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April 30, 1963

Inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Blacks in Bristol, England Launch Boycott of Busses

In April 30, 1963, Bristol's black population protested racist employment practices of the local bus company and transportation union.
Excerpted in whole from, The Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963,

On April 30, 1963, Bristol’s black population protested the Bristol Omnibus Company and the Transportation and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) racist employment practices. By 1963, an estimated 6,000 black people in Bristol. Unlike the hiring and visibility of black bus crews in cities such as Bath and London, Bristol was slow to hire them. The TGWU’s failure to address its discriminatory hiring policy also influenced a 1955 vote that prohibited black bus crews. Although blacks were part of the TGWU, they were primarily relegated to work in maintenance and the canteens. Moreover, by 1958 the black unemployment rate was twice the reported figure of white unemployment in Bristol.

Paul Stephenson, who was born in Essex, England to West African and British parents and an ex-Royal Air Foreman, explored exposing the Omnibus Company’s discriminatory practices. Teaching night classes at the time and knowledgeable of the 1955-1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott in the United States, Stephenson recruited one of best pupils, 18-year-old Guy Baily, and together decided to respond to a vacant bus conductor employment advertisement in the Bristol’s Evening Post. At his interview, the bus manager told Baily, “We do not hire black people.” To confirm this, Stephenson went to the Company’s General Manager, Ian Patey, who affirmed the Omnibus Company’s practices. Roy Hackett, Owen Henry, Audley Evans and Prince Brown formed the West Indian Development Council, a coalition to challenge and publicize the Omnibus Company’s racist policy. On April 29, 1963, the coalition announced that no blacks would ride the bus the subsequent day. The April 30 bus boycott garnered national support and disapproval.

Bristol University students who supported the boycott were harassed and attacked in public. They marched earnestly, however, with placards stating, “EVERY MAN HAS THE RIGHT TO WORK.” Local Labour MP Tony Benn remarked, “I shall stay off the buses, even if I have to find a bike!” Famous Trinidadian cricketer Sir Learie Constantine wrote letters to the Omnibus Company in support of the boycott. Oppositional newspaper headlines such as, “Bristol Bus Crew Back the Boss” and “We Won’t Work with West Indians,” further underscored how divisive the bus boycott was on race.

The bus boycott also revealed white working-class wage earners’ economic fragility and the public’s perception of black masculinity. After months of boycotting, the TGWU in a meeting with 500 bus workers agreed on August 27, 1963 to end the color bar, and Patey publicly announced it “dead” the next day. On September 17, Raghibir Singh, a British-Asian Sikh, became Bristol’s first non-white bus conductor. Soon afterwards Black bus crews were then hired.

The hiring of non-white bus crews, however, did not end discrimination and racism in workspaces and in buses. The 1965 Race Relations Act made “racial discrimination unlawful in public places,” and the 1968 Race Relations Act made racial housing and employment practices illegal. In 2009, Bailey, Hackett and Stephenson were individually awarded the prestigious Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal for organizing the Bristol Bus Boycott. After the TWGU merged with the Unite Union in 2007, they issued an apology in February 2013 for their role in obstructing the hiring of black bus workers in Bristol in 1963.

April 29, 1963

US Supreme Court Rules Segregated Courtrooms Unconsititution in Johnson vs. Virginia –Southern Courtrooms Forced to Desegregate

February 22, 2019 photo of Ford T. Johnson, Jr. (center) with his sister, Ms. Elizabeth Johnson Rice and Rev. Leroy Bray during a panel discussion about civil rights actions in Richmond, Virginia (Regina H. Boone/Richmond Free Press)
Excerpted in whole from, April 29, 1963 — United States Supreme Court Outlaws Segregated Courtroom Seating, Equal Justice Initiative (from the EJI's 2018 Calendar, subsequently replaced with story about the April 29, 1992 entry, All-White Jury Acquits Officers Who Beat Rodney King Despite Video Evidence

In April 1962, Ford T. Johnson, Jr. appeared in a Richmond, Virginia, city traffic court and was convicted of contempt because he refused to sit in the segregated courtroom’s “Negro” section. Mr. Johnson was unaware of the segregated seating and first sat in a section reserved for whites. When ordered to move, Mr. Johnson refused the judge’s order to re-seat himself in the black section and said he would prefer to stand. He was immediately convicted of contempt and fined ten dollars.

US Supreme Court Decision, U.S. Reports: Johnson v. Virginia, 373 U.S. 61 (1963), Library of Congress

When Mr. Johnson appealed, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled his conviction was “plainly right.” He then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. The State of Virginia admitted that the Richmond traffic court maintained a segregated seating policy but argued the policy was irrelevant and Mr. Johnson’s contempt conviction was justified because he disobeyed a judge’s order.

The Supreme Court disagreed. Reasoning that one could not be held in contempt for refusing to comply with unconstitutional segregation rules, the Court unanimously overturned Mr. Johnson’s conviction on April 29, 1963, in Johnson v. Virginia. The majority opinion declared that “such a conviction cannot stand, for it is no longer open to question that a State may not constitutionally require segregation of its public facilities.” The decision was lauded by civil rights activists nationwide. The Richmond Afro-American newspaper hailed it as a “ruling against this long injustice practiced in what are supposed to be chambers of impartial justice.”

April 28, 1964

Nashville Protests Continue With Multiple Arrests and Police Beatings of SNCC Youth

Fellow civil rights demonstrators carry an injured marcher after violence erupted when club-swinging police officers surged through the marchers on Church Street on April 28, 1964.Frank Empson / The TENNESSEAN
Excerpted in part from, Nashville Halts Second Protest, New York Times, April 29, 1964.


23 Hurt in Clash of Police and Negro Demonstrators

NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 28 — The police used billy clubs today to break up a riotous crowd of Negro high school students who tied up traffic for the second day.

During the brief clash in front of two segregated restaurants, 16 demonstrators and seven officers were reported injured, none seriously. 14 persons were arrested during the day.

Youthful leaders of the demonstrations promised more acts of civil disobedience in protest of “brutality” by the police. A spokesman for the police department charged, "This was no demonstration today, it was a riot."

The Negro demonstration began on a small scale yesterday in protest against pockets of segregation in Nashville, which, according to Negro and white leaders alike, has made more progress than most southern cities in the segregated public and private facilities.

Negro leaders who had had nothing to do with the demonstration became aroused after the police Club some of the youth who blocked traffic on a busy street yesterday. The police said they had been attacked first by the unarmed demonstrators.

Scores of high school students had played hooky today and attended a mass protest meeting in a downtown church

Injured Leader Speaks

Lester McKinney, 23-year-old head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Nashville, showed up with a head wound and his left arm in a sling. He had been clubbed and sat upon by several policeman yesterday after Assistant Police Chief Braxton Duke had said Mr. McKinney has struck him in the stomach.

"Don't let the jail stop you," Mr. McKinney told about 200 youth's. "We've got a right to use civil disobedience."

They marched to a busy intersection and sealed it off with their bodies. The fighting broke out after the police arrived and dragged Nathan Winters, an older member of the march, to a police wagon.

Students surrounded the officer dragging Mr. Winters and began shouting and screaming. About 50 officers, some of them Negroes, begin clubbing them to clear the way for the officers who were surrounded. The police succeeded in breaking up the crowd.

Read full article: Nashville Halts Second Protest, New York Times, April 29, 1964.
Metro police officers grab John Lewis, one of the leaders of the civil rights demonstrators, at Morrison's Cafeteria on West End Avenue on April 29, 1964. Jimmy Ellis / The TENNESSEAN
Metro police officers wrestle with demonstrator William Barbee, left, a student at Scarritt College, as they attempt to put him into the paddy wagon after his arrest on Church Street on April 28, 1964. Frank Empson / The TENNESSEAN
Metro patrolman J. W. Vanatta wrestles civil rights demonstrator Lester McKinnie down to the ground on West End Avenue in front of Morrison's Cafeteria on April 27, 1964. J.T. Phillips / The TENNESSEAN

April 27, 1965

SCOPE Project, Nation-wide Voter Registration Drive, Announced by Martin Luther King While Recruiting UCLA Students

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at UCLA on April 27, 1965 in front of about 5,000 people at the bottom of Janss Steps. Then-UCLA Chancellor Franklin Murphy (right) introduced King. (Daily Bruin file photo)
Excerpted in whole from SCOPE Project, Wikipedia

The Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was a voter registration civil rights initiative conducted from 1965 to 1966 in 120 counties in six southern states. The goal was to recruit white college students to help prepare African Americans for voting and to maintain pressure on Congress to pass what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Dr. Martin Luther King announced the project at UCLA in April 1965, and other leaders recruited students nationwide.

Dr. King announced the SCOPE project in a speech at UCLA on April 27, 1965, and his visit resulted in the recruitment of twenty UCLA students, including Joel Siegel and Rick Tuttle, who worked with Williams and Andrew Young. Tuttle was held for two months in a Savannah jail as a result of his movement activities. Tuttle's case resulted in a court ruling to allow the use of property bonds for bail for civil rights workers.

While leading the Chatham County Crusade For Voters in Savannah, Georgia, one of many SCLC affiliates across the South, Rev. Hosea Williams, an aide to SCLC chairman Martin Luther King Jr., was joined by white college students for various short-term civil rights projects. From that interracial success, they developed the idea of SCOPE. Dr. King and SCLC leaders decided to recruit white college students to journey south to join with local activists. The goals included preparing African Americans for voting, as they had mostly been long disenfranchised throughout the South. If necessary, they could participate in organizing street demonstrations to help put political pressure on Congress, should the proposed Voting Rights Act of 1965 be met with congressional resistance and stalling by segregationist forces.

In the winter and spring of 1965, the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama, and the Selma to Montgomery marches were challenging the segregated status quo. During the spring of 1965, Dr. King assigned Williams, SCLC's Director of Voter Registration and Political Education, to lead the SCOPE Project. The SCLC executive committee had approved it in December 1964. The project continued into the Fall of 1965 and Spring of 1966. Some of the white college volunteers returned in the summer of 1966, and a few enrolled in Black southern colleges and continued community organization activities beyond the spring of 1966.

The SCLC staff sent regional recruitment teams to visit colleges and universities nationwide. Gwendolyn Green, the executive director of the Western Christian Leadership Conference, joined Dr. King at UCLA and was temporarily assigned to the Atlanta office to serve as the Assistant SCOPE director, reporting to Williams and King.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at UCLA on April 27, 1965 in front of about 5,000 people at the bottom of Janss Steps. Then-UCLA Chancellor Franklin Murphy (right) introduced King. (Daily Bruin file photo)
Read story, Alumni reflect on Martin Luther King’s 1965 speech at UCLA, about Neil Reichline, a first-year student in 1965 who was present at the event.
SCOPE Project pin, circa 1965

More than half a century ago, a crowd of 5,000 students and faculty gathered at UCLA’s Wilson Plaza to hear the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., the driving force behind the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The address came on the heels of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, which saw thousands of demonstrators making their voices heard in the fight for voting rights for all. In fact, only months after the UCLA speech, President Lyndon Johnson would sign the Voting Rights Act into law.

Echoing themes from his history-making “I Have a Dream” speech at the nation’s capital in 1963, King spoke of a prosperous future in which African Americans had a greater role in shaping their own political destiny. Entitled “Segregation Must Die,” the speech at UCLA not only underscored the ongoing struggle for equality but also served as an invitation to students to get involved. “Things don’t change on their own, things don’t change by waiting for them to change; they change through actions of good people,” King told the crowd, sharing that his goal was to get 2,000 students nationwide involved in voter registration efforts in the African American community. Inspired by his words, more than 20 UCLA students would leave California that summer to participate in the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project and join the fight for integration and equality throughout the South.

Today, a plaque at the base of Janss Steps commemorates the speech -- and a moment in time that many of those who were there still look back on as one of the most powerful speeches they would ever hear. And for current and future generations of UCLA students, King’s message of hope and reconciliation continues to live on through the university’s community outreach and African American Studies programs.

April 26, 1964

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Formed in Jackson - Eyes Seating Alternative Delegation at the Democratic National Convention in August

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party State Convention, Jackson, Mississippi, July 1964. Courtesy David Walters, Holt Labor Library, Labor Studies and Radical History
Excerpted in whole from Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party,,

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was founded on April 26, 1964 as part of a voter registration project for African Americans in the state. For over half a century Mississippi blacks had attempted to attend regular Democratic Party meetings and conventions but were continually denied entry. They formed the MFDP, which welcomed both whites and blacks, to run several candidates for the Senate and Congressional elections on June 2, 1964.

Attempting to get members to join the MFDP angered most white Mississippians who often responded with violence. During the Freedom Summer of 1964, three men, Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, who were associated with the MFDP, disappeared and were later found dead with fatal gunshot wounds. The one African American man was beaten so badly for attempting to register to vote that his bones had been crushed. This defiance by Mississippi’s white majority propelled the MFDP to get its delegates into the upcoming national convention to replace the “regular” Democrats.

The regular Democrats wanted to seat an all-white delegation at the 1964 National Democratic Convention which met in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The MFDP protested. Supporters of the MFDP came from all over the United States to support their protest. Eventually a compromise proposal orchestrated by Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey offered the MFDP two non-voting seats next to the regular Mississippi delegates. However, the MFDP refused the offer because it denied them any chance of voting on the floor of the convention. MFDP leader Fannie Lou Hamer spoke before the convention rules committee explaining the position of the party and why the compromise offered was unacceptable.

While the MFDP ultimately failed in its goal of gaining seats at the Democratic National Convention, it was ultimately successful as its story in Atlantic City reminded the country of the ongoing battle Southern blacks faced in gaining full citizenship rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed two months before the Convention, did not address the right to vote. African Americans in Mississippi and across the nation vowed to continue to press for full voting rights. The MFDP’s role in that struggle helped pave the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) resource at SNCC Digital Gateway includes overview and documents.

April 25, 1961

James Baldwin and Malcolm X Debate “Black Muslims vs. the Sit-ins" –

Malcolm X and James Baldwin, undaded photos, not from their 1961 debate.
Excerpted in whole from 1961 Debate Between Malcolm X and James Baldwin,, Democracy NOW!, 2/2/2001

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!. I’m Amy Goodman.

We bring you a debate between two greats of the 20th century: Malcolm X and James Baldwin. It was 40 years ago. John F. Kennedy was president, and the civil rights movement in America was fighting for racial and economic justice.

On April 25th, 1961, two giants of African-American history faced each other in a debate on the nature of racism in America and specifically looked at the sit-ins and their effectiveness, and talked about possible solutions. James Baldwin was sitting across from Malcolm X. This is a rare recording of their debate.

James Baldwin, the great author and activist, he wrote Giovanni’s Room, Go Tell It on the Mountain, The Fire Next Time and many other books.

Malcolm X was assassinated four years later, one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam — as they sat in debate, talking about the issues that plagued America.

Excerpt of audio, “Black Muslims vs. the Sit-ins,” April 25, 1961, New York, WBAI radio broadcast

1961 Debate Between Malcolm X and James Baldwin, from story with full-text transcript, Democracy NOW!, 2/2/2001. Excerpt below from full transcript .

MALCOLM X: Now, the very fact that you find students all over the world today are standing up for their rights and fighting for their rights, but here in America the so-called Negro students have allowed themselves to be maneuvered under a tag of sit-in... It’s a passive thing. And if their goal is integration, it’s not a worthwhile one. But if their goal is freedom, justice and equality, then that’s a worthwhile goal. If integration is going to give the black people in America complete freedom, complete justice and complete equality, then it’s a worthwhile goal. The holding this integration bottle and dangling it in front of the Negroes in America today has actually disabled them, or it has nullified their ability to stand up and fight like a man for something that is theirs by right, rather than to just sit around and beg and wait for the white man to make up his mind that they’re worthy to have this type thing.

JAMES BALDWIN: I have the feeling that a great many words have been floating around, have been floating around this table, which need to be redefined. And that, by the way, is a problem, I think, which faces this entire country. And I don’t agree with Mr. X about the sit-in movement. And I do know something about the war, incipient war, between the students and some of the leaders. I know the gap, the enormous gap, between the NAACP and the children in the South. I don’t agree that the sit-in—you know, I don’t agree that it is necessarily passive. I think it demands a tremendous amount of power, both in one’s personal life and in terms of political or polemical activity, sometimes to sit down and do nothing, or seem to do nothing. But finally, when the sit-in movement started, or when a great many things started in the Western world, it was not — I think it had a great deal less to do with equality than it had to do with power. And I do think we have to talk about — we have to decide what we want.

April 24, 1960

“Bloody Wade-in” in Biloxi, Mississippi – Blacks Protesting Whites Only Beaches Attacked by White Mob

See A Civil Rights Watershed in Biloxi, Mississippi, Smithsonian Magazine. The black community in 1960 were relegated to mere swatches of sand and surf on the Biloxi beach. After a series of "wade-in" protests, violence ensued. (AP Images) From
Excerpted in whole from 1960 April 24 Biloxi “Wade-In” Challenges Segregated Beaches, Today In Civil Liberties History

In Biloxi, Mississippi, on this day, 126 African-Americans challenged the segregated beaches in what was labelled a “wade-in.”The “wade-in” was led by Dr. Gilbert Mason, an African American doctor in nearby Gulfport, Mississippi.

The protest provoked mob attacks by white racists, resulting in injuries of many of the protesters. That night a riot occurred in the city of Biloxi, with whites driving through the African-American community, shouting threats and firing guns. The day’s events were described as “Bloody Sunday.”

In fact, there had been a prior “wade-in” the year before, in May 1959, in which nine African-Americans challenged the beach segregation policy. A second protest occurred on Easter Sunday, with a similar protest in nearby Gulfport, Mississippi, a week before the event on this day.

Dr. Gilbert Mason, shown here being escorted by police to a Biloxi, Mississippi courthouse, led the black community in a series of "wade-in" protests to desegregate Biloxi's twenty-six-mile-long shoreline. (AP Images)
Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, Sr. describes the events of April 24, 1960. Access his full interview, Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, Sr., November 11, 2002, (Requires free registration)
Social activist and family practitioner Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, Sr. (1928 - 2006 ) worked as a physician in Mississippi for over forty years, and led a nonviolent protest against the “whites only” section of a federally maintained Gulf Coast beach, which resulted in a successful and historic first federal anti-discrimination lawsuit against the state of Mississippi. Mason and local activists also won the first school desegregation lawsuit in the history of Mississippi.
Partial transcript of interview with Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, Sr., November 11, 2002,

So the students, I organized them and the next Sunday, April the 24th, we called it bloody Sunday. They were waiting for us. They got ready too, with pipes and chains and baseball bats and cue sticks. So when we went down there, they had walkie talkies. We organized it at my office and we left from there. Anyway they were waiting for us. Now we thought the sheriff, we helped to elect him, was going protect us. And they the guys stand up there with their hands on their hips. And they met us with baseball bats and what have you. I wasn't supposed to drive my car down there, but I had drove it, and there were two young men, Gilmore Fielder and Joe Lundburger, they had 'em down on neutral ground beating them up and had cue sticks, so I jumped out of the car and took the cue stick from 'em and I beat one with the cue sticks and the other one grabbed me and I bit him. I said Lord, I'm glad it wasn't much AIDS [acquired immunodeficiency syndrome] back in those days. So some of us--the undertaker whose place we have went to another section of the beach and they were beating him up so bad and Mrs. McDaniels fell across him and said "Please don't kill my husband." And big mama who's married to the barber, she's about 300 pounds, she said "You want to beat on somebody, beat on me." At any rate the future undertaker, Galloway, they broke his knees by hitting him across the knees with the cue sticks. And we had a guy who owned a cleaner name Brown, they beat him across the head, you'll see some of those pictures in archives. Anyway they arrested Gilmore Fielder and me and Joe Lundburger. And I told 'em, I said the guy's name was deputy sheriff, I said, I ain't got time to be arrested. I said I'll come back and give myself us as soon as I sew these people up. So I went on and took care of them and gave them lock jaw (unclear) and then I went on down gave myself up. He said well he said he was coming back. So they took me and fingerprinted me. And by that time my wife and Christopher Rosato was a friend of mine were there with my bail money. So then we had to work to get the other people out. This is the 24th now, of April, Bloody Sunday.

How many people went to the beach that Sunday, how many black folks

Oh, I'll say about 200 in all places.

And how many whites were there with--

Oh, they outnumbered us three to one. All right. So--and the students were there. And it was so many of my Boy Scouts out there, I saw one report says that a Boy Scouts who--Dr. Mason led the Boy Scout troupe down there for an activity, that isn't so. It just happened to be (unclear) Carney and his brother--Carney. I told Carney, I said, I see they said something else other than (unclear) run over the railroad track. The only way he could get off of the beach was go on the railroad track and run down the railroad track, but at that time I went before a justice of the peace and he found us guilty. Gilmore Fielder and I posted a bond too, it wasn't much. Okay. And so we gon' negotiate again and try to see what happens. And Felix went before the Governor, that's a different story.

April 23, 1963

CORE Activist, William Moore, Killed in Alabama During His Solo March to Mississippi

William Moore in 1963. From Song written for slain Baltimore civil rights leader, Baltimore Sun.
Excerpted in whole from Apr 23, 1963 Civil Rights Marcher Killed in Alabama, from The Equal Justice Initiative

On April 23, 1963, William L. Moore was found dead on U.S. Highway 11 near Attalla, Alabama—only four days shy of his 36th birthday. Mr. Moore, a white man, was in the midst of a one-man civil rights march to Jackson, Mississippi, to implore Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett to support integration efforts. He wore signs that stated: “End Segregation in America, Eat at Joe's-Both Black and White” and “Equal Rights For All (Mississippi or Bust).”

Mr. Moore, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and had staged other lone protests in the past. On his first protest, he walked to Annapolis, Maryland, from Baltimore. On his second march, he walked to the White House. For what proved to be his final march, Mr. Moore planned to walk from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Jackson.

William Moore marched to protest segregation at the General Assembly in Annapolis, Maryland. Source: The Baltimore Sun. From April 23, 1963: White Civil Rights Activist Murdered on Racial Justice Walk in Alabama, Zinn Education Project

About 70 miles into the march, a local radio station reporter named Charlie Hicks interviewed Mr. Moore after the radio station received an anonymous tip of his whereabouts. After the interview, Mr. Hicks offered to drive Moore to a hotel where he would be safe, but Mr. Moore continued on his march instead. Less than an hour later, a passing motorist found his body. Mr. Moore had been shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle that was traced to Floyd Simpson, a white Alabamian. Mr. Simpson was arrested but never indicted for Mr. Moore's murder.

When activists from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and CORE attempted to finish Mr. Moore’s march using the same route, they were beaten and arrested by Alabama State Troopers.

Moore intended to deliver a letter to Mississippi Gov. Barnett. Source: NPR.

April 22, 1961

CORE Plans the Freedom Ride Initiative to Challenge Discrimination on Interstate Transport – Initial Test "Little Freedom Ride" Arrests Foreshadows Later Mass Movement Throughout 1961

Excerpted in whole from Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice , page 64 Raymond Arsenault

More than anything else, CORE wanted recruits who had already demonstrated a strong commitment to nonviolence and who knew what was being asked of them. Recruitment material made no attempt to hide the potential dangers of the Ride or to minimize the difficulty of fulfilling the responsibilities of nonviolent resistance. Only the most committed and the stoutest of heart were encouraged to apply. Freedom Riders could expect to be harassed and arrested, as sixteen members of the St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri, CORE chapters discovered in mid-April when they participated in what the CORE-lator later dubbed a “Little Freedom Ride.”

Setting out by bus from East St. Louis, the interracial band only made it as far as the southeastern Missouri town of Sikeston, 150 miles down the road, before being arrested at a whites-only terminal restaurant for “disturbing the peace.” With their cases still pending in late April, the “little” Freedom Riders provided potential recruits with a sobering preview of what the “big” Freedom Ride might entail. As Carey warned in a letter sent to CORE leaders on May 1, “If bus protests end in arrest in Missouri, what can be expected when the Freedom Ride gets to Georgia and points South?”5

Participants in the April 22, 1961 "Little Freedom Ride: Frances Bergman, Walter Bergman,[56] Albert Bigelow, Ed Blankenheim, Benjamin Elton Cox,[57] James Farmer, Robert G. (Gus) Griffin, Herman K. Harris, Genevieve Hughes, John Lewis, Jimmy McDonald, Ivor (Jerry) Moore, Mae Frances Moultrie, James Peck, Joseph Perkins, Charles Person, Isaac (Ike) Reynolds and Hank Thomas. Freedom Riders, Wikipedia

April 21, 1960

President Eisenhower Signs the Mostly Useless Civil Rights Act of 1960 – Weakened-Down by Southern Democrats

Read a reflection on how the Civil Rights Act of 1960 paved the way forward for the comprehensive Act of 1965. From The Hidden History of the Civil Rights Act of 1960, African American Intellectual History Society
Excerpted in whole from April 21, 1960: Eisenhower Signs 1960 Civil Rights Act, page 127, This Day in Civil Rights History, Williams and Beard, NewSouth Books, 2009

On this day in civil rights history, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law.

Although not known as friendly to civil rights causes, President Eisenhower passed two civil rights bills during his tenure. Eisenhower was a moderate and perhaps even a progressive when it came to race. He eliminated the last vestiges of segregation in the armed forces and in the federal government and appointed the first African American to a high position on the White House staff. But politically he was not sure that federal intervention would erase the stains of racism that marred much of the country. In this regard, he was a gradualist who believed that change of this sort must happen over a period of time. He was also more concerned with foreign policy, distracted by the growing conflict with the Soviet Union and the spread of communism in foreign lands.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction, established a civil rights commission. The 1960 act, the second, followed a spate of bombing violence in the South. The bill allowed the US attorney and federal judges to assign local inspectors to investigate local voter registration, empowering the federal government to levy fines to those who obstructed the right to vote. Southerners accuse the federal government overstepping its powers, and southern Democrats, led by Mississippi Senator James Eastland, through a strategic filibuster, watered down the bill to almost completely uselessness. The Republican and liberal Democratic minority that supported the bill was outmaneuvered.

The bill's weakness centered around the fact that African Americans had to legally prove that they were being obstructed in a court of law to have inspectors sent in the first place. This was expensive, time consuming, and in the deep South, dangerous.

Civil rights leaders were disappointed in the bill, although they all found hope in the government's admittance of a problem. A. Philip Randolph organized a march on both the Republican and Democratic conventions, stumping for stronger legislation, calling it the "March on the Conventions Movement for Freedom Now."

The New York Times, April 22, 1960

This piece of legislation was unimportant and its immediate effects, as less than 3% of black voters registered beneath it protections, but it led the way to the more sweeping legislation of the 1960s.

April 20, 1965

All-White Jury Acquits Lester Maddox of Threatening Student Protesters at His Pickwick Restaurant in Atlanta – Case Fuels His Run for Governor

Click above image to access the Equal Justice Initiative story, also copied in whole below.

On April 20, 1965, an all-white jury acquitted Lester Maddox of all charges after the white man threatened three young Black seminary students at gunpoint for attempting to enter his racially-segregated Atlanta restaurant. The jury deliberated for only 47 minutes before returning its not guilty verdict.

On July 3, 1964, just one day after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed to prohibit racial segregation in public accommodations like restaurants and hotels, three Atlanta University Center ministerial students named George Willis Jr., Woodrow Lewis, and Albert L. Dunn met for lunch at the Pickrick restaurant. Before they could enter, owner Lester Maddox began yelling at them: “You no good dirty devils! You dirty Communists!” He then pulled out his pistol and pointed it at them, telling them “Get the hell out of here or I’ll kill you.”

Rather than help the three unarmed customers being held at gunpoint, the white patrons eating at the restaurant responded by grabbing “pickrick drumsticks”—pick handles Mr. Maddox kept hanging on his restaurant wall to intimidate Black community members. Mr. Maddox and the group of white customers then chased the three Black men out of the restaurant and into the parking lot, threatening them with violence.

Mr. Maddox later claimed he had pulled out his pistol in self defense, but no reports or evidence indicated that the young Black students were anything other than customers lawfully attempting to eat at the Pickrick, or that they had threatened him in any way.

The Pickrick continued to refuse to serve Black community members, even as Mr. Maddox awaited trial. He vowed to close the restaurant before serving Black customers, and he did exactly that in February 1965, after a federal district judge ruled he was in civil contempt for continuing to violate the Civil Rights Act.

After his acquittal for threatening these Black men, Mr. Maddox capitalized on his increased notoriety and broad white support for his segregationist positions by mounting a campaign for Governor of Georgia the following year. With the KKK’s endorsement, he won. During his term in office, Mr. Maddox promoted a racist, segregationist agenda, vigorously opposed integrating Georgia public schools, and refused to permit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lie in state after his April 1968 assassination.

As late as 2001, Mr. Maddox remained an advocate of racial segregation. “I want my race preserved,” he said in an interview, “and I hope most everybody else wants theirs preserved."

Elected and supported by the majority of white Americans, segregationists like Lester Maddox operated as private citizens and at the highest levels of government, wielding violence and criminalization to oppose the civil rights movement and target the courageous activists who fueled it.

Lester Maddox autographs one of his signature "pickrick drumsticks."
After Mr. Maddox was arrested and released on $1,000 bond, white Americans from all over the country rallied to his support, endorsing his open defiance of the Civil Rights Act and demonstrating that acceptance and enforcement of the new law would take much more than a presidential signature. People ran ads fundraising for his defense fund and the restaurant saw an increase in white patrons. Mr. Maddox even began selling souvenir “pickrick drumsticks” complete with his autograph. Excerpted from Segregationist and Future Georgia Governor Lester Maddox Threatens Three Black Students at Gunpoint; All-White Jury Acquits Him, Equal Justice Initiative

Watch segment of interview with Mitchell Zimmerman who, as a volunteer, worked in the Atlanta SNCC office where he supported the case against the Pickrick, a restaurant owned by Lester Maddox, future Governor of Georgia. Access full interview with Zimmerman.


Scroll to read along with interview. Access full interview with Zimmerman.

April 19, 1960

3,000 Protest After Civil Rights Attorney's Home is Bombed in Nashville, Tennessee

Black leaders march down Jefferson Street at the head of a group of 3,000 demonstrators, April 19, 1960, and head toward City Hall on the day of the Z. Alexander Looby bombing. In the first row are the Rev. C.T. Vivian, left, Diane Nash of Fisk and Bernard Lafayette of American Baptist Seminary. In the second row are Kenneth Frazier and Curtis Murphy of Tennessee A&I and Rodney Powell of Meharry, Jack Conn / The Tennessean

The bundle of dynamite, aimed for the picture window at the front of Z. Alexander Looby's five-room home, fell short of its target and tumbled toward the foundation.

The explosion slashed the early morning stillness on Meharry Boulevard, shattering nearly 150 windows at Meharry Medical College across the street.

Asleep inside his house, Looby — a nationally known NAACP civil rights attorney — and his wife, Grafta, barely escaped unharmed.

The damage set off a protest like few had ever seen in Nashville. On April 19, 1960, in response to that morning's violent action, more than 3,000 college students marched silently to City Hall.

They walked 3.5 miles through the city, beginning at Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State University, along Jefferson Street, up 4th Ave. N., and on to the courthouse. They stood three abreast and did not speak.

"We wanted Nashville to hear our footsteps," Ernest "Rip" Patton, a future Freedom Rider who strode up the Nashville streets that day, recalled to The Tennessean several years ago.

Nashville Mayor Ben West met them on the plaza.

C.T. Vivian and Bernard Lafayette, two leaders in the movement, braced for an argument over the segregated lunch counters. For more than two months, young African American students from colleges throughout the city had staged demonstrations to desegregate Nashville lunch counters.

They endured violence and arrests. They demanded equity.

But that day, as the mayor had several times before, West fell back on what had become his standard refrain — he’d desegregated the lunch counter at the airport, the only one the city controlled. There was nothing more he could do.

But that wasn't good enough. In front of the crowd of thousands, Vivian charged the mayor with failing to lead the city. It was an accusation West angrily denied.

“Prove it, Mayor!” Vivian shouted.

And then it was Fisk University student Diane Nash's turn to step forward.

Jaw set, eyes sharp, she focused a mighty goal. There, on the steps, Nash impelled the mayor to acknowledge the depravity of discrimination. Then she put forth the question that changed history.

“Mayor,” she asked, “do you recommend that the lunch counters be desegregated?”

To the shock of many, West answered, "Yes."

The fight was not yet won, but the barrier had been broken. It would still be nearly a month before lunch counters across Nashville would be desegregated. And it was only the beginning of the vicious battle still to be waged deeper South. But it was a start.

“It was the first time," former Tennessean editor emeritus John Seigenthaler later noted, "anyone in a leadership position who could make a difference, made a difference."

A massive crowd of silent marchers at the Court House Square, Davidson County Courthouse, James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, Tennessee, April 19, 1960. A crowd of over 3000 participants marched in silence from the campus of Tennessee A & I University to the office of Mayor Ben West at City Hall to protest the bombing of the home of civil rights attorney Z. Alexander Looby. Upon arriving at the Court House Square, students and leaders confronted Mayor Ben West about his viewpoints on lunch counter segregation. This was the first major step in desegregating public accommodations in Nashville. Nashville Banner Archives, Nashville Public Library.
Nashville Mayor Ben West, center, shouts to be heard as he tells a crowd of demonstrators that he intends to uphold the law, but that he also feels lunch-counter segregation is unjust April 19, 1960. On the scene of the courthouse steps, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, to the left of West, read a statement critical of the mayor and then debated with West. UPI Photo
Demonstrators wind their way around the courthouse area in Nashville, coming out from Jefferson Street and James Robertson Boulevard on April 19, 1960. The protesters marched three across in a line 10 blocks long on the day of the Z. Alexander Looby bombing.Eldred Reaney / File / The Tennessean
Two Nashville policemen study the front picture window of Z. Alexander Looby's home, which was dynamited at 5:30 a.m. April 19, 1960. Police think the bombers were aiming the 10 to 20 sticks of dynamite for the picture window, but missed and it exploded on the ground by the left front corner of the house. Joe Rudis / File / The Tennessean

April 18, 1959

Youth March for Integrated Schools – 26,000 High School & College Students March in Washington, D.C.

The Baltimore delegation in the Youth March for Integrated Schools heads down Madison Drive on the Mall toward the Washington Monument grounds April 18, 1959.
Excerpted from Youth March for Integrated Schools, October 25, 1958 to April 18, 1959, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

In 1958 and 1959, Martin Luther King, Jr., served as an honorary chairman of two youth marches for integrated schools, large demonstrations that took place in Washington, D.C., aimed at expressing support for the elimination of school segregation from American public schools.

On the day of the 1958 march, an integrated crowd of 10,000 marched down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., to the Lincoln Memorial. There, Coretta Scott King delivered a speech on behalf of her husband, who was recovering from being stabbed. During the march, Harry Belafonte led a small, integrated group of students to the White House to meet President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but was unable to meet with the president or any of his assistants. After staging a half-hour picket, the students left a list of demands to be forwarded to the president.

The second youth march was intended to build upon the efforts of 1958 by holding a large event and circulating a petition to urge “the President and Congress of the United States to put into effect an executive and legislative program which will insure the orderly and speedy integration of schools throughout the United States.”

On 18 April 1959, an estimated 26,000 participants marched down the National Mall to a program at the Sylvan Theatre, where speeches were given by King, Randolph, Wilkins, and Charles Zimmerman, chairman of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Civil Rights Committee.

A delegation of students again went to the White House to present their demands to Eisenhower, but this time they met with his deputy assistant, Gerald D. Morgan, who reportedly said that “the president is just as anxious as they are to see an America where discrimination does not exist, where equality of opportunity is available to all.”

The 1959 march was marred by accusations of Communist infiltration. The day before the march was to take place, Randolph, Wilkins, and King released a statement denying such involvement: “The sponsors of the March have not invited Communists or communist organizations. Nor have they invited members of the Ku Klux Klan or the White Citizens’ Council. We do not want the participation of these groups, nor of individuals or other organizations holding similar views.”

While Eisenhower and Congress failed to pass additional legislation that would have enhanced the 1957 Civil Rights Act and speeded up school integration, the two marches had symbolic power. King told the 1959 marchers that the events’ successful outcomes were a sign of how, “in your great movement to organize a march for integrated schools, … you have awakened on hundreds of campuses throughout the land a new spirit of social inquiry to the benefit of all Americans.”

Steelworkers' union supports rights march: 1959. Two young women carry Local 2609 signs during the Youth March for Integrated Schools held in Washington, D.C. April 18, 1959.
Why We March, promotional flyer. More available at Second Youth March for Integrated Schools — Washington, DC (April),

As I stand here and look out upon the thousands of Negro faces, and the thousands of white faces, intermingled like the waters of a river, I see only one face—the face of the future.

Yes, as I gaze upon this great historic assembly, this unprecedented gathering of young people, I cannot help thinking—that a hundred years from now the historians will be calling this not the "beat" generation, but the generation of integration.

The fact that thousands of you came here to Washington and that thousands more signed your petition proves that this generation will not take “No” for an answer—will not take double talk for an answer—will not take gradualism for an answer. It proves that the only answer you will settle for is—total desegregation and total equality-now. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Excerpt from Martin Luther King's .Address at the Youth March for Integrated Schools, April 18, 1959, Washington, D.C.

April 17, 1943

First Known Sit-In Protest by Howard University Students at Washington, DC Restaurant

Excerpted directly from 1943 April 17 Early Sit-in Challenges Segregated Washington D.C. Restaurants, Today In Civil Liberties History

A sit-in by African-American students at Howard University students on this day challenged racial segregation at the Little Palace Cafeteria, on 14th and U Streets in Washington, D.C.

This was the first known sit-in to protest racial segregation on American history.

A month later, a similar sit-in occurred in Chicago on May 8, 1943. That sit-in was organized by the newly-formed Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.). The two sit-in were signs of the rising demands for racial equality in 1943.

Howard University students staged a second sit-in the following year, on April 22, 1944. The sit-ins were soon quashed by pressure from Southerners in Congress who controlled the budget for the District of Columbia and Howard University. Restaurants in Washington, D.C., remained racially segregated for another decade, until a court ordered them integrated on June 8, 1953, in the case of District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson.

The famous sit-ins, on February 1, 1960, in short, were not the first such protests. Several other sit-ins occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. The crucial difference, however, is that 1960 sit-ins inspired a mass movement that swept the South and inspired political activism by white students in the North.

One of the organizers of the 1943 Washington, DC sit-in was Pauli Murray (July 1, 1985), who went on to become a noted lawyer, civil rights activist, feminist and poet. In the 1960s she was asked by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women to write a paper on whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to women. Her paper argued that it did, and the Commission accepted her argument (October 11, 1963). On November 22, 1971, in Reed v. Reed, the Supreme Court accepted the argument, marking a breakthrough for constitutional protection of equality for women.

Read about Pauli Murray, the first African American awarded a J.S.D. (a law doctorate) from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut 22 years after her leadership of the 1943 DC sit-in. The Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice
Click above for more about Pauli Murray and the 1943 DC sit-in. SNCC Digital Gateway, including a 1976 audio interview with Pauli Murray by the Southern Oral History Program, UNC.

April 16, 1963

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere – Martin Luther King Writes "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

Excerpted directly from Letter from Birmingham Jail, Wikipedia

The "Letter from Birmingham Jail", also known as the "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" and "The Negro Is Your Brother", is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King Jr. It says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. Responding to being referred to as an "outsider", King writes: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

The letter, written in response to "A Call for Unity" during the 1963 Birmingham campaign, was widely published, and became an important text for the American Civil Rights Movement. (See April 12 post below)

King's letter, dated April 16, 1963, responded to several criticisms made by the "A Call for Unity" clergymen, who agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not the streets. As a minister, King responded to the criticisms on religious grounds. As an activist challenging an entrenched social system, he argued on legal, political, and historical grounds. As an African American, he spoke of the country's oppression of black people, including himself. As an orator, he used many persuasive techniques to reach the hearts and minds of his audience. Altogether, King's letter was a powerful defense of the motivations, tactics, and goals of the Birmingham campaign and the Civil Rights Movement more generally.

King began the letter by responding to the criticism that he and his fellow activists were "outsiders" causing trouble in the streets of Birmingham. King referred to his responsibility as the leader of the SCLC, which had numerous affiliated organizations throughout the South. "I was invited" by our Birmingham affiliate "because injustice is here" in what is probably the most racially-divided city in the country, with its brutal police, unjust courts, and many "unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches." Referring to his belief that all communities and states were interrelated, King wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly ... Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds." King also warned that if white people successfully rejected his nonviolent activists as rabble-rousing outside agitators, that could encourage millions of African Americans to "seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare."

King wrote the first part of the letter on the margins of a newspaper, which was the only paper available to him. He then wrote more on bits and pieces of paper given to him by a trusty, which were given to his lawyers to take back to movement headquarters, where the pastor Wyatt Tee Walker and his secretary Willie Pearl Mackey began compiling and editing the literary jigsaw puzzle. He was eventually able to finish the letter on a pad of paper his lawyers were allowed to leave with him.

Full text of letter in video format with still images. Unclear if the voice is MLK or someone else - but according to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, "the audio is from King’s reading of the Letter later," but it's unclear if this version is, in fact, King's voice.

Scrollable text, full letter, Letter From Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King. Jr.. From Mount Holyoke College

April 15, 1960

Sparked by Ella Baker, SNCC – Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – Born at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina

Excerpted directly from The Story of SNCC: Birth of SNCC, by Charlie Cobb, SNCC Field Secretary 1962-1967, SNCC Digital Gateway,

Then, on February 1, 1960, Black students in Greensboro, North Carolina launched sit-ins challenging segregation in restaurants and other public accommodations. Similar “direct action” lit by this spark in Greensboro spread like wildfire across the south. SNCC was founded just two and a half months later – on Easter weekend – at an April meeting of sit-in leaders on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ella Baker was the gathering’s organizer. She had immediately recognized the potential of this new student activism and persuaded Martin Luther King, Jr. to provide $800 to bring them together at her alma mater. The sit-in movement was “bigger than a hamburger,” she told the students addressing them at the Shaw conference. And in an article published a month later, she wrote of the young activists, “[They] are seeking to rid America of the scourge of racial segregation and discrimination – not only at lunch counters, but in every aspect of life.”

Her network across the South was extensive; in the 1940s, she had been the NAACP Director of Branches. After the 1955-1956 Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott, she had been instrumental in organizing Martin Luther King, Jr’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and was its executive director when the sit-ins erupted. “Strong people don’t need strong leaders,” she stressed to SNCC. She provided office space for the new organization in a corner of SCLC’s Atlanta headquarters. Jane Stembridge, a white Baptist preacher’s daughter who had grown up in Georgia, left her graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary and became SNCC’s first staff person.

Within the year, a few other students left their college campuses to commit to full-time movement work. Although SNCC was still primarily engaged in protests aimed at desegregating lunch counters and restaurants, Ella Baker maintained a conversation about grassroots organizing, especially with Robert “Bob” Moses, a Harlem, New York native who in the summer of 1960 had come to Atlanta as an SCLC volunteer. She and Jane Stembridge sent Moses on a journey through the Deep South to recruit students to participate in a SNCC conference being planned for October 1960, in Atlanta. Ella Baker provided Moses and Stembridge with a list of her contacts, and Jane Stembridge wrote letters of introduction to them.

One of the southern leaders she sent Moses to was Amzie Moore, president of the Cleveland, Mississippi NAACP branch and vice president of Mississippi’s state NAACP. Moore, a tough World War II veteran, had worked with Medgar Evers and other Black activists to form the Regional Conference of Negro Leadership (RCNL). In 1951, the RCNL held a conference that drew over 10,000 Black residents to a conference in all-Black Mound Bayou, Mississippi that focused on voter registration and police brutality. Though he admired the sit-ins, Moore did not want them in Cleveland. He wanted a voter registration campaign and introduced Moses to that idea. “Amzie,” remembers Moses, “was the only one I met on that trip giving the student sit-in movement careful attention, aware of all that student energy and trying to figure out how to use it.” Moses promised Moore that he would return to Mississippi the following year and work with him.

Front page of Vol 1, No. 1 of the Student Voice, the voice of SNCC, June, 1960. Click image to access full newsletter. Text from the newsletter: The photographs reproduced on the front page of "The Student Voice" were taken at the Raleigh Conference. The top photograph, taken in the main auditorium, reveals the students at a planning session. Lower left- attack victim in a downtown Raleigh incident which occurred during leaflet distribution. Lower right - Richard Counts of Benedict College, who was jailed in Columbia, s. c. for sitting-in. Annie Hackett, student of Benedict.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Founding Statement

[After the Greensboro sit-in (February 1st, 1960) other student-led sit-ins and direct-action demonstrations against segregation explode across the South. In April of 1960, Ella Baker organizes a conference of student activists at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. She urges them to form an independent, student-led organization. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded at that meeting. This is the statement adopted by the conference.]

We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our belief, and the manner of our action.

Nonviolence, as it grows from the Judeo-Christian tradition, seeks a social order of justice permeated by love. Integration of human endeavor represents the crucial first step towards such a society.

Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear. Love transcends hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Faith reconciles doubt. Peace dominates war. Mutual regards cancel enmity. Justice for all overthrows injustice. The redemptive community supersedes immoral social systems.

By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.

Although each local group in this movement must diligently work out the clear meaning of this statement of purpose, each act or phase of our corporate effort must reflect a genuine spirit of love and good-will.

Adopted by the Southwide Youth Leadership Conference
Shaw University, Raleigh, NC
April 15-17, 1960
Raad the full account, The Story of SNCC: Birth of SNCC, by Charlie Cobb, SNCC Field Secretary 1962-1967, and explore SNCC's legacy website, SNCC Digital Gateway,

April 14, 1963

Protests and Arrests Continue in Birmingham, Alabama as Blacks Attempt Services at White Churches on Easter Sunday

Two policemen grabbing a black woman during during a civil rights march, Birmingham, Alabama, April 14, 1963, Georgia State University Library
Excerpted directly from UPI ARCHIVES APRIL 14, 1963 Negro protest march directed at churches, UPI Archives, April 14, 1963

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., April 14, 1963 (UPI) -- Police broke up an anti-segregation protest march by 1,500 Negroes on a sunny Easter Sunday that saw Negroes attend services at two white churches. But Negroes were turned away at a number of other white churches and 30 of the demonstrators who tried to stage the Easter march were arrested and a few bodily carried to waiting patrol wagons.

A Negro hurled a rock through a motorcycle during the height of the disturbance. He was chased down by a police officer and knocked to the ground by a blow from a billie club.

The demonstrations marked the 12th day of racial activity in the southern steel city in which more than 200 Negroes have been arrested, including integration leader Martin Luther King.

The demonstrations came a few hours after small groups of Negro youngsters, dressed in neat Easter outfits, attended services at the First Baptist and First Presbyterian churches. But others were turned away at the Sixth Avenue Presbyterian, the Central Church of Christ and the First Christian Church. The Church of the Advent reserved five pews for Negroes but none appeared.

Rev. Andrew Young, a staff member of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led a group of five who peacefully attended the large First Baptist Church. They were met at the door by an usher who informed them that "we have a place reserved for you." Two young Negro girls sat in the front row of the packed First Presbyterian Church. At other churches, ushers politely directed the Negroes to churches for their own race.

Rev. A. D. King, brother of Martin Luther King, and Rev. John Porter led the afternoon protest march on downtown Birmingham from the Thurgood A. M. E. Church. The procession -- singing "We Shall Overcome" -- overflowed into the streets and solidly packed an entire block.

Police and highway patrolmen set up a roadblock to halt the crowd. King, however, took a quick turn across a yard and he and hundreds of Negroes trailing him turned into a narrow alley. Two motorcycle policemen wheeled into the front of the column, dismounted and grabbed King by the arm. After the arrest of King and Porter, police ordered the crowd to break up and the Negroes drifted back into the Negro section of the city. Two newsmen, Roger Sharpe of the ABC network and Foster Haley of the New York Times, were ordered out of the streets by police as they took notes of the incidents.

Two ministers lead protest marchers in a civil rights demonstration in Birmingham, Ala., which was later broken up by police, April 14, 1963, (AP Photo/Horace Cort)
Woman Resisting Arrest, Birmingham, Alabama, April 14, 1963, unknown photographer, from Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
New York Times, April 15, 1963, page 1 and 14, reformatted for this post. Click image for readable size.

April 13, 1963

Local Religious Leaders Protest the Protesters –News Article Smuggled into MLK's Jail Inspires “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Excerpted directly from We’re Going Too!” The Children of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement, Gisell Jeter-Bennett, M.A. Graduate Program in History ,The Ohio State University 2016

In an effort to keep King abreast of the campaign, members of the ACMHR–SCLC (Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and Southern Christian Leadership Conference) smuggled him newspaper articles when they visited him. “White Clergymen Urge Local Negroes to Withdraw from Demonstrations” read as the headline on page two in the April 13 edition of the Birmingham News. It caught King’s attention. Eight local clergymen argued that the actions of black citizens working alongside outside organizers exacerbated the city’s racial problems. They stated: “We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.” The clergymen called on black leaders to challenge racism in the courts and through peaceful negotiations with city officials.

We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.

Angered by the clergymen’s over-simplification of the campaign,King drafted a response. In his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which he originally scribbled on the margins of old newspaper clippings. He wrote:

You may well ask: ‘Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such crisis and foster such tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored… The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation to crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

King felt it necessary to justify the use of nonviolence and direct action. For years black Americans waited patiently for white city leaders to see the error in their ways. Now, King believed direct action was the only way to secure social, political and economic change for black citizens. While King hoped his incarceration would spark support for the campaign, it raised some important questions: If the central organizers were to remain in jail, who would lead the movement? How could ACMHR-SCLC raise money for bonds if their local financial donors were behind bars? In other words, who was best suited to fill up the jails and least susceptible to the economic and political pressures? Unable to come up with a solution, King and Abernathy accepted bond on April 19, and were released from jail. Returning to a struggling campaign, King gathered the ACMHRS-CLC Central Committee to discuss next step strategies.

Article from The Birmingham News dated April 13, 1963, from Birmingham Public Library. The letter from the clergy mentioned in this article was smuggled into Martin Luther King's jail cell and became the catalyst for his later penned Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
See below (April 12) full text of the Birmingham Clergy Letter: "A Call for Unity”- The “Good Friday” letter criticising King’s actions in Birmingham, April 12, 1963,
Telegram dated April 13, 1963 from Wyatt Tee Walker, executive assistant to Martin Luther King Jr., informing President Kennedy about the plight of Dr. King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who had been placed in solitary confinement in the Birmingham City Jail after being arrested with other demonstrators. APRIL 13, 1963 TELEGRAM APRIL 13, 1963 TELEGRAM. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

April 12, 1963

Dozens Arrested, Martin Luther King Jailed in Birmingham Alabama

Martin Luther King, April 12, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama
Excerpted directly from Dr. King Arrested At Birmingham, New York Times, April 13, 1963.


He Defies a Court Injunction by Leading Negro March—60 Others Seized

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., April 12 —The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested this afternoon when he defied a court injunction and led a march of Negroes toward the downtown section.

The marchers were halted after four and a half blocks—but not before more than a thousand shouting, stinging Negroes had joined in the demonstration.

In addition to Dr. King, the Rev. Dr. Ralph D. Abernathy, secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and more than 60 others were taken into custody. There was no violence.

[In Clarkdale, Miss. firebombs were thrown at a Negro leader's home where Representative Charles C. Diggs Jr. of Michigan was staying, but no one was hurt. Two young men were arrested and admitted the bombing, but they were "just having fun."]

White Clergyman Held

For the second time, a white man joined the Birmingham Negro demonstrators and was arrested.

Today it was Dr. Roberty Fulton, a middle-aged Presbyterian clergyman who is teaching at Miles College, a co-educational Negro school in Birmingham. Several days ago Carl Keith of Evanston, Ill., was arrested when he joined a group of pickets at a downtown store. He is still in jail.

Dr. King was among the first to be put behind bars.

Safety Commissioner T. Eugene Connor, who directed the arrests, said Dr. King would be charged with violation of a city ordinance in parading without a permit, and also with defying a state court injunction against demonstrations.

The penalty on conviction of the city charge is 180 days in jail and a fine of $100. Punishment for the· injunction· violation could be much more severe. The injunction was issued by Circuit Court Judge W. A. Jenkins Wednesday night. Dr. King announced yesterday his intention to defy it.

Opposition to King

The march was the most spectacular of many demonstrations held since a direct action assault on Birmingham racial barriers was begun 10 days ago under the leadership of the local affiliate of the Southern tian. Leadership Conference.

It was the first in which Dr. King has taken part. His effort here the last 10 days has been to rally support behind the direct action campaign.

There has been much ·opposition in the Negro community here of more than 100,000 to pressing the campaign just as a new and moderate city administration taking office and to the participation of Dr. King, even though he has said he was invited to come. There also has been some reported grumbling that Dr. King was letting local people get arrested and staying safely behind the lines himself.

Counting today's arrests, more than 150 persons have been taken into custody.

Read the rest of the article, Dr. King Arrested At Birmingham, New York Times, April 13, 1963.
In this file photo taken April 12, 1963 Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. lead a column of demonstrators as they attempt to march on Birmingham, Ala., City Hall. Arrested for leading a march against racial segregation in 1963, King Jr. spent days in solitary confinement writing his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” which was smuggled out and stirred the world by explaining why Black people couldn't keep waiting for fair treatment. (AP Photo/Horace Cort)
Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., right are taken by a policeman as they led a line of demonstrators into the business section of Birmingham, Ala., on April 12, 1963. This is the photograph that ran with TIME's original coverage of their arrests. AP Photo. From Why MLK Was Jailed in Birmingham, Time, 4-16-2015.

On April 12, 1963, while Martin Luther King was in the Birmingham jail because leading of protests and acts of civil disobedience after the merchants of Bitmingham, Alabama refused to take down signs prohibiting white shoppers and other segregationist tactics enforcing second-class existence upon African Americans in the community, eight prominent Alabama clergymen, many from Birmingham, published the following statement in the local newspapers, which was later picked up in the New York Times. They denounced the tactics of civil disobedience, and accused King of being an “outside agitator”– a term commonly used then and now to imply a lack of standing to get involved in local matters. Four days later, King wrote his Letter from the Birmingham Jail in reply.


April 12, 1963

We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed.

Since that time there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems.

However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.

We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment.

Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.

We commend the community as a whole, and the local news media and law enforcement in particular, on the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled. We urge the public to continue to show restraint should the demonstrations continue, and the law enforcement official to remain calm and continue to protect our city from violence.

We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham. When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.

  • C. C. J. Carpenter, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Alabama

  • Joseph A. Durick, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Mobile, Birmingham

  • Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham, Alabama

  • Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference

  • Bishop Nolan B. Harmon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church

  • George M. Murray, D.D., LL.D. Bishop Coadjutor, Episcopal Diocese of Alabama

  • Edward V. Ramage, Moderator, Synod of the Alabama Presbyterian Church in the United States

  • Earl Stallings, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

April 11, 1968

President Johnson Signs the Fair Housing Act In Honor of Martin Luther King One Week After King's Assassination

2-minute video clip, April 11, 1968, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, into law. (LBJ Library)

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 — better known as the Fair Housing Act — prohibited discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion and national origin by landlords, real estate companies, cities, insurance companies and lending institutions, including banks. It prohibited discrimination in advertising, zoning, construction and outlawed the practice of “redlining” and racial discrimination through “restrictive covenants and deeds.”

“Now the Negro families no longer suffer the humiliation of being turned away because of their race,” Johnson told the crowd in the East Room of the White House as he signed the bill into law on April 11, 1968. “It proclaims that fair housing for all — all human beings who live in this country — is now a part of the American way of life. We all know that the roots of injustice run deep. But violence cannot redress a solitary wrong, or remedy a single unfairness.”

He reveled in the victory, saying, “This afternoon, as we gather here in this historic room in the White House, I think we can all take some heart that democracy’s work is being done. In the Civil Rights Act of 1968 America does move forward, and the bell of freedom rings out a little louder.”

Then he abruptly left the podium and sat at a desk in the East Room, took off his glasses and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 into law.

The Fair Housing Act was designed to protect people from discrimination when they were renting, buying or securing financing. The House passed the bill in 1966, and it then died in the Senate. Johnson pushed again the following year, but the bill languished in committee.

Conservatives in the House and Senate feared the law would open the way for black people to move into white neighborhoods, according to an account by the University of Minnesota Law Library, which archives documents on former vice president and senator Walter F. Mondale (D-Minn.).

“Most of the Senate was afraid to touch such an explosive issue,” the library reported, “but Sen. Mondale agreed to carry the legislation forward.”

In 1968, Mondale and Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), the only African American in the Senate, sponsored the Fair Housing Act of 1968 as an amendment to the pending civil rights bill.

On April 5, 1968, Johnson sent a letter to Speaker of the House John W. McCormack (D-Mass.), urging immediate action.

“Congressional leaders said that Dr. King’s murder could assure passage next week of a landmark civil rights bill,” Max Frankel wrote in a New York Times article that was published on April 6, 1968, with the headline “Johnson Asks a Joint Session of Congress; President Grave; Sets Day of Mourning for Dr. King — Meets Rights Leaders.”

Johnson urged Congress to respond immediately by enacting “legislation so long delayed and so close to fulfillment.” He wanted the bill passed before King’s funeral in Atlanta.

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, granting fair housing options to all regardless of race or religion. File Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
See April 11, 1968, Fair Housing Act Signed Into Law, The Zinn Education Project, which includes a 17-minute video lesson on housing discrimination.

Debate on the bill was heated. “Opponents called the bill ‘obnoxious,’ ‘discrimination in reverse’ and claimed that it was ‘robbing all Americans of their basic rights of private property,’ ” according to the University of Minnesota Law Library account.

But on April 10, 1968, the day after King’s funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the House voted 250 to 171 to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

“A cheer went up from the packed galleries and there was applause on the floor earlier as Speaker John W. McCormack of Massachusetts announced the 229-to-195 vote by which opponents of the bill were blocked from sending the bill to conference. After that, the final passage was a formality,” Marjorie Hunter wrote in the New York Times.

“Outside, still ringing the Capitol, were troops rushed to Washington last week to quell rioting that followed the slaying of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. last Thursday. The assassination of Dr. King appeared to have influenced the outcome, despite the insistence by civil rights supporters that the bill would have passed in any event.”

April 10, 1956

Nat King Cole Attacked During Whites-Only Performance in Birmingham, Alabama

On April 10, 1956, African American singer and pianist Nat King Cole was performing before an all-white audience of 4,000 at the Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, when he was attacked and knocked down by a group of white men. Before the attack, a drunk man near the front row jeered at Mr. Cole, "Negro, go home."

Nat King Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1919 and moved with his family to Chicago as a child. Mr. Cole was a popular national entertainer when he performed in Birmingham in 1956 and, due to the city's racial segregation laws, he was required to schedule separate shows for white and Black audiences.

The night before the attack, he performed before a segregated audience in Mobile, Alabama, and was booed by scattered members of the crowd.

Police were present at the Birmingham concert in case of trouble, and apprehended Cole's attackers quickly; four men were charged with inciting a riot while two others were held for questioning. Outside the arena, officers later found a car containing rifles, a blackjack, and brass knuckles.

After the attack during the segregated "white only" Birmingham show, Mr. Cole returned to the stage; the remaining audience gave him a 10-minute standing ovation, but he did not finish the concert. "I just came here to entertain you," he told the white crowd. "That was what I thought you wanted. I was born in Alabama. Those folks hurt my back. I cannot continue, because I need to see a doctor."

After being examined by a physician, Mr. Cole went on to perform at the show scheduled for a Black audience later that night.

Excerpted below from The night Nat King Cole was beaten on a Birmingham stage, from Al.Com
Welcomed to the stage by Birmingham Mayor Jimmy Morgan, Cole and the Ted Heath Orchestra were on their third song when members of the Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy rushed the stage.
The group was organized by Asa Carter, who as a speech writer would pen George Wallace's "segregation forever" speech and, as a novelist, the book that inspired Clint Eastwood's classic film "The Outlaw Josey Wales." Members of his group castrated a black man in 1957.
In this photo (above), a Birmingham police officer grabs Kenneth Adams, 35, who took part in the attack on Nat King Cole. Adams, an Anniston gas station owner, has been publicly linked to the burning of a bus carrying Freedom Riders, the unsolved murder of Willie Brewster and an unearthed plot to bomb churches and newspapers.
Nat King Cole backstage before the Birmingham show. Photo shot by either Norman Dean, Eldred Perry or Robert Adams, of The Birmingham News, from The night Nat King Cole was beaten on a Birmingham stage, from Al.Com

April 9, 1968

100,000 Witness Martin Luther King's Funeral Procession in Atlanta, Georgia

April 9, 1968: More than 100,000 people observed the mule-drawn coffin of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta.
Excerpted from Funeral of Martin Luther King Jr., Wikipedia

The first memorial service following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, took place the following day at the R.S. Lewis Funeral Home in Memphis, Tennessee. This was followed by two funeral services on April 9, 1968, in Atlanta, Georgia, the first held for family and close friends at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father had both served as senior pastors, followed by a three-mile procession to Morehouse College, King's alma mater, for a public service.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning for the lost civil rights leader on April 7.

Service in Memphis

After the shooting, King was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital and was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. King's closest aides contacted Robert Lewis Jr.—a local funeral director who had coincidentally met King two days prior—to retrieve his body and prepare it for viewing.

Coretta Scott King arrived in Memphis the following morning on a plane personally arranged by Robert F. Kennedy. Hundreds began arriving at the funeral home, where a viewing and memorial service took place. Ralph Abernathy offered a prayer, while tears streamed down Andrew Young's face. Time Magazine wrote:

In Memphis, before it was carried south toward home, King's body lay in state at the R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home in an open bronze casket, the black suit tidily pressed, the wound in the throat now all but invisible. Many of those who filed past could not control their tears. Some kissed King's lips; others reverently touched his face. A few people threw their hands in the air and cried aloud in ululating agony. Mrs. King was a dry-eyed frieze of heartbreak.

Later that day, police and National Guardsmen escorted the long procession of cars which carried King's body to the airport for the flight to Atlanta.

Services in Atlanta

The first, private service began at 10:30 a.m. EST at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and was filled with some 1,300 people; among the dignitaries present were labor leaders, foreign dignitaries, entertainment and sports figures and leaders from numerous religious faiths. The service began with Rev. Ralph Abernathy delivering a sermon which called the event "one of the darkest hours of mankind."

At his widow's request, King eulogized himself: His last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, a recording of his famous 'Drum Major' sermon, given on February 4, 1968, was played at the funeral. In that sermon he makes a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to "feed the hungry," "clothe the naked," "be right on the [Vietnam] war question," and "love and serve humanity."

Per King's request, his good friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord", though not as part of the morning funeral service but later that day at a second open-air service at Morehouse College.


The private funeral was followed by the loading of King's casket onto a simple wooden farm wagon pulled by two mules. The procession down the three-and-a-half miles from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College was observed by over 100,000 people; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference commissioned a security detail to manage the crowd, while the Atlanta Police Department limited their participation to management of automobile traffic and to accompany dignitaries attending the events. The procession was silent, although it was accompanied on occasion by the singing of freedom songs which were frequently sung during the marches in which King had participated.

Among the persons leading the procession, besides the immediate family of the civil rights leader, were Jesse Jackson, who held the flag of the United Nations, John Lewis, and Andrew Young who was at one time the Mayor of Atlanta and also Ambassador to the United Nations. Labor leader and civil rights activist Walter Reuther also participated in King's funeral procession.

The procession passed by the Georgia state capitol building.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the group sang "We Shall Overcome".


The public and final service was held at Morehouse College, where King was eulogized by college president Benjamin Mays, who had given the benediction after King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Following the funeral, King's casket was loaded into a hearse for his final trip to the South-View Cemetery, a burial place predominantly reserved for African Americans. His remains were exhumed in 1970 and reburied at their current location at the plaza between the King Center and Ebenezer, and his widow Coretta was buried next to him in 2006.

Coretta Scott King at the funeral of Martin Luther King, comforting their 5-year-old daughter, Bernice. This photograph by Moneta Sleet Jr. won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. From photo-spread of the funeral, The Martyrdom of Martin Luther King, Ebony Magazine, May 1968.
View of the casket of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr loaded onto a wooden farm wagon and pulled by mules during his funeral procession in Atlanta, Georgia, April 9, 1968. Ken Guthrie/Getty Images
Funeral procession for civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., April 9, 1968 in Atlanta. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
The family of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., walk in the funeral procession in Atlanta on April 9, 1968. From left: daughter Yolanda, 12; King's brother A.D. King; daughter Bernice, 5; widow Coretta Scott King; Rev. Ralph Abernathy; sons Dexter, 7, and Martin Luther King III, 10. Charles Tasnadi/AP. From After MLK's Death, Coretta Scott King Went To Memphis To Finish His Work, NPR
View video full funeral coverage from CBS News, April 9, 1968.

April 8, 1963

Nashville "Race Riot" Sparked as College Students Picket and Protest After Stokely Carmichael Speech

Stokely Carmichael, the militant leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, interpreted black power as the need of the black community to organize for political control in his speech at the Impact symposium at Vanderbilt University April 8, 1967. Caption excerpted in whole from 1968: Nashville, civil rights and the 'destiny of dissent', USA Today
Excerpted from The Nashville Race Riot (1967),

The Nashville Race Riot occurred on April 8, 1967 when African American students from Fisk University and Tennessee A&I University (Now Tennessee State University) rioted along Jefferson Street leading to many injuries and arrests as well as extensive property damage. The Nashville Race Riot was one of the many race riots that occurred in U.S. cities during the spring and summer of 1967.

Some authorities incorrectly blamed the violence on Stokely Carmichael (Later Kwame Ture) who came to came to Nashville to speak at Fisk University, Tennessee A&I University, and Vanderbilt University. Fisk University and Tennessee A&I University official attempted to prohibit Carmichael from coming to their college campus to speak to the students. In protest, Fisk University student threatening to move the event of Carmichael speaking to a nearby church. Tennessee A&I University students was planning to hold their own rally for him speaking outside their college campus if he couldn’t speak inside.

On April 6, 1967, Carmichael spoke at Fisk University urging them to become involved in the growing Black Power Movement. The next day, Carmichael spoke to the Tennessee A&I University students at Kean Hall where he encouraged the students there to organize and take economic control of the African American community in Nashville which he claimed was one of the goals of the Black Power Movement.

On April 8, 1967, Carmichael gave a similar speech at Vanderbilt University. Later that evening, a riot erupted around North Nashville where Fisk University, Tennessee State University, and Meharry Medical College were located. The riot started when a black manager of the University Inn, a Jefferson Street restaurant, called the police to remove a drunken, disruptive solider from the establishment. Once the police arrived and removed the solider, Fisk University and Tennessee A&I students started an impromptu picket line around the University Inn.

More police were called to the scene and this time they were met by students throwing rocks at them and at passing cars along Jefferson Street. By the end of that day, April 8, fourteen people were injured including an eighteen-year-old man who was shot in the leg. The riots continued the following day at Tennessee A&I University where Molotov cocktails were thrown through the windows of several businesses including a liquor store, a gas station, and a barbershop. At least a dozen people were injured, including a Tennessee A&I student who was shot in the neck, but fortunately no one was killed. An estimated 40 people were arrested during the second day of the riot.

On April 10, 1967, Nashville Mayor Beverly Briley called for an end to the violence and greatly increased the police presence in the area. Mayor Briley also blamed Carmichael for causing the riot even as he and other Nashville civic and political leaders ignored both the poor condition of the black neighborhoods in North Nashville and the longstanding resentment against the Nashville police by black residents. Regardless of the actual factors causing the riot, it ended on that day, April 10.

Metro police are set to close the door of their paddy wagon on another group of suspects, arrested for disorderly conduct by throweing rocks April 9, 1967. Rock throwing escalated to gunfire as violence erupted, sending mobs and riot police swarming through the North Nashville community. Jimmy Ellis / Tenessean. Caption excerpted in whole from 1968: Nashville, civil rights and the 'destiny of dissent', USA Today
Image of the Nashville Race Riot,
Click above to view 62 more photos from April events in Nashville
A Metro policeman, left, checks out an suspect near the Tennessee State University campus on Jefferson Street April 9, 1967. Rock-throwing escalated to gunfire as violence erupted, sending mobs and riot police swarming through the North Nashville black community. Jimmy Ellis / The Tennesean. Caption excerpted in whole from 1968: Nashville, civil rights and the 'destiny of dissent', USA Today

April 7, 1963

Police Dogs Attack as Marchers Arrested on Palm Sunday in Birmingham, Alabama - Foreshadowing Far Larger Events in the Coming Days

The Rev. John Porter, pastor of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, left, and A.D. King.

Sunday April 7. 1963 - First day of violence.

On Palm Sunday, April 7, 1963, a determined A. D. King, Martin Luther King's brother, directed marchers out of St. Paul Methodist Church, on 6th Avenue North, toward town singing. Bull Connor and his police officers were stationed along the route. When twenty integrationists were arrested, black spectators, a common presence at the protests, got upset by the interruption in the march. In an effort to control the crowd, Connor called out the police dogs. "Leroy Alien, a non-movement nineteen-year-old black male wrestled with one dog.

As Leroy reached into his pocket, the policemen unleashed two more dogs on him. As a knife flashed, a German shepherd tore his arm and police knocked him to the ground and kicked him. Suddenly onlookers, officers, and other dogs rushed over the fallen man." Eventually, the police, dogs, and billy clubs dispersed the crowd. The national media captured and distributed images of the day's violence. Walker recognized the power of appearances and the media's portrayal of events. Thereafter, he "promoted coercive nonviolence in a bid to generate creative tension that the newspapers and television cameras could record as police suppression. Project C was born."

New York Times, April 8, 1963, page 21, reformatted for this post. Click image for readable size.
“Kneeling Ministers” statue in Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, AL. Sculptor Raymond Kaskey. Photograph by Julie Buckner Armstrong.
Excerpted from Walking Through Birmingham, Julie Buckner Armstrong

On this day, Sunday April 7, 1963, “Palm Sunday,” three ministers–Nelson Smith, A.D. King, and John Porter–led 2,000 citizens in a march from St. Paul’s Methodist Church to Birmingham’s City Hall. The march protested the previous day’s arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Fred Shuttlesworth. When the city’s Commissioner of Public Safety, Bull Connor, confronted the marchers, the three ministers knelt to pray. To commemorate their brave act of nonviolence in the face of racist power, the city placed a statue of the men in Kelly Ingram Park in 1992. Today the park, which contains several sculptures marking famous events of Birmingham’s civil rights movement, calls itself “A Place of Revolution and Reconciliation.”

April 6, 1968

Uprisings Continue in Chicago, Baltimore, DC and Elsewhere as Martin Luther King's Death Unleashes Nation-wide Frustration

New York Times, April 7, 1968, reformatted for this post.
An aerial view of fires in the 400 block of West 63rd Street on April 6, 1968., James O'Leary, from Chicago riots after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., The Chicago Tribune
More than 2,000 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were flown into Washington, D.C., on April 6, 1968, to augment the federal and national guard units already on duty in riot-torn sections of the city. Bettmann / Getty, from The Riots That Followed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., The Atlantic
An aerial view on April 6, 1968, of the 3300 block of Madison Street in the heart of Chicago's riot-torn West Side after the looting and burning rampage that occurred in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. from Chicago riots after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., The Chicago Tribune
Original caption: "Washington, D.C. Fatigued troops in violence-torn Washington tiredly sack out on the floor of a laundromat here. Several of the soldiers had to find sleeping space on top of the washing machines. More than 12,000 troops were called out to protect the nation's capital since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.. Bettmann / Getty, from The Riots That Followed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., The Atlantic
Fire shoots out from a Baltimore store on Gay Street as looting erupted in a five-block business section in Baltimore on April 6, 1968. Police sealed off the area, AP, from 50 Years Ago Baltimore Burned. The Same Issues Set It Aflame In 2015, NPR

April 5, 1968

The Nation Mourns the Death of Martin Luther King as Protesters Take to the Streets in Peace and Anger

Page 1, New York Times, April 6, 1968, (click image for readable page)
Page 22, New York Times, April 6, 1968, (click image for readable page)
Page 23, New York Times, April 6, 1968, (click image for readable page)
Page 24, New York Times, April 6, 1968, (click image for readable page)
Page 25, New York Times, April 6, 1968, (click image for readable page)
Page 26, New York Times, April 6, 1968, (click image for readable page)

April 4, 1968

Martin Luther King Assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee One Day After His "I've Been to the Mountaintop" Speech

Civil rights leader Andrew Young (L) and others on balcony of Lorraine motel pointing in direction of assailant after assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lying mortally wounded at their feet. Joseph Louw—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images. Caption from MLK’s Assassination: The Story Behind the Photo
Excerpted in whole from Apr 04, 1968 — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated in Memphis, from The Equal Justice Initiative

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was in the city to speak on his growing Poor People's Campaign, and to support an economic protest by Black sanitation workers.

About two months earlier, 1,300 African American Memphis sanitation workers began a strike to protest low pay and poor treatment. When city leaders largely ignored the strike and refused to negotiate, the workers sought assistance from civil rights leaders, including Dr. King. He enthusiastically agreed to help and, on March 18, visited the city to speak to a crowd of more than 15,000 people.

Dr. King also planned a march of support. When the first attempt was violently suppressed by police, leaving one protestor dead, Dr. King resolved to stage another peaceful march on April 8. He returned to Memphis by plane on April 3, braving a bomb threat on his scheduled flight. Once in Memphis, he stayed at the Lorraine Motel and gave a short speech reflecting on his own mortality.

The next evening, April 4, Dr. King was shot as he stepped out onto the motel balcony. He was rushed to nearby St. Joseph's Hospital and pronounced dead at 7:05 pm, leaving a nation in shock and sparking mournful uprisings in more than 100 cities across the country. Just 39 years old, Dr. King left behind a wife, Coretta Scott King, and four young children. James Earl Ray, a white man, was later convicted of his assassination.

Watch photographerJoseph Louw’s eyewitness recounting his infamous photograph, Three Days After Dr. King’s Assassination, MLK’s Assassination: The Story Behind the Photo
Original top 2/3 of cover, The New York Times, April 5, 1968. Click image for larger size.
I’ve been to the Mountaintop – Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968
In his final speech, King addressed a church filled with striking sanitation workers who were protesting their low pay and working conditions. King emphasized the importance of unity and nonviolent protest in the fight for justice, no matter how painful the struggle.
“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop… And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
From 5 of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speeches, PBS
Listen and read the 43-minute full-text version of Martin Luther King's final speech, delivered April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, one day prior to his assassination.

April 3, 1963

The Birmingham Campaign Begins 2-Months of Direct Action in "America's Most Segregated City"

Civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth hold a press conference at the start of the Birmingham Campaign, May 1963. Frank Rockstroh/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Excerpted in whole from The Birmingham Campaign (1963), from

The Birmingham Campaign was a movement led in early 1963 by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which sought to bring national attention of the efforts of local black leaders to desegregate public facilities in Birmingham, Alabama. The campaign was led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Reverends James Bevel and Fred Shuttlesworth, among others.

In April 1963, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined Birmingham’s local campaign organized by Rev. Shuttlesworth and his group, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). The goal of the local campaign was to attack the city’s segregation system by putting pressure on Birmingham’s merchants during the Easter season, the second biggest shopping season of the year. When that campaign stalled, the ACMHR asked SCLC to help.

The campaign was originally scheduled to begin in early March 1963 but was postponed until April. On April 3, 1963, it was launched with mass meetings, lunch counter sit-ins, a march on city hall, and a boycott of downtown merchants. King spoke to Birmingham’s black citizens about nonviolence and its methods and appealed for volunteers. When Birmingham’s residents enthusiastically responded, the campaign’s actions expanded to kneel-ins at churches, sit-ins at the library, and a march on the county courthouse to register voters.

On April 10, 1963, the city government obtained a state court injunction against the protests. After debate, campaign leaders decided to disobey the court order. King contemplated whether he and Ralph Abernathy—SCLC’s second-in-command—should be arrested. King decided that he must risk jail. On Good Friday, April 12, 1963, King was arrested in Birmingham after violating the anti-protest injunction and was placed in solitary confinement. During this time, he wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on the margins of the Birmingham News, in reaction to a statement published by eight Birmingham clergymen condemning the protests.

The Birmingham Manifesto, April 3, 1963, as found on the Civil Rights Movement Archive,
Later in May, firehoses were used against protesting children in Birmingham, Alabama. Click image above to read Wikipedia article for more comprehensive overview of the Birmingham Campaign.
Segment focusing on the Birmingham Campaign beginning on April 3, 1963 and connecting to the start of the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Included interview snippets from Fred Shuttlesworth, James Bevel, John Lewis, David Vann, A. G. Gaston, Andrew Young, Mel Bailey, and Burke Marshall. From Eyes on the Prize, No Easy Walk (1961-1963), PBS, 22min

King asked his jailers for permission to call his wife, Coretta Scott King, who at the time was home in Atlanta, recovering from the birth of their fourth child, Bernice King. They denied the request. After Mrs. King shared her concerned about her husband’s safety with the Kennedy administration, Birmingham officials permitted King to call home. He was released on bail on April 20, 1963.

On May 2, 1963, more than one thousand African American students attempted to march into downtown Birmingham where hundreds were arrested. The following day, Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor directed local police and fire departments to use force to halt the demonstrations. The next few days’ images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by dogs appeared on television and in newspapers, sparking international outrage.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent Burke Marshall, his chief civil rights assistant, to negotiate between the black citizens and Birmingham city business leadership. The business leaders sought a moratorium on street protests as an act of good faith before any settlement could be declared. Marshall encouraged the campaign leaders to halt demonstrations and accept this interim compromise. King and the other leaders agreed on May 8, 1963, and called off further demonstrations. On May 10, 1963, King and Fred Shuttlesworth announced an agreement with the city of Birmingham to desegregate lunch counters, restrooms, drinking fountains, and department store fitting rooms within ninety days, to hire blacks in stores as salesmen and clerks, and to release of hundreds of jail protesters on bond.

Their victory, however, was met by violence. On May 11, 1963, a bomb damaged the Gaston Motel where King and SCLC members were staying. The next day, the home of King’s brother and Birmingham resident, Alfred Daniel King, was bombed. Four months later on September 15, 1963, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members bombed Birmingham’s Sixteen Street Baptist Church which had been the staging center for many of the spring demonstrations. Four young black girls—Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair—were killed. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the eulogy at their funeral on September 18, 1963. Nonetheless, Birmingham was considered one of the most successful campaigns of the civil rights era.

April 2, 1965

Comedian Dick Gregory Leads Voting Rights Efforts in Greenwood, Mississippi

A policeman applies an arm lock on comedian Dick Gregory after he left the Leflore County Court House to help Negroes register to vote, Greenwood, Mississippi, April 2, 1963. Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Excerpted in part from April 2, 1963: Comedian Dick Gregory Leads Voter Drive, from This Day in Civil Rights History, Williams and Beard, page 108

On this day in civil rights history, comedian Dick Gregory led a registration drive in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Gregory used satire and race in his act, to great comedic effect. "I never believed in Santa Clause because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark.”

Ciivil rights leaders such as Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King soon discovered Gregory throughout his high profile and effective satire and invited him to join the Movement. Gregory began speaking at CORE and NAACP events, but also entered the fray as a front-line field worker.

In 1963, SNCC was actively registering voters in Mississippi for a project funded by the Voter Education Project that would eventually turn into Freedom Summer. But local resistance was extreme. National media attention spotlighted the small Mississippi town of Greenwood when Jimmy Travis, a young SNCC worker, was shot in the neck.

SNCC stepped up the activity. Bob Moses, James Forman, Gregory, and others went to Greenwood and led three marches to the courthouse, each forcibly rebuffed by police. A photograph of Gregory being manhandles by a policeman was on the front page of the New York Times. (See Dick Gregory Defies Police in South, April 3, 1963, and Mississippi Town Seizes 19 Negroes, Dick Gregory, Not Held, Leads Greenwood March, April 4, 1963)

Gregory later became fiends with Martin Luther King Jr., and took part in the Chicago campaign/

In 1968, Gregory ran for president as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party.

A Greenwood police officer removes comedian Dick Gregory in Greenwood, Mississippi, April 2, 1963, as he left the County Court House after a group registered. Gregory was escorted across the street by a police officer when he was told he was moving too slow
April 2, 1963 diary entry by Bobby Talbert, Freedom Summer Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society, Sally Belfrage papers, 1962-1966; Historical Society Library Microforms Room, Micro 599, Reel 1, Segment 5; WIHV91-A140

April 1, 1965

Blackwell v. Issaquena Board of Education Lawsuit Filed On Behalf of 300 Students Suspended from Schools in Mississippi for Wearing and Distributing SNCC "Freedom" Buttons

Unita Blackwell speaking at a senate hearing on poverty in Jackson, April 10, 1967. By Jim Peppler. Source: Southern Courier Photo Collection, ADAH
Excerpted in whole from April 1, 1965: Blackwell v. Issaquena Board of Education, Teaching People's History, Zinn Education Project, Summary prepared for by Dawn Keene.

April 1, 1965: Blackwell v. Issaquena Board of Education

On April 1, 1965, the civil rights suit of Blackwell v. Issaquena Board of Education was filed on behalf of 300 African-American students from several schools across Issaquena County in Mississippi. The students were suspended for wearing and distributing “freedom” buttons after school administrators forbade them. The buttons were from the youth led civil rights organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

In the days prior to the suspensions, students began wearing the SNCC pins that depicted a black and white hand joined in unity. SNCC had been organizing a grassroots community effort to register more African Americans to vote in the county.

After the students were forbidden to wear or distribute the pins, the students continued to stage protests and boycotts. Many disobeyed the orders to stop wearing the pins which led to the suspensions.

So many kids came to school wearing SNCC pins that we couldn’t count them all. The principal began the day by calling a general assembly. He said that he would listen to no more questions. Then he read from a book a rule saying that, “Any student who disrupts school can be suspended or expelled by the principal.”

He told the students that the SNCC pins were disrupting school. Any student who wore a pin the next day would be suspended, and any student who wore a SNCC pin on Thursday, said the principal, would be expelled and not allowed to go to school anywhere in Mississippi. — Student

More than 300 of the 1,100 students wear pins, as do some of the children in the elementary school. And over in adjacent Sharkey County, some high school students do the same. Again the principal calls an assembly. . . .He suspends the 179 students whose names were taken down on Monday and threatens the same for anyone else who continues to defy the edict against freedom buttons. He tells them they can only return to school if they sign a written promise not to participate in any kind of civil rights activity including wearing SNCC pins. Close to 150 pin-wearing students who have not (yet) been suspended walk out of school in solidarity with those who have been expelled. From Issaquena County School Boycott (Feb-May)

Unita Blackwell, a SNCC field officer and mother to one of the students, decided to launch a legal case in which her husband and son were the plaintiffs. They argued that the schools had violated the students’ First Amendment rights to free speech and political expression of ideas that challenged the racial injustice of the school system.

SNCC Freedom Buttons

They wanted all suspended students to be allowed to return to school and for the schools to allow students the freedom to wear the SNCC pins. They also demanded that the Issaquena schools implement the Supreme Court ruling of desegregation by the beginning of the 1965 school year.

The federal courts sided with the school board’s disciplinary action of censorship and suspension. They stated that the school’s interest in preventing the interference with school policies trumped the students’ rights of free speech. On the other hand, the court sided with the Blackwells on the need for a desegregation plan for the school district.

It would take another five years for the integration of the schools in Issaquena. Many students and their families continued to boycott the schools because of the court’s ruling. Blackwell, with the support of parents and the local SNCC chapter, offered an alternative form of education in a Freedom School. Here is the description from Civil Rights Movement Archive:

Parents and students begin organizing Freedom Schools in local churches and homes. Older students teach the younger ones. A few SNCC & COFO organizers, and northern white volunteers provide assistance, but the effort is predominantly run by local activists. Freedom Schools elsewhere in the state send books, materials, and expressions of support.

The Issaquena-Sharkey Freedom Schools are different from Freedom Schools that operated in Mississippi last summer because students are teaching themselves. What is happening in these Freedom Schools is that students are beginning to discover that they know a great deal about what they need to know — that is about the things that matter in their lives. This is a revolutionary concept in education. Students can give themselves a better education than the local schools can about what democracy is, what freedom means and how people work together to bring about changes in the society. These are the most relevant things to their lives.” — Judy Walborn, SNCC Staff Education Coordinator.

Many of the Black teachers support the students — most clandestinely, a few more openly. They understand, and share, the students’ frustration with the strictly limited, racially-biased curriculum they are forced to teach. But the white school board can fire them at will, and they have to toe the line or lose their jobs.

Blackwell would continue to challenge racial injustice, championing civil rights in her community long after the court case. In Mississippi, she would become a community improvement leader for the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and later become Mississippi’s first African-American woman mayor in 1976.

Read more at about Issaquena County School Boycott (Feb-May)

Resources Used – common sources used to find daily posts


On June 1, 2020, in part as a response prompted by the George Floyd murder and subsequent re-awakening of the general public to the history of racist struggles, I started a daily practice of finding a relevant moment in Freedom Rights Movement anniversary history. I've found this both personally cathartic – engaging in daily consciousness of the ongoing struggle over the past 400 years – as well as potentially useful for future students.

~Howard Levin

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