Civil Rights in the USA


The Declaration of Independence


Constitution of the United States of America


Civil War

1861 - 1865

13th Amendent


Abolished Slavery


1865 - 1877

Establishment of the Ku Klux Klan


Civil Rights Act


14th Amendment


Said Blacks were citizens

15th Amendment


Vote was not to be denied on account of race



Approved Jim Crow segregation laws

NAACP established


W.E.B. DuBois was important in its establishment

First World War

1914 - 1918

NAACP's first successful litigation


Supreme Court outlawed the grandfather clause

Race riots in 25 cities


Harlem Renaissance

1920 - 1930

UNIA at its peak


Establishment of trade union for railroad workers


Established by A. Philip Rudolph

Nation of Islam established


• Founded by Wallace Fard
• Led by Elijah Muhammad between 1934 and 1975
• Had temples in Northern black ghettos such as Detroit, New York and Chicago

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal


The number of black registered to vote rose from three percent to 12 percent

1940 - 1947

USA at war with Germany and Japan

1941 - 1945

Defence Industry became important
Around 4 million left South farms
2 million migrated North and West
Chicago's black population doubled

Consciousness and activism
1. NAACP membership went from 50,000 to 450,000
2. USA was not a true democracy if Southern blacks could not vote - antifascism propaganda
3. Wartime demand gave black workers great bargaining power. A. Philip Rudolph threatened to bring Washington DC to a standstill unless, the armed forces became fore integrated. Resulting in the setting up of the FEPC.
3. Greater black activism.

CORE established


Established by James Farmer

Race Riots in Detroit, Harlem and Mobile, Alabama


Whites saw blacks as rivals for homes. - nine whites and 25 blacks died, 800 injured.
Mobile, Alabama
White workers lashed out at black workers

Roosevelt set up the FEPC


Fair Employment Practices Commission
Made to promote fair employment in the defence industry
Two-thirds of the 8000 cases were dismissed
One fifth of the cases on the South were black victories.
Got no real help from Truman, after the death of Roosevelt

Resistance to segregation in New Orleans


Defiance of the Jim Crow Laws.
Bus driver had ordered 24 blacks to the back of the bus - all ended up in jail for defiance.



Exclusion of blacks from primaries was unconstitutional under the 15th amendment.
A result of NAACP's work in Texas

Adam Clayton Powell elected to congress


Alongside William Dawson (Chicago), become one of the only two black members of congress.
Harlems newly drawn constituency boundaries allowed the quarter of a million black inhabitants to elect a black man to the house of representatives.

Adam Clayton Powell bus boycott


Resulted in more black bus drivers in Harlem

Rosa Parks registered to vote


Montgomery, Alabama
Failed in 1943
'How many bubbles are there in a bar of soap?'
$16.50 poll tax


1945 - 1946

President Truman was horrified at the treatment of 'Negro soldiers just back from overseas' in his border state of Missouri and far worse in the deep South states such ass South Carolina

Harry Truman became president


Roosevelt died

Women's Political Council formed


Female black lecturers from Alabama State University
Proposed a buss boycott to combat segregation and unequal employment practices.

Truman addresses NAACP


Journey of Reconciliation


Organised by CORE
An example of many other Freedom Rides

To Secure These Rights


Truman administration report
• Liberal service committee was chosen
• The US could not claim to lead the free world while blacks were not equal
• The report called for eliminating segregation using federal aid. It called for things such as anti-lynching legislation, abolition of poll tax, voting rights laws, a permanent FEPC, an end to discrimination in interstate travel, an end to discrimination in armed forces, a civil rights division in the Justice Department, administration support for civil rights suits in the federal courts and the establishment of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
Truman urged its implementation in his 1947 and 1948 State of the Union address

Truman orders an end to discrimination in the armed forces and civil service




Supreme court ruled against discrimination in housing.
It proved ineffective, despite Truman's efforts.

MLK goes to Philadelphia


Fair Employment Board


• Established by Truman
• Handicapped by a shortage of funds
• Under pressure from A. Phillip Rudolph's call for a black draft resistance movement.
• Already lost the white extremist vote

Democrat National Convention


Dixiecrat faction formed.

Presidential Elections


Truman reelected
Only made one speech in his campaign - in Harlem
Only 6 percent of voters supported civil rights.
33 percent favoured the fair employment bill

PLESSY v. FERGUSON overturned


Three Supreme Court decisions:
HENDERSON v. US - segregation of railway cars was illegal
McLAUREN v. OKLAHOMA STATE REGENTS - Black students could not be separated from white students
SWEAT v. PAINTER - A separate law school was not equal t the University of Texas Law school.

MLK goes to Boston


CGCC established


Committee on Government Contract Compliance
• Established to encourage companies to halt job discrimination
• Only recommend
• Less effective than the FEPC

Local government


11 states and 20 cities had fair employment laws, 19 states had legislation against racial discrimination and only five states retained the poll tax

Baton Rouge bus boycott


Eisenhower became president


(+) Sympathetic
(-) Rejected the re-establishment of FEPC
(-) Needed the Republican vote
• The only black member of Eisenhower's staff
• Never consulted
• Shocked by the administrations ignorance and concluded that Eisenhower never understood how blacks felt

(-) Eisenhower only met black leaders once (King, Wilkins, Randolph)
(-) Avoided Adam Clayton Powell and was infuriated when he tried to make federal aid contingent upon desegregation.



• Supreme court ruling against segregated schools
• Successfully overturned PLESSY v. FERGUSSON.
• Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP represented Brown (A church minister)
• Chief justice Earl Warren adjudged
• Cited the 14th amendment and declared that segregation was psychologically harmful

• PLESSY v. FERGUSSON overturned
• No date was given for desegregation and nothing was said about de facto segregation
• WCCs were formed (around a quarter of a million members in 1956) and the KKK was revitalised
• Urban South and peripheral states were swift to act, but the states of the Old Confederacy were still resistant
• BROWN became a central issue in Southern politics. Most southern politicians signed the Southern Manifesto which was a refusal to adopt the BROWN ruling. Eisenhower could do little as his political allies were a part of this.
• Resulted in Eisenhower appointed the liberal Southern Republican Earl Warren into the Supreme Court.

WCCs established throughout the South


White Citizens Councils



School integration should proceed with all deliberate speed

Emmet Till


First time white men were charged with the murder of a black man in Mississippi
Eisenhower had stayed silent - contrast to Truman's condemnation of the killing of black soldiers.

Autherine Lucy


Eisenhower stayed quite about the expulsion of the first black student of the University of Alabama

Montgomery Bus Boycott


• Seen as the real start of the Civil Rights movement
• December 1955 Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat - she was arrested and charged with a violation of Montgomery city bus segregation ordinance
• Rosa Park had joined the NAACP in 1943 and was the Montgomery branch Secretary
• The branch had been looking to challenge segregation
• She was chosen instead of pregnant, unmarried, Claudette Colvin.
• The arrest had received support from the (black) Alabama State College - encouraged by lecturer Jo Ann Robinson and the Women's Political Council
• Propaganda - leafletting
• Church was a meeting place and a symbol of order - organisation, location, inspiration and some financial aid
• Grassroots movement with the help of NAACP and the church
The boycott
• Boycotts hit the white pocket hard
• Baton Rouge boycott (1953) had achieved first-come-first-serve service
• In Montgomery they demanded first-come-first-serve, drivers should be polite to blacks and black drivers employed,
• No one asked for an end to segregation
• Upon the city commissioners rejection, the boycott became yearlong
• Unanimity achieved among relatively the entire 50,000 strong black population
Martin Luther King
• Took leadership
• Ensured church support
• Headed the umbrella organisation, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)
• Montgomery whit Citizens Councils
• Membership doubled to 12,000 between february and March
• Montgomery used Alabama's anti-boycott laws
• BOWDER v. GAYLE stated that segregation on buses was unconstitutional.
• KKK responded but blacks remained unmoved.

• Longest and best organised boycott so far
• Result of black organisation that had been developing for years
• Demonstrated the power of non-violent action
• Showed the importance of black economic power - businesses lost $1 million
• Showed how white extremism promoted unity
• Showed white hatred
• Demonstrated the importance of churches
• Showed cooperation between Northern and Southern blacks - A Philip Randolph gave financial support
• Limited victory - apart from buses, the cities remained segregated
• Inspired similar such boycotts in 20 other cities.
• Brought King to the forefront


December 1956

Result of the Montgomery bus boycott

Little Rock Crisis


• Governor Orval Faubus, tried to exploit racism to get reelected.
• The city of Little Rock's compliance with Brown were scheduled to come to a completion by 1963
• Nine black Students reported to central high school in 1957, making it the first integrated school
• Faubus ordered national guards to the school to keep the blacks out, claiming to prevent the disorder that integration would cause.
Melba Pattillo
• Volunteered to be a 'guinea pig' when asked by the NAACP and the church.
• She was harassed
• A held up book prevented her from being knifed.
Eisenhower's intervention
• Failed to come to agreement with Faubus
• Conventionally opposed to presidential intervention, Little Rock's mayor had informed him that the mob was out of hand
• Pubic appeals to rioters had been ignored
• Constitutional and federal law seemed threatened
• He was concerned about the US's international prestige
• Eisenhower sent troops to enforces the law - no mention of integration was made
• BROWN met tremendous grassroots resistance. Faubus was reelected four times!
• Neither local nor national authorities were keen to enforce BROWN. It was till 1960 that Central high was integrated
• As late as 1964, only two or three percent of black children attended desegregated schools
• National attention and media coverage emphasised the grown importance of the media - on-site television was pioneered here
• Blacks need to rely on more than supreme court decisions

SCLC established


Southern Christian Leadership Conference

• King had disagreements with Roy Wilkins (NAACP)
• An important organisation as NAACP had been persecuted in the Deep South after BROWN
• CORE lacked dynamism and the National Urban League had concentrated in the North
• Provided an alternative to NAACPs litigation strategy

• Main strategy was to get national attention
• March on Washington to support Eisenhower's Civil Rights Bill - crowd of 20,000 outside Lincoln Memorial in 1957
• Lack of organisation and salaried staff
• Crusade for Citizenship - encourage blacks to vote
• King admitted that the SCLC had don little in its initial 3 years.

Civil Rights Act


Right after Britain had granted independence to Ghana and the Hungarian uprising against Soviet oppression
• To ensure that all citizens had the right to vet
• 80 percent of Southern blacks were not registered to vote, including some college professors
• In his State of the Union address, Eisenhower praised the bill. He expressed schlock that only 7000 of Mississippi's 900,000 blacks were allowed to votes and that registrars were setting impossible questions

What happened to the bill in Congress?
• Democratic senators worked to weaken the bill
• Eisenhower did not fight to keep it intact
• Strom Thurmond filibustered for 24 hours

Content and Significance
• Any public official seen as obstructing a black persons right to vote would be tried by an all white jury
• Creation of a Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department and a federal Civil Rights Commission to monitor race relations
• Some blacks were satisfied while others thought of it as a sham



• Result of the Little Rock crisis
• Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional

The Hate that Hate Produced on television


• Elijah Muhammad tacked the 'turn the other cheek' philosophy of King - addressing 10,000 people in Washington DC

Civil Rights Act


At this time only 6.4 percent of black people in the South went to integrated schools and only two percent in the Deep South
• Introduced in 1958 as Eisenhower was concerned by the bombings of black schools and churches
• Considered by Eisenhower to be moderate
• Diluted by Democrats
• Became law, as both parties sought the black vote
• The act made it a federal crime to obstruct court ordered desegregation and established penalties for obstructing black voting
• The Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 only added 3 percent to the black electorate



• Greensboro, North Carolina four black students refused to leave all-white Woolworth's cafeteria
• NAACP was unenthusiastic
• SCLC employee Ella Baker wanted then not to let adults such as King take their Protest
• 70,000 students joined across the South
• King assured full support

• Erosion of Jim Crow
• Loss of business made Woolworth desegregate all its lunch counters by 1961
• Mobilisation led to the setup of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee)
• Division between King, NAACP and SCLC increased
• SNCC was more egalitarian and more appreciative of women
• SNCC also organised campaign between 1961-4 in Danville, Virginia, Alabama, Albany etc.
• Known as the Shock Troops
• Rendered the top down leadership approach of King obsolete
• Important in the Freedom Rides

Kennedy became President


Freedom Riders travelled the South


• Organised by CORE
• Testing Supreme court ruling against segregation (BOYNTON v. VIRGINIA (1960) and MORGAN v. VIRGINIA (1947))
• It was an attempt to cause a Southern reaction
• James Farmer took the lead
• Alabama racists attacked the riders with clubs and chains and burnt the buses down
• King made contact with the riders but was criticised for not attending due to a traffic offence

• CORE had initiated the rides but King used them to get CORE, SNCC and SCLC to work together
• Their aim was to get publicity
• Attorney General Bobby Kennedy enforced the supreme court ruling - showing the importance of federal government intervention
• CORE insisted that SCLC announce that CORE deserved credit.

Albany movement

December 1961 - 1962

• SNCC organised students from Albany State College Georgia in sit ins in bus stations which had ignored the Interstate Commerce Commission's orders to desegregate
• Hundreds of Freedom Riders were arrested
• Blacks boycotted white business, yet the city refused to desegregate, despite pressures from Bobby Kennedy
Role of MLK
• Followed rather than led
• King led a march and came to an agreement with local authorities
• The authorities reneged the agreements after King left
• King recognised Albany as a major defeat
• The city closed the parks, sold the pools, and integrated the library after removing all seats.
Why did it fail?
• There was not white reaction - no need for federal government
• There were still factions
• Loss of fear of white power
• Entire black community had been mobilised
• SCLC should stay in its jurisdiction
• Direct negotiations were useless, boycotts would make businessmen negotiate
• Taught a lesson on the way to approach Birmingham

Kennedy introduced civil rights bill


Birmingham Campaign


• SCLC had to demonstrate it could be dynamic and successful
• NAACP was inactive there, Kings brother was a pastor
• White divisions looked promising - a backlash could be expected
• Birmingham's Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor was a hot tempered, determined segregationist.

• King led the SCLC
• Failed to recruit enough local demonstrators as local SCLC leader was unpopular
• Connors reaction and use of dogs received national attention
• King defied the injunction and marched
• He was kept in confinement - this is where he wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail
• To gather support SCLC recruited young school children
• This was highly effective
• Birmingham fell into chaos President Kennedy tried to come to an agreement - Connors friends from the KKK bombed King's brothers house and Kings motel room
• Blacks began to riot
• Bobby Kennedy urged to appease King 'if King loses, worse leaders are going to take his place'
• First time King really led
• Skilful manipulation of the media by SCLC
• Admitted to be Crucial for the 1964 Civil Rights Act

March on Washington

March 1963

Organisation and Aims
• Aimed to encourage executive action to increase black employment and a civil rights bill.
• Neither Wilkins not Kennedy were supportive
• Quarter of the approximately 250,000 attendants were white
• First time major leaders collaborated on a national undertaking
• Televised across the world

Johnson became President

November 1963

Civil Rights Act


Annual riots in black ghettos

1964 - 1968

Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam


Left with two sons of Elijah Muhammad, all of home publicised the rampant materialism and hypocrisy among the movements leadership and what one of the sons called the 'concocted religious teachings' of Elijah Muhammad.

Mississipi Freedom Summer


Problems of Mississippi
• Only 5.2 percent of blacks could vote (the Southern average was 30 percent )
• Half of the mississippians were black
• 70 percent of blacks were illiterate
• Mississippi spent 3x more on white students
• A black baby was twice as likely to die
Activities and achievements
• Only SNCC could take on Mississippi as its white volunteers would attract attention
• Freedom Schools were established to get people registered
• Freedom houses for deprived ghetto dwellers
• Poorer black population responded better than the middle class
• Three young activists (2 white) were killed by segregationists
• SNCC helped organise the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to the Democratic National Convention in Autumn
• Even though not very effective, this organisation politicised the poor black Mississippi's - developing grassroots leaders, and brought national attention
• Due to the lack of federal protection the SNCC became far more militant

St Augustine


SCLC moved here in 1964
• Leadership refused to negotiate
• An integrated group tried a swim in - resulting in chemicals being poured into the pool. The protesters had to be dragged out
• Klan fire-bombed and picketed desegregated place causing then to re-segregate
• SCLC failed to get support from local black leaders
• Johnson refused to send in federal troops but this is seen as an influence in the civil rights bill.

Vietnam War

1965 - 1972

Selma to Montgomery march


Situation in Selma
• Half of Selma's 29,000 population was black
• Most of the facilities were segregated
• Black could only have certain jobs and houses
• White roads were paved
• White income was 4x as that of a black persons
• Despite SNCCs campaign only 23 were registered to vote
• Civil Rights Act did not bring any change
Why Selma?
• Symbol of resistance
• Exploitable divisions in the white community
• Selma's Sheriff Jim Clark was similar to Bull Connor
• This could revitalise SCLC as SNCC had lost its footing
• King led would-be voters to Selma County Court
• A trooper shot a black youth - several incidents made headlines
• Whites threw venomous snakes at blacks
• King help men back from stopping Clark club a black woman.
• Selma did not prove as successful.
• King resorted to the State capital - Montgomery to publicise the need for a voting rights act
• Eighty Alabama whites joined
• Troopers attacked the marchers with clubs and tear gas
• King was asked to call off the next march
• He approached the troopers then retreated - SNCC felt betrayed
• 'Bloody Sunday' - shining moment in thee conscious of man
• Resulted in the Voting Rights Act
• SNCC criticised SCLC - leaving cities in a terrible state - St Augustine - leader worship
• Black divisions were worsening

Malcolm X killed by Nation of Islam gunmen


• Reduced Elijah Muhammad's popularity among blacks.
• 'Black Civil War Looms' read a newspaper headline
• Many politically minded members left for the black power movement
NOI still stayed popular
• 100,000 members in 1960 and about a quarter of a million ing 1969 - conservative figures claim it never reached above 25,000
• NOI newspaper Muhammad Speaks had a weekly circulation of 600,000 by mid-1970s

Johnsons Acts

August 1965

Voting Rights Act
Education Acts
Social Security Act (setup Medicare and Medicaid)

Watts riots LA

13 August 1965

• Terrible conditions of the ghettos in the North Midwest and West.
• Black mobs set fire to stores
• Caused King to now move on to improve the economic conditions of the blacks - a turn to socialism
• 34 deaths, 1000 injuries, 3200 looters and rioters arrested
and $40million worth of damage

Chicago campaign


Why Chicago?
• King turned to the North for social and economic equality
• Wanted to reverse the trend towards radicalism
• Chicago was America's second largest city with 2 million people - 700,000 were black, concentrated in the ghettos. Schools were so over-crowded that students attended half-day shifts
• Other Cities were shut off to King by Adam Clayton Powell in New York and the NAACP in Philadelphia.
• SCLC were able to take over
• Chicago had a history of protest - CORE had been revitalised in 1960
• Chicago's religious community supported the civil rights movement
• King wanted to provide leadership in the North
• Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley relied on the black vote
• King had no game plan - in 1966 SCLC finally decided to concentrate on discrimination in housing sales that stopped blacks from moving out of ghetto slums
What happened?
• SCLC got King a Ghetto apartment - the land lord made it habitable on hearing of who the the renter was
• Rat infested and unheated ghetto dwellings
• King told the press that SCLC had collected tenants rents to finance repairs
• Divisions between Activists and the SCLC materialised
• The Chicago rally only materialised to 30,000, rather than the expected 100,000
• Unrest began when fire hydrants were shut during the heat - reaching 40 C
• King persuaded Daley to make pools and hydrants more available
• Daley claimed the riots and King cost him $2million

• White led riots began when 500 blacks led by CORE entered Cicero - police did little to intervene
• Protest then became more peaceful - 800 policemen led 700 rioters
• King was blamed for the unrest
• In autumn 1966, King left Chicago end left SCLC's young Jesse Jackson in charge of 'Operation Breadbasket' which successfully used economic boycotts to help increase black employment.
• Daley agreed to promote integrated housing but this was just a paper victory
• Blacks were still stranded in the ghetto
• SCLC obtained a $4 million federal grant
• Chicago blacks fell into apathy
• King is thought to have made things worse by raising hopes
Why did they fail?
• SCLC was ill prepared
• Meredith March was a distraction
• King had overreached his aims
• Chicago's near million black population was too large to mobilise
• Radical Black Muslims took away support of moderates
• Chicago never called outside help like Selma
• Daley did not fall for King's trap that had caught Connor
• King did not get presidential support as Daley was a political ally of Johnson
• Johnson turned against King after his criticism of the Vietnam War
• War was taking funds from the civil rights movement
• Whites were tired of protest
• Jesse Jackson aroused violence in black ghettos

Black Panthers established in Oakland


CORE and SNCC advocate black power


Unsuccessful housing bill


Ghetto riots

1966 - 1967

16 in 1964, 64 in 1968.
• Riots led to 250 deaths (mostly by police)
• 10,000 serious injuries
• 60,000 arrests

Meredith March

June 1966

• James Meredith was the University of Mississippi's first black student
• Merideth planned a 220 mile walk from Memphis to Mississippi to encourage blacks to vote
• He was shot on the second day
• Black organisations decided to continue the walk
• There were 400 marcher by the third day - including Stokely Carmichael
• NAACP and National Urban League wanted to highlight the new civil rights bill and left when Carmichael criticised it.
• King welcomed white participants - SNCC rejected them
• SNCC and CORE had become increasingly militant after the Mississippi Freedom Summer
• 'Black Power' vs. 'Freedom now'
• Johnson refused Kings request to send troops like this in Selma
• King felt he could no longer look to SNCC
• NAACP no longer wanted to cooperate with SNCC or SCLC

Tax rises due to war in Vietnam


Poor Peoples Campaign


• King tried to unite Hispanics, Indian and white Appalachian poor to camp out in Washington DC
• This was failure

Black Panthers destroyed by police and FBI

1967 - 1969

Rise of feminism

1967 - 1970

King's assassination


Fair Housing Act


King's assassination provokes ghetto riots


Kerner Report


Demise of SNCC