History 111 Discussion Guides for
The Struggle for Civil Rights
In 2006, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
from Harvard University began to research the lives of eight prominent African Americans - including Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Tucker and Oprah Winfrey. He eventually traced their family trees, as well as his own, using all available documents going back deep into slavery. Once the paper trail was exhausted, he then conducted a DNA analysis to determine where their ancestors came from in Africa. Finally, he put everything together in a PBS series, African American Lives
. The program was so successful, that he began to investigate the lives of other famous African Americans, including Chris Rock
and Don Cheadle
- To differentiate between the struggle for civil rights and the Civil Rights Movement (CRM).
- To discuss the historical origins of the CRM.
- To study the chronology of the struggle for Civil Rights through several
- To examine contemporary efforts in the fight for civil rights.
- To discuss some of the contemporary issues regarding African American civil liberties.
- To critically examine and discuss Warriors Don't Cry.
Goal #1: To differentiate between the struggle for civil rights and the Civil Rights Movement (CRM)
- The civil rights struggle really began in the early 1600s after individual and small groups began efforts to overthrow the chains of slavery. It culminates in the early 1950s when an organized Movement begins, and then picked back up in the late 1960s when the struggle continued through the present day.
- The Civil Rights Movement began in the early 1950s when a unified effort of people created formal organizations to end the laws of segregation and begin the enforcement of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution - the Freedom Amendments
Goal #2: To discuss the historical origins of the CRM
The historical origins of the Civil Rights Movement can be found in three important events that shaped the early struggle for civil rights: the passage of the Freedom Amendments; the presidential election of 1876; and the Compromise of 1877.
The Freedom Amendments consisted of three new amendments: the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, all of which are part of the struggle for civil rights and which will later contribute to the Movement for civil rights.
- 13th Amendment – passed by Congress in January 1865 and ratified in December 1865 - prohibited “slavery” and “involuntary servitude”(except those convicted of a crime) in the United States.
- The ratification of the 13th Amendment was a major victory for the North where it was hoped that both the Emancipation Proclamation and the new amendment would quickly diminish the effects of slavery.
- Once the Confederate States of America (CSA) was defeated, approval of the 13th Amendment was a requirement for readmittance into the United States.
- All of the CSA states did not immediately sign the amendment, with Mississippi being the last hold-out and finally ratified it in 1995.
- Implemented and enforced immediately upon ratification.
- 14th Amendment – passed by Congress in June 1866 and ratified in July 1868 - defined blacks as citizens of the United States, thereby promising them full constitutional protection of their civil rights; prohibited states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” and guaranteed “to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws;" and denied former Confederates the right to hold office.
- As the Southern states began to pass a variety of Black Codes, it was clear that a new way of controlling ex-slaves, characterized by violence and cruelty, had been created. Consequently, Congress passed the 14th Amendment
- Implemented and enforced by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- 15th Amendment – passed by Congress Feb. 1869 and ratified in March 1870 - prohibited the denial of the vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; defined national citizenship to include former slaves; prohibited states from violating privileges of citizens without due process of law; empowered Congress to reduce representation of any state that denied vote to males over 21; and disqualified from state and national offices all prewar office holders who had supported the Confederacy.
- The last of the Reconstruction Amendments, the 15th Amendment was designed to close the last loophole in creating real civil rights for newly freed black slaves.
- In the election of 1868, Republicans received overwhelming majorities in House and Senate. With such strength, in 1869 they passed the Fifteenth Amendment.
- Implemented and enforced by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Election of 1876 and the election of Rutherford B. Hayes
- In 1876, Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio – a cautious candidate who ended up taking 48.9% of the popular vote - and the Democrats nominated Samuel B. Tilden, Governor of New York – who took 51% of the popular vote.
- The initial returns pointed to a Tilden victory, as the Democrats captured the swing states of Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, and New York. By midnight on Election Day, Tilden had 184 of the 185 electoral votes needed to win. He led the popular vote by 250,000.
- When the results were in, Hayes got 185 electoral votes, to Tilden’s 184 – the closest electoral vote in U.S. history.
- The final outcome hinged on the disputed results in four states - Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina - which prevented either candidate from securing a majority of electoral votes.
- In the case of disputed results in the electoral college, under the Constitution, the House of Representatives is to decide the outcome.
- In January, 1877. Congress appointed a 15-member electoral commission, composed of senators, representatives, and Supreme Court Justices.
- Republicans had a slight majority – 8-7 – on the commission.
- To nobody’s surprise, the Republicans carried the vote and elected Hayes.
- However, a bargain was made behind the scenes between the leaders of the two parties.
- Hayes' representatives agreed to pull the U.S. military out of the south, to recognize Democratic control of the entire South, and to avoid federal intervention in local affairs – that is, no federal intervention in racial affairs of the South.
- Tilden’s representatives, in return, promised not to dispute Haye’s right to office and to respect the civil and political rights of blacks.
- This led to what is known as the Compromise of 1877 or the Bargain of 1877.
The Compromise of 1877 - After the Congressional choice of Hayes for president, Hayes pulled the troops out of the South and ended Reconstruction, while the South failed to live up to its promise to respect the civil and political rights of blacks.
- This Compromise is the key to understanding the evolution of the Civil Rights Movement from 1877 to 1954.
- Remember, the federal government had promised to stay out of the racial affairs of the South.
This pledge remained in effect until 1957 when President Eisenhower reluctantly sent troops to defend the Little Rock Nine who attempted to integrate Arkansas's Little Rock High School.
- For the 80 years in between, no lynching legislation passed Congress, no legislation regarding racial equality passed Congress, no efforts to really stop the horrors of the Ku Klux Klan were suggested by any branch of the U.S. government - all due to the 1877 promise that the federal government would not intervene in the racial affairs of the South.
- While many presidents and Congressional representatives struggled with racial issues, all those who served from Hayes through Eisenhower refused to involve the federal government. Their fear was simple - the party that ignored the promise made in the Compromise of 1877 would lose the voting support and power of the southern states.
- So, the end of Reconstruction and the Compromise of 1877 is where we must begin any discussion of the Civil Rights Movement.
Goal #3: To study the chronology of the struggle for Civil Rights through several
- 1857 to 1954 - the civil rights struggle for equal protection under the law evolved in which individual African Americans, various African-American organizations, and certain federal agencies sought equal protection under the law.
- 1950s to early 1956 - Phase 1 of the Civil Rights Movement to desegregate Southern schools began when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) undertook legal actions.
- Late 1956 to 1959 - Phase 2 of the Civil Rights Movement to desegregate transportation and education and guarantee voting rights began when black activists openly organized and conducted mass confrontations that directly challenged the white power structure.
- 1960 to 1968 - Phase 3 of the Civil Rights Movement for a legalized, formal end to all segregation continued when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) directed and conducted a militant, direct action plan while a rising Black Power Movement directed militant, sometimes violent actions that emphasized racial pride and the creation of separate black political and cultural institutions.
- 1969 to the Present - the Civil Rights Movement ended and the civil rights struggle continues in which individual Americans, various civil rights organizations, and some federal, state, and local agencies seek equal protection under the law for many Americans - people of color, gays and lesbians, immigrants, women, disabled, etc.
Civil Rights, Black Power, and Related Events: A Selective Chronology
The Struggle Evolves: From 1857 to 1954, the civil rights struggle for equal protection under the law evolved in which individual African Americans, various African-American organizations, and certain federal agencies sought equal protection under the law.
1857 Dred Scott Case. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that slaves did not become free when taken into a free state, that Congress could not bar slavery from a territory and that blacks could not become citizens.
1863 Emancipation Proclamation. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing "all slaves in areas still in rebellion."
1865 Thirteenth Amendment. Abolished slavery.
1866 Civil Rights Act. Defined all persons born in the United States (except "Indians not taxed") as citizens. Listed citizen rights, including testifying in court, owning property, making contracts, bringing lawsuits and enjoying "full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings."
1868 Fourteenth Amendment. Prohibited state governments from interfering with civil rights; required giving all citizens "equal protection" under the law.
1869 Fifteenth Amendment. Prohibited states from denying the right to vote because of a person's race.
1870-1871 Ku Klux Klan Acts. Enforced the rights specified in the 14th and 15th Amendments, making such crimes punishable under federal law. Prosecution of the KKK began in 1871 but both prosecution and enforcement had ended by the 1880s.
1875 Civil Rights Act. The Act protected access of all Americans, regardless of race, to public accommodations such as restaurants, theaters, trains and other public transportation, and protected the right to serve on juries. However, it was never enforced, and the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1883.
1876 The disputed presidential election of 1876. (see above)
1877 Compromise of 1877. (see abpve)
1895 Booker T. Washington. Washington, shown to the left, advocated vocational training for blacks to improve their economic status. His philosophy would later conflict with that of W.E.B. DuBois (see below, 1909 entry).
1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson. The U.S. Supreme Court set a precedent when it ruled that "separate" facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were "equal." The "separate but equal" doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, such as restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools. Speaking for the seven-person majority, Justice Henry Brown wrote: "A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races...has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races...The object of the Fourteenth Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either."
The lone dissenter, Justice John Harlan, showed incredible foresight when he wrote "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law...What can more certainly arouse race hate, what more certainly create and perpetuate a feeling of distrust between these races, than state enactments, which, in fact, proceed on the ground that colored citizens are so inferior and degraded that they cannot be allowed to sit in public coaches occupied by white citizens? That, as all will admit, is the real meaning of such legislation."
1909 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Founded by W.E.B. DuBois (shown in the photograph) and other Black activists to provide leadership in the fight for racial equality.
1914 Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Founded by Marcus Garvey to stress racial pride, the importance of African heritage, and racial solidarity across national boundaries. UNIA supporters joined Garveyís call for blacks from around the world to help Africans overthrow colonial rule and build a strong African state which would become a symbol of black accomplishment and power.
1915 The Birth of the Nation. The film premiered in Los Angeles and quickly elicited controversy, especially from the NAACP.
1922 Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. In January, the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and was given a favorable report by the Senate Committee assigned to report on it. But in July, its passage was halted by a filibuster in the Senate. Efforts to pass similar legislation were not taken up again until the 1930s with the Costigan-Wagner Bill.
1925 KKK March. In its first national demonstration the Ku Klux Klan marched on Washington, D.C..
1930 Nation of Islam. Founded in Detroit by Farad Muhammad. Preaching black nationalism and superiority in an evil white world, members of the Nation of Islam - Black Muslims - looked to the black community for regeneration and improvement.
The Costigan-Wagner Anti-Lynching Bill was introduced to Congress. The legislation proposed federal trials for any law enforcement officers who failed to exercise their responsibilities during a lynching incident.
President Roosevelt refused to speak out in favour of the bill, arguing instead that the white voters in the South would never forgive him if he supported the bill and he would therefore lose the next election.
While the Bill received support from many members of Congress, the Southern opposition managed to defeat it.
1933 Elijah Muhammad took leadership over the Nation of Islam.
1942 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). CORE was organized in Chicago as an interracial group of students, most of whom were members of the Chicago branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a pacifist organization seeking to change racist attitudes. The founders of CORE were deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's teachings of nonviolent resistance
1946 Biracial delegation of civil rights activists met with President Truman to discuss racial terrorism in the south. Truman established the President's Committee on Civil Rights to investigate race relations in the South.
1947 To Secure These Rights, the report of the Committee, outlined the problems of racial discrimination and segregation and proposed anti-lynching and anti-poll tax legislation. Truman sent the report to Congress and asked them to enact most of the Committee's proposals.
1948 Integrating the Military. President Truman issued an executive order outlawing segregation in the U.S. military
Phase 1: The CR Movement Begins - From early 1950s to early 1956, efforts to desegregate Southern schools began when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) undertook legal actions.
1952 Malcolm X was released from prison where he had become a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI). He quickly became one of the NOI's most powerful and respected leaders. Malcolm X rejected integration with a white society that, he said, emasculated blacks by denying them power and personal identity.
1954 Brown vs. Board of Education. U.S. Supreme Court struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson for public education and required the desegregation of schools across America. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren read the decision of the unanimous Court: "We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does...We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment."
1955 Second Brown decision. In a second Brown decision in 1955, the Court provided enforcement guidelines for beginning integration with "all deliberate speed."
Rosa Parks. On December 1, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus so that a white man could sit down. This was the event that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Montgomery bus boycott. Launched on December 6 and lasted 381 days.
Emmet Till, a fourteen year old African-American from Chicago, Illinois, was brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi, a small town in the state's Delta region.
Phase 2 : The CR Movement Grows - From late 1956 to 1959, efforts begin to desegregate transportation and education and guarantee voting rights when black activists openly organized and conducted mass confrontations that directly challenged the white power structure.
1956 Warrants were issued to arrest 115 leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott. All were tried and sentenced without a jury.
Browder v Gayle. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery's bus company's policy of segregation was unconstitutional. On March 12, 100 southern congressmen signed a manifesto urging resistance to integration and denouncing the Supreme Court. Only three southern senators declined to sign - Lyndon Johnson of Texas, and Albert Gore and Estes Kefauver of Tennessee.
1957 Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) founded by civil rights leaders who met in Atlanta on January 10 – 11 to form a regional organization and coordinate protest activities across the South. Sixty persons from 10 states assembled and announced the founding of the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration. They issued a document declaring that civil rights weare essential to democracy, that segregation must end, and that all Black people should reject segregation absolutely and nonviolently.
Little Rock, Arkansas. School integration begins and Southern segregated schools became a legal target. At previously all-white Central High, 1,000 paratroopers called by President Eisenhower to restore order and escort The Little Rock 9 black students to school. Governor Faubus closed all the high schools the following school year rather than integrate them.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created to coordinate the action of local protest groups throughout the South. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., the organization drew on the power and independence of black churches to support its activities.
Civil Rights Act. Congress passed the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction - creating the Civil Rights Commission and Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice.
1959 Cooper v. Aaron. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an African-American's right to attend school could not "be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive officials nor nullified indirectly by them by evasive schemes for segregation."
The Hate that Hate Produced was shown on television. The movie catapulted the Nation of Islam into the national limelight as a dangerous organization preaching hate against whites. Consequently, Malcolm X began to get continual requests for radio and T.V. talk shows to defend the NOI.
Phase 3: The CR Movement Evolves - From 1960 to 1968, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) directed a militant, direct action civil disobedience phase that sought a legalized, formal end to all segregation while a rising Black Power Movement directed militant, sometimes violent actions that emphasized racial pride and the creation of separate black political and cultural institutions.
1960 Sit-in protest movement. Began in February at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. and spread across the nation. By August 1961, over 70,000 persons had participated in sit-ins throughout the south and 3,000 had been arrested.
Boynton v. Virginia. Supreme Court ruled that all interstate buses, trains, and terminals be desegregated.
"Mr. Muhammed Speaks," an interview with Alex Haley, appeared in Reader's Digest and was the first feature magazine article about the Nation of Islam. Shortly thereafter, Malcolm X was interviewed for Playboy Magazine. The first scholarly book on the Nation of Islam was published by Dr. C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America.
1961 Freedom Rides began in Washington, D.C when groups of black and white people rode buses through the South to challenge the Boynton decision. Wherever they went, the Freedom Riders were harrassed and assaulted. President Kennedy finally sent federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders.
Elijah Muhammad, who had moved from Chicago to Phoenix for health reasons, made Malcolm X national representative of the Nation of Islam. This created resentment among Muhammad's inner circle who did not want Malcolm to be the next leader.
Increasing attention is focused on the two different visions for civil rights: those of civil disobedience valued by Martin Luther King, Jr. and those of black separatism, valued by Malcolm X. Additionally, other voices arose, indicating competing strategies and competing agendas for diverse individuals involved in the Movement.
1962 James Meredith enrolled as first black at the University of Mississippi. During the subsequent riot, two were killed and many others were injured. 5,000 federal troops arrived to restore order; some stayed to protect Meredith throughout the year.
Bailey v. Patterson. The Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional in all transportation facilities.Citizen Council's grow throughout the South, but were especially strong in Mississippi where the white population worked to stop African Americans from voting.
1963 Birmingham. Police arrested Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other ministers demonstrating in Birmingham, Ala., then turned fire hoses and police dogs on the marchers. While under arrest, Dr. King wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
1964 Freedom Summer. Whites and blacks went to Mississippi to open "freedom Schools" to encourage blacks to register to vote.
- On May 10, the SCLC and representatives of Birminghams’ business community made a settlement - fitting rooms, wash rooms, rest rooms, drinking fountains, and lunchroom counters would be segregated in a period extending from 3-60 days.
- "I have a dream" speech. Martin Luther King addressed over 250,000 people who attended the Freedom March on Washington in August.
- President Kennedy gave the his first Civil Rights speech to the nation.
- Medgar Evers. Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was killed by a sniper's bullet.
- A church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four young black girls.
1965 Selma March. On March 7, hundreds of freedom marchers led by Martin Luther King and John Lewis faced 50 state troopers and mounted officers who forced the marchers to stop. When 25,000 resumed the march on March 25, they were escorted by the National Guard.
- Civil Rights Act. The Act forbade racial, religious, and gender discrimination in public accommodations; allowed withholding of federal grants and contracts from violators; forbade discrimination by employers; and empowered the Justice Department to sue violators. After 100 years, the 14th Amendment was finally enforced.
- 24th Amendment. The 24th Amendment abolished the poll tax, which originally had been established in the South after Reconstruction to make it difficult for poor blacks to vote.
- Civil Rights murders. Three civil rights workers - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, two white and one black man - disappeared in Mississippi. They were found buried six weeks later.
1966 Black Power. Stokely Carmichael announced the beginning of the Black Power Movement - a move that called on blacks to seek power through solidarity, independence, and if necessary, violence.
1967 Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American to be named to the Supreme Court.
- The Voting Rights Act. The Act stated that "No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."After almost 100 years, the 15th Amendment was finally enforced.
- Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize
- Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam, took a haj to Mecca, When he returned, renamed himself El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, and created the Organization of Afro-American Unity linking African American liberation and Third World revolutionary movements. He was assassinated shortly thereafter.
1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 22-meter winners, raised their fists in Black Power salute while receiving medals. Consequently, both had their medals taken away.
- April. Martin Luther King, Jr. began to give anti-war speeches. The first speech occurs at the Riverside Church in Harlem.
- U.S. v. Cecil Price et.al. (Mississippi Burning trial). The convictions of seven defendants in this trial represented the first ever convictions in Mississippi for the killing of a civil rights worker. The list of convicted men included Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and KKK Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers. Eight were men were acquitted, including Sheriff Lawrence Rainey, burial site owner Olen Burrage, and Exalted Cyclops Frank Herndon. In three cases, including that of Edgar Ray Killen, the jury was unable to reach a verdict .
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray pled guilty in March 1969 and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Civil Rights Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
The Struggle Continues: From 1969 to the present, the Civil Rights Movement ended and the civil rights struggle continues in which individual Americans, various civil rights organizations, and some federal, state, and local agencies seek equal protection under the law for many Americans - people of color, gays and lesbians, immigrants, women, disabled, etc.
1975 Elijah Muhammad died and his son Wallace Muhammad became head of the Nation of Islam on February 26. Wallace Muhammad immediately reformulated his father's beliefs and practices and publicly shunned his father's black separatist views to bring NOI closer to mainstream Sunni Islam. He renamed his organization - Muslim American Society - and many of his followers assimilated into traditional Islam. By the end of the year, there were 75 NOI Temples across America.
1978 Louis Farrakhan, who left the Nation of Islam when Wallace Muhammad took over, decided to rebuild the original Nation of Islam upon the foundation established by W. Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad. In 1981, Farrakhan publicly announced the restoration of the Nation of Islam and went forward with Elijah Muhammad's teachings.
- Seattle Desegregation. Seattle became the largest city in the United States to desegregate its schools without a court order; nearly one-quarter of the school district's students were bused as part of the "Seattle Plan." Two months later, voters passed an anti-busing initiative. It was later ruled unconstitutional.
- Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a closely divided decision that race could be one of the factors considered in choosing a diverse student body in university admissions decisions. The Court also held, however, that the use of quotas in such affirmative action programs was not permissible.
1991 Resegregation begins. In Oklahoma City v. Dowell, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that court-ordered integration plans were not intended “to operate in perpetuity” and allowed districts to be released from desegregation obligations once fulfilled. As a result, districts were allowed to return to neighborhood schools where there was no forced busing.
1992 Rodney King Riots. The first racially based riots in years erupted in Los Angeles and other cities after a jury acquited L.A. police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.
1994 Byron De la Beckwith was tried and convicted 30 years after he killed Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. (See 1964)
1995 Million Man March. In October, Louis Farrakan mobilized almost a million men to march to Washington, DC and discuss racial solidarity.
1998 In Jasper, Texas, James Byrd, Jr., a black man, was chained to a pick-up truck and dragged to his death by three white men in what was a modern-day lynching.
1999 Little Rock 9. The nine students who integrated Central High in 1957 received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
2000 Wallace Mohammad, now known as Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, and Louis Farrakhan publicly embraced and declared unity and reconciliation of their two separate organizations.
2001 Convictions of KKK Members. Two former KKK members - Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry - were tried and convicted for the deaths of 4 girls in the 1963 Birmingham church murders. (See 1963)
2003 Affirmitive Action upheld. In two of the most important affirmative action decisions since the 1978 Bakke case, the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger upheld the University of Michigan Law School's policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students because it furthers "a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."
2005 Edgar Ray Killen. The ringleader of the Mississippi civil rights murders , Edgar Ray Killen, is convicted of manslaughter on the 41st anniversary of the crimes. (See 1964)
2006 The high school graduation rate for black male students was 47% compared with 75% for white male students.
Resegregation continues. The Nebraska state legislature approved a measure to split the Omaha school system into three separate districts divided along racial lines: one for white, one for black, and one for Latino students. It was argued this system would give minority’s greater control over their own schools.
2007 Emmett Till's Case. In February, Emmett Till's 1955 murder case, reopened by the Department of Justice in 2004, was officially closed. The two confessed murderers, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were dead of cancer by 1994, and prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to pursue further convictions.
- Jimmie Lee Jackson's Case. In May, James Bonard Fowler, a former state trooper, was indicted for the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson 40 years after Jackson's death. The 1965 killing lead to a series of historic civil rights protests in Selma, Ala.
- Resegregation continues.
- Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on whether a school district that is not racially segregated and that normally permits a student to attend any high school of her choosing can deny a child admission to her chosen school solely because of her race in an effort to achieve a desired racial balance in particular schools, or does such racial balancing violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment? In Summer 2007, by a 5-4 vote, the Court applied a "strict scrutiny" framework and found the District's racial tiebreaker plan unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the plurality opinion that "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
- Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that Jefferson County's enrollment plan was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Jefferson County's plan involved no individualized consideration of students, and it employed a very limited notion of diversity ("black" and "other"). Jefferson County's goal of preventing racial imbalance did not meet the Court's standards for a constitutionally legitimate use of race: "Racial balancing is not transformed from 'patently unconstitutional' to a compelling state interest simply by relabeling it 'racial diversity.'" The plans also lacked the narrow tailoring that is necessary for race-conscious programs. The Court held that Jefferson County's enrollment plan was actually targeted toward demographic goals and not toward any demonstrable educational benefit from racial diversity. Jefferson County also failed to show that its objectives could not have been met with non-race-conscious means. In a separate opinion concurring in the judgment, Justice Kennedy agreed that Jefferson County's use of race was unconstitutional but stressed that public schools may sometimes consider race to ensure equal educational opportunity.
2011 On April 27th, President Barack Obama released his birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States. Many Americans proclaim that the fact that he was forced to prove this is an indicator that racism is alive and well in the United States.
Goal #4: To examine contemporary efforts in the fight for civil rights.
- Bringing criminal prosecutions against white racists for crimes committed in the 1960s
- Thomas E. Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry for the 1983 Birmingham church bombing and the death of 4 little girls.
- Trial and subsequent conviction of Byron Byron De la Beckwith in 1993 - 30 years after he killed Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. (See Ghosts of Mississippi).
- Opening up federal and state files that prove illegal efforts were taken to tamper with past Civil Rights cases.
- In the Medgar Evers case, Mylie Evers was able to finally determine that the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission had been charged with preserving segregation in the state and in so doing, kept secret files on some 78,000 civil rights workers and alleged subversives. While this was not illegal, the Commission helped De la Beckwith during his trial by providing information to his defense team about individuals in the jury pool.
- The most famous of all cover-ups and illegal activities during this period were the exploits of the FBI'S COINTELPRO which were spearheaded by Hoover's paranoia about BPP members whom he felt posed "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."
Counter Intelligence-Black Nationalist Hate Groups Program was created to destroy the Panthers and other radical groups through propaganda, infiltration, and direct violence against identified members.
The extent of the FBI's campaign of terror against those involved in Black Power activities has been carefully researched and described.
Marable (1984) found that by July 1969, COINTELPRO had targeted the Panthers in 233 separate actions. Additionally, he found FBI directives dated January 1970 to nine field offices that ordered officials to "counteract any favorable support in publicity to the Black Panther Party" by publicizing anti-Panther propaganda. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, the FBI drafted "editorials" and "news articles" for local television stations and newspapers which attacked the organization.
- Bringing civil suits against perpetrators of racist crimes.
- One of the most well known took place in 1990 against Tom and John Metzger had actively recruited, trained, and encouraged the Eastside White Pride Skinheads in Portland, Oregon to react violently to persons of color. Subsequently, the Skinheads killed an Ethopian student. The Southern Poverty Law Center argued successful that words of hate can and will kill - and if someone trains to hate and kill, they can be held civilly liable for their actions.
- On October 21, 1990, the Multonomah County, Oregon, Circuit Court found that because Tom and John Metzger had intentionally incited the Portland Skinheads to provoke violent confrontations with minority groups, they were financially liable for the death of Mulgeta Seraw.
- Tom Metzger was ordered to pay $5 million in punitive damages; John Metzger, $1 million; and Mieske and Strasser, $500,000 each. WAR was also ordered to pay $3 million in punitive and $2.5 million in compensatory damages. In sum, the Metzgers were responsible for a $12 million fine.
- Addressing the historical legacy of race riots. In February 2000, historians from across the nation met at a conference in Helena, Arkansas to confront the historical reality of the terrorizing race riots and lynching spree that characterized life in many American communities until the 1920s; to recognize the violence, apologize for it, and sometimes, compensate survivors.
- The arguments for compensation have increased since the Florida Legislature settled in 1994 with survivors from the black settlement of Rosewood which was destroyed by a white mob in 1923.
- In its acknowledgment of failure to protect Rosewood residents at the time, the state paid $150,000 each to the nine survivors, $500,000 to heirs of Rosewood property owners, and created a $100,000 scholarship fund.
- For those who would like to learn more, you can see the movie Rosewood for extra credit, or you can go into the Internet site that has the documented history of the incident: http://www.freenet.scri.fsu.edu/eoc/rosewood.txt9/98.
- Seeking Reparations. In his recent book The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, Randall Robinson argues that the descendants of slaves should receive reparations for the labor that made American great prior to the Civil War.
He is not asking for a governmental handout, but rather suggests something like a $1 annual fee from every household that would go into a educational fund for African American children. He argues that everyone must give the money - so people can avoid the argument, "My relatives didn't have slaves, so why is it my issue?" And the great-great-granddaughter of a slave in South Carolina recently demanded reparations from Aetna - which sold policies in the 1850s that reimbursed slave owners for financial losses when their slaves died.
Goal #5: To discuss some of the contemporary issues regarding African American civil liberties.
- Less than half of African American children graduate from high school.
- More African American men go to prison than college. We currently are facing an epidemic of incarceration in the African American community.
- Based upon 2003 rates of incarceration, 30% of black males will likely serve time during their lifetime in a state or federal prison for a felony conviction - a rate seven times than that for white males.
- In 2003, among men in prison between 20-34 years of age, 1.4% were white, 4% were Hispanic, and 12% were African American.
- Thus, racism and classism are firmly embedded in American society and in our criminal justice system.
- Racism is no longer just a matter of “learning to get along,” but rather a question of addressing how deeply embedded it is in the structure of our society. When such a huge percentage of African American men are in prison, the consequences on society are enormous – prisoners don’t pay taxes, work, help with child care, and they can’t be involved with their family.
- A disproportionate percentage of African American men are disenfranchised due to felony convictions.
- Black men in their early 30s are imprisoned at 7 times the rate of whites in the same age group. Whites with only a high school education get locked up 20 times as often as those with college degrees.
- Disenfranchised African American males account for 35% of all Americans barred from voting because of felony convictions. 2% of all Americans (3.9 million) have lost their right to vote; compared with 13% of black Americans.
- The juvenile justice system discriminates against African American males. In 1999, juvenile justice statistics indicated that convicted black teenaged boys were sentenced to prison at a rate six times higher than were white boys for the same criminal activities.
- Black teenagers are just 15% of the 18,-and-under age group. Yet, 26% of them are arrested, 44% are detained in juvenile jails, and 58% are confined in adult prisons.
- When charged with violent crimes, blacks are nine times more likely to be sentenced that white boys are for the same crime.
- For drug offenses, black teenagers are sent to prison 48 times more often than whites charged with the same crime.
- The black-white income gap widened in the late 20th Century. Not only has the wage gap failed to improve since the 1980s, it has become worse for African Americans.
- In California, a study conducted in 2000 found that for every dollar earned by white men, Latino men earned 81 cents and African American men earned 74 cents.
- Among women, Latinas earned 79 cents relative to white women, and African American women earned 86 cents.
- African American workers with comparable occupations and educational levels still faced disparities. Black women earned 95 cents for every dollar earned by a white woman and African American men earned just 84 cents in comparison to their white counterparts.
- So, even though African Americans in California are becoming better educated, their wages have fallen relative to whites over the last decade. Experts indicate that this situation is being repeated across the nation.
- In the 21st Century, education for black youth is more segregated than it was in 1968. One-sixth of America’s black children attend schools that are entirely black and where poverty, health problems, and limited resources exist. Today’s segregated schools are still unequal.
Resegregation: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education - What are the facts?
- Integration increased rapidly between 1964 and the mid-1980s, peaked in 1988, and began to reverse in the early 1990s.
- The 1998-1999 data collected by the Harvard Civil Rights Project found that in schools across the nation, white students were the most segregated from all other races. On average, whites attended schools where less than 20% were students of color; blacks and Latinos attended schools with 53-55% students from their own group; American Indian students attended schools where 31% of the students have Indian backgrounds.
- In 2000, the U.S. Census found that white students were twice as likely to attend private schools than black students.
- By the turn of the 21st century, the South was the only region in the nation where whites typically attend schools with significant numbers of blacks. Between 1964 and 1988, the South had the highest level of integration in the nation and the most substantial contact between white and black students.
- By 2004, despite the fact that schools were becoming more culturally diverse, they were more segregated than they were in 1967.
- Between 1968 and 1998, the number of black and Latino students in the nation’s public schools increased by 5.8 million; yet the number of white students decreased by 5.6 million. According the The Civil Rights Project, our schools will soon be the first major institutions to experience non-white majorities.
- By 2004, white students made up 2/3 of the American school-age population, but on average, they attended schools that were 80% white; less than 10% of black students attended schools whose students were mostly white; only 10% of white students attended schools where students of color predominated. Further, about 90% of all the nation’s teachers are white, even though students of color comprise 42% of the nation’s public school students. White teachers tend to work in more affluent schools with fewer ELL students, while teachers of color tend to work in schools with low-income students.**
- African American students continue to be left behind.
- Dropout rates are highest in segregated, high-poverty high schools. By the late 1990s, about half of the segregated minority high schools in the largest cities graduated less than half of their students. By the time they reach their 30s, 60% of black high school dropouts are in prison or are ex-cons.
- Research indicates that segregated schools are usually isolated by race and poverty and offer vastly unequal educational opportunities; desegregated schools improve test scores and positively change the lives of students. And employment and income are more sharply linked to education than in the past.
What went wrong?
- Brown’s mandate for integration contained four escape hatches:
- The Court had no enforcement power; thus, it was not until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that school integration became a condition for a state’s receipt of federal education subsidies and the executive branch began to threaten to cut off funds to segregated schools.
- The Court’s decision only affected public schools; thus, many white parents began sending their children to private whites-only academies. (In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race discrimination was illegal in contracts which, in turn, forbade private all-white schools.)
- The Court could not prohibit white flight to the suburbs; thus, many white families moved to segregated suburban schools. (In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that rearranging residential patterns – which evolved from free choice – was too complicated and not within the Court’s jurisdiction. Consequently, cross-district busing was prohibited.)
- The Court was powerless in regard to the fiscal autonomy of many of the nation’s local school districts; thus, it could do nothing to change the structure of paying for schools through local property taxes.
- Social forces opposed to integration foiled the goal of creating a nation of fully integrated public schools. Such forces used their constitutional rights to opt out of public schools by sending their children to private schools and others relied on the traditional American belief – that local school districts were responsible for their own decisions about local education – to support ways to ignore Brown.
- Such forces argue that those who promote race-conscious integration policies are no different than the segregationists of old because both make determinations based on skin color (i.e., so called reverse discrimination).
- They also argue that race-conscious policies are no longer necessary because the U.S. is becoming a multiracial and multiethnic society.
- The state and federal courts have taken every opportunity to release school districts from court ordered desegregation. This pattern began with the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 with Oklahoma City v. Dowell and continued as we explored above in the chronology. Today, legal scholars claim more than 1,000 race-based school assignment policies are in place in districts across the nation. Opponents argue that these policies wrongly teach student that race still matters. Proponents argue that is exactly the point: race does still matter and policies leveling the educational playing field are badly needed.
So why has racism persisted in the U.S.?
- Most white Americans are unable to accept the reality of historical and contemporary white privilege and white oppression of non-white people.
- It begins with our myths about pre-Civil War America - most Americans believe slavery was solely a regional problem of the South.
- In the 135 years since the war, many Americans believed racism to be a part of our history, or at the very worst, a problem confined to the South.
- Since most young people today were not alive during the Civil Rights era, they have little knowledge of the struggle except that it happened. Thus, many believe that people of color have gained social, political, and economic equality.
- Most Americans have little real knowledge about slavery and racism. Nor do they have any idea that slavery is still in existence. In his excellent book, Disposable People (1999), Kevin Bales traveled around the world meeting with people who were enslaved, as well as the people who "handle" them.
- His research indicates that about 27 million people are currently enslaved - most of whom are in Southeast Asia and North Africa. Slaves exist in virtually every nation in the world.
- The number of slaves is increasing because the birth rate has risen so astronomically since WWII. Too many people make for "disposable people" - people who are easy to find for enslavement, as well as easy to get rid of when they no longer serve an economic need.
- Slaves are incredibly cheap by today's standards. In 1850, a young male slave on a plantation in Mississippi would cost his owner about $1000. By 1999 standards, that is equal to about $60,000 - so slaves were expensive and a sizable investment.
- Today, however, slaves are not an investment, but a disposable item. The average slave can be purchased for between $50 and $100 today. In Thailand, young attractive girls go for a much higher rate, about $1000. They are often sold by their parents. Once they no longer are attractive, or they become HIV positive, they are simply thrown into the streets. They are no longer welcome in their homes, cannot get employment, and often become very sick due to their medical status.
- In other places, slaves are simply killed when they are no longer useful to their "holder" - the person who holds a paper that is a phony "labor contract."
- Some Americans still believe that there is a biological basis for race.
- Americans believe there are essentially three great racial groups:
Caucasoid - residents of Europe, East Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East; Negroid - residents from Africa; and Mongoloid - residents from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, as well as American Indians.
- Scientists today say this is just another myth - that humans do not have enough genetic diversity for races. The physical differences of skin color, hair, etc. are only the surface result of adapting to the environment.
- In reality, race is a social and cultural construct - not a biological reality.
The Little Rock Nine - 39 years later