Please note that this text-only version, provided for ease of printing and reading, includes approximately 75 pages and may take up to 20 minutes to print.
By clicking on one of these links, you may go directly to a particular text-only section:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Thomas Jefferson's stirring words, written in 1776 in our Declaration of Independence, defined the promise of America--freedom and equality for all. The words rang hollow, however, for the millions of African Americans held in slavery prior to the Civil War, and later denied political, economic, educational, and social equality by unjust laws and social customs. This National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary tells the powerful story of how and where the centuries-long struggle of African Americans to achieve the bright promise of America culminated in the mid-20th century in a heroic campaign we call the modern civil rights movement. Many of the places where these seminal events occurred, the churches, schools, homes, and neighborhoods, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and are included in this itinerary.
Throughout history, African Americans resisted their slavery and later second-class citizenship. Opposition took many forms, from the passive resistance of slaves who performed poor work for their masters, to slave revolts, to slaves escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad, to African Americans' participation in the Abolitionist movement and their joining the Union army during the Civil War. During this trying period African Americans preserved their heritage and social institutions.
Following the Civil War this country moved to extend equality to African Americans with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (1865) which outlawed slavery, the 14th Amendment (1868) which made citizens of all persons born in this country and afforded equal protection of the laws to all citizens, and the 15th Amendment (1870) which provided the right to vote to all citizens, regardless of race (In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote). This promising start soon faltered during the tensions of Reconstruction (1865-1877) when federal armies occupied the South and enforced order.
The genuine reform impulse of Reconstruction was the "first" civil
rights movement, as the victorious North attempted to create the conditions
whereby African Americans could freely and fully participate in this
country as citizens. It was a noble experiment in bi-racial harmony,
and, had it succeeded, there probably would have been no need for a
"second" civil rights movement.
Exhausted by the efforts and divisions of the Civil War and Reconstruction
and the longing for the country to reunite, the white advocates of equality
were overcome by the forces of reaction, and the fate of African Americans
was turned over to the individual states. Many states adopted restrictive
laws which enforced segregation of the races and the second-class status
of African Americans. The courts, the police, and groups such as the
Ku Klux Klan all enforced these discriminatory practices.
African Americans responded in a variety of ways. Booker T. Washington
(1856-1915), the early 20th century's leading advocate of black education,
stressed industrial schooling for African Americans and gradual social
adjustment rather than political and civil rights. The charismatic reformer
Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) called for racial separatism and a "Back-to-Africa"
colonization program. But it was a different path, one that emphasized
that African Americans were in this country to stay and would fight
for their freedom and political equality, that led to the modern civil
rights movement and is the focus of this National Register of Historic
Places Travel Itinerary.
In visiting the 49 places listed in the National Register for their association with the modern civil rights movement, as well as the Selma-to-Montgomery March route--a Department of Transportation designated "All-American Road" and a National Park Service designated National Historic Trail--two things will be apparent. First, although they had white supporters and sympathizers, the modern civil rights movement was designed, led, organized, and manned by African Americans, who placed themselves and their families on the front lines in the struggle for freedom. Their heroism was brought home to every American through newspaper, and later, television reports as their peaceful marches and demonstrations were violently attacked by law enforcement officers armed with batons, bullwhips, fire hoses, police dogs, and mass arrests. The second characteristic of the movement is that it was not monolithic, led by one or two men. Rather it was a dispersed, grass-roots campaign that attacked segregation in many different places using many different tactics. On this itinerary you will learn about the people and places associated with one of the most important chapters in our history.
The properties included in the itinerary are related to the modern civil rights movement, that is, with a few exceptions, the events of the post-World War II period, and especially the 1950s and 1960s. The focus of the itinerary is the African American freedom struggle, and does not include the attempts of other minority groups, such as Asians, Hispanics, or Native Americans, to obtain equality. The list of properties included in the itinerary does not represent all of the sites important in the civil rights movement; a number of these places have yet to be recognized by National Register listing. The 49 properties have been nominated by the States and listed in the National Register over the years, and do not represent a systematic effort to survey, identify, and list all important civil rights sites in the National Register. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located near the places featured in this itinerary, including Boone Tavern Hall of Berea College.
This travel itinerary was prepared as a cooperative project between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Both agencies have formally recognized the historic significance of the Selma-to-Montgomery march of 1965. Congress has designated, and the National Park Service administers, the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail based on the route's national significance in American history. The Federal Highway Administration has designated the march route as an All-American Road.
The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country...But in the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant ruling class of citizens...Our Constitution is color-blind... In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law... It is, therefore, to be regretted that this high tribunal... has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a State to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race... We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people above all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow-citizens, our equals before the law. The thin disguise of "equal" accommodations...will not mislead anyone, nor atone for the wrong this day done.
Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, dissenting
opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
The "wrong this day done" to which Justice Harlan referred was the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. Homer Adolph Plessy, an African American, had boarded a train in New Orleans and seated himself in a "whites-only" car. When he refused to move, he was arrested for violating the "Jim Crow Car Act of 1890." The incident led to the Supreme Court case in which all but Justice Harlan voted against Plessy, affirming the right of states to enact segregation laws. The "separate but equal" ruling set the stage for the rampant racial discrimination that followed in the Deep South. In many cities and towns, African Americans were not allowed to share a taxi with whites or enter a building through the same entrance. They had to drink from separate water fountains, use separate restrooms, attend separate schools, and even swear on separate Bibles and be buried in separate cemeteries. They were excluded from restaurants and public libraries. Many parks barred them with signs that read "Negroes and dogs not allowed." One municipal zoo went so far as to list separate visiting hours.
African Americans were expected to step aside to let a white person pass, and black men dared not look any white woman in the eye. Black men and women were addressed as "Tom" or "Jane" but rarely as "Mr." or "Miss" or "Mrs." A black man was referred to as "boy" and a black woman as "girl"; both often endured insulting labels of "nigger" or "colored."
Voting rights discrimination was widespread. In Tennessee, as the Justice Department's John Doar discovered on a self-appointed tour of rural Haywood County, black sharecroppers were being evicted by white farmers for trying to vote. In Mississippi, names of new voter applicants had to be published in local newspapers for two weeks before acceptance, and voters had the right to object to an applicant's "moral character." Black applicants, many of whom were illiterate or poorly educated, were also required to pass literacy tests and to interpret sections of the state constitution to the satisfaction of the registrars. These tests were not applied to illiterate whites. In Alabama, many registration centers were only open two days a month; voting registrars often arrived late and took long lunch hours. In 1957 the town of Tuskegee gerrymandered black residents outside the city limits to make them ineligible to vote. In nearby Macon County, voter registration boards used discriminatory practices such as these to limit the number of eligible black voters:
·holding black applicants to a higher standard of accuracy
Some counties in the Deep South resorted to harsher means of preventing local blacks from voting. They jailed black applicants and firebombed places where voter education classes had been conducted, such as Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Terrell County, Georgia. They threatened, beat, and in some cases, murdered black applicants.
Southern blacks who resisted segregation, particularly those in rural areas, lived in constant fear--fear of their employers, who vowed to fire them; fear of white "citizens' councils," who adopted policies of economic reprisal against demonstrators; and fear of white vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan, who exerted an often-unchecked reign of terror across the South, where lynching of African Americans was a common occurrence and rarely prosecuted. Nearly 4,500 African Americans were lynched in the United States between 1882 and the early 1950s.
The significant gains of the civil rights movement were won by people, not processes. Against incredible odds--and often at great risk--the thousands of activists in the modern freedom struggle won victories that touched their own lives as well as those of their neighbors and future generations. Here are highlights about some of the groups and individuals involved in the unfolding human drama:
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 Orvil 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 African Americans.
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.
Federal involvement All branches of the federal government impacted the civil rights movement. President John Kennedy supported enforcement of desegregation in schools and public facilities. Attorney General Robert Kennedy brought more than 50 lawsuits in four states to secure black Americans' right to vote. President Lyndon Johnson was personally committed to achieving civil rights goals. Congress passed and President Johnson signed the century's two most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation--the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson advocated civil rights even though he knew it would cost the Democratic Party the South in the next presidential election, and for the foreseeable future. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, concerned about possible Communist influence in the civil rights movement and personally antagonistic to Martin Luther King, Jr., used the FBI to investigate King and other civil rights leaders. U.S. District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., ruled against segregation and voting rights discrimination in Alabama and made the Selma-to-Montgomery March possible.
In the early days of the civil rights movement, litigation
and lobbying were the focus of integration efforts. The 1954 U.S.
Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education led to
a shift in tactics, and from 1955 to 1965, "direct action" was the
strategy--primarily bus boycotts, sit-ins, freedom rides, and social
Locally initiated boycotts of segregated buses, especially the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-1956, were designed to unite and mobilize black communities on a commonly-shared concern. Protestors refused to ride on the buses, opting instead to walk or carpool. The nearly one year-long boycott ended bus segregation in Montgomery and triggered other bus boycotts such as the highly successful Tallahassee, Florida boycott of 1956-1957.
Student-organized sit-ins like the February 1960 protest at Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, offered young men and women with no special skills or resources an opportunity to display their discontent and raise white awareness. Protestors were encouraged to dress up, sit quietly, and occupy every other stool so potential white sympathizers could join in. The success of the Greensboro sit-in led to a rash of student campaigns all across the South. By the end of 1960 the sit-ins had spread to every southern and border state and even to Nevada, Illinois, and Ohio. Demonstrators focused not only on lunch counters but on parks, beaches, libraries, theaters, museums, and other public places. When they were arrested, student demonstrators made "jail-no-bail" pledges to call attention to their cause and to reverse the cost of protest (putting the financial burden of jail space and food on the "jailors").
The 1961 Freedom Rides on public buses tested compliance with court orders to desegregate interstate transportation terminals. The trips enabled students from both the South and the North to protest away from campus and to form a tightly-knit community of activists, many of whom would participate in the last protest phase, which began in 1961. National civil rights leaders launched these efforts to involve poor blacks and other blacks who had been uninvolved until then. The movements included door-to-door voter education projects in rural Mississippi, "The Birmingham Campaign" to desegregate public accommodations in the city, and "Freedom Summer," to try to unseat the regular delegation at the 1964 Democratic Convention and to publicize the disenfranchisement of southern blacks.
While some groups and individuals within the civil rights movement advocated Black Power, black separatism, or even armed resistance, the majority of participants remained committed to the principles of nonviolence -- a deliberate decision by an oppressed minority to abstain from violence for political gain. The commitment to nonviolence gave the civil rights movement great moral authority. Using nonviolent strategies, civil rights activists took advantage of emerging national network-news reporting, especially television, to capture national attention and the attention of Congress and the White House. In 1955, journalists covered the Mississippi trial of two men accused of murdering 14-year-old Emmett Till from Chicago. The cover of Jet magazine featured a photo of the boy's mutilated face. A few years later, Americans watched the live footage of violent unrest at Little Rock High School as whites rioted to prevent nine black students from entering the school. Radio, television, and print journalism exhaustively covered such 1960s events as police dogs attacking children in Birmingham, former sharecropper Fannie Lou Hammer describing her jail beatings to delegates at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, and a mounted posse charging "Bloody Sunday" demonstrators in Selma, Alabama.
Freedom wore an expensive price tag.
Southern blacks who tried to register to vote--and those who supported them--were typically jeered and harassed, beaten or killed. In 1963, the NAACP's Medgar Evers was gunned down in front of his wife and children in Jackson, Mississippi. Reverend George Lee of Belzoni, Mississippi, was murdered when he refused to remove his name from a list of registered voters, and farmer Herbert Lee of Liberty, Mississippi, was killed for having attended voter education classes. Three "Freedom Summer" field-workers--Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman--were shot down for their part in helping Mississippi blacks register and organize. Michael Schwerner, a social worker from Manhattan's Lower East Side, James Chaney, a local plasterer's apprentice, and Andrew Goodman, a Queens College anthropology student, disappeared in June 1964. Their bodies were discovered several months later in an earthen dam outside Philadelphia, Mississippi. Schwerner and Goodman had been shot once; Chaney, the lone African American, had been savagely beaten and shot three times.
When violence failed to stop voter registration efforts,
whites used economic pressure. In Mississippi's LeFlore and Sunflower
Counties--two of the poorest counties in the nation--state authorities
cut off federal food relief, resulting in a near-famine in the region.
Many black registrants throughout the South were also fired from their
jobs or refused credit at local banks and stores. In one town, a black
grocer was forced out of business when local whites stopped his store
delivery trucks on the highway outside town and made them turn around.
Like voter registrants, freedom riders paid a heavy price for racial justice. When the interracial groups of riders stepped off Greyhound or Trailways buses in segregated terminals, local police were usually absent. Angry mobs were waiting, however, armed with baseball bats, lead pipes, and bicycle chains.
In Anniston, Alabama, one bus was firebombed, forcing its passengers to flee for their lives. In Birmingham, where an FBI informant reported that Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor had encouraged the Ku Klux Klan to attack an incoming group of freedom riders "until it looked like a bulldog had got a hold of them," the riders were severely beaten. In eerily-quiet Montgomery, a mob charged another bus load of riders, knocking John Lewis unconscious with a crate and smashing Life photographer Don Urbrock in the face with his own camera. A dozen men surrounded Jim Zwerg, a white student from Fisk University, and beat him in the face with a suitcase, knocking out his teeth. The freedom riders did not fare much better in jail. There, they were crammed into tiny, filthy cells and sporadically beaten. In Jackson, Mississippi, some male prisoners were forced to do hard labor in 100-degree heat. Others were transferred to Parchman Penitentiary, where their food was deliberately oversalted and their mattresses were removed. Sometimes the men were suspended by "wrist breakers" from the walls. Typically, the windows of their cells were shut tight on hot days, making it hard for them to breathe.
Out of jail, the freedom riders joined mass demonstrations where the violent response of local police shocked the world. In Birmingham, police loosed attack dogs into a peaceful crowd of demonstrators, and the German shepherds bit three teenagers. In Birmingham and Orangeburg, South Carolina, firemen blasted protestors with hoses set at a pressure to remove bark from trees and mortar from brick.
On "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama, police and troopers on horseback charged into a group of marchers, beating them and firing tear gas. Several weeks later the marchers trekked the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery without incident, but afterwards four Klansmen murdered Detroit homemaker Viola Liuzzo as she drove marchers back to Selma. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his life for the movement, struck down by an assassin's bullet in Memphis, Tennessee.
When white supremacists could not halt the civil rights movement, they tried to demoralize its supporters. They bombed churches and other meeting places. They set high bail and paced trials slowly, forcing civil rights organizations to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. At a Nashville lunch counter sit-in, the store manager locked the door and turned on the insect fumigator. In St. Augustine, Florida, city officials who had promised to meet with black demonstrators at City Hall offered them an empty table and a tape recorder instead. In Selma, Sheriff Jim Clark and his deputies forced 165 students into a three-mile run, poking them with cattle prods as they ran. Random violence accompanied calculated acts. The Klan bombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killed four black girls. On the campus of the University of Mississippi, a stray bullet struck a local jukebox-repairman in a riot that killed one reporter and wounded more than 150 federal marshals. In Marion, Alabama, 26-year-old Jimmy Lee Jackson was gunned down while trying to protect his mother and grandfather from State Police. Not far away in Selma, a white Boston minister who had lost his way was clubbed to death by white vigilantes.
The more violent southern whites became, the more their actions were publicized and denounced across the nation. Increasing violence in the South's streets, jails, and public places failed to break the spirits of the freedom fighters. Indeed, it emboldened them.
At times history and fate meet at a single time in
a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for
freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago
at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There is no
Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern
problem. There is only an American problem. Many of the issues of
civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there
can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have the
right to vote...Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this
country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are
Negroes... No law that we now have on the books...can insure the right
to vote when local officials are determined to deny it... There is
no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain.
There is no moral issue. It is wrong--deadly wrong--to deny any of
your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is
no issue of States' rights or National rights. There is only the struggle
for human rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which required equal access to public places and outlawed discrimination in employment, was a major victory of the black freedom struggle, but the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was its crowning achievement. The 1965 Act suspended literacy tests and other voter tests and authorized federal supervision of voter registration in states and individual voting districts where such tests were being used. African Americans who had been barred from registering to vote finally had an alternative to the courts. If voting discrimination occurred, the 1965 Act authorized the attorney general to send federal examiners to replace local registrars.
The Act had an immediate impact. Within months of its passage on August 6, 1965, one quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one third by federal examiners. Within four years, voter registration in the South had more than doubled. In 1965, Mississippi had the highest black voter turnout--74%--and led the nation in the number of black leaders elected. In 1969, Tennessee had a 92.1% turnout; Arkansas, 77.9%; and Texas, 73.1%.
Winning the right to vote changed the political landscape of the South.
When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, barely 100 African Americans
held elective office in the U.S.; by 1989 there were more than 7,200,
including more than 4,800 in the South. Nearly every Black Belt county
in Alabama had a black sheriff, and southern blacks held top positions
within city, county, and state governments. Atlanta boasted a black
mayor--Andrew Young, and so did New Orleans--Ernest Morial. Black politicians
on the national level included Barbara Jordan, who represented Texas
in Congress, and former mayor Young, who was appointed U.S. Ambassador
to the United Nations during the Carter Administration. Julian Bond
was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1965, although political reaction
to his public opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam prevented him
from taking his seat until 1967. John Lewis currently represents Georgia's
5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where
he has served since 1987. Lewis sits on the House Ways and Means and
The enormous gains of the civil rights movement stand to last a long time. Yet the full effect of these gains is yet to be felt. "Equal rights" struggles now involve multiple races, as well as the issues of rights based upon gender and sexual orientation. Racism has lost its legal, political, and social standing, but the legacy of racism--poverty, ignorance, and disease--confronts us. "They are our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor," said President Johnson at the end of his voting rights speech. "And these enemies too--poverty, disease, and ignorance--we shall overcome."
This church's pastor, Rev. T.Y. Rogers, Jr., and the local community led a successful campaign against segregation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In late spring 1964, the new county courthouse put up "whites only" signs in front of the bathrooms. Irate black citizens formed the Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action Committee, headed by Rev. Rogers, to challenge racially discriminatory practices. The church became demonstration headquarters and the site of many local rallies and marches. A climactic June 9 rally outside First African Baptist forced the local segregation issue into federal courts. The rally was staged to test a local ban on protest marches and took place during the 75-day filibuster of the Civil Rights Bill by southern senators. Tuscaloosa's police commissioner arrested Rev. Rogers after he refused to call off the rally. Then police charged into the crowd, pushing it back into the church. Later, hoping to force the protestors outside where they could be easily arrested, police sprayed fire hoses and hurled tear gas through the church windows. Ninety-one protestors were jailed. The violent incident spurred action on several pending and subsequent court cases. On June 26, a federal judge ordered Tuscaloosa County to remove the offensive courthouse signs, citing the 14th Amendment right to be free of "discrimination of any kind in the use and enjoyment of publicly-owned facilities."
The First African Baptist is located at 2621 9th Street in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Tours are available daily by appointment. For more information call 205-758-2833
Both the building and the members of Brown Chapel AME Church played pivotal roles in the Selma, Alabama, marches that helped lead to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The starting point for the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, Brown Chapel also hosted the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for the first three months of 1965. Another nearby local church, First Baptist, acted as the headquarters for the organizers of the Selma Campaign--the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Brown Chapel AME Church, with its imposing twin towers and Romanesque Revival styling, was built in 1908 by a black builder--of whom little is known -- Mr. A.J. Farley. On Sunday morning (known as Bloody Sunday) March 7, 1965, despite a ban on protest marches by Governor George Wallace, about 600 black protestors gathered outside Brown Chapel to march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery. Leading the march were the SCLC's Hosea Williams and SNCC's John Lewis. At the Edmund Pettus Bridge, six blocks from Brown Chapel, mounted troopers confronted the marchers and ordered them to disperse. The marchers stood their ground and the troopers advanced, billy clubs raised. Lewis fell, his skull fractured. Others fell, screaming, as white onlookers cheered. Then Sheriff Jim Clark's deputized posse charged the marchers, firing tear gas and swinging bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. That night, ABC interrupted its showing of the movie Judgement at Nuremberg to air footage of "Bloody Sunday." By morning, news of the event had spread to nearly every American household, and thousands of march supporters began to flock to Selma. On March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a "symbolic" march to the bridge, and on March 21, after Governor Wallace's ban was overruled by Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., King led the five-day march to the capital. Less than five months later President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
Brown Chapel AME Church, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 410, Martin Luther King, Jr., Street.
First Baptist Church, along with its close neighbor, Brown Chapel AME Church, played a pivotal role in the Selma, Alabama, marches that helped lead to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The members of First Baptist Church allowed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to use their church as the planning site and organizational headquarters of the Selma campaign. First Baptist Church, constructed in 1894 in the Gothic Revival style by a local black architect, Dave Benjamin West, is considered one of the most architecturally significant late-19th-century black churches in the state. Despite a ban on protest marches by Governor George Wallace, on Sunday morning, March 7, 1965, about 600 black protestors gathered outside Brown Chapel to march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery. Leading the march were the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) Hosea Williams and SNCC's John Lewis. At the Edmund Pettus Bridge, six blocks from Brown Chapel, mounted troopers confronted the marchers and ordered them to disperse. The marchers stood their ground and the troopers advanced, billy clubs raised. Lewis fell, his skull fractured. Others fell, screaming, as white onlookers cheered. Then Sheriff Jim Clark's deputized posse charged the marchers, firing tear gas and swinging bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. That night, ABC interrupted its showing of the movie, Judgement at Nuremberg, to air footage of "Bloody Sunday." By morning, news of the event had spread to nearly every American household, and thousands of march supporters began to flock to Selma. On March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a "symbolic" march to the bridge, and on March 21, after Governor Wallace's ban was overruled by Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., King led the five-day march to the capital. Less than five months later President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
First Baptist Church is located at 709 Martin Luther King, Jr., Street.
National Historic Trail and All American Road
The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks--and three events--that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. On "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a "symbolic" march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators. "The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups...," said Judge Johnson, "and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways." On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965--the best possible redress of grievances.
Founded during the mid-1930s by Catholic priest Father Harold Purcell when segregation was the norm in the Southeast, the City of St. Jude Hospital pioneered nondiscriminatory health, education, and social services. In the 1950s, St. Jude's Church hosted an integrated prayer group, and in 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., and 2,000 participants of the Selma-to-Montgomery March found shelter there. The night before the final march to the Capitol, City of St. Jude offered its 36 acres to the marchers, who slept on the athletic field and held a "Stars of Freedom Rally" featuring such celebrities as Odetta, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Leonard Bernstein, and Joan Baez. St. Jude's Catholic Hospital, which opened in 1951 as the first integrated hospital in the Southeast, offered help again when tragedy struck at the end of the march. Hospital staff tried to save the life of Viola Liuzzo, the Detroit homemaker who was fatally shot by Klansmen while driving marchers back to Selma. The hospital closed in 1985. In March 1990, City of St. Jude was the site of the 25th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. Former Governor George Wallace appeared in the doorway of the St. Jude Educational Institute as he had done years before at the University of Alabama, this time not to prevent students from entering the building but to greet civil rights supporters.
The City of St. Jude is located at 2048 West Fairview Avenue in Montgomery. Most of the hospital has been converted to apartments for low-income families. The unused section of the hospital will be converted to a National Park Service interpretive center and re-enactment site.
Frank M. Johnson, Jr. (1918- ), Federal Judge
Thanks to a courageous and insightful federal judge--Frank M. Johnson, Jr.--this Montgomery, Alabama, courthouse became one of few official buildings in the South where civil rights claims could receive an impartial hearing and be won. In 1955, President Eisenhower appointed the 37-year-old Johnson to the U.S. District Court. The next year, following the Montgomery bus boycott, he ruled against segregated city buses. In later actions, he was the first judge to order names of qualified African Americans added to county voting rolls, and he wrote the first statewide school desegregation decree. He outlawed discrimination in Alabama's libraries, transportation centers, and agricultural extension service. He placed numerous state agencies under judicial review. After brutal beatings of Freedom Riders at Montgomery's Greyhound Terminal, he temporarily restrained the city and the Klan from future wrongs against the protestors. He helped strike down literacy tests and other unfair practices when he ordered voting registrars to apply consistent standards. One of Johnson's major accomplishments was his opening of U.S. Route 80 for the Selma-to-Montgomery March. After watching the CBS footage of "Bloody Sunday," he ruled that the right of assembly--in this case, the right to march--far outweighed the right to unobstructed sidewalks and highways. The enormity of the wrongs being protested should be the deciding factor, he said. Johnson's decisions put him at great risk. His mother's home was bombed and a cross burned in his yard. Often he and his family needed overnight protection. His actions also won the ire of law school classmate Governor George Wallace, who branded Johnson an "integrating, scalawagging, carpetbagging liar." In 1977, President Carter asked Johnson to head the FBI, but the judge refused for medical reasons. Instead, he accepted a 1979 appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Johnson's decisions then and earlier not only affected civil rights, they also influenced most of the public policy in the state. In 1993, Judge Johnson was the second recipient (after Thurgood Marshall) of the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award for his work for civil rights. In 1995, President Clinton awarded Judge Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian award. President Clinton remarked that, "during 40 years on the bench, Judge Johnson made it his mission to see to it justice was done within the framework of law. In the face of unremitting social and political pressure to uphold the traditions of oppression and neglect in his native South, never once did he yield. His landmark decisions in the areas of desegregation, voting rights and civil liberties transformed our understanding of the Constitution."
The Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (formerly the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse) is located at 15 Lee Street in Montgomery.
This church was the backbone of the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott--the first locally-initiated mass protest against racial discrimination and a "model" for other grass-roots demonstrations. The boycott proved how members of a black community could unite in resistance to segregation, and it heralded a new era of "direct action." The event also propelled Martin Luther King, Jr., into the national spotlight.
Years before the boycott, Dexter Avenue minister Vernon Johns sat down in the "whites-only" section of a city bus. When the driver ordered him off the bus, Johns urged other passengers to join him. On March 2, 1955, a black teenager named Claudette Colvin dared to defy bus segregation laws and was forcibly removed from another Montgomery bus. Nine months later, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks--a 42-year-old seamstress and NAACP member--refused to give up her seat on a crowded city bus to make room for white passengers. She was arrested and jailed.
Montgomery's black citizens reacted decisively to the incident. By December 2, schoolteacher Jo Ann Robinson had mimeographed and delivered 50,000 protest leaflets around town. E.D. Nixon, a local labor leader, organized a December 4 meeting at Dexter Avenue, where local black leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to spearhead a boycott and negotiate with the bus company. They named Dexter's new minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., president.
For nearly a year, buses were virtually empty in Montgomery. Boycott supporters walked to work--as many as eight miles a day--or they used a sophisticated system of carpools with volunteer drivers and dispatchers. Some took station-wagon "rolling taxis" donated by local churches.
Montgomery City Lines lost between 30,000 and 40,000 bus fares each day during the boycott, but the company reluctantly desegregated its buses only after November 13, 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled Alabama's bus segregation laws unconstitutional.
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (formerly Dexter Avenue Baptist Church) is a National Historic Landmark. It is located at 454 Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, Alabama. Individual tours of the church are available Tuesday-Friday at 10:00am to 4:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00am to 2:00pm. There is a fee for a tour. For information on group tours, call 334-263-3970.
Martin Luther King, Jr., lived in this parsonage when he was minister of the church between 1954 and 1960. On January 31, 1956, following the successful Montgomery bus boycott, King's home was bombed by local segregationists. At the time, King was at a meeting, but his wife Coretta was at the parsonage with her ten-week-old daughter Yolanda Denice, also known as "Yoki." After King had verified that both were unhurt, he addressed the angry crowd of African Americans outside. "Don't do anything panicky," he advised. "I did not start this boycott. I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped, this movement will not stop." In February 1957, when King was alone in the parsonage with Morehouse College friend Bob Williams, something disturbed King. He told Williams they should leave the parsonage immediately. Several hours later, after the two men had gone to Williams' house, a bomb exploded outside the parsonage, crushing the front part of a house and shattering the windows of three parked taxis, injuring the drivers. At the empty parsonage, 12 sticks of dynamite lay on the front porch. Only a few days after the bombing, police arrested seven white men. Two of them admitted to the crime, but despite their signed confessions, they were acquitted by a jury.
The Pastorium is located at 309 South Jackson Street in Montgomery and is expected to be open to the public in January 1999. To arrange a tour of the church, call the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church at 334-263-3970.
This church was the focal point for a multi-year grass-roots project that united and empowered African Americans, rural and urban, educated and uneducated, to fight for the right to vote. Butler Chapel AME Zion Church, an imposing brick building located on a hill west of downtown Tuskegee, is a prominent landmark in the historically black neighborhood known as Zion Hill. The building, the second church on this site, was constructed about 1877. Originally built in wood, the church was sided with brick in the 1940s. In a 1957 effort to minimize the number of black voters in Tuskegee, Alabama's municipal elections, the state legislature simply redrew the town's political districts, placing Tuskegee Institute and all but a small fraction of black residents outside city limits. To protest this action, Tuskegee's middle-class black community and Macon County's poor black citizens joined forces in a seven-year "Crusade for Citizenship." On June 25, 1957, 3,000 area black residents showed up at Butler Chapel for the first of many weekly mass meetings. Only 500 attendees could fit into the church's small sanctuary; the rest listened outside. Charles Gomillion, a professor at Tuskegee Institute and the driving force of the black Tuskegee Civic Association, urged the crowd to join a "Trade with Friends" boycott of local white merchants. "We are going to buy goods and services from those who help us, from those who make no effort to hinder us, from those who recognize us as first-class citizens," he promised. The boycott ended in early 1961 when city boundaries were returned to their original position, after the Supreme Court ruled that a legislature could not single out an isolated segment of a racial minority for discriminatory treatment.
Butler Chapel is located at 1002 N. Church Street in Tuskegee, Alabama. A museum is located in the church basement. Tours can be arranged by calling 334-727-3550, after 1 p.m., or 334-727-3601.
During the first week of May 1963, Birmingham police and firemen attacked civil rights demonstrators, many of whom were children, in the streets bordering this park. The violence raised a nationwide public outcry, hastening integration in America's most segregated city.
Birmingham, site of the first mass beatings of freedom riders, was selected by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for a massive protest campaign. Kelly Ingram Park (historically known as West Park), was an assembly point for participants in the SCLC's Project "C," (for Confrontation)--sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and jailings designed to end segregation in Birmingham. Under the on site direction of SCLC President Martin Luther King, Jr., and local SCLC affiliate Fred Shuttlesworth, department stores were targeted for boycotts and protest marches organized. Dr. King was arrested and held in solitary confinement for three days, during which he wrote, smuggled out of jail, and had printed his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," a profoundly moving justification for the moral necessity of non-violent resistance to unjust laws.
When police filled the jails with mass arrests and depleted the ranks of adult demonstrators, the SCLC called on the city's children to join the protests. On May 2, under orders from Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor, police arrested 600 child picketers (some as young as six years of age); by the next day, 1,000 children had been jailed. In the days that followed, firemen blasted the protestors, including children, with high-pressure fire hoses, and police used their nightsticks indiscriminately. Police K-9 units loosed their dogs into crowds of peaceful demonstrators, pinning down one woman and severely wounding three teenagers. One young bystander was whirled around by a policeman into the jaws of his German Shepherd. An Associated Press photographer standing nearby captured the incident, which quickly became the symbol of the unrest in Birmingham.
Fearful of a race riot and worried about lost business, local businesses made a "pact" with the SCLC, but Alabama's Governor Wallace disavowed any settlement and Bull Connor urged whites to boycott the stores involved. To prevent any violence that would undermine the agreement, President Kennedy ordered 3,000 Army troops to the outskirts of the city. Local merchants removed their "whites only" signs and desegregated their lunch counters. The newly-elected mayor repealed the city's Jim Crow laws and eventually desegregated the library, city golf courses, public buildings, and finally the schools.
Kelly Ingram Park (formerly West Park) occupies a square block between 16th and 17th Streets and between 5th and 6th Avenues North, in Birmingham, Alabama.
On Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls. This murderous act shocked the nation and galvanized the civil rights movement.
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley were dressed in their "Youth Sunday" best, ready to lead the 11:00 adult service at the church, which since its construction in 1911 had served as the center of life for Birmingham's African American community. Only a few minutes before the explosion, they had been together in the basement women's room, excitedly talking about their first days at school. The bombing came without warning.
Following the tragic event, white strangers visited the grieving families to express their sorrow. At the funeral for three of the girls (one family preferred a separate, private funeral), Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about life being "as hard as crucible steel." More than 8,000 mourners, including 800 clergymen of both races, attended the service. No city officials braved the crowds to attend.
News stories circulated about symbolic incidents that occurred at the time of the bombing. For example, the image of Jesus' face was knocked cleanly out of the only surviving stained-glass window in the church's east wall, and the church clock stopped at exactly 10:22 a.m.
The deaths of the children followed by the loss of President Kennedy two months later gave birth to a tide of grief and anger--a surge of emotional momentum that helped ensure the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is located in Birmingham, Alabama, at the intersection of 16th Street and 6th Avenue. Tours are given 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Friday and by appointment only on Saturdays. Groups should call 205-251-9402 to make arrangements.
Martin Luther King, Jr., (1929-1968), minister, civil
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth home, church, and grave site comprise this National Historic Site and Preservation District along with the previously National Register-listed Martin Luther King, Jr., Historic District and the historic black commercial area, the Sweet Auburn Historic District. All of these properties are important in understanding both the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement.
King was born in a frame house at 501 Auburn. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where for eight years he shared the pulpit with his father, is a short walk away at the corner of Auburn and Jackson. Next door to the church, a memorial park surrounds King's crypt, nestled in a reflecting pool. Across from the church at 449 Auburn is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., which continues King's legacy and work.
The historic districts included in the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site and Preservation District were the center of life for Atlanta's African American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Auburn Avenue was the main thoroughfare through the area, and the phenomenal growth of black businesses along the avenue led to it being called "the richest Negro street in the world." Following the Civil War, African Americans built businesses, residences, social and educational buildings, and churches along Auburn Avenue, and nearby streets. Many of these buildings remain today vital parts of the community.
Although King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, his international stature did not preclude his involvement with local issues. For example, he joined students in a fall 1960 sit-in at Rich's Department Store--an event that landed him in jail for the first time. On another occasion in late 1964, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headquartered in the Sweet Auburn Historic District, sided with black workers against Scripto, Inc., manufacturer of pencils and pens. At issue was a wage increase given to skilled workers, mostly white, but not to unskilled workers, largely black.
After King was assassinated, his body lay in state at Spelman College. Ralph Abernathy, who had been with King since the Montgomery Bus Boycott, conducted the April 9 funeral service at Ebenezer attended by civil rights leaders, black entertainers and athletes and the four presidential candidates--Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy, and Eugene McCarthy. More than 60,000 people listened over loudspeakers outside, and as many as 50,000 joined in the funeral procession afterwards. King's casket was borne by a mule-driven farm cart, symbolizing his support of the rights of poor people.
The Martin Luther King, Jr., Historic Site and Preservation District is roughly bounded by Irwin Avenue and Courtland, Randolph, and Chamberlain Streets. The National Park Service's Visitor Center, at 450 Auburn Avenue, NE, features exhibits about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement. The park is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; hours from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm; closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1. Call 404-331-5190, or click here for more information.
This sprawling six-campus university boasts four institutions prominent in the civil rights movement: Morehouse College ("the black Harvard"), Spelman College, Atlanta University, and West Hunter Street Baptist Church. Martin Luther King, Jr., graduated from Morehouse College, and Morehouse students Lonnie King and Julian Bond organized sit-ins, boycotts, and marches throughout the city. Spelman student Ruby Doris Smith helped lead freedom rides, sit-ins, jail-ins, and voter registration drives. Civil rights leaders W.E.B. Du Bois and Whitney Young, Jr., taught and chaired departments at Atlanta University. Rev. Ralph Abernathy pastored West Hunter when he was head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Student-organized demonstrations in Atlanta began in March 1960 with 80 well-dressed students and eight well-planned, simultaneous protests. Bond's group staged a sit-in at City Hall's municipal cafeteria, in front of which hung a sign, "PUBLIC IS WELCOME." Lonnie King and 35 protestors trooped to Rich's Department Store. There they were joined by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who shortly was to experience his first night in an Atlanta jail.
Later in the Atlanta movement, student protestors launched a publicity campaign to involve black adults on the periphery--black customers with buying power at Rich's. "Close out your charge account with segregation," urged the students. "Open up your account with freedom." Virtually all the black adults in Atlanta heeded the student slogan, and Rich's felt the pinch.
In March 1961, black elders worked out a compromise with city merchants. In exchange for an immediate halt to protests, store managers agreed to integrate their lunch counters, though not until court-ordered school desegregation took effect in September.
Within the Atlanta University Center, Stone Hall (now known as Fairchild-Stone Hall), was the focal point of university activities. It is a National Historic Landmark.
The Atlanta University Center Historic District is roughly bordered by the transit right-of-way, Northside Drive, Walnut, Fair, Roach, West End Drive, and Euralee and Chestnut Streets. The grounds of the University are open to the public.
Ain't gonna let nobody, Lordy, turn me 'round,
The a cappella singing that became the trademark and the unifying force of the civil rights movement was introduced at this church by three student "Freedom Singers"--Ruth A. Harris, Bernice Johnson, and Cordell Reagon. Constructed in 1906, this brick church building, designed in the Late Gothic style, served as the religious, educational, and social center of Albany's African American community. Mt. Zion also hosted many of the mass meetings of the ill-fated "Albany Movement"--a coalition of community groups formed in October 1961 after a sit-in in the "whites-only" section of the Trailways Bus Terminal. A month later when white officials arrested hundreds of demonstrators, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to Albany, only to be arrested himself. The arrests failed to capture national sympathy largely because of the tactics of police chief Laurie Pritchett, who kept his officers from using force against demonstrators while in public view. Pritchett used a similar strategy months later after a pregnant black woman was severely beaten by one of his officers and enraged black onlookers retaliated. He pointed reporters to "them nonviolent rocks." Internal rivalries and resentments also plagued the Albany Movement. For example, some student leaders thought King was too "nonviolent" and his aides too "high-handed." By late 1962 much of the tension had eased, but the Albany Movement was inactive and the town still segregated.
Mt. Zion Baptist is located at 326 Whitney Avenue in Albany, Georgia. The building currently houses the Albany Civil Rights Institute. For more information, visit their website.
Dorchester Academy, an abandoned Congregationalist missionary school not far from Savannah, Georgia, was one of two sites where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) held its citizenship education workshops during the 1960s. In less than two years, the SCLC trained close to 2,000 teachers and leaders, who in turn taught more than 10,500 others in their home communities. Septima Clark, veteran educator and daughter of a slave, took in busloads of adult students and in week-long sessions taught them everything from basic reading, writing, and math to sections of state constitutions they would encounter in voter registration "quizzes." The students also learned the concepts and tactics of nonviolent direct action.
The SCLC's leadership training center was supported by a grant from the Marshall Field Foundation, which decided to support the civil rights movement by steering its philanthropy into voter registration. Field Foundation representative (and later mayor of Atlanta) Andrew Young was the school's first director.
Dorchester Academy was also the planning center for the SCLC's successful March 1963 campaign to end segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The "Project C" (C for "Confrontation") blueprint involved ending segregation in Birmingham through four consecutive, increasingly-stronger steps--first, sit-ins and nightly mass meetings; second, a boycott of the downtown business district; third, mass marches; and fourth (if necessary), appeals to outsiders to descend on the city. Wyatt Walker, Project C coordinator, stressed that participants must not back down once the plan was in motion because some demoralized protestors might then become violent. Project C coordinators should be prepared to have at least 1,000 people in jail at one time, said Walker, and to keep the average jailgoer inside for more than four days (thereby putting economic pressure on the city).
Dorchester Academy Boys' Dormitory is located on U.S. Route 82 in Midway, Georgia. Currently undegoing a restoration, the academy is still used for community activities and is open to the public. Visit www.dorchesteracademy.com for further information.
St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in the United States, and until 1964, one of the most segregated. A dentist and NAACP representative named Robert Hayling from the historic subdivision of Lincolnville initiated the protest actions that eventually ended discrimination in the old city. Lincolnville, established in 1866, was the major black residential subdivision in St. Augustine, and many of its residents were politically active. The historic district contains a large collection of 19th and early 20th century residences and churches.
In 1963, Hayling organized campaigns against local segregated public facilities catering to tourists. He also urged the White House not to support the 400th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine set to take place in September 1965. When both efforts failed, he appealed to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for help.
The SCLC called on New England universities to send volunteers to the city for March 1964 demonstrations and asked Lincolnville residents to provide food and lodging. By the end of one week of protests, police had arrested hundreds of demonstrators, including a delegation of rabbis and the 72-year-old mother of the governor of Massachusetts. White vigilantes terrorized local businesses that dared to serve African Americans.
In early June, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to St. Augustine and took part in a sit-in at Monson's Motor Lodge. The same month, the SCLC arranged for baseball star Jackie Robinson to address a civil rights rally in Lincolnville. The publicity surrounding these two events hastened Congress' passage of the Civil Rights Act on June 20, 1964.
Local segregationists initially refused to comply with the new Act. For example, when Monson's manager noticed African Americans in the motel swimming pool, he threw acid into the water, then drained the pool and stationed guards around it. Angry white mobs also beat "wade-in" demonstrators at local beaches as well as the police assigned to protect them.
The end of segregation in St. Augustine demonstrated that even the most closed communities could not uphold segregation in the face of determined resistance.
The Lincolnville Historic District, located in St. Augustine, Florida, is bounded by DeSoto Place and Cedar, Riberia, Cerro, and Washington Streets.
Howard Thurman (1900-1981), minister, educator, civil
Author, philosopher, theologian, and educator Howard Thurman spent most of his childhood in this late 19th-century, two-story, wood frame vernacular residence. In quiet moments before a civil rights march, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., used to read from Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited--a book that laid much of the philosophical foundation for a nonviolent civil rights movement. According to Thurman, fear, deception, and hatred prohibit a peaceful end to racial bigotry. These emotions isolate African Americans and whites, he wrote, and prevent either group from seeing the other as individuals free of stereotyped expectation. Only by overwhelming such restraints with love, said Thurman, can oppressed peoples surmount persecution. Their love is rooted in the "deep river" of faith:
It may twist and turn, fall back on itself and start again, stumble over an infinite series of hindering rocks, but at last the river must answer the call to the sea.
In 1923, Howard Thurman graduated from Morehouse College as valedictorian. After he was ordained a Baptist minister in 1925, he became the first black dean at Boston University and then the first dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University in the District of Columbia. In the latter position, he traveled broadly, heading Christian missions and meeting with world figures like Mahatma Gandhi. When Thurman asked Gandhi what message he should take back to America, Gandhi said he regretted not having made nonviolence more visible worldwide and suggested some American black man would succeed where he had failed. Ebony magazine called Thurman one of the 50 most important figures in African American history, and Life rated him among the 12 best preachers in the nation.
The Howard Thurman House is located at 614 Whitehall Street in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is not open to the public.
All Star Bowling Lane--Orangeburg, South Carolina's only bowling alley--played a pivotal role in the February 8, 1968, "Orangeburg Massacre" on the campus of South Carolina State College. In this confrontation between black students and police, three students were killed and 27 injured.
In 1968, the segregated bowling alley was a rarity in Orangeburg because most public places in the city were integrated. Since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, local black leaders and members of the white business community had tried to persuade All Star to desegregate. Their efforts and simultaneous appeals to the U.S. Justice Department failed. All Star's manager claimed that bowling alleys were not covered under the Act. Local African Americans argued that since All Star had a snack bar, it was indeed covered under the Act--specifically, under the interstate commerce provision in the public accommodations section.
On Monday night, February 6, a group of black students from nearby South Carolina State and Claflin Colleges came to the bowling alley and refused to leave. The next night, another group returned and 15 were arrested. On February 8, 300 students appeared in the parking lot in front of All Star, AND were met by 100 local, county, and state law enforcement officers. As students began moving forward, the officers beat them with batons. While the student demonstrators worked their way back to the colleges, they broke car and store windows, and Governor Robert E. McNair mobilized a National Guard unit.
The confrontation between students and police was the most violent incident in South Carolina's civil rights history except for the February 8 "Orangeburg Massacre." Both events were typical of the tense times in the period leading up to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968.
All Star Triangle Bowl, formerly All Star Bowling Lane, is located at 1543 Russell Street in Orangeburg, South Carolina. It is open from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. to midnight on weekends.
Students at this black college organized sit-ins that contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Four years later, they led protests resulting in "The Orangeburg Massacre," which pointed out that passage of the Act was not the end of the struggle. The South Carolina State College Historic District is the core of the historic campus at South Carolina State University. The district consists of ten brick Classical Revival style academic buildings constructed between 1917 and 1969, which housed classrooms, laboratories, the library, offices, and the law school. The district also includes a 1920s landscaped square with a 1969 monument erected and dedicated to the memory of three students who lost their lives in the Orangeburg Massacre of February 8, 1968.
Orangeburg, South Carolina, was one of 40 cities that experienced student protests in March 1960. After several weeks of unsuccessful protests at city lunch counters, South Carolina State's Charles McDew led 1,000 marchers downtown. Police, firemen, and state troopers intercepted the students, firing tear gas and full-pressure water hoses into the crowd. Police arrested nearly 400 students.
"The Orangeburg Movement" Like the Birmingham Campaign a few months earlier, Orangeburg's mass movement focused on desegregating public facilities. On July 31, 1963, a South Carolina State student launched the movement by refusing to leave a local restaurant. Three weeks later, movement leaders demanded that City Council desegregate public accommodations, comply with court-ordered school desegregation, and expand job opportunities for African Americans. Mass demonstrations, which by now included children, continued until the passage of the Civil Rights Act on June 2, 1964.
"The Orangeburg Massacre" On February 8, 1968, two days after police and students clashed in a race riot at segregated All Star Bowling Lanes, violence broke out again, this time on the campus of South Carolina State. Students set grassfires and tried to burn down a vacant house. A highway patrolman was hit in the face by a bannister from the house, and a number of patrolmen suddenly fired into a crowd of students, killing three and injuring 27. Statues of the students who died--Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, and Delano Middleton--were later erected on campus. In the first federal trial of police officers for using excessive force at a campus protest, all nine defendants were acquitted.
South Carolina State University is located at 300 College Street in Orangeburg. The grounds of the campus are open to the public.
Modjeska Monteith Simkins (1899-1992),
Modjeska Monteith Simkins was an important leader of African-American public health reform, social reform and the civil rights movement in South Carolina. Born in Columbia, Simkins attended elementary school, high school, and Benedict College and received a bachelor of arts degree in 1921. The same year, she began teaching at Booker T. Washington High School. Because public schools in Columbia did not allow married women to teach, she was asked to resign when she married Andrew Simkins in 1929.
In 1931, Simkins entered the field of public health as the Director of Negro Work for the South Carolina Anti-Tuberculosis Association, and became the state's only full-time, statewide African-American public health worker. For decades prior to the 1930s, southern racism and poverty had created an alarming increase in deaths among African Americans due to tuberculosis, pellagra, and other illnesses. By creating alliances with influential white and African-American groups and raising funds, Simkins made a substantial impact on the health of African Americans in South Carolina. It was during this period in Simkin's life that she and her family moved to 2025 Marion Street. Simkins used this late 19th/early 20th-century vernacular house as her residence, office, meeting place, and for lodging of civil rights associates. Simkins' guests included Thurgood Marshall, who stayed here when hotels in the city were closed to African Americans.
In 1942 Simkins lost her position with the Anti-Tuberculosis Association--partly due to her increasing involvement with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1939, when the South Carolina NAACP was formed, Simkins was already a member of the executive board of the local Columbia NAACP branch and chair of its program committee. Simkins became one of the founders of the state conference, elected to the first executive board, and the first chair of the state programs committee. In 1941 she was elected Secretary of the state conference--the only woman to serve as an officer. During her tenure as Secretary (1941-1957), her work helped the State move towards racial equality. From 1943 to 1945 she was instrumental in gaining teacher approval and support for teacher equalization lawsuits in Sumter and Columbia, South Carolina. Perhaps her most significant work took place in 1950 with the South Carolina federal court case of Briggs v. Elliott. Working with the Reverend J. A. DeLaine, president of the Clarenden County NAACP, Simkins helped write the declaration for the school lawsuit that asked for the equalization of Clarenden County black and white schools. The Clarenden County case was eventually reworked to become one of several individual cases set up to directly challenge the “separate but equal” doctrine in the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka in 1954. Because her activism was at times controversial, her life and home became targets. An unknown person shot at her house during the time she was active with the NAACP, and she was accused of subversive activities and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Simkins was able to serve in leadership positions that were traditionally unavailable to women in the civil rights movement. In 1981 she was honored by a coalition of civil rights groups, who established an endowment in her name to provide income for activists working for the causes of the underprivileged. Hundreds of people attended a memorial service following her death on April 5, 1992, and Judge Matthew J. Perry stated, “she probably will be remembered as a woman who challenged everyone. She challenged the white political leadership of the state to do what was fair and equitable among all people and she challenged black citizens to stand up and demand their rightful place in the state and the nation.”
The Modjeska Monteith Simkins House is located at 2025 Marion St., Columbia, South Carolina. The Collaborative for Community Trust, a non-profit organization in Columbia dedicated to addressing issues of social change, has recently stablized the house, turned it into the organization’s headquarters and has established the Modjeska Monteith Simkins Center for Justice, Ethics and Human Rights there dedicated to Simkins and her work. For more information call 803-748-8644 or visit the Collaborative of Community Trust website at http://www.collab4community.org. Additionally, the Simkins Papers have been microfilmed by the University of South Carolina and scholars wishing to study the collection may borrow the film through their local library via interlibrary loan.
(Downtown Greensboro Historic District)
The Woolworth's Five & Dime in Greensboro, North Carolina, is historically significant for a unique sit-in that empowered student activists for the next decade and changed the face of segregation forever. On February 1, 1960, when four freshmen from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (listed in the National Register) took vacant seats at the store's "whites-only" lunch counter, they had no idea what might happen. Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair, Jr., sat down, ordered coffee and waited. The waitress ignored them, as did the store manager and a pacing policeman. Some white customers taunted the students, while two others patted them on the back, whispering "Ah, you should have done it ten years ago." The next day, the four young men returned with 19 supporters. By the third day, the number had risen to 85, including white and black students from neighboring colleges. Before the week was out, there were 400. They demonstrated in shifts so they wouldn't miss classes. Local officials asked for a two-week moratorium in which to consider solutions. Meanwhile, energized students staged smaller sit-ins in seven other North Carolina cities as well as in Hampton, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee. By summer, 33 southern cities, including Greensboro, had integrated their restaurants and lunch counters. One year later, 126 cities had taken the same step.
The F.W. Woolworth Building on South Elm Street (the Northeast Shopping Center) is part of the Downtown Greensboro Historic District. The building currently houses the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Museum hours are 10am to 6pm Tuesday-Saturday and 1pm to 5pm on Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. For more information, visit their website.
A student-led strike at this Virginia school played a significant role in ending segregated "separate but equal" schools throughout the nation. In 1896, the Supreme Court had ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that the segregation of races in public facilities was constitutional if the separate facilities were equal.
Robert Russa Moton High School, constructed in 1939, is a one-story, simply designed brick building containing eight classrooms, an office, and an auditorium. Moton High was typical of the all-black schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia, during the period. It had twice as many students as it was designed for and had no gym or cafeteria. The highest-paid teacher at Moton earned less than the lowest paid white teacher in the county.
In April 1951, 16 year-old Barbara Johns took action. She got an accomplice to phone the school's principal and ask him to go to the bus terminal on the pretext of picking up two truants. While he was gone, she convinced the students to go on strike the following day to demand a better school. A NAACP organizer convinced the parents of the striking students that the strike would succeed only if the students attacked segregation head-on, through the courts.
In 1953, the NAACP lost Davis v. The County School Board of Prince Edward County in a federal district court but won the suit a year later in the Supreme Court through Brown v. Board of Education.
The Commonwealth of Virginia led the "massive resistance" movement against the Supreme Court decision by threatening to close its public schools. The schools in Prince Edward County were closed from 1959 to 1964, making it the only county in the nation to close its public schools for an extended period to avoid desegregation.
Robert Russa Moton High School, a National Historic Landmark, is located at the intersection of South Main Street and Griffin Boulevard in Farmville, Virginia. To learn more about current efforts to convert Moton High School into a Civil Rights Museum, click here.
The New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School, located in New Kent County, Virginia, are associated with the most significant public school desegregation case the U.S. Supreme Court decided after Brown v. Board of Education. The 1968 Green v. New Kent County decision defined the standards by which the Court judged whether a violation of the U.S Constitution had been remedied in school desegregation cases. Henceforth, a decade of massive resistance to school desegregation in the South from 1955 to 1964, would be replaced by an era of massive integration from 1968 to 1973, as the Court placed an affirmative duty on school boards to integrate schools. The New Kent and Watkins schools illustrate the typical characteristics of a southern rural school system that achieved token desegregation following Brown and stand as a symbol to the modern civil rights movement of 1954 to 1970 efforts to expand the rights of African Americans in the United States.
In the second Brown decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1955, public school systems were ordered to desegregate "with all deliberate speed;" leaving the pace and method up to state legislation and district courts. Cooperation between the Federal courts and local authorities in this process was not forthcoming. Beginning with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Attorney General had authority to file school desegregation cases (Title IV) and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was empowered to withhold Federal funds from school districts that continued to discriminate (Title VI). One of the ways in which school districts could qualify for Federal financial assistance again was to submit a plan for voluntary desegregation. Acceptable plans were either freedom of choice, geographic attendance areas, or a combination of both. Under freedom of choice, students chose which school they wished to attend.
In March 1965, black plaintiffs in New Kent County in Virginia filed suit in the U.S. District Court to end the maintenance of separate schools for the races. The Watkins and New Kent schools are located in a small, rural school district in eastern Virginia. Both schools spanned elementary to high school. The county school board, supported by Virginia law, had failed to desegregate the schools for 10 years after Brown. Although the county was residentially integrated, all white students attended the New Kent School and all black students attended the Watkins School. In August 1965, facing the loss of Federal funds posed by the Civil Rights Act, the school board adopted a freedom of choice plan whereby students entering the first or eighth grades had to select one of the two schools to attend. After three years of the freedom of choice plan in New Kent County, no whites attended Watkins and 155 African Americans attended New Kent, leaving 85 percent of African Americans in the system at Watkins.
Green v. County School Board proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court along with two companion cases. In their lawsuit, the black plaintiffs argued that the freedom of choice plan in practice operated to perpetuate the racially dual school system. The Court found that the county had been operating a dual system of schools as ruled unconstitutional in Brown, down to "every facet of school operations--faculty, staff, transportation, extracurricular activities and facilities." Its 1954-55 desegregation decisions put an "affirmative duty" on school boards to abolish dual schools and to establish "unitary" systems. Rational for the Court's decision were factors identified in the 1965 to 1966 reports of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights which found that freedom of choice was unlikely to work because of fear of retaliation and hostility from the white community, harassment by white classmates, exclusion for school activites, inability to afford the special fees at these school and the level of dress expected, improvements in facilities and equipment at all-black schools, and public officials who influenced parents to keep their children in all-black schools. The Green case was typical of the findings of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that cast doubt on the effectiveness of freedom of choice plans in integrating schools. The move from prohibiting segregation to requiring integration began.
The New Kent School is located at 11825 New Kent Hwy. in New Kent, Virginia, and the George W. Watkins School, is located at 6501 New Kent Hwy. in Quinton, Virginia. They are still in use as educational facilities.
New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School are also the subjects of the online-lesson plan New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School: From Freedom of Choice to Integration, produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on places listed in the Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
The Lincoln Memorial has been the site of civil rights
demonstrations for nearly six decades. On its steps Martin Luther King,
Jr., spoke of his dream for America:
...In spite of the difficulties of the moment, I still have a dream.
It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
King's speech was the grand finale of the August 28, 1963, "March on
Washington for Jobs and Freedom." The march, led by union leader A.
Philip Randolph and organizer Bayard Rustin, drew 200,000 supporters,
50,000 of them white. They included clergy of every faith, students,
blue-collar and white-collar workers, and celebrities like Harry Belafonte,
Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, James Garner, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan.
Robert Weisbrot, author of Freedom Bound, called the march "the
largest political assembly in American history." On August 22, 2003
the Martin Luther King, Jr. Inscription Dedication unveiled the commemoration
of the “I Have a Dream” speech with a keynote presentation by Coretta
Scott King. The work, an inscription in the granite approach to the
Lincoln Memorial, marks the location where Dr. King spoke to the crowd,
which assembled for the March on Washington.
Of the other civil rights events at the Lincoln Memorial, perhaps none other has been as celebrated as the Easter Sunday 1939 concert by contralto Marian Anderson, who sang to 75,000 people gathered on the grounds. As an African American Anderson had previously been denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall, owned by the then all-white Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). As a result First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned from the DAR because of the incident, worked in tandem with the Marian Anderson Citizens Committe, the NAACP, and other artistic and civil rights organizations to arrange and publicized the Lincoln Memorial concert.
The Lincoln Memorial, administered by the National Park Service, is located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., every day except Christmas. Call 202-426-6841, or click here for more information.
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954), teacher, author, civil
This house was the home of Memphis-born Mary Church Terrell, who at age 86 led the successful fight to integrate eating places in the District of Columbia.
Local integration laws dating back to 1872 and 1873 had disappeared in the 1890s when the District Code was written. The laws had required all eating-place proprietors "to serve any respectable, well-behaved person regardless of color, or face a $1,000 fine and forfeiture of their license." Terrell launched a campaign to reinstate these anti-discrimination laws. On February 28, 1950, she and several colleagues entered segregated Thompson Restaurant. When they were refused service, they promptly filed a lawsuit. In the three years pending a decision in District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co., Terrell targeted other restaurants, this time using tactics such as boycotts, picketing, and sit-ins. Finally, on June 8, 1953, the court ruled that segregated eating places in Washington, D.C., were unconstitutional.
Terrell is responsible for other civil rights gains. Again in her 80s, she succeeded in persuading the local chapter of the National Association of University Women to admit black members. Earlier in her life, she was president of the National Association of Colored Women, founder of the NAACP's Executive Committee, member of a committee investigating alleged police mistreatment of African Americans, and the first black woman in the U.S. to earn an appointment to a school board.
The Mary Church Terrell House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 326 T Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C. It is not open to the public.
Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Frederick Douglass Memorial Hall, and Founders Library at Howard University in Washington, DC, were important settings for this institution's role in the legal establishment of racially desegregated public education. Two nationally recognized leaders of that fight, Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, were closely associated with Howard University. From 1929, Howard Law School became an educational training ground, through the vision of Charles Hamilton Houston, for the development of activist black lawyers dedicated to securing the civil rights of all people of color. Howard University also provided preparation of the legal strategy presented by Thurgood Marshall and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund leading to the historic decisions in Brown v. Board of Education ending segregation in education. The university represents the role that institutions of higher learning played in bringing about racial desegregation in education. Howard University led the country in the education of civil rights attorneys dedicated to legally securing desegregation, the academic research supporting the unconstitutionality of segregation, and the community outreach needed to challenge and define the interpretation of the United States Constitution in American society. No other university provided the same level of support to the desegregation fight.
The graduates of Howard Law School, Houston and other faculty, litigated many of the cases involving challenges in education. In fact, nine of the 10 lawyers who argued Brown were graduates of or professors at Howard Law School. The best known graduate was Thurgood Marshall, who, when appointed in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, became the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. After obtaining his undergraduate degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Marshall graduated from Howard Law School in 1933 and immediately began his campaign against segregation, providing counsel in a host of civil rights cases. When Marshall became director-council of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1938 he directed the legal attack on segregation at all educational levels, arguing successfully in Sipuel v. Oklahoma State Board of Regents (1948), McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (1950), and Sweatt v. Painter (1950). Marshall served as lead attorney on Brown, capitalizing on his previous desegregation success. In addition to producing a cadre of civil rights attorneys through the law school, the university contributed to the preparation and presentation of the Legal Defense Fund strategy. Graduates of the university, arguing in groundbreaking litigation, looked to their alma mater to provide research, expert testimony, and legal critiques of their litigation efforts.
Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Founders Library, and Frederick Douglass Memorial Hall are located on the main campus of Howard University in Northwest Washington, DC. They are still in use as educational facilities.
The John Philip Sousa Junior High School, a National Historic Landmark, is associated with the struggle to desegregate schools in the nation's capitol. Unlike any other school system in the country, the public schools of Washington, D.C., emerged from a municipal government system that was largely dependent upon congressional support. But like other schools of the South, assignment based on race was the rule that continued up to the desegregation of the school system in 1954. In September 1950, black children were denied admission to the then all-white Sousa School in an orchestrated move to legally challenge federally segregated schools in the District of Columbia. This denial led to the court case Bolling v. Sharpe, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided the same day as the four public school segregation cases combined in Brown v. Board of Education. These cases were the basis for the landmark decision that struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine governing public policy with regard to race. The school stands as a symbol of the lengthy conflict that ultimately led to the racial desegregation of public schools by the Federal government.
Between 1930 and 1950, the black population in the District of Columbia doubled. For the first time, Federal government job opportunities for African Americans became available in the New Deal program of the 1930s, and opportunities also arose for African Americans in the service sectors and skilled markets. During this time the black student population increased from 33 percent to 50 percent. Overcrowding in black schools particularly worsened in the District as World War II halted school construction. Between 1941 and 1947 about 10 percent of the black student population went on double or even triple shifts, while white schools had rooms to spare. School administrators planned to construct new schools for the long-term, but as an immediate fix turned 21 all-white schools to all-black schools. This was resented by white parents, and also black parents who viewed the schools as "hand-me-downs."
In late 1949, a group of Anacostia neighborhood parents, the Consolidated Parents Group, joined with James Nabrit, Howard University professor of law, secretary of the University, and future president of the University to legally challenge the separate but equal doctrine. They petitioned the school board to use Sousa Junior High School on an integrated basis, as it could adequately offer Anacostia pupils a full Junior High program without additional cost for repairs or construction and serve all of the children and not be overcrowded. On September 11, 1950, in a carefully planned maneuver, the head of the Consolidated Parents' Group, along with student Spottswood Bolling and 11 other black school children, presented themselves at the brand new Sousa School for admission "with a police escort and a battery of lawyers." The principal refused to admit the children and Bolling then began his school year at Shaw Junior High, a 48-year-old school, ill-equipped, with a playground too small for a ball field, a welding shop turned into a makeshift gymnasium, and science lab with a Bunson burner and a bowl of goldfish.
Nabrit brought suit on behalf of Bolling and four other plaintiffs against C. Melvin Sharpe, president of the Board of Education of the District of Columbia. True to Nabrit's strategy, the Bolling case charged simply that segregation in itself was discrimination. The NAACP public school segregation cases before the Supreme Court took the form of one case joining similar cases from Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina, DC, and Kansas, naming it after the later case (Brown v. Board of Education) to show that the issue was not unique to the South. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court issued its decisions. In the Bolling decision, the court found racial segregation in the District's public schools a denial to black children of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.
The John Philip Sousa Junior High School is located at 3650 Ely Place, in Southeast Washington, DC. It is still in use as a middle school.
Paul Robeson (1898-1976), actor, singer, civil rights advocate
The "Renaissance man" who lived in this apartment was renowned for his rich baritone voice, superb acting ability, and passionate zeal for racial and human justice. Robeson and his family lived in an apartment in this 13 story apartment building from 1939-1941, upon his return from living and performing in Europe.
Paul Robeson was a gifted student and athlete while attending Rutgers University in New Jersey. He was a brilliant Phi Beta Kappa student, two time All American football player (1917-1918), and won honors in debating and oratory. He graduated from Columbia Law School but gave up law to pursue a career in singing and acting. Robeson performed on Broadway, and is noted for his leading roles in Othello and Eugene O'Neill's play, Emperor Jones, and his stunning rendition of the song "Ole Man River" in the musical Showboat. In 1934, he visited the Soviet Union, where he felt fully accepted as a black artist. During World War II, he entertained troops at the front and sang battle songs on the radio. Despite his war efforts, he was labeled "subversive" by McCarthyites, who were wary of his earlier trip to the Soviet Union, his support of the 1947 St. Louis picketing against segregation of black actors and a Panama effort to organize the mostly-black Panamanian workers. Robeson began receiving death threats from the Ku Klux Klan while campaigning for the Progressive Party candidate in the 1948 presidential election. When he publicly opposed the Cold War, even the national secretary of the NAACP questioned his loyalty as an American. Connecticut state officials also went to court to prevent him from visiting his family home in Enfield. Undaunted, Robeson formally denounced the action and on August 27, 1949, traveled to Peekskill, New York, to sing before a group of African American and Jewish trade unionists. A KKK-led riot canceled the concert but Robeson returned the following week with 25,000 supporters. A "human wall" protected Robeson while he sang, though afterwards many of the concert goers were ambushed and beaten while local police and state troopers stood by.
In March 1950, NBC barred Robeson from appearing on a television show with Eleanor Roosevelt. Concert halls closed their doors to him, and his records began to disappear from stores. Finally, the U.S. State Department canceled his passport. Robeson sued and the case went to the Supreme Court. After eight years and an international outcry, he won.
In 1937, Robeson wrote, "the artist must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery. I have made my choice. I have no alternative." He continued this fight for freedom, both political and artistic, until his death in 1976.
The Paul Robeson Residence, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 555 Edgecombe Avenue in New York City. His apartment is not open to the public
A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), labor leader, civil rights leader
Labor reformer and unionist Asa Philip Randolph, one of many influential African Americans who lived at the Dunbar Apartments, battled racism in American industry. He also is well-known for spearheading the 1963 March on Washington which ended at the Lincoln Memorial. The apartment complex, constructed in 1926, consists of ten u-shaped buildings centered around an interior garden courtyard which allowed air and light to reach each apartment. The Dunbar Apartments, the first large garden complex in Manhattan, contained a nursery school, playground, retail stores, and a branch of the Dunbar National Bank, Harlem's first bank to be managed and staffed by African Americans.
As a labor leader championing equality for Pullman's railroad porters, Randolph spoke before 500 Pullman porters who had met secretly in 1925 in order to avoid their employer's notorious unionization busting. Later that year, as a result of the meeting, Randolph helped organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. For 12 years, the union persevered despite merciless opposition from the Pullman Company and, in 1937, Randolph and the porters prevailed. Forced to the bargaining table, the Pullman Company signed the first-ever contract with a black union. As a result, Randolph stepped into the national arena. To end the exclusion of blacks from the defense industry, he threatened a march on Washington in 1941. President Franklin D. Roosevelt subsequently issued an executive order outlawing discrimination in the hiring of defense industry and government employees. The order also established the Committee on Fair Employment Practice. President Harry Truman signed an executive order seven years later, at the insistence of Randolph, which ended racial segregation in the military. By the 1950s, civil rights leaders recognized Randolph, the first African American vice-president of the American Federation of Labor, as an elder statesman, and in that role he organized the Washington, D.C., youth marches, Prayer Pilgrimage and 1963 march.
The Dunbar Apartments, where Randolph once lived, were financed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and were "the first large cooperative built for Blacks," according to the New York City Landmarks Commission, and "it was a prototype structure for both the public housing projects of the Depression years and for later middle-income housing." Other prominent African Americans who lived at the Dunbar Apartments included W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Arctic explorer Matthew A. Henson.
The Dunbar Apartments are bounded by 7th and 8th Avenues and W. 149th and 150th Streets in Harlem, New York City, and are not open to the public.
William Monroe Trotter (1872-1934), journalist, civil
Harvard-educated newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter, who lived in this house for most of his career, spoke out against the racism of the early 20th century. He is well-remembered, too, for publicly and vehemently denouncing educator Booker T. Washington, who believed African Americans should find ways to "get along"with their white oppressors. In 1901, Trotter helped organize the "Boston Literary and Historical Association"--a forum for militant political thinkers like W.E.B.Du Bois and Oswald Garrison Villard. The same year, he launched a weekly newspaper on race relations, The Guardian, which was an overnight success. Early editions criticized Booker T. Washington on three counts--first, his "unreal" optimism that intolerable racial conditions were actually improving; second, his alliance with President Theodore Roosevelt; and third, his promotion of manual and industrial training for African Americans over traditional forms of education. In 1903, after he interrupted a speech Washington was delivering, Trotter was arrested and jailed for one month. The incident was branded the "Boston Riot." In 1909 Trotter and Du Bois founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), but Trotter objected to the new organization's white financing and leadership, preferring his own alternative "National Equal Rights League." Until his death at age 62, Trotter continued to speak out against racism. He advocated better treatment for World War I black soldiers, tried to get the film Birth of a Nation banned in Boston, protested Marcus Garvey's Back-to-Africa Movement, and petitioned Franklin D. Roosevelt to end segregation in the District of Columbia.
The William Monroe Trotter House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 97 Sawyer Avenue in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. It is not open to the public.
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), historian, educator, civil
We are returning from War!...For the America that represents and gloats in lynching, disenfranchisement, caste, brutality and devilish insult--for this, in the hateful upturning and mixing of things, we were forced by vindictive fate to fight. We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting. Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America, or know the reason why.
W.E.B. Du Bois, who lived in a now demolished house on this site during his boyhood, was a voice that inspired African Americans to believe in themselves and to fight for justice. Du Bois felt a special bond to the Great Barrington property, which had been in his family for more than 200 years. The property was given to Du Bois as a 60th birthday gift in 1928. He was a sage who motivated black activists to use "organization"--not "apology"--against white oppression.
Du Bois' 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk--especially the essay "The Talented Tenth"--established his reputation as a writer. He wrote more than 20 books and hundreds of essays and pamphlets, covering topics ranging from history, to education, to segregation, to poor housing, and to the subjugation of black women. In the NAACP's Crisis magazine, which he edited for nearly 25 years, he consistently spoke out against racism.
Du Bois excelled in other areas. In 1896, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D from Harvard. His dissertation, "The Suppression of the African Slave Trade," became the first volume in the Harvard Historical Studies. He taught sociology at Atlanta University and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1905, he launched the Niagara Movement, asserting equal political rights, economic opportunity, education, justice, and an end to segregation. Four years later, he co-founded the NAACP, serving on its board of directors and coordinating publicity and research.
Late in his life, Du Bois joined the Communist Party and died in Ghana, where he received a state funeral. When leaders of the 1963 March on Washington learned "the Old Man" had just died, they knew who it was.
W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite, a National Historic Landmark, is on the north side of Route 23, approximately two miles west of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Only the ruins of the original house are visible.
Elizabeth Harden Gilmore (1909-1986), business leader,
civil rights advocate
Civil rights leader Elizabeth Harden Gilmore lived and worked in this house from 1947 until her death in 1986. She pioneered efforts to integrate her state's schools, housing, and public accommodations and to pass civil rights legislation enforcing such integration. Her home, constructed by 1900, is a handsome, two-and-a-half story, brick Classical Revival style residence, with a columned portico. In the early 1950s before the Brown v. Board of Education decision mandating school desegregation, Gilmore formed a women's club which opened Charleston's first integrated day care center. At about the same time, she succeeded in getting her black Girl Scout troop admitted to Camp Anne Bailey near the mountain town of Lewisburg. After co-founding the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1958, she led CORE in a successful 1 ½-year-long sit-in campaign at a local department store called The Diamond. In the 1960s Gilmore served on the Kanawha Valley Council of Human Relations, where she participated in forums on racial differences and where she helped black renters, displaced by a new interstate highway, find housing. Her successful push to amend the 1961 state civil rights law won her a seat on the powerful higher-education Board of Regents. Gilmore was the first African American to receive such an honor. She stayed on the Board from 1969 to the late 1970s serving one term as vice-president and one term as president. Gilmore's tireless commitment to civil and human rights didn't end there. She was also involved with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and community education and welfare committees. "She was always there," says her friend Betty Hamilton. "Her commitment was ongoing and steadfast."
Scott Funeral Home--formerly the Harden and Harden Funeral House--is located at 514 Broad Street in Charleston, West Virginia. Hours vary; visitors are welcome.
Berea College's Lincoln Hall--or what used to be called "Recitation Hall"--was the focus of civil rights activities for nearly three-quarters of a century. In 1855, Berea was founded specifically to educate black and white students together. Black students made up one third to one half of the school's student body. Lincoln Hall, a three-story brick building constructed in 1887, contained classrooms, a library, offices, laboratories, a museum and meeting rooms. It is one of the oldest buildings on the Berea campus.
Integration at Berea came to a halt in 1904, when the Kentucky state legislature passed the "Day Law," mandating segregation. For four years, Berea College and its supporters fought the law in the courts, presenting a wealth of documentation on how integrated classrooms had benefitted students. They lost. In Berea College v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Supreme Court ruled that since Berea was a private college incorporated by the state of Kentucky, the state had a right to regulate it according to its own laws.
In 1950, the Day Law was amended by the state legislature, allowing Berea to admit black students who could not find comparable courses at the Kentucky State College for Negroes. This restriction was removed by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which upheld the right of a black girl in Topeka, Kansas to attend an all-white school and which also overturned Berea College v. Commonwealth of Kentucky.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Berea's black students tested the college's commitment to integration. For example, they demanded that African Americans be included on the faculty and in the administration, and they staged a 20-hour sit-in at the president's Lincoln Hall office to ensure that three black students who had been arrested received fair treatment.
Lincoln Hall, a National Historic Landmark, is located on Chestnut Street on the Berea College campus in Berea, Kentucky. Campus tours are available daily starting from the Boone Tavern Hotel Tourist Center. For more information and to arrange group tours, call the Public Affairs Office at 606-986-9341, ext. 5018.
Boone Tavern Hall of Berea College, near Lincoln Hall at Berea College, is a Historic Hotels of America member, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Whitney M. Young, Jr. (1921-1971), educator, civil
Whitney M. Young, Jr., lived in this simple two-story wooden house on the campus of the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky, where his father taught, until he was 15. He spent most of his career working to end employment discrimination in the South and turning the National Urban League from a relatively passive civil rights organization into one that aggressively fought for justice.
During World War II, Young was assigned to a road construction crew of black soldiers supervised by Southern white officers. After just three weeks, he was promoted from private to first sergeant, creating hostility on both sides. The situation propelled him into a career in race relations. A few years later, Young became president of the Urban League's Omaha, Nebraska, branch and helped get black workers into jobs previously reserved for whites. In the process, he more than tripled the organization's paid membership.
In his next position as dean of social work at Atlanta University, Young supported alumni in their boycott of the Georgia Conference of Social Welfare, which had a poor record of placing African Americans in good jobs. At the same time, he joined the NAACP and rose to become state president. At age 40, Young became president of the National Urban League, and within four years had expanded the organization from 38 employees to 1600 employees and from an annual budget of $325,000 to one of $6,100,000. During his ten-year tenure at the League, he initiated programs like "Street Academy," an alternative education system to prepare high school dropouts for college, and "New Thrust," an effort to help local black leaders identify and solve community problems. Young also pushed for federal aid to cities. In 1968, President Johnson honored Young with the highest civilian award--the Medal of Freedom.
The Whitney M. Young, Jr., Birthplace, a National Historic Landmark, is located southwest of Simpsonville, Kentucky, off U.S. Route 60 on the campus of the Old Lincoln Institute, now the Whitney M. Young, Jr., Job Corps Center. The house is open to the public by request. Call the Lincoln Foundation at 502-585-4733 for an appointment.
Oscar Stanton De Priest (1871-1951), lawmaker, civil rights advocate
This eight-flat apartment building, constructed in 1920, is associated with Oscar Stanton De Priest, the first African American elected to Congress in the 20th century. De Priest bought the building in 1929 and lived in one of its apartments until his death in 1951.
During his three terms (1928-1935), as the only black representative in Congress, De Priest introduced several anti-discrimination bills. His 1933 amendment barring discrimination in the Civilian Conservation Corps was passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Roosevelt. A second anti-lynching bill failed, even though it did not make lynching a federal crime. A third proposal--a bill to permit a transfer of jurisdiction if a defendant believed he or she could not get a fair trial because of race or religion--would be passed by another Congress in another era.
Civil rights activists criticized De Priest for opposing federal aid to the needy, but they applauded him for speaking in the South despite death threats. They also praised De Priest for telling an Alabama senator he was not big enough to prevent him from dining in the Senate restaurant and for defending the right of Howard University students to eat in the House restaurant. De Priest took the House restaurant issue to a special bipartisan House committee. In a three month-long heated debate, the Republican minority argued that the restaurant's discriminatory practice violated 14th Amendment rights to equal access. The Democratic majority skirted the issue by claiming that the restaurant was not open to the public, and the House restaurant remained segregated.
The Oscar Stanton De Priest House in Chicago is a National Historic Landmark and is located at 4536-4538 South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive. It is not open to the public.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), journalist, civil
rights advocate, suffragist
Ida Bell Wells-Barnett lived in Chicago in this late-19th-century Romanesque Revival style stone residence while fighting to end lynching, segregation and the economic oppression of African Americans. She and her husband bought the building in 1919 and lived there until 1929.
In 1884, when 22 and a teacher in Tennessee, Wells-Barnett ignored a train conductor's order directing her to sit in a segregated car. Forcibly removed, Wells-Barnett filed a successful lawsuit against the railroad company. The Tennessee Supreme Court, however, reversed the lower court's decision in 1887. Racism also contributed to the poor conditions of Memphis' black schools, which Wells-Barnett openly criticized. School board disapproval resulted in her termination in 1891, after which she turned to journalism full-time.
As editor and co-owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, Wells-Barnett championed African American rights, especially after whites lynched three black Memphis grocers in 1892. Whites used lynching "to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property," Wells-Barnett concluded, "and thus keep the race terrorized . . . ." By documenting lynchings across the country, she raised awareness and challenged alleged white "superiority." White Tennesseans angered by her indictments, destroyed the Free Speech offices. Undaunted, Wells-Barnett carried her crusade north and published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.
Despite Wells-Barnett's efforts, Congress never passed anti-lynching legislation. Still, her advocacy made a larger black women's movement possible. She and Mary Church Terrell were the only two black women who signed a petition leading to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. After settling in Chicago, Wells-Barnett founded the Negro Fellowship League for black men, the first kindergarten for black children, and, in 1913, the first suffrage club for black women. Wells-Barnett successfully integrated the U.S. suffrage movement when she refused to walk with the other black women at the rear of a 1913 Washington parade and instead infiltrated the ranks of her white Illinois "peers" after the march began. Two years later, Wells-Barnett helped elect Oscar Stanton De Priest, Chicago's first African American alderman. Her "crusade for justice" continued until her death in 1931.
The Ida B. Wells-Barnett House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 3624 S. Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, Illinois. The House is a private residence and not open to the public.
This modest, two-story masonry residence built in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906 is associated with an African American family's struggle for justice that had a profound effect on American society. Because the J. D. Shelley family decided to fight for the right to live in the home of their choosing, the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of restrictive racial covenants in housing in the landmark 1948 case of Shelley v. Kraemer.
In 1930, J. D. Shelley, his wife, and their six children migrated to St. Louis from Mississippi to escape the pervasive racial oppression of the South. For a number of years they lived with relatives and then in rental properties. In looking to buy a home, they found that many buildings in St. Louis were covered by racially restrictive covenants by which the building owners agreed not to sell to anyone other than a Caucasian. The Shelleys directly challenged this discriminatory practice by purchasing such a building at 4600 Labadie Avenue from an owner who agreed not to enforce the racial covenant. Louis D. Kraemer, owner of another property on Labadie covered by restrictive covenants, sued in the St. Louis Circuit (State) Court to enforce the restrictive covenant and prevent the Shelleys from acquiring title to the building. The trial court ruled in the Shelleys' favor in November of 1945, but when Kraemer appealed, the Missouri Supreme Court, on December 9, 1946, reversed the trial court's decision and ordered that the racial covenant be enforced. The Shelleys then appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
On May 3, 1948, the United States Supreme Court rendered its landmark decision in Shelley v. Kraemer, holding, by a vote of 6 to 0 (with three judges not sitting), that racially restrictive covenants cannot be enforced by courts since this would constitute state action denying due process of law in violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Although the case did not outlaw covenants (only a state's enforcement of the practice), in Shelley v. Kraemer the Supreme Court reinforced strongly the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws, which includes rights to acquire, enjoy, own, and dispose of property. The Shelley case was a heartening signal for African Americans that positive social change could be achieved through law and the courts.
The Shelley House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. The house is a private residence and is not open to the public.
Malcolm X (1925-1965), civil rights activist
On May 19, 1925, Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) was born in a now-demolished house on this site. As a civil rights leader he advocated racial separatism over integration and the legitimacy of violence in self-defense. He also championed the beauty and worth of blackness and black Americans' African past.
In 1952, Malcolm X joined the Harlem-based Nation of Islam--the Black Muslims--and became the protégé of its leader, Elijah Muhammad. Thanks largely to Malcolm X's skill as a militant and mesmerizing speaker, the Nation of Islam grew from 400 to at least 10,000 registered members. Like other Black Muslims, Malcolm X believed that whites were "the enemy." Integration was degrading and nonviolence ineffective, he said, and the "March on Washington" was the "Farce on Washington." African Americans should form a black state, he argued.
Growing impatience with Black Muslim passivity and a painful break with Elijah Muhammad in March 1964 caused Malcolm X to modify his hard-line stance. On a pilgrimage to Mecca, he observed a variety of skin colors, and a following extended trip to Africa and the Middle East broadened his experience and challenged him further. Hatred--not whites--was the enemy, he concluded, and nonviolent approaches to overcoming racism might work.
On February 14, 1965, unidentified attackers firebombed Malcolm X's New York house while he and his family were asleep inside. One week later, on February 21, Malcolm X was assassinated by Black Muslim extremists at a rally in New York City's Audubon Ballroom. The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published later that year.
The Malcolm X House Site is located at 3448 Pinkney Street in Omaha, Nebraska. The home was torn down prior to 1970.
Monroe Elementary School (now Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site) and Sumner Elementary School (a National Historic Landmark) are two of the schools in Topeka , Kansas and elsewhere in the country that played a significant role in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The decision dismantled the legal framework for racial segregation in public schools and Jim Crow laws which limited the rights of African Americans, particularly in the South. The decision forced the desegregation of public schools in 21 states.
Elementary schools in Kansas had been segregated since 1879 by a state law allowing cities with populations of 15,000 or more to establish separate schools for African American children and White children. African American parents in Kansas began filing court challenges as early as 1881. By 1950, 11 court challenges to segregated schools had reached the Kansas State Supreme Court. None of the cases successfully overturned the state law. In 1950 the Topeka NAACP organized another case, this time a class action comprised of 13 families. The basis for the plaintiff complaint was that their children were forced to ride school buses or city buses to reach segregated schools often many blocks from home. The Topeka NAACP filed suit on their behalf in February of 1951, but by August a federal three-judge panel ruled that although segregation might be detrimental, it was not illegal, since Topeka schools had equal facilities and programs. Their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was joined by similar cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The court ruling combined these five cases under the heading Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. the Board of Education of Topeka , (KS) et. al. Mr. Brown was the assigned lead plaintiff in the Kansas class action and became namesake of the court decision. Special counsel Thurgood Marshall argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that segregation was unconstitutional because it stigmatized African Americans, thereby denying them the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Chief Justice Earl Warren and a unanimous court agreed.
Brown intensified resistance by white supremacist groups and government officials sympathetic to the segregationist cause, but it encouraged and empowered African Americans, who for the first time in more than half a century felt they had a "friend" in the Supreme Court.
The Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Site is located at 1515 SE Monroe in Topeka, KS. Guided tours of the school are available 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, closed major holidays. For more information, call 785-354-4273, or click here.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Site is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
Promoters of the Moulin Rouge Hotel called it "the nation's first major interracial hotel." Until the hotel's opening on May 24, 1955, black entertainers performing in Las Vegas were denied access to casino and hotel dining areas and were forced to seek overnight accommodations in black boarding houses. Black tourism was non-existent. Nevada Assembly bills designed to bar discrimination in public places had failed, the last by only one vote. So a diverse group of investors took a different tactic. They developed plans for an integrated hotel in a prime location--a site between the predominately white area of the Strip and the largely black west side. The result was a hotel integrated at all levels, from employees to patrons to entertainers.
The Moulin Rouge casino suffered major fires in 2003 and 2009, leaving only a portion of the two-story hotel. The large cursive neon sign designed by famed Yesco sign designer Betty Willis, who also designed the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, was moved a few days prior to the 2009 fire to the Neon Museum for safekeeping. The remaining portions of the hotel and casino, including the front facade and iconic tower, were demolished in 2010 due to safety reasons.
Opening night was a gala affair hosted by Joe Louis and featuring performances by The Platters and flashy chorus-line routines. Within the next few months the hotel attracted such performers as Louis Armstrong, George Burns, Nat King Cole, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Initially, the night spot became so popular, a 2:30 a.m. "third show" was added.
Although the Moulin Rouge closed in October 1955, its short life had a lasting impact. When civil rights activists scheduled a march on March 26, 1960, to protest racial discrimination in Las Vegas resorts, hotel owners, city and state officials, and Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer hurriedly set up a meeting with NAACP president, Dr. James McMillan and other black leaders at the Moulin Rouge. Most of the hotel owners agreed to integrate their establishments, and the planned march was canceled.
The site of the former Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is located at 900 West Bonanza Road. The property was a setting for filming the movie "Casino."
The Bethel AME Church in Reno, Nevada, was a religious, social and political center of the African American community, initially for black settlers in the 1910s, and later for local civil rights activists during the 1960s. From its inception, Bethel AME has held to the principles of the AME church to provide self-expression and fuller involvement in society as a means through which members could gain a sense of dignity and self-respect. Bethel AME Church has fostered social equality through its active role in the community, through its direct link with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and through its abiding dignity in the face of conspicuous and unrelenting discrimination
During the early 1940s, Bethel AME's minister, Rev. Emmer Henry Booker, corresponded with Nevada Governor E.P. Carville to promote racial equality. In early 1941, Booker sought new quarters for the Bethel congregation, which wanted to expand its facilities to include a kitchen and social hall. The church proposed to purchase an existing building in the predominantly white area of northwest Reno, near the University of Reno and Reno High School. Protests were made by the University, the school board, and Gamma Phi Beta Sorority at a Reno city council meeting against the black congregation moving to that section of the city. Due to the protests, the congregation decided not to move to another building, but to enlarge and renovate the existing church. The clapboard church was sheathed in brick, the vestibule enlarged, and a full basement constructed for offices, kitchen, a choir room, library and study, and parlor. The events that prompted the renovation of the building reflect the struggle for civil rights in the city of Reno.
Until the 1960s, Reno practiced non-legislated segregation; African Americans were restricted in housing and employment opportunities, were not served in white restaurants and bars, could not enter white casinos, or stay in white hotels. Many members of Reno's NAACP chapter, founded in 1919, were also congregants of Bethel AME, and the church acted as the official meeting location of the chapter. Drawing attention to the discriminatory practices of Reno's businesses and government, the NAACP branch led activities such as picketing the local Woolworth store in 1960. Today, Bethel AME Church is one of the most significant buildings in the State of Nevada associated with its African American population and the civil rights movement.
The Bethel AME Church is located at 220 Bell St., Reno, Nevada. The congregation sought a larger facility in 1993, after which a private owner purchased Bethel AME Church and converted it into a homeless shelter. It is not open to the public.
This church was the physical and spiritual base for a multi-year sit-in campaign that changed the face of segregation in Oklahoma City. Constructed in 1921 by black architect and church member Russell Benton Bingham, Calvary Baptist Church is an imposing three-story brick building with twin towers capped by brick parapets. In the early 20th century it served as the religious and social center of Oklahoma City's black community. The sit-ins--or what were then called "sitdowns"--were conceived in 1957 when 26 high school drama students visited St. Louis, where they ate at integrated lunch counters. Back home and determined to change "Jim Crow" Oklahoma, they met at Calvary with their drama teacher and a NAACP advisor to plan a sit-in campaign. On August 19, 1958, 12 youths marched to nearby Katz Drug Store and took unoccupied seats at the lunch counter. When they were not served, they remained, quiet and orderly. After another sit-in the next day, Katzs' manager agreed to serve them. At the second stop, S.H. Kress and Company, the youths were not so lucky. The store yielded but all stools at its lunch counter were removed. The sit-ins were repeated almost on a daily basis, at food service spots all over the city. Once, the students and other local African Americans showed up for the "Everyone Welcome" grand opening of a new cafeteria on Lincoln Boulevard. They were turned away. In time, white protestors joined the demonstrators. By mid-1961, more than 175 city restaurants had opened their doors to African Americans, and before long, segregated eating places had virtually disappeared in Oklahoma City. Calvary was the "start" and the "finish" for most of the sit-ins, despite threats to cancel the church's insurance and to bomb the building. In 1995, Calvary Baptist Church was slightly damaged by the terrorist bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.
Calvary Baptist Church is located in Oklahoma City at 300 N. Walnut. For further information call 405-523-0754.
A National Historic Landmark, the University of Oklahoma's Bizzell Library figured prominently in the historic movement to racially desegregate public higher education in the South in the mid-20th century, as well as the Federal government's position on eliminating racial segregation within a democratic society. The University was the focus of McLaurin v. Oklahoma Board of Regents, wherein the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal conditions were unattainable in graduate and professional education.
On January 28, 1948, a black retired professor, George McLaurin, applied to the University of Oklahoma to pursue a Doctorate in Education. School authorities were required to deny him admission solely because of his race under Oklahoma statutes which made it a misdemeanor to maintain or operate, teach, or attend a school at which both whites and African Americans were enrolled or taught. McLaurin filed a complaint to gain admission. On October 6, the Court for the Western District of Oklahoma found unconstitutional those parts of the Oklahoma statute that denied McLaurin admission, and held that the State had a constitutional duty to provide McLaurin with the education he sought as soon as it provided that education for applicants of any other group. With this ruling the University's Board of Regents voted to admit McLaurin, but on a segregated basis.
On October 13, 1948, McLaurin entered the University. He sat at a designated desk on the mezzanine level of Bizzell Library rather than the regular reading room, at a desk in an anteroom adjoining Classroom 104 in Carnegie Hall, and ate at a separate time from the white students in the cafeteria. McLaurin once again filed suit with the District Court. Heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1950, McLaurin v. Oklahoma Board of Regents challenged the constitutionality of the separate but equal doctrine under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that as a result of McLaurin's segregation he was "handicapped in his pursuit of effective graduate instruction. Such restrictions impair and inhibit his ability to study, to engage in discussion and exchange view with other students, and in general to learn his professions." The case became the climax of the NAACP's plans between 1930 and 1950 to overturn the separate but equal doctrine in public education by demanding equality in graduate and professional schools.
The Bizzell Library is located at 401 W. Brooks St. on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, Oklahoma. It is still an educational facility and open for research. Call 405-325-2640 for further information.
Juanita J. Craft (1902-1985), civil rights organizer,
Juanita Craft lived in this modest, one-story wood frame house for 50 years, and both Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr., visited her there to discuss the future of the civil rights movement. Craft played a crucial role in integrating two universities, the 1954 Texas State Fair, and Dallas theaters, restaurants, and lunch counters. As a tribute to her anti-discrimination efforts, Dallas named a city park and recreation center after her. In 1918 Craft's mother died of tuberculosis when a San Angelo, Texas, sanitarium refused treatment because of her race. Seven years later, Craft moved to Dallas, where she worked as a hotel maid and later, a dressmaker. In 1935 Craft joined the NAACP, and in the years that followed, she started 182 rural NAACP chapters. In her frequent train trips around the state, she consistently sat in "whites only" sections, refusing to move. Craft joined demonstrations against the segregated University of Texas Law School and North Texas State University, each resulting in successful lawsuits in 1950 and 1955. Afterwards, she opened a dropout preparation program in Dallas. Craft also served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Children and Youth, and as a member of the Governor's Human Relations Committee. In 1975, at the age of 73, she was elected to the Dallas City Council, where she spent the next two years working to improve the status of Hispanic and Native Americans.
The Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House is located at 2618 Warren Avenue in Dallas' Wheatley Place Historic District. The house is open to the public Wednesday and Thursday, 1:00pm to 4:00pm.
Little Rock High School, now Central High School National Historic Site, is a national emblem of the often violent struggle over school desegregation. Parting the Waters author Taylor Branch calls the Little Rock crisis "the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War."
Three years after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, which officially ended public-school segregation, a federal court ordered Little Rock to comply. On September 4, 1957, Governor Orval Faubus defied the court, calling in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students--"The Little Rock Nine"--from entering the building. Ten days later in a meeting with President Eisenhower, Faubus agreed to use the National Guard to protect the African American teenagers, but on returning to Little Rock, he dismissed the troops, leaving the African American students exposed to an angry white mob. Within hours, the jeering, brick-throwing mob had beaten several reporters and smashed many of the school's windows and doors. By noon, local police were forced to evacuate the nine students.
When Faubus did not restore order, President Eisenhower dispatched 101st Airborne Division paratroopers to Little Rock and put the Arkansas National Guard under federal command. By 3 a.m., soldiers surrounded the school, bayonets fixed.
Under federal protection, the "Little Rock Nine" finished out the school year. The following year, Faubus closed all the high schools, forcing the African American students to take correspondence courses or go to out-of-state schools. The school board reopened the schools in the fall of 1959, and despite more violence--for example, the bombing of one student's house--four of the nine students returned, this time protected by local police.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site was designated a unit of the National Park Service on November 6, 1998. It is located at the intersection of 14th and Park Streets in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
Daisy Bates (1914-1999),
As the president of the Arkansas state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branches, Daisy Bates symbolized the legal fight to desegregate the public schools after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that found segregated schools unconstitutional. Mrs. Bates combined her public roles as the state NAACP president and co-publisher (with her husband) of the Arkansas State Press to become a mentor to the nine teenagers (now known as the Little Rock Nine) who ultimately desegregated Central High School. During the desegregation crisis, the Bates' home became the official pick-up and drop-off site for the Little Rock Nine's trips to and from Central High School each school day, and consequently, a gathering spot for the Nine and members of the press. As such, the house became a frequent target of violence and damage at the hands of segregation's supporters. The perseverance of Mrs. Bates and the Little Rock Nine during these turbulent years sent a strong message throughout the South that desegregation worked and the tradition of racial segregation under "Jim Crow" would no longer be tolerated in the United States of America.
The Daisy Bates House is located at 1207 West 28th St., in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is private property and is not open to the public.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got
some difficult days ahead.
Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his prophetic "Mountaintop" speech in this church in Memphis, Tennessee, on the eve of his assassination--April 3, 1968.
Mason Temple served as a focal point of civil rights activities in Memphis during the 1950s and 1960s. Mason Temple was built between 1940 and 1945 as the administrative and spiritual center of the Church of God in Christ, the second largest black denomination. The temple is the centerpiece of a group of six buildings that form the church's world headquarters. Mason Temple is a vast concrete building capable of seating 7,500 people on two levels. The temple, designed with simplified Art Moderne styling and detail, was constructed for regular services as well as to house the annual national convention of church representatives.
On the evening of April 3, 1968, Mason Temple had scheduled the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King's associate, as the evening speaker, but when the 3,000 person crowd demanded to hear King, Abernathy phoned King at his room in the Lorraine Hotel and asked him to address the assembly.
King, Abernathy, Andrew Young and other black leaders had come to Memphis to support 1,300 striking sanitation workers who met regularly at the church. Their grievances included unfair working conditions (on rainy days, black workers had to return home without pay while paid white supervisors remained on the job, and black workers were given only one uniform and no place in which to change clothes), and poor pay (the highest-paid black worker could not hope to earn more than $70 a week). Following a bloody confrontation between marching strikers and police the week before, a court injunction had been issued banning further protests. King hoped their planned march would overturn the court injunction.
Mason Temple is located at 938 Mason Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Open to the public Mon-Friday 8:00am-4:00pm. For more information call 901-947-9300
On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated here at the Lorraine Hotel, just a day after speaking at the Mason Temple Church of God in Christ. Built in 1925, the Lorraine Hotel was a typical Southern hotel accessible only to whites in its early history. However, by the end of World War II, the Lorraine had become a black establishment which had among its early guests Cab Colloway, Count Basie, and other prominent jazz musicians, in addition to later celebrities such as Roy Campanella, Nat King Cole, and Aretha Franklin. Partly because of its historical importance to the black community of Memphis, Martin Luther King chose to stay at the Lorraine during the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike.
King, Abernathy, Andrew Young and other black leaders had come to Memphis to support 1,300 striking sanitation workers. Their grievances included unfair working conditions (on rainy days, black workers had to return home without pay while paid white supervisors remained on the job, and black workers were given only one uniform and no place in which to change clothes), and poor pay (the highest-paid black worker could not hope to earn more than $70 a week). Following a bloody confrontation between marching strikers and police, a court injunction had been issued banning further protests. King hoped their planned march would overturn the court injunction, but such plans were cut short on April 4, 1968 when an assassin shot and killed King on the balcony of King's room in the motel addition of the hotel. In 1991, the Lorraine Hotel was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum.
The Lorraine Hotel (National Civil Rights Museum) is located at 450 Mulberry in Memphis, TN in the South Main Historic District. The Museum is open June-August from 9:00am to 6:00pm Monday-Saturday, and 1:00pm to 6:00pm on Sundays; during the rest of the year the musuem closes one hour earlier at 5:00pm. There is a price for admission. For more information, call 901-521-9699, or click here.
During the 1950s and 1960s, this historically black college became a primary center of activity of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. Students at Tougaloo, whose campus is located ten miles north of Jackson, led a multi-year effort to end racial discrimination in the state's capital city. The nine historic buildings on the campus date from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries.
Tougaloo College was founded in 1869 by the American Missionary Association to provide teacher education and industrial training for African Americans in Mississippi. From its start Tougaloo College served all races; a white student was among its first graduating class. Tougaloo students and white students at the nearby Millsaps College, a white Methodist school, formed academic and social bonds, setting, for the time, a rare example of racial cooperation.
In 1960 Tougaloo installed a president who would lead the college through the turbulent years of the civil rights movement. Dr. Adam Beittel began a successful exchange program with several northern schools, including Brown University, which brought white students to Tougaloo. Because Tougaloo College was a private institution administered by a board in New York, it was free from State control. Students at Tougaloo began protesting racial discrimination in Jackson, and led a boycott of restaurants in the city which refused to serve blacks. Many students were arrested for protesting at the businesses and for trying to attend segregated white churches and concerts. President Beittel frequently bailed the students out of jail. The students also led a successful campaign to encourage white entertainers not to participate in segregated performances in Jackson. In the 1960s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee members Bob Moses and James Lawson held voter registration and nonviolence workshops on campus.
Resistance to the civil rights activities of the students brought violence to the Tougaloo campus, as faculty housing on the edge of the school often became the target of drive-by shootings. In 1964 the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (created by the legislature to defend the state from the encroachment of federal authority) successfully prevailed on Tougaloo's Board of Trustees in New York to dismiss Dr. Beittel as college president by threatening trouble between the college and the State if Beittel remained. The Board removed Dr. Beittel, but by this time the student movement on campus was waning.
Tougaloo College has continually sought to enhance the education of its students, as well as to promote harmonious racial relations between whites and blacks. As the center of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, Tougaloo College played a vital role in advancing the black community in the State.
Tougaloo College is located in the unincorporated area historically referred to as Tougaloo, Mississippi, ten miles north of downtown Jackson, just across the county line in Madison County, but within the city limits of Jackson.
of the Civil Rights Movement
Branch, Taylor, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years,
1954 - 1963, Simon & Schuster, 1988.
______________, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963
- 1965, Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Davis, Townsend, Weary Feet, Rested Souls: A Guided History of
the Civil Rights Movement,W. W. & Norton Company, 1998.
Eskew, Glenn T., But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements
in the Civil Rights Struggle, University of North Carolina Press,
Friedland, Michael B., Lift Up Your Voice Like a Trumpet: White Clergy and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954 - 1973, University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Halberstam, David, The Children, Random House, 1998.
Higham, John, Civil Rights and Social Wrongs: Black-White Relations
Since World War II, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.
Litwack, Leon F., Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age
of Jim Crow, Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
McKnight, Gerald D., The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr.,
the F.B.I., and the People's Campaign, Westview Press, 1998.
Weisbrot, Robert, Freedom Bound: A History of America's Civil Rights
Movement, Plume, 1990.
Williams, Juan, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954 - 65, Viking Press, 1987.
Autobiographies, and Biographies
Beals, Melba Pattillo, Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of
the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High, Washington Square
King, Martin Luther, Jr., and James Washington (ed.), A Testament
of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King,
Jr., Harper & Row, 1986.
Lewis, John with Michael D'Orso, Walking With the Wind: A Memoir
of the Movement, Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Raines, Howell, My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South,
G.P. Putnam's & Sons, 1977.
Rowan, Carl, South of Freedom, Louisiana State University Press,
Carson, Clayborne, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of
the 1960s, Harvard University Press, 1995.
Finch, Minnie, The NAACP: Its Fight for Justice, Scarecrow
Greenberg, Cheryl Lynn, A Circle of Trust: Remembering SNCC,
Rutgers University Press, 1998.
Harris, Jacqueline L., History and Achievements of the NAACP (The
African American Experience), F. Watts, 1992.
Meier, August, and Elliot Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights
Movement, 1942-1968, Univeristy of Illinois Press, 1975.
Moore, Jesse Thomas, A Search for Equality : The National Urban
League, 1910-1961, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981.
St. James, Warren D., NAACP: Triumphs of a Pressure Group, Nineteen Hundred and Nine Thru Nineteen Hundred and Eighty, Exposition Press, 1980.
Coleman, Evelyn, Tyrone Geter (Illustrator) White Socks Only,
Albert Whitman & Co., March 1996.
King, Martin Luther, and Coretta Scott King, I Have a Dream,
Scholastic Trade, 1997.
King, Casey, Linda Barret Osborne, and Joe Brooks (Illustrator), Oh,
Freedom! : Kids Talk About the Civil Rights Movement With the People
Who Made It Happen, Knopf, 1997.
Parks, Rosa, and Gregory J. Reed, Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue With
Today's Youth, Lee & Low Books, 1996.
Winslow, Vicki, and Colin Bootman (Illustrator), Follow the Leader, Bantam Books, 1997.
Horton, James Oliver and Lois E. (eds.), A History of the African
American People: The History, Traditions, & Culture of African Americans,
Hine, Darlene Clark (ed.), Black Women in America: An Historical
Encyclopedia, Volumes 1 and 2, Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1993.
Logan, Rayford W. and Michael R. Winston (eds.), Dictionary of
American Negro Biography, W.W. Norton, 1982.
Savage, Beth L. (ed.), African American Historic Places, The
Preservation Press, 1994.
Salem, Dorothy C. (ed.), African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Garland, 1993.
Movement Resources on the Web
King, Jr. National Historic Site
Brown v. Board
of Education National Historic Site
Shared History: Celebrating African American History and Culture
National Scenic Byways Program This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Selma to Montogomery March Byway website for more ideas.
Park Service Trails System
The Ollie Atkins Photograph Collection
Sites for States Featured in "We Shall Overcome"
Hotels of America
Resources for States Featured in "We Shall Overcome"
Trust for Historic Preservation
Hotels of America
"We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement", was produced by the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Beth L. Savage, Publications Director, and Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism Director. "We Shall Overcome; Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement" is based on information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark collections. These materials are kept at 800 N. Capitol Street, NW, in Washington, open from 8:00am to 12:00pm and from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.
Property descriptions and contextual essays were written by Ginny Finch of the U.S. Department of Transportation (Federal Highway Administration). National Council of Preservation Education intern Frederick MacVaugh, and George Mason University Masters Intern Robert Sandoval provided research assistance and editorial support. Additional property information was provided by the State Historic Preservation Offices of Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Mississippi, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Sara Dillard Pope (NCSHPO) provided design and editorial support. The travel itinerary was designed by Nathan Poe (NCSHPO).
Thank you to all of the individuals, organizations and institutions
who provided invaluable information, photographs, and time. Special
thanks to Kira Badamo (NCSHPO), Marilyn Harper (NPS), Beth Savage (NPS),
and Rustin Quaide (NCSHPO) for your advice, suggestions, and willingness
to lend a hand.
Finally, our appreciation to Professor Robert R. Weyeneth of the University of South Carolina's Department of History for reviewing the itinerary and providing insightful suggestions.