U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)

Black high school students sit-in, desegregate public libraries in Danville, VA, 1960.

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

Black students of Concord, N.C. sit-in for U.S. civil rights, 1960

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

Students and allies force racial integration of Glen Echo Park, MD, 1960-1961

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

High Point students protest for theater integration, 1960-1964

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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 high school students sit-in for U.S. civil rights, 1960

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

Civil Rights activists campaign against de facto segregation in Milwaukee schools, 1964-1966

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

Poor People's Campaign demands federal intervention to end poverty, 1968

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

U.S. civil rights activists occupy Wisconsin State Capitol to demand human rights act, 1961

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

Austin, TX, U.S. students sit-in for desegregated lunch counters (Austin Movement), 1959-1961

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

Freedom Summer campaign for African American voting rights in Mississippi, 1964

U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
 

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.

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