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

U.S. civil rights activists campaign for federal government action, 1957-63

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

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, MD, "Freedom Riders" campaign against racial segregation, 1962

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

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.

Oklahoma City African Americans sit-in for integration, 1958-64

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

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.

African Americans boycott buses for integration in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., 1955-1956

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

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.

Memphis, Tennessee, sanitation workers strike, 1968

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

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.

Wichita students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1958

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

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.

Tallahassee, Florida, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960

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

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.

Tallahassee black community boycotts buses for desegregation, 1956-57

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

On May 27, 1956, Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, two female students at all-black Florida A+M University in Tallahassee, Florida, paid their ten-cent fares and boarded a segregated city bus. They sat in seats normally occupied by white people, because the back of the bus, where black patrons were expected to sit, was very crowded. When the driver asked them to move, they refused, citing the standing-room only conditions of the back of the bus, and their own fatigue. They offered to leave if their fares were refunded.

Orangeburg, South Carolina, students sit-in for U.S. civil rights, 1960

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

In 1960, Orangeburg, South Carolina was a town of 13,852 people. Although the African-American population numbered only around 5,000 and declining, racial tension in the town was high due to a series of protests and boycotts in 1955-56. Two all-black colleges, South Carolina State College (SCSC) and Claflin College, were home to plenty of potential activists. When students in Greensboro sat-in for racial integration on February 1, students in Orangeburg eagerly followed suit. They formed the Orangeburg Student Movement Association (OSMA) to coordinate actions between

College of the Holy Cross students campaign against war and racism, 1968-1969

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

Similar to action taken on college and university campuses throughout the 1960s in the United States, students at the College of the Holy Cross also took a stand against the Vietnam War. Students first organized to protest the presence of recruiters for Dow Chemical Company (a manufacturer of napalm) in O’Kane Hall on campus in January 1968.

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