The Greensboro' sit ins 1960
1st February 1960- In Greensboro North Carolina Four students from the local college entered a branch of Woolworths and ordered food and drink at the 'whites only' counter. This was not the first protest of its kind, like the boycott there had been similar protests before.
The students remained there all day, returned with 23 others the following day (including 3 white students) then over 80 by the end of the third day, until Woolworths forced to close on 6th february. The initiative had been seized and an important phase in the civil rights movement had begun.
The NAACP were unenthusiastic about helping the students and disgruntled SCLC employee Ella Barker warned them not to let adults like King get involved in their protest.
Woolworths was part of a chain soon 70,000 students joined these sit ins across the south. These students were better educated than their parents and more impaitent towards the slow progress of equality.
Why were the sit-ins so successful?
The protestors were college students- idealistic, determined, spontaneous with no jobs to lose and finding the best excuse yet for not handing in a piece of work.
The Woolworth staff did not know how to react and did not call the police for sometime. This allowed the protest to gather momentum.
North Carolina was not as racist as some other parts of the south. There was some support for the students from Prominent white people such as Terry Sandford who was soon to be elected Governor. This was a very different reaction from that in Mississippi or Alabama.
Woolworths found their profits down by one-third while the protests were taking place. By the end of 1961, 810 towns and cities had desegregated public areas. Attitudes were hardening in the south.
Significance of the Greensboro Sit ins
The sit-ins spread very widely and very quickly: by April 78 different places were involved such as North Carolina, Jacksonville, Florida; Baltimore. The biggest was Nashville in Tennessee where there were over 500 student protestors from four mainly black colleges. Altogether 100 cities were affected and nearly 50,000 people were actively involved in demonstrations.
The sit-ins gained the support of a number of important civil rights leaders- James Lawson in Nashville. Floyd Kissick, NAACP youth council leader in georgia and Ella Barker a leading SCLC official leader from Atlanta.
SNCC was formed. When they were formed they accused the SCLC of keeping donations intended for them. NAACP lawyer refused to represent 'a bunch of crazy coloured students'
The blacks were not being served therefore Woolworths would loose out on money as they are not selling as much food.
The proved non violent protests were very effective and that Martin Luther King was an inspiration to many people.
The media showed the rest of the USA the well dressed, peaceful, book reading mainly black students and the loud-mouth whites swearing and attacking them.
1961 Freedom Rides
After CORE's progress during the war years, it has lapsed into inactivity. Now, inspired by the progress made elsewhere, it was reviving. It also provided oppotunity for more idealistic students, white as well as black, to get involved with the campaigns. White sympathisers grew in number.
A Supreme Court decision sparked off the activity. The case of Boynton vs Virginia. That had ruled against southern states being allowed to impose segregation in inter-state bus terminals. CORE set out a test as to whether this could be enforced.
The idea was not to travel the whole way between Washington and New Orleans. It was that there would be a benefit to the movement whatever happened. If the mixed race team was allowed to stay together on the bus and in the waiting rooms, then segregation had received a blow. However if they were set on, then their racist attackers would be seen to be aggressive, unreasonable and acting illegally. Media publicity would spread the message and expose the offesive behaviour of southern white people. The federal authorities were expected to enforce the law and so this action would also force their hands.
Reaction to the rides
The freedom riders were attacked in Rock Hill, South Carolina and then in Anniston Alabama. Shortly after they left Anniston, their bus had a puncture and it was then overturned and set on fire. The riders were refused treatment at the local hospital because of their colour. Several were badly injured, a white professor suffered brain damage after being hit over the head.
The white police made little attempt to find, let alone punish the offenders. The worst treatment however was reserved for Birmingham. Driving through Alabama, the buses were escorted by over 30 state trooper cars and police helicopters circling overhead. When the crossed Birmingham all protection disappeared, they were now under the jurisdiction of the dreaded Birmingham police chief Bull Connor, who failed to provide protection for them. The riders were subject to a vicious attack.
White protestor Jim Zwerg was a white student from Fisk University, Nashville. He was kicked and punched until his teeth were knocked out, then he was punched to the ground time and time again. His back was severly injured and he was temporarily disfigured. In a televised interview from his hospital bed he showed remarkable courage and bravery: "we are dedicated to this...we are willing to accept beatings...we are willing to accept death...segregation must be broken down".
Federal Government action
One object of the freedom rides- showing up the viciousness of racism- had been achieved.
There was more chance of federal authorities to act due to the new figure in the White House. John.F.Kennedy, a younger more liberal figure than Eisnehower. His brother Robert Kennedy held the office of US attorney general. An injunction was brought out against the Ku Klux Klan, who had been attacking freedom riders. Federal marshals were sent near to Montgomery and Robert Kennedy organised the desegregation of all inter-state travel.
There was, however, a limit to federal goverment action. They wanted to prevent violent disturbances at all costs, so it would allow southern state governments to arrest demonstrators as long as the state officilas also prevented white attacks on the protestors.
When the freedom riders got to Jackson Mississippi, for example, the police controlled the white people who were planning to attack them, but proceeded to arrest riders and imprison them. The Kennedys had a done deal with Mississippi Senator James O. Eastland that federal government would not intervene if order could be maintained. However this was not good for civil rights movement, which wanted either a change in the law, or to appear martyrs in order to provoke such a change. The publicity generated from arrest and imprisonment was limited.
The case of James Meredith
Up until 1961, no black person had ever been admitted to the University of Mississippi. In 1961 the Governer of Mississippi had physically barred an able black student James Meredith, from entry.
June 1962- A federal court ruled that he was entitled to attend. This showed how much legal progress had been made with regard to educational intergration. What was needed was a person strong enough to want to be the first to break the race barrier, with all risks that this might imply. Meredith proved to be this man.
Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett and US Attorney General Robert Kennedy disagreed about whether Meredith should be admitted as long as he, the governor, could make a public protest. Barnett did not keep to his word to provide protection. Meredith arrived the following day to be registered. Angry mobs assembled and there was a delay in sending federal troops to protect the young black student. By the time they arrived, violence had erupted as 170 federal marshals desperatly tried to keep order.
Meredith survived, but two onlookers, including a french journalist, were killed. Petrol bombs were thrown at officials and a lead pipe felled one marshall. A t.v reporter was brutally attacked. Meredith's brave achievement was an inspiration to others.
November 1961- SNCC organised students from Black Albany state College into sit -ins in the bus station which had ignored interstate commerce commissions order to desegregate.
Hundreds of Freedom riders were arrested. In responce Blacks boycotted white businesses but the city authorities refused to desegregate, despite pressure from Attourney General Kennedy.
They prevented violence by using peaceful tactics. Local police chief Laurie Pritchett prevented white demonstrators from being violent. he told the police to treat demonstartors gently when arresting them. He promised to discuss segregation questions later. When King was arrested someone paid his fine to relase him annoymously, therefore not giving King the media attention he wanted.
Impacts of Albany
Local black leaders claimed that the black community had lost a lot of fear of ***********.
Entire black community had been mobilised.
SNCC's 'jail not bail' strategy could fill the jails and bring them and court to a standstill
National attention had been gained.
King learned it was unwise for SCLC to intervene in an area without strong SCLC presence and probably just focus on one aspect.
Did not produce local change
Rather than being segregated the parks were closed and all chairs removed from the desegregated library
Federal authorities felt obliged to act
Showed need for co-operation between different C.R groups
Some radicals in the SNCC were becoming inpaitient with King and what they saw as too gentl policy.
Some black violence achieved bad publicity. With King not being in jail they weren't getting the media coverage that they wanted.
The police chief had carefully avoided violence, so the federal government had not had to intervene.
The role of Martin Luther King
King followed rather than leading the march. Older leaders of the 'Albany Movement' invited him to join them. This angered SNCC leaders who stressed that the Albany movement was 'by and for local negroes'
King told a reporter 'The people wanted to do something they would have done with or without me'
King led a march and came to a promising agreement with the city authorities. However, after King left, the authorities reneged on the agreement. The Albany Movement petered out in a series of decreasingly supported protests.
King recognised Albany as a major defeat. The interstate terminal facilities were desegregated, and more black voters were allowed to register, but the city closed the parks, sold the swimming pool, intergrated the library only after removing all seats, and refused to desegregate the schools.
How effective were the freedom rides
Kennedys intervention- Americas national standing.
National guardsmen boarded the buses to make the riders safe
They showed persistance throughout
Legislation being broken
Showed viciousness of white racists-media covergae
CORE, SNCC and SCLC worked together
Robert Kennedy organised protection
Alabama Gov.- frustrates Kennedy as they didn't organise protection, can't guarentee saftey
Winning the white public opinion in the north
How effective were the freedom rides
Violence from white racists- the white police force made little attempt to find, let alone punish the offenders
Kennedys/Authorities learn't how to circumvent the protestors desire to whip up white violent protest.
lose media impact
deal by the Kennedys to avoid violence at the Jackson terminal- riders passes through to jail
Kenndy Administration reponse
Became involved after 6 children arrived in Nashville. Kennedy ordered the bus drivers to drive the greyhound. Ordered the forces to naval base outside Montgomery. National guardsmen boarded the buses to ensure they were safe
Issued legislation for segregation on buses to be illegal- september 1961
3rd April 1963- King and the SCLC arrive in the Town. They demand desegregation, and end to racism in employment, and the establishment of a biracial committee. Segregated facilites were boycotted.
3-6th April 1963- Sit-In demonstrators are arrested
6-9 April 1963- Marchers are arrested
10 April 1963- All marchers are banned
12th April 1963- King is arrested for defying the ban
20th April 1963- King is released from jail
21st April 1963- William Moore is murdered
2 May 1963- Young children are included in the protest for the first time
3 may 1963- Bull Connor sets dogs and fire hoses on the demonstrators. 1300 children were arrested.
4th may 1963- Presidential representative Burke Marshall is sent to negotiate a settlement
5th may 1963- Further demonstrators follow the arrival of 200 more students
7th may 1963- Demonstrators hit their peak, as onlookers in the park are fire-hosed. The senior citizens committee accpets the gradual introduction of desegregated facilities and the start of a biracial committee to dicuss further changes.
10th may 1963- King's press conference pleads for brotherhood and reconciliation
11th may 1963- Bombs damage the house of Kings brother and the SCLC headquaters. There is a night of rioting by black people.
After the murder of William Moore things became very tense.
SCLC's actions were planned carefully M.L.K was leading. However he made miscalculations. The SCLC failed to recruit enough local demonstrators due to the local SCLC leader being unpopular.
Connor attracted national attention- his police+dogs turned on black demonstrators.
King defied an injunction and marched knowing his arrest would gain national attention and perhaps inspire others. King was not allowed private meetings with his lawyer.
It was difficult to mobilise sufficient demonstrators. The press was leaving. Therefore they enlisted black school children as young as six, this was sucessful.
500 marchers stood in custody- Birmingham became headlines again. Connor used high pressure water hoses on students. SCLC aimed to fill jails and they succeeded. A demonstrator thanked Bull Connor for using violence as it gained press. It generated into chaos after whites and blacks were using violence.
JFK said it was damaging the reputation of the USA. A deal was reached to improve the situation of the blacks howvers Connors KKK friends tried to sabbotage the agreement.. Bombs hit Kings brothers house and Kings motel room.
State troopers(commanded by a friend of Connor and alabamas racist governor) disappeared from guarding the motel just before the explosion.
Blacks began to riot- a policeman was shot.
First time King had really led a movement.
SCLC had correctly assessed how Connor would react and how media would depict his reactions.
SCLC had shown America that southernsegregation was very unpleasant- extra donations poured into SCLC
Gained lots of media attention, getting the message across America
Kennedy administration admitted Birmingham was crucial in persuading them to push the 1964 civil rights act
Inspired other protests that started in summer 1963
King learnt non violent demonstrations were the best way
Little change in Birmingham itslef
Desegregation was not intimate but in stages
When the blacks began to riot a policeman was stabbed
SCLC miscalculated and failed to recruit enough local demonstrators
500 students were arrested- some were expelled from school for missing classes
Concerns- Violence was increasing for example the KKK sabotaging the agreement and bombing Kings motel
Some critics believed Kings non-violent actions were the cause of violence from white mobs and the police force
The letter from Birmingham Jail
Said: he feels action is better than negotiation. By taking action the state that refuses to negotiate has to address the issue as it is being dramatised. He doesn't want to wait anymore. he has waited for years for C.R and has gained nothing. Asia and Africa are gaining C.R more than USA. The black people are not respected for who they are because they are '*****'. They are living their lifes in fear of whats going to happen. There comes a point where they are sick of it and no longer willing to put up with it. Urge people to obey Supreme Court decisions i.e segregation in schools however they are seen as breaking the law. In the eyes of white extremeists they are in the wrong for supporting/trying to enforce court rulings. he believes the KKK of the councillors blocking their way to freedom. Dissappointed that clergyman would see his non-violent efforts as those of an extremeist. Lots of black nationalists groups in America are resulting to violence.