Introduction • Although African Americans technically had rights because of the 14th (equal protection of the law) and the 15th (the right to vote) Amendments, protection was not enforced. • Jim Crow Laws in the South discriminated against blacks by imposing segregation (separation of blacks and whites) in public places. • As the economy boomed in the 1950s, minorities realized that they were being left behind and began to push for full equality. Like many other things in the 1950s, such as birth control, music, and television, what started out small in the 1950s exploded in the 1960s and became more revolutionary, and often more violent.
Integrating Central High School • Before 1954, public schools were segregated. Government officials believed that schools could be separate but equal. • In 1954, the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education ordered that all public schools be desegregated. • Chief Justice Earl Warren knew that this would be an important decision and demanded that the decision be unanimous.
Little Rock Nine • Even though the Supreme Court ordered that schools be desegregated “with all deliberate speed,” some states and towns ignored the order. One example of this was Little Rock, Arkansas. • When the first African American students arrived to Little rock Central High School in 1957, there were major protests and demonstrations. The National Guard was called out to protect the students as they attended classes. These brave students were called the Little Rock Nine.
Segregated Bus • Buses were segregated around this time as well. One day in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, and this helped to set off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Emmett Till • From Chicago went to spend summer in Mississippi • Committed the “crime” of whistling at a white woman while in Money, Mississippi • See Untold Story of Emmitt Till: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYutH25593c
Diane Nash (from Chicago): As a teenager, I think I really started emerging into being a real person, and I was very much aware of it, and I was looking forward in college to really expanding myself, and growing. I was taking those kinds of issues very seriously. And that played quite a part, when I got to Nashville, and [was] why I so keenly resented segregation, and not being allowed to do basic kinds of things like eating at restaurants, in the ten-cent stores . . . . I really felt stifled... I remember the Emmett Till situation really keenly, in fact, even now I . . . have a good image of that picture that appeared in Jet magazine of him. And [that] made an impression. However, I had never traveled to the South at that time. And I didn’t have an emotional relationship to segregation. I had—I understood the facts, and the stories, but there was not an emotional relationship. When I actually went south, and actually saw signs that said “white” and “colored” and I actually could not drink out of that water fountain, or go to that ladies’ room, I had a real emotional reaction . . . . [M]y goodness, I came to college to grow, and expand, and here I am shut in... . So, my response was: who’s trying to change it, change these things . . . .
A "Freedom Bus" in flames, six miles southwest of Anniston, Ala., May 14, 1961. (Birmingham Public Library)
Freedom Riders Jimmy McDonald, left, and Hank Thomas and regular passenger Roberta Holmes sit in front of the burned-out shell of a "Freedom Bus" on May 14, 1961.
Sending Reinforcements • Jim Zwerg was from Wisconsin and went to Fisk University as an “exchange student” • When joining the Freedom Riders, he said “My faith was never so strong as during that time. I knew I was doing what I should be doing.”
“Segregation must be stopped. It must be broken down. Those of us on the Freedom Ride will continue.... No matter what happens we are dedicated to this. We will take the beatings. We are willing to accept death. We are going to keep coming until we can ride anywhere in the South."
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963) I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal." I have a dream 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 one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little 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.
Gold Medallist Tommie Smith, (center) and Bronze medallist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200m in the 1968 Summer Olympics wearing Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Silver medallist Peter Norman from Australia (left) joins them.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47vvdOfPzLY "If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight." – Tommie Smith, 1968