenged the established black leadership for its cooperative attitude and its constant practice of legalism and non-violence. Instead, its leaders demanded that, in addition to the new laws gained through the nonviolent movement, political and economic self-sufficiency had to be developed in the black community. Support for the Black Power movement came from African Americans who had seen little material improvement since the Civil Rights Movement's peak in the mid-1960s, and who still faced discrimination in jobs, housing, education and politics. Many popular representations of the civil rights movement are centered on the charismatic leadership and philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., who won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for combatting racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. However, some scholars note that the movement was too diverse to be credited to any particular person, organization, or strategy.Contents1Background1.1Civil War and Reconstruction1.2Disenfranchisement after Reconstruction1.3National issues1.4Protests begin2History2.1Brown v. Board of Education, 19542.2Emmett Till's murder, 19552.3Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, 1955–19562.4Little Rock Crisis, 19572.5The method of nonviolence and nonviolence training2.6Robert F. Williams and the debate on nonviolence, 1959–19642.7Sit-ins, 1958–19602.8Freedom Rides, 19612.9Voter registration organizing2.10Integration of Mississippi universities, 1956–19652.11Albany Movement, 1961–622.12Birmingham campaign, 19632.13"Rising tide of discontent" and Kennedy's response, 19632.14March on Washington, 19632.15Malcolm X joins the movement, 1964–19652.16St. Augustine, Florida, 1963–642.17Chester school protests, Spring 19642.18Freedom Summer, 19642.19Civil Rights Act of 19642.20Harlem riot of 19642.21Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 19642.22Selma Voting Rights Movement2.23Voting Rights Act of 19652.24Watts riot of 19652.25Fair housing movements, 1966–19682.26Nationwide riots of 19672.27Memphis, King assassination and the Civil Rights Act of 19682.27.1Civil Rights Act of 19682.28Gates v. Collier2.29Legacy3Characteristics3.1African-American women3.1.1Sexist discrimination3.2Avoiding the "Communist" label3.3Grassroots leadership4Popular reactions4.1American Jews4.1.1Public profile4.2Black segregationists4.3"Black Power" militants4.4Native Americans4.5Northern Ireland4.6Soviet Union4.7White moderates4.8White segregationists5Political responses5.1Eisenhower administration, 1953-19615.2Kennedy administration, 1961–19635.3Johnson administration: 1963–19696In popular culture7Activist organizations8Individual activists9See also9.1History preservation9.2Post–civil rights movement10Notes11References12Bibliography13Further reading13.1Historiography and memory13.2Autobiographies and memoirs14External linksBackgroundMain articles: African-American history and Timeline of African-American historyCivil War and ReconstructionFurther information: Thirteenth Amendment to the United States ConstitutionBefore the American Civil War, eight serving presidents had owned slaves, almost four million black people remained enslaved in the South, only white men with property could vote, and the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited U.S. citizenship to whites. Following the Civil War, three constitutional amendments were passed, including the 13th Amendment (1865) that ended slavery; the 14th Amendment (1869) that gave black people citizenship, adding their total population of four million to the official population of southern states for Congressional apportionment; and the 15th Amendment (1870) that gave black males the right to vote (only males could vote in the U.S. at the time). From 1865 to 1877, the United States underwent a turbulent Reconstruction Era during which the federal government tried to establish free labor and the civil rights of freedmen in the South after the end of slavery. Many whites resisted the social changes, leading to the formation of insurgent movements such as the Ku Klux Klan, whose members attacked black and white Republicans in order to maintain white supremacy. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant, the U.S. Army, and U.S. Attorney General Amos T. Akerman, initiated a campaign to repress the KKK under the Enforcement Acts. Some states were reluctant to enforce the federal measures of the act. In addition, by the early 1870s, other white supremacist and insurgent paramilitary groups arose that violently opposed African-American legal equality and suffrage, intimidating and suppressing black voters, and assassinating Republican officeholders. However, if the states failed to implement the acts, the laws allowed the Federal Government to get involved. Many Republican governors were afraid of sending black militia troops to fight the Klan for fear of war.
Disenfranchisement after ReconstructionMain article: Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction EraFurther information: Jim Crow laws, Civil rights movement (1865–1896), and Civil rights movement (1896–1954)After the disputed election of 1876, which resulted in the end of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops, whites in the South regained political control of the region's state legislatures. They continued to intimidate and violently attack blacks before and during elections to suppress their voting, but the last African Americans were elected to Congress from the South before disenfranchisement of blacks by states throughout the region, as described below.The mob-style lynching of Will James, Cairo, Illinois, 1909From 1890 to 1908, southern states passed new constitutions and laws to disenfranchise African Americans and many poor whites by creating barriers to voter registration; voting rolls were dramatically reduced as blacks and poor whites were forced out of electoral politics. After the landmark Supreme Court case of Smith v. Allwright (1944), which prohibited white primaries, progress was made in increasing black political participation in the Rim South and Acadiana – although almost entirely in urban areas and a few rural localities where most blacks worked outside plantations. The status quo ante of excluding African Americans from the political system lasted in the remainder of the South, especially North Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, until national civil rights legislation was passed in the mid-1960s to provide federal enforcement of constitutional voting rights. For more than sixty years, blacks in the South were essentially excluded from politics, unable to elect anyone to represent their interests in Congress or local government. Since they could not vote, they could not serve on local juries.
During this period, the white-dominated Democratic Party maintained political control of the South. With whites controlling all the seats representing the total population of the South, they had a powerful voting bloc in Congress. The Republican Party—the "party of Lincoln" and the party to which most blacks had belonged—shrank to insignificance except in remote Unionist areas of Appalachia and the Ozarks as black voter registration was suppressed. The Republican lily-white movement also gained strength by excluding blacks. Until 1965, the “Solid South” was a one-party system under the white Democrats. Excepting the previously noted historic Unionist strongholds the Democratic Party nomination was tantamount to election for state and local office. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington, president of the Tuskegee Institute, to dine at the White House, making him the first African American to attend an official dinner there. "The invitation was roundly criticized by southern politicians and newspapers." Washington persuaded the president to appoint more blacks to federal posts in the South and to try to boost African-American leadership in state Republican organizations. However, these actions were resisted by both white Democrats and white Republicans as an unwanted federal intrusion into state politics.Lynching victim Will Brown, who was mutilated and burned during the Omaha, Nebraska race riot of 1919. Postcards and photographs of lynchings were popular souvenirs in the U.S.During the same time as African Americans were being disenfranchised, white southerners imposed racial segregation by law. Violence against blacks increased, with numerous lynchings through the turn of the century. The system of de jure state-sanctioned racial discrimination and oppression that emerged from the post-Reconstruction South became known as the "Jim Crow" system. The United States Supreme Court made up almost entirely of Northerners, upheld the constitutionality of those state laws that required racial segregation in public facilities in its 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, legitimizing them through the "separate but equal" doctrine. Segregation, which began with slavery, continued with Jim Crow laws, with signs used to show blacks where they could legally walk, talk, drink, rest, or eat. For those places that were racially mixed, non-whites had to wait until all white customers were served first. Elected in 1912, President Woodrow Wilson gave in to demands by Southern members of his cabinet and ordered segregation of workplaces throughout the federal government.
The early 20th century is a period often referred to as the "nadir of American race relations", when the number of lynchings was highest. While tensions and civil rights violations were most intense in the South, social discrimination affected African Americans in other regions as well. At the national level, the Southern bloc controlled important committees in Congress, defeated passage of federal laws against lynching, and exercised considerable power beyond the number of whites in the South.
Characteristics of the post-Reconstruction period:
Racial segregation. By law, public facilities and government services such as education were divided into separate "white" and "colored" domains. Characteristically, those for colored were underfunded and of inferior quality.Disenfranchisement. When white Democrats regained power, they passed laws that made voter registration more restrictive, essentially forcing black voters off the voting rolls. The number of African-American voters dropped dramatically, and they were no longer able to elect representatives. From 1890 to 1908, Southern states of the former Confederacy created constitutions with provisions that disfranchised tens of thousands of African Americans, and U.S. states such as Alabama disenfranchised poor whites as well.Exploitation. Increased economic oppression of blacks through the convict lease system, Latinos, and Asians, denial of economic opportunities, and widespread employment discrimination.Violence. Individual, police, paramilitary, organizational, and mob racial violence against blacks (and Latinos in the Southwest and Asians in the West Coast).
KKK night rally in Chicago, c. 1920African Americans and other ethnic minorities rejected this regime. They resisted it in numerous ways and sought better opportunities through lawsuits, new organizations, political redress, and labor organizing (see the Civil rights movement (1896–1954)). The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909. It fought to end race discrimination through litigation, education, and lobbying efforts. Its crowning achievement was its legal victory in the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education (1954), when the Warren Court ruled that segregation of public schools in the US was unconstitutional and, by implication, overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896. Following the unanimous Supreme Court ruling, many states began to gradually integrate their schools, but some areas of the South resisted by closing public schools altogether.
The integration of Southern public libraries followed demonstrations and protests that used techniques seen in other elements of the larger civil rights movement. This included sit-ins, beatings, and white resistance. For example, in 1963 in the city of Anniston, Alabama, two black ministers were brutally beaten for attempting to integrate the public library. Though there was resistance and violence, the integration of libraries was generally quicker than the integration of other public institutions.
Colored Sailors room in World War IThe situation for blacks outside the South was somewhat better (in most states they could vote and have their children educated, though they still faced discrimination in housing and jobs). In 1900 Reverend Matthew Anderson, speaking at the annual Hampton Negro Conference in Virginia, said that "...the lines along most of the avenues of wage earning are more rigidly drawn in the North than in the South. There seems to be an apparent effort throughout the North, especially in the cities to debar the colored worker from all the avenues of higher remunerative labor, which makes it more difficult to improve his economic condition even than in the South." From 1910 to 1970, blacks sought better lives by migrating north and west out of the South. A total of nearly seven million blacks left the South in what was known as the Great Migration, most during and after World War II. So many people migrated that the demographics of some previously black-majority states changed to a white majority (in combination with other developments). The rapid influx of blacks altered the demographics of Northern and Western cities; happening at a period of expanded European, Hispanic, and Asian immigration, it added to social competition and tensions, with the new migrants and immigrants battling for a place in jobs and housing.A white gang looking for blacks during the Chicago race riot of 1919Reflecting social tensions after World War I, as veterans struggled to return to the workforce and labor unions were organizing, the Red Summer of 1919 was marked by hundreds of deaths and higher casualties across the U.S. as a result of white race riots against blacks that took place in more than three dozen cities, such as the Chicago race riot of 1919 and the Omaha race riot of 1919. Urban problems such as crime and disease were blamed on the large influx of Southern blacks to cities in the north and west, based on stereotypes of rural southern African-Americans. Overall, blacks in Northern and Western cities experienced systemic discrimination in a plethora of aspects of life. Within employment, economic opportunities for blacks were routed to the lowest-status and restrictive in potential mobility. Within the housing market, stronger discriminatory measures were used in correlation to the influx, resulting in a mix of "targeted violence, restrictive covenants, redlining and racial steering". The Great Migration resulted in many African Americans becoming urbanized, and they began to realign from the Republican to the Democratic Party, especially because of opportunities under the New Deal of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Substantially under pressure from African-American supporters who began the March on Washington Movement, President Roosevelt issued the first federal order banning discrimination and created the Fair Employment Practice Committee. After both World Wars, black veterans of the military pressed for full civil rights and often led activist movements. In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which ended segregation in the military.White tenants seeking to prevent blacks from moving into the housing project erected this sign, Detroit, 1942.Housing segregation became a nationwide problem following the Great Migration of black people out of the South. Racial covenants were employed by many real estate developers to "protect" entire subdivisions, with the primary intent to keep "white" neighborhoods "white". Ninety percent of the housing projects built in the years following World War II were racially restricted by such covenants. Cities known for their widespread use of racial covenants include Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Seattle, and St. Louis.
Said premises shall not be rented, leased, or conveyed to, or occupied by, any person other than of the white or Caucasian race.
— Racial covenant for a home in Beverly Hills, California.While many whites defended their space with violence, intimidation, or legal tactics toward black people, many other whites migrated to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions, a process known as white flight. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB) issued guidelines that specified that a realtor "should never be instrumental in introducing to a neighborhood a character or property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individual whose presence will be clearly detrimental to property values in a neighborhood." The result was the development of all-black ghettos in the North and West, where much housing was older, as well as South.
The first anti-miscegenation law was passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 1691, criminalizing interracial marriage. In a speech in Charleston, Illinois in 1858, Abraham Lincoln stated, "I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people". By the late 1800s, 38 US states had anti-miscegenation statutes. By 1924, the ban on interracial marriage was still in force in 29 states. While interracial marriage had been legal in California since 1948, in 1957 actor Sammy Davis Jr. faced a backlash for his involvement with white actress Kim Novak. Davis briefly married a black dancer in 1958 to protect himself from mob violence. In 1958, officers in Virginia entered the home of Richard and Mildred Loving and dragged them out of bed for living together as an interracial couple, on the basis that “any white person intermarry with a colored person”— or vice versa—each party “shall be guilty of a felony” and face prison terms of five years.
Invigorated by the victory of Brown and frustrated by the lack of immediate practical effect, private citizens increasingly rejected gradualist, legalistic approaches as the primary tool to bring about desegregation. They were faced with "massive resistance" in the South by proponents of racial segregation and voter suppression. In defiance, African-American activists adopted a combined strategy of direct action, nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, and many events described as civil disobedience, giving rise to the civil rights movement of 1954 to 1968.
Protests beginThe strategy of public education, legislative lobbying, and litigation that had typified the civil rights movement during the first half of the 20th century broadened after Brown to a strategy that emphasized "direct action": boycotts, sit-ins, Freedom Rides, marches or walks, and similar tactics that relied on mass mobilization, nonviolent resistance, standing in line, and, at times, civil disobedience.
Churches, local grassroots organizations, fraternal societies, and black-owned businesses mobilized volunteers to participate in broad-based actions. This was a more direct and potentially more rapid means of creating change than the traditional approach of mounting court challenges used by the NAACP and others.
In 1952, the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), led by T. R. M. Howard, a black surgeon, entrepreneur, and planter organized a successful boycott of gas stations in Mississippi that refused to provide restrooms for blacks. Through the RCNL, Howard led campaigns to expose brutality by the Mississippi state highway patrol and to encourage blacks to make deposits in the black-owned Tri-State Bank of Nashville which, in turn, gave loans to civil rights activists who were victims of a "credit squeeze" by the White Citizens' Councils.
After Claudette Colvin was arrested for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in March 1955, a bus boycott was considered and rejected. But when Rosa Parks was arrested in December, Jo Ann Gibson Robinson of the Montgomery Women's Political Council put the bus boycott protest in motion. Late that night, she, John Cannon (chairman of the Business Department at Alabama State University) and others mimeographed and distributed thousands of leaflets calling for a boycott. The eventual success of the boycott made its spokesman Martin Luther King Jr., a nationally known figure. It also inspired other bus boycotts, such as the successful Tallahassee, Florida boycott of 1956–57.
In 1957, King and Ralph Abernathy, the leaders of the Montgomery Improvement Association, joined with other church leaders who had led similar boycott efforts, such as C. K. Steele of Tallahassee and T. J. Jemison of Baton Rouge, and other activists such as Fred Shuttlesworth, Ella Baker, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Stanley Levison, to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC, with its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, did not attempt to create a network of chapters as the NAACP did. It offered training and leadership assistance for local efforts to fight segregation. The headquarters organization raised funds, mostly from Northern sources, to support such campaigns. It made nonviolence both its central tenet and its primary method of confronting racism.
In 1959, Septima Clarke, Bernice Robinson, and Esau Jenkins, with the help of Myles Horton's Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, began the first Citizenship Schools 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.
HistoryMain article: Timeline of the civil rights movementFurther information: Civil rights movement (1865–1896) and Civil rights movement (1896–1954)Brown v. Board of Education, 1954Main article: Brown v. Board of EducationIn the spring of 1951, black students in Virginia protested their unequal status in the state's segregated educational system. Students at Moton High School protested the overcrowded conditions and failing facility. Some local leaders of the NAACP had tried to persuade the students to back down from their protest against the Jim Crow laws of school segregation. When the students did not budge, the NAACP joined their battle against school segregation. The NAACP proceeded with five cases challenging the school systems; these were later combined under what is known today as Brown v. Board of Education. Under the leadership of Walter Reuther, the United Auto Workers donated $75,000 to help pay for the NAACP's efforts at the Supreme Court.In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that mandating, or even permitting, public schools to be segregated by race was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Warren wrote in the court majority opinion that
Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group.
The lawyers from the NAACP had to gather plausible evidence in order to win the case of Brown vs. Board of Education. Their method of addressing the issue of school segregation was to enumerate several arguments. One pertained to having exposure to interracial contact in a school environment. It was argued that interracial contact would, in turn, help prepare children to live with the pressures that society exerts in regards to race and thereby afford them a better chance of living in a democracy. In addition, another argument emphasized how "'education' comprehends the entire process of developing and training the mental, physical and moral powers and capabilities of human beings".
Risa Goluboff wrote that the NAACP's intention was to show the Courts that African American children were the victims of school segregation and their futures were at risk. The Court ruled that both Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had established the "separate but equal" standard in general, and Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education (1899), which had applied that standard to schools, were unconstitutional.
The federal government filed a friend of the court brief in the case urging the justices to consider the effect that segregation had on America's image in the Cold War. Secretary of State Dean Acheson was quoted in the brief stating that "The United States is under constant attack in the foreign press, over the foreign radio, and in such international bodies as the United Nations because of various practices of discrimination in this country."
The following year, in the case known as Brown II, the Court ordered segregation to be phased out over time, "with all deliberate speed". Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) did not overturn Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Plessy v. Ferguson was segregation in transportation modes. Brown v. Board of Education dealt with segregation in education. Brown v. Board of Education did set in motion the future overturning of 'separate but equal'.School integration, Barnard School, Washington, D.C., 1955On May 18, 1954, Greensboro, North Carolina, became the first city in the South to publicly announce that it would aoffere by the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling. "It is unthinkable,' remarked School Board Superintendent Benjamin Smith, 'that we will try to [override] the laws of the United States." This positive reception for Brown, together with the appointment of African American David Jones to the school board in 1953, convinced numerous white and black citizens that Greensboro was heading in a progressive direction. Integration in Greensboro occurred rather peacefully compared to the process in Southern states such as Alabama, Arkansas, and Virginia where "massive resistance" was practiced by top officials and throughout the states. In Virginia, some counties closed their public schools rather than integrate, and many white Christian private schools were founded to accommodate students who used to go to public schools. Even in Greensboro, much local resistance to desegregation continued, and in 1969, the federal government found the city was not in compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Transition to a fully integrated school system did not begin until 1971.
Many Northern cities also had de facto segregation policies, which resulted in a vast gulf in educational resources between black and white communities. In Harlem, New York, for example, neither a single new school was built since the turn of the century, nor did a single nursery school exist – even as the Second Great Migration was causing overcrowding. Existing schools tended to be dilapidated and staffed with inexperienced teachers. Brown helped stimulate activism among New York City parents like Mae Mallory who, with the support of the NAACP, initiated a successful lawsuit against the city and state on Brown's principles. Mallory and thousands of other parents bolstered the pressure of the lawsuit with a school boycott in 1959. During the boycott, some of the first freedom schools of the period were established. The city responded to the campaign by permitting more open transfers to high-quality, historically-white schools. (New York's African-American community, and Northern desegregation activists generally, now found themselves contending with the problem of white flight, however.)
Emmett Till's murder, 1955Main article: Emmett Till
Emmett Till’s mother Mamie (middle) at her son’s funeral in 1955. He was killed by white men after a white woman accused him of offending her in her family's grocery store.Emmett Till, a 14-year old African American from Chicago, visited his relatives in Money, Mississippi, for the summer. He allegedly had an interaction with a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in a small grocery store that violated the norms of Mississippi culture, and Bryant's husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam brutally murdered young Emmett Till. They beat and mutilated him before shooting him in the head and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. Three days later, Till's body was discovered and retrieved from the river. After Emmett's mother, Mamie Till, came to identify the remains of her son, she decided she wanted to "let the people see what I have seen". Till's mother then had his body taken back to Chicago where she had it displayed in an open casket during the funeral services where many thousands of visitors arrived to show their respects. A later publication of an image at the funeral in Jet is credited as a crucial moment in the civil rights era for displaying in vivid detail the violent racism that was being directed at black people in America. In a column for The Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk wrote: "The trial of his killers became a pageant illuminating the tyranny of white supremacy". The state of Mississippi tried two defendants, but they were speedily acquitted by an all-white jury.
"Emmett's murder," historian Tim Tyson writes, "would never have become a watershed historical moment without Mamie finding the strength to make her private grief a public matter." The visceral response to his mother's decision to have an open-casket funeral mobilized the black community throughout the U.S. The murder and resulting trial ended up markedly impacting the views of several young black activists. Joyce Ladner referred to such activists as the "Emmett Till generation." One hundred days after Emmett Till's murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Parks later informed Till's mother that her decision to stay in her seat was guided by the image she still vividly recalled of Till's brutalized remains. The glass topped casket that was used for Till's Chicago funeral was found in a cemetery garage in 2009. Till had been reburied in a different casket after being exhumed in 2005. Till's family decided to donate the original casket to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American Culture and History, where it is now on display. In 2007, Bryant said that she had fabricated the most sensational part of her story in 1955.
Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, 1955–1956Main articles: Rosa Parks and Montgomery bus boycott
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after being arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white personOn December 1, 1955, nine months after a 15-year-old high school student, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested, Rosa Parks did the same thing. Parks soon became the symbol of the resulting Montgomery bus boycott and received national publicity. She was later hailed as the "mother of the civil rights movement".
Parks was secretary of the Montgomery NAACP chapter and had recently returned from a meeting at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee where nonviolence as a strategy was taught by Myles Horton and others. After Parks' arrest, African Americans gathered and organized the Montgomery bus boycott to demand a bus system in which passengers would be treated equally. The organization was led by Jo Ann Robinson, a member of the Women's Political Council who had been waiting for the opportunity to boycott the bus system. Following Rosa Parks’ arrest, Jo Ann Robinson mimeographed 52,500 leaflets calling for a boycott. They were distributed around the city and helped gather the attention of civil rights leaders. After the city rejected many of their suggested reforms, the NAACP, led by E. D. Nixon, pushed for full desegregation of public buses. With the support of most of Montgomery's 50,000 African Americans, the boycott lasted for 381 days, until the local ordinance segregating African Americans and whites on public buses was repealed. Ninety percent of African Americans in Montgomery partook in the boycotts, which reduced bus revenue significantly, as they comprised the majority of the riders. In November 1956, the United States Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling in the case of Browder v. Gayle and ordered Montgomery's buses desegregated, ending the boycott.
Local leaders established the Montgomery Improvement Association to focus their efforts. Martin Luther King Jr. was elected President of this organization. The lengthy protest attracted national attention for him and the city. His eloquent appeals to Christian brotherhood and American idealism created a positive impression on people both inside and outside the South.
Little Rock Crisis, 1957Main article: Little Rock NineA crisis erupted in Little Rock, Arkansas, when Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus called out the National Guard on September 4 to prevent entry to the nine African-American students who had sued for the right to attend an integrated school, Little Rock Central High School. Under the guidance of Daisy Bates, the nine students had been chosen to attend Central High because of their excellent grades.
On the first day of school, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford was the only one of the nine students who showed up because she did not receive the phone call about the danger of going to school. A photo was taken of Eckford being harassed by white protesters outside the school, and the police had to take her away in a patrol car for her protection. Afterwards, the nine students had to carpool to school and be escorted by military personnel in jeeps.White parents rally against integrating Little Rock's schoolsFaubus was not a proclaimed segregationist. The Arkansas Democratic Party, which then controlled politics in the state, put significant pressure on Faubus after he had indicated he would investigate bringing Arkansas into compliance with the Brown decision. Faubus then took his stand against integration and against the Federal court ruling. Faubus' resistance received the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was determined to enforce the orders of the Federal courts. Critics had charged he was lukewarm, at best, on the goal of desegregation of public schools. But, Eisenhower federalized the National Guard in Arkansas and ordered them to return to their barracks. Eisenhower deployed elements of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect the students.
The students attended high school under harsh conditions. 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 other students for the rest of the year. Although federal troops escorted the students between classes, the students were teased and even attacked by white students when the soldiers were not around. One of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown, was suspended for spilling a bowl of chili on the head of a white student who was harassing her in the school lunch line. Later, she was expelled for verbally abusing a white female student.
Only Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine graduated from Central High School. After the 1957–58 school year was over, Little Rock closed its public school system completely rather than continue to integrate. Other school systems across the South followed suit.
The method of nonviolence and nonviolence trainingDuring the time period considered to be the "African-American civil rights" era, the predominant use of protest was nonviolent, or peaceful. Often referred to as pacifism, the method of nonviolence is considered to be an attempt to impact society positively. Although acts of racial discrimination have occurred historically throughout the United States, perhaps the most violent regions have been in the former Confederate states. During the 1950s and 1960s, the nonviolent protesting of the civil rights movement caused definite tension, which gained national attention.
In order to prepare for protests physically and psychologically, demonstrators received training in nonviolence. According to former civil rights activist Bruce Hartford, there are two main branches of nonviolence training. There is the philosophical method, which involves understanding the method of nonviolence and why it is considered useful, and there is the tactical method, which ultimately teaches demonstrators "how to be a protestor—how to sit-in, how to picket, how to defend yourself against attack, giving training on how to remain cool when people are screaming racist insults into your face and pouring stuff on you and hitting you" (Civil Rights Movement Archive). The philosophical method of nonviolence, in the American civil rights movement, was largely inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's "non-cooperation" policies during his involvement in the Indian independence movement which were intended to gain attention so that the public would either "intervene in advance," or "provide public pressure in support of the action to be taken" (Erikson, 415). As Hartford explains it, philosophical nonviolence training aims to "shape the individual person's attitude and mental response to crises and violence" (Civil Rights Movement Archive). Hartford and activists like him, who trained in tactical nonviolence, considered it necessary in order to ensure physical safety, instill discipline, teach demonstrators how to demonstrate, and form mutual confidence among demonstrators (Civil Rights Movement Archive).
For many, the concept of nonviolent protest was a way of life, a culture. However, not everyone agreed with this notion. James Forman, former SNCC (and later Black Panther) member, and nonviolence trainer, was among those who did not. In his autobiography, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, Forman revealed his perspective on the method of nonviolence as "strictly a tactic, not a way of life without limitations." Similarly, Bob Moses, who was also an active member of SNCC, felt that the method of nonviolence was practical. When interviewed by author Robert Penn Warren, Moses said "There's no question that he (Martin Luther King Jr.) had a great deal of influence with the masses. But I don't think it's in the direction of love. It's in a practical direction . . ." (Who Speaks for the Negro? Warren).
According to a 2020 study in the American Political Science Review, nonviolent civil rights protests boosted vote shares for the Democratic party in presidential elections in nearby counties, but violent protests substantially boosted white support for Republicans in counties near to the violent protests.
Robert F. Williams and the debate on nonviolence, 1959–1964
Armed Lumbee Indians aggressively confronting Klansmen in the Battle of Hayes PondThe Jim Crow system employed "terror as a means of social control," with the most organized manifestations being the Ku Klux Klan and their collaborators in local police departments. This violence played a key role in blocking the progress of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s. Some black organizations in the South began practicing armed self-defense. The first to do so openly was the Monroe, North Carolina, chapter of the NAACP led by Robert F. Williams. Williams had rebuilt the chapter after its membership was terrorized out of public life by the Klan. He did so by encouraging a new, more working-class membership to arm itself thoroughly and defend against attack. When Klan nightriders attacked the home of NAACP member Albert Perry in October 1957, Williams' militia exchanged gunfire with the stunned Klansmen, who quickly retreated. The following day, the city council held an emergency session and passed an ordinance banning KKK motorcades. One year later, Lumbee Indians in North Carolina would have a similarly successful armed stand-off with the Klan (known as the Battle of Hayes Pond) which resulted in KKK leader James W. "Catfish" Cole being convicted of incitement to riot.
After the acquittal of several white men charged with sexually assaulting black women in Monroe, Williams announced to United Press International reporters that he would "meet violence with violence" as a policy. Williams' declaration was quoted on the front page of The New York Times, and The Carolina Times considered it "the biggest civil rights story of 1959". NAACP National chairman Roy Wilkins immediately suspended Williams from his position, but the Monroe organizer won support from numerous NAACP chapters across the country. Ultimately, Wilkins resorted to bribing influential organizer Daisy Bates to campaign against Williams at the NAACP national convention and the suspension was upheld. The convention nonetheless passed a resolution which stated: "We do not deny, but reaffirm the right of individual and collective self-defense against unlawful assaults." Martin Luther King Jr. argued for Williams' removal, but Ella Baker and WEB Dubois both publicly praised the Monroe leader's position.
Williams—along with his wife, Mabel Williams—continued to play a leadership role in the Monroe movement, and to some degree, in the national movement. The Williamses published The Crusader, a nationally circulated newsletter, beginning in 1960, and the influential book Negroes With Guns in 1962. Williams did not call for full militarization in this period, but "flexibility in the freedom struggle." Williams was well-versed in legal tactics and publicity, which he had used successfully in the internationally known "Kissing Case" of 1958, as well as nonviolent methods, which he used at lunch counter sit-ins in Monroe—all with armed self-defense as a complementary tactic.
Williams led the Monroe movement in another armed stand-off with white supremacists during an August 1961 Freedom Ride; he had been invited to participate in the campaign by Ella Baker and James Forman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The incident (along with his campaigns for peace with Cuba) resulted in him being targeted by the FBI and prosecuted for kidnapping; he was cleared of all charges in 1976. Meanwhile, armed self-defense continued discreetly in the Southern movement with such figures as SNCC's Amzie Moore, Hartman Turnbow, and Fannie Lou Hamer all willing to use arms to defend their lives from nightrides. Taking refuge from the FBI in Cuba, the Willamses broadcast the radio show Radio Free Dixie throughout the eastern United States via Radio Progresso beginning in 1962. In this period, Williams advocated guerilla warfare against racist institutions and saw the large ghetto riots of the era as a manifestation of his strategy.
University of North Carolina historian Walter Rucker has written that "the emergence of Robert F Williams contributed to the marked decline in anti-black racial violence in the U.S....After centuries of anti-black violence, African Americans across the country began to defend their communities aggressively—employing overt force when necessary. This in turn evoked in whites real fear of black vengeance..." This opened up space for African Americans to use nonviolent demonstration with less fear of deadly reprisal. Of the many civil rights activists who share this view, the most prominent was Rosa Parks. Parks gave the eulogy at Williams' funeral in 1996, praising him for "his courage and for his commitment to freedom," and concluding that "The sacrifices he made, and what he did, should go down in history and never be forgotten."
Sit-ins, 1958–1960See also: Greensboro sit-ins, Nashville sit-ins, and Sit-in movementIn July 1958, the NAACP Youth Council sponsored sit-ins at the lunch counter of a Dockum Drug Store in downtown Wichita, Kansas. After three weeks, the movement successfully got the store to change its policy of segregated seating, and soon afterwards all Dockum stores in Kansas were desegregated. This movement was quickly followed in the same year by a student sit-in at a Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City led by Clara Luper, which also was successful.Student sit-in at Woolworth in Durham, North Carolina on February 10, 1960
February One, a monument and sculpture by James Barnhill on North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University's campus, is dedicated to the actions of the Greensboro Four that helped spark the civil rights movement in the South.Mostly black students from area colleges led a sit-in at a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina. On February 1, 1960, four students, Ezell A. Blair Jr., David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College, an all-black college, sat down at the segregated lunch counter to protest Woolworth's policy of excluding African Americans from being served food there. The four students purchased small items in other parts of the store and kept their receipts, then sat down at the lunch counter and asked to be served. After being denied service, they produced their receipts and asked why their money was good everywhere else at the store, but not at the lunch counter.
The protesters had been encouraged to dress professionally, to sit quietly, and to occupy every other stool so that potential white sympathizers could join in. The Greensboro sit-in was quickly followed by other sit-ins in Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta, Georgia. The most immediately effective of these was in Nashville, where hundreds of well organized and highly disciplined college students conducted sit-ins in coordination with a boycott campaign. As students across the south began to "sit-in" at the lunch counters of local stores, police and other officials sometimes used brutal force to physically escort the demonstrators from the lunch facilities.
The "sit-in" technique was not new—as far back as 1939, African-American attorney Samuel Wilbert Tucker organized a sit-in at the then-segregated Alexandria, Virginia, library. In 1960 the technique succeeded in bringing national attention to the movement. On March 9, 1960, an Atlanta University Center group of students released An Appeal for Human Rights as a full page advertisement in newspapers, including the Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta Journal, and Atlanta Daily World. Known as the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR), the group initiated the Atlanta Student Movement and began to lead sit-ins starting on March 15, 1960. By the end of 1960, the process of sit-ins had spread to every southern and border state, and even to facilities in Nevada, Illinois, and Ohio that discriminated against blacks.
Demonstrators focused not only on lunch counters but also on parks, beaches, libraries, theaters, museums, and other public facilities. In April 1960 activists who had led these sit-ins were invited by SCLC activist Ella Baker to hold a conference at Shaw University, a historically black university in Raleigh, North Carolina. This conference led to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC took these tactics of nonviolent confrontation further, and organized the freedom rides. As the constitution protected interstate commerce, they decided to challenge segregation on interstate buses and in public bus facilities by putting interracial teams on them, to travel from the North through the segregated South.
Freedom Rides, 1961Main article: Freedom RiderFreedom Rides were journeys by civil rights activists on interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which ruled that segregation was unconstitutional for passengers engaged in interstate travel. Organized by CORE, the first Freedom Ride of the 1960s left Washington D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.
During the first and subsequent Freedom Rides, activists traveled through the Deep South to integrate seating patterns on buses 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.A mob beats Freedom Riders in Birmingham. This picture was reclaimed by the FBI from a local journalist who also was beaten and whose camera was smashed.In Birmingham, Alabama, an FBI informant reported that Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor gave Ku Klux Klan members fifteen minutes to attack an incoming group of freedom riders before having police "protect" them. The riders were severely beaten "until it looked like a bulldog had got a hold of them." James Peck, a white activist, was beaten so badly that he required fifty stitches to his head.
In a similar occurrence in Montgomery, Alabama, the Freedom Riders followed in the footsteps of Rosa Parks and rode an integrated Greyhound bus from Birmingham. Although they were protesting interstate bus segregation in peace, they were met with violence in Montgomery as a large, white mob attacked them for their activism. They caused an enormous, 2-hour long riot which resulted in 22 injuries, five of whom were hospitalized.
Mob violence in Anniston and Birmingham temporarily halted the rides. SNCC activists from Nashville brought in new riders to continue the journey from Birmingham to New Orleans. In Montgomery, Alabama, at the Greyhound Bus Station, a mob charged another busload of riders, knocking John Lewis unconscious with a crate and smashing Life photographer Don Urbrock in the face with his own camera. A dozen men surrounded James Zwerg, a white student from Fisk University, and beat him in the face with a suitcase, knocking out his teeth.
On May 24, 1961, the freedom riders continued their rides into Jackson, Mississippi, where they were arrested for "breaching the peace" by using "white only" facilities. New Freedom Rides were organized by many different organizations and continued to flow into the South. As riders arrived in Jackson, they were arrested. By the end of summer, more than 300 had been jailed in Mississippi.
.. When the weary Riders arrive in Jackson and attempt to use "white only" restrooms and lunch counters they are immediately arrested for Breach of Peace and Refusal to Obey an Officer. Says Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett in defense of segregation: "The Negro is different because God made him different to punish him." From lockup, the Riders announce "Jail No Bail"—they will not pay fines for unconstitutional arrests and illegal convictions—and by staying in jail they keep the issue alive. Each prisoner will remain in jail for 39 days, the maximum time they can serve without loosing [sic] their right to appeal the unconstitutionality of their arrests, trials, and convictions. After 39 days, they file an appeal and post bond...
The jailed freedom riders were treated harshly, crammed into tiny, filthy cells and sporadically beaten. In Jackson, some male prisoners were forced to do hard labor in 100 °F heat. Others were transferred to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where they were treated to harsh conditions. Sometimes the men were suspended by "wrist breakers" from the walls. Typically, the windows of their cells were shut tight on hot days, making it hard for them to breathe.
Public sympathy and support for the freedom riders led John F. Kennedy's administration to order the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to issue a new desegregation order. When the new ICC rule took effect on November 1, 1961, passengers were permitted to sit wherever they chose on the bus; "white" and "colored" signs came down in the terminals; separate drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms were consolidated; and lunch counters began serving people regardless of skin color.
The student movement involved such celebrated figures as John Lewis, a single-minded activist; James Lawson, the revered "guru" of nonviolent theory and tactics; Diane Nash, an articulate and intrepid public champion of justice; Bob Moses, pioneer of voting registration in Mississippi; and James Bevel, a fiery preacher and charismatic organizer, strategist, and facilitator. Other prominent student activists included Dion Diamond, Charles McDew, Bernard Lafayette, Charles Jones, Lonnie King, Julian Bond, Hosea Williams, and Stokely Carmichael.
Voter registration organizingAfter the Freedom Rides, local black leaders in Mississippi such as Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, and others asked SNCC to help register black voters and to build community organizations that could win a share of political power in the state. Since Mississippi ratified its new constitution in 1890 with provisions such as poll taxes, residency requirements, and literacy tests, it made registration more complicated and stripped blacks from voter rolls and voting. Also, violence at the time of elections had earlier suppressed black voting.
By the mid-20th century, preventing blacks from voting had become an essential part of the culture of white supremacy. In June and July 1959, members of the black community in Fayette County, TN formed the Fayette County Civic and Welfare League to spur voting. At the time, there were 16,927 blacks in the county, yet only 17 of them had voted in the previous seven years. Within a year, some 1,400 blacks had registered, and the white community responded with harsh economic reprisals. Using registration rolls, the White Citizens Council circulated a blacklist of all registered black voters, allowing banks, local stores, and gas stations to conspire to deny registered black voters essential services. What's more, sharecropping blacks who registered to vote were getting evicted from their homes. All in all, the number of evictions came to 257 families, many of whom were forced to live in a makeshift Tent City for well over a year. Finally, in December 1960, the Justice Department invoked its powers authorized by the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to file a suit against seventy parties accused of violating the civil rights of black Fayette County citizens. In the following year the first voter registration project in McComb and the surrounding counties in the Southwest corner of the state. Their efforts were met with violent repression from state and local lawmen, the White Citizens' Council, and the Ku Klux Klan. Activists were beaten, there were hundreds of arrests of local citizens, and the voting activist Herbert Lee was murdered.
White opposition to black voter registration was so intense in Mississippi that Freedom Movement activists concluded that all of the state's civil rights organizations had to unite in a coordinated effort to have any chance of success. In February 1962, representatives of SNCC, CORE, and the NAACP formed the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). At a subsequent meeting in August, SCLC became part of COFO.
In the Spring of 1962, with funds from the Voter Education Project, SNCC/COFO began voter registration organizing in the Mississippi Delta area around Greenwood, and the areas surrounding Hattiesburg, Laurel, and Holly Springs. As in McComb, their efforts were met with fierce opposition—arrests, beatings, shootings, arson, and murder. Registrars used the literacy test to keep blacks off the voting rolls by creating standards that even highly educated people could not meet. In addition, employers fired blacks who tried to register, and landlords evicted them from their rental homes. Despite these actions, over the following years, the black voter registration campaign spread across the state.
Similar voter registration campaigns—with similar responses—were begun by SNCC, CORE, and SCLC in Louisiana, Alabama, southwest Georgia, and South Carolina. By 1963, voter registration campaigns in the South were as integral to the Freedom Movement as desegregation efforts. After the 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 the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had provisions to enforce the constitutional right to vote for all citizens.
Integration of Mississippi universities, 1956–1965Beginning in 1956, Clyde Kennard, a black Korean War-veteran, wanted to enroll at Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) at Hattiesburg under the G.I. Bill. William David McCain, the college president, used the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, in order to prevent his enrollment by appealing to local black leaders and the segregationist state political establishment.
The state-funded organization tried to counter the civil rights movement by positively portraying segregationist policies. More significantly, it collected data on activists, harassed them legally, and used economic boycotts against them by threatening their jobs (or causing them to lose their jobs) to try to suppress their work.
Kennard was twice arrested on trumped-up charges, and eventually convicted and sentenced to seven years in the state prison. After three years at hard labor, Kennard was paroled by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Journalists had investigated his case and publicized the state's mistreatment of his colon cancer.
McCain's role in Kennard's arrests and convictions is unknown. While trying to prevent Kennard's enrollment, McCain made a speech in Chicago, with his travel sponsored by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. He described the blacks' seeking to desegregate Southern schools as "imports" from the North. (Kennard was a native and resident of Hattiesburg.) McCain said:
We insist that educationally and socially, we maintain a segregated society...In all fairness, I admit that we are not encouraging Negro voting...The Negroes prefer that control of the government remain in the white man's hands.
Note: Mississippi had passed a new constitution in 1890 that effectively disfranchised most blacks by changing electoral and voter registration requirements; although it deprived them of constitutional rights authorized under post-Civil War amendments, it survived U.S. Supreme Court challenges at the time. It was not until after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that most blacks in Mississippi and other southern states gained federal protection to enforce the constitutional right of citizens to vote.James Meredith walking to class accompanied by a U.S. Marshal and a Justice Department officialIn September 1962, James Meredith won a lawsuit to secure admission to the previously segregated University of Mississippi. He attempted to enter campus on September 20, on September 25, and again on September 26. He was blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, who said, "[N]o school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your Governor." The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Barnett and Lieutenant Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr. in contempt, ordering them arrested and fined more than $10,000 for each day they refused to allow Meredith to enroll.U.S. Army trucks loaded with Federal law enforcement personnel on the University of Mississippi campus 1962Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent in a force of U.S. Marshals and deputized U.S. Border Patrol agents and Federal Bureau of Prisons officers. On September 30, 1962, Meredith entered the campus under their escort. Students and other whites began rioting that evening, throwing rocks and firing on the federal agents guarding Meredith at Lyceum Hall. Rioters ended up killing two civilians, including a French journalist; 28 federal agents suffered gunshot wounds, and 160 others were injured. President John F. Kennedy sent U.S. Army and federalized Mississippi National Guard forces to the campus to quell the riot. Meredith began classes the day after the troops arrived.
Kennard and other activists continued to work on public university desegregation. In 1965 Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong became the first African-American students to attend the University of Southern Mississippi. By that time, McCain helped ensure they had a peaceful entry. In 2006, Judge Robert Helfrich ruled that Kennard was factually innocent of all charges for which he had been convicted in the 1950s.
Albany Movement, 1961–62Main article: Albany MovementThe SCLC, which had been criticized by some student activists for its failure to participate more fully in the freedom rides, committed much of its prestige and resources to a desegregation campaign in Albany, Georgia, in November 1961. King, who had been criticized personally by some SNCC activists for his distance from the dangers that local organizers faced—and given the derisive nickname "De Lawd" as a result—intervened personally to assist the campaign led by both SNCC organizers and local leaders.
The campaign was a failure because of the canny tactics of Laurie Pritchett, the local police chief, and divisions within the black community. The goals may not have been specific enough. Pritchett contained the marchers without violent attacks on demonstrators that inflamed national opinion. He also arranged for arrested demonstrators to be taken to jails in surrounding communities, allowing plenty of room to remain in his jail. Pritchett also foresaw King's presence as a danger and forced his release to avoid King's rallying the black community. King left in 1962 without having achieved any dramatic victories. The local movement, however, continued the struggle, and it obtained significant gains in the next few years.
Birmingham campaign, 1963Main article: Birmingham campaignThe Albany movement was shown to be an important education for the SCLC, however, when it undertook the Birmingham campaign in 1963. Executive Director Wyatt Tee Walker carefully planned the early strategy and tactics for the campaign. It focused on one goal—the desegregation of Birmingham's downtown merchants, rather than total desegregation, as in Albany.
The movement's efforts were helped by the brutal response of local authorities, in particular Eugene "Bull" Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety. He had long held much political power but had lost a recent election for mayor to a less raofferly segregationist candidate. Refusing to accept the new mayor's authority, Connor intended to stay in office.
The campaign used a variety of nonviolent methods of confrontation, including sit-ins, kneel-ins at local churches, and a march to the county building to mark the beginning of a drive to register voters. The city, however, obtained an injunction barring all such protests. Convinced that the order was unconstitutional, the campaign defied it and prepared for mass arrests of its supporters. King elected to be among those arrested on April 12, 1963.Recreation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s cell in Birmingham Jail at the National Civil Rights MuseumWhile in jail, King wrote his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" on the margins of a newspaper, since he had not been allowed any writing paper while held in solitary confinement. Supporters appealed to the Kennedy administration, which intervened to obtain King's release. Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, arranged for $160,000 to bail out King and his fellow protestors. King was allowed to call his wife, who was recuperating at home after the birth of their fourth child and was released early on April 19.
The campaign, however, faltered as it ran out of demonstrators willing to risk arrest. James Bevel, SCLC's Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education, then came up with a bold and controversial alternative: to train high school students to take part in the demonstrations. As a result, in what would be called the Children's Crusade, more than one thousand students skipped school on May 2 to meet at the 16th Street Baptist Church to join the demonstrations. More than six hundred marched out of the church fifty at a time in an attempt to walk to City Hall to speak to Birmingham's mayor about segregation. They were arrested and put into jail. In this first encounter, the police acted with restraint. On the next day, however, another one thousand students gathered at the church. When Bevel started them marching fifty at a time, Bull Connor finally unleashed police dogs on them and then turned the city's fire hoses water streams on the children. National television networks broadcast the scenes of the dogs attacking demonstrators and the water from the fire hoses knocking down the schoolchildren.
Widespread public outrage led the Kennedy administration to intervene more forcefully in negotiations between the white business community and the SCLC. On May 10, the parties announced an agreement to desegregate the lunch counters and other public accommodations downtown, to create a committee to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices, to arrange for the release of jailed protesters, and to establish regular means of communication between black and white leaders.
A black and white photograph of a building in ruins next to an intact wallWreckage at the Gaston Motel following the bomb explosion on May 11, 1963Not everyone in the black community approved of the agreement—Fred Shuttlesworth was particularly critical, since he was skeptical about the good faith of Birmingham's power structure from his experience in dealing with them. Parts of the white community reacted violently. They bombed the Gaston Motel, which housed the SCLC's unofficial headquarters, and the home of King's brother, the Reverend A. D. King. In response, thousands of blacks rioted, burning numerous buildings and one of them stabbed and wounded a police officer.Congress of Racial Equality march in Washington D.C. on September 22, 1963, in memory of the children killed in the Birmingham bombings
Alabama governor George Wallace tried to block desegregation at the University of Alabama and is confronted by U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach in 1963.Kennedy prepared to federalize the Alabama National Guard if the need arose. Four months later, on September 15, a conspiracy of Ku Klux Klan members bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four young girls.
"Rising tide of discontent" and Kennedy's response, 1963Main articles: Gloria Richardson, Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, and Civil Rights AddressBirmingham was only one of over a hundred cities rocked by the chaotic protest that spring and summer, some of them in the North but mainly in the South. During the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. would refer to such protests as "the whirlwinds of revolt." In Chicago, blacks rioted through the South Side in late May after a white police officer shot a fourteen-year-old black boy who was fleeing the scene of a robbery. Violent clashes between black activists and white workers took place in both Philadelphia and Harlem in successful efforts to integrate state construction projects. On June 6, over a thousand whites attacked a sit-in in Lexington, North Carolina; blacks fought back and one white man was killed. Edwin C. Berry of the National Urban League warned of a complete breakdown in race relations: "My message from the beer gardens and the barbershops all indicate the fact that the Negro is ready for war."
In Cambridge, Maryland, a working‐class city on the Eastern Shore, Gloria Richardson of SNCC led a movement that pressed for desegregation but also demanded low‐rent public housing, job‐training, public and private jobs, and an end to police brutality. On June 11, struggles between blacks and whites escalated into violent rioting, leading Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes to declare martial law. When negotiations between Richardson and Maryland officials faltered, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy directly intervened to negotiate a desegregation agreement. Richardson felt that the increasing participation of poor and working-class blacks was expanding both the power and parameters of the movement, asserting that "the people as a whole really do have more intelligence than a few of their leaders.ʺ
In their deliberations during this wave of protests, the Kennedy administration privately felt that militant demonstrations were ʺbad for the countryʺ and that "Negroes are going to push this thing too far." On May 24, Robert Kennedy had a meeting with prominent black intellectuals to discuss the racial situation. The blacks criticized Kennedy harshly for vacillating on civil rights and said that the African-American community's thoughts were increasingly turning to violence. The meeting ended with ill will on all sides. Nonetheless, the Kennedys ultimately decided that new legislation for equal public accommodations was essential to drive activists "into the courts and out of the streets."The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the National Mall
Leaders of the March on Washington posing before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963On June 11, 1963, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, tried to block the integration of the University of Alabama. President John F. Kennedy sent a military force to make Governor Wallace step aside, allowing the enrollment of Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood. That evening, President Kennedy addressed the nation on TV and radio with his historic civil rights speech, where he lamented "a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety." He called on Congress to pass new civil rights legislation, and urged the country to embrace civil rights as "a moral issue...in our daily lives." In the early hours of June 12, Medgar Evers, field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP, was assassinated by a member of the Klan. The next week, as promised, on June 19, 1963, President Kennedy submitted his Civil Rights bill to Congress.
March on Washington, 1963Main article: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Bayard Rustin (left) and Cleveland Robinson (right), organizers of the March, on August 7, 1963A. Philip Randolph had planned a march on Washington, D.C., in 1941 to support demands for elimination of employment discrimination in defense industries; he called off the march when the Roosevelt administration met the demand by issuing Executive Order 8802 barring racial discrimination and creating an agency to oversee compliance with the order.
Randolph and Bayard Rustin were the chief planners of the second march, which they proposed in 1962. In 1963, the Kennedy administration initially opposed the march out of concern it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation. However, Randolph and King were firm that the march would proceed. With the march going forward, the Kennedys decided it was important to work to ensure its success. Concerned about the turnout, President Kennedy enlisted the aid of white church leaders and Walter Reuther, president of the UAW, to help mobilize white supporters for the march.
The march was held on August 28, 1963. Unlike the planned 1941 march, for which Randolph included only black-led organizations in the planning, the 1963 march was a collaborative effort of all of the major civil rights organizations, the more progressive wing of the labor movement, and other liberal organizations. The march had six official goals:
meaningful civil rights lawsa massive federal works programfull and fair employmentdecent housingthe right to voteadequate integrated education.Of these, the march's major focus was on passage of the civil rights law that the Kennedy administration had proposed after the upheavals in Birmingham.Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights march on Washington, D.C.National media attention also greatly contributed to the march's national exposure and probable impact. In the essay "The March on Washington and Television News," historian William Thomas notes: "Over five hundred cameramen, technicians, and correspondents from the major networks were set to cover the event. More cameras would be set up than had filmed the last presidential inauguration. One camera was positioned high in the Washington Monument, to give dramatic vistas of the marchers". By carrying the organizers' speeches and offering their own commentary, television stations framed the way their local audiences saw and understood the event.
"I Have a Dream"MENU0:0030-second sample from "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963Problems playing this file? See media help.The march was a success, although not without controversy. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. While many speakers applauded the Kennedy administration for the efforts it had made toward obtaining new, more effective civil rights legislation protecting the right to vote and outlawing segregation, John Lewis of SNCC took the administration to task for not doing more to protect southern blacks and civil rights workers under attack in the Deep South.
After the march, King and other civil rights leaders met with President Kennedy at the White House. While the Kennedy administration appeared sincerely committed to passing the bill, it was not clear that it had enough votes in Congress to do so. However, when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the new President Lyndon Johnson decided to use his influence in Congress to bring about much of Kennedy's legislative agenda.
Malcolm X joins the movement, 1964–1965Main articles: Malcolm X, Black Nationalism, and The Ballot or the BulletIn March 1964, Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), national representative of the Nation of Islam, formally broke with that organization, and made a public offer to collaborate with any civil rights organization that accepted the right to self-defense and the philosophy of Black nationalism (which Malcolm said no longer required Black separatism). Gloria Richardson, head of the Cambridge, Maryland, chapter of SNCC, and leader of the Cambridge rebellion, an honored guest at The March on Washington, immediately embraced Malcolm's offer. Mrs. Richardson, "the nation's most prominent woman [civil rights] leader," told The Baltimore Afro-American that "Malcolm is being very practical...The federal government has moved into conflict situations only when matters approach the level of insurrection. Self-defense may force Washington to intervene sooner." Earlier, in May 1963, writer and activist James Baldwin had stated publicly that "the Black Muslim movement is the only one in the country we can call grassroots, I hate to say it...Malcolm articulates for Negroes, their suffering...he corroborates their reality..." On the local level, Malcolm and the NOI had been allied with the Harlem chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) since at least 1962.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. speak to each other thoughtfully as others look on.Malcolm X meets with Martin Luther King Jr., March 26, 1964On March 26, 1964, as the Civil Rights Act was facing stiff opposition in Congress, Malcolm had a public meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. at the Capitol. Malcolm had tried to begin a dialog with King as early as 1957, but King had rebuffed him. Malcolm had responded by calling King an "Uncle Tom", saying he had turned his back on black militancy in order to appease the white power structure. But the two men were on good terms at their face-to-face meeting. There is evidence that King was preparing to support Malcolm's plan to formally bring the U.S. government before the United Nations on charges of human rights violations against African Americans. Malcolm now encouraged Black nationalists to get involved in voter registration drives and other forms of community organizing to redefine and expand the movement.
Civil rights activists became increasingly combative in the 1963 to 1964 period, seeking to defy such events as the thwarting of the Albany campaign, police repression and Ku Klux Klan terrorism in Birmingham, and the assassination of Medgar Evers. The latter's brother Charles Evers, who took over as Mississippi NAACP Field Director, told a public NAACP conference on February 15, 1964, that "non-violence won't work in Mississippi...we made up our minds...that if a white man shoots at a Negro in Mississippi, we will shoot back." The repression of sit-ins in Jacksonville, Florida, provoked a riot in which black youth threw Molotov cocktails at police on March 24, 1964. Malcolm X gave numerous speeches in this period warning that such militant activity would escalate further if African Americans' rights were not fully recognized. In his landmark April 1964 speech "The Ballot or the Bullet", Malcolm presented an ultimatum to white America: "There's new strategy coming in. It'll be Molotov cocktails this month, hand grenades next month, and something else next month. It'll be ballots, or it'll be bullets."
As noted in the PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize, "Malcolm X had a far-reaching effect on the civil rights movement. In the South, there had been a long tradition of self-reliance. Malcolm X's ideas now touched that tradition". Self-reliance was becoming paramount in light of the 1964 Democratic National Convention's decision to refuse seating to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and instead to seat the regular state delegation, which had been elected in violation of the party's own rules, and by Jim Crow law instead. SNCC moved in an increasingly militant direction and worked with Malcolm X on two Harlem MFDP fundraisers in December 1964.
When Fannie Lou Hamer spoke to Harlemites about the Jim Crow violence that she'd suffered in Mississippi, she linked it directly to the Northern police brutality against blacks that Malcolm protested against; When Malcolm asserted that African Americans should emulate the Mau Mau army of Kenya in efforts to gain their independence, many in SNCC applauded.
During the Selma campaign for voting rights in 1965, Malcolm made it known that he'd heard reports of increased threats of lynching around Selma. In late January he sent an open telegram to George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi Party, stating:
"if your present racist agitation against our people there in Alabama causes physical harm to Reverend King or any other black Americans...you and your KKK friends will be met with maximum physical retaliation from those of us who are not handcuffed by the disarming philosophy of nonviolence."
The following month, the Selma chapter of SNCC invited Malcolm to speak to a mass meeting there. On the day of Malcolm's appearance, President Johnson made his first public statement in support of the Selma campaign. Paul Ryan Haygood, a co-director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, credits Malcolm with a role in gaining support by the federal government. Haygood noted that "shortly after Malcolm's visit to Selma, a federal judge, responding to a suit brought by the Department of Justice, required Dallas County, Alabama, registrars to process at least 100 Black applications each day their offices were open."
St. Augustine, Florida, 1963–64Main article: St. Augustine movementFurther information: 1964 Monson Motor Lodge protest
"We Cater to White Trade Only" sign on a restaurant window in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1938. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and spent a night in jail for attempting to eat at a white-only restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida.St. Augustine was famous as the "Nation's Oldest City", founded by the Spanish in 1565. It became the stage for a great drama leading up to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. A local movement, led by Robert B. Hayling, a black dentist and Air Force veteran affiliated with the NAACP, had been picketing segregated local institutions since 1963. In the fall of 1964, Hayling and three companions were brutally beaten at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
Nightriders shot into black homes, and teenagers Audrey Nell Edwards, JoeAnn Anderson, Samuel White, and Willie Carl Singleton (who came to be known as "The St. Augustine Four") sat in at a local Woolworth's lunch counter, seeking to get served. They were arrested and convicted of trespassing, and sentenced to six months in jail and reform school. It took a special act of the governor and cabinet of Florida to release them after national protests by the Pittsburgh Courier, Jackie Robinson, and others.
In response to the repression, the St. Augustine movement practiced armed self-defense in addition to nonviolent direct action. In June 1963, Hayling publicly stated that "I and the others have armed. We will shoot first and answer questions later. We are not going to die like Medgar Evers." The comment made national headlines. When Klan nightriders terrorized black neighborhoods in St. Augustine, Hayling's NAACP members often drove them off with gunfire. In October 1963, a Klansman was killed.
In 1964, Hayling and other activists urged the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to come to St. Augustine. Four prominent Massachusetts women – Mary Parkman Peabody, Esther Burgess, Hester Campbell (all of whose husbands were Episcopal bishops), and Florence Rowe (whose husband was vice president of the John Hancock Insurance Company) – also came to lend their support. The arrest of 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 movement in St. Augustine to the attention of the world.
Widely publicized activities continued in the ensuing months. When King was arrested, he sent a "Letter from the St. Augustine Jail" to a northern supporter, Rabbi Israel Dresner. A week later, in the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history took place, while they were conducting a pray-in at the segregated Monson Motel. A well-known photograph taken in St. Augustine shows the manager of the Monson Motel pouring muriatic acid in the swimming pool while blacks and whites are swimming in it. The horrifying photograph was run on the front page of a Washington newspaper the day the Senate was to vote on passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Chester school protests, Spring 1964Main article: Chester school protestsFrom November 1963 through April 1964, the Chester school protests were a series of civil rights protests led by George Raymond of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) and Stanley Branche of the Committee for Freedom Now (CFFN) that made Chester, Pennsylvania one of the key battlegrounds of the civil rights movement. James Farmer, the national director of the Congress of Racial Equality called Chester "the Birmingham of the North".
In 1962, Branche and the CFFN focused on improving conditions at the predominantly black Franklin Elementary school in Chester. Although the school was built to house 500 students, it had become overcrowded with 1,200 students. The school's average class-size was 39, twice the number of nearby all-white schools. The school was built in 1910 and had never been updated. Only two bathrooms were available for the entire school. In November 1963, CFFN protesters blocked the entrance to Franklin Elementary school and the Chester Municipal Building resulting in the arrest of 240 protesters. Following public attention to the protests stoked by media coverage of the mass arrests, the mayor and school board negotiated with the CFFN and NAACP. The Chester Board of Education agreed to reduce class sizes at Franklin school, remove unsanitary toilet facilities, relocate classes held in the boiler room and coal bin and repair school grounds.
Emboldened by the success of the Franklin Elementary school demonstrations, the CFFN recruited new members, sponsored voter registration drives and planned a citywide boycott of Chester schools. Branche built close ties with students at nearby Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania Military College and Cheyney State College in order to ensure large turnouts at demonstrations and protests. Branche invited Dick Gregory and Malcolm X to Chester to participate in the "Freedom Now Conference" and other national civil rights leaders such as Gloria Richardson came to Chester in support of the demonstrations.
In 1964, a series of almost nightly protests brought chaos to Chester as protestors argued that the Chester School Board had de facto segregation of schools. The mayor of Chester, James Gorbey, issued "The Police Position to Preserve the Public Peace", a ten-point statement promising an immediate return to law and order. The city deputized firemen and trash collectors to help handle demonstrators. The State of Pennsylvania deployed 50 state troopers to assist the 77-member Chester police force. The demonstrations were marked by violence and charges of police brutality. Over six hundred people were arrested over a two month period of civil rights rallies, marches, pickets, boycotts and sit-ins. Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton became involved in the negotiations and convinced Branche to obey a court-ordered moratorium on demonstrations. Scranton created the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to conduct hearings on the de facto segregation of public schools. All protests were discontinued while the commission held hearings during the summer of 1964.
In November 1964, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission concluded that the Chester School Board had violated the law and ordered the Chester School District to desegregate the city's six predominantly African-American schools. The city appealed the ruling, which delayed implementation.
Freedom Summer, 1964Main article: Freedom SummerIn the summer of 1964, COFO brought nearly 1,000 activists to Mississippi—most of them white college students from the North and West—to join with local black activists to register voters, teach in "Freedom Schools," and organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).
Many of Mississippi's white residents deeply resented the outsiders and attempts to change their society. State and local governments, police, the White Citizens' Council and the Ku Klux Klan used arrests, beatings, arson, murder, spying, firing, evictions, and other forms of intimidation and harassment to oppose the project and prevent blacks from registering to vote or achieving social equality.Missing persons poster created by the FBI in 1964 shows the photographs of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael SchwernerOn June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers disappeared: James Chaney, a young black Mississippian and plasterer's apprentice; and two Jewish activists, Andrew Goodman, a Queens College anthropology student; and Michael Schwerner, a CORE organizer from Manhattan's Lower East Side. They were found weeks later, murdered by conspirators who turned out to be local members of the Klan, some of the members of the Neshoba County sheriff's department. This outraged the public, leading the U.S. Justice Department along with the FBI (the latter which had previously avoided dealing with the issue of segregation and persecution of blacks) to take action. The outrage over these murders helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
From June to August, Freedom Summer activists worked in 38 local projects scattered across the state, with the largest number concentrated in the Mississippi Delta region. At least 30 Freedom Schools, with close to 3,500 students, were established, and 28 community centers were set up.
Over the course of the Summer Project, some 17,000 Mississippi blacks attempted to become registered voters in defiance of the red tape and forces of white supremacy arrayed against them—only 1,600 (less than 10%) succeeded. But more than 80,000 joined the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), founded as an alternative political organization, showing their desire to vote and participate in politics.
Though Freedom Summer failed to register many voters, it had a significant effect on the course of the civil rights movement. It helped break down the decades of people's isolation and repression that were the foundation of the Jim 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.
The deaths of affluent northern white students and threats to non-Southerners attracted the full attention of the media spotlight to the state. Many black activists became embittered, believing the media valued the lives of whites and blacks differently. Perhaps the most significant effect of Freedom Summer was on the volunteers, almost all of whom—black and white—still consider it to have been one of the defining periods of their lives.
Civil Rights Act of 1964Main article: Civil Rights Act of 1964Although President Kennedy had proposed civil rights legislation and it had support from Northern Congressmen and Senators of both parties, Southern Senators blocked the bill by threatening filibusters. After considerable parliamentary maneuvering and 54 days of filibuster on the floor of the United States Senate, President Johnson got a bill through the Congress.Lyndon B. Johnson signs the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964On July 2, 1964, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination based on "race, color, religion, sex or national origin" in employment practices and 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.
Harlem riot of 1964Main article: Harlem riot of 1964When police shot an unarmed black teenager in Harlem in July 1964, tensions escalated out of control. Residents were frustrated with racial inequalities. Rioting broke out, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, a major black neighborhood in Brooklyn, erupted next. That summer, rioting also broke out in Philadelphia, for similar reasons. The riots were on a much smaller scale than what would occur in 1965 and later.
Washington responded with a pilot program called Project Uplift. Thousands of young people in Harlem were given jobs during the summer of 1965. The project was inspired by a report generated by HARYOU called Youth in the Ghetto. HARYOU was given a major role in organizing the project, together with the National Urban League and nearly 100 smaller community organizations. Permanent jobs at living wages were still out of reach of many young black men.
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964Main article: Mississippi Freedom Democratic PartyBlacks in Mississippi had been disfranchised by statutory and constitutional changes since the late 19th century. In 1963 COFO held a Freedom Ballot in Mississippi to demonstrate the desire of black Mississippians to vote. More than 80,000 people registered and voted in the mock election, which pitted an integrated slate of candidates from the "Freedom Party" against the official state Democratic Party candidates.President Lyndon B. Johnson (center) meets with civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer, January 1964In 1964, organizers launched the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) to challenge the all-white official party. When Mississippi voting registrars refused to recognize their candidates, they held their own primary. They selected Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, and Victoria Gray to run for Congress, and a slate of delegates to represent Mississippi at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
The presence of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was inconvenient, however, for the convention organizers. They had planned a triumphant celebration of the Johnson administration's achievements in civil rights, rather than a fight over racism within the Democratic Party. All-white delegations from other Southern states threatened to walk out if the official slate from Mississippi was not seated. Johnson was worried about the inroads that Republican Barry Goldwater's campaign was making in what previously had been the white Democratic stronghold of the "Solid South", as well as support that George Wallace had received in the North during the Democratic primaries.
Johnson could not, however, prevent the MFDP from taking its case to the Credentials Committee. There Fannie Lou Hamer testified eloquently about the beatings that she and others endured and the threats they faced for trying to register to vote. Turning to the television cameras, Hamer asked, "Is this America?"
Johnson offered the MFDP a "compromise" under which it would receive two non-voting, at-large seats, while the white delegation sent by the official Democratic Party would retain its seats. The MFDP angrily rejected the "compromise."
The MFDP kept up its agitation at the convention after it was denied official recognition. When all but three of the "regular" Mississippi delegates left because they refused to pledge allegiance to the party, the MFDP delegates borrowed passes from sympathetic delegates and took the seats vacated by the official Mississippi delegates. National party organizers removed them. When they returned the next day, they found convention organizers had removed the empty seats that had been there the day before. They stayed and sang "freedom songs".
The 1964 Democratic Party convention disillusioned many within the MFDP and the civil rights movement, but it did not destroy the MFDP. The MFDP became more radical after Atlantic City. It invited Malcolm X to speak at one of its conventions and opposed the war in Vietnam.
Selma Voting Rights MovementMain articles: Selma to Montgomery marches and Voting Rights Act
President Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr. at the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965"Remarks on the Signing of the Voting Rights Act"File:Remarks on the Signing of the Voting Rights Act (August 6, 1965) Lyndon Baines Johnson.ogvStatement before the United States Congress by Johnson on August 6, 1965, about the Voting Rights Act"Remarks on the Signing of the Voting Rights Act"MENU0:00audio onlyProblems playing these files? See media help.SNCC had undertaken an ambitious voter registration program in Selma, Alabama, in 1963, but by 1965 little headway had been made in the face of opposition from Selma's sheriff, Jim Clark. After local residents asked the SCLC for assistance, King came to Selma to lead several marches, at which he was arrested along with 250 other demonstrators. The marchers continued to meet violent resistance from the police. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a resident of nearby Marion, was killed by police at a later march on February 17, 1965. Jackson's death prompted James Bevel, director of the Selma Movement, to initiate and organize a plan to march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital.
On March 7, 1965, acting on Bevel's plan, Hosea Williams of the SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC led a march of 600 people to walk the 54 miles (87 km) from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery. Six blocks into the march, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the marchers left the city and moved into the county, state troopers, and local county law enforcement, some mounted on horseback, attacked the peaceful demonstrators with billy clubs, tear gas, rubber tubes wrapped in barbed wire, and bullwhips. They drove the marchers back into Selma. Lewis was knocked unconscious and dragged to safety. At least 16 other marchers were hospitalized. Among those gassed and beaten was Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was at the center of civil rights activity at the time.Police attack non-violent marchers on "Bloody Sunday", the first day of the Selma to Montgomery marches.The national broadcast of the news footage of lawmen attacking unresisting marchers' seeking to exercise their constitutional right to vote provoked a national response and hundreds of people from all over the country came for a second march. These marchers were turned around by King at the last minute so as not to violate a federal injunction. This displeased many demonstrators, especially those who resented King's nonviolence (such as James Forman and Robert F. Williams).
That night, local Whites attacked James Reeb, a voting rights supporter. He died of his injuries in a Birmingham hospital on March 11. Due to the national outcry at a White minister being murdered so brazenly (as well as the subsequent civil disobedience led by Gorman and other SNCC leaders all over the country, especially in Montgomery and at the White House), the marchers were able to lift the injunction and obtain protection from federal troops, permitting them to make the march across Alabama without incident two weeks later; during the march, Gorman, Williams, and other more militant protesters carried bricks and sticks of their own.
Four Klansmen shot and killed Detroit homemaker Viola Liuzzo as she drove marchers back to Selma that night.
Voting Rights Act of 1965Eight days after the first march, but before the final march, President Johnson delivered a televised address to support the voting rights bill he had sent to Congress. In it he stated:
Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.
On August 6, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which suspended literacy tests and other subjective voter registration tests. It authorized Federal supervision of voter registration in states and individual voting districts where such tests were being used and where African Americans were historically under-represented in voting rolls compared to the eligible population. African Americans who had been barred from registering to vote finally had an alternative to taking suits to local or state courts, which had seldom prosecuted their cases to success. If discrimination in voter registration occurred, the 1965 act authorized the Attorney General of the United States to send Federal examiners to replace local registrars.
Within months of the bill's 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. In 1965, Mississippi had the highest black voter turnout at 74% and led the nation in the number of black public officials elected. In 1969, Tennessee had a 92.1% turnout among black voters; Arkansas, 77.9%; and Texas, 73.1%.
Several whites who had opposed the Voting Rights Act paid a quick price. In 1966 Sheriff Jim Clark of Selma, Alabama, infamous for using cattle prods against civil rights marchers, was up for reelection. Although he took off the notorious "Never" pin on his uniform, he was defeated. At the election, Clark lost as blacks voted to get him out of office.
Blacks' regaining the power to vote changed the political landscape of the South. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, only about 100 African Americans held elective office, all in northern states. By 1989, there were more than 7,200 African Americans in office, including more than 4,800 in the South. Nearly every county where populations were majority black in Alabama had a black sheriff. Southern blacks held top positions in city, county, and state governments.
Atlanta elected a black mayor, Andrew Young, as did Jackson, Mississippi, with Harvey Johnson Jr., and New Orleans, with Ernest Morial. Black politicians on the national level included Barbara Jordan, elected as a Representative from Texas in Congress, and President Jimmy Carter appointed Andrew Young as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Julian Bond was elected to the Georgia State Legislature in 1965, although political reaction to his public opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War prevented him from taking his seat until 1967. John Lewis was first elected in 1986 to represent Georgia's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives, where he served from 1987 until his death in 2020.
Watts riot of 1965Main article: Watts Riots
Police arrest a man during the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, August 1965The new Voting Rights Act of 1965 had no immediate effect on living conditions for poor blacks. A few days after the act became law, a riot broke out in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. Like Harlem, Watts was a majority-black neighborhood with very high unemployment and associated poverty. Its residents confronted a largely white police department that had a history of abuse against blacks.
While arresting a young man for drunk driving, police officers argued with the suspect's mother before onlookers. The spark triggered massive destruction of property through six days of rioting in Los Angeles. Thirty-four people were killed, and property valued at about $40 million was destroyed, making the Watts Riots among the city's worst unrest until the Rodney King riots of 1992.
With black militancy on the rise, ghetto residents directed acts of anger at the police. Black residents growing tired of police brutality continued to riot. Some young people joined groups such as the Black Panthers, whose popularity was based in part on their reputation for confronting police officers. Riots among blacks occurred in 1966 and 1967 in cities such as Atlanta, San Francisco, Oakland, Baltimore, Seattle, Tacoma, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Newark, Chicago, New York City (specifically in Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx), and worst of all in Detroit.
Fair housing movements, 1966–1968The first major blow against housing segregation in the era, the Rumford Fair Housing Act, was passed in California in 1963. It was overturned by white California voters and real estate lobbyists the following year with Proposition 14, a move which helped precipitate the Watts Riots. In 1966, the California Supreme Court invalidated Proposition 14 and reinstated the Rumford Fair Housing Act.
Working and organizing for fair housing laws became a major project of the movement over the next two years, with Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, and Al Raby leading the Chicago Freedom Movement around the issue in 1966. In the following year, Father James Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council also attracted national attention with a fair housing campaign in Milwaukee. Both movements faced violent resistance from white homeowners and legal opposition from conservative politicians.
The Fair Housing Bill was the most contentious civil rights legislation of the era. Senator Walter Mondale, who advocated for the bill, noted that over successive years, it was the most filibustered legislation in U.S. history. It was opposed by most Northern and Southern senators, as well as the National Association of Real Estate Boards. A proposed "Civil Rights Act of 1966" had collapsed completely because of its fair housing provision. Mondale commented that:
A lot of civil rights [legislation] was about making the South behave and taking the teeth from George Wallace, [but] this came right to the neighborhoods across the country. This was civil rights getting personal.
Nationwide riots of 1967Main article: Long Hot Summer of 1967Further information: Detroit Riot of 1967, 1967 Newark riots, and 1967 Plainfield riotsFile:Excerpt- MP886 Detroit Riots.webmFilm on the riots created by the White House Naval Photographic UnitIn 1967 riots broke out in black neighborhoods in more than 100 U.S. cities, including Detroit, Newark, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. The largest of these was the 1967 Detroit riot.
In Detroit, a large black middle class had begun to develop among those African Americans who worked at unionized jobs in the automotive industry. These workers complained of persisting racist practices, limiting the jobs they could have and opportunities for promotion. The United Auto Workers channeled these complaints into bureaucratic and ineffective grievance procedures. Violent white mobs enforced the segregation of housing up through the 1960s. Blacks who were not upwardly mobile were living in substandard conditions, subject to the same problems as poor African Americans in Watts and Harlem.
When white Detroit Police Department (DPD) officers shut down an illegal bar and arrested a large group of patrons during the hot summer, furious black residents rioted. Rioters looted and destroyed property while snipers engaged in firefights from rooftops and windows, undermining the DPD's ability to curtail the disorder. In response, the Michigan Army National Guard and U.S. Army paratroopers were deployed to reinforce the DPD and protect Detroit Fire Department (DFD) firefighters from attacks while putting out fires. Residents reported that police officers and National Guardsmen shot at black civilians and suspects indiscriminately. After five days, 43 people had been killed, hundreds injured, and thousands left homeless; $40 to $45 million worth of damage was caused.
State and local governments responded to the riot with a dramatic increase in minority hiring. In the aftermath of the turmoil, the Greater Detroit Board of Commerce also launched a campaign to find jobs for ten thousand "previously unemployable" persons, a preponderant number of whom were black. Governor George Romney immediately responded to the riot of 1967 with a special session of the Michigan legislature where he forwarded sweeping housing proposals that included not only fair housing, but "important relocation, tenants' rights and code enforcement legislation." Romney had supported such proposals in 1965 but abandoned them in the face of organized opposition. The laws passed both houses of the legislature. Historian Sidney Fine wrote that:
The Michigan Fair Housing Act, which took effect on November 15, 1968, was stronger than the federal fair housing law...It is probably more than a coincidence that the state that had experienced the most severe racial disorder of the 1960s also adopted one of the strongest state fair housing acts.
President Johnson created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in response to a nationwide wave of riots. The commission's final report called for major reforms in employment and public policy in black communities. It warned that the United States was moving toward separate white and black societies.
Memphis, King assassination and the Civil Rights Act of 1968Main articles: Poor People's Campaign, Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and Civil Rights Act of 1968See also: Orangeburg massacre
A 3,000-person shantytown called Resurrection City was established in 1968 on the National Mall as part of the Poor People's Campaign.As 1968 began, the fair housing bill was being filibustered once again, but two developments revived it. The Kerner Commission report on the 1967 ghetto riots was delivered to Congress on March 1, and it strongly recommended "a comprehensive and enforceable federal open housing law" as a remedy to the civil disturbances. The Senate was moved to end their filibuster that week.
James Lawson invited King to Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1968 to support a sanitation workers' strike. These workers launched a campaign for union representation after two workers were accidentally killed on the job; they were seeking fair wages and improved working conditions. King considered their struggle to be a vital part of the Poor People's Campaign he was planning.
"I've Been to the Mountaintop"MENU0:00Final 30 seconds of "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. These are the final words from his final public speech.Problems playing this file? See media help.A day after delivering his stirring "I've Been to the Mountaintop" sermon, which has become famous for his vision of American society, King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Riots broke out in black neighborhoods in more than 110 cities across the United States in the days that followed, notably in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
The day before King's funeral, April 8, a completely silent march with Coretta Scott King, SCLC, and UAW president Walter Reuther attracted approximately 42,000 participants. Armed National Guardsmen lined the streets, sitting on M-48 tanks, to protect the marchers, and helicopters circled overhead. On April 9, Mrs. King led another 150,000 people in a funeral procession through the streets of Atlanta. Her dignity revived courage and hope in many of the Movement's members, confirming her place as the new leader in the struggle for racial equality.
Coretta Scott King said,
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for the poor of the world, the garbage workers of Memphis and the peasants of Vietnam. The day that Negro people and others in bondage are truly free, on the day want is abolished, on the day wars are no more, on that day I know my husband will rest in a long-deserved peace.
Ralph Abernathy succeeded King as the head of the SCLC and attempted to carry forth King's plan for a Poor People's March. It was to unite blacks and whites to campaign for fundamental changes in American society and economic structure. The march went forward under Abernathy's plainspoken leadership but did not achieve its goals.
Civil Rights Act of 1968The House of Representatives had been deliberating its Fair Housing Act in early April, before King's assassination and the aforementioned wave of unrest that followed, the largest since the Civil War. Senator Charles Mathias wrote:
[S]ome Senators and Representatives publicly stated they would not be intimidated or rushed into legislating because of the disturbances. Nevertheless, the news coverage of the riots and the underlying disparities in income, jobs, housing, and education, between White and Black Americans helped educate citizens and Congress about the stark reality of an enormous social problem. Members of Congress knew they had to act to redress these imbalances in American life to fulfill the dream that King had so eloquently preached.
The House passed the legislation on April 10, less than a week after King was murdered, and President Johnson signed it the next day. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, and national origin. It also made it a federal crime to "by force or by the threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone...by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin."
Gates v. Collier
Mississippi State PenitentiaryConditions 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 the spring of 1961, Freedom Riders came to the South to test the desegregation of public facilities. By the end of June 1963, Freedom Riders had been convicted in Jackson, Mississippi. Many were jailed in Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Mississippi employed the trusty system, a hierarchical order of inmates that used some inmates to control and enforce punishment of other inmates.
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.
Federal Judge William C. Keady found in favor of the inmates, writing that Parchman Farm violated the civil rights of the inmates by inflicting cruel and unusual punishment. He ordered an immediate end to all unconstitutional conditions and practices. Racial segregation of inmates was abolished, as was the trusty system, which allowed certain inmates to have power and control over others.
The prison was renovated in 1972 after the scathing ruling by Keady, who 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 cases of abuse and murders.)
In integrated correctional facilities in northern and western states, blacks represented a disproportionate number of the prisoners, in excess of their proportion of the general population. They were often treated as second-class citizens by white correctional officers. Blacks also represented a disproportionately high number of death row inmates. Eldridge Cleaver's book Soul on Ice was written from his experiences in the California correctional system; it contributed to black militancy.
LegacyCivil rights protest activity had an observable impact on white American's views on race and politics over time. White people who live in counties in which civil rights protests of historical significance occurred have been found to have lower levels of racial resentment against blacks, are more likely to identify with the Democratic Party as well as more likely to support affirmative action.
One study found that non-violent activism of the era tended to produce favorable media coverage and changes in public opinion focusing on the issues organizers were raising, but violent protests tended to generate unfavorable media coverage that generated public desire to restore law and order.
The 1964 Act was passed to end discrimination in various fields based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the areas of employment and public accommodation. The 1964 Act did not prohibit sex discrimination against persons employed at educational institutions. A parallel law, Title VI, had also been enacted in 1964 to prohibit discrimination in federally funded private and public entities. It covered race, color, and national origin but excluded sex. Feminists during the early 1970s lobbied Congress to add sex as a protected class category. In 1972, Title IX was enacted to fill this gap and prohibit discrimination in all federally funded education programs. Title IX, or the Education Amendments of 1972 was later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act following Mink's death in 2002.
Fannie Lou Hamer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (and other Mississippi-based organizations) is an example of local grassroots leadership in the movement.African-American womenMain article: African-American women in the civil rights movementAfrican-American women in the civil rights movement were pivotal to its success. They volunteered as activists, advocates, educators, clerics, writers, spiritual guides, caretakers and politicians for the civil rights movement; leading and participating in organizations that contributed to the cause of civil rights. Rosa Parks's refusal to sit at the back of a public bus resulted in the year-long Montgomery bus boycott, and the eventual desegregation of interstate travel in the United States. Women were members of the NAACP because they believed it could help them contribute to the cause of civil rights. Some of those involved with the Black Panthers were nationally recognized as leaders, and still others did editorial work on the Black Panther newspaper spurring internal discussions about gender issues. Ella Baker founded the SNCC and was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement. Female students involved with the SNCC helped to organize sit-ins and the Freedom Rides. At the same time many elderly black women in towns across the Southern US cared for the organization's volunteers at their homes, providing the students food, a bed, healing aid and motherly love. Other women involved also formed church groups, bridge clubs, and professional organizations, such as the National Council of Negro Women, to help achieve freedom for themselves and their race. Several who participated in these organizations lost their jobs because of their involvement.
Sexist discriminationMany women who participated in the movement experienced gender discrimination and sexual harassment. In the SCLC, Ella Baker's input was discouraged in spite of her being the oldest and most experienced person on the staff. There are many other accounts and the "Communist" labelSee also: The Communist Party and African-AmericansOn December 17, 1951, the Communist Party–affiliated Civil Rights Congress delivered the petition We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People to the United Nations, arguing that the U.S. federal government, by its failure to act against lynching in the United States, was guilty of genocide under Article II of the UN Genocide Convention (see Black genocide). The petition was presented to the United Nations at two separate venues: Paul Robeson, a concert singer and activist, presented it to a UN official in New York City, while William L. Patterson, executive director of the CRC, delivered copies of the drafted petition to a UN delegation in Paris.
Patterson, the editor of the petition, was a leader of the Communist Party USA and head of the International Labor Defense, a group that offered legal representation to communists, trade unionists, and African Americans who were involved in cases which involved issues of political or racial persecution. The ILD was known for leading the defense of the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama in 1931, where the Communist Party had a considerable amount of influence among African Americans in the 1930s. This influence had largely declined by the late 1950s, although it could command international attention. As earlier civil rights figures such as Robeson, Du Bois and Patterson became more politically radical (and therefore targets of Cold War anti-Communism by the U.S. Government), they lost favor with mainstream Black America as well as with the NAACP.
In order to secure a place in the political mainstream and gain the broadest base of support, the new generation of civil rights activists believed that it had to openly distance itself from anything and anyone associated with the Communist party. According to Ella Baker, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference added the word "Christian" to its name in order to deter charges that it was associated with Communism. Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had been concerned about communism since the early 20th century, and it kept civil rights activists under close surveillance and labeled some of them "Communist" or "subversive", a practice that continued during the Civil Rights Movement. In the early 1960s, the practice of distancing the civil rights movement from "Reds" was challenged by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which adopted a policy of accepting assistance and participation from anyone who supported the SNCC's political program and was willing to "put their body on the line, regardless of political affiliation." At times the SNCC's policy of political openness put it at odds with the NAACP.
Grassroots leadershipWhile most popular representations of the movement are centered on the leadership and philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., some scholars note that the movement was too diverse to be credited to one person, organization, or strategy. Sociologist Doug McAdam has stated that, "in King's case, it would be inaccurate to say that he was the leader of the modern civil rights movement...but more importantly, there was no singular civil rights movement. The movement was, in fact, a coalition of thousands of local efforts nationwide, spanning several decades, hundreds of discrete groups, and all manner of strategies and tactics—legal, illegal, institutional, non-institutional, violent, non-violent. Without discounting King's importance, it would be sheer fiction to call him the leader of what was fundamentally an amorphous, fluid, dispersed movement." Decentralized grassroots leadership has been a major focus of movement scholarship in recent decades through the work of historians John Dittmer, Charles Payne, Barbara Ransby, and others.
Popular reactionsAmerican JewsSee also: African American–Jewish relations; New York City teachers' strike of 1968; and Brownsville, Brooklyn
Jewish civil rights activist Joseph L. Rauh Jr. marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963Many in the Jewish community supported the civil rights movement. In fact, statistically, Jews were one of the most actively involved non-black groups in the Movement. Many Jewish students worked in concert with African Americans for CORE, SCLC, and SNCC as full-time organizers and summer volunteers during the Civil Rights era. Jews made up roughly half of the white northern and western volunteers involved in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project and approximately half of the civil rights attorneys active in the South during the 1960s.
Jewish leaders were arrested while heeding a call from Martin Luther King Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, in June 1964, where the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history took place at the Monson Motor Lodge. Abraham Joshua Heschel, a writer, rabbi, and professor of theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, was outspoken on the subject of civil rights. He marched arm-in-arm with King in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. In the 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, the two white activists killed, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were both Jewish.
Brandeis University, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college university in the world, created the Transitional Year Program (TYP) in 1968, in part response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.. The faculty created it to renew the university's commitment to social justice. Recognizing Brandeis as a university with a commitment to academic excellence, these faculty members created a chance for disadvantaged students to participate in an empowering educational experience.
The American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) actively promoted civil rights. While Jews were very active in the civil rights movement in the South, in the North, many had experienced a more strained relationship with African Americans. It has been argued that with Black militancy and the Black Power movements on the rise, "Black Anti-Semitism" increased leading to strained relations between Blacks and Jews in Northern communities. In New York City, most notably, there was a major socio-economic class difference in the perception of African Americans by Jews. Jews from better educated Upper-Middle-Class backgrounds were often very supportive of African American civil rights activities while the Jews in poorer urban communities that became increasingly minority were often less supportive largely in part due to more negative and violent interactions between the two groups.
According to political scientist Michael Rogin, Jewish-Black hostility was a two-way street extending to earlier decades. In the post-World War II era, Jews were granted white privilege and most moved into the middle-class while Blacks were left behind in the ghetto. Urban Jews engaged in the same sort of conflicts with Blacks—over integration busing, local control of schools, housing, crime, communal identity, and class divides—that other white ethnics did, leading to Jews participating in white flight. The culmination of this was the 1968 New York City teachers' strike, pitting largely Jewish schoolteachers against predominantly Black parents in Brownsville, New York.
Public profileMany Jewish individuals in the Southern states who supported civil rights for African Americans tended to keep a low profile on "the race issue", in order to avoid attracting the attention of the anti-Black and antisemitic Ku Klux Klan. However, Klan groups exploited the issue of African-American integration and Jewish involvement in the struggle in order to commit violently antisemitic hate crimes. As an example of this hatred, in one year alone, from November 1957 to October 1958, temples and other Jewish communal gatherings were bombed and desecrated in Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville, and Miami, and dynamite was found under synagogues in Birmingham, Charlotte, and Gastonia, North Carolina. Some rabbis received death threats, but there were no injuries following these outbursts of violence.
Black segregationistsDespite the common notion that the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Black Power only conflicted with each other and were the only ideologies of the civil rights movement, there were other sentiments felt by many blacks. Fearing the events during the movement was occurring too quickly, there were some blacks who felt that leaders should take their activism at an incremental pace. Others had reservations on how focused blacks were on the movement and felt that such attention was better spent on reforming issues within the black community.
While Conservatives in general supported integration, some defended incrementally phased out segregation as a backstop against assimilation. Based on her interpretation of a 1966 study made by Donald Matthews and James Prothro detailing the relative percentage of blacks for integration, against it or feeling something else, Lauren Winner asserts that:
Black defenders of segregation look, at first blush, very much like black nationalists, especially in their preference for all-black institutions; but black defenders of segregation differ from nationalists in two key ways. First, while both groups criticize NAACP-style integration, nationalists articulate a third alternative to integration and Jim Crow, while segregationists preferred to stick with the status quo. Second, absent from black defenders of segregation's political vocabulary was the demand for self-determination. They called for all-black institutions, but not autonomous all-black institutions; indeed, some defenders of segregation asserted that black people needed white paternalism and oversight in order to thrive.
Oftentimes, African-American community leaders would be staunch defenders of segregation. Church ministers, businessmen, and educators were among those who wished to keep segregation and segregationist ideals in order to retain the privileges they gained from patronage from whites, such as monetary gains. In addition, they relied on segregation to keep their jobs and economies in their communities thriving. It was feared that if integration became widespread in the South, black-owned businesses and other establishments would lose a large chunk of their customer base to white-owned businesses, and many blacks would lose opportunities for jobs that were presently exclusive to their interests. On the other hand, there were the everyday, average black people who criticized integration as well. For them, they took issue with different parts of the civil rights movement and the potential for blacks to exercise consumerism and economic liberty without hindrance from whites.
For Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and other leading activists and groups during the movement, these opposing viewpoints acted as an obstacle against their ideas. These different views made such leaders' work much harder to accomplish, but they were nonetheless important in the overall scope of the movement. For the most part, the black individuals who had reservations on various aspects of the movement and ideologies of the activists were not able to make a game-changing dent in their efforts, but the existence of these alternate ideas gave some blacks an outlet to express their concerns about the changing social structure.
"Black Power" militantsMain articles: Black Power and Black Power movement
Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics; both wear Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Peter Norman (silver medalist, left) from Australia also wears an OPHR badge in solidarity with Smith and Carlos.During the Freedom Summer campaign of 1964, numerous tensions within the civil rights movement came to the forefront. Many blacks in SNCC developed concerns that white activists from the North and West were taking over the movement. The participation by numerous white students was not reducing the amount of violence that SNCC suffered, but seemed to exacerbate it. Additionally, there was profound disillusionment at Lyndon Johnson's denial of voting status for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic National Convention. Meanwhile, during CORE's work in Louisiana that summer, that group found the federal government would not respond to requests to enforce the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or to protect the lives of activists who challenged segregation. The Louisiana campaign survived by relying on a local African-American militia called the Deacons for Defense and Justice, who used arms to repel white supremacist violence and police repression. CORE's collaboration with the Deacons was effective in disrupting Jim Crow in numerous Louisiana areas.
In 1965, SNCC helped organize an independent political party, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt, also Klan territory. It permitted its black leaders to openly promote the use of armed self-defense. Meanwhile, the Deacons for Defense and Justice expanded into Mississippi and assisted Charles Evers' NAACP chapter with a successful campaign in Natchez. Charles had taken the lead after his brother Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963. The same year, the 1965 Watts Rebellion took place in Los Angeles. Many black youths were committed to the use of violence to protest inequality and oppression.
During the March Against Fear in 1966, initiated by James Meredith, SNCC and CORE fully embraced the slogan of "black power" to describe these trends towards militancy and self-reliance. In Mississippi, Stokely Carmichael declared, "I'm not going to beg the white man for anything that I deserve, I'm going to take it. We need power."
Some people engaging in the Black Power movement claimed a growing sense of black pride and identity. In gaining more of a sense of a cultural identity, blacks demanded that whites no longer refer to them as "Negroes" but as "Afro-Americans," similar to other ethnic groups, such as Irish Americans and Italian Americans. Until the mid-1960s, blacks had dressed similarly to whites and often straightened their hair. As a part of affirming their identity, blacks started to wear African-based dashikis and grow their hair out as a natural afro. The afro, sometimes nicknamed the "'fro," remained a popular black hairstyle until the late 1970s. Other variations of traditional African styles have become popular, often featuring braids, extensions, and dreadlocks.
The Black Panther Party (BPP), which was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, in 1966, gained the most attention for Black Power nationally. The group began following the revolutionary pan-Africanism of late-period Malcolm X, using a "by-any-means necessary" approach to stopping racial inequality. They sought to rid African-American neighborhoods of police brutality and to establish socialist community control in the ghettos. While they conducted armed confrontation with police, they also set up free breakfast and healthcare programs for children. Between 1968 and 1971, the BPP was one of the most important black organizations in the country and had support from the NAACP, SCLC, Peace and Freedom Party, and others.
Black Power was taken to another level inside prison walls. In 1966, George Jackson formed the Black Guerrilla Family in the California San Quentin State Prison. The goal of this group was to overthrow the white-run government in America and the prison system. In 1970, this group displayed their dedication after a white prison guard was found not guilty of shooting and killing three black prisoners from the prison tower. They retaliated by killing a white prison guard."Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud"MENU0:00James Brown's "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" from Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm ProudProblems playing this file? See media help.Numerous popular cultural expressions associated with black power appeared at this time. Released in August 1968, the number one Rhythm & Blues single for the Billboard Year-End list was James Brown's "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud". In October 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, while being awarded the gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the 1968 Summer Olympics, donned human rights badges and each raised a black-gloved Black Power salute during their podium ceremony.
King was not comfortable with the "Black Power" slogan, which sounded too much like black nationalism to him. When King was assassinated in 1968, Stokely Carmichael said that whites had murdered the one person who would prevent rampant rioting and that blacks would burn every major city to the ground. Riots broke out in more than 100 cities across the country. Some cities did not recover from the damage for more than a generation; other city neighborhoods never recovered.
Native AmericansKing and the civil rights movement inspired the Native American rights movement of the 1960s and many of its leaders. Native Americans had been dehumanized as "merciless Indian savages" in the United States Declaration of Independence, and in King's 1964 book Why We Can't Wait he wrote: "Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race." John Echohawk, a member of the Pawnee tribe and the executive director and one of the founders of the Native American Rights Fund, stated: “Inspired by Dr. King, who was advancing the civil rights agenda of equality under the laws of this country, we thought that we could also use the laws to advance our Indianship, to live as tribes in our territories governed by our own laws under the principles of tribal sovereignty that had been with us ever since 1831. We believed that we could fight for a policy of self-determination that was consistent with U.S. law and that we could govern our own affairs, define our own ways and continue to survive in this society". Native Americans were also active supporters of King's movement throughout the 1960s, which included a sizable Native American contingent at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Northern IrelandSee also: Northern Ireland civil rights movement
Mural of Malcolm X in BelfastDue to policies of segregation and disenfranchisement present in Northern Ireland many Irish activists took inspiration from American civil rights activists. People's Democracy had organized a "Long March" from Belfast to Derry which was inspired by the Selma to Montgomery marches. During the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland protesters often sang the American protest song We Shall Overcome and sometimes referred to themselves as the "negroes of Northern Ireland".
Soviet UnionThere was an international context for the actions of the U.S. federal government during these years. The Soviet media frequently covered racial discrimination in the U.S. Deeming American criticism of its own human rights abuses hypocritical, the Soviet government would respond by stating "And you are lynching Negroes". In his 1934 book Russia Today: What Can We Learn from It?, Sherwood Eddy wrote: "In the most remote villages of Russia today Americans are frequently asked what they are going to do to the Scottsboro Negro boys and why they lynch Negroes."
In Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, the historian Mary L. Dudziak wrote that Communists who were critical of the United States accused it of practicing hypocrisy when it portrayed itself as the "leader of the free world," while so many of its citizens were being subjected to severe racial discrimination and violence; she argued that this was a major factor in moving the government to support civil rights legislation.
White moderatesA majority of White Southerners have been estimated to have neither supported or resisted the civil rights movement. Many did not enjoy the idea of expanding civil rights but were uncomfortable with the language and often violent tactics used by those who resisted the civil rights movement as part of the Massive resistance. Many only reacted to the movement once forced to by their changing environment, and when they did their response was usually whatever they felt would disturb their daily life the least. Most of their personal reactions, whether eventually in support or resistance weren't in extreme.
Ku Klux Klan demonstration in St. Augustine, Florida in 1964King reached the height of popular acclaim during his life in 1964, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After that point his career was filled with frustrating challenges. The liberal coalition that had gained passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 began to fray.
King was becoming more estranged from the Johnson administration. In 1965 he broke with it by calling for peace negotiations and a halt to the bombing of Vietnam. He moved further left in the following years, speaking about the need for economic justice and thoroughgoing changes in American society. He believed that change was needed beyond the civil rights which had been gained by the movement.
However, King's attempts to broaden the scope of the civil rights movement were halting and largely unsuccessful. In 1965 King made several attempts to take the Movement north in order to address housing discrimination. The SCLC's campaign in Chicago publicly failed, because Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley marginalized the SCLC's campaign by promising to "study" the city's problems. In 1966, white demonstrators in notoriously racist Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, held "white power" signs and threw stones at marchers who were demonstrating against housing segregation.
Politicians and journalists quickly blamed this white backlash on the movement's shift towards Black Power in the mid-1960s; today most scholars believe the backlash was a phenomenon that was already developing in the mid-1950s, and it was embodied in the "massive resistance" movement in the South where even the few moderate white leaders (including George Wallace, who had once been endorsed by the NAACP) shifted to openly racist positions. Northern and Western racists opposed the southerners on a regional and cultural basis, but also held segregationist attitudes which became more pronounced as the civil rights movement headed north and west. For instance, prior to the Watts riot, California whites had already mobilized to repeal the state's 1963 fair housing law.
Even so, the backlash which occurred at the time was not able to roll back the major civil rights victories which had been achieved or swing the country into reaction. Social historians Matthew Lassiter and Barbara Ehrenreich note that the backlash's primary constituency was suburban and middle-class, not working-class whites: "among the white electorate, one half of blue-collar voters…cast their ballot for [the liberal presidential candidate] Hubert Humphrey in 1968…only in the South did George Wallace draw substantially more blue-collar than white-collar support."
Political responsesEisenhower administration, 1953-1961While not a key focus of his administration, President Eisenhower made several conservative strides toward making America a racially integrated country. The year he was elected, Eisenhower desegregated Washington D.C. after hearing a story about an African American man who was unable to rent a hotel room, buy a meal, access drinking water, and attend a movie. Shortly after this act, Eisenhower utilized Hollywood personalities to pressure movie theatres into desegregating as well.
Under the previous administration, President Truman signed executive order 9981 to desegregate the military. However, Truman's executive order had hardly been enforced. President Eisenhower made it a point to enforce the executive order. By October 30, 1954, there were no segregated combat units in the United States. Not only this, but Eisenhower also desegregated the Veterans Administration and military bases in the South, including federal schools for military dependents. Expanding his work beyond the military, Eisenhower formed two non-discrimination committees, one to broker nondiscrimination agreements with government contractors, and a second to end discrimination within government departments and agencies.
The first major piece of Civil Rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was also passed under the Eisenhower administration. President Eisenhower proposed, championed, and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The legislation established the Civil Rights Commission and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and banned intimidating, coercing, and other means of interfering with a citizen's right to vote. Eisenhower's work in desegregating the judicial system is also notable. The judges he appointed were liberal when it came to the subject of Civil Rights/ desegregation and he actively avoided placing segregationists in federal courts.
Kennedy administration, 1961–1963
Attorney General Robert Kennedy speaking before a hostile Civil Rights crowd protesting low minority hiring in his Justice Department June 14, 1963For the first two years of the Kennedy administration, civil rights activists had mixed opinions of both the president and Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy. A well of historical skepticism toward liberal politics had left African Americans with a sense of uneasy disdain for any white politician who claimed to share their concerns for freedom, particularly ones connected to the historically pro-segregationist Democratic Party. Still, many were encouraged by the discreet support Kennedy gave to King, and the administration's willingness, after dramatic pressure from civil disobedience, to bring forth racially egalitarian initiatives.
Many of the initiatives resulted from Robert Kennedy's passion. The younger Kennedy gained a rapid education in the realities of racism through events such as the Baldwin-Kennedy meeting. The president came to share his brother's sense of urgency on the matter, resulting in the landmark Civil Rights Address of June 1963 and the introduction of the first major civil rights act of the decade.
Robert Kennedy first became concerned with civil rights in mid-May 1961 during the Freedom Rides, when photographs of the burning bus and savage beatings in Anniston and Birmingham were broadcast around the world. They came at an especially embarrassing time, as President Kennedy was about to have a summit with the Soviet premier in Vienna. The White House was concerned with its image among the populations of newly independent nations in Africa and Asia, and Robert Kennedy responded with an address for Voice of America stating that great progress had been made on the issue of race relations. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the administration worked to resolve the crisis with a minimum of violence and prevent the Freedom Riders from generating a fresh crop of headlines that might divert attention from the President's international agenda. The Freedom Riders documentary notes that, "The back burner issue of civil rights had collided with the urgent demands of Cold War realpolitik."
On May 21, when a white mob attacked and burned the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where King was holding out with protesters, Robert Kennedy telephoned King to ask him to stay in the building until the U.S. Marshals and National Guard could secure the area. King proceeded to berate Kennedy for "allowing the situation to continue". King later publicly thanked Kennedy for deploying the force to break up an attack that might otherwise have ended King's life.
With a very small majority in Congress, the president's ability to press ahead with legislation relied considerably on a balancing game with the Senators and Congressmen of the South. Without the support of Vice-President Johnson, a former Senator who had years of experience in Congress and longstanding relations there, many of the Attorney-General's programs would not have progressed.
By late 1962, frustration at the slow pace of political change was balanced by the movement's strong support for legislative initiatives, including administrative representation across all U.S. Government departments and greater access to the ballot box. From squaring off against Governor George Wallace, to "tearing into" Vice-President Johnson (for failing to desegregate areas of the administration), to threatening corrupt white Southern judges with disbarment, to desegregating interstate transport, Robert Kennedy came to be consumed by the civil rights movement. He continued to work on these social justice issues in his offer for the presidency in 1968.
On the night of Governor Wallace's capitulation to African-American enrollment at the University of Alabama, President Kennedy gave an address to the nation, which marked the changing tide, an address that was to become a landmark for the ensuing change in political policy as to civil rights. In 1966, Robert Kennedy visited South Africa and voiced his objections to apartheid, the first time a major US politician had done so:
At the University of Natal in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve. "But suppose God is black", I replied. "What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?" There was no answer. Only silence.
— LOOK MagazineRobert Kennedy's relationship with the movement was not always positive. As attorney general, he was called to account by activists—who booed him at a June 1963 speech—for the Justice Department's own poor record of hiring blacks. He also presided over FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his COINTELPRO program. This program ordered FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of Communist front groups, a category in which the paranoid Hoover included most civil rights organizations. Kennedy personally authorized some of the programs. According to Tim Weiner, "RFK knew much more about this surveillance than he ever admitted." Although Kennedy only gave approval for limited wiretapping of King's phones "on a trial basis, for a month or so." Hoover extended the clearance so his men were "unshackled" to look for evidence in any areas of the black leader's life they deemed important; they then used this information to harass King. Kennedy directly ordered surveillance on James Baldwin after their antagonistic racial summit in 1963.
Johnson administration: 1963–1969Further information: Civil Rights Act of 1964, War on Poverty, and Lyndon B. JohnsonLyndon Johnson made civil rights one of his highest priorities, coupling it with a whites war on poverty. However increasing the opposition to the War in Vietnam, coupled with the cost of the war, undercut support for his domestic programs.
Under Kennedy, major civil rights legislation had been stalled in Congress. His assassination changed everything. On one hand president Lyndon Johnson was a much more skillful negotiator than Kennedy but he had behind him a powerful national momentum demanding immediate action on moral and emotional grounds. Demands for immediate action originated from unexpected directions, especially white Protestant church groups. The Justice Department, led by Robert Kennedy, moved from a posture of defending Kennedy from the quagmire minefield of racial politics to acting to fulfill his legacy. The violent death and public reaction dramatically moved the conservative Republicans, led by Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, whose support was the margin of victory for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act immediately ended de jure (legal) segregation and the era of Jim Crow.
With the civil rights movement at full blast, Lyndon Johnson coupled black entrepreneurship with his war on poverty, setting up special program in the Small Business Administration, the Office of Economic Opportunity, and other agencies. This time there was money for loans designed to boost minority business ownership. Richard Nixon greatly expanded the program, setting up the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) in the expectation that black entrepreneurs would help defuse racial tensions and possibly support his reelection .
In popular cultureMain article: Civil rights movement in popular cultureThe 1954 to 1968 civil rights movement contributed strong cultural threads to American and international theater, song, film, television, and folk art.
Activist organizationsNational/regional civil rights organizations
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)Deacons for Defense and JusticeLeadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR)National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)National Council of Negro Women (NCNW)Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU)Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF)Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC)National economic empowerment organizations
Operation BreadbasketUrban LeagueLocal civil rights organizations
Albany Movement (Albany, Georgia)Council of Federated Organizations (Mississippi)Montgomery Improvement Association (Montgomery, Alabama)Regional Council of Negro Leadership (Mississippi)Women's Political Council (Montgomery, Alabama)Individual activistsRalph AbernathyVictoria Gray AdamsMuhammad AliMaya AngelouLouis AustinElla BakerJames BaldwinMarion BarryDaisy BatesHarry BelafonteFay Bellamy PowellJames BevelClaude BlackUnita BlackwellJulian BondAnne BradenCarl BradenStanley BrancheRalph BuncheMary Fair BurksStokely CarmichaelJames ChaneyShirley ChisholmSeptima Poinsette ClarkXernona ClaytonAlbert CleageEldridge CleaverCharles E. Cobb Jr.John ConyersSam CookeAnnie Lee CooperDorothy CottonClaudette ColvinJonathan DanielsOssie DavisRuby DeeAnnie DevineDoris DerbyMarian Wright EdelmanMedgar EversJames L. Farmer Jr.Louis FarrakhanWalter E. FauntroyKarl FlemingSarah Mae FlemmingJames FormanFrankie Muse FreemanAndrew GoodmanFred GrayJack GreenbergDick GregoryPrathia HallFannie Lou HamerLorraine HansberryRobert HaylingDorothy HeightLola HendricksAaron HenryLibby HolmanMyles HortonT. R. M. HowardWinson HudsonJesse JacksonJimmie Lee JacksonMahalia JacksonEsau JenkinsClarence B. JonesBarbara JordanVernon JordanClyde KennardCoretta Scott KingMartin Luther King Jr.Bernard LafayetteJames LawsonBernard LeeJohn LewisStanley LevisonViola LiuzzoJoseph LoweryAutherine LucyClara LuperThurgood MarshallBenjamin MaysFranklin McCainFloyd McKissickJames MeredithLoren MillerJack MinnisAnne MoodyHarry T. MooreE. Frederic MorrowBob MosesBill MoyerElijah MuhammadDiane NashDenise NicholasE. D. NixonDavid NolanJames OrangeNan Grogan OrrockRosa ParksRutledge PearsonAdam Clayton Powell Jr.Gloria Johnson-PowellA. Philip RandolphGeorge RaymondGeorge Raymond Jr.James ReebFrederick D. ReeseWalter ReutherGloria RichardsonDavid RichmondPaul RobesonAmelia Boynton RobinsonJackie RobinsonJo Ann RobinsonRuby Doris Smith-RobinsonBayard RustinMichael SchwernerCleveland Sellers
The murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, also known as the Freedom Summer murders, the Mississippi civil rights workers' murders or the Mississippi Burning murders, refers to three activists who were abducted and murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, in June 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement. The victims were James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner from New York City. All three were associated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and its member organization, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They had been working with the Freedom Summer campaign by attempting to register African Americans in Mississippi to vote. Since 1890 and through the turn of the century, southern states had systematically disenfranchised most black voters by discrimination in voter registration and voting.
The three men had traveled from Meridian to the community of Longdale to talk with congregation members at a black church that had been burned; the church had been a center of community organization. The trio was arrested following a traffic stop for speeding outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, escorted to the local jail, and held for a number of hours. As the three left town in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County, their car was pulled over. The three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot to death at close range. The three men's bodies were taken to an earthen dam where they were buried.
The disappearance of the three men was initially investigated as a missing persons case. The civil rights workers' burnt-out car was found near a swamp three days after their disappearance. An extensive search of the area was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), local and state authorities, and four hundred United States Navy sailors. The three men's bodies were not discovered until two months later, when the team received a tip. During the investigation it emerged that members of the local White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County Sheriff's Office, and the Philadelphia Police Department were involved in the incident.
The murder of the activists sparked national outrage and an extensive federal investigation, filed as Mississippi Burning (MIBURN), which later became the title of a 1988 film loosely based on the events. In 1967, after the state government refused to prosecute, the United States federal government charged eighteen individuals with civil rights violations. Seven were convicted and received relatively minor sentences for their actions. Outrage over the activists' disappearances helped gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Forty-one years after the murders took place, one perpetrator, Edgar Ray Killen, was charged by the state of Mississippi for his part in the crimes. In 2005 he was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and was given a 60-year sentence. On June 20, 2016, federal and state authorities officially closed the case, ending the possibility of further prosecution. Killen died in prison in January 2018.Contents1Background1.1Registering others to vote1.2Arrest2Masterminding the conspiracy3Lynch mob forms3.1Pursuit on Highway 193.2Disposing of the evidence4Investigation and public attention51967 Federal trial6Further research and 2005 murder trial7Legacy and honors7.1Individual7.2National7.3Ohio7.4Michigan7.5Mississippi7.6New York7.7Washington, D.C.8In culture8.1Film8.2Fine art8.3Literature8.4Music8.4.1Concert drama8.4.2Songs8.5Television8.6Audio9See also10References11Further reading12External linksBackgroundIn the early 1960s, the state of Mississippi, as well as most of the American South, defied federal direction regarding racial integration. Recent Supreme Court rulings had upset the Mississippi establishment, and White Mississippian society responded with open hostility. White supremacists used tactics such as bombings, murders, vandalism, and intimidation in order to discourage black Mississippians and their supporters from the Northern and Western states. In 1961, Freedom Riders, who challenged the segregation of interstate buses and related facilities, were attacked on their route. In September 1962, the University of Mississippi riots had occurred in order to prevent James Meredith from enrolling at the school.
The White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a Ku Klux Klan splinter group based in Mississippi, was founded and led by Samuel Bowers of Laurel. As the summer of 1964 approached, white Mississippians prepared for what they perceived was an invasion from the north and west. College students had been recruited in order to aid local activists who were conducting grassroots community organizing, voter registration education and drives in the state. Media reports exaggerated the number of youths expected. One Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) representative is quoted as saying that nearly 30,000 individuals would visit Mississippi during the summer. Such reports had a "jarring impact" on white Mississippians and many responded by joining the White Knights.
In 1890, Mississippi had passed a new constitution, supported by additional laws, which effectively excluded most black Mississippians from registering or voting. This status quo had long been enforced by economic boycotts and violence. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) wanted to address this problem by setting up Freedom Schools and starting voting registration drives in the state. Freedom schools were established in order to educate, encourage, and register the disenfranchised black citizens. CORE members James Chaney, from Mississippi, and Michael Schwerner, from New York City, intended to set up a Freedom School for black people in Neshoba County to try to prepare them to pass the comprehension and literacy tests required by the state.Missing persons poster created by the FBI in 1964, shows the photographs of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner.Registering others to voteOn Memorial Day May 25th 1964, Schwerner and Chaney spoke to the congregation at Mount Zion Methodist Church in Longdale, Mississippi about setting up a Freedom School. Schwerner implored the members to register to vote, saying, "you have been slaves too long, we can help you help yourselves". The White Knights learned of Schwerner's voting drive in Neshoba County and soon developed a plot to hinder the work and ultimately destroy their efforts. They wanted to lure CORE workers into Neshoba County, so they attacked congregation members and torched the church, burning it to the ground.
On June 21, 1964, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner met at the Meridian COFO headquarters before traveling to Longdale to investigate the destruction of the Mount Zion Church. Schwerner told COFO Meridian to search for them if they were not back by 4 p.m.; he said, "if we're not back by then start trying to locate us."
ArrestAfter visiting Longdale, the three civil rights workers decided not to take Road 491 to return to Meridian. The narrow country road was unpaved; abandoned buildings littered the roadside. They decided to head west on Highway 16 to Philadelphia, the seat of Neshoba County, then take southbound Highway 19 to Meridian, figuring it would be the faster route. The time was approaching 3 p.m., and they were to be in Meridian by 4 p.m.
The CORE station wagon had barely passed the Philadelphia city limits when one of its tires went flat, and Deputy Sheriff Cecil Ray Price turned on his dashboard-mounted red light and followed them. The trio stopped near the Beacon and Main Street fork. With a long radio antenna mounted to his patrol car, Price called for Officers Harry Jackson Wiggs and Earl Robert Poe of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Chaney was arrested for driving 65 mph in a 35 mph zone; Goodman and Schwerner were held for investigation. They were taken to the Neshoba County jail on Myrtle Street, a block from the courthouse.
In the Meridian office, workers became alarmed when the 4 p.m. deadline passed without word from the three activists. By 4:45 p.m., they notified the COFO Jackson office that the trio had not returned from Neshoba County. The CORE workers called area authorities but did not learn anything; the contacted offices said they had not seen the three civil rights workers.
Masterminding the conspiracy
Parties to the conspiracy; Top row: Lawrence A. Rainey, Bernard L. Akin, Other "Otha" N. Burkes, Olen L. Burrage, Edgar Ray Killen. Bottom row: Frank J. Herndon, James T. Harris, Oliver R. Warner, Herman Tucker and Samuel H. BowersNine men, including Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey, were later identified as parties to the conspiracy to murder Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. Rainey denied he was ever a part of the conspiracy, but he was accused of ignoring the racially-motivated offenses committed in Neshoba County. At the time of the murders, the 41-year-old Rainey insisted he was visiting his sick wife in a Meridian hospital and was later with family watching Bonanza. As events unfolded, Rainey became emboldened with his newly found popularity in the Philadelphia community. Known for his tobacco chewing habit, Rainey was photographed and quoted in Life magazine: "Hey, let's have some Red Man", as other members of the conspiracy laughed while waiting for an arraignment to start.
Fifty-year-old Bernard Akin had a mobile home business which he operated out of Meridian; he was a member of the White Knights. Seventy one-year-old Other N. Burkes, who usually went by the nickname of Otha, was a 25-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police. At the time of the December 1964 arraignment, Burkes was awaiting an indictment for a different civil rights case. Olen L. Burrage, who was 34 at the time, owned a trucking company. Burrage was developing a cattle farm which he called the Old Jolly Farm, which is where the three civil rights workers were found buried. Burrage, an honorably discharged U.S. Marine, is quoted as saying: "I got a dam big enough to hold a hundred of them." Several weeks after the murders, Burrage told the FBI: "I want people to know I'm sorry it happened." Edgar Ray Killen, a 39-year-old Baptist preacher and sawmill owner, decades later was convicted of orchestrating the murders.
Frank J. Herndon, 46, operated a Meridian drive-in called the Longhorn; he was the Exalted Grand Cyclops of the Meridian White Knights. James T. Harris, also known as Pete, was a White Knight investigator. The 30-year-old Harris was keeping tabs on the three civil rights workers' every move. 54-year-old Oliver R. Warner, known as Pops, was a Meridian grocery owner and member of the White Knights. Herman Tucker lived in Hope, Mississippi, a few miles from the Neshoba County Fair grounds. Tucker, 36, was not a member of the White Knights, but he was a building contractor who worked for Burrage. The White Knights gave Tucker the assignment of getting rid of the CORE station wagon driven by the workers. White Knights Imperial Wizard Samuel H. Bowers, who served with the U.S. Navy during World War II, was not apprehended on December 4, 1964, but he was implicated the following year. Bowers, then 39, is credited with saying: "This is a war between the Klan and the FBI. And in a war, there have to be some who suffer."
On Sunday, June 7, 1964, nearly 300 White Knights met near Raleigh, Mississippi. Bowers addressed the White Knights about the "nigger-communist invasion of Mississippi" expected to take place in a few weeks, in what CORE announced as Freedom Summer. The men listened as Bowers said: "This summer the enemy will launch his final push for victory in Mississippi", and, "there must be a secondary group of our members, standing back from the main area of conflict, armed and ready to move. It must be an extremely swift, extremely violent, hit-and-run group."
Lynch mob forms
Lynch Mob; Top Row, L-R: Cecil R. Price, Travis M. Barnette, Alton W. Roberts, Jimmy K. Arledge, Jimmy Snowden. Bottom Row, L-R: Jerry M. Sharpe, Billy W. Posey, Jimmy L. Townsend, Horace D. Barnette, James Jordan.Although federal authorities believed many others took part in the Neshoba County lynching, only ten men were charged with the physical murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. One of these was Deputy Sheriff Price, 26, who played a crucial role in implementing the conspiracy. Before his friend Rainey was elected sheriff in 1963, Price worked as a salesman, fireman, and bouncer. Price, who had no prior experience in local law enforcement, was the only person who witnessed the entire event. He arrested the three men, released them the night of the murders, and chased them down state Highway 19 toward Meridian, eventually re-capturing them at the intersection near House, Mississippi. Price and the other nine men escorted them north along Highway 19 to Rock Cut Road, where they forced a stop and murdered the three civil rights workers.
Killen went to Meridian earlier that Sunday to organize and recruit men for the job to be carried out in Neshoba County. Before the men left for Philadelphia, Travis M. Barnette, 36, went to his Meridian home to take care of a sick family member. Barnette owned a Meridian garage and was a member of the White Knights. Alton W. Roberts, 26, was a dishonorably discharged U.S. Marine who worked as a salesman in Meridian. Roberts, standing 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and weighing 270 lb (120 kg), was physically formidable and renowned for his short temper. According to witnesses, Roberts shot both Goodman and Schwerner at point blank range, then shot Chaney in the head after another accomplice, James Jordan, shot him in the abdomen. Roberts asked, "Are you that nigger lover?" to Schwerner, and shot him after the latter responded, "Sir, I know just how you feel." Jimmy K. Arledge, 27, and Jimmy Snowden, 31, were both Meridian commercial drivers. Arledge, a high school drop-out, and Snowden, a U.S. Army veteran, were present during the murders.
Jerry M. Sharpe, Billy W. Posey, and Jimmy L. Townsend were all from Philadelphia. Sharpe, 21, ran a pulp wood supply house. Posey, 28, a Williamsville automobile mechanic, owned a 1958 red and white Chevrolet; the car was considered fast and was chosen over Sharpe's. The youngest was Townsend, 17; he left high school in 1964 to work at Posey's Phillips 66 garage. Horace D. Barnette, 25, was Travis' younger half-brother; he had a 1957 two-toned blue Ford Fairlane sedan. Horace's car is the one the group took after Posey's car broke down. Officials say that James Jordan, 38, killed Chaney. He confessed his crimes to the federal authorities in exchange for a plea deal.
Pursuit on Highway 19
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)After Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner's release from the Neshoba County jail around 10 p.m. on June 21, they were followed almost immediately by Deputy Sheriff Price in his 1957 white Chevrolet sedan patrol car. Soon afterward, the civil rights workers left the city limits located along Hospital Road and headed south on Highway 19. The workers arrived at Pilgrim's store, where they may have been inclined to stop and use the telephone, but the presence of a Mississippi Highway Patrol car, manned by Officers Wiggs and Poe, most likely dissuaded them. They continued south toward Meridian.Ford Station Wagon location near the Bogue Chitto River near Highway 21 (32°52′54.15″N 88°56′16.87″W)The lynch mob members, who were in Barnette's and Posey's cars, were drinking while arguing who would kill the three young men. Eventually Burkes drove up to Barnette's car and told the group: "They're going on 19 toward Meridian. Follow them!" After a quick rendezvous with Philadelphia Police officer Richard Willis, Price began pursuing the three civil rights workers.
Posey's Chevrolet carried Roberts, Sharpe, and Townsend. The Chevy apparently had carburetor problems, and was forced to the side of the highway. Sharpe and Townsend were ordered to stay with Posey's car and service it. Roberts transferred to Barnette's car, joining Arledge, Jordan, Posey, and Snowden.
Price eventually caught the CORE station wagon heading west toward Union, on Road 492. Soon he stopped them and escorted the three civil right workers north on Highway 19, back in the direction of Philadelphia. The caravan turned west on County Road 515 (also known as Rock Cut Road), and stopped at the secluded intersection of County Road 515 and County Road 284 (32°39′40.45″N 89°2′4.13″W). The three men were subsequently shot by Jordan and Roberts. Chaney was also beaten before his death.
Disposing of the evidence
The station wagon on an abandoned logging road along Highway 21After the victims had been shot, they were quickly loaded into their station wagon and transported to Burrage's Old Jolly Farm, located along Highway 21, a few miles southwest of Philadelphia where an earthen dam for a farm pond was under construction. Tucker was already at the dam waiting for the lynch mob's arrival. Earlier in the day, Burrage, Posey, and Tucker had met at either Posey's gas station or Burrage's garage to discuss these burial details, and Tucker most likely was the one who covered up the bodies using a bulldozer that he owned. An autopsy of Goodman, showing fragments of red clay in his lungs and grasped in his fists, suggests he was probably buried alive alongside the already dead Chaney and Schwerner.
After all three were buried, Price told the group:
Well, boys, you've done a good job. You've struck a blow for the white man. Mississippi can be proud of you. You've let those agitating outsiders know where this state stands. Go home now and forget it. But before you go, I'm looking each one of you in the eye and telling you this: The first man who talks is dead! If anybody who knows anything about this ever opens his mouth to any outsider about it, then the rest of us are going to kill him just as dead as we killed those three sonofbitches [sic] tonight. Does everybody understand what I'm saying? The man who talks is dead, dead, dead!
Eventually, Tucker was tasked with disposing of the CORE station wagon in Alabama. For reasons unknown, the station wagon was left near a river in northeast Neshoba County along Highway 21. It was soon set ablaze and abandoned.
Investigation and public attention
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others look on, July 2, 1964.
Protest outside the 1964 Democratic National Convention; some hold signs with portraits of slain civil rights workers, 24 August 1964
Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey being escorted by two FBI agents to the federal courthouse in Meridian, Mississippi; October 1964Unconvinced by the assurances of the Memphis-based agents, Sullivan elected to wait in Memphis ... for the start of the "invasion" of northern students ... Sullivan's instinctive decision to stick around Memphis proved correct. Early Monday morning, June 22, he was informed of the disappearance ... he was ordered to Meridian. The town would be his home for the next nine months.
— Cagin & Dray, We Are Not Afraid, 1988FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover initially ordered the FBI Office in Meridian, run by John Proctor, to begin a preliminary search after the three men were reported missing. That evening, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy escalated the search and ordered 150 federal agents to be sent from New Orleans. Two local Native Americans found the smoldering car that evening; by the next morning, that information had been communicated to Proctor. Joseph Sullivan of the FBI immediately went to the scene. By the next day, the federal government had arranged for hundreds of sailors from the nearby Naval Air Station Meridian to search the swamps of Bogue Chitto.
During the investigation, searchers including Navy divers and FBI agents discovered the bodies of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore in the area (the first was found by a fisherman). They were college students who had disappeared in May 1964. Federal searchers also discovered 14-year-old Herbert Oarsby, and five other unidentified Mississippi blacks, whose disappearances in the recent past had not attracted attention outside their local communities.
The disappearance of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner captured national attention. By the end of the first week, all major news networks were covering their disappearances. President Lyndon Johnson met with the parents of Goodman and Schwerner in the Oval Office. Walter Cronkite's broadcast of the CBS Evening News on June 25, 1964, called the disappearances "the focus of the whole country's concern". The FBI eventually offered a $25,000 reward (equivalent to $206,000 in 2019), which led to the breakthrough in the case. Meanwhile, Mississippi officials resented the outside attention. Sheriff Rainey said, "They're just hiding and trying to cause a lot of bad publicity for this part of the state." Mississippi Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr. dismissed concerns, saying the young men "could be in Cuba".
The bodies of the CORE activists were found only after an informant (discussed in FBI reports only as "Mr. X") passed along a tip to federal authorities. They were discovered on August 4, 1964, 44 days after their murder, underneath an earthen dam on Burrage's farm. Schwerner and Goodman had each been shot once in the heart; Chaney, a black man, had been severely beaten, castrated and shot three times. The identity of "Mr. X" was revealed publicly forty years after the original events, and revealed to be Maynard King, a Mississippi Highway Patrol officer close to the head of the FBI investigation. King died in 1966.
In the summer of 1964, according to Linda Schiro and other sources, FBI field agents in Mississippi recruited Gregory Scarpa to help them find missing civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner. The FBI was convinced the three men had been murdered, but could not find their bodies. The agents thought that Scarpa, using illegal interrogation techniques not available to agents, might succeed at gaining this information from suspects.
Once Scarpa arrived in Mississippi, local agents allegedly provided him with a gun and money to pay for information. Scarpa and an agent allegedly pistol-whipped and kidnapped Lawrence Byrd, a TV salesman and secret Klansman, from his store in Laurel and took him to Camp Shelby, a local Army base. At Shelby, Scarpa severely beat Byrd and stuck a gun barrel down his throat. Byrd finally revealed to Scarpa the location of the three men's bodies. The FBI has never officially confirmed the Scarpa story. Though not necessarily contradicting the claim of Scarpa's involvement in the matter, investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell and Illinois high school teacher Barry Bradford claimed that Mississippi highway patrolman Maynard King provided the grave locations to FBI agent Joseph Sullivan after obtaining the information from an anonymous third party.
In January 1966, Scarpa allegedly helped the FBI a second time in Mississippi on the murder case of Vernon Dahmer, killed in a fire set by the Klan. After this second trip, Scarpa and the FBI had a sharp disagreement about his reward for these services. The FBI then dropped Scarpa as a confidential informant.
In a famous eulogy for Chaney, CORE leader Dave Dennis voiced his rage, anguish, and turmoil:
I blame the people in Washington DC and on down in the state of Mississippi just as much as I blame those who pulled the trigger. ... I'm tired of that! Another thing that makes me even tireder though, that is the fact that we as people here in the state and the country are allowing it to continue to happen. ... Your work is just beginning. If you go back home and sit down and take what these white men in Mississippi are doing to us. ... if you take it and don't do something about it. ... then God damn your souls!
President Johnson and civil rights activists used the outrage over the activists' deaths to gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Johnson signed on July 2. This and the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965 contributed to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which Johnson signed on August 6 of that year.
Malcolm X used the delayed resolution of the case in his argument that the federal government was not protecting black lives, and African-Americans would have to defend themselves: "And the FBI head, Hoover, admits that they know who did it, they've known ever since it happened, and they've done nothing about it. Civil rights bill down the drain."
By late November 1964 the FBI accused 21 Mississippi men of engineering a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Most of the suspects were apprehended by the FBI on December 4, 1964. The FBI detained the following individuals: B. Akin, E. Akin, Arledge, T. Barnette, Burkes, Burrage, Bowers, Harris, Herndon, Killen, Posey, Price, Rainey, Roberts, Sharpe, Snowden, Townsend, Tucker, and Warner. Two individuals who were not interviewed and photographed, H. Barnette and James Jordan, would later confess their roles during the murder.
Because Mississippi officials refused to prosecute the killers for murder, a state crime, the federal government, led by prosecutor John Doar, charged 18 individuals under 18 U.S.C. §242 and §371 with conspiring to deprive the three activists of their civil rights (by murder). They indicted Sheriff Rainey, Deputy Sheriff Price and 16 other men. A U. S. Commissioner dismissed the charges six days later, declaring that the confession on which the arrests were based was hearsay. One month later, government attorneys secured indictments against the conspirators from a federal grand jury in Jackson. On February 24, 1965, however, Federal Judge William Harold Cox, an ardent segregationist, threw out the indictments against all conspirators other than Rainey and Price on the ground that the other seventeen were not acting "under color of state law." In March, 1966, the United States Supreme Court overruled Cox and reinstated the indictments. Defense attorneys then made the argument that the original indictments were flawed because the pool of jurors from which the grand jury was drawn contained insufficient numbers of minorities. Rather than attempt to refute the charge, the government summoned a new grand jury and, on February 28, 1967, won reindictments.
1967 Federal trialMain article: United States v. PriceTrial in the case of United States v. Cecil Price, et al., began on October 7, 1967 in the Meridian courtroom of Judge William Harold Cox, the same judge known to be an opponent of the civil rights movement. A jury of seven white men and five white women was selected. Defense attorneys exercised peremptory challenges against all seventeen potential black jurors. A white man, who admitted under questioning by Robert Hauberg, the U.S. Attorney for Mississippi, that he had been a member of the KKK "a couple of years ago," was challenged for cause, but Cox denied the challenge.
The trial was marked by frequent crises. Star prosecution witness James Jordan cracked under the pressure of anonymous death threats made against him and had to be hospitalized at one point. The jury deadlocked on its decision and Judge Cox employed the "Allen charge" to bring them to resolution. Seven defendants, mostly from Lauderdale County, were convicted. The convictions in the case represented the first ever convictions in Mississippi for the killing of a civil rights worker.
Those found guilty on October 20, 1967, were Cecil Price, Klan Imperial Wizard Samuel Bowers, Alton Wayne Roberts, Jimmy Snowden, Billy Wayne Posey, Horace Barnette, and Jimmy Arledge. Sentences ranged from three to ten years. After exhausting their appeals, the seven began serving their sentences in March 1970. None served more than six years. Sheriff Rainey was among those acquitted. Two of the defendants, E.G. Barnett, a candidate for sheriff, and Edgar Ray Killen, a local minister, had been strongly implicated in the murders by witnesses, but the jury came to a deadlock on their charges and the Federal prosecutor decided not to retry them. On May 7, 2000, the jury revealed that in the case of Killen, they deadlocked after a lone juror stated she "could never convict a preacher".
Further research and 2005 murder trial
State history marker for the bombing of the Mount Zion Methodist Church"To many it will always be June 21, 1964, in Philadelphia."
— Cagin & Dray, We Are Not Afraid, 1988For much of the next four decades, no legal action was taken regarding the murders. In 1989, on the 25th anniversary of the murders, the U.S. Congress passed a non-binding resolution honoring the three men; Senator Trent Lott and the rest of the Mississippi delegation refused to vote for it.
The journalist Jerry Mitchell, an award-winning investigative reporter for Jackson's The Clarion-Ledger, wrote extensively about the case for six years. In the late 20th century, Mitchell had earned fame by his investigations that helped secure convictions in several other high-profile Civil Rights Era murder cases, including the murders of Medgar Evers and Vernon Dahmer, and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham.
In the case of the civil rights workers, Mitchell was aided in developing new evidence, finding new witnesses, and pressuring the state to take action by Barry Bradford, a high school teacher at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, and three of his students, Allison Nichols, Sarah Siegel, and Brittany Saltiel. Bradford later achieved recognition for helping Mitchell clear the name of the civil rights martyr Clyde Kennard.
Together the student-teacher team produced a documentary for the National History Day contest. It presented important new evidence and compelling reasons to reopen the case. Bradford also obtained an interview with Edgar Ray Killen, which helped convince the state to investigate. Partially by using evidence developed by Bradford, Mitchell was able to determine the identity of "Mr. X", the mystery informer who had helped the FBI discover the bodies and end the conspiracy of the Klan in 1964.
Mitchell's investigation and the high school students' work in creating Congressional pressure, national media attention and Bradford's taped conversation with Killen prompted action. In 2004, on the 40th anniversary of the murders, a multi-ethnic group of citizens in Philadelphia, Mississippi, issued a call for justice. More than 1,500 people, including civil rights leaders and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, joined them to support having the case re-opened.
On January 6, 2005, a Neshoba County grand jury indicted Edgar Ray Killen on three counts of murder. When the Mississippi Attorney General prosecuted the case, it was the first time the state had taken action against the perpetrators of the murders. Rita Bender, Michael Schwerner's widow, testified in the trial. On June 21, 2005, a jury convicted Killen on three counts of manslaughter; he was described as the man who planned and directed the killing of the civil rights workers. Killen, then 80 years old, was sentenced to three consecutive terms of 20 years in prison. His appeal, in which he claimed that no jury of his peers would have convicted him in 1964 based on the evidence presented, was rejected by the Supreme Court of Mississippi in 2007.
On June 20, 2016, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Vanita Gupta, top prosecutor for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, announced that there would be no further investigation into the murders. "The evidence has been degraded by memory over time, and so there are no individuals that are living now that we can make a case on at this point," Hood said.
Legacy and honors
Memorial at the site of the Longdale, Mississippi church burning.IndividualSee:
James ChaneyAndrew GoodmanMichael SchwernerNationalChaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were posthumously awarded the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.OhioMiami University's now-defunct Western Program included historical lectures about Freedom Summer and the events of the massacre.There is a memorial on the Western campus of Miami University. It includes dozen of headlines about the murder, and plaques honoring and detailing the victims' life and work.Additionally, Miami's board of trustees voted unanimously in 2019 to name the lounges of 3 residence halls on the Western campus after Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.MichiganAt Cedar Springs High School in Cedar Springs, Michigan, an outdoor memorial theatre is dedicated to the Freedom Summer alums. The day of Goodman's murder is acknowledged each year on campus, and the clock tower of the campus library is dedicated to Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner.Mississippi
State marker near the murder site.A stone memorial at the Mt. Nebo Baptist Church commemorates the three civil rights activists.Several Mississippi State Historical Markers have been erected relating to this incident:Freedom Summer Murders (1989), near Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Neshoba CountyGoodman, Cheney, and Schwerner Murder Site (2008, later vandalized and rededicated in 2013), at the intersection of MS 19 and County Road 515Old Neshoba County Jail (2012), at the site where the trio were held, on the north side of East Myrtle Street, between Byrd and Center AvenuesNew YorkThe Chaney-Goodman-Schwerner Clock Tower of Queens College's Rosenthal Library was built in 1988 and dedicated in 1989. There is a photograph of the plaque on the Queens College website.New York City named "Freedom Place", a four-block stretch in Manhattan's Upper West Side, in honor of Chaney, Goodman, and Shwerner.[when?] A plaque on 70th Street and Freedom Place (Riverside Drive) briefly tells their story. The plaque was re-located in 1999 to the garden of Hostelling International New York. Mrs. Goodman wanted the plaque to be in a place visited by young people.A stained glass window depicting the three was placed in Sage Chapel at Cornell University in 1991. Schwerner was a Cornell graduate, as were Goodman's parents.In June 2014, Schwerner's hometown, Pelham, New York, kicked off a year-long, town-wide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner's deaths:On June 22, 2014, the Pelham Picture House held a free screening of the film Freedom Summer ahead of the film's June 24 premiere on American Experience on PBS. The screening was followed by a discussion and Q&A session with an expert panel.In November, close to Election Day and Schwerner's birthday, the Schwerner-Chaney-Goodman Memorial Commemoration Committee and the Pelham School District will host a multiple activities, such as a keynote speech by Nicholas Lemann (Dean Emeritus and Henry R. Luce professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City).Also in autumn 2014, The Picture House Evening Film Club for students in grades 9 through 12 will show a film they are creating, on the theme "What price freedom", inspired by Schwerner's commitment and sacrifice.Washington, D.C.The murders contributed to Congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, federal legislation to enforce social justice and constitutional rights.In cultureNumerous works portray or refer to the stories of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, the aftermath of their murders and subsequent trial, and other related events of that summer.
FilmIn the 27-minute documentary short, Summer in Mississippi (October 11, 1964 Canada, 1965 USA), written and directed by Beryl Fox, "The filmmakers travel to the American south to interview friends, relatives and enemies of three young civil rights workers who were murdered while educating black voters."The two-part CBS made-for-television movie, Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan (1975), co-starring Wayne Rogers and Ned Beatty, is based on Don Whitehead's book (Attack on Terror: The F.B.I. Against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi). Actor Hilly Hicks portrayed "Charles Gilmore", a fictionalized representation of James Chaney, actor Andrew Parks portrayed "Steven Bronson", a fictionalized representation of Andrew Goodman, and actor Peter Strauss portrayed "Ben Jacobs", a fictionalized representation of Schwerner. The sympathetic portrayal of FBI agents in Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan (1974) and Mississippi Burning (1988) angered civil rights activists, who believed that the Bureau received too much credit for solving the case and too little condemnation for its previous lack of action in regards to civil rights abuses.The feature film Mississippi Burning (1988), starring Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman, is loosely based on the murders and the ensuing FBI investigation. Goodman is portrayed in the film by actor Rick Zieff and is simply identified as "Passenger". Schwerner, simply identified in the credits as "Goatee", is portrayed in the film by Geoffrey Nauffts.The television movie Murder in Mississippi (1990) examines the events leading up to the deaths of the activists. In this film, Blair Underwood again portrays Chaney; Josh Charles portrays Goodman; and Tom Hulce portrays Schwerner.The documentary Neshoba (2008) details the murders, the investigation, and the 2005 trial of Edgar Ray Killen. The film features statements by many surviving relatives of the victims, other residents of Neshoba county, and other people connected to the civil rights movement, as well as footage from the 2005 trial.The TV movie, All the Way (HBO, 2016) about the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidency depicted through the 1964 Civil Rights agenda, evokes the implication of the Johnson administration in the investigation around these murders.Fine artNorman Rockwell depicted the murders in his painting, Murder in Mississippi (1965), to illustrate Charles Morgan's investigative article in Look, titled Southern Justice (June 29, 1965). The article was part of a series on civil rights.LiteratureThe economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis dedicated their book A Cooperative Species (2011) to Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.In Stephen King's The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2005), the protagonist Susannah Dean (Odetta) reminisces about her time in Mississippi as a civil rights activist, when she met Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Oxford Town. She thinks about making love to James Chaney and singing the song, "Man of Constant Sorrow".George Oppen dedicated his poem,"The Book of Job and a Draft of a Poem to Praise the Paths of the Living" (1973), to Schwerner.Alice Walker's novel Meridian (1976) portrays issues of the civil rights era.Donald E. Westlake dedicated his novel Put a Lid on It (2002) to Schwerner.Don Whitehead's nonfiction book, Attack on Terror: The F.B.I. Against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi (1970), details the events a week before the assassinations and concludes with the Federal trial of the conspirators. The book was adapted as a two-part television movie in 1975.Howard Cruse's graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby (1995) deals with issues of the civil rights era. After a stare down with a policeman, the protagonist recalls the murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner and reflects on the "price that can get exacted when you look bigotry too squarely in the eye" (p. 201).MusicConcert dramaPulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky's evening-long concert drama, August 4, 1964, was based on the events of that date: the discovery of the bodies of the three civil rights workers and the reported attack on two American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. Commissioned to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Lyndon B. Johnson, it premiered to excellent reviews.SongsRichard Fariña's song, "Michael, Andrew and James", performed with Mimi Fariña, was included in their first Vanguard album, Celebrations for a Grey Day (1965).Tom Paxton included the tribute song, "Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney" on his Ain't That News (1965) album.Pete Seeger and Frances Taylor wrote the song, "Those Three are On My Mind", about the murders, to commemorate the three workers.Phil Ochs wrote his song, "Here's to the State of Mississippi", about these events and other violations of civil rights that took place in that state.Although it was written a year before the murders, Simon & Garfunkel's song, "He Was My Brother" from Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (1964), has become associated with Andrew Goodman, who attended Queens College near the end of Simon's years at the school. Simon may have known Goodman only slightly, but they shared many friends.The band Flobots' song, "Same Thing", asks to bring back Chaney.TelevisionThe FBI Files discussed this case in its final episode of season 1, entitled "The True Story of Mississippi Burning". It aired February 23, 1999.The story was a backdrop in at least two first season episodes of the television series American Dreams (2002): "Down the Shore" and "High Hopes".In the Law & Order episode "Chosen", defense lawyer Randy Dworkin (played by Peter Jacobson) prefaces a speech against affirmative action with the phrase, "Janeane Garofalo herself can storm into my office and tear down the framed photos of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, that I keep on the wall over my desk ..." In a Season 3 episode the case is also referenced.The murder was among the 10 events that were shown on the History Channel's 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America miniseries in April 2006.In Mad Men: "Public Relations" (Season 4, Episode 1), Don Draper's date Bethany mentions knowing Andrew Goodman, stating: "The world is so dark right now", and, "Is that what it takes to make things change?" These statements are the first indication of what year Season 4 takes place in.Referenced as backdrop news reports in American Dreams season 1, episodes 21, "Fear Itself", and 24, "High Hopes".All the Way, a 2016 HBO film, briefly portrays the kidnapping and murders, and portrays the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in their aftermath.AudioSeason 3 of the CBC podcast, Someone Knows Something, revolves around the discovery in July 1964 of the bodies of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, African-American men who had been murdered two months earlier by the Klan, while the FBI was searching for the bodies of the three missing civil rights workers.
Mississippi (/ˌmɪsɪˈsɪpi/ (listen)) is a state in the Southeastern region of the United States, bordered to the north by Tennessee; to the east by Alabama; to the south by the Gulf of Mexico; to the southwest by Louisiana; and to the northwest by Arkansas. Mississippi's western boundary is largely defined by the Mississippi River. Mississippi is the 32nd largest and 35th-most populous of the 50 U.S. states and has the lowest per-capita income in the United States. Jackson is both the state's capital and largest city. Greater Jackson is the state's most populous metropolitan area, with a population of 591,978 in 2020.
On December 10, 1817, Mississippi became the 20th state admitted to the Union. By 1860, Mississippi was the nation's top cotton-producing state and slaves accounted for 55% of the state population. Mississippi declared its secession from the Union on January 9, 1861, and was one of the seven original Confederate States, which constituted the largest slaveholding states in the nation. Following the Civil War, it was restored to the Union on February 23, 1870.
Until the Great Migration of the 1930s, African Americans were a majority of Mississippi's population. In 2010, 37.3% of Mississippi's population was African American, the highest percentage of any state. Mississippi was the site of many prominent events during the civil rights movement, including the Ole Miss riot of 1962 by white students objecting to desegregation, the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers, and the 1964 Freedom Summer murders of three activists working on voting rights.
Mississippi frequently ranks low among U.S. states in measures of health, education, and development, while ranking high in measures of poverty. Top economic industries in Mississippi today are agriculture and forestry. Mississippi produces more than half of the country's farm-raised catfish, and is also a top producer of sweet potatoes, cotton and pulpwood. Other main industries in Mississippi include advanced manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and health services.
Mississippi is almost entirely within the Gulf coastal plain, and generally consists of lowland plains and low hills. The northwest remainder of the state consists of the Mississippi Delta, a section of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Mississippi's highest point is Woodall Mountain at 807 feet (246 m) above sea level adjacent to the Cumberland Plateau; the lowest is the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi has a humid subtropical climate classification.Contents1Etymology2History2.1Colonial era2.2United States territory2.3Statehood to Civil War2.4Civil War to 20th century2.520th century to present3Geography3.1Major cities and towns3.2Climate3.2.1Climate change3.3Ecology, flora, and fauna3.4Ecological problems3.4.1Flooding4Demographics4.1Ancestry4.2Language4.3Religion4.4Birth data4.5LGBT5Health6Economy6.1Entertainment and tourism6.2Manufacturing6.3Taxation6.4Employment6.5Federal subsidies and spending7Politics and government7.1Laws7.2Political alignment8Transportation8.1Air8.2Roads8.3Rail8.3.1Passenger8.3.2Freight8.4Water8.4.1Major rivers8.4.2Major bodies of water9Education10Culture10.1Music10.2Sports11See also12Notes13References14Further reading15External linksEtymologyThe state's name is derived from the Mississippi River, which flows along and defines its western boundary. European-American settlers named it after the Ojibwe word ᒥᓯ-ᓰᐱ misi-ziibi (English: Great river).
HistoryMain article: History of MississippiNear 10,000 BC Native Americans or Paleo-Indians arrived in what today is referred to as the American South. Paleo-Indians in the South were hunter-gatherers who pursued the megafauna that became extinct following the end of the Pleistocene age. In the Mississippi Delta, Native American settlements and agricultural fields were developed on the natural levees, higher ground in the proximity of rivers. The Native Americans developed extensive fields near their permanent villages. Together with other practices, they created some localized deforestation but did not alter the ecology of the Mississippi Delta as a whole.
After thousands of years, succeeding cultures of the Woodland and Mississippian culture eras developed rich and complex agricultural societies, in which surplus supported the development of specialized trades. Both were mound builder cultures. Those of the Mississippian culture were the largest and most complex, constructed beginning about 950 AD. The peoples had a trading network spanning the continent from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. Their large earthworks, which expressed their cosmology of political and religious concepts, still stand throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.Choctaw Village near the Chefuncte, by Francois Bernard, 1869, Peabody Museum—Harvard University. The women are preparing dye in order to color cane strips for making baskets.Descendant Native American tribes of the Mississippian culture in the Southeast include the Chickasaw and Choctaw. Other tribes who inhabited the territory of Mississippi (and whose names were honored by colonists in local towns) include the Natchez, the Yazoo, and the Biloxi.
The first major European expedition into the territory that became Mississippi was that of the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, who passed through the northeast part of the state in 1540, in his second expedition to the New World.
Colonial eraMain articles: New France, Louisiana (New France), French and Indian War, Treaty of Paris (1763), New Spain, West Florida, Indian Reserve (1763), American Revolutionary War, Treaty of Paris (1783), and Spanish West FloridaIn April 1699, French colonists established the first European settlement at Fort Maurepas (also known as Old Biloxi), built in the vicinity of present-day Ocean Springs on the Gulf Coast. It was settled by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. In 1716, the French founded Natchez on the Mississippi River (as Fort Rosalie); it became the dominant town and trading post of the area. The French called the greater territory "New France"; the Spanish continued to claim part of the Gulf coast area (east of Mobile Bay) of present-day southern Alabama, in addition to the entire area of present-day Florida. The British assumed control of the French territory after the French and Indian War.Pushmataha, Choctaw Principal ChiefDuring the colonial era, European settlers imported enslaved Africans to work on cash crop plantations. Under French and Spanish rule, there developed a class of free people of color (gens de couleur libres), mostly multiracial descendants of European men and enslaved or free black women, and their mixed-race children. In the early days the French and Spanish colonists were chiefly men. Even as more European women joined the settlements, the men had interracial unions among women of African descent (and increasingly, multiracial descent), both before and after marriages to European women. Often the European men would help their multiracial children get educated or gain apprenticeships for trades, and sometimes they settled property on them; they often freed the mothers and their children if enslaved, as part of contracts of plaçage. With this social capital, the free people of color became artisans, and sometimes educated merchants and property owners, forming a third class between the Europeans and most enslaved Africans in the French and Spanish settlements, although not so large a free community as in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
After Great Britain's victory in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), the French surrendered the Mississippi area to them under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763). They also ceded their areas to the north that were east of the Mississippi River, including the Illinois Country and Quebec. After the Peace of Paris (1783), the lower third of Mississippi came under Spanish rule as part of West Florida. In 1819 the United States completed the purchase of West Florida and all of East Florida in the Adams–Onís Treaty, and in 1822 both were merged into the Florida Territory.
United States territoryMain articles: Seminole Wars, Adams–Onís Treaty, Organic act § List of organic acts, and Mississippi TerritoryAfter the American Revolution (1775–83), Britain ceded this area to the new United States of America. The Mississippi Territory was organized on April 7, 1798, from territory ceded by Georgia and South Carolina to the United States. Their original colonial charters theoretically extended west to the Pacific Ocean. The Mississippi Territory was later twice expanded to include disputed territory claimed by both the United States and Spain.
From 1800 to about 1830, the United States purchased some lands (Treaty of Doak's Stand) from Native American tribes for new settlements of European Americans. The latter were mostly migrants from other Southern states, particularly Virginia and North Carolina, where soils were exhausted. New settlers kept encroaching on Choctaw land, and they pressed the federal government to expel the Native Americans. On September 27, 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed between the U.S. Government and the Choctaw. The Choctaw agreed to sell their traditional homelands in Mississippi and Alabama, for compensation and removal to reservations in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). This opened up land for sale to European-American migrant settlement.
Article 14 in the treaty allowed those Choctaw who chose to remain in the states to become U.S. citizens, as they were considered to be giving up their tribal membership. They were the second major Native American ethnic group to do so (some Cherokee were the first, who chose to stay in North Carolina and other areas during rather than join the removal). Today their descendants include approximately 9,500 persons identifying as Choctaw, who live in Neshoba, Newton, Leake, and Jones counties. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians reorganized in the 20th century and is a Federally recognized tribe.
Many slaveholders brought enslaved African Americans with them or purchased them through the domestic slave trade, especially in New Orleans. Through the trade, an estimated nearly one million slaves were forcibly transported to the Deep South, including Mississippi, in an internal migration that broke up many slave families of the Upper South, where planters were selling excess slaves. The Southerners imposed slave laws in the Deep South and restricted the rights of free blacks.
Beginning in 1822, slaves in Mississippi were protected by law from cruel and unusual punishment by their owners. The Southern slave codes made the willful killing of a slave illegal in most cases. For example, the 1860 Mississippi case of Oliver v. State charged the defendant with murdering his own slave.The Big House at D'Evereux Plantation. Built in 1840, the mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Statehood to Civil WarMain articles: Admission to the Union and List of U.S. states by date of admission to the UnionMississippi became the 20th state on December 10, 1817. David Holmes was the first governor. The state was still occupied as ancestral land by several Native American tribes, including Choctaw, Natchez, Houma, Creek, and Chickasaw.
Plantations were developed primarily along the major rivers, where the waterfront provided access to the major transportation routes. This is also where early towns developed, linked by the steamboats that carried commercial products and crops to markets. The remainder of Native American ancestral land remained largely undeveloped but was sold through treaties until 1826, when the Choctaws and Chickasaws refused to sell more land. The combination of the Mississippi state legislature's abolition of Choctaw Tribal Government in 1829, President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act and the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek of 1830, the Choctaw were effectively forced to sell their land and were transported to Oklahoma Territory. The forced migration of the Choctaw, together with other southeastern tribes removed as a result of the Act, became known as the Trail of Tears.
When cotton was king during the 1850s, Mississippi plantation owners—especially those of the Delta and Black Belt central regions—became wealthy due to the high fertility of the soil, the high price of cotton on the international market, and free labor gained through their holding enslaved African Americans. They used some of their profits to buy more cotton land and more slaves. The planters' dependence on hundreds of thousands of slaves for labor and the severe wealth imbalances among whites, played strong roles both in state politics and in planters' support for secession. Mississippi was a slave society, with the economy dependent on slavery. The state was thinly settled, with population concentrated in the riverfront areas and towns.
By 1860, the enslaved African-American population numbered 436,631 or 55% of the state's total of 791,305 persons. Fewer than 1000 were free people of color. The relatively low population of the state before the Civil War reflected the fact that land and villages were developed only along the riverfronts, which formed the main transportation corridors. Ninety percent of the Delta bottomlands were still frontier and undeveloped. The state needed many more settlers for development. The land further away from the rivers was cleared by freedmen and white migrants during Reconstruction and later.
Civil War to 20th centuryMain articles: Ordinance of Secession, Confederate States of America, Mississippi in the American Civil War, and Reconstruction era
Confederate lines, Vicksburg, May 19, 1863. Shows assault by US 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry
The legislature of the State of Mississippi in 1890On January 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second state to declare its secession from the Union, and it was one of the founding members of the Confederate States. The first six states to secede were those with the highest number of slaves. During the war, Union and Confederate forces struggled for dominance on the Mississippi River, critical to supply routes and commerce. More than 80,000 Mississippians fought in the Civil War for the Confederate Army. Around 17,000 black and 545 white Mississippians would serve in the Union Army. Pockets of Unionism in Mississippi were in places such as the northeastern corner of the state and Jones County, where Newton Knight, formed a revolt with Unionist leanings, known as the "Free State of Jones." Union General Ulysses S. Grant's long siege of Vicksburg finally gained the Union control of the river in 1863.
In the postwar period, freedmen withdrew from white-run churches to set up independent congregations. The majority of blacks left the Southern Baptist Church, sharply reducing its membership. They created independent black Baptist congregations. By 1895 they had established numerous black Baptist state associations and the National Baptist Convention of black churches.
In addition, independent black denominations, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 19th century) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (established in New York City), sent missionaries to the South in the postwar years. They quickly attracted hundreds of thousands of converts and founded new churches across the South. Southern congregations brought their own influences to those denominations as well.
During Reconstruction, the first Mississippi constitutional convention in 1868, with delegates both black and white, framed a constitution whose major elements would be maintained for 22 years. The convention was the first political organization in the state to include African-American representatives, 17 among the 100 members (32 counties had black majorities at the time). Some among the black delegates were freedmen, but others were educated free blacks who had migrated from the North. The convention adopted universal suffrage; did away with property qualifications for suffrage or for office, a change that also benefited both blacks and poor whites; provided for the state's first public school system; forbade race distinctions in the possession and inheritance of property; and prohibited limiting civil rights in travel. Under the terms of Reconstruction, Mississippi was restored to the Union on February 23, 1870.
Because the Mississippi Delta contained so much fertile bottomland that had not been developed before the Civil War, 90 percent of the land was still frontier. After the Civil War, tens of thousands of migrants were attracted to the area by higher wages offered by planters trying to develop land. In addition, black and white workers could earn money by clearing the land and selling timber, and eventually advance to ownership. The new farmers included many freedmen, who by the late 19th century achieved unusually high rates of land ownership in the Mississippi bottomlands. In the 1870s and 1880s, many black farmers succeeded in gaining land ownership.
Around the start of the 20th century, two-thirds of the Mississippi farmers who owned land in the Delta were African American. But many had become overextended with debt during the falling cotton prices of the difficult years of the late 19th century. Cotton prices fell throughout the decades following the Civil War. As another agricultural depression lowered cotton prices into the 1890s, numerous African-American farmers finally had to sell their land to pay off debts, thus losing the land which they had developed by hard, personal labor.
Democrats had regained control of the state legislature in 1875, after a year of expanded violence against blacks and intimidation of whites in what was called the "white line" campaign, based on asserting white supremacy. Democratic whites were well armed and formed paramilitary organizations such as the Red Shirts to suppress black voting. From 1874 to the elections of 1875, they pressured whites to join the Democrats, and conducted violence against blacks in at least 15 known "riots" in cities around the state to intimidate blacks. They killed a total of 150 blacks, although other estimates place the death toll at twice as many. A total of three white Republicans and five white Democrats were reported killed. In rural areas, deaths of blacks could be covered up. Riots (better described as massacres of blacks) took place in Vicksburg, Clinton, Macon, and in their counties, as well-armed whites broke up black meetings and lynched known black leaders, destroying local political organizations. Seeing the success of this deliberate "Mississippi Plan", South Carolina and other states followed it and also achieved white Democratic dominance. In 1877 by a national compromise, the last of federal troops were withdrawn from the region.
Even in this environment, black Mississippians continued to be elected to local office. However, black residents were deprived of all political power after white legislators passed a new state constitution in 1890 specifically to "eliminate the nigger from politics", according to the state's Democratic governor, James K. Vardaman. It erected barriers to voter registration and instituted electoral provisions that effectively disenfranchised most black Mississippians and many poor whites. Estimates are that 100,000 black and 50,000 white men were removed from voter registration rolls in the state over the next few years.
The loss of political influence contributed to the difficulties of African Americans in their attempts to obtain extended credit in the late 19th century. Together with imposition of Jim Crow and racial segregation laws, whites increased violence against blacks, lynching mostly men, through the period of the 1890s and extending to 1930. Cotton crops failed due to boll weevil infestation and successive severe flooding in 1912 and 1913, creating crisis conditions for many African Americans. With control of the ballot box and more access to credit, white planters bought out such farmers, expanding their ownership of Delta bottomlands. They also took advantage of new railroads sponsored by the state.Child workers, Pass Christian, 1911, by Lewis Hine20th century to presentIn 1900, blacks made up more than half of the state's population. By 1910, a majority of black farmers in the Delta had lost their land and become sharecroppers. By 1920, the third generation after freedom, most African Americans in Mississippi were landless laborers again facing poverty. Starting about 1913, tens of thousands of black Americans left Mississippi for the North in the Great Migration to industrial cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New York. They sought jobs, better education for their children, the right to vote, relative freedom from discrimination, and better living. In the migration of 1910–1940, they left a society that had been steadily closing off opportunity. Most migrants from Mississippi took trains directly north to Chicago and often settled near former neighbors.
Blacks also faced violence in the form of lynching, shooting, and the burning of churches. In 1923, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stated "the Negro feels that life is not safe in Mississippi and his life may be taken with impunity at any time upon the slightest pretext or provocation by a white man".Mexican American boy and African American man at the Knowlton Plantation, Perthshire, Mississippi, in 1939, by Marion Post Wolcott
Dancing at a juke joint near Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1939, by Marion Post WolcottIn the early 20th century, some industries were established in Mississippi, but jobs were generally restricted to whites, including child workers. The lack of jobs also drove some southern whites north to cities such as Chicago and Detroit, seeking employment, where they also competed with European immigrants. The state depended on agriculture, but mechanization put many farm laborers out of work.
By 1900, many white ministers, especially in the towns, subscribed to the Social Gospel movement, which attempted to apply Christian ethics to social and economic needs of the day. Many strongly supported Prohibition, believing it would help alleviate and prevent many sins. Mississippi became a dry state in 1908 by an act of the State legislature. It remained dry until the legislature passed a local option bill in 1966.
African-American Baptist churches grew to include more than twice the number of members as their white Baptist counterparts. The African-American call for social equality resonated throughout the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s.
The Second Great Migration from the South started in the 1940s, lasting until 1970. Almost half a million people left Mississippi in the second migration, three-quarters of them black. Nationwide during the first half of the 20th century, African Americans became rapidly urbanized and many worked in industrial jobs. The Second Great Migration included destinations in the West, especially California, where the buildup of the defense industry offered higher-paying jobs to both African Americans and whites.
Blacks and whites in Mississippi generated rich, quintessentially American music traditions: gospel music, country music, jazz, blues and rock and roll. All were invented, promulgated or heavily developed by Mississippi musicians, many of them African American, and most came from the Mississippi Delta. Many musicians carried their music north to Chicago, where they made it the heart of that city's jazz and blues.
So many African Americans left in the Great Migration that after the 1930s, they became a minority in Mississippi. In 1960 they made up 42% of the state's population. The whites maintained their discriminatory voter registration processes established in 1890, preventing most blacks from voting, even if they were well educated. Court challenges were not successful until later in the century. After World War II, African-American veterans returned with renewed commitment to be treated as full citizens of the United States and increasingly organized to gain enforcement of their constitutional rights.
The Civil Rights Movement had many roots in religion, and the strong community of churches helped supply volunteers and moral purpose for their activism. Mississippi was a center of activity, based in black churches, to educate and register black voters, and to work for integration. In 1954 the state had created the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a tax-supported agency, chaired by the Governor, that claimed to work for the state's image but effectively spied on activists and passed information to the local White Citizens' Councils to suppress black activism. White Citizens Councils had been formed in many cities and towns to resist integration of schools following the unanimous 1954 United States Supreme Court ruling (Brown v. Board of Education) that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. They used intimidation and economic blackmail against activists and suspected activists, including teachers and other professionals. Techniques included loss of jobs and eviction from rental housing.
In the summer of 1964 students and community organizers from across the country came to help register black voters in Mississippi and establish Freedom Schools. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was established to challenge the all-white Democratic Party of the Solid South. Most white politicians resisted such changes. Chapters of the Ku Klux Klan and its sympathizers used violence against activists, most notably the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in 1964 during the Freedom Summer campaign. This was a catalyst for Congressional passage the following year of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Mississippi earned a reputation in the 1960s as a reactionary state.
After decades of disenfranchisement, African Americans in the state gradually began to exercise their right to vote again for the first time since the 19th century, following the passage of federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965, which ended de jure segregation and enforced constitutional voting rights. Registration of African-American voters increased and black candidates ran in the 1967 elections for state and local offices. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party fielded some candidates. Teacher Robert G. Clark of Holmes County was the first African American to be elected to the State House since Reconstruction. He continued as the only African American in the state legislature until 1976 and was repeatedly elected into the 21st century, including three terms as Speaker of the House.
In 1966, the state was the last to repeal officially statewide prohibition of alcohol. Before that, Mississippi had taxed the illegal alcohol brought in by bootleggers. Governor Paul Johnson urged repeal and the sheriff "raided the annual Junior League Mardi Gras ball at the Jackson Country Club, breaking open the liquor cabinet and carting off the Champagne before a startled crowd of nobility and high-ranking state officials".
On August 17, 1969, Category 5 Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi coast, killing 248 people and causing US$1.5 billion in damage (1969 dollars).
Mississippi ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in March 1984, which had already entered into force by August 1920; granting women the right to vote.
In 1987, 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 1967's Loving v. Virginia that a similar Virginian law was unconstitutional, Mississippi repealed its ban on interracial marriage (also known as miscegenation), which had been enacted in 1890. It also repealed the segregationist-era poll tax in 1989. In 1995, the state symbolically ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which had abolished slavery in 1865. Though ratified in 1995, the state never officially notified the Federal Archivist, which kept the ratification unofficial until 2013, when Ken Sullivan contacted the office of Secretary of State of Mississippi, Delbert Hosemann, who agreed to file the paperwork and make it official. In 2009, the legislature passed a bill to repeal other discriminatory civil rights laws, which had been enacted in 1964, the same year as the federal Civil Rights Act, but ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by federal courts. Republican Governor Haley Barbour signed the bill into law.
The end of legal segregation and Jim Crow led to the integration of some churches, but most today remain divided along racial and cultural lines, having developed different traditions. After the Civil War, most African Americans left white churches to establish their own independent congregations, particularly Baptist churches, establishing state associations and a national association by the end of the century. They wanted to express their own traditions of worship and practice. In more diverse communities, such as Hattiesburg, some churches have multiracial congregations.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, though a Category 3 storm upon final landfall, caused even greater destruction across the entire 90 miles (145 km) of the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama.The previous flag of Mississippi, used until June 30, 2020, featured the Confederate battle flagThe previous flag of Mississippi, used until June 30, 2020, featured the Confederate battle flag. Mississippi became the last state to remove the Confederate battle flag as an official state symbol on June 30, 2020, when Governor Tate Reeves signed a law officially retiring the second state flag. The current flag, The "New Magnolia" flag, was selected via referendum as part of the general election on November 3, 2020. It officially became the state flag on January 11, 2021, after being signed into law by the state legislature and governor.
GeographyMap of Mississippi NA.png
Bottomland hardwood swamp near Ashland
Map of the Mississippi Delta Region (outlined in green)Mississippi is bordered to the north by Tennessee, to the east by Alabama, to the south by Louisiana and a narrow coast on the Gulf of Mexico; and to the west, across the Mississippi River, by Louisiana and Arkansas.
In addition to its namesake, major rivers in Mississippi include the Big Black River, the Pearl River, the Yazoo River, the Pascagoula River, and the Tombigbee River. Major lakes include Ross Barnett Reservoir, Arkabutla, Sardis, and Grenada, with the largest being Sardis Lake.
Mississippi is entirely composed of lowlands, the highest point being Woodall Mountain, at 807 ft (246 m) above sea level, in the northeastern part of the state. The lowest point is sea level at the Gulf Coast. The state's mean elevation is 300 ft (91 m) above sea level.
Most of Mississippi is part of the East Gulf Coastal Plain. The coastal plain is generally composed of low hills, such as the Pine Hills in the south and the North Central Hills. The Pontotoc Ridge and the Fall Line Hills in the northeast have somewhat higher elevations. Yellow-brown loess soil is found in the western parts of the state. The northeast is a region of fertile black earth uplands, a geology that extend into the Alabama Black Belt.
The coastline includes large bays at Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico proper by the shallow Mississippi Sound, which is partially sheltered by Petit Bois Island, Horn Island, East and West Ship Islands, Deer Island, Round Island, and Cat Island.
The northwest remainder of the state consists of the Mississippi Delta, a section of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The plain is narrow in the south and widens north of Vicksburg. The region has rich soil, partly made up of silt which had been regularly deposited by the flood waters of the Mississippi River.
Areas under the management of the National Park Service include:
Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site near BaldwynGulf Islands National SeashoreNatchez National Historical Park in NatchezNatchez Trace National Scenic Trail in TupeloNatchez Trace ParkwayTupelo National Battlefield in TupeloVicksburg National Military Park and Cemetery in VicksburgMajor cities and towns
Map with all counties and their county seatsMississippi City Population Rankings of at least 50,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2017):
Jackson (166,965)Gulfport (71,822)Southaven (54,031)Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 20,000 but fewer than 50,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2017):
Hattiesburg (46,377)Biloxi (45,908)Tupelo (38,114)Meridian (37,940)Olive Branch (37,435)Greenville (30,686)Horn Lake (27,095)Pearl (26,534)Madison (25,627)Starkville (25,352)Clinton (25,154)Ridgeland (24,266)Columbus (24,041)Brandon (23,999)Oxford (23,639)Vicksburg (22,489)Pascagoula (21,733)Mississippi City Population Rankings of at least 10,000 but fewer than 20,000 (United States Census Bureau as of 2017):
Gautier (18,512)Laurel (18,493)Ocean Springs (17,682)Hernando (15,981)Clarksdale (15,732)Long Beach (15,642)Natchez (14,886)Corinth (14,643)Greenwood (13,996)Moss Point (13,398)McComb (13,267)Bay St. Louis (13,043)Canton (12,725)Grenada (12,267)Brookhaven (12,173)Cleveland (11,729)Byram (11,671)D'Iberville (11,610)Picayune (11,008)West Point (10,675)Yazoo City (11,018)Petal (10,633)(See: Lists of cities, towns and villages, census-designated places, metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, and counties in Mississippi)
Köppen climate types of Mississippi, using 1991-2020 climate normals.Mississippi has a humid subtropical climate with long, hot and humid summers, and short, mild winters. Temperatures average about 81 °F (27 °C) in July and about 42 °F (6 °C) in January. The temperature varies little statewide in the summer; however, in winter, the region near Mississippi Sound is significantly warmer than the inland portion of the state. The recorded temperature in Mississippi has ranged from −19 °F (−28 °C), in 1966, at Corinth in the northeast, to 115 °F (46 °C), in 1930, at Holly Springs in the north. Heavy snowfall rarely occurs, but isn't unheard of, such as during the New Year's Eve 1963 snowstorm. Yearly precipitation generally increases from north to south, with the regions closer to the Gulf being the most humid. Thus, Clarksdale, in the northwest, gets about 50 in (1,300 mm) of precipitation annually and Biloxi, in the south, about 61 in (1,500 mm). Small amounts of snow fall in northern and central Mississippi; snow is occasional in the southern part of the state.Hurricanes Camille (left) and Katrina from satellite imagery, as they approached the Mississippi Gulf CoastThe late summer and fall is the seasonal period of risk for hurricanes moving inland from the Gulf of Mexico, especially in the southern part of the state. Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed 238 people in the state, were the most devastating hurricanes to hit the state. Both caused nearly total storm surge destruction of structures in and around Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula.
As in the rest of the Deep South, thunderstorms are common in Mississippi, especially in the southern part of the state. On average, Mississippi has around 27 tornadoes annually; the northern part of the state has more tornadoes earlier in the year and the southern part a higher frequency later in the year. Two of the five deadliest tornadoes in United States history have occurred in the state. These storms struck Natchez, in southwest Mississippi (see The Great Natchez Tornado) and Tupelo, in the northeast corner of the state. About seven F5 tornadoes have been recorded in the state.
Monthly normal high and low temperatures (°F) for various Mississippi citiesCityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecGulfport61/4364/4670/5277/5984/6689/7291/7491/7487/7079/6070/5163/45Jackson55/3560/3868/4575/5282/6189/6891/7191/7086/6577/5266/4358/37Meridian58/3563/3870/4477/5084/6090/6793/7093/7088/6478/5168/4360/37Tupelo50/3056/3465/4174/4881/5888/6691/7091/6885/6275/4963/4054/33Source:Climate data for Mississippi (1980–2010)MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYearAverage high °F (°C)54.3(12.4)58.7(14.8)67.2(19.6)75.2(24.0)82.6(28.1)88.9(31.6)91.4(33.0)91.5(33.1)86.3(30.2)76.9(24.9)66.5(19.2)56.6(13.7)74.7(23.7)Average low °F (°C)33.3(0.7)36.7(2.6)43.8(6.6)51.3(10.7)60.3(15.7)67.6(19.8)70.6(21.4)69.7(20.9)63(17)51.9(11.1)43.1(6.2)35.7(2.1)52.3(11.2)Average precipitation inches (mm)5.0(130)5.2(130)5.1(130)5.0(130)5.1(130)4.4(110)4.5(110)3.9(99)3.6(91)4.1(100)4.9(120)5.7(140)56.5(1,420)Source: USA.com
Climate changeThese paragraphs are an excerpt from Climate change in Mississippi.Climate change in Mississippi encompasses the effects of climate change, attributed to man-made increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, in the U.S. state of Mississippi.
Studies show that Mississippi is among a string of "Deep South" states that will experience the worst effects of climate change in the United States. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports:
"In the coming decades, Mississippi will become warmer, and both floods and droughts may be more severe. Unlike most of the nation, Mississippi did not become warmer during the last 50 to 100 years. But soils have become drier, annual rainfall has increased, more rain arrives in heavy downpours, and sea level is rising about one inch every seven years. The changing climate is likely to increase damages from tropical storms, reduce crop yields, harm livestock, increase the number of unpleasantly hot days, and increase the risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses".Ecology, flora, and fauna
Leaving Tennessee on US Highway 61
Clark Creek Natural Area, Wilkinson CountyMississippi is heavily forested, with over half of the state's area covered by wild or cultivated trees. The southeastern part of the state is dominated by longleaf pine, in both uplands and lowland flatwoods and Sarracenia bogs. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain, or Delta, is primarily farmland and aquaculture ponds but also has sizeable tracts of cottonwood, willows, bald cypress, and oaks. A belt of loess extends north to south in the western part of the state, where the Mississippi Alluvial Plain reaches the first hills; this region is characterized by rich, mesic mixed hardwood forests, with some species disjunct from Appalachian forests. Two bands of historical prairie, the Jackson Prairie and the Black Belt, run northwest to southeast in the middle and northeastern part of the state. Although these areas have been highly degraded by conversion to agriculture, a few areas remain, consisting of grassland with interspersed woodland of eastern redcedar, oaks, hickories, osage-orange, and sugarberry. The rest of the state, primarily north of Interstate 20 not including the prairie regions, consists of mixed pine-hardwood forest, common species being loblolly pine, oaks (e.g., water oak), hickories, sweetgum, and elm. Areas along large rivers are commonly inhabited by bald cypress, water tupelo, water elm, and bitter pecan. Commonly cultivated trees include loblolly pine, longleaf pine, cherrybark oak, and cottonwood.
There are approximately 3000 species of vascular plants known from Mississippi. As of 2018, a project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation aims to update that checklist of plants with museum (herbarium) vouchers and create an online atlas of each species's distribution.
About 420 species of birds are known to inhabit Mississippi.
Mississippi has one of the richest fish faunas in the United States, with 204 native fish species.
Mississippi also has a rich freshwater mussel fauna, with about 90 species in the primary family of native mussels (Unionidae). Several of these species were extirpated during the construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
Mississippi is home to 63 crayfish species, including at least 17 endemic species.
Mississippi is home to eight winter stonefly species.
Ecological problemsFloodingFurther information: List of Mississippi River floodsDue to seasonal flooding, possible from December to June, the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers and their tributaries created a fertile floodplain in the Mississippi Delta. The river's flooding created natural levees, which planters had built higher to try to prevent flooding of land cultivated for cotton crops. Temporary workers built levees along the Mississippi River on top of the natural levees that formed from dirt deposited after the river flooded.
From 1858 to 1861, the state took over levee building, accomplishing it through contractors and hired labor. In those years, planters considered their slaves too valuable to hire out for such dangerous work. Contractors hired gangs of Irish immigrant laborers to build levees and sometimes clear land. Many of the Irish were relatively recent immigrants from the famine years who were struggling to get established. Before the American Civil War, the earthwork levees averaged six feet in height, although in some areas they reached twenty feet.
Flooding has been an integral part of Mississippi history, but clearing of the land for cultivation and to supply wood fuel for steamboats took away the absorption of trees and undergrowth. The banks of the river were denuded, becoming unstable and changing the character of the river. After the Civil War, major floods swept down the valley in 1865, 1867, 1874 and 1882. Such floods regularly overwhelmed levees damaged by Confederate and Union fighting during the war, as well as those constructed after the war. In 1877, the state created the Mississippi Levee District for southern counties.
In 1879, the United States Congress created the Mississippi River Commission, whose responsibilities included aiding state levee boards in the construction of levees. Both white and black transient workers were hired to build the levees in the late 19th century. By 1882, levees averaged seven feet in height, but many in the southern Delta were severely tested by the flood that year. After the 1882 flood, the levee system was expanded. In 1884, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee District was established to oversee levee construction and maintenance in the northern Delta counties; also included were some counties in Arkansas which were part of the Delta.
Flooding overwhelmed northwestern Mississippi in 1912–1913, causing heavy damage to the levee districts. Regional losses and the Mississippi River Levee Association's lobbying for a flood control bill helped gain passage of national bills in 1917 and 1923 to provide federal matching funds for local levee districts, on a scale of 2:1. Although U.S. participation in World War I interrupted funding of levees, the second round of funding helped raise the average height of levees in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta to 22 feet (6.7 m) in the 1920s. Scientists now understand the levees have increased the severity of flooding by increasing the flow speed of the river and reducing the area of the floodplains. The region was severely damaged due to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which broke through the levees. There were losses of millions of dollars in property, stock and crops. The most damage occurred in the lower Delta, including Washington and Bolivar counties.
Even as scientific knowledge about the Mississippi River has grown, upstream development and the consequences of the levees have caused more severe flooding in some years. Scientists now understand that the widespread clearing of land and building of the levees have changed the nature of the river. Such work removed the natural protection and absorption of wetlands and forest cover, strengthening the river's current. The state and federal governments have been struggling for the best approaches to restore some natural habitats in order to best interact with the original riverine ecology.
DemographicsHistorical populationCensusPop.%±18007,600—181031,306311.9%182075,448141.0%1830136,62181.1%1840375,651175.0%1850606,52661.5%1860791,30530.5%1870827,9224.6%18801,131,59736.7%18901,289,60014.0%19001,551,27020.3%19101,797,11415.8%19201,790,618−0.4%19302,009,82112.2%19402,183,7968.7%19502,178,914−0.2%19602,178,1410.0%19702,216,9121.8%19802,520,63813.7%19902,573,2162.1%20002,844,65810.5%20102,967,2974.3%20202,961,279−0.2%Source: 1910–2020
A racial/ethnic map of the state of Mississippi. The purple counties have black majorities, the blue ones have white majorities. The darker the color, the larger the majority.The center of population of Mississippi is located in Leake County, in the town of Lena.Mississippi population density mapThe United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Mississippi was 2,976,149 on July 1, 2019, a 0.30% increase since the 2010 census. The state's economist characterized the state as losing population as job markets elsewhere have caused 3.2 per 1000 to migrate recently.
From 2000 to 2010, the United States Census Bureau reported that Mississippi had the highest rate of increase in people identifying as mixed-race, up 70 percent in the decade; it amounts to a total of 1.1 percent of the population. In addition, Mississippi led the nation for most of the last decade in the growth of mixed marriages among its population. The total population has not increased significantly, but is young. Some of the above change in identification as mixed race is due to new births. But, it appears mostly to reflect those residents who have chosen to identify as more than one race, who in earlier years may have identified by just one ethnicity. A binary racial system had been in place since slavery times and the days of official government racial segregation. In the civil rights era, people of African descent banded together in an inclusive community to achieve political power and gain restoration of their civil rights.
As the demographer William H. Frey noted, "In Mississippi, I think it's [identifying as mixed race] changed from within." Historically in Mississippi, after Indian removal in the 1830s, the major groups were designated as black (African American), who were then mostly enslaved, and white (primarily European American). Matthew Snipp, also a demographer, commented on the increase in the 21st century in the number of people identifying as being of more than one race: "In a sense, they're rendering a more accurate portrait of their racial heritage that in the past would have been suppressed."
After having accounted for a majority of the state's population since well before the Civil War and through the 1930s, today African Americans constitute approximately 37.8 percent of the state's population. Most have ancestors who were enslaved, with many forcibly transported from the Upper South in the 19th century to work on the area's new plantations. Many of these slaves were mixed race, with European ancestors, as there were many children born into slavery with white fathers. Some also have Native American ancestry. During the first half of the 20th century, a total of nearly 400,000 African Americans left the state during the Great Migration, for opportunities in the North, Midwest and West. They became a minority in the state for the first time since early in its development.
AncestryEthnic composition as of the 2020 censusRace and EthnicityAloneTotalWhite (non-Hispanic)55.4%57.9%African American (non-Hispanic)36.4%37.6%Hispanic or Latino[a]—3.6%Asian1.1%1.5%Native American0.5%1.6%Pacific Islander0.04%0.1%Other0.2%0.7%Historical racial demographicsRacial composition199020002010White63.5%61.4%59.1%Black35.6%36.3%37.0%Asian0.5%0.7%0.9%Native0.3%0.4%0.5%Other race0.1%0.5%1.3%Two or more races–0.7%1.2%As of 2011, 53.8% of Mississippi's population younger than age 1 were minorities, meaning that they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white. For more information on racial and ethnic classifications in the United States see race and ethnicity in the United States Census.
Americans of Scots-Irish, English and Scottish ancestry are present throughout the state. It is believed that there are more people with such ancestry than identify as such on the census, in part because their immigrant ancestors are more distant in their family histories. English, Scottish and Scots-Irish are generally the most under-reported ancestry groups in both the South Atlantic States and the East South Central States. The historian David Hackett Fischer estimated that a minimum 20% of Mississippi's population is of English ancestry, though the figure is probably much higher, and another large percentage is of Scottish ancestry. Many Mississippians of such ancestry identify simply as American on questionnaires, because their families have been in North America for centuries. In the 1980 census 656,371 Mississippians of a total of 1,946,775 identified as being of English ancestry, making them 38% of the state at the time.
The state in 2010 had the highest proportion of African Americans in the nation. The African-American percentage of population has begun to increase due mainly to a younger population than the whites (the total fertility rates of the two races are approximately equal). Due to patterns of settlement and whites putting their children in private schools, in almost all of Mississippi's public school districts, a majority of students are African American. African Americans are the majority ethnic group in the northwestern Yazoo Delta, and the southwestern and the central parts of the state. These are areas where, historically, African Americans owned land as farmers in the 19th century following the Civil War, or worked on cotton plantations and farms.
People of French Creole ancestry form the largest demographic group in Hancock County on the Gulf Coast. The African-American, Choctaw (mostly in Neshoba County), and Chinese American portions of the population are also almost entirely native born.
The Chinese first came to Mississippi as contract workers from Cuba and California in the 1870s, and they originally worked as laborers on the cotton plantations. However, most Chinese families came later between 1910 and 1930 from other states, and most operated small family-owned groceries stores in the many small towns of the Delta. In these roles, the ethnic Chinese carved out a niche in the state between black and white, where they were concentrated in the Delta. These small towns have declined since the late 20th century, and many ethnic Chinese have joined the exodus to larger cities, including Jackson. Their population in the state overall has increased in the 21st century.
In the early 1980s many Vietnamese immigrated to Mississippi and other states along the Gulf of Mexico, where they became employed in fishing-related work.
LanguageIn 2000, 96.4% of Mississippi residents five years old and older spoke only English in the home, a decrease from 97.2% in 1990. English is largely Southern American English, with some South Midland speech in northern and eastern Mississippi. There is a common absence of final /r/, particularly in the elderly natives and African Americans, and the lengthening and weakening of the diphthongs /aɪ/ and /ɔɪ/ as in 'ride' and 'oil'. South Midland terms in northern Mississippi include: tow sack (burlap bag), dog irons (andirons), plum peach (clingstone peach), snake doctor (dragonfly), and stone wall (rock fence).
Top 10 non-English languages spoken in MississippiLanguagePercentage of population(as of 2010)Spanish1.9%French0.4%German, Vietnamese, and Choctaw (tied)0.2%Korean, Chinese, Tagalog, Italian (tied)0.1%ReligionUnder French and Spanish rule beginning in the 17th century, European colonists were mostly Roman Catholics. The growth of the cotton culture after 1815 brought in tens of thousands of Anglo-American settlers each year, most of whom were Protestants from Southeastern states. Due to such migration, there was rapid growth in the number of Protestant churches, especially Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist.Liberty Baptist Church, Amite CountyThe revivals of the Great Awakening in the late 18th and early 19th centuries initially attracted the "plain folk" by reaching out to all members of society, including women and blacks. Both slaves and free blacks were welcomed into Methodist and Baptist churches. Independent black Baptist churches were established before 1800 in Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia, and later developed in Mississippi as well.
In the post-Civil War years, religion became more influential as the South became known as the "Bible Belt".
Since the 1970s, fundamentalist conservative churches have grown rapidly, fueling Mississippi's conservative political trends among whites. In 1973 the Presbyterian Church in America attracted numerous conservative congregations. As of 2010, Mississippi remained a stronghold of the denomination, which originally was brought by Scots immigrants. The state has the highest adherence rate of the PCA in 2010, with 121 congregations and 18,500 members. It is among the few states where the PCA has higher membership than the PC(USA). According to the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), in 2010 the Southern Baptist Convention had 907,384 adherents and was the largest religious denomination in the state, followed by the United Methodist Church with 204,165, and the Roman Catholic Church with 112,488. Other religions have a small presence in Mississippi; as of 2010, there were 5,012 Muslims; 4,389 Hindus; and 816 of the Baháʼí Faith.
Public opinion polls have consistently ranked Mississippi as the most religious state in the United States, with 59% of Mississippians considering themselves "very religious". The same survey also found that 11% of the population were non-Religious. In a 2009 Gallup poll, 63% of Mississippians said that they attended church weekly or almost weekly—the highest percentage of all states (U.S. average was 42%, and the lowest percentage was in Vermont at 23%). Another 2008 Gallup poll found that 85% of Mississippians considered religion an important part of their daily lives, the highest figure among all states (U.S. average 65%).
Religious affiliation in Mississippi (2014)Affiliation% of Mississippi populationChristian83Protestant77Evangelical Protestant41Mainline Protestant12Black church24Catholic4Mormon1Jehovah's Witnesses0.5Eastern Orthodox0.5Other Christian0.5Unaffiliated14Nothing in particular11Agnostic3Atheist1Non-Christian faiths2Jewish0.5Muslim0.5Buddhist0.5Hindu0.5Other Non-Christian faiths0.5Don't know/refused answer1Total100Birth dataNote: Births in table don't add up, because Hispanics are counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number.
Live Births by Single Race/Ethnicity of MotherRace20132014201520162017201820192020White:20,818 (53.9%)20,894 (53.9%)20,730 (54.0%)...............> non-Hispanic White19,730 (51.0%)19,839 (51.3%)19,635 (51.1%)19,411 (51.2%)18,620 (49.8%)18,597 (50.2%)18,229 (49.8%)17,648 (49.8%)Black17,020 (44.0%)17,036 (44.0%)16,846 (43.9%)15,879 (41.9%)16,087 (43.1%)15,797 (42.7%)15,706 (42.9%)15,155 (42.7%)Asian504 (1.3%)583 (1.5%)559 (1.5%)475 (1.3%)502 (1.3%)411 (1.1%)455 (1.2%)451 (1.3%)American Indian292 (0.7%)223 (0.6%)259 (0.7%)215 (0.6%)225 (0.6%)238 (0.6%)242 (0.7%)252 (0.7%)Hispanic (of any race)1,496 (3.9%)1,547 (4.0%)1,613 (4.2%)1,664 (4.4%)1,650 (4.4%)1,666 (4.5%)1,709 (4.7%)1,679 (4.7%)Total Mississippi38,634 (100%)38,736 (100%)38,394 (100%)37,928 (100%)37,357 (100%)37,000 (100%)36,636 (100%)35,473 (100%)Since 2016, data for births of White Hispanic origin are not collected, but included in one Hispanic group; persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.LGBTThe 2010 United States Census counted 6,286 same-sex unmarried-partner households in Mississippi, an increase of 1,512 since the 2000 United States census. Of those same-sex couples roughly 33% contained at least one child, giving Mississippi the distinction of leading the nation in the percentage of same-sex couples raising children. Mississippi has the largest percentage of African-American same-sex couples among total households. The state capital, Jackson, ranks tenth in the nation in concentration of African-American same-sex couples. The state ranks fifth in the nation in the percentage of Hispanic same-sex couples among all Hispanic households and ninth in the highest concentration of same-sex couples who are seniors.
HealthThe state is ranked 50th or last place among all the states for health care, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit foundation working to advance performance of the health care system.
Mississippi has the highest rate of infant and neonatal deaths of any U.S. state. Age-adjusted data also shows Mississippi has the highest overall death rate, and the highest death rate from heart disease, hypertension and hypertensive renal disease, influenza and pneumonia.
In 2011, Mississippi (and Arkansas) had the fewest dentists per capita in the United States.
For three years in a row, more than 30 percent of Mississippi's residents have been classified as obese. In a 2006 study, 22.8 percent of the state's children were classified as such. Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity of any U.S. state from 2005 to 2008, and also ranks first in the nation for high blood pressure, diabetes, and adult inactivity. In a 2008 study of African-American women, contributing risk factors were shown to be: lack of knowledge about body mass index (BMI), dietary behavior, physical inactivity and lack of social support, defined as motivation and encouragement by friends. A 2002 report on African-American adolescents noted a 1999 survey which suggests that a third of children were obese, with higher ratios for those in the Delta.
The study stressed that "obesity starts in early childhood extending into the adolescent years and then possibly into adulthood". It noted impediments to needed behavioral modification, including the Delta likely being "the most underserved region in the state" with African Americans the major ethnic group; lack of accessibility and availability of medical care; and an estimated 60% of residents living below the poverty level. Additional risk factors were that most schools had no physical education curriculum and nutrition education is not emphasized. Previous intervention strategies may have been largely ineffective due to not being culturally sensitive or practical. A 2006 survey found nearly 95 percent of Mississippi adults considered childhood obesity to be a serious problem.
A 2017 study found that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi was the leading health insurer with 53% followed by UnitedHealth Group at 13%.
EconomySee also: Mississippi locations by per capita income
A Mississippi U.S. quarterThe Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Mississippi's total state product in 2010 was $98 billion. GDP growth was .5 percent in 2015 and is estimated to be 2.4 in 2016 according to Dr. Darrin Webb, the state's chief economist, who noted it would make two consecutive years of positive growth since the recession. Per capita personal income in 2006 was $26,908, the lowest per capita personal income of any state, but the state also has the nation's lowest living costs. 2015 data records the adjusted per capita personal income at $40,105. Mississippians consistently rank as one of the highest per capita in charitable contributions.
At 56 percent, the state has one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the country. Approximately 70,000 adults are disabled, which is 10 percent of the workforce.
Mississippi's rank as one of the poorest states is related to its dependence on cotton agriculture before and after the Civil War, late development of its frontier bottomlands in the Mississippi Delta, repeated natural disasters of flooding in the late 19th and early 20th century that required massive capital investment in levees, and ditching and draining the bottomlands, and slow development of railroads to link bottomland towns and river cities. In addition, when Democrats regained control of the state legislature, they passed the 1890 constitution that discouraged corporate industrial development in favor of rural agriculture, a legacy that would slow the state's progress for years.
Before the Civil War, Mississippi was the fifth-wealthiest state in the nation, its wealth generated by the labor of slaves in cotton plantations along the rivers. Slaves were counted as property and the rise in the cotton markets since the 1840s had increased their value. By 1860, a majority—55 percent—of the population of Mississippi was enslaved. Ninety percent of the Delta bottomlands were undeveloped and the state had low overall density of population.Sharecropper's daughter, Lauderdale County, 1935Largely due to the domination of the plantation economy, focused on the production of agricultural cotton, the state's elite was reluctant to invest in infrastructure such as roads and railroads. They educated their children privately. Industrialization did not reach many areas until the late 20th century. The planter aristocracy, the elite of antebellum Mississippi, kept the tax structure low for their own benefit, making only private improvements. Before the war the most successful planters, such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, owned riverside properties along the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers in the Mississippi Delta. Away from the riverfronts, most of the Delta was undeveloped frontier.
During the Civil War, 30,000 Mississippi soldiers, mostly white, died from wounds and disease, and many more were left crippled and wounded. Changes to the labor structure and an agricultural depression throughout the South caused severe losses in wealth. In 1860 assessed valuation of property in Mississippi had been more than $500 million, of which $218 million (43 percent) was estimated as the value of slaves. By 1870, total assets had decreased in value to roughly $177 million.
Poor whites and landless former slaves suffered the most from the postwar economic depression. The constitutional convention of early 1868 appointed a committee to recommend what was needed for relief of the state and its citizens. The committee found severe destitution among the laboring classes. It took years for the state to rebuild levees damaged in battles. The upset of the commodity system impoverished the state after the war. By 1868 an increased cotton crop began to show possibilities for free labor in the state, but the crop of 565,000 bales produced in 1870 was still less than half of prewar figures.
Blacks cleared land, selling timber and developing bottomland to achieve ownership. In 1900, two-thirds of farm owners in Mississippi were blacks, a major achievement for them and their families. Due to the poor economy, low cotton prices and difficulty of getting credit, many of these farmers could not make it through the extended financial difficulties. Two decades later, the majority of African Americans were sharecroppers. The low prices of cotton into the 1890s meant that more than a generation of African Americans lost the result of their labor when they had to sell their farms to pay off accumulated debts.
After the Civil War, the state refused for years to build human capital by fully educating all its citizens. In addition, the reliance on agriculture grew increasingly costly as the state suffered loss of cotton crops due to the devastation of the boll weevil in the early 20th century, devastating floods in 1912–1913 and 1927, collapse of cotton prices after 1920, and drought in 1930.
It was not until 1884, after the flood of 1882, that the state created the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta District Levee Board and started successfully achieving longer-term plans for levees in the upper Delta. Despite the state's building and reinforcing levees for years, the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 broke through and caused massive flooding of 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) throughout the Delta, homelessness for hundreds of thousands, and millions of dollars in property damages. With the Depression coming so soon after the flood, the state suffered badly during those years. In the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands of African Americans migrated North and West for jobs and chances to live as full citizens.
Entertainment and tourismThe legislature's 1990 decision to legalize casino gambling along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast has led to increased revenues and economic gains for the state. Gambling towns in Mississippi have attracted increased tourism: they include the Gulf Coast resort towns of Bay St. Louis, Gulfport and Biloxi, and the Mississippi River towns of Tunica (the third largest gaming area in the United States), Greenville, Vicksburg and Natchez.
Before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Mississippi was the second-largest gambling state in the Union, after Nevada and ahead of New Jersey. An estimated $500,000 per day in tax revenue was lost following Hurricane Katrina's severe damage to several coastal casinos in Biloxi in August 2005. Because of the destruction from this hurricane, on October 17, 2005, Governor Haley Barbour signed a bill into law that allows casinos in Hancock and Harrison counties to rebuild on land (but within 800 feet (240 m) of the water). The only exception is in Harrison County, where the new law states that casinos can be built to the southern boundary of U.S. Route 90.
In 2012, Mississippi had the sixth largest gambling revenue of any state, with $2.25 billion. The federally recognized Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has established a gaming casino on its reservation, which yields revenue to support education and economic development.
Momentum Mississippi, a statewide, public–private partnership dedicated to the development of economic and employment opportunities in Mississippi, was adopted in 2005.
2014 Corolla built by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi on display at the Tupelo Automobile MuseumMississippi, like the rest of its southern neighbors, is a right-to-work state. It has some major automotive factories, such as the Toyota Mississippi Plant in Blue Springs and a Nissan Automotive plant in Canton. The latter produces the Nissan Titan.
TaxationMississippi collects personal income tax in three tax brackets, ranging from 3% to 5%. The retail sales tax rate in Mississippi is 7%. Tupelo levies a local sales tax of 2.5%. State sales tax growth was 1.4 percent in 2016 and estimated to be slightly less in 2017. For purposes of assessment for ad valorem taxes, taxable property is divided into five classes.
On August 30, 2007, a report by the United States Census Bureau indicated that Mississippi was the poorest state in the country. Major cotton farmers in the Delta have large, mechanized plantations, and they receive the majority of extensive federal subsidies going to the state, yet many other residents still live as poor, rural, landless laborers. The state's sizable poultry industry has faced similar challenges in its transition from family-run farms to large mechanized operations. Of $1.2 billion from 2002 to 2005 in federal subsidies to farmers in the Bolivar County area of the Delta, only 5% went to small farmers. There has been little money apportioned for rural development. Small towns are struggling. More than 100,000 people have left the region in search of work elsewhere. The state had a median household income of $34,473.
EmploymentAs of December 2018, the state's unemployment rate was 4.7%, the seventh highest in the country after Arizona (4.9%), Louisiana (4.9%), New Mexico (5.0%), West Virginia (5.1%), District of Columbia (5.4%) and Alaska (6.5%).
Federal subsidies and spendingWith Mississippi's fiscal conservatism, in which Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, and other social programs are often cut, eligibility requirements are tightened, and stricter employment criteria are imposed, Mississippi ranks as having the second-highest ratio of spending to tax receipts of any state. In 2005, Mississippi citizens received approximately $2.02 per dollar of taxes in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state second-highest nationally, and represents an increase from 1995, when Mississippi received $1.54 per dollar of taxes in federal spending and was 3rd highest nationally. This figure is based on federal spending after large portions of the state were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, requiring large amounts of federal aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, from 1981 to 2005, it was at least number four in the nation for federal spending vs. taxes received.
A proportion of federal spending in Mississippi is directed toward large federal installations such as Camp Shelby, John C. Stennis Space Center, Meridian Naval Air Station, Columbus Air Force Base, and Keesler Air Force Base. Three of these installations are located in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Politics and governmentMain articles: Government of Mississippi, List of Governors of Mississippi, and Political party strength in Mississippi
Five Governors of Mississippi in 1976, from left: Ross Barnett, James P. Coleman, William L. Waller, John Bell Williams, and Paul B. Johnson Jr.As with all other U.S. states and the federal government, Mississippi's government is based on the separation of legislative, executive and judicial power. Executive authority in the state rests with the Governor, currently Tate Reeves (R). The lieutenant governor, currently Delbert Hosemann (R), is elected on a separate ballot. Both the governor and lieutenant governor are elected to four-year terms of office. Unlike the federal government, but like many other U.S. States, most of the heads of major executive departments are elected by the citizens of Mississippi rather than appointed by the governor.
Mississippi is one of five states that elects its state officials in odd-numbered years (the others are Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and Virginia). Mississippi holds elections for these offices every four years, always in the year preceding presidential elections.
In a 2020 study, Mississippi was ranked as the 4th hardest state for citizens to vote in.
LawsFurther information: Constitution of the State of Mississippi, Abortion law in Mississippi, LGBT rights in Mississippi, Gun laws in Mississippi, and Capital punishment in MississippiIn 2004, Mississippi voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and prohibiting Mississippi from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The amendment passed 86% to 14%, the largest margin in any state. Same-sex marriage became legal in Mississippi on June 26, 2015, when the United States Supreme Court invalidated all state-level bans on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges.
With the passing of HB 1523 in April 2016, from July it became legal in Mississippi to refuse service to same-sex couples, based on one's religious beliefs. The bill has become the subject of controversy. A federal judge blocked the law in July of that year; however, it was challenged, and a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the law in October 2017.
Mississippi is one of the most anti-abortion states in the United States. A 2014 poll by Pew Research Center found that 59% of the state's population thinks abortion should be illegal in all/most cases, while only 36% of the state's population thinks abortion should be legal in all/most cases.
Mississippi has banned sanctuary cities. Mississippi is one of thirty-one states which practice capital punishment (see also Capital punishment in Mississippi).
Section 265 of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi declares that "No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state." However, this religious test restriction was held to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961).
Gun laws in Mississippi are among the most permissive in the country, with no license or background check required to openly carry handguns in most places in the state.
In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6−3 decision in Jones v. Mississippi that a Mississippi law allowing mandatory sentencing of children to life imprisonment without parole is valid and that states and judges can impose such sentences without separately deciding if the child can be rehabilitated.
Treemap of the popular vote by county, 2016 presidential electionMississippi led the South in developing a disenfranchising constitution, passing it in 1890. By raising barriers to voter registration, the state legislature disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites, excluding them from politics until the late 1960s. It established a one-party state dominated by white Democrats, particularly those politicians who supported poor whites and farmers. Although the state was dominated by one party, there were a small number of Democrats who fought against most legislative measures that disenfranchised most blacks. They also side with the small group of Mississippi Republicans that still existed in the state and Republicans at the federal level on legislative measures that benefited them.
In the 1980s, whites divided evenly between the parties. In the 1990s, those voters largely shifted their allegiance to the Republican Party, first for national and then for state offices. Most blacks were still disenfranchised under the state's 1890 constitution and discriminatory practices, until passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and concerted grassroots efforts to achieve registration and encourage voting.
In 2019, a lawsuit was filed against an 1890 election law known as The Mississippi Plan, which requires that candidates must win the popular vote and a majority of districts. In the following year, 79% of Mississippians voted to remove the requirement of doing has six airports with commercial passenger service, the busiest in Jackson (Jackson-Evers International Airport).
RoadsMississippi is the only American state where people in cars may legally consume beer. Some localities have laws restricting the practice. In 2018, the state was ranked number eight in the Union in terms of impaired driving deaths.The Vicksburg Bridge carries I-20 and U.S. 80 across the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.Mississippi is served by nine interstate fourteen main U.S. Routes:
US 11US 45US 49US 51US 61US 72US 78US 278US 80US 82US 84US 90US 98US 425as well as a system of State Highways.
RailvteMississippi passenger railLegendCity of New Orleansto ChicagoDodgerBlue flag waving.svg MarksGreenwoodDodgerBlue flag waving.svg Yazoo CityCrescentto New York CityJacksonMeridianDodgerBlue flag waving.svg HazlehurstLaurel DodgerBlue flag waving.svgBrookhavenHattiesburgDodgerBlue flag waving.svg McCombPicayune DodgerBlue flag waving.svgCity of New Orleansto New OrleansCrescentto New OrleansPassengerAmtrak provides scheduled passenger service along two routes, the Crescent and City of New Orleans. Prior to severe damage from Hurricane Katrina, the Sunset Limited traversed the far south of the state; the route originated in Los Angeles, California and it terminated in Florida.
FreightAll but two of the United States Class I railroads serve Mississippi (the exceptions are the Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific):
Canadian National Railway's Illinois Central Railroad subsidiary provides north–south service.BNSF Railway has a northwest–southeast line across northern Mississippi.Kansas City Southern Railway provides east–west service in the middle of the state and north–south service along the Alabama state line.Norfolk Southern Railway provides service in the extreme north and southeast.CSX has a line along the Gulf Coast.WaterMajor riversMississippi RiverBig Black RiverPascagoula RiverPearl RiverTennessee-Tombigbee WaterwayYazoo RiverMajor bodies of water
The Ross Barnett Reservoir at sunsetArkabutla Lake 19,550 acres (79.1 km2) of water; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg DistrictBay Springs Lake 6,700 acres (27 km2) of water and 133 miles (214 km) of shoreline; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of EngineersGrenada Lake 35,000 acres (140 km2) of water; became operational in 1954; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg DistrictRoss Barnett Reservoir 33,000 acres (130 km2) of water; named for Ross Barnett, the 52nd Governor of Mississippi; became operational in 1966; constructed and managed by The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, a state agency; provides water supply for the City of Jackson.Sardis Lake 98,520 acres (398.7 km2) of water; became operational in October 1940; constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg DistrictEnid Lake 44,000 acres (180 km2) of water; constructed and managed by the U.S. ArmyEnid Lake
EducationSee also: List of colleges and universities in Mississippi and Education in MississippiNYA-"Lee County Training School(Negro)"-Tupelo, Mississippi-students at work in library - NARA - 195369.tifUntil the Civil War era, Mississippi had a small number of schools and no educational institutions for African Americans. The first school for black students was not established until 1862.
During Reconstruction in 1871, black and white Republicans drafted a constitution that was the first to provide for a system of free public education in the state. The state's dependence on agriculture and resistance to taxation limited the funds it had available to spend on any schools. In the early 20th century, there were still few schools in rural areas, particularly for black children. With seed money from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, many rural black communities across Mississippi raised matching funds and contributed public funds to build new schools for their children. Essentially, many black adults taxed themselves twice and made significant sacrifices to raise money for the education of children in their communities, in many cases donating land and/or labor to build such schools.
Blacks and whites attended separate, segregated public schools in Mississippi until the late 1960s, although such segregation had been declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in its 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. In the majority-black Mississippi Delta counties, white parents worked through White Citizens' Councils to set up private segregation academies, where they enrolled their children. Often funding declined for the public schools. But in the state as a whole, only a small minority of white children were with
Vintage United We Shall Overcome Civil Rights Sticker 1960s MLK SNCC - CORE
Black Civil Rights Poster 1970 African American Empowerment Through Education
United WE SHALL OVERCOME Handshake Civil Rights Pin 1960s Pin Button NOS 1"