Civil Rights
(The Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson Years)

  1. Civil Right in the Truman Era
    1. Post-war prosperity, Cold War rhetoric led to increasing assertiveness of African-Americans
    2. Truman began to address civil rights issues, shortly after the war
      1. 1946 - appoints commission to propose civil rights legislation
      2. 1948 - Proposes civil rights legislations
        1. Called for permanent Federal civil rights commission
        2. Called for a permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee to end discrimination in employment
        3. Blocked by Southern Democrats in Congress
      3. African-Americans key in Truman's surprise victory in 1948 election
        1. Truman again pushes FEPC, also anti-lynching legislation
        2. again blocked in Congress by Southern Democrats
        3. Despite failure of legislation, civil rights from here on become a permanent part of the liberal agenda
      4. Little luck in Congress, but Truman made advances through executive action
        1. Strengthened civil rights section of Justice Departments
        2. Ordered the desegregation of the Army, with other branches following suit
  2. Tackling School Segregation in the Courts
    1. Under the leadership of the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall, civil rights advocates focused on the schools
    2. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas - 1954
      1. Marshall argued before the Supreme Court that Plessy v. Ferguson was wrong, that separate schools were inherently damaging to Black students
      2. Led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, Supreme Court ruled against Topeka
        1. declared that "separate education facilities are inherently unequal"
        2. Overturned legal basis for segregation in education
        3. However, in 1955 Court ruled that desegregation should take place "with all deliberate speed," which led to many delaying tactics by segregationists
  3. Eisenhower and Civil Rights
    1. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was cautious in his support for civil rights
      1. Did no believe legislation and court decisions could change people's minds
      2. Felt Brown v. Board of Education served mostly to inflame segregationists
      3. Pursued instead a policy of desegregating Federal facilities and the DC school system
    2. Southern politicians mistook Eisenhower's caution, taking it as support for segregations
      1. In 1957, Governor Orville Faubus of Arkansas used National Guard to prevent desegregation of Little Rock Central High by nine Black students
      2. Eisenhower sent in 1000 paratroopers to enable the Little Rock Nine to attend school
      3. Little Rock Nine would remain under armed guard for the rest of the school year
  4. Grassroots Activism against Segregation
    1. Frustrate by slow pace of change, Blacks began to organize themselves to take on segregation directly
    2. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
      1. While not the first act of civil disobedience, Rosa Park's refusal to give up here seat on a Montgomery bus (Dec. 1, 1955), and her arrest, sparked a massive protest movement
      2. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., Blacks in Montgomery organized a boycott of the entire bus system until it was desegregated
      3. King began promoting peaceful civil disobedience as path to change
      4. Legal strategy also followed - victory came with a Supreme Court decision in 1956 against Alabama
    3. Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) - organized by King to coordinate desegregation crusade
    4. Lunch counter sit-ins and the SNCC
      1. Sit-ins
        1. in various cities in the 1940s and 1950s, blacks had protested segregation by carrying out sit-ins
        2. Nashville Sit-Ins - began in 1959, with students local colleges. Met with resistance
      2. Feb., 1960, students NCA&T organized a sit-in at lunch counter of the Greensboro Woolworth's
      3. This gained national attention and sparked a number of similar protests across the South
      4. Thousands were arrested, but many public facilities were successfully desegregated
      5. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) founded in 1960
    5. Freedom Summer, 1964
      1. Organized by SNCC and other groups
      2. Sent teams of white and black students to Mississippi to register black voters
      3. Met with much violent resistance
        1. Three students were killed in one incident
        2. over the whole summer, 80 were beaten, 1000 arrests had been made, and 37 churches were bombed.
    6. Increasingly, the direct action of the SCLC and the SNCC replaced the court action of the NAACP
  5. Kennedy (1961-1963) and Civil Rights
    1. Kennedy focused on expanding voting rights for Blacks
    2. Attorney General Robert Kennedy worked with SNCC and others to register Black southern voters
    3. Kennedy also appointed large numbers of African Americans to Federal positions, including making Thrugood Marshall a Federal judge
    4. Many activists saw Kennedy as to cautious, and direct action continued
      1. Freedom rides - in 1961, activists began testing a 1960 Supreme Court decision banning segregation in interstate commercial travel
      2. Freedom riders quickly met with violent mobs - Robert Kennedy had to send Federal marshals to Birmingham to protect them
      3. Also had to send troops to enable James Meredith to enter University of Mississippi - two killed in ensuing riot
      4. in 1963, television coverage of violent attacks by Bull Conner's Birmingham police on non-violent protesters organized by MLK shocked nation
      5. JFK forced finally to take decisive action - called for major civil rights legislation
    5. March on Washington kept the pressure on Kennedy to act
      1. August, 1963 - 200,000 come to Washington
      2. MLK gives his "I have a dream" speech, cementing his place as leader of the civil rights movement
      3. But JFK was assassinated three months later - new legislation would be Johnson's responsibility
  6. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) and Civil Rights
    1. A former Majority Leader in the Senate, LBJ was able to maneuver legislation through Congress that others had been unable to.
    2. Civil Rights Act of 1964
      1. LBJ passed this legislation with votes from Northern Democrats and Republicans
      2. Made segregation by race of public facilities illegal
      3. Established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to combat job discrimination
      4. Provided protection for voting rights or African Americans.
      5. Also made advances in prohibiting gender discrimination
    3. The Great Society
      1. LBJ ran for election in 1964 campaigning on a war against poverty
      2. As part of his campaign, he immediately began pursuing a number of anti-poverty programs, which came to be known as the Great Society
      3. Winning in a massive landslide, continued to enact social legislation, such as Medicare
    4. Voting Rights Act of 1965
      1. Saw civil rights, and Black voting in particular, as a key part of these programs
      2. Again, televised violence was key - police brutality against marchers in Selma led LBJ to call for comprehensive voting rights
      3. Congress quickly passed the Voting Rights Act 
        1. banned literacy tests in states and counties were less than half of population voted in 1964
        2. sent Federal registrars to those places to insure African Americans got on the voting rolls
        3. dramatically increased the number of Black voters in the South
    5. Immigration Act of 1965
      1. LBJ also pursued anti-discrimination in immigration
      2. Johnson wanted to end the preference for Western Europeans and promote immigration of skilled labor
      3. However, the Immigration Act of 1965 actually focused primarily on family reunification
      4. An unintended consequence was new immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America bringing in large numbers of relatives
      5. The result has been a far more multi-ethnic country
  7. The Breakdown of the Civil Rights Coalition
    1. Ending segregation and voting discrimination proved to be the easier parts of the struggle
    2. Achieving economic advance for African Americans proved much more complex
    3. Riots in Rochester, NY in 1964 and Watts (in Las Angeles) in 1965 made clear a growing frustration, particularly among young African Americans
    4. Riots continued in various cities through the 1960s, mostly in major cities in the North and West.
    5. Black power activists began pursuing a more militant agenda
      1. Stokely Carmichael of the SNCC called for racial separation, direct seizure of power, racial self-reliance
      2. Huey Newton and the Black Panthers called for direct violent action - power from the gun
      3. MLK's emphasis on non-violence and peaceful struggle has been explicitly rejected
    6. MLK and Johnson fell out over King's denunciation of the Vietnam War
    7. MLK's growing focus on poverty cut short by his assassination, April, 1968, leading to the worst riots yet