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.
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.
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.
Stephen Girard (1750 – 1831), the well known Philadelphia merchant and banker, bequeathed a large sum of money to be used in the founding of Girard College, a boarding school for orphaned youth between the ages of six and ten. The school was established in 1848 on forty acres of farmland north of Philadelphia. Stephen Girard stipulated in his will that the school would only be open to “fatherless” white boys.
In 1947, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) conducted a “Journey of Reconciliation” to direct attention toward racial segregation in public transportation in the Southern U.S.A. Although this initial freedom ride campaign was not regarded as a great success during its time, it inspired the 1961 Freedom Rides that fueled the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
African Americans campaign for reopening of public schools in Prince Edward County, Farmville, VA, 1959-1964
Rather than comply with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on
In 1960 and 1961, the Washington, D.C., area experienced an increase in diplomatic representatives from Africa, causing tension and emphasizing the issue of segregation in the area. Visiting African diplomats were exposed to segregation in many restaurants, facilities, and other public accommodations, particularly along Route 40 - a primary means of travel between the embassies in Washington D.C. and the United Nations headquarters in New York - where nearly all of the restaurants and facilities were only open to white customers.
African American residents of Chester, PA, demonstrate to end de facto segregation in public schools, 1963-1966
In November 1963, African American parents in the small city of Chester, PA organized and demanded better conditions at their local elementary school, Franklin School. They picketed the school and blocked its doors, successfully shutting it down for several days. The protesters also staged sit-ins in the City Hall, municipal building, and the Board of Education's offices. After several weeks of protest, the campaign grew to encompass desegregation efforts of 10 of Chester's public elementary and middle schools.
On Friday, February 15, 1963, the student-led Civic Interest Group (CIG) began a demonstration against Northwood Theater in Baltimore, Maryland. The ultimately successful demonstration took place in the context of a longer history of protests against the cinema’s white-only policy. Students, mostly from Morgan State College, had picketed the Theater many times over the course of the previous eight years. Student demonstrations organized by student council occurred annually.
In the United States of America, the 1950s saw the emergence of key individuals in the building of the civil rights movement. The struggle for African Americans against their country’s institutionalized racism was highlighted by moments like Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. A preacher by the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of nonviolence in his people’s fight for equality. But at the turn of the decade, the civil rights movement trended a different way.
While the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled against denying citizens from participation in elections, de facto racism in the country’s South kept countless African Americans from casting votes well into the 20th century. Despite the fact that African Americans represented roughly 70% of Fayette County, Tennessee’s population in 1960, before 1959 fewer than a dozen had voted. In contrast to other southern states, Tennessee had none of the poll taxes or literacy tests that would formally restrict voting. James F.