Blacks and the way from slavery to freedom

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2001

21 Pages

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3. THE CIVIL WAR (1861-1865)

4.1. The Ku-Klux-Klan
4.2. No Votes, No Rights, No Equality

5.1. Early black resistance to segregation
5.2. Laughing - in spite of crying
5.3. World War I
5.4. The 1930s

6.1. Education and Early Life
6.2. The Evolution of The Dream

7.1. The Montgomery Bus Boycott
7.2. School Segregation - Little Rock, Arkansas
7.3. Foundation and Organisation of the "Southern Christian Leadership Conference" (SCLC)
7.4. Sit-ins
7.5. Freedom Rides
7.6. The Albany Freedom Movement
7.7. "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
7.8. The March on Washington
7.9. Selma Marches


9.1. A new Political Movement
9.2. Malcolm X
9.3. The Black Panther Party



,,I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. [...] I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi - a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression - will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. [...] I have a dream that one day my four children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.[...] This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, ´My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing, land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.´ [...] And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and while men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of an old Negro spiritual, ´free at last! free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!`" (Martin Luther King's ,,I have a Dream" speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in August 1963)


The ancestors of today's black Americans were captured by white slave traders, or bought from African chiefs, and taken to America by force. In the 15th century, the Portuguese were the first whites in modern times to use Africans as slaves, but very soon other European nations, such as the French, the Dutch and the English, followed. By the 18th century the English, with John Hawkins as the first English Sea Captain to buy and sell slaves in 1564, had become the world's biggest slave-traders. In the 16th century, the main market for slaves was in the West Indies, where more than 10.000 Africans were sold to the colonists from Europe per year. In 1607, the first English colony in North America was established at Jamestown, Virginia, and 12 years later the first African ,,servants" arrived there. The ocean crossing took several weeks, and almost 15 out of 100 slaves died on the way as a result of the cruel circumstances of transportation. The slave trade in America increased very quickly because of the vast development of farms and plantations growing tobacco, rice, sugar-cane and later cotton. An increasing number of labourers were needed, and the colonists found it difficult to make enough Indians work for them; besides that, importing slaves from Africa was not only easier but also cheaper. Although it was mainly the South of the United States, with its agriculture, that needed slave workers, people in the North also took financial advantage of slavery by building slave ships; another aspect was, that the slaves were usually "uploaded" in the ports of Boston, Mass. and Newport, R.I. The white colonists did not think of their slaves as human beings, they treated them in the same way they treated animals or even worse, justifying their behaviour by saying that, because Africans were not Christians, they were no different from dogs. Even though they were cheap to buy, slaves were worth a fortune - because of their work, America's production of cotton went up from 1.5 million pounds in 1790 to 1.000 million in 1860, and the U.S. cotton trade with European factories increased rapidly. The American colonists oppressed the blacks wherever they could: slaves were not allowed to speak their native languages, play drums or hold "secret" meetings, because their "owners" were afraid they would use the opportunity to plan a revolt or discuss how to escape - and they were forbidden to practice their African religions. Instead, they were forced to give up all religion completely, or, on some plantations, become Christians.2Some examples of slave laws in Virginia: · 1642 A slave who runs away for a second time will be branded in the face with the letter "R". · 1699 For stealing a pig, the punishment is 30 lashes. If it is the second time, the slave will stand in the pillory with both ears nailed to it. At the end of two hours, the ears will be cut off near the nails. · 1705 Negroes, Mulattos, Indians or other Non-Christians cannot be witness in any court. · 1785 Any person with one-fourth or more Negro blood will be treated as a Negro. · 1848 For talking to a white in an angry or dangerous way, the punishment is 39 lashes. · 1848 For going to - or teaching at - a meeting at which slaves learn how to read and write, the punishment is 39 lashes.3

3. THE CIVIL WAR (1861-1865)

In the late 1770s, during the war of Independence against England, the Northern states began to abolish slavery, but because the new federal government consisted of both northerners and pro- slavery southerners, a law to free all slaves in the United States could not be passed. In order to stop all the blacks in the South from escaping to the ,,free" North the federal government set up special fugitive slave laws, according to which a runaway slave could be re-captured in the North and taken back. Nevertheless, by using Underground Railroads and with the help of whites who were against slavery, more and more slaves managed to escape and start a new and free life.4 Some laws referring to whites: · 1705 Any white who marries a Negro will be sent to prison for six months · 1829 Any white helping a slave to escape will go to prison for 3-12 months ·

1817 Any white who encourages slaves to rebel will be hanged · 1836 Any white coming into Virginia to work for the abolition of slavery will go to prison for 6-36 months · 1856 Any white helping a slave to escape will be sent to prison for 5-10 years · 1860 Any white helping a slave to escape will be sent to prison for 20 years5The American colonists won their war of Independence against England, and they were proud of their ,,Declaration of Independence", written in 1776, which emphasised that ,,all men are created equal". However, this referred only to men who were white, not to blacks. By 1800, slavery had almost completely died out in the industrial areas of the North, while in the rural South it kept growing: over 90 per cent of black Americans were still slaves. During the first half of the 19th century, more and more Northerners felt that slavery could be abolished throughout the whole country, but the southerners disagreed because the enormous amount of work done for them by the slaves was considered a necessary part of the economy. By 1861 the number of slaves had risen to more than four million. In Virginia, out of a total population of 1.596.318 almost 500.000 were slaves. Altogether, a quarter of the eight million while families in the South were slave-holders. In 1819 Missouri was taken into the Southern Union as a state of slave-holders, but Missouri was northern of a certain line separating the North and the South, the so-called "Missouri Compromise Line", therefore it belonged to the northerners. At that time a law was passed which permitted slavery only southern of the historical Missouri Compromise Line. Congress decided to accept Missouri as a part of the Southern Union, but, in return, Maine was given to the North. 30 years later, the United States won their war against Mexico; this victory added many new areas to the Union, because the new land lay mainly southern of the Missouri Compromise Line: states such as Texas, New Mexico, California and Utah. Then, the North demanded not to allow slavery in these new states, but as a sign of self-defence, the Union would not give in. The country split up into two enemy parties: The Abolitionists in the north and the Unionists in the South. When the southerners began to speak of separation, all hopes of a compromise were destroyed. War broke out on April 12th, 1861 in Fort Sumpter, close to the coast of South Carolina, because 11 states in the South had split themselves off from the Union, with Jefferson Davis being their "President". Although Abraham Lincoln, the new U.S. President, called their action illegal, most of the northern states joined the "Confederate States of America", as they were called, founded by South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. North Carolina was the last state to move to the "Confederate States of America". In September of 1862, President Lincoln wrote the "Emancipation Proclamation", which declared that slaves in the rebellious states were to be emancipated from slavery, whereas in the non-rebellious states, the practice was legal, because freeing the slaves was the last thing Lincoln wanted to do. He stated, "My paramount objective is to save the Union, and not either to save slavery or to destroy slavery If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it." After several battles, which caused many soldiers - blacks as well as whites - to be wounded or death, the war developed to a one-on-one fight between Robert E. Lee, the Unionist Leader, and Abraham Lincoln. About 180.000 blacks fought in the Union army - in separate, segregated regiments, and about 40.000 of them were killed. On both sides, more Americans died in this war than in World War I and World War II together. In April 1865, the war was over; and the South was defeated, or even worse: destroyed. This ended the bloodiest war in American history with more than half a million casualties, but also ended the bondage of four million blacks who had been enslaved, but lost their home and didn't know where to go. In February 1866, Congress passed a law to guarantee all blacks equal civil rights, and at the same time the removal of all limitations and restrictions for coloured people ("black codes") of the South. The blacks were given the political power in the South, and idealists in the North hoped this to be a sign for the equality of all human beings.6


4.1 The Ku-Klux-Klan

After the Civil War, a period of Reconstruction began in the South and lasted for twelve years, during which huge changes occurred, as far as the situation of blacks was concerned. In some states the black voters were in the majority, and as a result, a large number of black politicians were suddenly elected and a period of enormous progress for southern blacks in the field of Civil Rights started: they were free, they could vote, and they could be elected. Segregation, an attempt by white southerners to separate the races in every sphere of life and to achieve supremacy over the blacks, was often called the "Jim Crow System", after a minstrel show character from the 1830s who was an old, crippled, black slave who embodied negative stereotypes of blacks. Segregation became common after the Reconstruction period, and although slavery had been abolished, racial prejudice had increased; the southern whites were angry and bitter, because 160.000 of their friends and relatives had died in the war, they had lost their slaves, farms and jobs. Therefore their hatred of blacks grew. In 1877, a new President, Rutherford B. Hayes was elected and ordered the last federal soldiers to leave the South; this however was the moment white racists had been waiting for, because there was no longer anybody to protect the blacks. The Reconstruction government had passed laws opening up economic and political opportunities for blacks, but by 1877 the Democratic Party had gained control of government in the South and wanted to reverse black advanced made during Reconstruction. The northerners took over the conquered states, and the blacks were taken away all their political power including the right to vote. Once again the white predominance consolidated, and that state was to remain for decades. The whites began to pass local and state laws that specified certain places "For Whites Only" and others "For Coloured"; black children has to go to different schools, there were segregated means of transportation, restaurants and parks, many of which were poorly founded and inferior to those of whites. Over the next 75 years, Jim Crow signs went up to separate the races in every possible place. The Ku-Klux-Klan, and organisation of white racists who terrorised black fellow citizens, especially at night, was founded on December 24th, 1865 and still exists today. At the end of the Reconstruction period in 1877, the Klan increased its activities: its members decided to disturb, beat, torture and even lynch and "foreigner" who couldn't prove his Anglo-Saxon origin; these "foreigners" were Jews, Catholics and, most important, "Niggers". The number of Afro-Americans who were killed by lynching in the U.S.A. from 1900-1925: · 1900: 115 people · 1905: 62 people · 1910: 76 people · 1915: 69 people · 1920: 61 people · 1925: 17 people. By 1924, the Klan had more than five million members, and until 1930 it had established a grotesque system of terror in the southern part of the United States of America. The radical moral and ethical attitude of the Klan in combination with its cruelty reminds of the fascistic organisations in Europe, which came up at the same time. Sadism, oppressed aggression, and hatred raged against the weakest ones of society. A Klan ritual which was supposed to frighten and deter people was expressed by burning crosses, erected on higher situated plains at night, and by white hoods, under whose cover the members wanted to stay anonymous and appear "clean". The Klan tried to gain political influence in Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, but when one of its leaders, called "The Dragon", was arrested because of corruption and rape, the Ku-Klux-Klan lost followers, and by 1930 the number of supporters had sunk to approximately 10.000. The formation of the Ku-Klux-Klan was a horrible expression of the bitter fight between reactionary groups of people supporting the "Old America" and the modernisation of the new culture of the 1920s.7

4.2 No Votes, No Rights, No Equality

The Ku-Klux-Klan and similar groups denied most blacks their voting rights, known as disfranchisement. Between 1890 and 1910, all southern states passed laws imposing requirements for voting that were used to prevent blacks from voting, in spite of the 15th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which had been designed to protect black voting rights. These requirements included: · The ability to read and write, which was tested by the "literacy test", disqualified many coloured who had not had access to education; · Property ownership, something only few blacks were able to acquire; · The "Grandfather Clause", a rule allowing people to vote only if their parents or grandparents had been allowed to vote · Paying a poll tax, which was too great a burden on most southern blacks, who were very poor As a consequence, black politicians were gradually replaced by whites both in Congress and in the individual state government, particularly in the Deep South, i.e. in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. In this way the whites took back all political power in the southern states in less than 20 years, and blacks were virtually powerless to prevent whites from segregating all aspect of life. They could do little to stop discrimination in public accommodations, education, economic opportunities or housing, and their ability to struggle for equality was even undermined by the prevalent Jim Crow signs, which constantly reminded blacks of their inferior status in Southern society. Blacks fought against discrimination whenever possible: in the late 1800s, blacks even sued in court to stop separate seating in railroad cars, states' disfranchisement of voters and denial of access to schools and restaurants. One of these cases against segregated rail travel was Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that "separate but equal" accommodations were constitutional. In fact, separate was almost never equal, but the Plessy doctrine provided constitutional protection for segregation for the next 50 years, and from this time until the 1950s and 1960s the whites majority made sure that the facilities for blacks were, in fact, separate and unequal. Conditions for blacks in northern states were somewhat better, even though up to 1910 only about ten per cent of former slaved lived in the North, and prior to World war II (1939-1945), very few backs lived in the West. Blacks were usually free to vote in the North but there were so few of them that their voices were barely heard. Though segregated facilities were not as common as in the South, blacks were usually denied entrance to the best hotels and restaurants, and schools in the Midwest were generally not integrated, in contrary to New England schools.


5.1 Early black resistance to segregation

To protest segregation, blacks created new nation organisations: the National Afro-American League was formed in 1890, followed by the Niagara-Movement in 1905, and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 1909. In 1910, the Urban League was founded by social workers with the goal ease black migration from the southern states to big cities in the North, where a better and fairer treatment was to expect, and therefore make the transition to urban, industrial life. The NAACP became one of the most important black protest organisations of the 20thcentury, relying mainly on a legal strategy that challenged segregation and discrimination in courts to obtain equal treatment for blacks. An early leader of the NACCP was the historian and sociologist W.E.B. DuBois, who, starting in 1910 made powerful arguments in favour of protesting segregation as editor of the NAACP magazine "The Crisis". NAACP lawyers won court victories over voter disfranchisement in 1915 and residential segregation in 1917, but failed to have lynching outlawed by Congress in the 1920s and 1930s. These cases laid the foundation for a legal and social challenge to segregation, although they did little to change everyday life. In 1935 Charles W. Houston, the NAACP's chief legal counsel, won the first Supreme Court case argued by exclusively black counsel representing the NAACP. This win invigorated the NAACP's legal efforts against segregation mainly by convincing courts that segregated facilities, especially schools, were not equal. In 1939 the NAAPC created a separate organisation called the "NAACP Legal Defence Fund", that had a non-profit, tax- exempt status which was denied to the NAACP because it lobbied the U.S. Congress. Houston's chief aide and later his successor, Thurgood Marshall, a brilliant young lawyer who would become a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, began to challenge segregation as a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defence Fund.

5.2 Laughing - in spite of crying

For hundreds of years black Americans had to cope with inhuman, degrading treatment. In spite of this, and because of it, they developed a special kind of humour: they made jokes about their situation, because the ability to stand outside their lives for a moment, and laugh about it, helped them to keep their self-respect. Black American jokes can be very bitter, but they always make one thing clear: that blacks were not inferior to the whites - they were just being forced to play and inferior role. "I remember the first time I was in the South. I went into this restaurant, and this waitress said: `We don't serve coloured people here` I said: `That's all right, I don't want to eat any` (Dick Gregory, comedian and civil rights worker) A white man wanted to cross a river that was wide and deep. So he took out his gun and his whip, jumped on a black man's back, and said: "Swim!" The black man started to swim, but the river was so fast and there was such a strong wind, so he said: "I don't think I can make it , Sir." The white man said: "Of course you can make it." And he beat the black with his whip. When they reached the other side, the black man expected a reward, but t he white man said: "Why? Without my help you'd never have made it!" (Whitney Young, civil rights leader)

5.3 World War I

When World War I (1914-1918) began, blacks enlisted to fight for their country, even though black soldiers were segregated, denied the opportunity to be leaders, and were subjected to racism within the armed forces. During the war, hundreds of thousands of Southern blacks migrated northward in 1916 and 1917 to take advantage of job openings created by the war in Northern cities, such as Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Cleveland and Indianapolis, or Los Angeles and San Francisco in the West. Along with this great migration, which continued into the 1950s, blacks in both the North and South became increasingly urbanised during the 20th century. In 1890, about 85 per cent of all Southern blacks lived in rural areas; by 1960 that percentage had decreased to about 42 per cent. In the North, about 95 per cent of all blacks lived in urban areas in 1960. The combination of the great migration and the urbanisation of blacks resulted in black communities in the North that had a strong political presence and began to exert pressure on politicians, voting for those who supported civil rights. These circumstances helped Southern blacks struggling against segregation by using political influence and money.

5.4 The 1930s

The Great Depression of the 1930s increased black protests against discrimination, especially in Northern Cities. Blacks protested the refusal of white-owned businesses inn all-black neighbourhoods, and a new organisation, the Congress of Racial Equality(CORE) was founded in 1942 to challenge segregation in public accommodations in the North. During the war, black newspapers campaigned for Double V, victories over both fascism in Europe and racism at home. The war experience gave about one million blacks the opportunity to fight racism in Europe and Asia, a fact that black veterans would remember during the struggle against racism at home after the war. Perhaps just as important, almost ten ties that many white Americans witnessed the patriotic service of blacks, so that many of them would object to the continued denial of civil rights to the men and women beside whom they had fought. After World War II the momentum for racial change went on: black soldiers returned home with the determination to have full civil rights. President Harry Truman ordered the final desegregation of the armed forces in 1948 and he also committed to a domestic civil rights policy favouring voting right and equal employment, but t he U.S. Congress rejected his proposals.


6.1 Education and Early Life

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, which had been founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s maternal grandfather. King Jr. was ordained as a Baptist minister at age 18. He attended local segregated schools, where he excelled, then he entered nearby Morehouse College at age 15 and graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1948. After graduating with honours from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, he went to Boston University where he earned a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955. King's public speaking abilities - which would become renowned as his stature grew in the civil rights movement - developed slowly during his collegiate years. He won a second-place prize in a speech contest while an undergraduate at Morehouse, but received Cs in two public-speaking courses a his first year at Crozer. Nevertheless, by the end of his third year at Crozer professors were praising King for the powerful impression he made in public speeches and discussions. Throughout his education, King was exposed to influences that related Christian theology to the struggles of oppressed peoples, for instance at Morehouse, Crozer, and Boston University, he studied the teachings on non-violent protest of Indian leader Gandhi, and read and heard the sermons of white Protestant ministers who preached against American racism. In 1954, King accepted his first pastorate at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, after marrying Coretta Scott, a music student and native of Alabama, who later gave birth to four children. After his assassination on April 4th, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, during a demonstration for badly paid workers, King became a symbol of protest in the struggle for racial justice.

6.2 The Evolution of The Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King was a man with a great dream and became the most important and famous figure in the American civil rights movement. Taking part in demonstrations throughout the United States, and expressing his philosophy based on the teachings of Jesus and the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, he dedicated his life to the improvement of African American life, and he continually made suggestions to help improve the relationship between blacks and whites within the American society. King was jailed several times, threatened, beaten, and a bomb attack was made on his house, but not once did he turn to violent actions. Instead of wasting his time telling people how to be hateful, he taught them how to protest non-violently, with love and peace being his main recommendations, and therefore, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King wanted everybody to be classified as a human being, he wanted the races to come together as one and work towards the same goal, which is for love and peace for everyone, no mater what skin color, origin, or physical limitation. Out of many inspirational speeches King wrote during his lifetime, his most memorable one was the "I have a Dream" speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28th, 1963, in front of a crowd of 250.000 people, although never before had white America accepted a prescheduled Negro event for national attention. The White House prepared for the worst with 4.000troops in the suburbs and 15.000 paratroopers ready to provide backup from North Carolina. Being introduced as "the moral leader of our nation", and with his prepared seven minute oration in his hand, King preached "We will not be satisfied until justice runs down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." One particular section of the speech specifically outlined his dream for the improvement of the relation between blacks and whites: his dream of America upholding its own standards of every man being equal, his dream of former slaves and former slave-owners sitting down together at the table of brotherhood, and his dream of his children being judged by their character and not the colour of their skin. King believed racism could be broken through, but he knew it would take all of American society joined together to accomplish it.


7.1 The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Montgomery, Alabama, a city of 70.000 white and 50.000 black inhabitants, was a symbol for the "caste-class-system" in the U.S.A. Its black community had long lasting grievances about the mistreatment of blacks on city buses, because they were treated rudely by many white bus drivers, often cursing them and humiliating them by enforcing the city's segregation laws, which forced black riders, who represented over 70 per cent of the people riding public buses, to sit in the back and give up their seats to white passengers on crowded buses. By the early 1950s Montgomery's blacks had discussed boycotting the buses in an effort to gain better treatment - but not necessarily to end segregation. On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks, a leading member of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), was ordered by a bus driver to give up her seat to a white passenger; when she refused, she was arrested and taken to jail. Local leaders of the NAACP, especially Edgar D. Nixon, recognised that the arrest of the popular and highly respected Parks was the event that could rally local blacks to a bus protest, and he also believed that a city-wide protest should be led by someone who could unify the community. Unlike himself and other leaders in Montgomery's black community, the recently arrived Martin Luther King had no enemies, and furthermore, Nixon saw King's public-speaking gifts as great assets for the battle of civil rights in Montgomery, therefore King was soon chosen as president of the "Montgomery Improvement Association" (MIA), the organisation that directed the bus boycott. The boycott lasted for more than a year, demonstrating a new spirit of protest among southern blacks. King's serious demeanour and consistent appeal to Christian brotherhood and American idealism made a positive impression on whites outside the South. Incidents of violence against black protestors, including the bombing of King's home on December 30th, 1956, focused media attention on Montgomery. "If I am stopped, this movement will not stop", he told a crowd after his house was bombed. "If I am stopped, our work will not stop, for what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just - and God is with us." In February 1956 an attorney for the MIA filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction against Montgomery's segregated seating practices, with the result that the federal court ruled in favour of the MIA, ordering the city's buses to be desegregated, but the city government appealed the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. By the time the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision in November 1956 and declared discrimination on public buses to be against the Constitution, King had become a national figure, and his reward of the bus boycott, "Stride Toward Freedom"(1958), provided a thoughtful account of that experience and further extended his national influence. His eloquent appeals to Christian brotherhood and American idealism created a positive impression on people both inside and outside the South. On December 21st, 1956, King and Rev. Glen Smiley, a white minister, shared the front seat of a public bus after 381 days of courageous protesting. Yet Parks had started far more than a bus boycott, because other cities followed Montgomery's example and were protesting their segregation laws. The civil rights movement was underway!

7.2 School Segregation - Little Rock, Arkansas

In the summer of 1957, the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, made plans to desegregate its public schools. Arkansas' law school had been integrated since 1949, and by 1957, seven of its eight state universities had desegregated; consequently, blacks had been appointed to state boards and elected to local offices. After having desegregated its public buses, as well as its zoo, library and public parks, Little Rock felt it could break down the barriers of segregation in its schools with a carefully developed program. Its school board had voted unanimously for a plan, starting with desegregation in the high school in 1957, followed by junior high schools the next year and elementary schools following, but the plan didn't work out and the smooth transition to the school system's integration was not to be. On September 2nd, the night before the school was to start, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the state's National Guard to surround Little Rock central High School and prevent any black students from entering in order to protect citizens and property from possible violence by protesters he claimed were headed in caravans toward Little Rock, but a federal judge granted injunction against the Governor's use of National Guard troops to counteract integration and they were withdrawn on September 20th. When school resumed on Monday, September 23rd, Central High was surrounded by policemen and about 1.000 people gathering around the school building, while the police escorted nine black students to a side door where quietly entered. When the crowd discovered that the blacks were inside, they began to challenge the police and surge toward the school with shouts and threats. Fearful the police would be unable to control the crowd, the school administration moved the black students out a side door before noon. U.S Congressman Brooks Hays and Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann asked the federal government for help, first in the form of the U.S. marshals. Finally, on September 24th, Mann sent a telegram to President Eisenhower requesting troops. When Eisenhower heard the news from Little Rock, he immediately ordered hundreds of federal soldiers to protect the nine black pupils, not only to make sure that they could attend their school safely, but also to encourage other blacks throughout the U.S.A. to feel more optimistic about their future. On September 25th, the nine black students entered the school under the protection of 1.000 members of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. The year that followed was one in which the eyes of the world were focused on America as little Rock Central High School went through its first year of integration, ending on May 27th, 1958, with commencement ceremonies for 601 graduating seniors, including Ernest Green, the school's first black graduate. Inside the school, the great majority of the 2.000 students, the faculty and the administration worked to put the law of the land into effect., and though not all the white students and their families favoured desegregation, they felt it was their duty to obey the law. However, in many states progress came slowly. By the end of 1961 the schools and universities of Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina still remained 100 per cent segregated, and by autumn 1966, no more than ten per cent of black pupils in the Deep South were going to school with whites.15Several reasons why black parents wanted their children to be educated in a desegregated school were: "I want my kids to learn what my momma had us learn in the 1930s - that the whited were no smarter or dumber than we were. Once we had learned that, then we weren't afraid of them any more. My kids can't get that in a segregated school." (father of three children, Brooklyn, 1975) "Before the white kids came, it was a terrible school. But when the white kids came, money started coming in for equipment and stuff. Before, we didn't even have a basketball, we didn't have nothing. This year, every month we were going on trips. Last year we never went on a trip at all." (a black pupil, Boston, 1975)16

7.3 Foundation and Organisation of the "Southern Christian Leadership Conference" (SCLC)

Martin Luther King became the president of the "Southern Christian Leadership Conference"(SCLC) when it was founded in 1957, an organisation of black churches and ministers, who sought to complement NAACP legal strategy - to dismantle segregation through the courts - by encouraging the use of non-violent, direct action, such as marches, demonstrations and boycotts. The violent white response to black direct action eventually forced the federal government to confront the issues of injustice and racism in the South. SCLC's greatest contribution to the civil rights movement was a series of highly publicised protest campaigns to in Southern cities during the early 1960s. These protests were intended to create such public disorder that local white officials and business leaders would end segregation in order to restore normal business activity. The demonstrations required the mobilisation of hundreds, even thousands, of protestors who were willing to participate in protest marches as long as necessary to achieve their goal and who were also willing to be arrested and sent to jail.17

7.4 Sit-ins

On February 1st, 1960, the first spontaneous "sit-in" in history took place, which was to be followed by many others: in a "whites only" lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, black university students demanded to be served. When this wish was rejected and they were ordered to leave, they refused to do so and simply remained sitting at the bar. After two weeks, the sit-in movement had spread to several southern states, and although they had been started by Negro students, they were also influenced by Martin Luther King's activities. In the next two months, similar sit-ins, where protestors "sat" in segregated facilities, occurred in 54 cities in nine states. Young people throughout the South were impressed by the bus boycott in Montgomery and admired this lecture about the practical and emotional advantages of direct action, which expressed the justifiable dissatisfaction of the "Niggers". The SCLC gained new members and organised sit-ins in Nashville, Tallahassee and Montgomery. When King took part in a student sit-in in Atlanta, he was arrested , but this direct engagement of his was an exception, because he spent most of his time on lectures, speeches and conferences. In April 1960 the SCLC held a conference on the student sit-in leaders in Raleigh, North Carolina, after Ella Baker, a long-time promoter of community-based civil rights activism in the South, had called on the young protestors to gather for a conference to discuss ways to co-ordinate their efforts and broaden the agenda of sit-ins to include fighting all forms of segregation. As a consequence, one month later these students founded the "Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee" (SNCC), an organisation similar to but independent from the SCLC, whose goal it was to establish a "democracy without racial segregation". Although it was composed of fewer than 200 primarily black college students, SNCC's influence was widely felt because of its members' courage in challenging segregation in the Deep South.

7.5 Freedom Rides

1961, members of the "Congress of Racial Equality" (CORE) organised so-called "Freedom Rides", where racial integrated groups, black and white, of educated supporters of non-violent action travelled by bus through several southern states in order to test the observance and effectiveness of laws against racial segregation in public transportation. The decision had declared that segregation was illegal in bus stations that were open to interstate travel. The Freedom Rides began in Washington, D.C., with 13 people, seven of them black along a route through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Except for some violence in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the trip southward was peaceful until they reached Alabama, where violence erupted: at Anniston one bus was burned and some riders were beaten, various Freedom Riders were also beaten by white mobs in Montgomery, Alabama; subject to an all-night siege in a black Baptist church in Montgomery; arrested in Jackson, Mississippi; or imprisoned for more than a month at Mississippi state penitentiary. Along the way, some Freedom Riders left, others joined; King only played a passive role in these actions, but took over the role of the moral and ethical lawyer of the freedom riders and financed the rides with the help of SCLC means.

Freedom rides as well as sit-ins brought many new members to the civil rights organisations in the South, because they demonstrated to the American public hoe far civil rights workers would go to achieve their goals and therefore, five years after the bus boycott, the SCLC seemed to be in a position to carry out bigger actions.

7.6 The Albany Freedom Movement

In December 1961, King and his followers went to Albany, Georgia, a town of 37.000 white and 19.000 black citizens, to support the local civil rights movement and to join demonstrations against segregated public accommodations - without forcing negotiations to end segregation - with their first SCLC direct-action campaign. The demands which the "Albany Movement" made to the city's public authority were very modest: desegregation of train stations and formation of a permanent black and white committee. The blacks wanted to force the white segregationists to concessions by boycotting buses and shopping centres, but offended against their principal of non-violent action, because they caused the bankrupt of the bus company and thus destroyed the enemy's living instead of giving him the opportunity to adjust to a new social system. The presence of SCLC and King escalated the Albany protests by bringing national attention and additional people to the demonstrations, and because they created a lot of dissent and disorder. During months of protest, Albany's police chief continued to jail hundreds of demonstrators without a visible police violence, until eventually the protesters' energy as well as the money to bail them out ran out, so that the Albany protests ended in failure.

7.7 "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

By April of 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, had become a national example of racial tension.

During the "Project C" (c = confrontation) in Birmingham, when SCLC joined a local protest during the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King was arrested and sentenced to a nine-day jail term. It was during that time that King wrote his essay "Letter from Birmingham Jail" to describe his concerns for the laws of America and his hope for justice for black Americans: "We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters,; when you have seen the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you just seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to coloured children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people... - then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait."

7.8 The March on Washington

After the campaign in Birmingham, within ten weeks more than 750 civil rights demonstrations took place in 186 locations in the U.S.A. The leaders of the SCLC, CORE, SNCC, NAACP and Urban League planed a march to protest against black unemployment and to expedite the development of civil rights legislation by keeping pressure on the Kennedy Administration and the Congress. On August 28th, King delivered the keynote address to an audience of more than 200.000 civil rights supporters; his "I have a Dream" speech in front of the giant sculpture of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, expressed the hopes and ideals of the civil rights movement in oratory as moving as any in American history. The speech and the march built on the Birmingham demonstrations to create the political momentum that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited segregation in public accommodations, as well as discrimination in education and employment. It also gave the executive branch of government the power to enforce the act's provisions.

7.9 Selma Marches

In 1965 SCLC joined a voting rights protest march that was planned to go from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery, which was more than 50 miles away. The goal of the march was to draw national attention to the struggle of black voting rights in the state. Policemen beat and tear-gassed the marches just outside of Selma, and televised scenes of the violence, on a day that came to be known as "Bloody Sunday", resulted in an outpouring of support to continue the march. Two weeks after Bloody Sunday, more than 3.000 people, including a core of 300 marchers who would make the entire trip, set out toward Montgomery, after SCLC had received a federal court order barring police from interfering with a renewed march.


The march created support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in August, and which suspended and later banned the use of literacy tests and other voter qualifications that had been used to keep blacks off of voting lists. The act included eleven titles that covered a variety of issues. The most significant titles were: · I. Outlaws arbitrary discrimination in voter registration and expedites voting rights suits; · II. Bars discrimination in public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants; · III. & IV. Authorized the national government to bring suits to desegregate public facilities and schools; · V. Extends the life and expands the power of the Civil Rights Commission; · VI. Provides for federal financial assistance to be terminated or withheld from educational institutions and programs that practice racial discrimination; · VII. Prohibits private employers from refusing to hire or from firing or discriminating against any person because of race, color, sex, religion, or nation origin. In the three years following the enactment, almost a million more blacks in the South registered to vote. By 1968 black voters were having a significant effect on Southern politics. During the 1970s blacks were seeking and winning public offices in majority-black electoral districts. After 1965, the focus of the civil rights movement began to change, because King began to focus on poverty and racial inequality in the North. At the same time, younger activists and challenged his leadership of the civil rights movement, criticising his interracial strategy and his appeals to more idealism; they no longer believed that appeals to idealism would cause whites to renounce racism. In 1965 King joined protests against school discrimination, and one year later against housing discrimination, in Chicago, but his efforts resulted in little positive change and were widely criticised. In 1967 he began planning what he called the "Poor People's Campaign", now focusing on black poverty and other economic issues, which included another march on Washington, D.C., to pressure national lawmakers to address the issues of black poverty and violence in cities. The march took place in the spring of 1968, but failed to achieve greater congressional commitment, therefore it became clear that race problems in the northern cities were serious and perhaps harder to address that segregation in the South, because these problems were not the results of specific laws that could be changed. In 1968 when supporting striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray, an escaped convict, who shot the leader on the balcony of a Memphis area motel.


9.1 A new Political Movement

Black power, a political movement expressing a new racial consciousness among blacks in the United States in the late 1960s, represented both a conclusion to the decade's civil rights movement and a reaction against the racism that persisted despite the efforts of black activists during the early 1960s. The meaning of black power was debated vigorously while the movement was in progress, because to some Americans it represented black's insistence on racial dignity and self-reliance, which was usually interpreted as economic and political independence, as well as freedom from white authority, while others emphasised the cultural heritage of blacks, and therefore encouraged study and celebration of especially the African roots of black identity. Still another view of Black Power called for a revolutionary political struggle to reject racism and imperialism in the United States as well as throughout the world and encouraged the unity of non-whites, including Hispanics and Asians, against their perceived oppressors. Widespread use of the term "Black Power" started in June 1966 during a protest march through Mississippi, begun by James Meredith, who had been the first black to attend the University of Mississippi. He was wounded by a sniper during the march and had to be hospitalised, while leaders of several civil rights organisations, including Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King, Jr., took up the march. Along the route, Carmichael and SNCC activists exhorted marches by demanding, "What do you want?" and then leading the response, "Black Power!" King however, who many people viewed as the leader of blacks in the U.S., later voiced his disapproval of the threatening, anti-white message often associated with Black Power; he encouraged blacks to b proud of their race and to appreciate their heritage, but at the same time advised them to "avoid the error of building a distrust for all white people."27

9.2 Malcolm X

The main opponent of Martin Luther King's policies was SNCC, led by Carmichael, who popularised the term of Black Power, influenced by Malcolm X, the articulate and controversial Nation of Islam Minister who had been assassinated in early 1965. They viewed Malcolm's black nationalist philosophy, which emphasised black separatism and self-sufficiency, as more realistic for dealing with racism in the United States, and they appreciated Malcolm's emphasis on black pride and self-assertion. Malcolm X (1925-1965) was born in Omaha, Nebraska, as Malcolm Little. His father, a Baptist minister, was an outspoken follower of Marcus Garvey, the black nationalist leader of the 1920s, and was assassinated by the Ku-Klux-Klan in Michigan when Malcolm was six years old. Living in Boston, Massachusetts, Malcolm became involved in criminal activity, so in 1946 he was sentenced to prison for burglary, and while in prison got interested in the teachings of Elijah Muhammed, the leader of the black Muslims, also called the Nation of Islam, who advocated racial separation. When Malcolm was released he took the name Malcolm X and joined a black Muslim temple in Detroit, where in 1958 he married Betty Shabazz, and they had six daughters. By the early 1960s, the Nation of Islam had become well known and Malcolm was their most prominent spokesperson, but in 1963 the black Muslims silenced him for his remark that the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy was like "the chickens coming home to roost". As a consequence, in the following years, Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam and formed a secular black nationalist group, the Organisation of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). He argued that blacks should focus on improving their own communities, rather than striving for complete integration, and that blacks had the right to retaliate against violent assaults. In 1964 Malcolm made a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Based on this trip, and other travels to Europe and Africa, he renounced his previous teaching that all whited are evil, began advocating to racial solidarity, and adopted the Arabic name El-Hajj Malik El-Shebazz. On February 21st, 1965, while addressing on OAAU rally in New York, Malcolm was assassinated by men allegedly connected to the black Muslims.28

9.3 The Black Panther Party

Opposition to Black Power became stronger in 1968 when the Black Panther Party, which had been founded in Oakland, California, in 1966, emerged as the pre-eminent organisation upholding black power. The Panthers, as the followers of the party called themselves, advocated violence, if necessary, to achieve their goals and battled police in Chicago and Oakland, where several of the organisation's leaders were killed and other imprisoned for killing policemen. The party split in 1972, with some of its leaders favouring peaceful means to achieve its goals while others still urged revolution. Although Black Power as a movement largely disappeared after 1970, the idea remained a powerful one in the consciousness of black Americans.


For many activists and some scholars, the civil rights movement ended in 1968 with the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., while others have said it ended after the Selma march, because then the movement ceased to achieve significant change, but at the same time, some people, especially blacks, argue that the movement is not over yet because the goal of full equality has not been achieved. Racial problems clearly still existed in the United States after King's assassination in 1968. Urban poverty represented a continuing and worsening problem and remained disproportionately high among blacks. A major controversy in the 1970s concerned equal opportunity for blacks, an issue which affirmative-action programs, supporting the hiring and promotion of minorities and women, attempted to address. Although full equality has not been reached yet, the civil rights movement did put fundamental reforms in place: legal segregation as a system of racial control was dismantled, blacks were no longer subject to the humiliation of Jim Crow laws, public institutions were opened to all, and finally blacks achieved the right to vote and the influence that went with that right in a democracy. Those were indeed long steps toward racial equality.


Cooke, Alistair: "Amerika, Geschichte der Vereinigten Staaten", Belser Verlag, Stuttgart 1975 Angermann, Erich: ,,Die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika", dtv Weltgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, Band 7, München 1966 Bullock, Alan: ,,Amerika - Land der Freiheit und Konflikte", Humboldt Verlag, München 1971 Bygott, David: ,,Blacks in the U.S.A.", R. Oldenburg Verlag, München, 1980 Dippel, Horst: ,,Geschichte der U.S.A.", Verlag C. H. Beck, München 1996 Grosse, Heinrich: ,,Die Macht der Armen", Furche Verlag, Hamburg 1971 Miller, Merle: ,,Offen gesagt", Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1975 Koch, Thilo: ,,Nordamerika", Verlag Kurt Desch, München 1972 Celsi, Theresa: ,,Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott", Millbrook Press, New York 1991 Siegel, Beatrice: ,,The year they walked", Four Winds Press, Chicago 1992 Downey, Patrick: ,,American History", Foley Books Ass., Chicago 1987 List of Literature No. 1: Koch, Thilo: ,,Nordamerika", Verlag Kurt Desch, München 1972, p. 194/195 No. 2: Cooke, Alistair: ,,Amerika, Geschichte der Vereinigten Staaten", Belser Verlag, Stuttgart 1975, p. 107-120, 133, 188-207 No. 3: ibid., p.167 No. 4: Angermann, Erich: ,,Die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika", dtv Weltgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, Band 7, München 1966, p. 12-16, 104 No. 5: ibid., p.278 No. 6: Cooke, Alistair, op. cit., p. 199-221 No. 7: ibid., p. 219-308 & Bullock, Alan: ,,Amerika - Land der Freiheit und Konflikte", Humboldt Verlag, München 1971, p. 99 No. 8: Koch, Thilo, op. cit., p.100-109 No. 9: Grosse, Heinrich: ,,Die Macht der Armen", Furche Verlag, Hamburg 1971, p. 44/45 No.10: Cooke, Alistair, op. cit., p. 29 No.11 : Cooke, Alistair, op. cit., p.341-348 No. 12: Miller, Merle: ,,Offen Gesagt", Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1975 No. 13: Grosse, Heinrich, op. cit., p. 109-116 No. 14: Celsi, Theresa: ,,Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott", Millbrook Press, New York 1991, p. 21-109 No. 15: Dippel, Horst: ,,Geschichte der U.S.A.", Verlag C. H. Beck, München 1996, p. 108 No. 16: Cooke, Alistair, op. cit., p.41 No. 17: Grosse, Heinrich, op. cit., p. 64-77 No. 18: ibid. p. 85 No.19: ibid. p. 86 No. 20: ibid. p. 87 No. 21: Koch, Thilo, op. cit., p. 230 No. 22: Siegel, Beatrice: ,,The year they walked", Four Winds Press, Chicago 1992 No. 23: ibid. p. 29-73 No. 24: ibid. p. 86 No. 25: Downey, Patric: ,,American History", Foley Books Ass., Chicago 1987, p. 205 No. 26: Grosse, Heinrich, op. cit., p. 183 No. 27: Cooke, Alistair, op. cit., p. 95 No. 28: Dippel, Horst, op. cit., p. 119-121 No. 29: Grosse, Heinrich, op. cit., p. 155

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Blacks and the way from slavery to freedom
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Nicole Möwes (Author), 2001, Blacks and the way from slavery to freedom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 5/20/2003

    Sehr schoene "Hausaufgabe".

    Ich wollte mich nur bedanken fuer diesen sehr ausfuehrlichen und gut strukturierten Artikel!
    Mach weiter so!

  • guest on 8/20/2004

    very interesting.

    give thanks for Ure work and information....

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