Southern resistance Resistance to racial equality in the Deep South came not only from extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and white "citizens' councils." It occurred at all levels of government and society--from federal judges to state governors to county sheriffs to local citizens serving on juries.
Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas used the Arkansas National Guard
to prevent school integration, and Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi
and George Wallace of Alabama physically blocked school doorways. E.H.
Hurst, a Mississippi state representative, stalked and killed a black
farmer for attending voter registration classes. Laurie Pritchett, Albany,
Georgia's police chief, thwarted student efforts to integrate public
places in the city. Birmingham's public safety commissioner Eugene T.
"Bull" Connor advocated violence against freedom riders and ordered
fire hoses and police dogs turned on demonstrators. Sheriff Jim Clark
of Dallas County, Alabama loosed his deputies on "Bloody
Sunday" marchers and personally menaced other protestors. Police
all across the South arrested civil rights activists on trumped-up charges.
All-white juries in several states acquitted known killers of local
Black churches The leadership role of black churches in the movement was a natural extension of their structure and function. They offered members an opportunity to exercise roles denied them in society. Throughout history, the black church served not only as a place of worship but also as a community "bulletin board," a credit union, a "people's court" to solve disputes, a support group, and a center of political activism. These and other functions enhanced the importance of the minister.
The most prominent clergyman in the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King, Jr. Time magazine's 1964 "Man of the Year" was a man of the people. He joined as well as led protest demonstrations, and as comedian Dick Gregory put it, "he gave as many fingerprints as autographs." King's powerful oratory and persistent call for racial justice inspired sharecroppers and intellectuals alike. His tireless personal commitment to and strong leadership role in the black freedom struggle won him worldwide acclaim and the Nobel Peace Prize.
Other notable minister-activists included Ralph Abernathy, King's closest associate; Bernard Lee, veteran demonstrator and frequent travel companion of King; Fred Shuttlesworth, who defied Bull Connor and who created a safe path for a colleague through a white mob in Montgomery by commanding "Out of the way!"; and C.T. Vivian, who debated Sheriff Clark on his conduct and the Constitution.
Students Students and seminarians in both the South and the North played key roles in every phase of the civil rights movement--from bus boycotts to sit-ins to freedom rides to social movements. The student movement involved such celebrated figures as John Lewis, the single-minded activist who "kept on" despite many beatings and harassments; Jim Lawson, the revered "guru" of nonviolent theory and tactics; Diane Nash, an articulate and intrepid public champion of justice; Bob Moses, pioneer of voting registration in the most rural--and most dangerous--part of the South; and James Bevel, a fiery preacher and charismatic organizer and facilitator. Other prominent student activists included Charles McDew, Bernard Lafayette, Charles Jones, Lonnie King, Julian Bond (associated with Atlanta University), Hosea Williams (associated with Brown Chapel), and Stokely Carmichael, who later changed his name to Kwame Toure.
Institutional frameworks Church and student-led movements developed their own organizational and sustaining structures. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (the SCLC), founded in 1957, coordinated and raised funds, mostly from northern sources, for local protests and for the training of black leaders. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, founded in 1957, developed the "jail-no-bail" strategy. SNCC's role was to develop and link sit-in campaigns and to help organize freedom rides, voter registration drives, and other protest activities. Bob Moses of SNCC created the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to coordinate the work of the SCLC, SNCC, and various other national and independent civil rights groups. These three new groups often joined forces with existing organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded in 1942, and the National Urban League. The NAACP and its Director, Roy Wilkins, provided legal counsel for jailed demonstrators, helped raise bail, and continued to test segregation and discrimination in the courts as it had been doing for half a century. CORE initiated the 1961 Freedom Rides which involved many SNCC members, and CORE's leader James Forman later became executive secretary of SNCC. The National Urban League, founded in 1911 and headed by Whitney M. Young, Jr., helped open up job opportunities for African Americans. Labor was represented by A. Philip Randolph, vice-president of the American Federation of Labor, and his chief assistant and organizer, Bayard Rustin.