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

Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society fights for greater representation and support services, 1968-1969

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

The first attempt by an African American to enroll in Swarthmore College was 1905 when the admissions committee mistakenly admitted a light-skinned black student thinking he was white. Upon discovering his race the college withdrew its acceptance. The next attempt was not made until 1932 when a black student from Philadelphia High School applied to Swarthmore College. The admission’s committee decision was that, as a co-educational institution, Swarthmore College was not yet prepared to admit African American students.

Baltimore students demonstrate to integrate Northwood Theater, 1963

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

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.

Jackson, Tennessee students campaign for U.S. civil rights, 1960-1961

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

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.

African Americans sit-in against segregation at Royal Ice Cream Parlor in Durham, N.C., 1957

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

In the 1950’s, Durham North Carolina was like most cities in the South: hot and segregated. At the time, the civil rights movement was already polarizing the nation, with the Montgomery bus boycotts in 1955 bringing to prominence such names as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks (see “African Americans boycott buses for integration in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., 1955-1956”). In Mississippi, the brutal murder of Emmett Till that same year became an archetype of the horrendous nature of southern racism at its most cruel. Amidst the violence and racial tension, Martin Luther King Jr.

Montgomery, Alabama students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960

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

The Montgomery, Alabama sit-ins took place during the era of Jim Crow laws in the southern United States. The first of the Supreme Court rulings against these laws – which are symbolized by the phrase “Separate but Equal” – took place in 1954, in the form of Brown v. Board of Education; in this ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that separate education facilities based on race were inherently discriminatory, putting minorities at a disadvantage compared to their white counterparts.

African Americans campaign for desegregation of department store eating facilities in Kansas City, Missouri, 1958-59

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

By 1955 in Kansas City, most public facilities and privately owned businesses were desegregated. However, a report by William Gremley of the Human Relations Commission (HRC) identified the problem and criticized the practice of segregated eating establishments as harmful to race relations, unethical, and unattractive to prospective conventions and foreign dignitaries. In March 1957, Gremley attempted to address this issue and meet with William G. Austin, manager of the KC Merchants' Association, but Austin never followed through.

Fayette County, TN, African Americans form tent city for U.S. voting rights, 1960-1962

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

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.

African Americans of Florida Parishes, Louisiana, demand civil rights protection, 1967

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

Despite passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, several outrageous incidents over the following two years demonstrated the double standard of justice for blacks and whites. Blacks were brutally attacked, murdered, and targeted in an attempted church burning, all of which resulted either in no prosecution or acquittal by an all-white jury. In 1967, the Florida Parishes of Louisiana still remained an active stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan.

Black activists, determined to carry on with their struggle for equality, decided to march straight through Klan territory.

Louisville NAACP and CORE activists campaign for open accommodations, Kentucky, 1961

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

In the late 1950s, Louisville, Kentucky, became known as a regional leader in race relations due to the passage of peaceful school integration laws in 1956. Although laws targeting segregation had been passed, Louisville’s public accommodations continued to be segregated. This persistence of inequality between the African Americans and the European Americans spurred much protest in the black community, especially among youth.

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

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

Young people powered a major part of the civil rights movement in the United States. In particular, sit-ins proved to be a powerful tool that students across the country utilized. One of the biggest student sit-ins took place in Baltimore in 1960. The goal of the sit-in was to desegregate department store restaurants. Despite only lasting three weeks, the campaign was very successful.

Syndicate content