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The Congress of Racial Equality was founded in 1942 by a group of students in Chicago. Members
were mainly pacifists who had been deeply influenced by Henry David Thoreau and the teachings of
Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent civil disobedience campaign that he used successfully against
British rule in India. The students became convinced that the same methods could be employed by
blacks to obtain civil rights in America.
Core's Journey of Reconciliation
In early 1947, CORE announced plans to send eight white and eight black men into the Deep South to
test the Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in interstate travel unconstitutional.
Organized by George Houser and Bayard Rustin, the Journey of Reconciliation was to be a two
week pilgrimage through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Although Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured
People (NAACP) was against this kind of direct action, he volunteered the service of its southern
attorneys during the campaign. Thurgood Marshall, head of the NAACP's legal department, was
strongly against the Journey of Reconciliation and warned that a "disobedience movement on the
part of Negroes and their white allies, if employed in the South, would result in wholesale slaughter
with no good achieved."
The Journey of Reconciliation began on 9th April, 1947.
Members of the Journey of Reconciliation team were arrested several times. In North Carolina, two
of the African Americans, Bayard Rustin and Andrew Johnson, were found guilty of violating the
state's Jim Crow bus statute and were sentenced to thirty days on a chain gang. However, Judge
Henry Whitfield made it clear he found that behaviour of the white men even more objectionable.
The Journey of Reconciliation achieved a great deal of publicity and was the start of a long campaign
of direct action by the Congress of Racial Equality.
In February 1948 the Council Against Intolerance in America gave Houser and Bayard Rustin the
Thomas Jefferson Award for the Advancement of Democracy for their attempts to bring an end to
segregation in interstate travel.
James Farmer became National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality in 1953 and he helped
organize student sit-ins during 1961. Within six months these sit-ins had ended restaurant and
lunch-counter segregation in twenty-six southern cities. Student sit-ins were also successful against
segregation in public parks, swimming pools, theaters, churches, libraries, museums and beaches.
The Congress of Racial Equality also organised Freedom Rides in the Deep South. In Birmingham,
Alabama, one of the buses was fire-bombed and passengers were beaten by a white mob.
By 1961 CORE had 53 chapters throughout the United States. Two years later, the organization
helped organize the famous March on Washington. On 28th August, 1963, more than 200,000
people marched peacefully to the Lincoln Memorial to demand equal justice for all citizens under the
law. At the end of the march Martin Luther Kingmade his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
In 1963 Floyd McKissick replaced James Farmer as national director of CORE. The following year,
CORE, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the the National Association for
the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) organised its Freedom Summer campaign. Its main
objective was to try an end the political disenfranchisement of African Americans in the Deep South.
Volunteers from the three organizations decided to concentrate its efforts in Mississippi. In 1962
only 6.7 per cent of African Americans in the state were registered to vote, the lowest percentage in
the country. This involved the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Party (MFDP). Over 80,000
people joined the party and 68 delegates attended the Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City
and challenged the attendance of the all-white Mississippi representation.
CORE, SNCC and NAACP also established 30 Freedom Schools in towns throughout Mississippi.
Volunteers taught in the schools and the curriculum now included black history, the philosophy of
the civil rights movement. During the summer of 1964 over 3,000 students attended these schools
and the experiment provided a model for future educational programs such as Head Start.

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Freedom Schools were often targets of white mobs. So also were the homes of local African
Americans involved in the campaign. That summer 30 black homes and 37 black churches were
firebombed. Over 80 volunteers were beaten by white mobs or racist police officers and three
men, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux
Klan on 21st June, 1964. These deaths created nation-wide publicity for the campaign.
The following year, President Lyndon B.…read more


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