Civil Rights Mrs. Saunders
Civil Rights • Plessy v. Ferguson - the Supreme Court ruled in 1896 that “separate but equal” facilities did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Thereby, the Supreme Court said that Southern states could legally segregate whites and blacks, as long as the separate facilities were equal. • Supreme Court upheld segregation or Jim Crow laws. • All Southern states required racial segregation in public facilities and had denied most African-Americans the right to vote.
Civil Rights In practice the separate facilities, which Southern states provided African-Americans, were always separate, but seldom, if ever, equal.
Civil Rights • Before World War II ended in 1945, the NAACP attacked Jim Crow laws by attacking the “equality” issue of the “separate but equal” doctrine. The NAACP argued that Southern states were violating the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, when they failed to provide equal facilities for African-Americans.
Civil Rights • In 1909 an interracial group of reformers organized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The purpose of the NAACP was to secure the legal rights of African-Americans. It challenged racialsegregation in the courts. From its beginning, the NAACP worked to end legal segregation in the Southern states and gain the right to vote for the South’s black citizens. W.E.B. DuBois was one of the NAACP’s leaders during the early years of its existence.
Civil Rights • After World War II, the NAACP decided to attack directly the Plessy decision’s idea that racial segregation or separation of the races could be constitutional. The NAACP employed a team of lawyers, called the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who filed lawsuits against racial segregation in several public school systems in the South. • Oliver Hill, an African-American attorney from Richmond, headed the NAACP Legal Defense Team in Virginia and worked on the school desegregation suit, which the NAACP filed against Prince Edward County Public Schools. Thurgood Marshall served as chief counsel or lawyer of the NAACP and headed the national NAACP Legal Defense Team.
Civil Rights In 1954 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In this decision the Supreme Court declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. It said public school segregation violated the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In short, the Brown decision said that segregated schools “inherently” – by nature – were unequal and must desegregate. The Brown decision applied not only to the case from Topeka, Kansas, but also to the Prince Edward County, Virginia school case.
Massive Resistance Immediately after World War II, Virginia was still part of the Solid South. The Solid South was an expression coined (started) in the early 1900s to denote (indicate) the Democratic Party’s control of southern politics. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. led the organization of Democratic party leaders who controlled Virginia’s politics. Under Sen. Byrd’s leadership, Virginia’s governor and state legislature adopted the policy of Massive Resistance. Under Massive Resistance the Virginia General Assembly, the name of Virginia’s state legislature, passed state laws that made it illegal for Virginia public schools to desegregate, even when they were under federal court order to do so. To desegregate schools meant to allow white children and African-American children to attend the same school.
Massive Resistance • As a last resort, Virginia’s Massive Resistance laws instructed Virginia’s governor to close Virginia public schools rather than permit court ordered racial integration. Integration was a synonym for desegregation. Both terms meant that black and white children would attend the same school. • Virginia’s Massive Resistance movement reached a climax in 1959. The governor closed several public schools rather than obey federal court orders to integrate them racially. In addition, upper and middle class white Virginians established private academies to avoid sending their children to racially integrated public schools.
Massive Resistance However, Virginia’s governor soon realized the Massive Resistance program was doomed to failure. He reversed Virginia’s Massive Resistance policy and accepted federal court ordered school desegregation on a case-by-case basis. By the mid-seventies, Virginia had completely ended its dual school system. Virginia no longer had separate public schools for African-American children. All Virginia children attended the same public schools. The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education had created this social revolution in the American South. The Brown decision showed that, by interpreting its powers broadly, the United States Supreme Court could reshape American society.
Civil Rights During the sixties and seventies, many white families moved from the cities to the suburbs in search of predominantly white public schools. This pattern ofwhite flightfrom urban school systems has continued until today. During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, African-Americans worked through the federal court system and used mass protest to reshape American public opinion and secure the passage of federal civil rights legislation. Historians generally consider the 1954 Brown decision the date when the modern civil rights movement began.
Civil Rights In 1956 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gained national television coverage as the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery Bus Boycott began in 1955 when Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, refused to obey the segregation law that blacks sit in the back of Montgomery, Alabama’s city buses. During the boycott, African-Americans refused to ride on the city buses to protest racial segregation. By the end of 1956, the Supreme Court used the Brown decision as precedent and ruled that racial segregation on city buses was unconstitutional, because it denied Montgomery’s black citizens “equal protection of the laws.”
In August 1963 all the major civil rights organizations planned a March on Washington to lobby Congress for passage of major civil rights legislation. Approximately, 250,000 Americans attended this daylong event. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired millions of Americans and became the national leader of the civil rights movement when he delivered the “I have a dream” speech.
“I have a dream,” said Dr. King, that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood….I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today….From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village, from every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up the day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’
The 1963 March on Washington helped influence public opinion to support major civil rights legislation. It also demonstrated the power of non-violent, mass protest, which Dr. King had urged throughout his career.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963 elevated Lyndon B. Johnson to the presidency. President Johnson played an important role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, by asking Congress to pass this bill in memory of President Kennedy and by pressuring individual congressmen.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and gender. No longer could employers discriminate against job applicants on the basis of race. Second, it desegregated public accommodations, such as hotels, motels, and restaurants. Third, it gave the federal government more power to enforce all the laws governing civil rights.
Civil Rights • Since the 1964 law failed to increase voter registration among African-Americans, President Johnson proposed a separate voting rights bill. President Johnson again played an important role in the passage of a major civil rights law. • The 1965 Voting Rights Act outlawed literacy tests as a requirement for voter registration. No longer could Southern states deny the right to vote to African-Americans who could not read and write. • Second, the Voting Rights Act sent federal registrars to the South to register voters. This act resulted in a large increase in the number of African-American voters throughout the South.
Civil Rights • In 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In Dr. King’s memory President Johnson persuaded Congress to pass a third major civil rights law. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. With Dr. King’s death and passage of federal open housing legislation the United States entered a new era in its history. • Although racial discrimination continues to exist today in American society, neither state nor federal law supports it. During the 1960s America moved a little closer to realizing the Declaration of Independence’s promise that “All men are created equal.”