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.
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.
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
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.
In 1966, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing in the Southern and Eastern parts of the United States, but it was just beginning to reach Seattle, Washington. De facto segregation in housing meant that the public schools were effectively segregated as well, with North End schools serving predominantly white students, and South End schools serving predominantly African-American and Asian-American students.
In 1968, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing in the Southern and Eastern parts of the United States, but it was just beginning to reach Seattle, Washington. Buoyed by a series of speeches given by Stokely Carmichael, a group of black students from the University of Washington founded a Black Student Union (BSU), to advocate for the rights of black students at the university and area high schools.
The 1960s was a time of national turmoil for the civil rights of African-Americans, and Seattle was no exception. However, up until 1968, Seattle’s civil rights movement was subdued, compared to the fervor and tension of campaigns in other cities.
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.
Cecil B. Moore, the prominent African American civil rights activist and criminal defense attorney, ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 1967. As part of his campaign, Moore supported the demands of Philadelphia's African American students and parents who called for changes to school district policy. These changes included new courses in African American history and the allowance of African American students to wear traditional African clothing in school.
In 1962, in response to growing recognition of de facto segregation of public schools and housing availability, the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) was founded in Chicago. This council included the Chicago Urban League, the Chicago NAACP, and the Woodlawn Organization. CCCO elected Albert (Al) Raby, a local teacher, to organize and convene the group. In 1965, Mr. Raby invited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to tour Chicago and witness the spatial segregation of this northern city.
In 1955, before the sit-in campaign in Rock Hill, South Carolina even began, Rock Hill’s St. Anne School desegregated in compliance with the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. In 1957, Rev. Cecil Ivory (who would later become a leader in the sit-in campaign), led a bus boycott that put the Rock Hill bus company out of business. Sit-ins elsewhere, including in nearby Charlotte (see “University students campaign for racial integration in Charlotte, NC, 1960”), helped start Rock Hill’s own sit-in campaign. Sit-in protests lasted throughout the entire year.
In 1960, almost 40% of New Orleans' population was African American. The city's main shopping avenue was Canal Street, where all stores were white-owned, predominantly Christian, had segregated facilities, and didn't serve blacks at lunch counters. The second busiest shopping avenue was Dryades Street, where the stores were also white-owned, but store patrons were almost all black. Blacks could use the facilities, but were not employed in the stores aside from an occasional janitor.
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.
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.
Up until 1961, the extent of the civil rights movement in Albany, Georgia had been limited to small student groups refusing to obey segregation laws; however, with the arrival of a prominent civil rights group the community would be energized. Albany, Georgia was chosen by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to conduct voter registration drives and SNCC arrived in September 1961 to begin the challenging process of mobilizing support and excitement around their cause.
During a period of five months in the spring of 1960, students and adults in Charlotte, North Carolina, participated in the sit-in movement to protest segregation. It was an attempt to end racial segregation in the public facilities in the city of Charlotte. The city government was the opposition.
Throughout most of the U.S. civil rights campaigns of the 1950s, Baton Rouge, Louisiana remained quiet. The city of “broad avenues and tree-lined streets” (Sinclair 1998) remained fully segregated despite movements towards desegregation in neighboring states. However, at the beginning of 1960, when university students staged sit-ins at lunch counters across the south, students at Baton Rouge’s Southern University took notice. Southern University, a black university on the edge of the city, became home to the main civil rights campaign in Baton Rouge.
By the beginning of the 1960s the Civil Rights Movement had taken hold of the United States, where black Americans had been treated unjustly since they first arrived in the nation. During the Civil Rights Movement, black communities all throughout the US South rose up in protest against the segregationist policies that kept them in systematically separate and insufficient living arrangements, a world away from the “separate but equal” treatment promised them by the 14 amendment and its interpretation in the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson.
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 1963 a long-distance peace march demanding U.S. foreign policy change got caught in the wave of civil rights campaigns in the southern United States. Beginning on May 26, 1963, the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), a racially integrated group of social activists left Quebec City, Canada on their Quebec-Washington-Guantanamo Walk for Peace to protest the United States' policy toward Cuba.
By the late 1950s, civil rights activists were becoming frustrated with the slow pace of desegregation and integration in southern towns and businesses. Youth especially were impatient with white resistance and black adult leadership and urged organizations to adopt more active and militant strategies. In the spring of 1960, these students took matters into their own hands and started a movement that spread through not only North Carolina, but throughout the entire Jim Crow South as well.
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 April 3, 1963, several black integrationists belonging to the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) entered the Briling Cafeteria in Birmingham and sat at the white’s only lunch counter to request service. When they were refused service, these members staged a sit-in. The ACMHR had struggled to desegregate the lunch counter and bring about equal employment opportunities in all sectors for black citizens in Birmingham for seven long years.
St. Paul’s College is a historically African American college in Lawrenceville, a town in rural Virginia. Although Lawrenceville was a predominantly African American town, segregation laws persisted. In 1960 only 750 of the 17,000 African Americans in the town paid their poll tax and registered to vote. The town lacked a branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a black lawyer, or a black bondsman.