January 11th – Southern Christian Leadership Conference Organized
On this day in 1957, a group of about 60 ministers and activists gathered in Atlanta to form a new organization to protest segregation across the South. In August 1957, the new organization, led by Dr. King, held a convention in Montgomery and named itself the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC became one of the leading civil rights organizations in the United States. The SCLC would launch one protest after another. The campaigns in Albany, Birmingham, Selma, and Chattanooga, would become the defining struggles of the movement. These campaigns often ended in court decisions, legislation, and significant shifts in public opinion that eventually ended Jim Crow segregation. Martin Luther King Jr. served the SCLC from its founding in 1957 until his death in 1968.
January 12th – CORE Founder James Farmer Born
On this day in 1920, James Farmer, future founder of CORE was born. James Farmer, a native of Texas, entered college at the age of 14. He went on to earn a divinity degree from Howard University. After working for FOR, a Quaker organization, Farmer found his own organization to institute change. He would name his organization CORE- the Congress of Racial Equality, a pacifist organization with a stated purpose of creating a society where “race or creed will be neither asset nor handicap.” In 1947, FOR and CORE engaged in the first freedom ride, where black and white students rode desegregated buses into the South to pit the federal government against Jim Crow segregation. Farmer retired from CORE in 1966, due to a militant nationalism that had crept into CORE. In 1998, Farmer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by then President Bill Clinton. He died one year later.
January 13th – Delta Sigma Theta Formed
On this day in 1913, 22 African American Women formed Delta Sigma Theta at Howard University. The organization began with women’s suffrage and human welfare at its core. With stated aims of bettering the community and affecting public policy, this large, powerful organization claims over 200,000 members in 900 chapters around the world. Delta Theta’s impressive list of former members include, singers Roberta Flak, and Aretha Franklin, poet Nikki Giovanni, and actress Lena Horne. With its emphasis on social activism, human welfare, and equality, and service to the larger community, Delta Sigma Theta, reared dozens of influential women who went on to lead in the civil rights movement.
January 14th – George Wallace Pledges ‘Segregation Forever’
On this day in 1963, Governor George C. Wallace delivered his infamous inaugural address. He pledged the state of Alabama to the segregationist cause, thus raising the stakes for the movement across the South. Oddly enough four years earlier Wallace campaigned against the KKK, and had the endorsement of the NAACP. After losing the race in 1958, he famously declared “ I’ll never be out-niggered again.” He was elected in 1962 and declared “ Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” Under Wallace, Alabama became a focal point for the civil rights movement. It was to Wallace that the Selma-to-Montgomery marchers planned to deliver the body of Jimmy Lee Jackson. It was at Wallace’s feet that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid the blame for the church bombing in Birmingham that claimed the life of four girls. As time went on Wallace expressed regret and tried to make amends. In 1972, Wallace was shot and partially paralyzed by an assassin. In the late 1970’s Wallace embraced Christianity and publicly apologized to African American leaders for his past actions. He died in 1998.
January 15th – Martin Luther King Jr. Born
On this day in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from Morehouse College, King entered the post-graduate-theological program at Boston University. It was there that he was introduced to the non-violent studies of Mohandas K. Ghandi. While in Boston he met Coretta Scott. The couple returned to Atlanta, where King would accepted the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested and the Montgomery Bus Boycotts were soon underway, with 26 year-old Martin Luther King Jr. as its spokesperson. King formed the SCLC, guided by his doctrine of nonviolent civil disobedience and his unparalleled oratory skills. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Harassed throughout his adult life by police, Klansmen, street thugs, and the FBI, King was stabbed, beaten, jailed, shot at, and his home was bombed. King never relented, and was unfortunately assassinated in 1968
January 16th – Lurleen Wallace Becomes Surrogate Governor
On this day in 1967, Lurleen Wallace succeeded her husband as Governor of Alabama. The ambitious George C. Wallace was barred from running for governor again, based on term limits set forth in the 1901 Alabama Constitution. Wallace enacted a plan to have his wife run with the understanding the he would govern behind the scenes. Lurleen Wallace was inaugurated in 1967. Her husband’s policies remained in effect and his cronies still in control. Lurleen died in 1968, succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Albert Brewer. Wallace overturned the one term limit on Alabama governors. He returned to the governors chair in 1971. George Wallace is remembered as one of the great antagonists of the civil rights movement. Lurleen Wallace is remembered as a decent woman who was used by her husband for his own political ends.
January 17th – Chicago Campaign Brings New Movement Tactic
On this day in 1966, Chicago’s Coordinating Council of Community Organizations invited Martin Luther King Jr. to the windy city. The Chicago Campaign was a massive community-oriented project designed to break the slums of America’s biggest city. On January 26, 1966, King and his family moved into a renovated apartment in one of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods. This well publicized move was intended to bring attention to the destitute living conditions. King also began to focus on peace abroad, connecting racism at home to militarism around the world. The Vietnam War weighed heavily on his conscience, “Violence is as wrong in Hanoi as it is in Harlem” he proclaimed. King was mired in a bureaucratic labyrinth that seemed to have no end. He began the Chicago Campaign worn out and weary.
January 25th – National Afro-American League Formed
On this day in 1890, journalist Timothy Thomas Fortune co-founded the National Afro-American League in Chicago. Born a slave and self educated, Fortune moved to New York in 1881 and started what eventually became the New York Age, one of the leading black papers of the era. Fortune was a trailblazing muck-raker. He eventually became friends with Booker T. Washington, but later had a falling out over their different views. The Afro-American League challenged commonly held assumptions about race and equality. African Americans constituted 11 percent of the country's population, but existed on the fringe. The AAL and Fortune spoke out against lynching, mob violence, and discrimination of all forms. The public was not ready to listen, and the AAL disbanded after only four years. Even though little was accomplished, the concept was revolutionary, serving as a springboard for other national Negro Organizations.
January 26th – Activist Angela Davis Born
On this day in 1944, political activist and educator Angela Davis was born in a section of Birmingham nicknamed "Dynamite Hill." Davis left Birmingham to attend the Elizabeth Irwin School in New York City and later Brandeis University. She studied philosophy and became interested in Marxism. She later attended a doctoral program in Germany, but returned in 1967 to take part in civil rights events in the United States. She moved to Southern California in the late 1960's and became affiliated with the Black Panthers. She taught philosophy at UCLA, but was fired for her affiliation with the American Communist Party. Davis was placed on the FBI's most wanted list, for going into hiding after being accused of providing handguns to prisoners during a failed prison escape. Davis was captured 2 months later and spent 18 months in prison. A "Free Angela Movement" began, and centered on her treatment and upcoming trial. She was eventually acquitted of all charges. Since then, Davis has spent much her time working on prison reform, while advocating democratic socialism.
January 27th – Abolitionist, Civil Rights ForeRunner David Ruggles Born
On this day in 1810, early abolitionist and writer David Ruggles was born. Raised in Connecticut, Ruggles focused on the antislavery movement in 1833. He began writing for The Emancipator and Public Morals, an abolitionist journal in New York. Ruggles later published a magazine, Mirror of Liberty, recognized by many as the first periodical owned by a person of color. Ruggles worked as a conductor for the Underground Railroad in 1835, reputedly helping to free more than 1,000 slaves. A notable public agitator, Ruggles, committed numerous acts of civil disobedience. A committed activist, Ruggles, like many of the early abolitionists, was a man ahead of his time.
January 28th – Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson Born
On this day in 1948, Bennie Thompson, a grassroots volunteer, labor organizer, student activist, community leader, and politician was born in Bolton, Mississippi. Thompson earned degrees from Tougaloo College and Jackson State University. He was a plaintiff, in 1975, for the case of Ayers v. Musgrove. This lawsuit was over the historically gross underfunding of black universities in comparison to white universities. The case eventually settled in 2004, with some $500 million in compensatory funding. Thompson began as an alderman in his hometown, was then elected mayor, then county supervisor, and finally, in 1993, as the U.S. Representative for Mississippi's second congressional district. In Congress, Thompson serves on the House Budget and Agriculture committees and he is the ranking Democrat on the House's Homeland Security committee.
January 29th – Harriet Tubman Born
On this day in 1820, Harriet Ross Tubman was born a slave in Maryland. When she was16, an angry overseer smashed her head with a rock, almost killing her. She suffered from blackouts for the rest of her life. During a black out she had an epiphany: she had to escape. She left her husband behind, and made her way to Philadelphia and freedom. She became the most famous Underground Railroad conductor. Known as"Moses," Tubman made many trips to the South, leading groups of slaves to freedom. In her tenure as an Underground Railroad conductor, she never lost a single passenger. Tubman became a notorious figure in the late 1840's, with a $40,000 reward offered for her capture. She met many of the era's most famous antislavery figures, including John Brown, who called her " one of the bravest persons on the continent." During the Civil War, she worked as a spy, nurse, and scout for the Union Army. After the war, Tubman continued to work for equal rights for African Americans, while also expanding into women's issues. She died in 1913 at age 92 and was buried with full military honors.
January 30th – Boycott Leader's Home Bombed In Montgomery
On this day in 1956, the parsonage of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church - then the home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. - was bombed with dynamite. The attack was part of the violent reaction by white supremacists to the bus boycott. The boycott was already achieving success, and the then 26 year old, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was already recognized locally and nationally as the leader and spokesperson of a well organized challenge against legalized segregation. He was a key target to local KKK, to stop the boycott. When the bundle of dynamite was tossed on the porch of the parsonage, King was not at home. His wife Coretta, their daughter Yolanda, and a family friend were at home. They survived the blast as they were all in the kitchen when the bomb tore apart the front of the house. King sped home, he made sure his family was okay, then went back outside. King turned to the crowd and asked for silence, he then said " We believe in law and order. Don't do anything panicky. Don't get your weapons. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what God said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies and let them know you love them."
January 31st – 13th Amendment Abolishes Slavery
On this day in 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States forever. At the start of the 19th century, abolitionists gained footholds in many major American cities, eventually birthing a political party, the Republicans, using the slogan, "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men." The Compromise of 1850, between the North and South, to improve the conflict had the opposite effect. John Brown's failed revolt of 1859, combined with volatile viewpoints of the North and South, eventually led to the Civil War. Slavery was an essential motivation, the South to save its precious economic institution and the North to eliminate the practice. At the end of the war, the North occupied the South during Reconstruction. Sadly, Reconstruction failed, and southern whites regained power. Jim Crow segregation and economic subjugation resulted. The 13th Amendment remained, but no one seemed ready to act on it. It would be almost another hundred years before the United States government would revisit these broken promises.
February 1st – Student Sit in Movement Begins
On this day in 1960, four African American students from North Carolina A&T College entered a Woolworth's department store, sat down at the lunch counter, and demanded to be served. Service was denied so the four young men - Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil - sat quietly at the lunch counter until the store closed. The next day 25 men and 4 women continued the protest. The third day, students filled 63 of the 65 lunch counter seats. On February 4th, four white students joined the protest. Within a week more than 300 students were "sitting-in" in Greensboro. With this deliberate action, these young men launched a movement that spread rapidly throughout the area. Within two months, the sit-ins had spread to more than 50 cities in 9 states. By July Woolworth's desegregated its lunch counter. The effect of the sit-ins changed the focus of the civil rights movement from litigation to confrontation and personal challenges of discriminatory conditions. The movement became more volatile and sped up the process of desegregation. The Greensboro sit-ins led directly to the organization of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
February 2nd – Evelyn J. Fields, Maritime Pioneer, Takes the Helm
On this day in 1989, Evelyn J. Fields became the first African American woman to command a U.S. Government oceangoing vessel. She began her career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1972 as an cartographer. She was then commissioned as an ensign and served as a junior officer on board the Mt. Mitchell. She later became operations officer on board the Pierce, then executive officer, and finally commanding officer on the McArthur. After her sea tours, Fields took part in the U.S. Department of Commerce's Science and Technology Fellowship Program. She went on to become a rear admiral, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine and Aviation Operations, and director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. Fields' list of honors and commendations is endless. Among the highest are the Metcalfe Health, Education, and Science Award from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal, and the Lowell Thomas Explorer Award. Rear Admiral Fields is a member of several professional societies.
February 3rd – 15th Amendment Ratified
On this day in 1870, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The 13th Amendment had outlawed slavery, and the14th gave full U.S. citizenship to former slaves. However, Republicans worried that ex-Confederates would attempt to regain political control, so congress passed the 15th Amendment hoping to secure forever the rights of freed slaves. This amendment empowered blacks across the South during Reconstruction. Thousands of African Americans were elected to political office. The Congress and the state legislatures began passing radical measures to eliminate all race-based laws. At the same time they instituted reforms such as a universal public education. The Democrats saw this as an intolerable threat. President U.S. Grant ended up sending troops to New Orleans to disband a white mob angry over interracial government. Grant's successor, Rutherford B. Hayes, withdrew the troops and ended many of the policies that protected African Americans. Reconstruction was essentially over. Southern legislatures passed various measures establishing Jim Crow segregation. White terrorist groups such as the KKK frightened blacks into submission. The bleak state of affairs lasted 100 years after the civil war, when the 1965 Voting Rights Act was signed by president Lyndon B. Johnson.
February 4th – Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks Born
On this day in 1913, Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. She attended high school in Montgomery, dropping out when her family fell on difficult times. She became a house servant and later married Raymond Parks and finished high school. In 1943 Parks joined the NAACP. She was a sponsor for the NAACP youth chapter and was quiet activist for ten years before the incident that made her famous. On December 1, 1955 Parks boarded a segregated city bus. She was ordered to give her seat up to a white man. She refused to move and was arrested. Parks' arrest provoked the Montgomery bus boycott and made her an instant heroine of the civil rights movement. Following the boycott Parks and her husband had difficulty finding work. They moved to Detroit, Michigan where she worked as a staff member for Representative John Conyers from 1965 to 1988. Over the years Parks became known as the "Mother of the civil rights movement." Schools and streets have been named for her, she has received thousands of awards, there is a museum in her honor in Montgomery, and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development conducts educational work on her behalf. Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005.
February 5th – First Black Postmistress Becomes Political Issue
On this day in1869, Minnie Cox, the first black postmistress in the United States was born in Lexington, Mississippi. Cox was a teacher at the Indianola Colored Public School, where her husband was the principal. In 1891 President Harrison appointed Cox postmistress of Indianola. At the same time, the backlash to reconstruction took hold. A vast conspiracy to remove blacks from political positions was in full swing. Whites in Indianola delivered a petition demanding Cox's resignation. Cox refused, harassment increased, and she eventually resigned. However, President Theodore Roosevelt, who had worked to improve relations with black communities, refused her resignation. He closed the Indianola post office and rerouted the mail through Greenville, Mississippi. Out of harms way, Cox continued to receive her salary. The issue of her job was a battle on the Senate floor for over four hours. Roosevelt stood firm that Cox would remain postmistress unless critics could prove a reason, other than skin color, for her dismissal. In 1904 Cox's term ended and the Indianola post office reopened with a white postmistress. Minnie Cox died in 1933.
February 6th – Peabody Fund Established
On this day in 1867, the Peabody Fund was established. George Peabody was a wealthy industrialist and considered by many to be the first American Philanthropist. He established the Peabody Fund "for the promotion and encouragement of intellectual, moral, or industrial education among the more destitute portions of the south and southwest states of our Union." The fund was to help develop public education in the eleven former Confederate states. It stabilized struggling schools and provided money to build new ones. The fund's money was delivered systematically to maximize its impact. Communities had to raise funds, through taxes or otherwise, to match the grant. This was in keeping with Peabody's philosophy of self reliance. The Peabody Fund was great success.
February 7th – Negro History Week Established
On this day in 1926, Carter G. Woodson - African American writer, scholar, and organizer - started Negro History Week. Woodson did not attend high school until age 20. He eventually earned a PhD from Harvard. During his studies Woodson realized that very little had been recorded about Negro accomplishments in American history. He set out to balance the past in history, literature, and popular stories. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. He published a series of books on black history and also began The Journal of Negro History which still exists today. His most famous accomplishment was his creation of Negro History Week, taking place during the week both Abraham Lincoln an Frederick Douglas were born. Negro History Week eventually grew into Black History Month.
February 8th– Orangeburg Massacre in South Carolina
On this day in 1968, state troopers fired on a student protest at South Carolina State University. This event late became known as the Orangeburg Massacre. Although the 1964 Civil Rights act made segregation illegal, many public places in the South still practiced racial discrimination. In Orangeburg, black students from South Carolina State and Chaflin College began a series of protests around the All Star Bowling Lanes. As tensions grew the National Guard was called in to set up roadblocks around the city. Three days after the initial protest, a few hundred students built a bonfire on the campus lawn and started chanting. Officers opened fire, killing 3 students.In the aftermath, Martin Luther King Jr. called for the trial and incarceration of the officers involved. Nine officers charged in the shooting were acquitted. Cleveland Sellars, an SNCC staffer wounded in the shootings, was charged and convicted of rioting.
February 9th – Minstrel Act Lends Name to 'Jim Crow' Segregation
On this day in 1828, Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice popularized a minstrel act of a character who was a crippled slave that sang and danced a jig. Historian Charles Wilson attributes Rice's inspiration to a performance by a slave owned by a Mr. Crow. The act came to be called "Jim Crow" and the term evolved into a derogatory term toward blacks in general. In the 1840s, segregated railway carriages were referred to as "Jim Crow cars." After the end of reconstruction, as racial segregation became institutionalized, "Jim Crow" came to mean any laws and customs that set the races apart. The term remained until the civil rights movement brought an end to legalized segregation in the 1960s.
February 10th – White Citizens Council Rallies Against Bus Boycott
On this day in 1956, 12,000 people attended a White Citizens Council rally in Montgomery, Alabama, in protest of a boycott by blacks against segregated city buses. The White Citizens Council drew support from local white politicians, businessmen, bankers, and other middle class constituents. The WCC sought to defeat integration through public policy and opinion. Instead of advocating terrorism or violence, the WCC promoted economic and civil manipulation. The WCC enacted boycotts against black businesses. The WCC members were often referred to as Klansmen without hoods. The WCC worked to create all-white "council" schools to combat desegregation. Like the KKK, the White Citizens Council saw their influence begin to fade as integration policies took effect and the mindsets of average white Southerners slowly changed.
February 11th – General Daniel 'Chappie' James born
On this day in 1920, the first black U.S. Four-star general, Daniel 'Chappie" James, was born in Pensacola, Florida. The youngest of 17 children, James entered Tuskegee Institute in 1937, studying for a degree in education, while becoming a civilian pilot. In 1943 he enter the Army Air Corps program as a cadet. He was assigned to the all black 477th Bombardment Group in Detroit. At the time, blacks in the military were mostly cooks and laborers, and most facilities remained segregated. James and 100 other blacks staged a sit in at the segregated officers club. Arrested and charged with mutiny, the back officers faced courts martial. General George Marshall stepped in and ordered the charges dropped. On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman issued executive order 9981, desegregating the armed forces. James remained in the army after the end of WWII, and distinguished himself in aerial combat, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross in the Korean War. Over the years he accumulated numerous accolades as an officer, leader, and public speaker. In 1975, James was named commander of the North American Air Defense Command and was made a four-star general. James died on February 25, 1978.
February 12th – NAACP Founded
On this day in1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in New York City. W.E.B. Du Bois headed a call for a meeting on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to discuss problems affecting African Americans. The bi-racial group of writers, scholars, and philanthropists joined Du Bois in the effort became known as the Niagara Movement. The movement struggled to develop support and funding. Leaders decided a new national organization was needed, this being the NAACP. Protests were organized and legal campaigns were planned to overturn Jim Crow segregation in the South. When groups such as the SNCC and the SCLC mounted civil disobedience and mass protests, the NAACP continued to challenge in the courts. The NAACP was essential in the lobbying and litigation that resulted in most of the key rulings and legislation that destroyed segregation. The NAACP still exists as the preeminent African American social and political organization the United States.
February 13th – Negro National League Founded
On this day in 1920, Rube Foster founded the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, also known as the Negro National League, the first all-black professional baseball league in the U.S. Foster was an outstanding athlete who excelled as a baseball pitcher. He became manger-coach of the Chicago a later American Giants. The National Negro League operated in the south and Midwest. In 1923 the Eastern Negro League formed. Soon the two leagues played in an all black World Series. Foster died in 1930 after becoming ill as the result of an accident involving a gas leak. The negro leagues produced some of the biggest names in baseball history, including Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Satchel Paige. In 1947, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black player in the segregated major leagues.
February 14th – Southern Christian Leadership Conference Founded
On this day in 1957, the Southern Cristian Leadership Conference was founded. The SCLC, SNCC, and the NAACP, as well as CORE and the Urban League - planned, financed, and executed the majority of civil rights events in the1950s and 1960s. The SCLC was created to capitalize on the momentum gained from the Montgomery bus boycott. The president of the newly founded SCLC was Martin Luther King Jr. The operating principles were simple - combining Gandhian non-violent principles with the tenets of the New Testament Christianity. The SCLC planned carefully organized protests consisting of boycotts, sit-ins, and mass protests. With King at its helm, the SCLC enacted many of the era's most famous events.
February 15th – Abolitionists Free Fugitive Slave in Boston
On this day in 1851, a group of black abolitionists broke into a Boston courthouse and liberated Shadrach Minkins, a fugitive slave. In 1850 Mikins escaped from Virgnia to Boston to begin a new life. However, that same year the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, greatly increasing the South's ability to recover runaway slaves. On February 15, 1851, Minkins was the first man arrested in New England under the new law. The judge refused Minkins' writ of habeas corpus, several abolitionists stormed the courtroom and wrested Minkins away. Prominent black leaders transported Minkins to Canada where he lived a free man for the remainder of his life. He became an icon of the antislavery movement.
February 16th – U.S. Navy Begins African American Officer Training
On this day in 1944, the first African American naval officer training program began. During WWII there were over 100,000 African American enlisted men in the navy, but none were officers. After the NAACP applied pressure, Navy officials commissioned 16 black officers and sent them for training. Two months later, 13 of the trainees became the Navy's first black active duty officers. They became known as he Golden Thirteen. However, the military's infrastructure was unwilling to recognize these men's achievements, assigning them to menial tasks. Their hardships paved the way for the armed forces to desegregate. In 1947, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, integrating the United States military.
February 17th – Black Panthers Co-founder Huey P. Newton Born
On this day in 1942, Huey Newton was born in Louisiana. As a college student, Newton became involved in black student activism. After the Voting and Civil Rights Acts did little to improve the harsh conditions of poor urban blacks, Newton decided to crate an organization that would bring about a long awaited revolution. In 1966 Huey Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Newton's biggest influence was Malcolm X. Newton wrote many of the parties mandates and directives. The Panthers advocated armed defense against police brutality and began a system of armed neighborhood patrols in Oakland. The Panthers' main priority was community building. They provided free breakfasts to local children, a free clothing program, and other health and education programs. The BPP's aggressive, radical attitude scared the federal government as well as the average American. They were viewed as a group of unrepentant Negroes dressed in all black, brandishing guns while roaming the streets.
February 18th – Germantown Antislavery Resolution Passed
On this day in 1688, a group of Quakers in Germantown passed the first formal antislavery resolution. The Quakers lived quiet lives of moral behavior wth a keen sense of social justice, rejecting slavery and warfare. For these and other reasons, Quakers were persecuted in the new world. When caught, they were beaten, branded, and sometimes executed. In areas where the Quakers were allowed to settle, small pockets of utopianism began popping up. In the 1700s they began campaigns for better treatment of the mentally ill, women's suffrage, and prison reforms. However, the Quakers' strong stance against slavery proved most prophetic. The Germantown resolution condemned slavery and although it was ignored, the Quakers remained a strong voice of protest, eventually becoming the foundation of the abolitionist movement.
February 19th – Tuskegee Airmen Initiated
On this day in1942, the 332nd Fighter Group known as the Tuskegee Airmen was initiated into the U.S. armed forces. After Congress passed legislation giving African Americans more opportunity in the armed forces, the U.S. War Department created a black squadron. New recruits trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. The Tuskegee Airmen, nicknamed "the Black Birdmen," terrorized Axis air forces in the European theatre, claiming more than 400 enemy planes. They destroyed fuel dumps, supply trains, and naval units. Collectively they were honored with over 800 combat medals. The men of the 332nd continued to distinguish themselves, winning the1949 national gunnery competition. The Black Birdmen of the skies became one of the most sought after units in the Air Force.
February 20th – Warrants Issued in Montgomery Bus Boycott Case
On this day in 1956, arrest warrants were issued for 89 people in the Montgomery Bus Boycott including Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy. The arrests were based on a 34 year old anti boycott statute. All across the South the threat of torture or death loomed whenever a protester was arrested. As King's influence increased many blacks worried that if he were jailed he would be injured or killed when he was behind bars. Most of those arrested where released immediately and the charges were dropped, but King was indicted. Attorney Fred Gray argued that the statute was unconstitutional. Gray also argued that there was just cause for a protest as a response to the years of mistreatment Montgomery area blacks had endured. The judge disregarded the arguments and King was fined $500. A motion for a new trial fell through, but the charges against King were eventually dismissed.
February 21st – Malcolm X Assassinated in Harlem
On this day in 1965, Malcolm X was murdered. He was one of the most controversial black leaders of the 1960s, inspiring the Black Panther Party and other militant black organizations. During the 1950s Malcolm became a popular speaker on college campuses. His message focused on exploitation, disenfranchisement, and the economic oppression of American blacks. On February 21st, Malcolm was speaking to a large group at a ballroom in Harlem. A disturbance in the crowd caught the attention of his guards and he was left alone on the stage. A gunman charged through the confusion and shot Malcolm twice in the chest. Two other gunman ran forward and shot him as he lay motionless on the stage. Three Nation of Islam members were eventually convicted of the murder.
February 22nd – Female Anti-Slavery Society Organized
On this day in 1832, the first all female, all black anti-slavery group formed in Salem, Massachusetts. The group was originally named The Colored Female Religious and Moral Society of Salem, but changed it's name upon entering the political arena in 1832. Abolitionism was a strong political trend early in America's history. There were over a thousand anti-slavery groups by the 1830s. These groups argued, wrote, petitioned, and pushed the public conversation to the topic of slavery. Women were considered unfit for employment or political life, but well suited for charity work and anti-slavery causes. The goals for the Female Anti-Slavery Society were the same as later civil rights leaders - the right to vote, an end to oppressive racism, and fair treatment under the law.
February 23rd – W. E. B. Du Bois Born
On this day in 1868, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, one of the most important figures in African American history, was born. Du Bois graduated at he top of his class at Fisk University in Tennessee. It was at Fisk that he experienced humiliating racial prejudice, permanently changing his view of life. In 1903 he published his first book, The Souls of Black Folk. In this book he demanded three basic rights for African Americans - the right to vote, civic equality, and education of the youth. This collection of essays on race relations catapulted him into civil rights circles. In 1905, Du Bois created the Niagara Movement, an organization that became the NAACP. While working for the NAACP, Du Bois started The Crisis, a publication that served as the voice of the civil rights movement. Du Bois shaped the public discourse of African American politics, art, and literature.
February 24th – Montgomery Schools Ordered to End Dual System
On this day in 1968, Montgomery, Alabama schools were ordered to end their dual education system. This came 14 years after the Brown decision. The delay was in part a result of continued legal battles over Brown's meaning and application. Widespread displeasure with the 1954 ruling revealed a strong mindset not easily changed. It was obvious that the issue would have to be forced by mass action, protest, and stricter federal mandate. Subsequent Supreme Court decisions made the states' obligations clear - every area of school operations had to be desegregated, from the students to the faculty.
February 25th – Alabama Rights Pioneer E. D. Nixon Dies
On this day in 1987, activist and instrumental figure of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, E. D. Nixon died. Nixon spent most of his life as a railroad Pullman car porter. He dedicated himself to the A. Phillip Randolph's Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Union. In the 1940s Nixon organized the Alabama Voters League and led a march to the Montgomery courthouse to register black voters. In 1947, he became president of the Alabama branch of the NAACP. However, feeling resentful of the attention Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy received from their involvement in the boycott, Nixon resigned from the NAACP.
February 26th – Black Nationalist Robert Williams Born
On this day in1925, civil rights leader, Robert Williams, was born. He was an advocate of armed defense and argued against Martin Luther King's nonviolence. Williams was one of the primary influences in the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. In 1954, he started campaigns to desegregate public places in Monroe County, North Carolina. He rose to national prominence during the "Kissing Case" - where two African American children played an innocent kissing game with three white girls. Newspapers exaggerated the details and a white mob began searching the city for the two boys. The police found the boys first, beat them and then imprisoned them. As the case gained international attention, Williams became involved, speaking around the country for the release of the two boys. A second hearing developed and the boys were eventually released. Williams' stance of armed defense impeded his future as a civil rights leader. He was banished from the NAACP and the FBI began hounding him for his connection to communism. He fled to Cuba, eventually publishing Negroes With Guns, said to be one of the most influential documents in the Black Power movement. Williams died in 1996 at the age of 71.
February 27th – Marian Anderson Born
On this day in 1897, one of the most celebrated contraltos of all time, Marian Anderson, was born. She began her music career in a children's choir at the age of six. After graduating from high school, she was rejected by an all white music school, the first of numerous encounters with institutionalized racism. Her future changed when she placed first in a prestigious competition with the Philharmonic Orchestra in New York City. Anderson made a series of trips to Europe earning the praise of famous composers and conductors. She became an overnight sensation. Once back in the U.S., Anderson played in Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, both previously closed to African Americans. However, in 1939 her agent tried to book a show at Constitution Hall, owned by the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR), and she was turned away. As a result, First lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned as a member of DAR and invited Anderson to play in front of the Lincoln Memorial. On Easter Sunday Seventy-five thousand people went to hear Anderson. DAR later invited Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall on numerous occasions. In 1955, she became the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. When she retired from music, Anderson became a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In 1972 she was awarded the UN Peace Prize. Anderson died in 1993.
February 28th – Detroit Race Riot Erupts
On this day in 1943, the first in a series of race riots took place in the city of Detroit. In an effort to fill the new war factories, Detroit flooded the South with promises of high wages. Blacks moved to Detroit in hordes. Once there they realized the city of Detroit was just as segregated as the South. The Black Legion greeted the blacks with threats. The police practiced racial profiling, harassment, and abuse of black citizens. The city lacked the resources to deal with such a large influx of people. The housing shortage was horrible. Blacks were excluded from public housing and white landlords charged three or four times fair market rates. A temporary solution to the housing issue was to integrate the existing public housing at the Sojourner Truth housing project. This was met with widespread picketing from whites. On February 27, thousands of picketers, some armed, joined together at the housing project. Violence began when two blacks tried to drive through the picket line to move into their new homes. The crowd was doused with tear gas. Black families had to move into the housing project under police protection. A few months later a massive riot broke out resulting in the death of 34 people.
February 29th – Hattie McDaniel Wins Academy Award
On this day in 1940, Hattie McDaniel won an academy award for her supporting role of "Mammy" in Gone With the Wind. McDaniel was the first African American to win an Oscar and also to attend the ceremony as a guest not a servant. She made her screen debut in 1932 in The Golden West. She then went on to act in more than 300 films. In the first half of the 20th century movies were extremely popular and played an important roll in the consciousness of America. Black actors were relegated to play roles of porters, servants, drunks, second tier musicians, or simply part of the background. In Gone With The Wind, McDaniel elevated her signature character, giving Mammy a humane dignity and bold strength. She achieved great success as the best known African American actress in the industry. However, black protesters hassled McDaniel for her repeated portrayals of blacks in servitude. As the NAACP stepped up criticism of the films that made McDaniels famous, her roles diminished. She died of breast cancer in 1952. McDaniels willed her Oscar statuette to Howard University. During riots on the campus in the 1060s, the statue disappeared and has never been recovered.
March 1st – Alabama Students Join Sit-In Movement
On this day in 1960, six hundred Alabama State College students attempted to March on the state Capitol in protest of the expulsion of sit-in participants. Four days earlier, a group of Alabama State students entered the cafeteria at the state capitol, asked for service, were denied, and then walked out. Governor John Patterson labeled the students "race agitators" and demanded their expulsion from college. The SCLC's Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, and Martin Luther King jr. participated in a rally attended by 4,000 people. This was the largest local rally since the Montgomery bus boycott. At the end of February, half the ASC student body held a prayer service on the steps of the capitol. This enraged Patterson and he demanded more expulsions. 9 more students were expelled. Alabama State students were furious and refused to register for classes until their fellow students were reinstated. On March 1, students set out for the capitol, carrying posters condemning Patterson and Jim Crow. The students were herded off campus and into the arms of the police. Thirty five students were arrested and the protest was temporarily over.
March 2nd – Arrest of Claudette Colvin in Montgomery
On this day in 1955, fifteen year old Claudette Colvin was arrested for violating the segregation laws on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus. Colvin was sitting in the first row of the "colored" section of the bus beside a pregnant woman named Ruth Hamilton. When whites entered the bus, Colvin and Hamilton were asked to give up their seats. Both women refused. The driver called the police. Another black rider gave pregnant Hamilton his seat, leaving Colvin standing in defiance alone. She became increasingly agitated and was taken away kicking and screaming. Colvin was not the first African American charged with violating segregation on Montgomery buses, but she was the first to plead not guilty and through her attorney, Fred D. Gray, challenged the segregation ordinances. Legal maneuvers between Gray and Montgomery prosecutors led to all charges against Colvin being dismissed, except for the disorderly conduct charge. Gray appealed by was unable to challenge the segregation laws because those charges against Colvin had been dropped. Gray and other Montgomery black leaders discussed filing a federal lawsuit, but the unmarried Colvin was pregnant and her parents refused to allow her to be a plaintiff. Gray filed a federal lawsuit a year later after Rosa Parks was arrested. He named Colvin as one of the plaintiffs in the case Browder v. Gayle. It was the success of that lawsuit that ultimately ended segregation on Montgomery city buses.
March 3rd – Murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson Triggers Selma March
On this day in 1965, the funeral of Jimmie Lee Jackson was held. His death roused activists and resulted in the Selma-to-Montgomery March. Marion, Alabama, about 40 miles from Selma, gained national attention a month earlier when hundreds of black children were arrested in a voting rights March. Two weeks later a group of Marion residents walked to the county jail to sing for the release of SCLC worker James Orange. Police from all over the state attacked in force. The marchers broke rank and fled. 80 year-old Cager Lee, Jimmie Lee Jackson's grandfather, was among those who fled. Jimmie Lee Jackson was inside a cafe with his mother when he saw troopers attacking his grandfather. He ran outside and pulled his grandfather to safety inside the cafe. The police followed them in, wildly swinging bully clubs. Jackson trying to protect his mother, was pinned down in the corner, and then shot in the stomach. He fled into the street where he was viciously beaten by the police. Eight days later Jackson died. No one was charged with the murder and state authorities defended troopers' actions. On the night of the first service for Jackson, some civil rights activists wanted to march with Jackson's body from Selma to Montgomery to lay his body on the steps of the capitol, symbolically at the feet of the governor. Twenty two days after Jackson was buried, the Selma to Montgomery March did reach the state capitol. Jackson's senseless death had galvanized the movement and the national outcry over violence and denial of the ballot to blacks in Alabama inspired Congress to pass the1965 Voting Rights Act.
March 4th – Honest Abe Inaugurated
On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated the 16th president of the United States. Lincoln had retired from politics 13 years earlier, but re-entered the area in 1856. Two years late ran against Stephen Douglass for one of the senate seats from Illinois. Lincoln argued against slavery as an evil against humanity and vowed to fight against it's expansion. He advocated for a return to the egalitarian ideals of the Declaration of Independence. He criticized the compromise made to the slave holding states. Although Lincoln lost the Senate race, his passionate oratory made him a leading political figure and in 1960, he was nominated by the Republican Party for the Presidency. Lincoln's views were well known. His success was seen by North and South as heralding the eventual death of slavery. Lincoln acquitted himself during the civil war with resilience, skill, and full use of his executive powers. He wrote both the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. At wars end, Lincoln extended a peaceful hand to the conquered South. Lincoln's election did exactly what the South had feared - it ended slavery. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth.
March 5th – American Negro Academy Formed
On this day in 1897, the American Negro Academy was founded in Washington, D.C. It was the first scholarly commission for black writers and thinkers and was an introduction to later African American Institutions. ANA was created in response to deteriorating conditions for blacks. With lynchings on the rise and an apathetic federal government, African Americans and progressives across the country were worried. 78 year old Alexander Crummel recognized the need for an organization to attend to the needs of African Americans. Thus the African Negro Academy was formed to propagate "literature, science, and art" and for "the defense of the Negro against vicious assault." The ANA sought to create a new African American aesthetic by supporting black writers, scientist, and artists in an international think tank that focused on practical and academic issues. Its all male membership included Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, and Archibald Grumke. Over the next two decades, the ANA fostered many academic works. Its members went on to become leaders in education, arts, and science. In 1924 the ANA closed its doors. The organization was revived in 1969 as the Black Academy of Arts and Letters.
March 6th – Missouri Compromise Deepens Slavery Divide
On this day in 1820, the Missouri Compromise was passed into law. The new nation rested dangerously on a not so unified collection of states. Legal squabbling over slavery prevented new territories from becoming states. Pro- and antislavery factions refused to relinquish legislative power to the opposing side. The expansion of the country was tied to the issue. The North and South had conflicting political mindsets dueling over their visions of the future of the country. Abolitionists wanted slavery abolished completely. The Whigs wanted slavery contained. The result was a conflicted federal government unsure of what to do with its new western provinces acquired through the Louisiana Purchase. Multiple bills were proposed on how to deal with the Missouri territory, including complete prohibition of slavery. Alabama was admitted as a slave state. A proposal to admit Maine as a free state threatened to disrupt political parity. The resulting compromise was that Missouri would be free to draft slavery into its constitution, but other states would be free. Neither party was happy with the result. The modes of thinking defending slavery were used to justify the segregation and oppression that led to the civil rights movement. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was one of the first-pieces of legislation grappling with the slavery issue that would haunt America well into the twentieth century.
April 6th – Black Panther Bobby Hutton Killed in a Shoot Out. Two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King
dozens of US cities broke down into anarchy as angry
African Americans began rioting. During the chaos
members of the Black Panther Party were ambushed and
a shoot out began. Eventually, Police set fire to the
building unarmed Bobby Hutton was trapped in.
April 7th – Activist William Monroe Trotter dies. On this day in 1934, William Monroe Trotter, co-founder of
the Boston Guardian, an independent African-American
newspaper that issued “propaganda against discrimination
based on color and denial of citizenship rights because of
April 8th – Jury Deliberations Begin in Scottsboro Boys Trial. On this day in 1933, an all white jury began deliberating the
fate of nine black men and youths accused of raping two
white women on a freight train.
April 9th – Reconstruction Civil Rights Act Passed. On this day in 1866, congress passed the Reconstruction
Civil Rights Act over the veto of President Andrew
Johnson. The act declared that all persons born in the
United States were now citizens regardless of race, creed,
or previous condition.
April 10th – NAACP Votes Against Peace Movement Merger. On this day in 1967 the NAACP voted against merging the
peace movement with the civil rights movement. Four days
earlier Martin Luther King delivered his first anti-war
speech. Mainstream media reacted negatively toward this
and subsequent speeches. As a result, some civil rights
groups, including the NAACP began distancing themselves
April 11th – Civil Rights Act of 1968 Becomes Law. On this day in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed
into law the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This Act was also
known as the Fair Housing Act, making all housing open to
April 12th – Martin Luther King Jr. Jailed in Birmingham. On this day in 1963 Martin Luther King was arrested while
taking part in the Birmingham campaign, a movement
organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SCLC) to bring attention to the integration efforts of
African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama.
April 13th – Sidney Poitier Wins Best Actor Award. On this day in 1964 Sidney Poitier became the first African
American to win the best actor Academy Award for his role
in Lilies of the Field. With this new fame Poitier began
choosing acting roles that challenged American
assumptions about race and poverty.
April 14th – First Abolition Society Organized. On this day in 1775, the Society for the Relief of Free
Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage was organized in
Pennsylvania. Abolitionist Anthony Benezet formed the
group to help local African American women faced with
being resold into slavery.
April 15th – Labor Leader A. Philip Randolph Was Born. On this day in 1889, A. Philip Randolph was born. In 1925
he formed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an all
black union affiliated with the American Federation of
Labor. When the AFL merged with the Congress of
Industrial Organizations forming the AFL-CIO, Randolph
became Vice President.
April 16th – MLK Issues ‘Letter From a Birmingham Jail’. On this day in 1963, while in solitary confinement in a
Birmingham jail, King wrote a letter in response to a group
of white preachers that had released “Call to Unity,” asking
for civil rights protesters to stop demonstrations. King’s
harsh response became an acclaimed example of protest
literature and civil disobedience.
April 17th – SNCC Organized at Shaw University Conference. On this day in 1960 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee was formed. The goal of the SNCC was to
Coordinate student protests across the country. The SNCC
became the foremost civil rights group in the nation during
April 18th – Second March for School Integration in Washington. On this day in 1959, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin
organized students for an orderly march within the nation’s
capitol. Martin Luther King delivered the main speech.
Many view this march as a trial run for the 1963 March on
April 19th – Armed Black Students Take Over Building at Cornell. On this day in 1969, 80 armed African American students
brandished arms and took over the student union during
parents’ weekend at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. The
group had a list of demands, including the institution of a
degree-granting black studies program. After a 36 hour
standoff, Cornell officials announced they would establish
an African Studies and Research Center.
April 20th – Supreme Court Approves Busing for School Integration. On this day in 1971, the u.s. supreme court ruled
unanimously in the swann v. charlotte-meckleburg decision
that busing students to achieve school integration was
April 21st – Eisenhower signs Civil Rights Act. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Civil
Rights Act of 1960. This bill empowered the
federal government to levy fines for those who obstructed
the right to vote.
April 22nd – Harvard Creates African American Studies Program. On this day in 1969, Harvard University created a
Committee on African Studies, that ultimately led to the
Creation of a department for Afro-American studies.
April 23rd – King Leads March In Boston On this day in 1965, more than 20,000 local residents
paraded through streets asking for better economic
conditions and an end to de facto segregation. Martin
Luther King led the march. The event culminated in a rally
on Boston Common, where King spoke, emphasizing that
the North needed a civil rights movement as much as the
April 24th – Federal Troops Leave the South. On this day in 1877, the last federal troops were withdrawn
from the South ending the Reconstruction era. Three
Constitutional Amendments were passed during
Reconstruction: The 13th, abolishing slavery, the 14th,
granting citizenship to African Americans, and the 15th,
insuring all men over the age of 21 the right to vote. The
South responded to these amendments with violence,
Making military occupation necessary. In 1877, President
Hayes won an election by agreeing to withdraw troops.
This decision dissolved the civil, economic, and political
rights of African Americans.
April 25th – United Negro College Fund Organized On this day in 1944, Frederick Patterson and Mary McCloud
founded the United Negro College Fund. This program
offered aid to aspiring low-income students and worked to
keep down the costs of tuition at historically black
colleges and universities. Many of America’s civil rights
leaders benefitted from this program.
April 26th – Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Organized. On this day in 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic
party was formed. At the time Mississippi was a one party
state dominated by democrats. African Americans were
prevented from voting by a series of controls. The Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee devised a plan to
harness the black voting potential and then attend the
Democratic National Convention, where they bid to
become the Democratic Party in Mississippi.
April 27th – Corretta Scott (King) born in Alabama On this day in 1927, Coretta Scott was born in Marion,
Alabama. While attending college in Boston she met
and later married Martin Luther King Jr. After his death
Coretta became a national civil rights leader.
April 28th – Ruby Hurley Opens Southern NAACP Office Ruby Hurley played a significant role in the Civil Rights
Movement. She organized a youth council and became the
national youth secretary of the NAACP. She increased the
youth membership to 25,000. On April 28, 1951, Ruby
opened the first permanent NAACP office in the South.
April 29th – Rioters Protest Rodney King Verdict in Los Angeles Four LA police officers pulled Rodney King over
for erratic driving. He resisted arrest and the officers
knocked him to the ground, tasered him, and beat him with
nightsticks. A bystander videotaped the attack. The video
was released to the media and became a national sensation.
The four officers were eventually indicted on charges of
using excessive force. On April 29, 1992, an all white
jury found the officers not guilty. African Americans in
south central L.A. looted and vandalized the city. More than
50 people died, 2,000 were injured and $1 billion of
property damage occurred.
April 30th – President Wilson Denies Praising ‘Birth of a Nation’ Birth of a Nation is a film based on the Thomas Dixon novel, The Clansmen, in which blacks were depicted as indolent,
drunken, simple, and crude. The film glorifies the KKK,
while demonizing African Americans. After seeing the film,
Wilson was quoted as saying, “My only regret is that it is all
so terribly true.” On April 30, 1915 Wilson denied his
initial approval of the film.
May 1st – Myles Horton Operates Highlander School On this day in 1933, Myles Horton continued a second year
of operating the Highlander School. The school’s mission
statement was: “To provide an educational center in the
South for the training of rural and industrial leaders, and
for the conservation and enrichment of indigenous cultural
values of the mountains.” The Highlander School defied
segregation laws by teaching blacks and whites together.
By the 1950s, the school had become a training ground
for civil rights activists.
May 2nd – Children’s Crusade Revitalizes Birmingham Campaign On this day in 1963 large groups of black teens began a
series of marches through downtown Birmingham,
Alabama in an effort to desegregate public facilities.
As waves of teenagers marched toward city hall, attack
dogs, police and fire hoses were ordered into action. More
than 1,000 teens were arrested.
May 3rd – Septima Clark Born In South Carolina On this day in 1898, Septima Clark, a powerful leader for
civil rights and voter education, was born. When states
began requiring teachers to list organizations they were
a part of, Clark listed her NAACP membership. As a result,
she lost her job and pension. She accepted an offer from
Myles Horton to become director of the Highlander School.
When the Highlander school closed, Clark began working
with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Septima Clark died in 1987.
May 11th – Browder v Gayle Hearing Begins On this day in 1956, judges began listening to arguments in
a legal case that ultimately desegregated city buses, estab-
lished legal precedent, and gave the civil rights movement
one of its greatest victories. The case arose from the
mistreatment and/or arrest of four women on city buses in
May 12th – Slaves Seize Confederate Steamship On this day in 1862, slaves seized control of the Confederate
steamship the Planter. The leader of the raid was Robert
Smalls, a trusted quartermaster on the steamship. Smalls
navigated the ship out of the harbor, hoisted its white
flag, and sailed into the Union blockade. Smalls, his wife,
and 12 other slaves were freed and given a reward for
their daring escape.
May 13th – Brazil Abolishes Slavery On this day in 1888 the country of Brazil formally abolished
slavery. It was the last country in the Western Hemisphere
to do so. Slavery in Brazil resulted in a disparity between
different shades of colored people. Gradations of color
became a stratifying mechanism: the darker the skin, the
lower a person fell on the socio-economic ladder. Sadly,
Brazil continues to suffer from harsh economic disparities
and forced labor still exists.
May 14th – Freedom Riders Assaulted in Alabama On this day in 1961 the freedom ride from Washington
D.C. to New Orleans was disrupted by brutal mob attacks.
The first attack took place in Anniston, Alabama. Bus
windows were smashed, tires were slashed, the bus
firebombed, and passengers beaten. The second attack
occurred in Birmingham, Alabama. Sadly police had
agreed to wait 15 minutes before responding to the
attacks, allowing the KKK do their horrific deed.
May 15th – Nashville/SNCC Leader Diane Nash Born On this day in 1938, Diane Nash was born. Nash helped
plan and was one of the participants in the sit-ins at
Nashville lunch counters. In 1960 she became a
founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee. Nash worked for multiple civil rights
organizations, helping to organize important campaigns in
Birmingham, Selma, and Mississippi.
May 16th – ‘Briggs v. Elliot’ Case Was Forerunner to ‘Brown’ On this day in 1951, sides in the Briggs v Elliot case
began arguing their respective cases. The NAACP had
asked a group of parents to become plaintiffs on
behalf of their children in a lawsuit against segregated
schools. Harry and Eliza Briggs were the first parents
to sign on. A three-judge panel voted against the plaintiffs.
Briggs was appealed to the Supreme Court. This case and
four others were combined into one large case: Brown v.
Board of Education.
May 17th – Supreme Court Announces School Desegregation Ruling On this day in 1954, segregation was legally abolished
in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The
NAACP spent years in an effort to eliminate segregation
in public schools. It wasn’t until pending cases in Delaware,
Kansas, Virginia, and South Carolina were combined into
one case that the court delivered a verdict in favor of the
plaintiffs. It would take more legal battles, and acts of
civil disobedience to put the ruling into practice.
May 18th Supreme Court Upholds ‘Separate But Equal’ Doctrine On this day in 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court established the “separate but equal”
doctrine of Jim Crow segregation in the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson. During the
Reconstruction era, congress granted African Americans full citizenship. This protection
did not extend to private organizations. Using this loophole, Louisiana passed a law
prohibiting blacks and whites from riding the same cars on railroad lines. The Citizens’
Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law created a test case
in which, Homer Plessy, an African American, sat in the whites only section of a train
car. Plessy was arrested and the court ruled against him, arguing the state had the right
to regulate transit. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court and again the ruling
was not in favor of Homer Plessy. It took 58 years for the Supreme Court to
revisit and reverse the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine.
May 19th Mississippi Leader Aaron Henry Dies On this day in 1997, civil rights activist, Aaron Henry passed away. Henry was among
one of the most important figures in the movement in Mississippi. He was president of
the Mississippi branch of the NAACP. In 1964 he was elected head of the Mississippi
Freedom Democratic Party. In 1982 he was elected to the Mississippi House of
May 20th Freedom Riders Brutally Beaten in Montgomery On this day in 1961, freedom riders were attacked in Montgomery, Alabama. The
ride, headed for New Orleans, started in Washington, D.C. White mobs first attacked
the riders in Anniston, Alabama. As a result of the attack state troopers were called to
escort the bus to Montgomery. When they arrived, the troopers pulled away and local
police were to take over. When the bus pulled into the station there was no police
protection. Instead, a large mob was waiting with sticks, chains, whips and other
weapons. The riders were brutally beaten, some hospitalized.
May 21st White Mob Surrounds Church in Alabama On this day in 1961, a rally in support of the freedom riders that were brutally beaten
the day before, was being held at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church. While Martin
Luther King Jr. spoke inside the church, and angry mob gathered outside. The mob soon
turned into a riot, setting vehicles are fire. With the fear of the church being set on fire,
national guardsmen were sent to the scene. The African Americans inside the church
passed the time singing hymns until the mob dispersed enough for them to safely leave.
May 22nd Klansman Bobby Frank Cherry Convicted in 1963 Case. On this day in 2002, Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted for his part in the bombing of
the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Cherry was one of five Klansmen that carried out
a terrorist attack on the church while Sunday school was in session. Only one of the
Klansmen, Robert Chambliss, was convicted. In 1997 the case was reopened based on
new evidence. Cherry went to trial in 2002. Testimony from his granddaughter and
other evidence against him linked Cherry to the bombing. Cherry died in prison in 2004.
May 23rd First All-Black Broadway Show Opens On this day in 1921, Shuffle Along, the first all-black Broadway show appeared on stage.
This show was written, produced, directed, and performed by African Americans. It
played for both black and white audiences in New York City for more than a year. This
show laid the groundwork for future black oriented plays. It provided work for black
actors and a forum for black writers. Shuffle Along was a large contributing factor
to an era that is now known as the Harlem Renaissance.
May 24th Protest Singer Bob Dylan Born On this day in 1941, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota. During the 1960s,
Dylan songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a Changin’”,
became anthems of the civil rights movement. His protest songs were a mix of personal
philosophy, observation and poetry. Other white celebrities rallied with Dylan in
support of the movement, devoting money and time. Their contributions helped keep
the movement going financially.
May 25th – Baltimore NAACP Stalwart Lillie M. Jackson Born
On this day in 1889, Lillie M. Carroll Jackson was born. Lillie
held the position of NAACP President of the Baltimore
branch for many years. Jackson was a staunch advocate of
civil rights and did so at the legal, legislative, and grassroots levels. In 1938 she led a campaign that equalized pay for
black and white teachers. Lillie Jackson died in 1975. Her
descendants are still active in Baltimore politics and civic
May 26th – Althea Gibson Wins The French Open On this day in 1956, Althea Gibson won the women’s singles
at the French Open. This was the first major tennis award
won by an African American. Gibson developed an
interest in tennis at a young age, but was barred from
public tennis courts and had to practice on the private court
of Dr. Walter Johnson. In 1957 Gibson won a U.S. national
championship and became the first African American to be
named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.
May 27th – Tallahassee Bus Boycott Begins On this day in 1956 the Tallahassee bus boycott began. Two
female Florida A&M students refused to give up their seats
on a bus and were arrested. While the NAACP leaders
reviewed the case, Florida A&M students decided to boycott
the city’s buses for the rest of the semester. The group
demanded an end to segregation on the city’s bus lines and
the opening of bus-driving jobs to African American
applicants. The boycott had an immediate economic
impact. In January a federal judge ruled Florida segregation
unconstitutional. The Tallahassee bus boycott was given a
May 28th – Gunfire Aimed at March in St. Augustine On this day in 1964 a night march was disrupted by
violence, ending in gunfire on residential houses, including
one rented to Martin Luther King. Wyatt Walker of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference planned the
night marches in an attempt to incite local authorities
into violence so that the SCLC could appeal to the federal
government for help. This plan was successful. Federal
agents arrived and night marches were suspended while a
federal judge deliberated on the issues. The judge sided
with the marchers on June 9th.
May 29th – ICC Ordered to Enforce Bus Terminal Desegregation On this day in 1961, U.S. Attorney General, Robert
Kennedy, announced that the U.S. Interstate Commerce
Commission banned segregation from all interstate travel
facilities. The Freedom Riders won a large victory, but
desegregation of interstate facilities was only one step in
the movement toward equality.
May 30th – Kansas-Nebraska Act Passed; Foreshadows Civil War On this day in 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska
Act. This act abolished the existing law passed by the
Missouri Compromise. The act would allow each state,
Kansas and Nebraska, to formulate its own constitution.
Pro- and anti-slavery groups battled in Kansas. Four
different constitutions were drawn up and sent to Congress
for approval. The Lecompton Constitution, a pro-slavery
document, was chosen by President James Buchanan.
Congress refused to ratify the document. The disagreement
between northern and southern states over slavery would
only be solved by civil war.
May 31st – In Follow-Up to ‘Brown,’ Court Orders “Deliberate Speed’ On this day in 1955 the U.S. Supreme Court issued the
“Brown II” decision, ordering communities to desegregate
“with all deliberate speed.” The Brown v. Board of
Education decision was not popular in the South. Southern
Governors vowed to defy the ruling. Riots, protests, and
violence broke out. It wasn’t until federal intervention
occurred that the states began complying.
June 1st – Race Riot Breaks Out in Tulsa On this day in 1921, the worst-ever race riot broke out in
Tulsa, Oklahoma. The day before, Dick Rowland, a black
shoe shiner, was accused of assaulting, Sarah Page, a white
elevator operator. Rowland was arrested and a
sensationalized story was reported to the local press.
When a white mob went to the jail to lynch Rowland, a
crowd of blacks gathered to protect him. A gun went off
when a white man tried to disarm one of the African
Americans. Rioting broke out all over the city. Hundreds
died and the city was left in smoking ruins.
June 2nd – Walter Fauntroy Leads SCLC’s D.C. Division On this day in 1962, Walter Fauntroy was the head of
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in
Washington, D.C. Fauntroy was a local coordinator for the
1963 March on Washington, an organizer for the 1965
Selma-to-Montgomery March, and the March against Fear in
1966. In 1970 he was elected as D.C. delegate to the U.S.
House of Representatives, where he served for 20 years.
Fauntroy remains in Washington and is a regular
commentator on news programs.
June 3rd – Segregated Interstate Bus Travel Ruled Illegal On this day in 1946 The U.S. Supreme Court declared
segregtion on interstate bus travel unconstitutional in
Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia. More than a decade
before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus,
a young black woman name Irene Morgan did the same
thing on an interstate bus. The NAACP filed a lawsuit on her
behalf. NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall argued
segregation across state lines violated the Interstate
Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court agreed.
June 4th – National Day of Fasting Protests Lynchings On this day in 1899, the Afro-American Council declared a
national day of fasting to protest violence against African
Americans. In the late 1800s and early 1900s innumerable
African Americans were murdered by lynching. The AAC
sent a request to President McKinley to deal with the
racially motivated violence in the south. McKinley and
subsequent presidents offered little help. The AAC then
created a day of fasting in protest. Lynching diminished
after the 1930s.
June 5th – Birthdate of Tommie Smith, Black Power Olympian On this day in 1944 Tommie Smith was born. In 1968
Smith made the U.S. Olympic track team. In the 200-meter
dash, Smith won the gold medal, setting a record of 19.83
seconds. As the national anthem played during the
presentation ceremony, Smith bowed his head and raised
his right hand to signify black power. His teammate, John
Wayne Carlos, raised his left, representing black unity.
June 6th – Robert F. Kennedy Assassinated On this day in 1968, presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy
died after being shot by an assassin the day before.
Kennedy was considered the last great white hope for
African Americans. As U.S. Attorney General, Bobby
Kennedy was hostile toward the civil rights movement, but
as the movement continued his moral sense emerged. He
became an ardent supporter by 1964. Kennedy decided to
run for president in 1968. He emerged as a progressive
thinker and prominent supporter of civil rights. On June 5,
as Kennedy left a hotel ballroom, Sirhan Sirhan rushed
forward and shot Kennedy in the head. He died the next
June 7th – Danville Protesters Indicted Under John Brown Law On this day in 1963, protesters in Danville, Virginia, were
Charged under a pre-Civil War “John Brown” statute. The
NAACP had a strong presence in Virginia throughout the
1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. In 1959 schools in Virginia were
officially integrated, but businesses remained segregated.
The local SCLC and SNCC began protests. The groups called
for boycotts, pickets, protests and sit-ins. The white power
structure responded with violence, the worst of which
occurred in Danville. Protestors were arrested and charged
with violating the “John Brown” statute.
June 8th – Civil Rights Criticizes Florida Elections On this day in 2001, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission
criticized Florida voting procedures as prejudicial.
Following the historic 2007 presidential election between
Al Gore and George W. Bush, over 3,000 voter complaints
were registered by the Florida attorney general’s office.
The Civil Rights Commission began an investigation based
on controversy over alleged voting irregularities. The
CRC found multiple improprieties, the most egregious being
that the majority of damaged ballots or rejected voters
were from predominately black areas. The commission
recommended statewide reform and litigation against the
state of Florida.
June 9th – Last ‘Scottsboro Boy’ Released From Alabama Prison On this day in 1950, Andy Wright was released from prison
in Alabama. He and 8 other black men had been falsely
convicted of raping two women on a freight train in
Alabama. The charges against them were so egregious
and the trials so unjust that the NAACP got involved. High-
powered attorneys were brought in and charges against
four of the nine men were dropped. The other five were
sentenced to prison. Many songs, books, and movies have
memorialized the Scottsboro Boys.
June 10th – Southern Governors Vow Resistance to ‘Brown’ Decision On this day in 1954, a group of Southern governors vowed
to defy the Brown v. Board ruling. They organized a
strategy of evasion, delay, and open defiance. Politicians
preyed on fear and misunderstanding. Many advocated
violence against African Americans in an effort to maintain
segregation. Those politicians who did not support
segregation were voted out of office. The position many
governors held contributed to the suffering of thousands of
June 11th – George Wallace Stands in Schoolhouse Door On this day in 1963, Alabama Governor, George Wallace,
stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama barring
two black students from entering. During his campaign
Wallace promised to do whatever was necessary to uphold
segregation. A federal judge had ordered that Vivian
Malone and James Hood be admitted to the University. The
national guard was called in to create a path for the two
to enter. Wallace seized this as a political grandstanding
June 12th – Medgar Evers Assassinated in Mississippi On this day in 1963, NAACP activist, Medgar Evers, was
shot and killed. Evers was the first NAACP field secretary
for the state of Mississippi. He was the main civil rights
leader in the most racially violent state in the U.S. He
organized a huge movement to desegregate the entire state.
In Jackson, Mississippi Jackson gave a powerful speech on
live television. In his speech he said, “I would die, and die
gladly, if that would make a better life for them [my
children].” When Evers arrived home, was assassinated as
he got out of his car. \
June 13th – Thurgood Marshall Appointed To U.S. Supreme Court On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first
African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme
Court. Marshall was an NAACP lead attorney on many
historic cases, including Murray v. Maryland, Morgan v.
Commonwealth, and Brown v. Board of Education. Marshall
Served 24 years on the Supreme Court. In the 1980’s the
court became more conservative . When Marshall retired in
1991, he criticized the direction the court was taking. He
died two years after his retirement. Law libraries, colleges,
and airports have been named in his honor.
June 14th – Congress Apologizes For Inaction On Lynchings On this day in 2005, the U.S. congress officially apologized
for its failure during the 20th century to make lynching a
federal crime. Between 1882 and 1968 approximately
5,000 African Americans were lynched. During the
Reconstruction period, ex-confederates founded the
Ku Klux Klan. Its existence spurred on thousands of
lynch mobs. During President Hayes, term the
Reconstruction ended and the government turned its
back on African Americans. The 2005 apology is a
major step in race relations, but is 100 years too late.
June 15th – March Against Fear Continues In Mississippi
On this day in 1966, The March Against Fear, started by James Meredith, continued. The March would prove to be a major turning point in the Civil Rights movement. James Meredith began the march ten days earlier by himself. He walked from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. Unarmed, Meredith was shot 30 miles into his march. While recuperating in a hospital, Martin Luther King, Floyd McKissick, James Lawson, Cleveland Sellers, Stokely Carmichael, and Dick Gregory flew in from all over the country. With Meredith’s blessing the march continued, and a “March Against Fear” manifesto was released. Angry white protesters waved confederate flags at the marchers. On June 17th, after being arrested, Stokely Carmichael would give his famous “Black Power” speech that would split the movement into two.
June 16th – Attorney General Meets With Civil Rights Leaders
On this day in 1961, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy met with Civil Rights leaders. The meeting, while productive, was uncomfortable. The Kennedy brothers encouraged voter-registration, but wanted an end to mass demonstrations, sit ins, freedom rides, and other confrontational activities. President Kennedy needed the white southern vote to win the election in 1964. Thurgood Marshall was appointed to a federal judgeship; and with Robert Kennedy The Voter Education Project was formed. The Kennedys were inconsistent during the civil rights movement. They would turn a deaf ear to black American protests, while at other times become a staunch ally.
June 17th – ‘Black Power’ Slogan Marks Turn In Movement
On this day in 1966, Stokely Carmichael popularized the phrase “Black Power.” Carmichael replaced John Lewis as head of the SNCC. The organization was quickly absorbing Carmichael’s more leftist agenda. The “March Against Fear” manifesto that was created to push President Johnson to firm up his Civil Rights Bill had a clash of leaders over the wording. As the march continued Carmichael urged blacks to defend themselves, saying blacks needed to have pride in being black. He declared, “Every courthouse in Mississippi should be burnt down tomorrow so we can get rid of the dirt …We want black power!” This speech was the beginning of the end of public unity among various civil rights groups.
June 18th – Wyatt T. Walker Serves SCLC As Chief Of Staff
On this day in 1961, Wyatt T. Walker served as chief of staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Walker was a headstrong man who after graduating from college, became a preacher in Petersburg, Virginia. Walker would meet fiery preacher Vernon Johns, and under his tutelage, became an uncompromising preacher and a dedicated activist. Walker became a close friend and confidant of King. In Birmingham, Walker smuggled out the pieces of toilet paper and newsprint, which King had written his historic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Today, Walker is pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem, New York. He remains active in human rights issues.
June 19th – Juneteenth Celebration
On this day in 1865, Union General Gordan Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas informing its black residents that the Civil War is over and slavery was no more. His statement read: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.” African Americans would gather their belongings and leave their plantations behind. Some headed North, others East to find family members. June 19, or Juneteenth, became a major holiday for African Americans.
June 20th – Muhammad Ali Convicted Of Draft Evasion
On this day in 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his heavyweight title, forbidden to box professionally, and sentenced to five years in prison. Ali spoke out against racism, and advocated black separatism. He spoke out against the Vietnam War. In 1967, the U.S. Army drafted Ali to fight in Vietnam. He claimed conscientious-objector status and refused to serve. His conviction was appealed and overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970.
June 21st – Civil Rights Workers Murdered In Mississippi
On this day in 1964, civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Shwerner disappeared on the back roads of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Their bodies were found six weeks later. Shwerener and Goodman arrived in Mississippi to answer the call of the SNCC, for the Freedom Summer campaign. The two were sent off with Chaney to investigate the bombings of a black church. All three were arrested on suspicion of arson, and taken to jail by Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and Deputy Cecil Price, both KKK members. Evidence later showed that a KKK conspiracy to murder them was forming. The three were released after dark and run off the road by several cars full of Klan members. They were kidnapped, shot, and buried in a dirt dam at a fishpond. When the young men did not return to SNCC headquarters, calls were made to John Doar, U.S. Justice Department representative in Mississippi, who then called the FBI. For 40 days the U.S. government searched for the men, along with 400 Navy personnel. The bodies were found August 4th. The nation got a violent lesson about segregation and the conditions in Mississippi. In 2005, Klansman Edgar Ray Killen was prosecuted and convicted of the murders of all three men.
June 22th – Klansman Sentenced In 1964 Mississippi Murders
On this day in 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was sentenced for his part in the murders of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner. Despite strong evidence against them, Killen and seven other defendants were acquitted during the original trial in 1967. Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore reopened the case and five years later, Edgar Ray Killen was charged with his involvement in the murders. Killen was a Baptist preacher and top Ku Klux Klan recruiter. On June 21st, 2005, on the 41st anniversary of the deaths, Killen was convicted of manslaughter.
June 23rd – Murderer Of Medgar Evers Arrested In Mississippi
On this day in 1963, Byron De La Beckwith was charged with the murder of Medgar Evers. Considered a cowardly killing, Evers was shot in the back in front of his children. The police found the weapon and traced it back to Beckwith, a virulent, outspoken racist, with ties to the KKK. Despite strong evidence, an all-white jury was unable to convict in 1964. Few were surprised by the verdict due to the climate in Mississippi. Governor Ross Barnett, one of the shameless racist demagogues of the era, shook Beckwith’s hand as a mistrial was announced. Two months later a second trial resulted in a hung jury. Documents would later reveal the KKK had tampered with by the juries. Thirty years later Beckwith would be re-indicted and retried. Evers, a military veteran, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery
June 24th – Poor People’s Campaign Provokes Riot
On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign came to an end amid sparks and riots. After King’s assassination in April, King’s best friend Ralph Abernathy would take over as head of the SCLC, including a massive squatter’s camp on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The campaign began May 13, in a makeshift “Resurrection City” of tents, sleeping bags, canvas, and plywood. The population of Resurrection City grew daily, with the addition of poor whites and blacks from all over the country. On June 19th leaders scheduled a “Solidarity Day” rally. Coretta Scott King and Ralph Abernathy were the main speakers. The message of the day was economic justice, the war in Vietnam, and poverty at home. Despite poignant and eloquent speeches, the Poor People’s Campaign failed to deliver anything concrete. Five days later, Resurrection City was torn down by the police.
June 25th – Black Swimmers Attacked In St. Augustine, Florida
On this day in 1964, white mobs attacked black swimmers trying to desegregate a beach. After earlier success at the Monson Motor Lodge, black protesters began challenging the segregated beachfronts, which by law had already been desegregated. On June 17th, 35 African American swimmers began a “wade-in.” A few days later they returned, but were met by angry white mobs. That evening a Klan-inspired riot broke through police lines. Twenty African Americans were injured. On June 30th, the Florida governor asked civil rights leaders to suspend activities; in return a biracial committee would be established and protesters’ demands would be reviewed. King viewed this as a public victory.
June 26th – James Weldon Johnson Dies
On this day in 1938, the all around Renaissance man James Wheldon died. After graduating from Atlanta University, Johnson returned to his home state of Florida and became one of the first African Americans to pass the bar and practice law. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Johnson as the U.S. consul to Venezuela, and later Nicaragua. In 1916, Johnson became a field organizer for the NAACP, eventually becoming its executive secretary and one the main civil rights leaders in the country. In 1932, Johnson began teaching creative writing at Fisk University. While at Fisk, he wrote and published his autobiographical Along This Way, in which he stated “if the Negro is made to fail, America fails with him.” In 1938 while vacationing in Maine, Johnson was killed when a train hit his car.
June 27th – Carl Holm Born
On this day in 1919, M. Carl Holman was born in Minter City, Mississippi. Holm graduated with honors from Lincoln University. He attended the University of Chicago, and later earned A Master of Fine Arts from Yale. He went on to teach English at Hampton University, Lincoln University, and Clark College. During his tenure at Clark College, Holman helped start the Atlanta Inquirer, a weekly civil rights publication that still operates. He was the journal’s first editor. In 1962, he moved to Washington D.C., and became information office for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In 1966 he became its deputy director. In 1971, he became director of the National Urban Coalition. Holman dedicated his life to the Civil Rights Movement. He died on August 9, 1988, in Washington. He was 69.
June 28th – Charles Morgan Jr. Heads The ACLU Southeastern Office
On this day in 1967, ACLU attorney Chuck Morgan, an up and coming lawyer in Birmingham, worked on civil rights cases from his office in Atlanta. Speaking at a civic club meeting, Morgan spoke of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, laying blame for four girls’ deaths on the indifference of white Birminghamians and collusion with racists. Birmingham whites were not ready to hear this message. As a result, Morgan’s legal career was ruined and he soon left the state. Morgan joined the ACLU and was named director of its southern regional office. He began working for civil rights through high-profile legal cases. He worked on jury selection, voting rights, voting districts, free speech, racial violence, and more. Two of his high profile cases involved Julian Bond and Muhammad Ali. He won both cases. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the ACLU worked in tandem with the NAACP, and played a role in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.
June 29th – Vietnam Escalation Draws in Civil Rights Protests
On this day in 1965, In a dense jungle area, 3,000 U.S. soldiers engaged the Vietcong. The majority of the U.S. population was in support of the Vietnam war. Many civil rights leaders were cautious in talking about the war, feeling that if they came out against the war, they would alienate middle America and jeopardize the gains they had achieved in civil rights. Others called the war racist, accusing the United States as treating black men as expendable. This accusation was in part true. Most black GI’s were enlisted as infantrymen most likely to be on the front lines. However, it was not black participation in the war that led civil rights leaders to criticize it. Martin Luther King Jr. saw a connection between U.S. militarism abroad and social unrest at home. The money being spent on the war took away from public programs. King felt a responsibility to speak out on what he saw as unjust.
June 30th – Supreme Court Upholds the NAACP Membership Privacy
On this day in 1958, the Supreme Court agreed with the NAACP in a dispute with the state of Alabama over privacy rights. After the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, white officials in Alabama wanted to punish black organizations, with the NAACP being the biggest target. Alabama demanded the NAACP release its membership lists in accordance with a law. The NAACP refused and a state court held the organization in contempt. Eventually the Supreme Court ruled that the NAACP had the right to keep its membership lists private, and the contempt charge was dropped. Ironically, this Supreme Court ruling would later be used by Ku Klux Klan groups in an attempt to shield their members from civil lawsuits.
July 1st – Mississippi Sovereignty Commission Files To Be Opened
On this day in 2027, the remaining files of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission will be opened to the public after being sealed for 50 years. The MSC was founded in 1956 to “do and perform any and all acts and things deemed necessary and proper to protect the sovereignty of the state of Mississippi and her sister states” from federal interference. State sovereignty commissions colluded with White Citizens’ Councils and local law enforcement to punish civil rights groups. Gradually over time, the commissions were shut down. Debate arose over whether to save or destroy files and paperwork. The Mississippi legislature avoided the issue by locking the files away for 50 years.
July 2nd – Civil Rights Act of 1964 Signed
On this day in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After nearly half a century of legal campaigning from the NAACP, a decade of nonviolent civil disobedience by the SCLC, and years of voter campaigns and community building by the SNCC, the federal government passed the most important civil rights legislation since the abolition of slavery in 1865. Businesses were now required to provide equal services to customers of all races and creeds. Discriminatory hiring acts were illegal, and an agency was formed to assist African Americans with discrimination problems in their communities.
July 3rd – Doctors and NAACP Protest AMA Segregation
On this day in 1963, black doctors and the NAACP protested the American Medical Association in Chicago, Illinois. Although there had been an increase in the number of black medical professionals, segregation remained an issue. Black doctors, pharmacists, and nurses had a difficult time obtaining work. Black doctors in the South were not allowed to join the AMA. A group of black doctors formed the Medical Committee for Human Rights. MCHR had representatives at major civil rights events in the 1960s, providing medical treatment to the sick and injured. The MCHR organized a protest of the American Medical Association, with the support of the NAACP. After the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, the MCHR continued to be a presence in the South setting up clinics, holding classes, and providing prenatal care.
July 4th – Independence Day Creates Conundrum for African Americans
On this day in 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, stating, “all men are created equal” was adopted. That day was bittersweet for African Americans. July 4th had always been a day off from work for slaves. Many plantation owners put on celebrations that included competitions between slaves from neighboring plantations. Prizes won by the slaves were awarded to their master. After the emancipation some black communities combined July 4th with “Juneteenth” celebrations of the date they were told they were free.
July 5th – Businessman-Abolitionist John Jones Born Free In North Carolina
On this day in 1817, entrepreneur John Jones was born a free man in North Carolina. Jones was a tailor’s apprentice, working hard to make a living and teaching himself to read and write in his free time. Jones and his wife left North Carolina in 1845 and started a tailoring business. He became one of the wealthiest black men in America. Jones’ home became part of the Underground Railroad station. He wrote, published, and distributed information against Illinois Black Laws. He was elected Cook County Commissioner, probably the first African American to hold such a position. In his role as commissioner, he abolished segregation in Cook County schools.
July 6th – Biracial Leadership of the Southern Regional Council
On this day in 1962, The Southern Regional Council worked as a biracial research and advocacy group. The SRC was also a coordinator for the NAACP, the SCLC, the SNCC, CORE, and the Urban League. Early in the 20th century, the Atlanta Christian Council saw the need to foster relationships between blacks and whites and the Commission on Interracial Cooperation was formed. In 1944 the CIC disbanded and the SRC was formed to replace it. The SRC advocated for economic fairness and justice as well as integration. It’s mission was to fight “racist propaganda and prepare Southern opinion for gradual amelioration of black social conditions.” From the 1970s to the end of the century, the SRC focused on equitable election districts, and fair education and labor practices.
July 7th – Charles Evers Becomes Mayor in Mississippi
On this day in 1969, Charles Evers, brother of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, became Mayor of Fayette, Mississippi. He was the first African American Mayor in this Deep South State since Reconstruction. Medgar’s assassination in 1963 brought Charles to the forefront of the civil rights movement. He returned to Mississippi to continue his brother’s work as NAACP field secretary, eventually being named Man of the Year. Charles continued in the movement, publishing his movement memoir, Have No Fear, in 1996.
July 8th– Baltimore Schools Desegregate
On this day in 1958, Baltimore schools continued desegregation while the city remained divided along racial lines. In 1954, after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. were the only cities to immediately desegregate schools. As the city remained segregated, three Baltimore reporters broke the cities racial barriers, by employing an unusual tactic. Many African Diplomats traveled through Maryland on their way to Washington, D.C. With the United States not wanting an international segregation incident, the governor of Maryland made sure African Diplomats were treated with respect. The three reporters dressed up as African Dignitaries, mimicking African accents and customs. Upon entering a white-owned restaurant they were seated in the whites-only section, with a photographer taking photos as evidence. When the story appeared in the media, the state of Maryland and city of Baltimore were embarrassed. Less than a year later, the Baltimore Community Relations Commission outlawed segregation in public places.
July 9th – Congress Ratifies 14th Amendment
On this day in 1868, the 14th amendment was ratified, declaring African Americans United States citizens. The first section of the amendment guaranteed equal protection for all citizens. The second section detailed a right to vote provision for all males over the age of 21. The third section prohibited rebels against the federal government from serving in public office. The fourth section stated that the U.S. would not pay damages against lost slaves. The fifth section provided the U.S. government the power to enforce the law. The 14th amendment, backed by the U.S. military, was a success. Blacks voted, started schools, and were elected to public office.
July 10th – Educator Activist Mary McLeod Bethune Born
On this day in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the most influential African American women ever, was born in South Carolina. As a dedicated teacher, Bethune taught in schools across the South in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. In 1904 she formed the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro girls. She remained president of the Institute for 40 years. In 1935, she formed the National Council of Negro Women to work against segregation, inequality, and political disenfranchisement. In 1936, she serve as director of the Division of Negro Affairs within the Depression-era National Youth Administration, becoming the first African American woman to head a federal agency. In 1940 she served as vice president of the NAACP. Bethune died May 18, 1955.
July 11th – Niagara Movement Founded
On this day in 1905, the Niagara Movement was founded. The all-black organization was created by W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois who felt a more militant anti-segregation platform was needed, rather than Booker T. Washington’s conciliatory stance. The first meeting, lasting three days, created a manifesto outlining the group's philosophy and its political, social, and economic demands. DuBois was named general secretary of the organization. At it’s peak the Niagara Movement had hundreds of members and 30 local chapters. However, it lacked funding and never gained significant momentum. In 1909, white liberals joined with the Niagara Movement to form the NAACP.
July 12th – Chicago Rally Marks Transition In Movement On this day in 1966, a rally was held at Soldier Field in Chicago as part of a campaign to expand the Civil Rights Movement beyond the South. The rally laid the groundwork for a radical set of demands, most of which would later surface as the Poor People’s Campaign. The issues raised were discriminatory lending and housing practices, desegregation of Chicago schools, the establishment of a civilian police review committee, and a federally “guaranteed income for every man.” After the rally 5,000 marchers followed Martin Luther King Jr. to Chicago City Hall. King symbolically tacked the demands on Mayor Richard Daley’s door.
July 13th – Bodies of Henry Dee and Charles Moore Found
On this day in 1964, the bodies of Henry Dee and Charles Moore were found in the Mississippi River. Their bodies were found while scores of FBI agents and navy recruiters dredged rivers looking for the bodies of three SNCC staffers. Dee and Charles had not even been reported missing. After investigating, the FBI learned that as Dee and Charles were hitchhiking, a white clansman pulled over and told the boys he was a federal agent. He drove them into the woods and tied them to a magnolia tree. More Klansmen arrived and began beating them with tree branches. The boys were unconscious as the Klansmen tied weights to their feet and threw them into the Mississippi river.
July 14th – Denmark Vesey Slave Revolt
On this day in 1822, Denmark’s Vesey slave revolt was set to begin. In the 1760s Vesey was taken from the Virgin Islands and sold into slavery in South Carolina. In an astonishing stroke of luck, he won $1500 in a lottery and used $600 to buy his freedom. Unable to ignore the violence he witnessed against slaves, Vesey created a plan to emulate the famous 1804 slave revolt in Haiti. He organized a group of slaves and former slaves with a plan to attack Charleston’s arsenals, arm themselves, kill every slave owner they could find, and destroy the city. Vesey’s plan did not come to fruition. On May 30th, as 9,000 slaves waited for a signal from Vesey, a house servant alerted authorities to the plan. On June 23rd, Vesey and 34 others were hanged.
July 15th– Huey Newton Goes On Trial For Murder
On this day in 1968, Huey Newton, Black Panther Party cofounder, went on trial for the murder of an Oakland policeman. The Black Panther Party was feared by everyone, including the U.S. government. FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, began a program called COINTELPRO as a covert war against radical organizations. The BPP was one of the top targets. The Panthers’ aggressive stance led to antagonism with the Oakland police department. One evening in October 1967, two officers pulled Newton over, Newton complied with the officers and while following their instructions, one of the officers shot Newton in the stomach. He fell to the ground unconscious. A hail of bullets from unseen guns killed one officer and injured the other. Newton was charged with murder. Due to lack of evidence, he was acquitted and released from prison a hero.
July 16th – Journalist, Ida Wells-Barnett Born in Mississippi
On this day in 1862, Ida Wells-Barnett was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She was one of the earliest civil rights activists, refusing to move out of a segregated railroad car in Tennessee. Originally a teacher, Wells-Barnett left that career to become a full time writer for Free Speech and Headlight, a Memphis, anti-lynching paper. She wrote scathing articles about lynching. Her office was destroyed by arson, prompting Wells-Barnett to move to Chicago. She continued her anti-lynching campaign there, becoming one of the most important anti-lynching figures in the post-Reconstruction America. In 1909, Wells-Barnett was one of the founders of the NAACP. She ran for legislature in 1930, one of the first African American women to ever run for a major office in the United States.
July 17th – Riots Explode in Newark, New Jersey
On this day in 1967, five days of bloodstained riots came to an end in New Jersey. Disintegrating urban neighborhoods, high poverty, unemployment levels, police brutality, and federal inaction led to a summer of unrest. By the end of the summer thousands were arrested, hundreds killed, and miles of city landscape reduced to rubble. The rioting began in Newark after a cab driver was arrested for passing a double-parked police car. The arresting officers took him to the precinct and beat him senseless. A crowd formed outside, throwing rocks, brick, and glass bottles at the police station. The mob broke into smaller groups and began smashing out storefronts. Looters broke into businesses, setting fires. Two days into the looting the National Guard was called in. Five days after the arrest of the cab diver the riots ended. The results were astonishing: over 25 dead, nearly 800 injured, and close to 1,500 in jail. The property damage was estimated at over $10 million.
July 18th – Melvin Van Peebles Directs ‘La Permission’
On this day in 1968, African American director Marvin Van Peebles broke into mainstream film distribution in the United States. In 1967, Van Peebles was funded by three French producers to shoot La Permission, He leveraged the film into a Hollywood contract with Columbia Pictures. Van Peebles was known for creating low-budget, ultraviolent movies that satirized negative black stereotypes. His early films laid the groundwork for more exploratory reflections on race and America.
July 19th – Harry Belafonte Begins Recording Career
On this day in 1949, Harry Belafonte began recording for Jubilee Records. In the 1940s Belafonte worked as a stagehand at the American Negro Theatre in New York. It was there that his beautiful singing voice was discovered. He began studying folk music and in 1956 signed with RCA Records and his album Calypso was released. On the heels of Calypso’s success, Belafonte transitioned into a Hollywood acting career, becoming an international star. In the early 1950s Belafonte met and became friends with Martin Luther King Jr. He began working all over the globe as a civil rights activist. In the 1980s he lobbied for antiapartheid measures, helped create the USA for Africa organization, was appointed the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and organized the “We Are the World” concert. In 2000, Belafonte formed the Julie and Harry Belafonte Fund for HIV/AIDS care and prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa. Belafonte was truly an entertainer with a mission.
July 20th – Reverend Will Campbell Raises Hell at Ole Miss
On this day in 1955, Reverend Will Campbell caused unrest on the University of Mississippi Campus. Campbell was the director of religious life at the University of Mississippi from 1954-1956. He was fired from the position due to his civil rights demonstrations. Campbell continued his involvement in the movement, and has the distinction of being the only white minister at the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He became a friend and advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., and was present during many civil rights movements including the integration of Little Rock's Central High School and the Committee of Southern Churchmen. In the 1980s, Campbell opened a ministry to poor whites, some being KKK members, and tried to lead them away from prejudice and hate.
July 21st – Clarence Jordan Oversees Christian Commune in Georgia
On this day in 1943, Clarence Jordan continued to develop an experimental society in rural Georgia. At a young age, Jordan wanted to work on food-supply issues and economics with the hope of bettering human life. With a degree in agriculture and a PhD in Greek Theology he merged the two disciplines and founded the Koininia Farm. Koininia is the Greek word for fellowship. The Koininia community was an interracial community with people living off the land, sharing meals, possessions, and Bible classes. Koininian beliefs included equal brotherhood, avoiding racism, militarism, and sexism. The KKK destroyed the Koininia property in a series of bombings. By the end of the 1960s the community changed its name to Koininia Partners, launching partnership programs in which members came together to build affordable housing for poor families. In 1976 two of Jordan's friends modeled Habitat for Humanity after Jordan's Partnership Housing.
July 22nd– 'An American Dilemma' Engages American Readers
On this day in 1945, people read the best-selling An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. A few years earlier the Carnegie Commission lead a research project on segregation. 50 writers and researchers, including Swedish economist, Gunnar Myrdal, collected data throughout the South. The book detailed the countless obstacles and underlying causes that held African Americans in subservience, with racism being the major cause. Myrdal targeted the U.S. government's complicity in the maintenance of segregation. He felt the courts could do away with segregation while the consequent education advances would put an end to economic disparity. Unfortunately Myrdal underestimated the opposition to integration.
July 23rd – Jackie Robinson Enters Baseball Hall of Fame
On this day in 1962, Jackie Robinson was admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first black player to be given this honor. Jackie Robinson enlisted in the army in 1942. He graduated from officer training as a second lieutenant but was then court-martialed when he refused to sit at the back of a segregated bus. He then joined the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. He was an instant success and quickly signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first African American major league baseball player. Many were against Robinson playing in the major leagues, with some players threatening to strike rather than play against him. The resistance didn't hurt his success. In 1947 he led the league in stolen bases and was named rookie of the year. In 1949 he was named league MVP. When he retired in 1957, Robinson became involved in civil rights movements, serving as a board member of the NAACP.
July 24th – Race Riots Erupt in Detroit
On this day in 1967, the worst race riot of the summer continued in Detroit, Michigan. Police units roamed the streets, manhandling "suspicious" pedestrians and belittling black youths. This approach led to widespread animosity and distrust. Poverty and inequity were also factors in the riot that began during the early morning hours of July 23rd. Police burst in on 80 people having a party for two recently returned Vietnam War veterans, arresting all 80 people. As they were carted away an angry crowd gathered. The mob began breaking store windows. Violence, looting, and arson broke out across the city. President Lyndon Johnson sent in 8,000 federal troops. The riot ended on July 28th. 40 people were dead, 1,000 injured, 7,000 arrested, and more than 1,000 buildings destroyed.
July 25th – Kenneth and Mamie Clark Research Psychology of Racism
On this day in 1949, Kenneth and Mamie Clark's study of discrimination continued. Kenneth Clark was the first African American to receive a PhD from Columbia University. Mamie Clark was the second. The husband and wife then began a series of sociological studies with school children. From their studies, the Clark's concluded that segregation had a profoundly negative impact on black children's feeling of self worth. During the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuits, Kenneth Clark served as the NAACP's psychology expert. His findings were major evidence against segregation.
July 26th – Order by President Truman Desegregates Armed Forces
On this day in 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 desegregating U.S. military forces. Truman was on of the most sympathetic presidents to the plight of African Americans, and was the first president to officially meet with the NAACP. In 1946, Truman called for a civil rights committee. The committee recommended ending all discrimination and segregation. Truman sent a special civil rights proposal to congress. His proposal included an anti-lynching law, a Fair Employment Practices Commission, a Civil Rights Commission, and immediate desegregation of the armed forces. His proposal became bogged down in congress. In response to the threat of a black boycott of the military, Truman desegregated the military by executive order rather than waiting for approval of an amendment.
July 27th – Queen Mother Moore Born in Louisiana
On this day in 1898, Queen Mother Moore was born in New Iberia, Louisiana. When she was a young girl both her parents died causing her to drop out of school to take care of her sisters. After being inspired by a speech given by Marcus Garvey, Moore became a leader in Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. Moore organized rent strikes in New York, helped women’s organizations, and helped organize a protest for the Scottsboro boys in 1931. In 1955 she began fighting for slavery reparations from the U.S. government. During the 1970s, Moore toured Africa’s newly independent nations, visiting Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania. It was during a visit to Ghana in 1972 that she was nicknamed “Queen Mother.”
July 28th – 10,000 Parade in Silent New York Protest
On this day in 1917, the NAACP staged a silent march of over 10,000 marchers down Fifth Avenue in New York as a protest of a race riot in St. Louis that killed over 40 African Americans. The 1917 violence started when corporations in St. Louis tried to break white union strikes with imported black workers. After hearing a rumor that blacks were planning a massacre on July 4th, union members began prowling the streets, beating black pedestrians and setting fire to their homes. The silent march was a message to President Woodrow Wilson, who had ignored the NAACP’s calls for action to stop the massacres.
July 29th– Fellowship of Reconciliation Protests WWII
On this day in 1942, the Fellowship of Reconciliation protested U.S. entry into WWII. In 1914, FOR, a Christian pacifist organization devoted to the ending of war, was created by a German theologian and a British Quaker. The organization’s early activity included a conscientious objector program and pro-labor actions that temporarily aligned FOR with the American Federation of Labor. In 1942 two FOR staffers created the Congress of Racial Equality as a civil rights-centered affiliate. FOR remained involved in antiwar causes, while CORE became a major civil rights organization. In the 1960s FOR focused on the national obsession with the Vietnam War. With affiliates in more than 40 countries, FOR remains a successful interfaith pacifist organization.
July 30th – Race Riots Disrupt Louisiana Constitutional Convention
On this day in 1866, a race riot erupted at the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. During the Reconstruction, Republicans worked at state and federal levels to implement a new social structure, while Southern Whites enacted early segregation laws. In Louisiana, white Republicans reconvened the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. They planned to add to the state’s constitution universal male suffrage. Outside the meeting hall arguments broke out between opponents and supporters of the Republican convention. Confederates attacked with pistols and swords. Whites randomly attacked African Americans around the city. Federal troops arrived too late. In the end, close to 40 people died and almost 100 were injured.
July 31st – National Urban League Leader Whitney Young Born
On this day in 1921, Whitney Young Jr. was born in Kentucky. He was the NAACP Georgia chapter president and became the executive director of the Urban League in 1961. Under his direction, the NUL sought better housing, better education, and more employment opportunities. In 1963 Young was a key organizer of the March on Washington. He participated in many civil rights movements, but was also involved in behind the scenes strategizing and lobbying. He spent much of his time working with corporations to open up jobs for African Americans. In 1968 President Johnson awarded Young the Medal of Freedom.
August 1st – England Outlaws Slavery in Its Colonies
On this day in 1834, England outlawed slavery throughout its colonies. Slavery was formally abolished in England proper in the late 1700s. However, profitability and practicality justified the preservation of large slave owning colonies. While England could afford to eliminate slavery at home, it raked in the profits from slavery abroad. The islands of Jamaica, Trinidad, and others were converted into huge sugar and tobacco plantations. Anti-slavery activists worked to eliminate slavery throughout the English empire. In 1827, England passed a law declaring all slavery illegal, punishable by death. In 1834 slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire.
August 2nd – Novelist James Baldwin Born
On this day in 1924, writer James Baldwin was born in Harlem, NY. He is most known for his novels – Go Tell It On The Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, and Another Country. Baldwin became involved in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and early 1960s. It was the 1963 publication of his confrontational essay, The Fire Next Time, on American racial politics that thrust him into the center of the movement. The first part of the book is a letter to his nephew describing the state of racial issues in the U.S. It details the damage caused by racism to both blacks and whites. The second part details his childhood and the rise of black nationalism. Baldwin’s title for the book suggests that a final judgment awaits the white power structure that refuses to recognize the dark stain of America’s history.
August 10th – Albany Movement Drags to a Close
On this day in 1962, after 9 months of campaigning and little progress, a movement in Albany, Georgia came to an end. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership chose Albany, Georgia for a major campaign against segregation. However, the campaign lacked momentum and media coverage. The chief of police was dedicated to public safety and order, limiting violence. Without the pressure of pubic opinion, local segregation practices continued.
August 11th – Watts riot erupts in Los Angeles
On this day in 1965, a six-day riot erupted in the ghetto of Watts, Los Angeles. The riot began when a man was pulled over for erratic driving. As the police used batons on the driver, his brother, and their mother, a crowd gathered. The angry crowd began harassing traffic. When police attempted to break up the crowd, rioters threw rocks, bottles, and pipes. Looting began and fires broke out in surrounding neighborhoods. On August 14th the National Guard was brought in. Slowly the rioters dispersed, and by the 17th the incident was over. 34 were dead and more than 1,000 injured. Watts became a symbol for urban neglect.
August 12th – Mississippi Plan Disenfranchises Many
On this day in 1875, fallout from the “Mississippi Plan” marked the beginning of the end of Reconstruction and extensive
disenfranchisement for African Americans. The Mississippi plan was a systematic attack on the Republican Party by means of organized threats of violence and suppression of the black vote. Republicans were threatened with social, physical, and economic reprisals. As a result, many returned to the Democratic Party. The plan worked. Democrats regained power in the South and began working toward total exclusion of black voters.
August 13th – Activist Journalist Ethel Payne Born in Chicago
On this day in 1911, Ethel Payne, “First Lady of the Black Press,” was born in Chicago, Illinois. As an Army club hostess in Japan, Payne kept a journal of her experiences of racism and prejudice in the army. Her diary crossed the desk of The Chicago Defender, America’s most influential black newspaper, and she was offered a full time job. Payne covered many of the major events in the civil rights movement. Her stories were read by hundreds of thousands of African Americans across the country. Payne discarded the idea of objectivity where civil rights and race relations were concerned. She felt the issues were too important to maintain impartiality. She worked up until her death in 1991.
August 14th – Seminarian Jonathan Daniels Jailed in Alabama
On this day in 1965, Jonathan Daniels, a white episcopal seminarian, was jailed in Hayneville, Alabama. Daniels had gone to the south to take part in the Selma-to-Montgomery March. During a voting rights demonstration, Daniels was arrested and locked up in a Lowndes County jail in Hayneville. Released six days later, Daniels and his companions entered a small store. Inside the store, Tom Coleman, a white man, armed with a shotgun, ordered them to leave and pointed his gun at student Ruby Sales. Daniels stepped in front of Sales just as Coleman fired, killing Daniels instantly.
August 15th – Birthdate of Vernon Jordan
On this day in 1935, lawyer, activist, and power broker Vernon Jordan was born in Atlanta. After earning his law degree, Jordan began a clerkship with a civil rights law firm in Atlanta. In 1961, he became the Georgia field secretary for the NAACP. In the mid-1960s, Jordan became head of the Voter Education Project and was a delegate to President Johnson’s White House Conference on Civil Rights. From 1972-1980 he was president of the National Urban League. In 1980, Jordan was shot by a white supremacist sniper. He survived, but resigned from the Urban League. After leaving the non-profit sector, Jordan became a well-known Washington Power broker. He is currently a partner in the New York investment firm Lazard Frere & Company.
August 16th – Freedom Vote Registers Rural Poor in Mississippi
On this day in 1963, “Freedom Vote” registered blacks in the poor counties of Mississippi. In 1962 the Council of Federations of Organizations (COFO) was formed. COFO’s first major campaign was the “Freedom Vote.” Instead of having African Americans in Mississippi at risk of physical harm for trying to vote, COFO held a mock election. This plan minimized confrontation with white supremacists, while revealing the blacks’ desire to vote. White students from prestigious universities went door to door in black neighborhoods to prepare for the election. White police arrested many of the volunteers, but on election-day, more than 90,000 African Americans voted for Freedom Party candidates. The project was a success.
August 17th – Second Niagara Conference Organizes For Civil Rights
On this day in 1906, delegates to the historic 1905 conference reconvened in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The Niagara Movement insisted that accepting separate but equal policies, as Booker T. Washington preached, was a strategic mistake for African Americans. The Niagara Movement severely undercut Washington’s standing within the African American community and was a precursor to the 1909 founding of the NAACP. W.E B. Du Bois said to his fellow participants that every African American needs to involve themselves in every level of American Society. Over the next few years, the Niagara members would tirelessly promote these objectives, but never gained widespread membership. Within a few years Du Bois would turn his energies to the new NAACP.
August 18th – Niagara Role Illustrates Women’s Challenges
On this day in 1906, women took an active part in the second Niagara Conference, at Harpers Ferry. It would be another 14 years before U.S. women gained the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Women were always present in the movement, organizing, writing, protesting, going to jail, and leading by example if not by authority. In the case of the Niagara Movement, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Hope, Monroe Trotter, and others, held a secret meeting to develop strategies in the home of Mary Burnett Talbert, a prominent Buffalo, NY activist and suffragette.
August 19th – National Lawyers Guild
On this day in 1938, The National Lawyers Guild continued its second year of operation. Founded in 1937, the National Lawyers Guild was the first racially integrated legal association. The NLG’s aim was “to eliminate racism; to safeguard and strengthen the rights of workers, women, farmers, and minority groups; to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them; to use the laws as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than foe their repression.” In the late 1930’s the NLG helped organize the United Auto Workers and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The NLG’s core beliefs place it at the legal epicenter of the American left in the middle of the 20th century.
August 20th –Nat Turner Plots His Rebellion
On this day in 1831, Nat Turner prepared for the slave rebellion that would become the most famous of the slave uprisings. Nat Turner was born into slavery in Virginia around 1800. He was a religious child, prone to visions, prophecy, and solitary talks with God. By the age of 21, Turner became know as the “Prophet.” In 1831, Turner witnessed a solar eclipse. He took that as a sign from God to lead a slave revolt. On August 13th, the sun turned odd colors, Turner took this as a second sign. In the early morning hours of August 21st, Turner and six other men broke in to their master’s houses and killed the families. They then rode on horseback through the Virginia countryside killing every white person they saw. They had killed 50 white slave owners and families over two days. By midday of August 22nd, white militiamen scattered Turner’s forces. He escaped into the woods, the manhunt for Turner continued for over two months until his capture on October 30th. On November 5th Turner was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.
August 21st – Civil Rights Leaders Appear On ‘Meet The Press’
On this day in 1966, several major black leaders appeared on a 90 minute special of “Meet The Press.” Floyd McKissick of CORE, Stokely Carmichael of SNCC, Whitney Young of the National Urban League, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Martin Luther King Jr. of SCLC, and James Meredith famous for his “March Against Fear”, all took part in a live debate over the future of the movement. The group attempted to portray a united front, but this was not the case. Young and Wilkins represented the conservative arm of the movement, McKissick and Carmichaels the radicals, and King was in the middle. The leaders were civil to each other as they debated. The most contentious issue was non-violence.
August 22nd – Black Panthers’ CoFounder Killed By Street Thug
On this day in 1989, Huey Newton was shot and killed by a young drug dealer in Oakland. The BPP was rising in membership numbers during the late 1960’s. They seemed poised to become a voice for African Americans. However, murder trials would undermine the group’s legitimacy. Many leaders were sent to jail. The organization eroded from within and membership began dwindling. For a time, the BPP offered at least a concept of an alternative, progressive, community-based approach to African American issues.
August 23rd – Segregationist Mississippi Delegation Challenged
On this day in 1964, the media reported the efforts of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s challenge to unseat the all-white regular Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Convention. The newly formed MFDP elected and sent 68 delegates to the DNC in Atlantic City. Most of them were former sharecroppers with little formal education. The MFDC was given a chance to state its case before the Credentials Committee. They laid out the reasons why it should replace the regular Mississippi delegates. Fannie Lou Hamer was called upon, and in horrifying detail, she recounted a savage beating she took from Mississippi police. “All of this is on account we want to register, to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic party is not seated now, I question America, is this America?” she thundered.
August 24th – Johnson Administration Negotiates With MFDP
On this day in 1964, negotiations continued between the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the Democratic Party leaders wishing to limit possible damage to the reelection of President Johnson. Southern white democrats were threatening to pull their support from Johnson. Johnson responded by sending Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Senator Walter Mondale to mediate. Johnson used his political influence to eradicate any pro-MFDP efforts. The final compromise offered the MFDP two at-large delegate seats. The MFDP rejected the offer and staged a sit-in at the convention in protest.
August 25th – J. Edgar Hoover Launches Cointelpro
On this day in 1967, J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director, began the Counter-Intelligence Program against communist, African American, and anti-war organizations. The purpose of Cointelpro was to weaken and neutralize activities of black, nationalist organizations. It would also gather information about extremist groups, such as the The Black Panthers, the KKK, and the Weathermen. Hoover was convinced that black groups like the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC were saturated with communist agents. Phones were tapped, offices were burglarized, and illegal substances were planted. Fake literature was distributed that misrepresented various groups’ beliefs or practices. Cointelpro was effective. Its activities partially explain why there is still misinformation about different figures in the movement. Cointelpro was exposed in 1970.
August 26th – Chicago Campaign Ends Inconclusively
On this day in 1966, a summit was held in Chicago to agree over protesters demands, avoid violence, and save face for those involved with the Chicago campaign. Members included Martin Luther King Jr., members of the SCLC, CCCO, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. One goal of the summit was to create a plan to end discriminatory housing. After many hours, an 11 page agreement was reached. Daley promised stricter enforcement of the city’s housing codes and improvements in the construction of public housing.
August 27th – W.E.B. Du Bois Dies in Ghana
On this day in 1963, one of the most influential African Americans who ever lived died. W.E.B. Du Bois’ life spanned from reconstruction to the civil rights movement he had helped make possible. Impatient for change he began to distance himself from the movement and turned his efforts toward Pan-Africanism, labor issues, and world-wide economic inequality. In 1961 Du Bois joined the communist party, travelling to Ghana to work on the Encyclopedia Africana. He was refused re-entry into the U.S. Feeling betrayed by his county, he renounced his American citizenship.
August 28th – March on Washington; ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech
On this day in 1963, more than 250,000 people rallied in the nation’s capitol for jobs and freedom. The main organizers were Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph. The SNCC, the NAACP, the SCLC, the Urban League, and CORE participated in the planning. People, assembled on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. They carried banners, sang and clapped as they got caught up in the exhilaration of the day. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the single most remarkable oration in U.S. history: his famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech as the closing address.
August 29th – Emmett Till Murdered in Mississippi
On this day in 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till’s body was found in the Tallahatchie River. While visiting his uncle, some local boys dared Till to enter a store and talk with the woman running the store. On his way out Till either whistled at her or said, “Bye, Baby.” Four days later the woman’s husband and his half-brother entered Till’s uncle’s house forcing Till at gunpoint to get dressed and go with them. Three days later Till’s body was found. His face was so badly mutilated, that identification was possible only by a ring he was wearing. Fifty thousand people attended Till’s funeral. His death caused widespread outrage and awakened the nation to the dark side of “the Southern way of life.”
August 30th – Birthdate of NAACP Director Roy Wilkins
On this day in 1901, future NAACP director, Roy Wilkins, was born in St. Louis. As a journalist, he wrote against segregation with an emphasis on the evils of lynching. In 1932 he replaced W.E.B. Du Bois as editor of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis. In 1955 he became director of the NAACP and held the position for 22 years. He was one of the most powerful black leaders of the civil rights era. He played a crucial role in many of the movement’s biggest events, including his speech at the March on Washington, participation in the Selma to Montgomery March, and the March Against Fear.
August 31st – Emmett Tills Body Found in Mississippi
On this day in 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till’s body was found in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s death and subsequent discovery of his mutilated body signified the brutality of Southern segregation. When his body was pulled from the river, his face was crushed, one of his eyes was missing, and cuts slashed his body. Till’s mother arranged for an open casket and a picture of his body was published in Jet magazine. His death caused widespread outrage. Fifty thousand people attended Till’s funeral. No longer could one argue that they were unaware of the race issues in the Deep South.
September 1st – Arizona Opens a High School for Blacks
On this day in 1926, Phoenix Colored High School welcomed its all-black students for the first time. Until 1926, Phoenix’s African American students attended the same high schools as whites, but were segregated to a “colored” section in the basement. Phoenix Colored High School was underfunded and understaffed. The dedicated teachers worked hard to nurture learning. In 1943 the school was renamed Carver High School in honor of George Washington Carver. After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, Carver High School was closed and black students once again the High School that blacks were kicked out of.
September 2nd – KKK Kidnaps, Castrates Birmingham Man
On this day in 1957, Edward Judge Aaron was kidnapped and mutilated by the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK became furious over successes of the Civil Rights Movement. A group of Klansmen decided to make a statement. They began roaming back roads of Alabama for a victim. Edward Judge Aaron was walking on a desolate back road in Alabama when he was kidnapped and shoved into a deserted shack. He was stripped and castrated with a razor blade. Judge Aaron was left to die, but survived. Joe Pritchett, leader of the KKK, was arrested and found guilty.
September 3rd – Civil Rights Lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston Born
On this day in 1895, future civil rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston was born in Washington D.C. Houston graduated from Amherst College in 1915. He served as an infantry lieutenant in WWI. It was during the war that he experienced hatred and violence from his fellow white soldiers. Houston returned home and entered Harvard Law School, vowing to “never get caught again not knowing my rights.” He was the first African American chosen for the Harvard Law Review. He taught law at Howard University Law School, eventually becoming dean. In the 1930’s Houston began trying cases for the NAACP and went to work for them full time in 1935. Houston had a goal of trying cases that would result in legal precedents that over time would end discrimination.
September 4th – National Guard Blocks ‘Little Rock Nine’
On this day in 1957, the Arkansas National Guard blocked nine black students from entering Little Rock’s Central High School. In 1955 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its second Brown decision, directing schools to integrate. The Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, pushed through four bills intended to block segregation. Faubus testified to an Arkansas court that integration would lead to violence. The judge agreed and forbid the nine students from entering Central HS.
September 5th – Frederick Douglass Escapes From Slavery
On this day in 1838, 20 year-old Frederick Douglass spent his first day as a free man. In 1836, Douglas was hired out as a caulker to a local Shipyard. This job allowed a minimum amount of freedom. During his spare time, Douglass joined the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society – a club for freed blacks. He acquired forged sailor’s papers and on September 3, 1838 boarded a train headed to Wilmington, Delaware. From Wilmington he got on a steamboat to Philadelphia and then a train to New York City. In 1845, Douglass published the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. In fear of slave hunters, he took refuge in Europe. He returned to the United States at the age of 28, after two English women bought his freedom.
September 6th – Frederick Douglass Elected Convention President
On this day in 1848, former slave, Frederick Douglass, was elected president of the Black National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to being elected president, Douglass began operating a safe house in Rochester, NY for escaped slaves in the Underground Railroad. In the years leading up to the civil war, Douglass became the most famous black man in America. During the war he delivered speeches in support of the Union, President Lincoln, and the enlistment of black soldiers. His sons, Lewis and Charles, were two of the first to enlist. In 1868 Douglass campaigned for Ulysses Grant. In return, Grant enacted many civil rights protections for African Americans.
September 7th – Artist Jacob Lawrence Born
On this day in 1917, black artist Jacob Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As a boy, Lawrence took art classes at the Harlem Art Workshop. In his drawings and paintings, he portrayed the struggles of African Americans. By the age of 23 he had created 5 cycles of paintings: the stories of John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the Migration of the Negro. The latter, his most famous, depicted African Americans fleeing poverty, racism, and violence in the rural South to live in the Northern cities. As the movement gained momentum in the late 1950s, Lawrence focused his paintings on civil rights themes.
September 8th – Ruby Bridges Born
On this day in 1954, future national symbol of school desegregation, Ruby Bridges, was born in Mississippi. A federal judge in New Orleans declared that on November 14, 1960, the city’s schools needed to desegregate. Ruby was one of five students chosen to be the first African American students to attend various white schools. Ruby was to attend William Frantz Public School alone. On the morning of November 14th, federal marshals walked Ruby into school as a mob of angry whites yelled threats and threw trash. Ruby spent her first day in the principal’s office. The next day the marshals again walked Ruby to the doors of the school. Inside the school was empty. White parents had taken their children out of school and white teachers refused to teach. Ruby spent the entire year in a classroom alone with teacher Barbara Henry. During this year riots broke out across the city. Ruby’s grandparents were kicked of their farm, and her father lost his job. The following year Barbara Henry was not rehired. In 1999, Ruby founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation to help teach diversity and promote tolerance.
September 9th – Civil Rights Act of 1957 Enacted
On this day in 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, was passed. In the 1950s, Chicago senator Paul Douglas, worked to enact extensive changes in U.S. cities. These changes included open housing, better public transportation, and equal rights for all. He wanted minorities to be protected by federal judges and the U.S. attorney general. A bill was proposed to create an agency to protect minority rights. Debate over the bill was intense. Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon Johnson, sent a measure to a committee to water down the bill. Southern Democrats felt the bill was still too strong and filibustered against it. After several amendments the bill passed. A Civil Rights Commission was created within the Department of Justice.
September 10th – Southern Tenant Farmers Union Builds Coalition of Interracial Activists.
On this day in 1836, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union continued to build its constituency across the South. The STFU was a biracial labor organization of sharecroppers, tenant farmers, small land owners, and day laborers. The STFU’s commitment was to collectively bargain with the big planters. Under the New Deal, the Agriculture Adjustment Administration was created. The AAA paid farmers not to farm in an effort to increase the demand for, and consequently, the price of food. Landowners were paid government checks not to farm their land. Some landowners did not pass a share of the money to sharecroppers. The STFU was created in part to help poor farmers collect some of the government money. In 1937 the U.S. government approved limited loans to sharecroppers so they could purchase their own land.
September 11th – ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ Popularized
On this day in 1913, African Americans embraced James Weldon Johnson’s poem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Johnson’s brother John set the words to music and on Lincoln’s birthday in 1900, the choir sung the song at the Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida. Johnson was principal of the school at the time. The song soon became a foundation in black schools and churches. In 1920, James Weldon Johnson became executive secretary of the NAACP. The NAACP made the song the Negro national anthem.
September 12th – Arkansas Governor Closes Schools To Stop Integration.
On this day in 1958, high school students in Little Rock, Arkansas stayed home because Governor Orval Faubus closed the schools in a move to prevent integration. Students and teachers were out a full year. Slowly white parents began to speak out against segregation and joined with black parents to try and re-open the schools. By 1959 they were successful. Sara Alderman Murphy was one of the white parents who worked for the reopening of schools. Feeling that her city was essentially two separate communities, she began an interfaith, interracial women’s group. The group led discussions of racial issues at civic and women’s clubs and in churches. In time, Little Rock’s white parents accepted school desegregation.
September 13th – Black Mayor Elected in Selma, Alabama
On this day in 2000, James Perkins was elected the first black mayor of Selma, Alabama. Perkin’s ran against long time mayor, Joe Smitherman, with the campaign slogan, “Joe’s Gotta Go.” The NAACP and the SCLC both became involved with the Perkins campaign. When polls closed on August 22nd, Smitherman had a 300-vote lead over Perkins. It was not enough to win without a runoff. African Americans responded with rallies, marches, and parades. Martin Luther King III and Fred Shuttlesworth gave speeches in favor of Perkins. Many black college students volunteered on his campaign. Perkins received 57% of the votes in the runoff. Selma had elected its first black mayor
September 14th – Birthdate of Constance Baker Motley
On this day in 1921, Constance Baker Motley was born in New Haven, Connecticut. At a young age, Motley aspired to be an interior decorator, but thanks to the civil rights movement she chose law instead. Her parents could not afford to send her to college. Clarence Blackslee, a wealthy white philanthropist. offered to pay for her schooling, and she enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Experiences with segregation caused her to transfer to New York University, where she graduated with a degree in economics in 1943. She then enrolled in Columbia University Law School, where she met Thurgood Marshall. After graduation and admission to the bar, she became a NAACP lawyer. From 1945-1964, Motley worked on all the major NAACP desegregation cases, including Brown v. Board. She won nine of her ten Supreme Court cases as chief counsel. In 1964, Motley entered politics and won a seat on the New York senate.
September 15th – Sixteenth Baptist Church Bombed
On this day in 1963, a bomb exploded in the basement of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, while Sunday school was in session. Dozens were injured and four children died. Birmingham had been under a reign of terror, earning one neighborhood the nickname “Dynamite Hill.” The SCLC had earned success, but the KKK vowed to strike back. Riots broke out as news of the tragedy spread. Martin Luther King Jr. called for Federal help as Birmingham was in a state of civil disorder. Some would point to the blast as a rallying cry of lost faith in America, or an inspiration to work harder to end racism. King delivered the eulogy for the children three days later. The bombing was unsolved until the late 1970’s when one Klansman was convicted. The late 1990’s saw two other Klansmen convicted.
September 16th – Justice Hugo Black Leaves Supreme Court
On this day in 1971, Justice Hugo Black spent his last full day on the nation’s highest court. Born in 1886, Black graduated from the University of Alabama Law School in 1906. He worked in various capacities as an attorney until he joined the Army during World War I. In 1921 Black defended a Klansman accused of murdering a priest. Two years later, Black was inducted into the Klan, resigning a few years later. In 1926, Black was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served for 11 years. Black was nominated for the Supreme Court in 1937, despite earlier Klan membership he was confirmed. Black was a fierce protector of free speech, freedom of the press, and individual liberties. Over the next two decades Black helped shape the nation. Black’s legal philosophy was built on the Bill of Rights and applied the Constitution equally to all citizens. Black retired from the court on September 17th, 1971. He died eight days later.
September 17th – Mary Burnett Talbert Born In Ohio
On this day in 1866, NAACP activist and suffragette Mary Burnett Talbert was born in Oberlin, Ohio. In 1891, Talbert married and moved to Buffalo, New York. In Buffalo she joined the Phyliss Wheatley Club of Colored Women, which in 1900 organized a protest to have a Negro Exhibit at The Pan-American Exposition. Talbert was a life long women’s rights activist. In 1911, she became a charter member of the Empire Federation of Women’s Clubs, serving as president from 1912 to 1916. In 1905, a secret meeting was held to discuss a new organization. This seed grew into the Niagara Movement and, later, the NAACP. Talbert was deeply involved with the NAACP from the beginning, earning the Springarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor. She died in 1923 at age 57.
September 18th – Booker T. Washington Proposes ‘Atlanta Compromise’
On this day in 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered the “Atlanta Compromise” speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. Washington’s controversial and still-debated speech is one of the most noteworthy in American History. Washington’s solution to the South’s “Negro problem” was to encourage African Americans to become proficient in practical, mechanical labor, accept segregation as a way of life, and become self reliant. Blacks should build their own communities and institutions, as Washington did with The Tuskegee Institute. The white media lauded his speech and ideas, while black intellectuals criticized it. Washington’s most vocal critic was his former friend W.E.B. DuBois, who began calling him” the Great Accommodator.”
To DuBois the speech represented a conservative, unenlightened, and naïve view of race and power politics.
September 19th – All-White Jury Acquits Murderers Of Emmett Till
On this day in 1955, the trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam began for the murder of Emmett Till. Evidence was strong and six eyewitnesses testified to the pair taking the boy from his uncle’s home. Mississippi whites began to rally around the two defendants. Five defense attorneys volunteered their services and a defense fund was set up. The defense used a familiar tactic: Don’t let outsiders tell Mississippians how to run their lives. The racially charged defense worked, and both Bryant and Milam were found not guilty, by an all white jury, even after admitting they kidnapped the boy. Two months later, William Bradford Huie paid the two men to tell their story. Because of their acquittal, Double Jeopardy laws prevented them from being tried again. They recounted in chilling detail how they intended to scare Till to comply with local racial customs. When he refused and did not beg for mercy, they killed him. Kidnapping charges were brought upon both men, but were later found not guilty again.
September 20th – Maryland Passes First Miscegenation Law
On this day in 1664, Maryland passed the first Miscegenation Law, banning inter-racial marriage in the Unite States. As African slavery became more widespread, both laws and customs became more restrictive. The impetus for the ban was their offspring. What legal status should a person of mixed race be afforded? Maryland also barred slaves from owning property. In the West, miscegenation laws applied to Mexicans and to American Indians. A sexual caste system was in place. During Reconstruction, Radical Republicans overturned some miscegenation laws. The Black Codes then emerged to limit all interaction between black and white. White supremacy held that non-whites where genetically inferior. In 1958, Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, were married in Washington, D.C. When they returned to Virginia they were arrested. A nine-year legal battle ensued. In 1967, the Supreme Court declared miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
September 21st – Atlanta Life Insurance Company Founded
On this day in 1905, Alonzo Herndon founded the Atlantic Life Insurance Company. Herndon was a post-Civil War black entrepreneur, who fostered capitalism mixed with racial self-help. Herndon operated a barbershop in Atlanta and saved his profits. When the barbershop was destroyed in the 1905 race riots, Herndon opened the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. His new company offered policies for life, work, and health insurance. By 1927, Herndon was the wealthiest African American in Atlanta. Similar to black pastors and black funeral home directors, black insurance agents were among the first black workers of the era whose economic abilities could not be threatened by white employers. Today ALIC remains one of the leading African American stock-owned insurance companies in the nation.
September 22nd – Atlanta Race Riot
On this day in 1906, the worst violence in a series of race riots took place in Atlanta. The precursors to this day included the production of The Klansmen, white businessmen growing resentful toward black business successes, and Georgia Governor, Hoke Smith, enacting harsher Jim Crow laws. Smith’s election platform was filled with fiery racist attacks. In addition, newspapers were publishing made-up stories of black rapists prowling Atlanta streets. White mobs formed attacking the black section of town. More mobs violently attacked black pedestrians with clubs in downtown Atlanta. Black neighborhoods were invaded and burned. Police did little to nothing to protect black communities.
September 23rd – NAACP Cofounder Mary Church Terrell Born
On this day in 1863, Mary Church-Terrell was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Her parents provided her with a first class education and she was one of the first African American women to earn a degree. Terrell was an early activist and women’s suffragette, belonging to dozens of activist organizations over her lifetime. In 1892 she founded the Colored Women’s League. She merged this organization with the National Federation of Afro-American Women, creating the National Association of Colored Women. In 1909, Terrell was a founding member of the NAACP. In 1940, she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World. When she was in her eighties, Terrell led her own successful campaign to desegregate Washington, D.C.’s eateries. She died at the age of 90.
September 24th – Mob Prevents ‘Little Rock Nine’ Entry to School
On this day in 1957, a mob of more than a thousand angry whites gathered outside Central High School to protest the admittance of black students. These students became known as “the Little Rock Nine.” Orval Faubus, the Governor at the time, used the Arkansas National Guard to evade a federal order that the black students be admitted to the previously all-white school. Faubus withdrew the National Guardsmen, clearing the way for the angry mob to overpower the local police. On September 24, President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched 1,200 troops to restore order. The next day the students, under armed escort, were allowed to enter school.
September 25th – Troops Patrol Little Rock as Students Admitted
On this day in 1957, more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers maintained order in Little Rock, Arkansas, so the “Little Rock Nine” could enter Central High School. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a televised address to the nation on September 24. He told the nation that with serious situations happening abroad because of the hatred that communism has toward a government based on human rights, our enemies were gloating over the Little Rock incident and using it to misrepresent our nation. He stated, “We are a portrayed as a violator of the of those standards which the peoples of the world united to proclaim in the Charter of the United Nations.” With the troops in place, the students enrolled and peace gradually returned to the streets.
September 26th – Composer William Dawson Born
On this day in 1899, African American composer, William Dawson, was born in Anniston, Alabama. Dawson ran away from home at the age of 13 and attended Tuskegee Institute. In 1921 he attended the Horner Institute of Fine Arts, playing trombone. He earned a master’s degree from the American Conservatory of Music. Dawson became famous for his variations on Negro spirituals and became a recognized expert on the Negro folk music tradition. In 1934, Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony” premiered to world wide acclaim with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, performing ground breaking work. Dawson infused slave and protest songs with African American rhythms.
September 27th – Hiram Revels Born in North Carolina
On this day in 1822, future U.S. senator Hiram Revels was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. As an ordained minister, he worked with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, preaching to congregations in Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas. During the Civil War, Revels worked as a recruiter and military chaplain. After the war he moved to Natchez, Mississippi and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. He served on the Natchez city council and within two years was elected to the U.S. Senate as the first African American to serve in the Senate. As Senator he introduced several bills, and spoke about the re-admittance of the Southern states into the Union. Once retired, Revels continued his religious work as a preacher and also his political campaign work.
October 5th – Core, SNCC Activist James Forman Born In Chicago
On this day in 1928, activist James Forman was born in Chicago. Forman became a writer for the Chicago Defender, and he covered the continuing story of school desegregation at Central High School. In 1960 he joined the Congress for Racial Equality. In 1961 he became executive director of the SNCC from 1961. Under his and John Lewis’s leadership, the SNCC became a well respected civil rights organization. Under Forman’s watch, the Albany Campaign, the 1963 March on Washington, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the Selma campaign all occurred. Forman felt that self-defense was necessary, and often spoke in militant tones during his speeches. In 1966 Forman, along with John Lewis were purged from the organization for not being militant enough. Forman died of cancer at the age of 76.
October 6th – Activist Fannie Lou Hamer Born In Mississippi
On this day in 1917, Fannie Lou Hamer was born. She was the youngest of 20 children and grew up in poverty, working on a plantation. Upon hearing a sermon in August 1962, by James Bevel of the SCLC, Fannie Lou Hamer volunteered to register to vote. This decision would change the course of her life. In her effort to register to vote, she and her family were evicted from their sharecropper home. She was recruited by Bob Moses and Charles McLaurin to travel south and tell of her experiences. Though uneducated, Hamer was a charismatic speaker with a large emotional voice. Her greatest moment came during the 1964 Democratic National Convention, when as vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, she testified live to the brutality and inhumanity of Southern racists. The MFDP failed to unseat the white Mississippi delegation at the DNC, but the nation watched and listened. She ran for Congress twice, and criticized the Vietnam War. Hamer died on March 14, 1977.
October 7th – Killers Of Three Civil Rights Workers Tried
On this day in 1967, 18 men were put on trial for the 1964 Mississippi murders of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi. The FBI gathered a lot of evidence, but the case lay on the shoulders of James Jordan, who had been present at the killings. The case revealed a well-planned assassination of the three SNCC activists. The deaths were ordered by KKK leaders Sam Bowers and Edgar Ray Killen. Jordan gave damning testimony in the case. Seven of the men, including Bowers, Roberts, and Sheriff’s Deputy Cecil Price, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. The others, including Killen, and Sheriff Lawrence Rainey were acquitted. The federal government considered this case closed, but the state of Mississippi would revisit the case three decades later.
October 8th – ‘Dynamite Bob’ Chambliss Acquitted In Birmingham
On this day in 1963, Robert Chambliss was found not guilty of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Klansman Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, and Herman Cash planted 19 sticks of dynamite in the church. The resulting deaths of four girls prompted President John F. Kennedy and later President Lyndon B. Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bombing was an example of premeditated racially motivated violence. Blacks, whites, civil rights leaders, and average citizens wanted justice. When Chambliss, nicknamed “Dynamite Bob”, was arrested he was charged with murder and possession of more than 100 sticks of dynamite without a permit. A jury found him not guilty of murder, but did fine him $100 and sentenced him to six months in prison on the other charges. Bill Baxley, Attorney General of Alabama, reopened the case. Chambliss was retried, and found guilty in 1977.
October 9th – Texas Activist Juanita Craft Trains A Generation
On this day in 1950, Juanita Craft worked with black youths, training a new generation of activists. In 1935 Craft joined the NAACP, becoming its Dallas, Texas chairwoman in 1942; and Texas field organizer in 1945. Texas had distinct white, black, and Mexican neighborhoods. Three separate school systems also existed. In 1944 Craft became the first African American to vote in Dallas County. In 1946, Craft was appointed youth council adviser to the Dallas branch of the NAACP. She trained a generation of future black leaders. With 50 years in the movement she received many awards, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award. Craft died in 1985, at the age of 83.
October 10th – Minnesota Monument Remembers Lynching Victims
On this day in 2003, a monument dedicated to three victims of lynching was unveiled in Duluth, Minnesota. In June 1920, Duluth police incarcerated Elmer Jackson, Elias Clayton, and Isaac McGhie for raping a white woman. A white mob formed outside the prison. The mob broke down the front door and dragged them from their cells. The three men were hung from a lamppost in downtown Duluth. Photographs were taken of the cheering crowd, and of the horrific scene. Two months later 19 men were indicted for their parts in the murders. The unspoken guilt was passed on to the next generation of whites in Duluth. Duluth citizens formed a committee to face the past and admit the city’s role, and plans were made to erect a plaque. Duluth Mayor Gary Doty became involved, and the small plaque turned into an enormous wall. At the unveiling, prominent Duluth members apologized for their ancestors’ roles in the killings. Huge letters marking the sidewalk in front of the monument read: “Compassion”
October 11th – Eleanor Roosevelt Born
On this day in 1884, Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City. In 1905, Eleanor married her cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They had six children together. Eleanor Roosevelt was a lifelong activist for civil and human rights. A committed women’s rights suffragette, she joined the League of Women Voters. Mrs. Roosevelt became the first politically active first lady, when her husband became President in 1932. In 1939 she challenged segregation in the South when she placed her chair in the aisle between the white and colored seating sections at Birmingham’s Municipal Auditorium during the Southern Conference for Human Welfare. After FDR died, Mrs. Roosevelt remained a committed activist and was chairperson for the United Nations Committee on Human Rights. She helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Harry Truman referred to her as “the first lady of the world.” On November 7th, 1962, at the age of 78, Eleanor Roosevelt died from tuberculosis.
October 12th – Penn School Imparts Knowledge To Freed Slaves
On this day in 1875, The Penn School in South Carolina began to teach freed slaves to read, write, and do arithmetic. The Penn School was founded in 1862, and is named after William Penn. The school’s founders, Laura Towne and Ellen Murray, began teaching in a one-room school house. More teachers would arrive, including Charlotte Forten, the first African American teacher in the program. The Penn school was one of the first interracial facilities in the south. In 1949 the school closed, but remained a community-focused institution as the Penn Community Services Center. In the 1960s the center became a training site for the SCLC.
October 13th – Kentucky Civil Rights Commission Fights The Good Fight
On this day in 1961, the Kentucky Commission on Civil Rights worked towards integration. One half of the state was loyal to the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the other half backed the Union. In 1914 the NAACP opened a branch in Louisville. Louisville would grow to fight against segregated neighborhoods. In 1948, the Kentucky public library desegregated. In 1960, CORE students began to hold demonstrations and sit-ins. That same year the Kentucky legislature would create the Kentucky Commission on Civil Rights. The KCCR prohibited discrimination in state employment, and in 1961, a boycott called “Nothing New for Easter” was enacted against white businesses that remained segregated. In 1964, Martin Luther King, Mahalia Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson, lead a 10,000 strong demonstration in Frankfurt, KY, for a public accommodations bill. Kentucky passed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966.
October 14th – Confederate Flag Controversy In South Carolina
On this day in 1998, debate continued over the Confederate Flag that flew over the state capitol. African-Americans wanted it removed, while South Carolinians wanted it to remain. South Carolina served as a major entry point for incoming slaves and was the first state to secede from the Union. South Carolina elected “Pitchfork Ben “ Tillman as governor. He was a vehement racist and white supremacist. He enacted harsh Jim Crow laws across the state. After Tillman, Strom Thurmond, would carry on his malicious traditions, first as governor, then as senator. In 1962, the all-white South Carolina legislature voted to place the Confederate Flag on top of the capitol building. In 2000, the National Urban League, PUSH, and the NAACP called for a state tourism boycott until the flag was removed. In April, lawmakers voted to take the flag down.
October 15th – Black Panther Party Officially Organized
On this day in 1966, the Black Panther Party was officially organized. The creators of the party were Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The Black Panther Party followed a radical manifesto. Newton and Seale began recruiting in Oakland, CA. The new organization’s 10 points plan demanded full employment for African-Americans; decent, affordable housing; a fair and balanced education; universal exemption from military service; an end to police brutality; release of all black prisoners; and “land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace.” The slow pace of integration is what led many black youths to join the BPP. The BPP offered self-empowerment and black pride. The Panthers’ message was that freedom would never be granted by the oppressor, it had to be taken by force.
October 16th – ‘Million Man March’ In D.C.
On this day in 1995, upwards of 900,000 African Americans, mostly men, held a rally in Washington, D.C. The Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, demonstrated a continued racial divide. The Million Man March was the brainchild of The Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. His idea was to bring together hundreds of thousands of blacks together to commit to bettering their communities. The March was one of the largest rallies in U.S. history. Many influential speakers attended the event, such as Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson, and Stevie Wonder. The energetic tone of the day, combined with the non-violence, made this March appear to be a success. However, many women activists felt slighted. A Million Woman March took shape on October 25th, 1997. This day of unity and celebration, was attended by 500,000, mostly African American, women.
October 17th – Department Stores Integrate Lunch Counters
On this day in 1960, Woolworth, Grant, Kresge, and McCrory announced they would desegregate their lunch counters and department stores across the country. In February 1960, students in Greensboro, North Carolina, and later in Nashville, Tennessee, embarked on a “sit-in” campaign to desegregate lunch counters in their cities. The first students to take part were; Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain. These students formed the Student Executive Committee for Justice. Their strategy was to have white and black students sit at lunch counters until they were served. The first sit-in protesters were assaulted, humiliated, or arrested. Recognizing this campaign was gaining momentum, at the end of February 1960, CORE and the SCLC called for a nationwide boycott of Woolworth’s stores. The protest spread to Grant, Kresge, and McCrory department stores. Negative publicity and slipping profits proved to be too much. Woolworth and the others announced they would integrate their stores.
October 18th – Paul Robeson Receives Springarn Medal
On this day in 1945, Paul Robeson received the Springarn medal from the NAACP. Robeson was one of the first African Americans to get a law degree from Columbia University Law School. However, Robeson was drawn to the stage and left behind his promising legal career. After receiving a prominent role in the 1922 musical Shuffle Along, his acting career flourished. In 1939 Robeson joined leftist political movements, including the Council on African Affairs and the American Communist Party. He used his fame to criticize American policy. His political views made him a target for the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was blacklisted by Hollywood, investigated by the FBI, and had his passport revoked. In 1961 Robeson attempted suicide. He survived, but suffered from severe depression until his death in 1976.
October 26th – Mahalia Jackson Born
On this day in 1911, Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer whose voice and spirit would inspire the civil rights movement, was born in New Orleans. Mahalia Jackson grew up in the renowned “Black Pearl” neighborhood of New Orleans. In 1927, Jackson moved to Chicago and began singing with the Johnson Brothers, one of the earliest professional Gospel groups. In 1948 she hit the big time with her record, “Move On Up a Little Higher.” She became an international star, loved by both black and white audiences. She won awards in both France and Norway. Viewing her career as mission work, she sang at special events including the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, and the 1963 March on Washington. In 1968, she sang at the funeral for her friend, Martin Luther King Jr. She retired from music in 1971, and died in Chicago a year later. More than 50,000 attended her funeral.
October 27th – Birth Of Ruby Dee, Partner To Ossie Davis
On this day in 1924, actress and civil rights campaigner Rudy Dee was born. Dee shared a lifetime of activism, along with her husband Ossie Davis. They met in 1946, and the two maintained a loving marriage while hurdling social, artistic, and racial barriers. They were both friends of Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. In February of 1965, Davis delivered the eulogy for the slain Malcom X. In 1968, Davis delivered a second eulogy, this time for King. Dee and Davis were vocal supporters and ardent fundraisers. The played crucial roles in the civil rights movement.
October 28th – John Brown Convicted, Hanged
On This day in 1859, John Brown underwent his second trial on charges of treason, murder, and conspiring with slaves. After the prosecution and defense concluded their cases, John Brown made a statement: “If it is necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the end of justice and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.” More than 2,000 spectators assembled as Brown kissed a slave child on the way from his cell to the gallows. He thanked his executioners (including guard John Wilkes Booth) and was hanged.
October 29th – Supreme Court Shuts Door On Integration Delays
On this day in 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court again ruled on school desegregation, in the case of Alexander v. Board of Education. Despite Brown I and II, most Southern schools remained segregated. In some cities it was de facto segregation that left public schools divided. Only a handful of schools integrated, and without stricter guidelines, public school integration was a challenge. After hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court ruled the immediate desegregation of the schools. The dual school system was to be abolished. The Supreme Court did not outline explicit ways for the schools to integrate. As a result, thousands of so-called “seg-academics” sprang up in the Southern school districts. Over the next two decades re-segregation occurred due to residential patterns, private school enrollments, and federal emphasis on desegregation. At the beginning of the 21st century, some school districts, especially in the south, were almost as segregated as they were in the 1950’s.
October 30th – Juanita Stout, Pioneering Pennsylvania Judge Completes First Week On The Bench
On this day in 1959, Juanita Stout completed her first week as the first African American female judge of the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia. Born in Wewoka, Oklahoma in 1919, Stout grew up in a segregated town with a segregated school system. In 1948 she completed her J.D. degree at Indiana University. She passed the Pennsylvania bar exam in 1954, and joined the district attorney’s office as an assistant DA, and was promoted to chief of appeals, pardons, and paroles. Stout was appointed to a judgeship in the Philadelphia municipal courts. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy appointed Stout as a special ambassador to the Kenya Independence Celebration. She received the Woman Lawyer of the year in 1965, and the AFL-CIO’s Good Citizen Award in 1971. In 1988, Stout was named to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
October 31st – Andrew Young Serves As Atlanta Mayor
On this day in 1981, Andrew Young served his second day as mayor of Atlanta. In 1955, Andrew Young received his divinity degree from Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut and began a pastorship in Marion, Alabama. He preached a blend of social activism, brotherly Christianity, and Ghandhian pacifism. In 1964, he became executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and also helped to draft the Civil Rights Act. Young ran for congress in 1972, and won. President Jimmy Carter appointed Young as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1981, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and was elected Mayor of Atlanta.
November 1st – First Protest Action In Albany Movement
On this day in 1961, SNCC operatives Cordell Reagon and Charles Sherrod tested federal law by trying to patronize the segregated bus facilities in Albany, Georgia. Their actions ignited the beginning of the Albany Movement. Months earlier, three SNCC workers had moved into Albany for the voting rights campaign. Sherrod, Reagon, and Charles Jones began recruiting new members into the SNCC. The local chapter of the NAACP was not thrilled with the SNCC’s activities. The NAACP was considered conservative, and the SNCC radical. Infighting and egotism threatened any chance at unity. Without a unified front the contrasting personalities floundered while trying to organize a city-wide campaign. The Albany movement illustrated the internal disagreements over how to conduct the movement. SNCC believed in youth, long term voter drives, and education campaigns. The NAACP believed in patient legal battles, drawing the federal government into the proceedings with selected legal cases.
November 2nd – The NAACP Launches ‘The Crisis’
On this day in 1910, under the editorial leadership of W.E.B. DuBois, the NAACP began its first full day of work on its publication The Crisis. The Crisis followed in the advocacy footsteps of William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator and Frederick Douglass’s North Star. By 1920, The Crisis had over 100,000 readers. The voice if the NAACP, the publication presented current affairs, reviews, poems, art, photography, and stories. DuBois and the NAACP were philosophically aligned until 1934, when DuBois broke with the mainstream NAACP message by advocating black separatism. DuBois eventually resigned and was succeeded by Roy Wilkins. The Crisis remains in print today as a bimonthly production.
November 3rd – Klansmen, Nazis Gun Down Five In Greensboro, N.C.
On this day in 1979, the KKK and the Nazis killed 5 people in Greensboro, N.C. in what became know as “the Greensboro Massacre.” Weeks earlier the Workers’ Viewpoint Organization had planned an anti-Klan rally to be held in a black housing project in Greensboro. The WVO assisted poor black and white textile workers to improve working conditions. The KKK threatened the union leaders, and as an act of defiance the WVO planned a rally against the Klan. Learning of the so called “Death to the Klan” rally, the KKK and the American Nazi Party organized their own event. The anti-Klan rally began at 11:00 A.M., and soon afterwards the Klan disrupted the event. With television cameras rolling, armed KKK and American Nazi Party members, fired at the ant-Klan parade. The incident lasted only five minutes, but in the end five leaders of the rally lay dead – Caesar Cauce, Mike Nathan, Sandi Smith, Bill Sampson, and James Waller – with ten injured. Survivors of the attack alleged conspiracy, as local police were forewarned of potential trouble, but were suspiciously absent.
November 4th – Heroine Of Central High Crisis Dies
On this day in 1999, Daisy Bates, who in 1957 was at the center of the school desegregation battle, died in Little Rock. Bates was born in 1914, and victimized by Southern justice. Her mother was killed by three white men, who were never prosecuted. Her devastated father left the family and disappeared. In 1942 she married L.C. Bates and founded the Arkansas State Press. Their paper was a major voice for African Americans in Arkansas. Daisy entered into activism and in 1952 became president of the Arkansas branch of the NAACP. Bates played a crucial role in organizing, planning, and orchestrating the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School. As time passed she would move to Washington, D.C., and served on the Democratic National Committee, and later as a staffer on President Lyndon Johnson’s antipoverty programs.
November 5th – Clarence Thomas, Controversial Supreme Court Justice, Gets Accustomed To The Job
On this day in 1991, Clarence Thomas began his second month as an associate justice. In 1974, Thomas graduated from Yale Law School, and eventually came across the black conservative economist Thomas Sowell. Sowell led Thomas towards a philosophy of free-market capitalism and self-reliance. In 1990 President George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas to the Supreme Court to replace the retiring Thurgood Marshall. During the confirmation hearings, co-worker Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment. After much debate, Thomas was confirmed by the Senate. His performance on the bench was as expected; he pleased states’ rights conservatives and angered liberals and civil rights organizations. Thomas argues that blacks in America have to stand alone. He has consistently voted against cases that would benefit black causes.
November 6th – Civil Rights Legend Bob Moses Unlocks The Secrets Of Higher Math For Inner –City Students
On this day in 1983, former SNCC leader Bob Moses fine-tuned a teaching initiative that would become the Algebra Project. Born in New York in 1935, Moses taught Math in New York for three years before joining the SNCC in 1960. He was one of the principal organizers of Mississippi Freedom Summer. In 1966 Moses resigned from his post. He moved to Tanzania to work with Ministry of Education. In 1976, Moses returned to the United States to acquire his PhD from Harvard. In 1982, Moses was awarded a five-year MacArthur Foundation “Genius Fellowship.” He returned to teaching, where he realized that black and Latino inner-city students were not learning Math. The Algebra Project began as an inner-city initiative in which teachers would use real-world situations, such as bus and subway schedules, to teach students abstract math.
November 7th – Louis Farrakhan, Incendiary Religious Leader, Recuperates From Surgery.
On this day in 2001, Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, was recuperating from emergency cancer surgery. The Nation of Islam began in 1930 under Wallace Fard. Fard altered the traditional five pillars of Islam with a new black-centered cosmology. In his mythology, Africans were the only people in an earthly paradise, until a power-mad black scientist unleashed a diabolical race of white demons. The NOI offered independent schools for children, community centers, and other social programs, while teaching black pride. The NOI’s black nationalism was a precursor to the Black Panther Party. In 1952, Malcom X joined the NOI. In 1961, he met with the KKK to discuss a separate black state within America. In the early 1990’s, Farrahkan softened his rhetoric, and was principal organizer of the Million Man March in 1995.
November 8th – Justice Department Officials Play Key Roles
On this day in 1962, Nicholas Katzenbach, and John Doar continued to enforce the Constitution within the U.S. Justice Dept. In 1961, Katzenbach, joined the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and was soon assistant attorney general. He helped oversee the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962 and the desegregation of the University of Alabama in 1963. In 1964 he worked to pass the Civil Rights Act. Katzenbach’s colleague, John Doar, was born in 1921 in Minneapolis. As assistant attorney general, Doar worked on many important civil rights cases from 1960 to 1967. He worked closely with many civil rights groups in Mississippi, including the SCLC, SNCC and the NAACP. Katzenbach, with Doar’s input, helped draft the 1965 Voting Rights Act. After leaving the Justice Department, Katzenbach and Doar both went into private law practice. They are both still practicing law.
November 9th – Singer James Brown Gives Movement To The Movement
On this day in 1968, James Brown performed his new single, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” This became the black-pride anthem of the era. Brown, born in 1933 in South Carolina, was poor, uneducated, but musically talented. He fused blues, bop, and hard rock into the magic of soul. In 1966 Brown visited wounded James Meredith, this prompted Brown into civil rights circles. He emerged as an important social and cultural figure. He evolved into a beacon of black-pride and a musician-activist of the first order.
November 10th – Malcolm X Speech
On this day in 1963, Malcolm X delivered one of his most famous speeches at the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference in Detroit. He proclaimed, “As long as the white man sent you to Korea, you bled. He sent you to Germany, you bled. He sent you to the South Pacific to fight the Japanese, you bled. You bleed for white people, but when it comes to seeing your own churches being bombed and little black girls being murdered, you haven’t got any blood. You bleed when the white man says bleed; you bite when the white man says bite; and you bark when the white man says bark. I hate to say this about us, but it’s true. How are you going to be non-violent with Hitler, and Tojo, and somebody else you don’t even know?...If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defense of her.” Malcom X served as a counterpoint to Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of a “beloved community” that was ushered into existence through non-violent protest.
November 11th – Amelia Boynton Appeals For SCLC To Join Selma Protest
On this day in 1964, Amelia Boynton personally appealed to Martin Luther King to bring the SCLC to Selma to help with the voter-registration campaign. Boynton and her husband, S.W. Boynton worked out of their insurance office to encourage black citizens to vote. In 1963 SNCC activists had gone to Selma and joined with the DCVL to step up registration efforts. By 1964 it seemed the voter registration effort had stalled. While at an SCLC retreat in Birmingham, Amelia Boynton urged King to add his presence to Selma. The stage was set for the Selma–to-Montgomery March, that ultimately led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
November 12th – Fifth Circuit Federal Judges Enforce The Law
On this day in 1962, federal judges brought about a fundamental transformation of the nation, particularly the South. Of the judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, four led the way on civil rights issues: Chief Judge Elbert P. Tuttle, Richard T. Rives, John Minor Wisdom, and John Robert Brown. These judges took the precedent established by the Supreme Court in 1954 and overturned the 1896 Plessy doctrine of “separate but equal” and extended it to every aspect of Southern life. The Fifth Circuit used due-process and equal protection provided by the 14th Amendment to desegregate the South. Southern states tried any and all methods to evade or postpone desegregation. The superintendents, legislatures, and the governors realized they had no place to hide with regards to the desegregation process. Rulings were made by judges that were very unpopular with whites in their home communities, but were received by blacks as proof that God and the federal courts were on their side, at last.
November 13th – Laurie Pritchett, King Foil In Albany Dies
On this day in 2000, Albany, Georgia Chief of Police, Laurie Pritchett died. Pritchett was a cagey to Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC. During the Albany movement, Pritchett used a strict policy of non-confrontational law enforcement. He understood the one weakness of the non-violent movement: it required a violent response to harness the public and rouse the federal government to action. Pritchett side stepped the segregation laws by hiding under the umbrella of protecting the public order. When African Americans began to enter Albany jails en masse, Pritchett bussed certain high profile individuals to other areas of the state. Pritchett further employed a series of fines that taxed the civil rights organizations. The Albany campaign was expensive. Pritchett figured as resources dwindled, the movement would fade, the media would leave, and the activists would go elsewhere. He was right, the Albany movement sputtered and eventually died.
November 14th – Landmark Voting Districts Case Decided
On this day in 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Gomillion v. Light-foot, establishing an important precedent in the voting rights of African American citizens. The Alabama legislature passed Act 140 redefining the boundaries of the city of Tuskegee, in Macon County. This bill passed unanimously without debate in the all-white legislature. Local whites feared that prior to Act 140, that increased black voter registration would lead to eventual black control of city offices. Dr. C.G. Gomillion, leader of the Tuskegee Civic Association, asked attorney Fred Gray to file a federal lawsuit to have the gerrymandering declared unconstitutional. Attorney Gray argued the case in May 1959, and a year later the court ruled in his favor. The fears of local whites about black control came true. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the majority-black population of Tuskegee and Macon County gradually elected blacks to most major local offices.
November 15th – Harry Moore Launches Florida Voter Registration
On this day in 1945, Harry Tyson Moore initiated a very successful massive voter registration drive in Florida, forming the Progressive Voters’ League. Moore began the first NAACP branch in Brevard County, Florida. In an effort to increase the NAACP’s power, Moore established the first state conference and organized Florida’s NAACP chapters into one unit. Moore was an effective campaigner for the Progressive Voters’ League. In 1940 there were less than 20,000 registered black voters in Florida. By 1950 there were more than 110,000 voters. Moore’s accomplishments brought about many enemies. On Christmas night in 1951 a bomb exploded in Moore’s home, killing him and his wife.
November 16th – Activist Hosea Williams Dies
On this day in 2000, activist Hosea Williams died in Atlanta after a three-year battle with cancer. Williams served in the army during WWII, winning the Purple Heart for being the only survivor of a German bombing run. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Morris Brown College and Atlanta University. One day Williams drank form a whites only water fountain and was severely beaten by a white mob. It was after this event that he turned his energies to the civil rights movement. In 1963 he became part of the SCLC staff, eventually becoming head of the voter education division. He was arrested more than 100 times during his civil rights career. He suffered a fractured skull and concussion after being beaten on Bloody Sunday. After Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, Williams became involved in politics. He won terms on the Atlanta council and on the Georgia General Assembly.
November 17th – Albany Movement Launched by Rights Coalition
On this day in 1961, the SNCC, the NAACP, and local activist groups put aside their differences and formed the Albany movement. This movement was devoted to bringing change to the Deep South city of Albany, Georgia. Its goal was total and immediate desegregation of the entire city. Threatening a boycott of white businesses and the bus system, sit-ins at parks, libraries, and lunch counters, the Albany movement asked the city commission to create a biracial board to deal with segregation issues. The commission refused. Protests began and more than 500 African Americans were jailed. Unfortunately, the SNCC, NAACP, and SCLC were rarely on the same page. Different groups made backroom deals with the city’s administration. The tactics of restrained oppression by local officials proved to be a difficult challenge for civil rights workers. Change came slowly to Albany.
November 18th – Sojourner Truth Born
On this day in 1797, Sojourner Truth, one of the most famous abolitionists and suffragettes, was born a slave in Ulster County, New York. Her given name was Isabella Baumfree. In 1827 New York abolished slavery and she moved to New York City. There she worked as a domestic servant for various religious communes. In 1843, Baumfree has a vision. She changed her name and walked across Long Island and Connecticut preaching gospel. In 1848 Truth wrote The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave. The 2nd edition of her autobiography included an introduction by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Truth worked with famous suffragettes, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. She was involved in recruiting black men during the Civil War, and worked with the National Freedman’s Relief Organization. A monument in Truth’s honor was unveiled in Michigan in 1999.
November 19th – LeRoy Johnson Elected to Georgia State Senate
On this day in 1962, LeRoy Johnson served in the Georgia State Senate as the first African American elected since 1862. After earning a law degree from North Carolina School of Law, Johnson returned to Atlanta and began working as the first black man employed by the U.S. Attorney’s office. When the civil rights movement began in the late 1950s, Atlanta’s civic and business leaders avoided the violence that many other areas of the South were enduring. This earned Atlanta a reputation as “the city too busy to hate.” While the civil rights movement fought to desegregate the South, Johnson became the first black Georgia state legislator since reconstruction. In 1969 he was named chairman of a Georgia state senate standing committee. He left politics in 1974, serving instead on the trustee board of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
November 20th – Howard University Founded
On this day in 1866, Howard University was founded in Washington, D.C. After the Civil War and during Reconstruction, dozens of black universities began to appear. However, most of the state college systems were segregated. Most leading black figures from Reconstruction to the mid-20th century studied in black institutions. African American’s access to white-collar and professional occupations was limited until Booker T. Washington’s success at Tuskegee Institute. Howard Law School Dean, Charles Hamilton Houston and his pupil, Thurgood Marshall, formed the center of the NAACP movement that brought down Jim Crow segregation.
November 21st – Jack Greenberg, Civil Rights Lawyer
On this day in 1953, Jack Greenberg and other NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) lawyers, prepared for numerous desegregation cases that eventually combined under Brown v. Board of Education. One year after graduating from Columbia Law School, Greenberg joined the NAACP as a legal counselor. Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall may have been the primary creators of the LDF, but Greenberg played a crucial role. In 1954 Greenberg was a member of the team that argued and won the Brown case. When Thurgood Marshall left the LDF in 1961, Greenberg was named director-counsel in his place. He remained in this position until 1984, arguing 40 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He left the LDF in 1984 to begin teaching at Columbia Law School, eventually becoming Dean. In 1994 he published his memoir, Crusaders in the Courts, retelling the important role the LDF lawyers played in the civil rights movement. In 2001, President Clinton awarded Greenberg the Presidential Citizens Medal.
November 22nd – President John F. Kennedy Assassinated
On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. In 1960, Kennedy began his presidency promising to end racial segregation. In 1961, under Kennedy’s command, the U.S. was involved in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and then in the Cold War Cuban missile crisis standoff. He also increased U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, skirted civil rights issues. Kennedy was sympathetic to civil rights and met with many leaders, but refused to risk his political clout to fully endorse the movement. In the first half of his term, Kennedy did not lead the nation on moral issues pertinent to the civil rights movement. It was after the Birmingham campaign that he began to focus more strongly on the discrimination by blacks in the South. He had sent a civil rights bill to congress before his death. In Dallas on November 22, 1963, Kennedy’s motorcade traveled slowly down Main Street. Kennedy was waving at the crowd when a sniper fired and fatally wounded him. Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin, was shot and killed two days later.
November 23rd – C. T. Vivian, Fearless Staffer for SCLC
On this day in 1963, Reverend C. T. Vivian was in his first year as a member of the SCLC. Vivian became involved in the civil rights movements after meeting James Lawson while at the American Baptist College in Nashville. Lawson’s community activism and workshops on nonviolence inspired Vivian to begin the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, an offshoot of the SCLC. Vivian played important roles in many civil rights campaigns. In 1965 he became an international figure after being punched in the mouth by a Selma sheriff in front of news cameras. In 1969 Vivian published, Black Power and the American Myth. He continues to speak across the country and works as a consultant for corporations looking to improve race relations and internal diversity.
November 24th – Marion, Alabama, Home of Civil Rights Women
On this day in 1830, Marion, Alabama became a newly incorporated town. It is named for Revolutionary War Hero Francis Marion. Judson College, one of the nation’s fifth largest women’s colleges opened in Marion in 1838. The oldest military prep school, Marion Military Institute, is also located there. Alabama State University also began in Marion. In 1965, Marion was one of the locus points for the Alabama Project to register black voters. Another interesting fact about Marion is that three leading civil rights figures in U.S. history, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Andrew Young, married women that were raised in Marion. Juanita Abernathy served in many civic organizations. Jean Childs Young worked as an organizer in the 1970s. Coretta Scott King stood beside her husband during the movement and has carried on his legacy.
November 25th – ICC Outlaws Segregation on Interstate Buses
On this day in 1955, although it took many years to be enforced, the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission outlawed segregation on interstate buses. The ICC was created in 1877 and was the first regulatory agency in U.S. history. The ICC worked to stabilize pricing and end discriminatory business practices in corporations. Initially overseeing the railroad industry, the ICC eventually took charge of trucking lines, bus lines, water freight carriers, and pipelines. In 1942, Thurgood Marshall used the ICC clause as the main point in his argument in the Irene Morgan v. Virginia case. The ruling in this case paved the way for later challenges involving segregated travel on all carriers. In 1955, the ICC banned segregation on buses traveling across state lines. In the 1970s and 1980s, Congress deregulated many industries and created new agencies to oversee aspects of commerce, trade, and business. The ICC became irrelevant and was abolished in 1995.
November 26th – SNCC Formation Shifts Movement Tactics
On this day in 1960, the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee continued to flourish. The SNCC arose out of a two-day youth conference at Shaw University in April, 1960. The SNCC was spirited, inventive, and dedicated. The workers were disciplined, nonviolent activists, involved in all major civil rights activities of the 1960s. In 1966 the SNCC collapsed. The national director was replaced, while dozens of key staffers left the organization. By the end of the 1960s the SNCC came to an end.
November 27th – CORE Pioneers Civil Rights Activity
On this day in 1943, the Congress of Racial Equality developed segregation fighting techniques and worked to bring in new members. CORE grew out of the Quaker Fellowship of Reconciliation. The organization’s message was on of tolerance, respect, and integration. It instituted nonviolence as a way to achieve integration. Members believed widespread civil disobedience would be a powerful tool against segregation. In 1947, CORE sent a biracial group of bus riders into the South in an attempt to challenge segregation across interstate lines. This became known as the first freedom ride. During the 1960s CORE was one of the big three civil rights organizations in the South. In 1966 CORE began to split into two bickering factions. CORE was no longer a multiracial organization.
November 28th – Novelist Richard Wright Dies
On this day in 1960, inspiring novelist Richard Wright died. During the Great Depression Wright published articles for the Daily Worker. In 1938 he published a collection titled Uncle Tom’s Children. He was then awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and was able to finish his one masterpiece, Native Sun. The novel is a harsh and uncompromising look at race and politics, exposing the social controls held in place by white Americans. Wright moved to Paris in 1946 to escape the institutionalized racism of America. He died in 1960 at the age of 62.
November 29th – Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Born
On this day in 1908, Adam Clayton Powell was born in Connecticut. During the Great Depression he moved to Harlem and became a community organizer of rent strikes and mass protests. In 1937 he succeeded his father as pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church. In 1944 Powell was elected to Congress. He was one of only two blacks in congress. He fought against segregation and pushed for stronger social legislation. He was elected to 11 consecutive terms. In 1961 he became chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. He helped raise minimum wages, worked to improve educational standards, and supported the disabled. He was one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill. This success soon made him difficult, egotistical, and manipulative. He verbally attacked Martin Luther King Jr., and had a vendetta against Bayard Rustin. His criticism of other black leaders cost him an invitation to the 1963 March on Washington. He lost his seat in Congress in 1970 as the result of campaign finance scandals. Powell died in 1972.
December 7th – Joseph Lowery Leads SCLC
On this day in 1977, Joseph Lowery continued his work as President of the SCLC. Born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1921, Lowery studied at Knoxville College, and then earned his divinity doctorate from the Chicago Ecumenical Institute. He moved to Mobile, Alabama taking a preaching job at Warren Street United Methodist Church. Lowery was a key organizer and was elected vice president of the SCLC in 1957. He remained a steadfast activist throughout the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. During the late 1970’s and 1980’s he worked to free Nelson Mandela and end South African apartheid. In 1997 Lowery retired from the SCLC. He remains an active speaker and political figure. Lowery is married to Evelyn Gibson Lowery, also an activist.
December 8th – American Federation Of Labor Founded
On this day in 1886, Samuel Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The AFL was a union that favored solving immediate problems over long-term political change. It began as a progressive organization on the issue of race, refusing to grant charters to unions that barred black members. When the AFL merged with the International Association of Machinists, they adopted some of the IAM’s segregationist policies. As the 20th century began, the AFL became more conservative. As blacks migrated from the South to the North, these African Americans joined local unions, such as the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), which guaranteed them wages and offered protections from the exploitations they suffered in the South. In 1955 the AFL merged with the CIO to form the AFL-CIO, led by George Meany and Walter Reuther.
December 9th – James Lawson Leads Nonviolence Workshops
On this day in 1959, James Lawson conducted workshops on nonviolence in Nashville. These workshops laid the groundwork for the student movement and SNCC activism. In 1947, Lawson joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). In 1951 he was sent to prison as a conscientious objector during the Korean War. He served 13 months and after being released he travelled to India to study the nonviolent techniques of Gandhi. Lawson returned to the U.S. to study theology at Oberlin College. After meeting Martin Luther King Jr., Lawson relocated to the South, enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and became the Southern director of FOR. Vanderbilt expelled Lawson for his involvement in civil rights. He conducted workshops in nonviolent civil disobedient techniques. In 1961 he helped coordinate the Freedom Rides. Now retired, Lawson still advocates for pro-labor and antiwar causes.
December 10th – Martin Luther King Jr. Accepts Nobel Peace Prize
On this day in 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee awarded King because he was “the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.”
December 11th – Randall Robinson Advocates Reparations for Slavery
On this day in 1977, the national director of TransAfrica, Randall Robinson, created arguments he would use for reparations for slavery. Robinson created TransAfrica to promote constructive relationships between the U.S., Africa, and parts of the Caribbean. In the 1980s he became known as a foreign-policy expert as he worked to end apartheid in South Africa and to free Nelson Mandela. In 1994 he staged a 27-day hunger strike in protest of U.S. foreign policy in Haiti. He gained extensive attention in 2000 after the publication of his best-selling book, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. Although The Debt initiated debate over reparations, the issue was not a new one. The idea of the state paying freed black men and women was considered during Reconstruction. Opponents to the idea argue that there have been other mistreated ethnic groups and reparations already exist in the form of affirmative action.
December 12th – Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison born
On this day in 1805, William Lloyd Garrison was born in Massachusetts. In 1831 Garrison founded The Liberator newspaper. His writings attacked slavery and slave owners, criticizing the South, the government, and the church. Garrison believed abolition would be a transfigurative event that would lead to a new age of Christian charity, democracy, and an end to slavery. He refused to accept anything less than a society of total equals. In 1832 Garrison helped form the New England Anti-Slavery Society. As the abolitionist movement grew, he became a focal point. Garrison was of the belief that the U.S. Constitution was evil and burned a copy of it in a public ceremony. In 1865, after the passing of the 13th amendment, Garrison ended publication of The Liberator, believing his work was over.
December 13th – Ella Baker Born in Virginia
On this day in 1903, prominent member of the NAACP and the SCLC, Ella Baker, was born in Virginia. Baker played an integral part in much of the 20th century effort to free African Americans from segregation. Baker began her career with the NAACP as a field secretary. She traveled across the South, organizing local campaigns, building up a network of grassroots activists. She became president of the New York chapter of the NAACP in 1952. Five years later, she helped form the SCLC. She eventually left the SCLC to work for the YWCA and organized a leadership conference in 1960. The conference helped organize the students involved in the sit-in movement. It was during this conference that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was formed. Baker was involved in all SNCC actions during the 1960s. Baker led a life of activism, serving in leadership roles at various times with the NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, and SDS. Baker died on her birthday in 1986.
December 14th – Civil Rights Attorney Fred D. Gray Born
On this day in 1930, Fred D. Gray was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He graduated from Alabama State College and went on to pursue a degree in law at Case Western Reserve Law School in Cleveland, Ohio. An outstanding student, who upon graduation received many job offers from law firms in the Cleveland area. He made a vow to himself to return to Alabama, and destroy everything segregated he could find. Gray passed the bar exam, and at age 23 became one of two African-American lawyers in Montgomery. He joined local black organizations, such as the NAACP, where he met Rosa Parks and Martin L. Luther King Jr. Gray represented Rosa Parks for her December 1, 1955 arrest for violating the local bus-segregation ordinance. He also represented Parks, King, and 86 other black leaders arrested for violating a century-old anti-boycott law. Gray won all his cases and his victories are widely regarded as a flashpoint of the 20th-century civil rights movement.
December 15th – Strom Thurmond’s Family Acknowledges His Black Child
On this day in 2003, the family of Strom Thurmond acknowledged that the late senator had an illegitimate black daughter. Thurmond had a long and controversial political career. In 1947, he was elected governor of South Carolina, in a campaign full of incendiary racist speeches. Thurmond was elected to the senate in 1954. He was principal author of the Southern Manifesto, which materialized due to the Brown v. Board decision. In opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act, Thurmond delivered the longest individual filibuster in senate history, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes. In 1981, Thurmond became president pro tempore of the senate, retiring in January of 2003. He died six months later at age 100. After his death, a 78 year old black woman, Essie Mae Washington-Williams claimed to be his illegitimate daughter. This familial secret was true. Thurmond’s daughter was born from an affair Thurmond had with an African maid in the 1920’s.
December 16th – Hundreds Of Protesters Arrested In Albany, Georgia
On this day in 1961, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ralph Abernathy were arrested in Albany, Georgia. They had gone to Albany to assist local civil rights leaders in protesting against segregation. The SCLC was not involved until King came down from Atlanta to give a speech. King and Abernathy were arrested and bused separately to the Sumter county jail. They were released in a compromise with local white officials. Months of minor clashes, stalled protests, and broken promises followed. King and the SCLC maintained a presence in Albany.
December 17th – Photographers Shaped The View Of The Movement
On this day in 1965, images by photographers and television news cameramen shaped the world’s reaction to the civil rights movement. Photographers and journalists captured localized campaigns in the South, transmitting the raw emotion of the civil rights movement to the rest of the United States, and the world. Their powerful images played a huge role in pulling the majority of white Americans into sympathy with the movement. Some of the key photographers were: Spider Martin who photographed the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” attack on marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Charles Moore covered the Freedom Summer, and the Selma-to-Montgomery March. Ernest Withers, was at many important events with King and James Meredith, including the desegregation of Little Rock, and the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike.
December 18th – Aviator Benjamin Davis Born
On this day in 1912, military hero Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. In 1932, Davis entered West Point Military Academy. He graduated in 1936, and was commissioned a second lieutenant. During his time at West Point he was ostracized by other white cadets. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the creation of a black fighter-pilot squadron. Tuskegee was chosen as the training base. Davis was stationed there teaching military tactics to black military reservists. Davis was picked to lead the experiment. He earned his pilot’s wings and became commander of the all-black 99th pursuit squadron. He was later named commander of the 332nd Fighter Group, known as The Tuskegee Airman. During WWII, the Tuskegee Airman shot down more than 100 German planes and never lost a bomber they were escorting. After WWII, President Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces by executive order. Davis went on to become chief of staff for American military forces in South Korea, and received nearly every major Air Force honor during his illustrious career.
December 19th – Convictions Dismissed In Central Park Jogger Case
On this day in 2002, a New York judge dismissed the convictions of five young men-four black and one Latino-who served years in prison for a 1989 crime that they did not commit. The case involved a 28 year old female investment banker, that was assaulted, brutally beaten, and left for dead. The five young men were arrested after their “confessions.” They had been roaming Central Park the night of the assault. There was no forensic evidence linking the youths to the crime, and their confessions were coerced. They were convicted and served terms raging from 6 to 11 years. Only one was still in prison in 2002, when prosecutors announced they had a new confession and a DNA match from serial rapist Matias Reyes. This case is one of many over the past decade in which DNA testing has cleared black men wrongly accused.
December 20th – Julian Bond Works To Dismantle Segregation In Atlanta
On this day in 1957, Julian Bond helped mount a desegregation campaign in Atlanta. Born in Nashville in 1940, Bond was raised in an atmosphere of black intellectualism. His father, Horace Mann Bond was the first black president of Lincoln University. In 1957, Bond enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He helped form the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights, an organization that staged sit-ins and boycotts and ultimately desegregated Atlanta. From 1961 to 1966 Bond served as communications director of the SNCC, while also serving as editor of its newspaper, The Student Voice. In 1964, he participated in Mississippi’s Freedom Summer. In 1965, Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. His fellow congressmen refused to seat him due to his opposition to the Vietnam War. A lawsuit was filed and he was seated to multiple terms in the House. In 1986, Bond went into teaching at Harvard and the University of Virginia. In 1998, Bond was named chairman of the NAACP. He remains a vocal, public figure on the forefront of African American issues.