From its founding in 1935 until the early 1950s, Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas accepted only white students. In 1951, when NAACP chapter leader Henry Boyd Hall began work to desegregate the college, community college classes for African American students were held at the city’s Solomon M. Coles High School for Negroes. However, these classes were insufficient in several ways.
In March 1960, a national wave of sit-in campaigns to desegregate lunch counters and public accommodations reached Miami. Miami was one of 11 Florida cities where activists organized sit-ins over the months of February and March 1960. On 4 March 1960, students from Florida Memorial College led a sit-in in in Miami, Florida. Participants included adult ministers.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Mexican-Americans struggled for equal
rights all across the Southwest in America. In Texas, campaigns for
racial equality were led primarily by organizations like La Raza (the
Resistance), MAYO (Mexican-American Youth Organization), PASSO
(Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations), and the Brown
Berets. These organizations struggled for equal rights and privileges
for Mexican-Americans in all facets of society.
As the nationwide struggle for civil rights in the United States, led by
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, continued into 1964, tension between civil
rights activists and the city government was rising in St. Augustine,
Florida. Public institutions remained segregated, and Klu Klux Klan
violence against African Americans increased, despite activists’
protests and pleas to the government.
Florida wade-ins to end racial segregation of public beach and pools (Civil Rights Movement) 1945-1964
In a time that many considered the “post-Jim Crow” era, racial segregation of unequal public facilities remained the norm throughout Florida. First expressed in the Fort Lauderdale Daily News in 1927, African American communities were unhappy with being constrained to a single “colored leisure beach”; an uninhabited and inconvenient strip of land that was inferior to the “white beaches”. It was not until 1945 that African American leaders in Dade County began to plan action to challenge and draw attention to this injustice.
Jackson was the largest city in Mississippi in 1960, with 250,000 residents, 50,000 of whom were black. Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the Jackson chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began to build up NAACP Youth Councils at colleges and high schools in the area since 1961. Since the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were in other parts of Mississippi, the NAACP was the only consistent nonviolent group in Jackson.
Huntsville, Alabama, grew quickly during the United States’ Space Race with the Soviet Union. From 1950 to 1960, the population tripled from 16,000 to 72,000, with 30% black citizens. With Redstone Arsenal and the National Aeronautics (NASA) bringing scientists and middle class citizens to Huntsville, the city administration tried to present the city with a progressive image. However, instead of improving conditions for black citizens, the administration claimed that a racial inequality did not exist.
Marshall, Texas, despite having a black majority, practiced public and private racial segregation like most of the South in the 1950’s. The town included two historically black colleges: Bishop College and Wiley College.
Inspired by the February, 1960 launch of the student sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina, high school student Chalmers Mebane decided to stage a sit-in in his city of Danville, Virginia. He and his African American friends collaborated with students on the Youth Council for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to plan a sit-in at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s.
On 12 February 1960, nearly two weeks after sit-ins at Greensboro, North Carolina (the Greensboro Four) began, over 100 students at the historically black school Barber-Scotia College started sit-ins in the lunch counter at Belk’s department store and three other lunch counters in Concord, North Carolina. In addition to sit-ins, the students organized pray-ins, where they gathered for prayer in public areas and places reserved for whites. Aside from white teenage hecklers, the students did not face much initial repression.
In early May and June of 1960, students from Howard University, a historically black college, joined the ongoing civil rights movement by picketing the White House in D.C. and conducting sit-ins and pickets at segregated Woolworth chain stores in the D.C. area. These early actions led by Paul Dietrich, Stokely Carmichael, John Moody, Jan Triggs, Dion Diamond, Gwendolyn Green, Joan Trumpauer, and others spread interest for a more organized form of action by Howard students.
On 18 February 1960, the High Point Biracial Committee was formed to ease racial tensions in High Point. As the group gained more legitimacy, more facilities desegregated thanks in part to negotiations between the committee and city officials. By 1963, nearly all government and public institutions were integrated. The remaining stronghold of segregation was privately-owned buildings such the town theaters.
High Point, North Carolina was a city viewed as progressive on racial relations, but the black community felt alienated as nearly all of High Point’s public institutions were segregated.
On 1 February 1960, a group of four college students began a sit-in at a Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. News spread quickly to High Point, about 16 miles away.
In 1963, nearly
ten years after the Brown vs. Board of
Education court case declared school segregation illegal, de facto rather
than legal segregation remained prevalent in many northern cities of the United
States including Milwaukee. Milwaukee
had begun “intact busing” of black children to predominately white schools in
1957, where black children were taught in classrooms separate from white
children and were not served in the cafeterias.
By spring 1967 some of the legal barriers to racial equality in the U.S. had been struck down. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities and women, in workplaces and in facilities that serve the general public. The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited discrimination in voting.
On 1 June 1961, Isaac Coggs, the only African American Member of the Wisconsin legislature, introduced a Humans Rights bill with two civil rights provisions: a fair housing law and a plan to reorganize the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Though Governor Gaylord Nelson supported the bill, it was met with resistance in committee, facing amendments to kill or cripple it. Opponents of the bill argued that real estate
brokers and home sellers should have the right to decide to whom they should sell homes.
The University of Texas admitted black graduate students in 1955 and undergraduate students in 1956, but conditions on campus remained unequal. Admission was limited to an educationally elite section of black students. Facilities, such as dorms, were still segregated and of worse quality than the equivalent dorms for white students. Black students were not allowed to participate in athletics or drama. Protests emerged in the early 1960’s to improve these conditions, but after 3 days of picketing, students decided to focus on other ways of addressing discrimination.
By 1964, a handful of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field workers had endured three years of continued repression as they challenged Mississippi’s racial discrimination. Only 6.7% of black Mississippians were registered to vote in 1962, the lowest percent in the country. In 1963 SNCC’s Mississippi operation was facing a stalemate. Since arriving in 1961 they had few concrete victories to show for their hard and dangerous work in the state. They had gotten few people to attempt to register, and even fewer were successful.
In 1957 A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin initiated a campaign to pressure the U.S. government to intervene for the civil rights of African Americans.
Randolph, 68, was the acknowledged “elder” among civil rights leaders, with a base in the labor movement. Rustin, 57, was a veteran civil rights and peace activist who had coached Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.
Chestertown, situated in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, was one of the few northern parts of the U.S. still segregated in the early 1960s. Most African Americans could not vote. Only three black students were enrolled in the local Washington College. Moreover, the only school in Chestertown that accepted black students from the 1st grade to 12th was the Garnett School.
In 1955, just one year after the Supreme Court issued its pivotal Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the country was again shaken by the Montgomery Bus Boycotts (see “African Americans boycott buses for integration in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., 1955-1956”). The campaign, which targeted the city’s practice of segregation on public transportation, brought leaders such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., into the national spotlight.
The yearlong boycott of Montgomery, Alabama’s city buses by between 40,000 and 50,000 African American residents was in the works for years before it began in December 1955. At that time in Montgomery, as well as in many cities across the southern United States, laws required African Americans to sit at the back of buses and yield their seats to white passengers if no other seats were available.
On February 12, 1968, sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, began a labor strike to protest unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, and the city’s refusal to recognize their sanitation workers union.
Race relations in the United States had been tense for decades before the 1950s. The tension was especially obvious in the political, economic, and social realm where African-Americans were unable to vote in many states, had previously been considered property by white Americans, and were frequently segregated in restaurants, libraries, movie theatres, or almost any place where African-Americans might interact with whites.
Prior to the Tallahassee student sit-ins of 1960, the Tallahassee Bus Boycott took place in 1956, patterned after the Montgomery Bus Boycott that started with the refusal of Rosa Parks to surrender her bus seat to a white person. Tallahassee was sometimes called the “little Mississippi” where segregation was prominent.