Events of WWII set the stage for the civil rights movement
The demand for soldiers in the 1940’s caused a shortage of white male laborers.
Because so many soldiers were needed racial policies were dropped & nearly one million African American men served in the armed forces.
During the war civil rights organizations campaigned and thus, President Roosevelt issued a presidential directive prohibiting racial discrimination by federal agencies & all companies involved in war work.
Father of eight year old Linda Brown charged the school board of education of Topeka, Kansas with violation of Linda’s rights. They had denied her admission to an all-white elementary school four blocks from their home. The closest all-black school was 21 blocks away.
The Supreme Court unanimously struck down segregation in schooling as an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
White Citizens Council boycotted businesses that supported desegregation
1955: Supreme Court made a second ruling, Brown II, which ordered schools to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” At first President Eisenhower refused to enforce obedience.
Crisis in Little Rock
1948: Arkansas becomes first state to allow African Americans into state universities without being ordered by a court order.
The "Little Rock Nine." 1957: Governor Orval Faubus still supported segregation. He ordered the National Guard to deny the “Little Rock Nine”, nine African American students who had volunteered to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School, access into the school. A federal judge ordered Faubus to let them into the school.
NAACP called eight of the nine students (could not reach the ninth Elizabeth Eckford because she did not have a phone) and arranged to drive them to school. 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford made her way past an abusive crowd to the bus stop where two friendly whites stayed with her.
This crisis caused President Eisenhower to act.
Placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control.
Ordered a thousand paratroopers into Little Rock. Under their watch the “Little Rock Nine” attended school (the whole thing was televised to the whole nation). But the students were still harassed.
At the end the year Governor Faubus was shut down Central High rather than let integration continue.
September 9, 1959: Congress passes the civil rights act of 1957. It was the first civil rights law since Reconstruction. The law gave greater power to the attorney general over school desegregation.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott
After the Brown decision in May 1954, Jo Ann Robinson wrote to the mayor of Montgomery, Alabama asking that the bus drivers no longer be allowed to force riders into the “colored” section. The mayor refused.
Rosa Parks on a bus. December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks (seamstress & NAACP officer) took a seat in the front row of her allotted section. The bus filled up and the bus driver ordered her and other African American women to give up their seats to whites. She refused and thus, was arrested.
An example of one of the buses that African Americans boycotted. NAACP officers suggested a bus boycott. Leaders in the African American community formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the boycott. They elected 26-year-old minister, Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the group.
“Well, I’m not sure I’m the best person for the position,” King confided to the NAACP leader, “but if no one else is going to serve, I’d be glad to try.”
African Americans filed a law suit and for 381 days they refused to ride the Montgomery buses. To avoid walking they organized efficient car pool systems. The boycott was nonviolent until someone threw a bomb at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s house.
Martin Luther King Jr. King called his nonviolent movement “soul force.”
Based his teaching on Jesus, writer Henry David Thoreau, labor organizer A. Philip Randolph, and Mohandas Gandhi.
Ella Baker 1955: Murder of Emmet Till.
From the Grassroots Up
1957: Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
Purpose was “to carry on nonviolent crusades against the evils of second-class citizenship.”
Ella Baker: First director of SCLC
Helped students at Shaw University (an African American university) form a national protest group, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
The Movement Spreads
Demonstrating for Freedom
African Americans during a sit-in. Chicago 1944: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) staged the first sit-in, where African Americans sat down at segregated lunch tables and refused to leave until they were served.
February 1960: African American students from North Carolina’s Agricultural and Technical College staged a sit-in of their own. It was nonviolent even though they were viciously attacked.
Sparked other sit-ins across the South and later the North.