AAs: 1961-1963: Kennedy

Social Rights

- When MLK was arrested Kennedy rang King’s wife, Coretta and his brother, Robert Kennedy, telephoned the judge to encourage King’s release. 

- Freedom Rides 1961, an integrated group travelled the south testing the Supreme Court rulings against segregation on interstate transport (Morgan vs Virginia 1946, Boynton vs Virginia 1960) > If faced with violence, then their attackers could be exposed as acting illegally

= State officials could arrest the riders but had to prevent white attacks reducing the publicity the riders gained

As expected, southern racists attacked black passengers and set fire to their buses. The police did little > Kennedy was reluctant to interfere

- Albany Campaign (1961-62) > Local police chief, Laurie Pritchett, handled the situation shrewdly.  He prevented white demonstrators from being violent and ordered his police to treat demonstrators gently > Pritchett’s actions robbed the campaign of publicity

= parks closed rather than desegregated and federal government had not been obliged to act as there was little violence.

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Social Rights 2

- Birmingham Campaign (1963) >> SCLC campaign in Birmingham, Alabama was an attempt to achieve desegregation in one of the toughest areas of the south > police chief ‘Bull’ Connor not as subtle as Laurie Pritchett 

= Connor’s brutality helped the campaign as he turned snarling dogs on demonstrators and the scene was photographed and published worldwide

Presidential representative, Burke Marshall was sent to negotiate > Committee negotiations meant Birmingham stores desegregated and discrimination against black people in employment was to be ended > desegregation was not immediate but in stages

- Month after Birmingham campaign Kennedy made the following speech: are we to say to the world – and much more importantly to each other – that this is the land of the free, except for Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes

-March on Washington (1963) > A wide-range of civil rights groups including: NAACP, SCLC and SNCC > King was the final speaker many left unmoved by King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech > Kennedy administration had already begun to consider civil rights legislation after Birmingham but the march gave the President extra leverage to urge support for the reform

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Political Rights

- Kennedy appointed 40 African Americans to top posts > chose 5 black federal judges including Thurgood Marshall

- The Kennedys brought 57 law suits against illegal violations of black voting rights in the south compared to 6 under Eisenhower

- During the 1961 Freedom Rides his brother, Bobby Kennedy, now Attorney General, insisted that southern states implement Supreme Court rulings on interstate travel

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Educational Rights

- In 1961, the Governor of Mississippi barred a black student, James Meredith, from entry.  However, in June 1962, a federal court ruled against his action.Barnett eventually agreed that Meredith could be admitted as long as he could make a public protest

= angry mobs assembled when he tried to register >>>Meredith survived but two onlookers were killed.  Order was not restored until the following morning

 Became an inspiration to others but had to endure the humiliation of being the only black student on campus

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