AA: Black Activism (1950s - 60s)

Social Rights

- Sit-ins > 1 February 1960, four black students sat down at a ‘whites’ only lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina. This was not the first sit-in but it was very successful >>> tactic of non-violent direct action worked since if police used force to remove demonstrators, it would give campaign useful publicity, if the police took no action, then desegregation had effectively been achieved

= By the end of 1961, 810 towns and cities had desegregated public areas

- In Nashville, Tennesseegroup of activists were led by Reverend James Lawson who was influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence >>> students organised a dramatic march on city hall, where students challenged the mayor to publicly acknowledge the immorality of segregation >  the mayor relented

- Inspired student leaders to form a new organisation, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) devoted to the principles of non-violence > SNCC cooperated with other civil rights groups like the SCLC and became a leading force in the campaign against segregation in the south

= the students became frustrated by King’s more cautious approach

 - Cold War also exposed the hypocrisy of fighting Communism while blacks in the South could not exercise their democratic rights

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Social Rights 2

- Some jealousy between the NAACP and the emerging Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by King.  SCLC wanted to offer an alternative, more confrontational strategy to litigation (taking cases to court).  However, the SCLC lacked grassroots support and an effective organisational structure as the failure of King’s Crusade for Citizenship showed

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Political Rights

- Civil Rights Acts (1957 and 1960) > the Eisenhower administration drew up a civil rights bill in 1957 to ensure all citizens could exercise the right to vote

- Southern Democratic senators worked to weaken the bill so the first Civil Rights Act did little to help black people use their vote

established penalties for obstructing black voting

- Two Civil Right Acts combined added a mere 3% of black voters to the electoral rolls in 1960.

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Educational Rights

- Civil Rights Act of 1960 made it a federal crime to obstruct school desegregation > By 1960, only 6.4 % of blacks went to integrated schools in the South and only 2% in the Deep South

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