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AMST 3100 The 1960s The Civil Rights Movement: 1960-1965

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AMST 3100 The 1960s The Civil Rights Movement: 1960-1965. Powerpoint 4 Read Farber Chapter 4. The 1960 Greensboro Sit-in. Both Chafe and Farber flag the 1960 Greensboro sit-in as a powerful moment in the civil rights movement.

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the 1960 greensboro sit in
The 1960 Greensboro Sit-in
  • Both Chafe and Farber flag the 1960 Greensboro sit-in as a powerful moment in the civil rights movement.
    • It ignited hundreds of sit-ins at segregated stores throughout the South.
    • Sit-ins were a direct and immediate way to fight racism.
    • Sit-ins revealed to young blacks that they could act without waiting for permission from their elders.
    • Sit-ins were controlled entirely by blacks. They were not dependent upon the government to take action.

On February 2, 1960, 4 students from NC A&T College sat at the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter to eat, which was a violation of a Jim Crow rule that blacks could only get take-out food. The sit-ins inspired many, outraged others.

1960 sit ins
1960 Sit ins
  • Started in Greensboro as 4 black students sat at the downtown Woolworths and politely refused to leave until they were fed. They were inspired by M. L. King.
    • They ignited a wave of sit-ins across the South.
    • Sit ins helped bring black youth and college students into the movement.
    • The SCLC had a new brand of leaders, including Ella Baker, executive secretary, who believed in de-centralized leadership.
      • Baker urged ordinary citizens - including youth - to become their own leaders and take direct nonviolent action on their own.
  • Within months, students would form their own organization, called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The Greensboro sit-in ignited a wave of sit-ins across the South. This demonstration is part of a sit-in in Virginia.

significance of sncc
Significance of SNCC
  • SNCC would become a leading voice of youth between 1960-1966 that would influence both black and white student protests.
    • Students are easy to organize and make great protesters.
  • Initially, SNCC students modeled themselves after their SCLC elders, complete with the same basic goals and tactics: to end Jim Crow and achieve integration by using organized nonviolent citizen protest.
    • In 1960, SNCC was idealistic that the system was capable of reforming itself. Most members at that time were reform liberals.
  • From 1960-66, SNCC became increasingly more radical.

Ella Baker, one of the founders and inspirational leaders behind SNCC.

Shaw University marker, Raleigh, NC.

why did sncc eventually become radical
Why did SNCC eventually become radical?
  • They realized how deeply entrenched Southern racism was.
    • SNCC targeted the Deep South where racism was most volatile.
  • They were younger, more impatient, more willing to take chances, and frustrated with the slow pace of change.
    • There were relatively few federal or state reforms between 1960 and 1963, largely because of the Dixiecrats.
    • They were frustrated with the Democratic Party’s slow movement on the civil rights agenda.
  • As students they were exposed to radical ideologies beyond King’s Christian ideals.
    • The ideas of Malcolm X, a radical, would increase in popularity.
  • They used de-centralized, democratic leadership, allowing more variety and flexibility of action and ideas.

Civil rights advocates were often treated with disrespect and often out-right violence by the police and white bigots. This sit-in occurred in Mississippi. Over time, SNCC members began to re-think their strategies and goals.

the civil rights movement 1960 63
The Civil Rights Movement, 1960-63
  • Grounded in nonviolent civil disobedience.
  • Increasingly multiracial.
  • Becoming a way of life with great social-spiritual purpose.
    • A counterculture was emerging, complete with its own songs, styles, leaders, and other aspects of lifestyle.
  • Television and mass media broadcasted images of the movement, helping to galvanize it. It was national news.
    • Well dressed, polite, docile protesters were shown being brutalized by disorganized, disheveled white mobs (or worse, by Southern police with fire hoses and attack dogs). Many were drawn to the cause.
    • These images forced complacent whites to reflect on whether the system was legitimate.

An attempt to swim at a whites-only St. Augustine, Florida beach was greeting by police wielding batons.

1961 freedom rides
1961 - Freedom Rides
  • James Farmer of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) helped organize the first freedom rides.
    • Basic idea: get a small multiracial group of activists to ride on public buses into the Deep South to test federal court orders which desegregated interstate bus terminals.
    • They arranged a media bus to follow the integrated buses to film what happened as the buses entered Jim Crow territory.
  • Strategy:
    • expose the brutality of Southern racism to the mass media.
    • Force JFK to be more aggressive against racism.
  • Result: The riders were brutalized by angry white mobs, and it successfully increased world attention to the cause of American racism.
    • JFK was forced to take a more visible position against racism, driving the federal gov’t toward a more active role.

This violent attack against a freedom ride bus occurred in Alabama. One of the first attacks occurred just outside of Charlotte in Rock Hill, S.C.. It was not uncommon for the police or a sheriff to allow a violent white mob to attack the bus for a few minutes before restoring “law and order.” The use of the press by the freedom riders was masterful. The whole world was watching.

j edgar hoover s fbi
J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI
  • Under Hoover, the FBI was not an ally of the civil rights movement in the early 60s.
    • Hoover viewed it as a communist conspiracy.
    • He targeted King and other leaders for surveillance, blackmail and dirty tricks.
    • Both JFK and LBJ allowed Hoover to do his dirty deeds because Hoover likely had information against them, too. He kept information on many people.
    • The FBI had become one of the dangerous “secret governments” that operated under the radar during the Cold War.

J Edgar Hoover was a right-wing anti-communist who viewed the civil rights movement as an agent of communism. He violated the law by using the FBI for illegal activities against civil rights advocates. He was never charged.

1962 james meredith
1962 - James Meredith
  • Meredith, a black air force veteran, tried to enroll at the all-white Univ. of Mississippi.
  • The governor, Ross Barnett - segregationist, personally refused Meredith’s registration. (Recall Little Rock, 1957)
  • JFK ordered 500 U.S. Marshals to accompany Meredith into the school, whereupon a huge white mob attacked the Marshals.
    • Two people died and 160 Marshals were injured.
  • JFK ordered the army to restore order.
  • Meredith was finally allowed to register.
  • The incident forced the federals to visibly side with the civil rights advocates, but JFK did not change his domestic policies much because he continued to prioritize Cold War issues.

Meredith went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi in 1964. Later, in 1966, he began a solitary March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson. He was shot by a sniper shortly after beginning his march. This photo captures the moment. When they heard about the shooting, other civil rights advocates like ML King and Stokely Carmichael continued the march in Meredith’s name. Meredith later recovered.

1963 project c
1963 – Project C

Images such as these helped create sympathy for civil rights advocates and caused many who did not live in the South to wonder how brutal Southern racism was.

  • In late 1962, the movement was stalled and King’s leadership was weakening.
  • King and the SCLC decided on Project C for the Spring of ’63. (The “C” stands for confrontation).
    • Goal: make Birmingham, Alabama, the “Gettysburg” of the civil rights movement by defying Bull Connor and the Jim Crow laws on a large scale.
    • As most black adults were arrested and in jail, King decided to allow school kids to participate in the protests, which was a controversial decision.
    • Bull Connor unleashed attack dogs and fire hoses on the school kids, exposing the brutality of racism to the world once again.
  • The spectacle made world news and helped galvanize the movement toward its peak, the March on Washington.

Read King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written at this time.

1963 america at a crossroad
1963 – America at a crossroad
  • At the same time as Project C, Alabama Governor George Wallace refused to desegregate the Univ. of Alabama by defiantly standing on the school steps.
  • In June, 1963 JFK finally declared himself:
    • He would search for détente with the Soviets.
    • He gave a powerful endorsement of the rights movement.
      • JFK proposed a new Civil Rights Act which would outlaw discrimination in public facilities.
        • Racism and poverty were becoming priority issues.
      • Rights advocates organized a March on Washington in the summer of 1963 to show support for JFK’s civil rights proposal.
  • June, 1963 was when the Equal Pay Act was passed. Change was in the air.

Wallace being confronted by a U.S. attorney general at the university, 1963.

1963 march on washington
1963 – March on Washington
  • 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to support JFK’s civil rights legislation.
  • The spiritual pinnacle of the movement, which is now beginning to enjoy widespread support.
  • King gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • However, there were growing tensions within the movement.
    • SNCC’s John Lewis had prepared an angry speech denouncing JFK’s delays.
      • SNCC was beginning to see King as too cautious and the JFK administration as half-hearted.
    • SNCC was forced to tone down the speech. SNCC members felt slighted. The movement was already starting to split.

Click here to see a video of this speech.

King waves to the crowd after delivering perhaps the best speech of that era. There was momentum for change after the March on Washington, and it added support for the Civil Rights Act proposed by Kennedy. However, there was tension backstage, and SNCC would begin to split away from King’s model.

sncc radicalism
SNCC Radicalism
  • SNCC was losing faith in the tactic of nonviolent civil disobedience.
  • SNCC was also losing faith in the goal of integration.
    • Is a melting pot really achievable? Is it even desirable?
  • SNCC was beginning to question capitalism and the built-in inequalities it brings.
    • Capitalism and racism were tied together. To left-wing radicals, racism is a by-product of capitalism and the greed it promotes.
    • SNCC had been working with the poor, and 86% of Mississippi blacks were poor. Mild liberal reforms were “too little, too late” – many felt revolutionary change was the only answer.
  • SNCC was losing faith in key American institutions – politics, economics, religion, etc. – it wasn’t merely a race thing anymore.

In 1964, Malcolm X advocated the formation of a black nationalist organization. He rejected the assimilation model advocated by the SCLC. SNCC members were also considering black nationalism by this period.

1964 freedom summer in mississippi
1964 – Freedom Summer in Mississippi
  • After 2 years of trying, SNCC had only registered 4000 new voters in Mississippi. They sought new tactics by 1963.
    • In the Fall of ’63, 80,000 Mississippi blacks participated in a symbolic straw vote. The symbolic campaign’s success led to the ’64 Freedom Summer program to register voters and form a true Freedom Party.
  • In the summer of 1964, SNCC brought 1000 Northern white students down to help register voters. It was a multiracial coalition aimed to register new voters.
    • At the start, 3 workers (Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner) were missing and later found murdered, attracting great media attention.
  • This successful voter drive led to the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), an integrated alternative to the racist (Dixiecrat) Democratic Party of Mississippi. The MFDP would present itself at the upcoming Democratic National Convention as the true representatives.
1964 democratic national convention
1964 Democratic National Convention
  • LBJ wanted a conflict-free convention.
  • The MFDP arrived, expecting to be seated as the true representatives of Mississippi, presenting a conflict with the Dixiecrats of Mississippi.
  • LBJ, disturbed at the conflict during his forum, was reluctant to alienate the Dixiecrats.
  • He offered the MFDP only 2 seats as a compromise, but the MFDP stormed out, feeling betrayed by the system.
  • This incident contributed to the radicalization of the civil rights movement. It was perhaps the spiritual birth of the Black Power Movement.

The MFDP felt insulted that they were not recognized by the Democrats sufficiently. This contributed to a general feeling in SNCC that neither political party would serve their cause.

1964 civil rights act
1964 – Civil Rights Act
  • LBJ successfully pushed through the 1964 CR Act, the most significant civil rights law of the era. The Act was watered down to appeal to Republicans, but was nevertheless potent.
  • This act
    • Outlawed discrimination in public places on the basis of race, sex, religion, or nationality.
    • Strengthened the Justice Department’s ability to enforce the act.
    • Strengthened the push to desegregate schools.
  • In effect, the CR Act finally ended Jim Crow.
    • 97% of Northern Democrats supported the Act.
    • 80% of Republicans supported the Act.
    • 11% of Southern Democrats supported the Act. Its passage would turn the Dixiecrats away from the Democratic Party.

In this photo LBJ signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kennedy helped draft the Act but was assassinated before its passage. This Civil Rights Act is perhaps the most significant legislation of this era. From now on, the federal government would police against the types of public racial and sexual discrimination that had characterized the American experience for centuries. Notice that only the Dixiecrats stood out in opposition to this Act.

1965 the selma march
1965 – The Selma March
  • The purpose of the march was to draw attention to the need for a federal voting rights act.
  • King led the march from Selma to Montgomery.
    • In Selma, State Troopers attacked the marchers in unprovoked violence, drawing even more media attention.
  • LBJ seizes this moment for his “We shall Overcome” speech proposing a voting rights act.
    • The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. It was a national act that prevented states and localities from cooking up barriers to minority voting, complete with federal monitoring of elections if needed.
  • The march was perhaps King’s last great triumph.

Alabama State Troopers attack the Selma marchers. The attack would be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

the split in the movement
The split in the movement
  • The civil rights movement would split into two different camps by 1965:
    • Liberal reformers (King and the SCLC)
      • Change from within by reforming institutional policies to accommodate minority groups.
    • Radicals
      • Belief that real change could only be accomplished by revolution, by rebuilding whole institutions, or by severing relations with the white capitalist power structure and forging a new, separate, independent black national identity.
      • After 1965, radicals would dominate the black debate.
      • By 1966, the Black Panthers and the black consciousness movement were becoming powerful.

The Black Panther Party linked capitalism to exploitation, as can be seen in this 1970 anti-drug poster.