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.
Jacksonville, Florida, in 1960 was a city with a population of about 372,600, located in the northeast corner of the state. Of that population, nearly 100,000, or 27%, were African Americans—one of the highest urban concentrations of African Americans in the South. However, despite this high population, a legal mandate segregated the lunch-counters of various downtown department stores. Mayor Haydon Burns endorsed the segregation, telling storeowners not to integrate, despite the fact that they were not all adverse to integration.
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 Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, Jim Crow laws were in widespread effect. Though the African-American Civil Rights Movement had led to some successful desegregation (notably within the school system thanks to Brown v. Board and Swann v. Charlotte), “separate but equal” was still the norm with respect to the vast majority of businesses in Greensboro, and the rest of the South.
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.
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.
The mass demonstrations of 1963 in Durham were the culmination of a local black freedom movement that had slowly gained momentum over the preceding years. Durham had been the site of a thwarted sit-in at the Royal Ice Cream Parlor in 1957, limited desegregation of schools, and the long-standing lunch-counter sit-ins in 1960 (see “Durham students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960”). Throughout the next few years, civil rights activists continued to attack segregation in theaters, schools, motels, and restaurants as well as demand increased employment opportunities for blacks.
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.
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 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.
Even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, most African Americans in the southern United States were still unable to vote because of registration requirements such as literacy tests and slow registration processes. In Selma, Alabama the registration office was open only two days a month and could only process 15 registrations for each of these days. This was not nearly enough to register the 15,000 black citizens of voting age in the county.
Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society fights for greater representation and support services, 1968-1969
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.
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.
In the early 1960’s, student-led sit-ins were a prominent scene in the United States Civil Rights Movement. The success of a sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina (see “Greensboro, NC, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960”) began a wave of action in college campuses throughout the South. One of the many areas inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins was Atlanta, Georgia.