The Civil Rights Movement: Striving for Justice (Reform Movements in American History)

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After bribing at least one the murderers for details regarding the crime, the FBI found the victims' bodies on August 4, in an earthen dam on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Schwerner and Goodman had been shot once. Chaney, the lone black, had been savagely beaten and shot three times. During the course of that investigation, the FBI also discovered the bodies of a number of other Mississippi blacks whose disappearances had been reported over the past several years without arousing any interest or concern beyond their local communities.

The disappearance of these three activists remained on the public interest front burner for the entire month and-a-half until their bodies were found.

Jews and the Civil Rights Movement

President Johnson used both the outrage over their deaths and his redoubtable political skills to bring about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of , which bars discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and education. This legislation also contains a section dealing with voting rights, but the Voting Rights Act of addressed that concern more substantially. When Mississippi voting registrars refused to recognize their candidates, the organizers held their own primary, selecting Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, and Victoria Gray to run for United States Congress.

Also chosen was a slate of delegates to represent Mississippi at the Democratic National Convention. Other all-white delegations from other Southern states had threatened to walk out if the all-white slate from Mississippi was not seated.

Social Movements

Johnson could not, however, prevent the MFDP from taking its case to the Credentials Committee, where Fannie Lou Hamer eloquently testified as to the beatings that she and others had received and the threats they repeatedly faced for trying to register as voters. Turning to the television cameras, Hamer asked, "Is this America? Johnson attempted to preempt coverage of Hamer's testimony by hastily scheduling a speech of his own.

When that failed to move the MFDP off the evening news, he offered the MFDP a "compromise," under which it would receive two non-voting, at-large seats, while the white delegation sent by the official Democratic Party would retain its seats.


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The proposed compromise was angrily rejected. Now, Lyndon made the typical white man's mistake: Not only did he say, 'You've got two votes,' which was too little, but he told us to whom the two votes would go. He'd give me one and Ed King one; that would satisfy. But, you see, he didn't realize that sixty-four of us came up from Mississippi on a Greyhound bus, eating cheese and crackers and bologna all the way there. We didn't have no money. Suffering the same way. We got to Atlantic City. We put up in a little hotel, three or four of us in a bed, four or five of us on the floor.

You know, we suffered a common kind of experience, the whole thing. But now, what kind of fool am I, or what kind of fool would Ed have been, to accept gratuities for ourselves? You say, 'Ed and Aaron can get in but the other sixty-two can't. We didn't come all this way for no two seats, 'cause all of us is tired. Even after it was denied official recognition, however, the MFDP kept up its agitation during the Atlantic City convention. When all but three of the "regular" Mississippi delegates left because they refused to pledge allegiance to the party, the MFDP delegates borrowed passes from sympathetic delegates and took the seats vacated by the Mississippi delegates, only to be subsequently removed by the national party.

When they returned the next day to find that convention organizers had removed the previous day's empty seats, the MFDP delegates stood huddled together and sang freedom songs. Instead, the party became more radical after Atlantic City, choosing to invite Malcolm X to speak at its founding convention and electing to oppose the Vietnam War. For some of the movement's devotees, a measure of comfort came at the end of the long, hard year of when, on December 10, in Oslo, Norway, Martin Luther King, Jr. By early , SNCC had undertaken an ambitious voter registration campaign in Selma, Alabama, but had made little headway in the face of opposition from Selma's top law enforcement official, Sheriff Jim Clark.

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After local residents entreated the SCLC for assistance, King traveled to Selma, intending to lead a number of marches. On Monday, February 1, he was arrested along with other demonstrators. As the campaign ensued, marchers continued to meet violent resistance from police.

On February 18, a state trooper mortally wounded Jimmie Lee Jackson, a year-old pulpwood cutter. In his hospital bed, Jackson died two days later. Only six blocks into the march, however, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Jefferson Davis Highway, Alabama state troopers and local law enforcement officers attacked the peaceful demonstrators with billy clubs, tear gas, rubber tubes wrapped in barbed wire, and bull whips.

The defenseless marchers were driven back into Selma. John Lewis was knocked unconscious and dragged to safety, while at least 16 other marchers were hospitalized. Among those gassed and beaten was Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was at the center of civil rights activity at the time. That night, the ABC Television film clip of the footage showing lawmen pummeling and brutalizing unresisting marchers provoked a national response similar to the one educed by the scenes from Birmingham two years earlier.

Selma's "Bloody Sunday" was exposed for the entire civilized world to see. Two days later, on March 9, led by King , the protestors performed a second, truncated march to the site of Sunday's beatings and then turned and headed unharrassed back into town. But that night, a gang of local white toughs attacked a group of white Unitarian voting rights supporters, and fatally wounded the Rev. James Reeb.

On March 11, in a Birmingham hospital, Reeb died. Then, on the evening of Sunday, March 15, President Johnson made a congressional appearance on television. His purpose was to convey to America the urgent necessity for a new and comprehensive voting-rights bill.

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How the Civil Rights Movement Launched the Fight for LGBT, Women’s Equality

Stated the president:. But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too.

Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. On the heels of this sociopolitical sea change, Dr. King, for five days, led an en masse pilgrimage from Selma to Montgomery, to secure voting rights for Alabama blacks. What began on Sunday, March 21 as a trek by some 3, marchers, climaxed on Thursday, March 25, with some 25, people, safeguarded by eight hundred federal troops, proceeding nonviolently through Montgomery.

Tragically, however, this march, as had so many others during this effort, ended in senseless violence. According to King biographer Stephen B. That night, in a high-speed car chase, on Highway 80, Klansmen shot and killed civil-rights volunteer Viola Liuzzo; and the movement had another martyr and the nation another convulsion of moral indignation. Yet, as Ebony correspondent Simeon Booker put it, the great march really ended with two deaths that Thursday—Mrs.

Liuzzo's and Jim Crow's. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of on August 6. The legislation suspended poll taxes, literacy tests, and other voter tests. It authorized federal supervision of voter registration in states and individual voting districts where such tests were being used.


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Blacks who had been barred from registering to vote finally had an alternative to the courts. If voting discrimination occurred, the Act authorized the attorney general of the United States to send federal examiners to replace local registrars. Johnson reportedly stated to some associates that his signing of the bill meant that the Democratic Party, for the foreseeable future, had forfeited the loyalty of the "Solid South.

The Act, however, had an immediate and positive impact for blacks. Within months of its passage, , new black voters had been registered, one third of them by federal examiners. Within four years, voter registration in the South had more than doubled. In , Mississippi had the highest black voter turnout—74 percent—and led the nation in the number of black public officials elected. In , Tennessee had a Several prominent white officials who had opposed the voting-rights campaign immediately paid the price.

Selma's Sheriff Jim Clark, notorious for using fire hoses and cattle prods to molest civil-rights marchers, was up for re-election in Removing the trademark "Never" pin from his uniform in an attempt to win the black vote, he ended up defeated by his challenger, as blacks gleefully voted just for the sake of removing him from office. The fact of blacks winning the right to vote changed forever the political landscape of the South. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, fewer than one hundred blacks held elective office in the U.

By , there were more than 7, This included more than 4, in the South. Nearly every Black Belt county in Alabama had a black sheriff, and Southern blacks held top positions within city, county, and state governments. Black politicians on the national level included Barbara Jordan, who represented Texas in Congress, and former mayor Young, who was appointed U. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Carter Administration.


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Julian Bond was elected to the Georgia Legislature in , although political reaction to his public opposition to U. Lewis sits on the House Ways and Means and Health committees. In the spring of , Freedom Riders civil rights workers came to the American South to test the authenticity of desegregation in public facilities. Many were jailed in Parchman. In the astute Civil Rights lawyer Roy Haber began taking statements from Parchman inmates, which eventually ran to fifty pages, detailing murders, rapes, beatings, and other abuses suffered by the inmates from to at Mississippi State Penitentiary.

In a landmark case known as Gates v.