HIST 222 AMU week 6 lesson The Struggle for Civil Rights American Military University
During the 1950s and ‘60s the struggle for civil rights accelerated. Some groups advocated civil disobedience, while others took a more violent approach to defending black communities. Others, such as Fred D. Gray fought for racial justice in court. Many victories were seen, but discrimination continued to make life oppressive for black Americans.
Topics covered will include:
- Legal Victories for Desegregation
- Ending Segregated Education in the South
- New Forms of Protest
- SCLC, Civil Rights Act of 1957, and Little Rock
- Black Youth Protest
- High Tide of the Civil Rights Movement
- The 1960s: Victories and Violence
- Civil Rights Under President Johnson
- Black Nationalism and Inner-City Rebellions
- The Kerner Commission, Hoover’s FBI, and the War on Poverty
- Presidential Politics, Vietnam, and African Americans
Legal Victories for Desegregation
World War II had been instrumental in the desegregation of the armed forces. Now that the military was open to all, African American leaders looked to use the courts to challenge segregation on other fronts.
The post-war era was a time of great prosperity for American citizens. Veterans who had recently returned home were able to buy homes with low down payments and attend college, thanks to the new GI Bill. High-paying jobs were more plentiful than they ever had been before. With this newfound prosperity came mass consumption and a booming population growth. Americans began moving from urban to suburban areas, where they could own larger homes but still hold jobs in cities.
Ending Segregated Education in the South
Sweatt v. Painter
One of the first Supreme Court cases involving segregation in public educational facilities was Sweatt v. Painter (1950). After an African American student, Heman Marion Sweatt, applied to the law school at the University of Texas, his application was rejected on the grounds that it was a racially segregated institution. After Sweatt sued in state court, the courts agreed to establish a separate law school at the Texas State University for Negroes. The students at this all-black law school had access to many of the same resources as those at the University of Texas’s law school, including the Texas Supreme Court library, and also shared many of the same faculty members.
Suit Dismissed but Sweatt Opened Suit
After the new law school was established, Sweatt’s lawsuit was dismissed. With assistance from the LDEF, Sweatt argued that the education he was provided was not equal to that provided at the University of Texas and lacked resources that would benefit his education and career. The Supreme Court ruled Sweatt v. Painter to be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and Sweatt entered the University of Texas’s law school in the fall of 1950.
McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents
The same year, the Supreme Court also heard a similar case. McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents involved an African American student, George McLaurin, who wished to apply to the University of Oklahoma’s graduate program in education. Since the state of Oklahoma did not offer a similar program at an all-black institution, the university was ordered to admit him—albeit on a segregated basis. This meant that the university could force McLaurin to sit in certain parts of the classrooms and at separate
tables in the cafeteria and library from white students, but that he be allowed to attend the white school.
Segregation in Primary Schools
Segregation in public primary schools was first breached with Briggs v. Elliot in 1952. In this case, US Navy Veteran Harry Briggs and 24 other African American families sued the Clarendon County school district in South Carolina for not providing buses for their children. African American children were forced to walk as far as eight miles to reach their schools because transportation was not provided.-the-struggle-for-civil-rights-american-military-university
South Carolina lawmakers claimed that since blacks did not pay the same amount of taxes as whites, white taxpayers should not be asked to pay for transportation. Briggs v. Elliott was not settled in South Carolina,but rather became one of five segregation-related class-action cases that were taken to the Supreme Court in 1954.
New Forms of Protest
By the 1950s, the civil rights movement was well underway. Its chief goal was to end segregation, and the key to achieving this goal (where the court system was unsuccessful) was civil disobedience, a peaceful form of protest
that involved the refusal to comply with certain laws. One of the era’s first protest groups, the Women’s Political Council (WPC), was founded in Montgomery in 1946. Its goal was to inspire blacks to ‘‘live above mediocrity, to elevate their thinking and in general to improve their status as a group.” Over the next decade, the group expanded from a few black professionals to over 200 members, and in the early 1950s it began plans to protest the segregation of city buses in Montgomery through boycotts. On these buses, blacks were required to sit in the back rows, separate from whites, and were required to give up their seats and stand if a white passenger needed their seat.
In 1955, a fifteen-year-old African American girl named Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and was promptly arrested. She protested the segregation laws by pleading “not guilty” in court, but was nonetheless convicted. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a Montgomery seamstress, was also arrested for the same crime. Her arrest led to the implementation of the long-planned Montgomery Bus Boycott,
which lasted for just over a year. During this time, blacks in Montgomery organized carpools, walked when possible, and took taxis. To support the boycott, African American taxi drivers began charging the same fares as
buses for blacks who were participating in the boycott. Since roughly three-fourths of Montgomery’s bus passengers were African Americans, the boycott had a strong economic impact that made it all the more effective.
Fred Gray, a civil rights lawyer defended Parks, Colvin, and three other women who were arrested around the same time. In December of 1956 the boycott ended, six months after a federal court in Montgomery ruled the case Browder v. Gayle with the decision that segregation of buses was unconstitutional. Yet, segregated bus stops remained, and blacks who rode alongside whites on city buses did so under the threat of violence.