This Day in Civil Rights History - AUGUST

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August 31, 1962

Fanny Lou Hamer Attempts to Register to Vote in Indianola, Mississippi and Expelled From Land


Excerpted short segment from an oral history interview with Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruleville, Mississippi, 1965. Stanford Digital Repository

So in 1962 on the 14th day of August the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee came into Rulesville. That Monday night after to 14th I went over here, right around the corner here to this church, William Chapel and the pastor announced at the end of the service that there would be a mass meeting that night, that Monday night following that Sunday. So I didn't understand what the mass meeting was, I didn't know what it was 'cause I'd never gone to a mass meeting. So on Monday night my husband drove me from out in the rural area where I had been working to the church. And when we got there, Bob Moses, Lawrence Guyot, Regie Robertson, James Bevel and Jim Forman. And James Bevel preached from the 12th chapter of St. Luke’s Design & The Signs of the Times.

Then Jim Forman from SNCC got up and explained how it was our constitutional rights to register and vote, and how it could change the different laws like if we didn't want a law in the town or what was going on we could vote it out. So that I thought it was the most remarkable thing that could happen in the state of Mississippi. So then they asked who would go down on Friday, which was the 31st, to try and register. So I went down, I was one of the persons who said I would go to register on the 31st.

So then on the 31st there was 18 of us who went 26 miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register. And we had this long literacy test that we'd never seen before but when we walked in the office the registrar asked us what did we want and we told him we was there to try to register to vote. And he said, "All of you can’t stay in here now, get out. All but two." Well I was one of the two persons who stayed in the registrar's office. Ernest Davis was the other person.

So we filled out this literacy test as best we could – it was very complicated, I don't know whether you've seen one or not – but anyway we filled it out as best we could. And after we had finished the other people went in. And it was about 4 O'clock before we had a chance to get back on the bus to come back. During the time I was in the registrar's office he made a long distance call to call the police dept. in Cleveland Mississippi. And I saw so many people around that day with their guns and different things and dogs. I really didn't understand that they really didn't want us to register.

So when we started back to Ruleville we were stopped by one of the same highway patrolmen that I'd seen cruising around the bus that the Negro fellow had drove down there to carry us to Indianola. He lived in Bolivar Co. and this bus had been used year after year to carry people to farm work, chopping and picking cotton and then he would use it to go to Florida every winter. When we got ready to come back we noticed while we were on the bus before the others got on that this state highway patrolman and a city police .just kept cruising backwards and forth past the bus.

Fannie Lou Hamer on her front porch during oral history interview (McCain Library and Archives, the University of Southern Mississippi)

Then finally after they kept passing, they they went on down like they were going out of town but we didn't know exactly what was happening. So then when all of us got on the bus and started to Ruleville we were stopped by this same highway patrolman and city police. And they ordered us to get off the bus. We got off and then they ordered us to get back on the bus. We got back on the bus. And then they told us to turn around and go back to Indianola. When we got back to Indianola the bus driver was charged with driving a bus the wrong color. They first charged $100 and then they cut down from $100 to $50. And from 50 to $30. By the time they got to thirty, the eighteen of us had enough to pay this fine. Then we came on to Rulesville.

And when I got to Rulesville then Reverend Jeff Sunny carried me out to the rural area where I had worked 18 yrs. as a timekeeper and sharecropper. So when I got out of his car the kids met me and my oldest girl was very upset. She told me that this man (Marlow, the landowner) was very mad because I'd gone to Indianola and tried to register. So I went in the house because it was disturbing to me as to why he didn't want me to register and I was trying to register for myself. So then my husband came and he started telling me about (how) Mr. Marlow was mad and he said if I didn't go back to Indianola and withdraw I was going to have to leave. So he hadn't finished talking about it for three or four minutes ‘till Mr. Marlow came. And I had gone in the house and taken a seat on my little girl's bed and he asked my husband said, "Is Fannie Lou come home yet?" And he said,"Yes sir." And he said, "Well did you tell her what I said ?" And he said,"Yes sir." So I got up then and walked out on the screen porch just like this. And when I walked out he said, "Fannie Lou, did Pat tell you what I said?" I said, "Yes sir." He said, "Well I mean that, so you will have to go back and withdraw or you will have to leave here.” And I didn't say anything. He said, "I'm waiting for your answer, yeh or nay." So I said, "Mr. Marlow, I didn't go to Indianola to register for you. I went to Indianola because I was trying to register for myself." So I had to leave that same night, that was on the 31st of August in 1962.

Excerpted from transcript of an oral history interview with Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruleville, Mississippi, 1965. Stanford Digital Repository

August 30, 1961

16-Year-Old Brenda Travis Arrested in McComb, Mississippi For Attempting to Purchase a Ticket at the White's Only Counter

Brenda Travis, Robert Talbert and Ike Lewis, Burglund High School students in McComb, Mississippi, were arrested and jailed for attempting to purchase a ticket at the Whites Only counter in McComb's Greyhound bus station. Their arrest sparked a series of events culminating in the historic mass protest when 115 students from the all Black high school walked out in protest when Travis was denied re-entry.

In May, 2010, a group of McComb High School students, accompanied by their teacher, Vickie Malone, traveled to The Urban School of San Francisco, where, with Urban students, they conducted two days of recorded interviews with Brenda Travis.

Q: Can you can you talk about the atmosphere around you it within the Greyhound bus station, walking into the white section of that bus station? What was the mentality, what were the looks that you were getting from the white people? What was the atmosphere like? What was going through your head?

A: Okay.I'm going to answer your question first, and then I'll respond to your question. My thoughts was, I knew that I was going to jail. I knew that I was going to jail. The night prior to my arrest. I recall praying to God and asking him to protect and keep me, just protect me and keep me, keep me safe so I can see another tomorrow. When we walked into the bus station it was an extremely – you could hear prior to us walking in, they saw us walking up but they had the colored side and they had the white side, and I think they thought that we were going to go to the color side. So when we walked into the white side, you could hear a pin fall and they looked in disbelief. They were very hostile stares.The police department was right around the corner. I didn't see anybody use a phone. But before we could get our tickets in our hands good at the police were there. But that with them being there that probably saved us from the community of white people jumping on us or beating us.

Q: Were they saying anything? Or was it just silence?

A: It was silence initially. And then it was the stares. As I said they were looking in disbelief. And then the name calling and stuff, like the N word – which I've given a new meaning or a new name to, I call it the "No Word". So they called us the "No Word." And before they could act out their feelings, the police was there to arrest us. They took us to jail to the McComb City Hall and they booked us. Later that day, they took us down to the Pike County Jail. After they completed their processing, the booking process, then they took us down to the Pike County Jail.

Q: What did it feel like to be in the police car on your way to jail where the policeman saying anything to you?

Brenda L. Travis, June 2, 1962 (Photographer unknown, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. [LC-USZ62-135777])

A: They didn't really say anything. But they drove like maniacs just around the corner on two wheels, {screech} you know, to hurry up and make sure they got these "No Words" to jail.

Q: Could you describe the time you spent in jail?

A: Yes, when they took me to the Magnolia jail, there was another black woman there who was there for some other reason. And according to her they tried to get her to beat me and they would allow her to go free. But she set up on remembering my uncle. She refused to beat me because If she would rather stay in jail and then to face my uncle. My days in jail were spent during the daytime – they gave us a couple of meals a day – and during the daytime, we would mostly sleep and relax because the jailer was usually there. So during the daytime we slept. At night we became rabble rousers. The jail was surrounded by a community, the white community, and so at night we became – I guess we were nocturnal – so at night, we would wake up. The guys we're upstairsand I was downstairs. So whoever woke up first, we would call out to the other. And every night we would start our ritualof singing and praying.And this would go along for hours. And we were told that the people in the community – and this went on for 30 days – we were told that the people in the communities were glad when they released us, because we were keeping them awake.

Q: Kind of songs did you sing?

A: We sing freedom songs, and many of the freedom songs were based on hymns and they would change the words. {singing} "Oh, freedom. Oh, freedom. Oh freedom over me." Those were the types of songs that we would sing. "I ain't scared of your jail 'cause I want my freedom, I want my freedom, I want my freedom. Ain't afraid of your jails 'cause I want my freedom. I want my freedom now." "Michael row the boat ashore, halleluja.. Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah. The Jordan River is deep and wide, hallelujah. I'm gone again my freedom on the other side, hallelujah." And those are the songs that we would sing. And there were many more. And another one of the songs that we sang that is still dear to my heart was, "Oh freedom. Oh freedom. Oh freedom over me. And before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free." And we could sing that and really mean it. Because we were incarcerated, and there was a possibility that we were going to die, but we were prepared to die.
This segment is from the published interviews at Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project.

Q: Would you say you had privacy when you were incarcerated?

A: No, there was no privacy. They had in the portion for the females, they had two cots in the jail. One was upper and one was lower.They had a commode that set up against the wall with no enclosure. And they had a washbasin for you to clearn your body. But there was no privacy. No.

Q: What was it like to be a woman in jail for a month without privacy?

A: Well, the other person was eventually released. So therefore, I had the cell to myself.

Q: Could the guards see into your cell?

A: Well, they could if they chose to look, but I'm sorry. You know how the prison bars are? Okay, they had this big steel door with just like a little peek hole through there. So we had privacy in that sense. Okay. It wasn't that you could just, you know, like the ones on the TV where you can just walk up and look in and see people.

Q: Did you ever feel alone when you were in jail by yourself?

A: I never thought of alone or loneliness because, as I said, we would sleep during the day and stay up all night, praying and singing. We kept each other sane, I guess you could say. This way, during the day while we were sleeping and when it was bright out. I could imagine if we were awake most of that day, it would have been more difficult for us to be incarcerated. Because during the day, you get accustomed to just going up opening the door and walking out. We couldn't do that. So it was all a psychological game that we played, where we slept during the day and sleeping. Sure there were four walls that enclosed us and confined us, but it enclosed our bodies but not our minds. So, we had a sense of freedom even behind bars because of the place where we were mentally.

August 29, 1961

Bob Moses Attacked in Amite County, Mississippi Attempting to Help Register Voters

Excerpted in whole from The Making of Black Revolutionaries, by James Forman, University of Washington Press, 1997

Bob Moses wrote, in a field report from McComb:

On Tuesday, August 29, 1961, we made our third attempt at [voter] registration in Amite County [Mississippi]. I accompanied two people down to the registrar’s office...we were to meet Alfred Knox on the courthouse lawn. However, Knox as not there and we had to walk through town looking for him. We found him at the east end of town, by the post office, and were walking back to the registrar’s office when we were approached by three young white men.

They came up, stopped, and the fellow who was in the lead asked me what I was trying to do? Before I could answer he began to beat - hit at me. I covered my head and I was kneeling on the ground with my head covered and he was beating me for I don’t know how long.

He finally stopped and I got up and walked over to the registrar’s office, to the sheriff’s office, and asked the sheriff if he couldn’t swear out a warrant against him. He said that he couldn’t since I wasn’t sure whether or not he had an instrument that he was using to do the beating...

Read more about Bob Moses at Americans Who Tell The Truth

Robert P. "Bob" Moses (center) with Frank Smith,, Willie (Wazir) Peacock at the Greenwood, Mississippi SNCC office, 1963. ©Danny Lyon.

The registrar had left. So we came back to Steptoe’s where I had the wounds cleaned. (My shirt was very bloody and I figured that if we went back in the courthouse we would probably frighten everybody, so we went to Steptoe’s) Then we went over to McComb where the doctor had to take nine stitches in three different places in the scalp.

Two days later we went back to press charges. The State of Mississippi had to prosecute, and that day they had a very quick six-man Justice of the Peace jury. Dawson and Knox and myself all testified, but the white defendant was found innocent and the case was dismissed.

August 28

Two Pivotal Sparks in Freedom Rights History

August 28, 1955

14 Year-Old Emmett Till Murdered in Mississippi

Above: Read about Till's killing at the Equal Rights Initiative.

Below: Bryan Stevenson, founder and Director of the Equal Rights Initiative, narrates this devastatingly powerful video about the impact the images of Till had on the nation.

August 28, 1963

250,000 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

John Lewis, Chairman of SNCC, the final and youngest speaker. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s "I Have a Dream" speech has attracted the most attention during the past half-decade, but Lewis and others were pivotal contributors with often more targeted demands.

Quoted in entirety from the Equal Justice Initiative

On August 27, 1960, 16-year-old NAACP Youth Council President Rodney Hurst and dozens of his peers staged a peaceful sit-in protest at a “whites only” W.T. Grant department {corrected, previously quotes as Woolworth's} lunch counter in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Throughout that month, Youth Council members had successfully organized peaceful sit-ins at Morrison’s Cafeteria and other prominent lunch counters in the city. On this Saturday, however, the young Black demonstrators were violently attacked by a mob of more than 200 white people armed with baseball bats and ax handles.

The attack began when white onlookers angered by the demonstration began spitting on the sit-in protesters and yelling racial slurs at them. When the Black demonstrators refused to respond and continued sitting peacefully, the violence escalated. The white people beat the demonstrators with wooden ax handles and baseball bats and soon spread into the streets of downtown Jacksonville, attacking Black people indiscriminately. According to reports, members of the Ku Klux Klan organized the “Ax Handle Saturday” attack, which left more than fifty people injured.

As bloodied and battered Black children fled to a nearby church to seek refuge, many white police officers joined the mob violence, arrested the fleeing civil rights demonstrators, or did nothing. “The intent was to scare, intimidate, and bring physical harm,” Rodney Hurst later recalled. “Many times you could not draw a line between the Klan and law enforcement, because law enforcement were at least accomplices to a lot of the things the Klan did.”

Watch 2020 interview with Rodney Hurst reflecting on the connections between the activism of the 60's and today's continued violence against black lives.

Also, watch: Axe Handle Saturday, 50 Years Later, Written and produced by Bill Retherford. Jacksonville Historical Society, 2010.

August 27, 1960

"Ax Handle Saturday" Attacks on Sit-In Youth in Jacksonville, Florida

16-year old Rodney Hurst, center right, head of the NAACP’s Youth Council, and fellow activist Alton Yates during a sit-in at the Jacksonville Woolworth’s lunch counter on Aug. 13, 1960, two weeks prior to "Axe Handle Saturday. (Florida Historical Society)
A Jacksonville police officer stands with Charles Griffin after he was attacked on Aug. 27, 1960, during a lunch counter protest by civil rights activists in Florida. (Florida Historical Society)

August 26, 1961

Hollis Watkins, in an interview with students from The Mississippi School of the Arts and from The Overlake School in Redmond, WA. at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, March 28, 2018. See full 92-minute interview,
Curtis Muhammad, formerly Curtis Hayes, in an interview with students from McComb High School and The Urban School of San Francisco, at the 50th anniversary of SNCC actions in Mississippi. Jackson State University, March 24, 2011. See full 70-minute interview,
Both men carried copies of a 10-cent comic book that had long been circulating among young civil rights activists. A year earlier, the 16-page comic had inspired Ezell Blair and his roommate, Joseph McNeill to stage boycotts in Greensboro, North Carolina. Days after reading it, they and two other North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College students refused to give up their seats at a Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter, launching the sit-in movement across the South.

First Sit-in Sparks Years of Direct Action in McComb, Mississippi

Local Mississippi SNCC activists, Hollis Watkins and Curtis Elmer Hayes (now, Curtis Muhammad) were arrested after briefly sitting at the Woolworth lunch counter in McComb, Mississippi. They were both arrested and sent to jail for nearly 40 days for attempting to order a cup of coffee. Watkins and Hayes' actions help ignite a series of actions in and around McComb which became a center of SNCC civil rights and voting rights campaigns.

Counterintelligence Program, COINTELPRO directive from FBI Director,J. Edgar Hoover. Full PDF document available from The National Archives.

No opportunity should be. missed to exploit through counterintelligence techniques the organizational and personal conflicts of the leadership of the groups and where possible an effort should be made to capitalize upon existing conflicts between competing black nationalist organizations. When an opportunity is apparent to disrupt or neutralize black nationalist, hate-type organizations through the cooperation of established local news media contacts or through such contact with sources available to the Seat of Government, in every instance careful attention must be given to the proposal to insure the targeted. group is disrupted, ridiculed, or discredited through the publicity and not merely publicized. Consideration should be given to techniques to preclude violence– prone or rabble rouser leaders of hate groups from spreading their philosophy publicly or through various mass communication media.

Many individuals currently active in black nationalist organizations have backgrounds of immorality, subversive activity, and criminal records. Through your investigation of key agitators you should endeavor to establish their unsavory backgrounds. Be alert to determine evidence of misappropriation of funds or other types of personal misconduct on the part of militant nationalist leaders so any practical or warranted counter-intelligence may be instituted. (Excerpt from page 3)

August 25, 1967

FBI Launches COINTELPRO Counter-Intelligence Investigation, Propaganda, and Terror Campaign Against Civil Rights Leaders

Adapted in whole from This Day in Civil Rights History

On this day in 1967, J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director, began the Counter-Intelligence Program against communist, African American, and anti-war organizations. The purpose of COINTELPRO was to weaken and neutralize activities of black, nationalist organizations. It would also gather information about extremist groups, such as the The Black Panthers, the KKK, and the Weathermen. Hoover was convinced that black groups like the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC were saturated with communist agents. Phones were tapped, offices were burglarized, and illegal substances were planted. Fake literature was distributed that misrepresented various groups’ beliefs or practices. COINTELPRO was effective. Its activities partially explain why there is still misinformation about different figures in the movement. COINTELPRO was exposed in 1970.

COINTELPRO inspired billboard claiming to identify Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a communist training school. This is actually a picture of Dr. King at the Highlander Folk School at Mount Eagle in the 1940s. Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

August 24, 1964

Protests Against Democratic Convention's Refusal to Seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Delegation

African American and white Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party supporters holding signs reading "Freedom now" and "MFDP supports LBJ" while marching on the boardwalk at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Library of Congress
African American and white Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party supporters demonstrating outside the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey; some hold signs with portraits of slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Library of Congress

Adapted in whole and in part from The SNCC Digital Gateway.

Black Mississippians, with the help of summer volunteers and SNCC field secretaries, had spent the entire summer building the MFDP. Now, sixty-eight delegates from Mississippi–”black, white, maids, ministers, farmers, painters, mechanics, schoolteachers, the young, the old”–were in Atlantic City to take the next step.

On Aug. 22, Fannie Lou Hamer and others testified before the Credentials Committee, pressing their case that Black Mississippians were systematically excluded from the regular state Democratic Party. (See below, August 22)

Mrs. Hamer’s testimony was so powerful that President Lyndon Johnson called a press conference to push her off the air. Johnson’s nomination was certain, and he knew he had locked up the Black vote. But he feared a white Southern backlash if the MFDP was seated. Therefore, he used everything in his arsenal to derail the challenge and force MFDP supporters to back down.

Finally, after much arm-twisting from the Johnson administration, party leaders offered the MFDP delegation two at-large seats at the convention, also pledging to eliminate racial discrimination in all future conventions. The delegation rejected this “compromise.” As MFDP vice chair Fannie Lou Hamer put it, “we didn’t come all this way for no two seats.”

For SNCC, the MFDP rejection was a turning point in the organization’s history. “Never again were we lulled into believing that our task was exposing injustices so that the “good” people of America could eliminate them,” recalled Cleveland Sellers. “After Atlantic City, our struggle was not for civil rights, but for liberation.”

August 23, 1954

Charleston, Arkansas First in South to Integrate Schools

Adapted in whole and in part from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Soon after the May 17, 1954 Brown v Board case declaring public school segregation as unconstitutional, the Charleston Public School District quietly integrated first through twelfth grades, without any publicity until about three weeks after school had opened for the fall term in 1954. Charleston was the first school district in the former Confederate states to integrate all twelve grades.

Charleston School Board made a historic decision. In the spirit of civic obedience, on July 27, 1954, the five-member board—consisting of President Howard Madison Orsburn, George Ferrell Hairston, Archibald R. Schaffer, Herbert E. Shumate, and Homer Keith—voted unanimously to “disband the Colored School and admit the Colored children into the grade and high school when classes open for the fall semester.”

Girls at J. S. Phelix High School in Marion, Arkansas ca. 1951. Women in Arkansas Photograph Collection, Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture.

When the fall semester opened on August 23, 1954, eleven African-American students attended classes with some 480 white students. Three were enrolled in the ninth grade and eight in the elementary grades. Those outside of the town were unaware that this small school district had made history.

Early in the morning of the first day of classes, August 23, 1954, Superintendent Haynes found a racial slur written on an outside school wall. Determined to achieve a successful merger, he and the janitor cleaned it off prior to the arrival of the students, and no one else saw it. There were, however, a few repercussions from Charleston’s integration. Some schools refused to play Charleston in football because black students were on the team. Also, Charleston was excluded from some band competitions because of black members.

In the fall of 1957, the worldwide publicity surrounding the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) bolstered the determination of a very small group of Charleston segregationists to reverse the 1954 integration. They organized and selected two candidates to run for the school board positions that had become vacant, and they campaigned and advertised extensively. The segregationists’ hopes were extinguished when they were overwhelmingly defeated by a 2-1 margin in the December 6, 1958, election.

August 22, 1964

Fannie Lou Hamer Testifies at the Democratic National Convention

Fannie Lou Hamer, the former Mississippi sharecropper who emerged as the powerful voice of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's attempt to seat an alternate delegation at the '64 Democratic National Convention.

SNCC had formed the MFDP to expand black voter registration and challenge the legitimacy of the state's all-white Democratic Party. MFDP members arrived at the 1964 Democratic National Convention intent on unseating the official Mississippi delegation or, failing that, getting seated with them. On August 22, 1964, Hamer appeared before the convention's credentials committee and told her story about trying to register to vote in Mississippi. Threatened by the MFDP's presence at the convention, President Lyndon Johnson quickly preempted Hamer's televised testimony with an impromptu press conference. But later that night, Hamer's story was broadcast on all the major networks.

Support came pouring in for the MFDP from across the nation. But the MFDP's bid to win a seat at the Atlantic City convention still failed. At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago four years later the MFDP succeeded.

Excerpted from American Public Radio. Read and listen to Hamer's full 8-minute speech.
Biographical film on Fannie Lou Hamer, Mississippi Public Broadcasting

All of this is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens. And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?

From Freedom Summer, American Experience, PBS
Robert P. "Bob" Moses and Fannie Lou Hamer at the 1964 National Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., © George Ballis

August 21, 1966

Panel of Civil Rights Leaders Present Diverging Views on NBC's Meet the Press

Excerpted from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford

In 1966, soon after the term “Black Power” began to be used among some civil rights activists, Meet the Press broadcasted a special 90-minute show with a panel of civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr; Wilkins; Whitney Young, director of the National Urban League; Floyd McKissick, director of the Congress of Racial Equality; Stokely Carmichael, chairman of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and James Meredith, who had recently been shot while marching to promote voter registration. The discussion addressed perceived tensions within the civil rights movement and was later entered in full into the Congressional Record.

Read full text from original NBC transcript.
5-minute overview, NBC Archives

August 20, 1963

Bombing at Home of Authur Shores, Birmingham Civil Rights Lawyer

Excerpted in whole from Wikipedia

Arthur Davis Shores was an American civil rights attorney who was considered Alabama's "drum major for justice".

Shores' campaign in 1963 to integrate the Birmingham public schools brought violence to him and other residents. Shore's home was fire-bombed on August 20 and September 4 in retaliation for black parents registering their children at white schools. Eleven days later a bomb killed four girls at 16th Street Baptist Church. He argued before the Supreme court in the same year that the arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Birmingham should be ruled unconstitutional.

During the 1960s, he became the first black member of the Birmingham City Council.

Previously, in 1955, Shores successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Lucy v. Adams to prevent the University of Alabama from denying admission solely based on race or color. Autherine Lucy became the first African-American to attend the school when she was admitted in 1956. On the third day of classes, a hostile mob assembled to prevent Lucy from attending classes. The police were called to secure her admission but, that evening, the University suspended Lucy on the grounds that it could not provide a safe environment.

Attorney Aurthur Shore's home was bombed twice, once on Aug. 20 and again on two weeks later. Between 1948 and 1963, some 50 unsolved Klan bombings happened in Smithfield where the Shores family lived, earning their neighborhood the nickname “Dynamite Hill."
he Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill: The Untold Story of Authur Shores and His Family's Fight for Civil Rights.
Damage from the first bomb. The second bomb two weeks later further damaged the Shores' house.
Short video – Children from the NAACP Youth Council took part in sit-ins in 1958 to desegregate the Katz Drug Store lunch counter in downtown Oklahoma City. The late civil rights activist and teacher Clara Luper organized the Youth Council and served as adviser. [John Melton Collection, OHS.]

August 19, 1958

Clara Luper Leads High School Students in Oklahoma In One of the Nation's First Lunch Counter Sit-Ins

Excerpted in whole from Katz Drug Store Sit-In, Wikipedia

Clara Luper, a black high school teacher in Oklahoma City, was a civil rights activist and the advisor for the Oklahoma City NAACP. Luper took a trip with her students to New York City where they witnessed blacks living in a desegregated environment. They experienced integrated restaurants and other freedoms that black people in Oklahoma City had not been accustomed to. After their return to Oklahoma, Luper’s daughter Marilyn asked, "Why didn't I just go in and ask for a Coca-Cola and a hamburger?" in reference to the Katz Drug Store. This prompted Luper to stage a sit-in with thirteen of her black students.

Along with Clara Luper, the participants of the sit-in were Marilyn Luper, Calvin Luper, Portwood Williams, Jr., Richard Brown, Barbara Posey, Alma Faye Washington, Areda Tollivar Spinks, Elmer Edwards, Lynzetta Jones Carter, Gwendolyn Fuller Mukes, Lana Pogue, Linda Pogue, and Betty Germany.

Before the event, Luper gathered the students to teach them about the principles of civil disobedience and to train them on how to react to opposition. After their preparation, the first day of the sit-in began on August 19, 1958, when Clara Luper and the children sat down at the counter of the Katz Drug Store and ordered food and drinks. They were refused service, but they stayed at the counter for hours while whites kicked them, punched them, spat at them, and poured things on them. They returned for two more days; on the third day of their protest, one of the employees served them their food, ending segregation in the restaurant.

Clara Luper and students gather at a later protest in Oklahoma City, 1958. Oklahoma Gazette.

August 18, 1963

James Meredith Graduates from Ole Miss

Text below excerpted in whole from the Civil Rights Digital Library

In this WSB newsfilm clip from Oxford, Mississippi on August 18, 1963, African American student and integrationist James Meredith graduates from the University of Mississippi, or "Ole Miss." The clip begins with people sitting on chairs placed on a lawn. James Meredith, wearing a cap and gown, marches with other graduates. Music plays in the background while graduates, including Meredith, wait to sit down. Next, graduates are seen lined up waiting for their name to be called. Meredith walks across the stage as his name is called, receiving his degree and shaking hands with officials in the line.

African American James Meredith first applied to the segregated University of Mississippi in January 1961. After his application was denied, Meredith, with the help of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, filed a federal lawsuit in May 1961. Following a series of court decisions and appeals, United States Supreme Court justice Hugo Black on September 10, 1962 ordered Ole Miss to admit Meredith.

In response, Mississippi governor Ross Barnett threatened to close the university. Other Mississippi officials and members of the Mississippi Board of Regents obstructed Meredith's admission, causing the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to declare the university's board of trustees in contempt of court. President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy worked with Governor Barnett to resolve the standoff between the state and federal governments.

On Sunday, September 30, 1962, after federal marshals escorted Meredith onto campus, white students and citizens rioted by throwing brickbats, lead pipes, and Molotov cocktails; they also destroyed military trucks by slashing tires and burning the canvas tops. Federal marshals responded by firing tear gas, and President Kennedy sent federal troops to the Ole Miss campus. Two people were killed during the riot; an estimated three hundred more were wounded. The Army National Guard remained on campus until Meredith's graduation on August 18, 1963.

Video clip of James Merridith at the graduation ceremony, Oxford, Mississippi, August 18, 1963 [WSB-TV, Atlanta, Ga.] listed on the Civil Rights Digital Library
James Meredith sits alone on his first day of class. A photographer who was there remembers the other students leaving the room in protest. Ed Meek, as posted on NPR.
Text below excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

An estimated 1,000 white men and women participated in a Ku Klux Klan initiation ceremony just outside of Warwick, New York.

Newspapers reported that motorists traveling from the city of Warwick to the city of Florida in New York on the evening of August 16 were stopped by guards connected to the Ku Klux Klan rally and asked for a “password” to enter the public area. Beginning at 9 p.m., hundreds of white people who arrived for the initiation gathered in an open field near the highway and burned a cross more than 20 feet tall. The meeting lasted until the early hours of the morning on August 17.

Hundreds of people in the open field dressed in “full regalia” with robes bearing the insignia of the white supremacist organization meant that “the white hoods and the red crosses, embroidered on the breasts of the loose garments could be plainly seen even from a distance of several hundred yards” by eye-witnesses. The leader of the Klansmen reportedly spoke about the organization’s commitment to opposing interracial marriage, as well as their dislike of foreigners.

During this era, white supremacist organizations sought to maintain racial hierarchy and dominance through terror. Organized groups committed to the myth of the inferiority of Black people such as White Citizens’ Councils and the Ku Klux Klan drew in crowds of hundreds, and often thousands. Claiming prominent politicians and other high-ranking members of white society, the Ku Klux Klan mounted campaigns of racial terror violence and used political power to uphold segregation and racial hierarchy.

Learn more about this history from The Equal Justice Iniatitive’s report, Segregation in America.

August 17, 1923

1000 New Yorkers Join Klan in Opposition to Interracial Marriage

Image from a similar KKK gathering in Vermont, a year later in 1924. Vermont History

August 16, 1967

Martin Luther King, Jr. Speech, "Where Do We Go From Here?"

Excerpts from "Where Do We Go From Here?," Address Delivered at the Eleventh Annual SCLC Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford.

Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.

Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.

Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied.

Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol will be housed by a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy, and who will walk humbly with his God.

Listen to full speech, August 16, 1967

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.

Let us be dissatisfied, and men will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, "White Power!" when nobody will shout, "Black Power!" but everybody will talk about God's power and human power.

August 15, 1961

Robert "Bob" Moses Arrested for Trying to Help Register Voters in Liberty, Mississippi

Bob Moses, a field secretary for SNCC, traveled to McComb, Mississippi in July, 1961 to lead SNCC's first voter registration project. The excerpt below, recounting one of the first of many arrests for Moses in the region, was written by Tom Hayden.

See interview with Hayden, conducted by students from McComb High School and the Urban School of San Francisco on in March 24, 2011 and the October 8, 2011 interview with Bob Moses by McComb High School students.

"Moses and the others began to rebuild. People were talked to; nights were spent in the most remote areas; days were spent canvassing all around. Then on August 15th, the first of a still continuing series of "incidents" occurred. On that day, Moses drove to Liberty (yes, it is ironic), the county seat of Amite, with three Negroes (Ernest Isaac, Bertha Lee Hughes and Matilda Schoby) who wished to register. Moses was asked to leave the registrar's office while the three attempted to fill out the registration forms. The three claim that while they were so engaged the registrar assisted a white female in answering several of the questions. Upon completing the test, the applicants were told by the registrar that their attempts were inadequate. The registrar then placed the papers in his desk and asked the three not to return for at least six months, at which time presumably they might try further. (I have been told by a reliable Federal source that the tests were not of a quality character.)

Leaving Liberty, driving toward McComb, the group was followed by a highway patrolman, Marshall Carwyle Bates of Liberty, who flagged them over to the side of the road. Bates asked the driver, Isaac, to step out of his car and get inside of the police car in the rear. Isaac complied. Then Moses left the car and walked back to the police car to inquire about the nature of the pull-over. Bates ordered Moses back to the car and shoved him. Thereupon, Moses began to write the Marshall's name on a pad of paper, and was shoved into the car. Moses, incidentally, was referred to as the "nigger who's come to tell the niggers how to register." Finally, the contingent of four Negroes was ordered to drive to the Justice of the Peace's office in McComb, where Moses was eventually charged with impeding an officer in the discharge of his duties, fined $50 and given a suspended sentence. Moses phoned the Justice Department, collect, from the station, which alerted the police to his significance. (The local paper called collect the next day, was refused by the Justice Department, and asked editorially why Moses was so privileged.) The fine was paid by the NAACP in order to appeal the case, and Moses did go to jail for a period of two days, during which he did not eat. "

Image: Bob Moses (right) during voter registration work in the Mississippi countryside, 1963, Danny Lyon. SNCC Digital Gateway

August 14, 1965

Jonathan Daniels Jailed in Alabama Days Before His Murder

Text below excerpted in whole from the This Week in Civil Rights History

Jonathan Daniels was a white Episcopal seminarian who rushed south after hearing about Bloody Sunday to take part in the Selma-to-Montgomery March. During a voting rights demonstration, Daniels was arrested and locked up in a Lowndes County jail in Hayneville, Alabama on this day in 1965. Released six days later, Daniels and his companions entered a small store. Inside the store, Tom Coleman, a white man, armed with a shotgun, ordered them to leave and pointed his gun at student Ruby Sales, a fellow activist and Tuskegee Institute student. Daniels pulled the young woman back and stepped in front of her just as Coleman fired, killing Daniels instantly and saving Ms. Sales. Another clergyman, Reverend Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest from Chicago, similarly was severely injured when he stepped in front of another black student, Joyce Bailey, saving her life, Coleman was acquitted by and all-white jury of all charges related to the murder and maiming.

The Episcopal Church recognizes Daniels as one of 15 modern=day martyrs of the church. August 14, the day of his arrest and jailing, is observed in his memory.

See more about Jonathan Daniels at

Image from Encyclopedia of Alabama

August 13, 1955

Voting Rights Activist Lamar Smith Murdered in Mississippi

Text below quoted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On the morning of August 13, 1955, Lamar Smith, a 63-year-old African American farmer and veteran of World War I, was shot and killed in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi, while encouraging African Americans to vote in a local run-off election.

Mr. Smith, a voting rights advocate affiliated with the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, had been threatened and warned to stop trying to register and organize African American voters in the community. His murder took place on the courthouse lawn in front of dozens of witnesses, including Sheriff Robert E. Case, who permitted one of the alleged assailants to leave the crime scene covered in blood. Days later, that man and two others were arrested in connection with the shooting. All three suspects were white.

In September 1955, a grand jury composed of 20 white men declined to indict the three suspects for murder after witnesses failed to come forward to testify. Following the grand jury’s report, District Attorney E.C. Barlow criticized the lack of witness cooperation and complained about the sheriff’s handling of the case. Despite Barlow’s public promises to proceed with the investigation, the criminal case against the three suspects was dismissed and no one was punished for Lamar Smith's murder.

The shooting of Lamar Smith was one of several racially-motivated attacks in Mississippi in 1955. Others included the May murder of civil rights leader George Lee in Belzoni; the August abduction and murder of Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta; and the near-fatal shooting of Gus Courts in Belzoni in December 1955. Throughout the next decade and beyond, Mississippi would be known as one of the most violent and deadly environments in the fight for equal rights.

Documentary film includes interviews with Jelani Cobb, Jerry Mitchell, Jaribu Hill, and Congressman Bennie Thompson.

Also on this day, August 13, 1960, "Ax Handle Saturday" lunch counter protests begin in Jacksonville, Florida.

August 12, 1965

King Speaks Against the Vietnam War at Mass rally in Birmingham.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began speaking out against the Vietnam War, helping to spark increased Civil Rights Movement attention to the war and it's relationship to the impact on Blacks who were disproportionally the fighting soldiers.

Presented below in whole from the Anti-Draft Movement, SNCC Digital Gateway

All of this first began to take concrete shape in July 1965, when local activists in McComb, Mississippi circulated a leaflet following the death of John D. Shaw in Vietnam. Shaw had been a student at Burglund High School during the 1961 protests in McComb. The McComb position emphasized the lack of racial equality in the U.S. and expressed solidarity with people of color in Santo Domingo and Vietnam. No Black Mississippian should be fighting in Vietnam for the white man’s freedom, the statement said, “until all the Negro people are free in Mississippi.”

This was the first anti-war statement by a civil rights organization. But, a month later, on August 12, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his first speech opposing the war in Vietnam at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama.

By August 1966, opposition reached its height when several members of SNCC’s Atlanta Project gathered at the Army Corps and Induction Center for the Atlanta area to protest the drafting of Black men to fight in the Vietnam War. The demonstrators carried placards saying, “The Vietcong never called me ‘Nigger’” among others.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering a later speech in 1967,

FBI secret files on Martin Luther King, Jr,, National Archives

"Few events in my lifetime have stirred my conscience and pained my heart as much as the present conflict which is raging in Viet Nam. The day by day reports of villages destroyed and people left homeless raise burdensome questions within my conscience.

This is indeed a complex situation. One on which even the experts are divided. There is no need to place blame, and I certainly do not intend to argue the military or political issues involved. Neither the American people nor the people of North Viet Nam is the enemy. The true enemy is war itself, and people on both sides are trapped in its inexorable destruction. To look back and attempt to place blame is only to enhance the negative psychological atmosphere that fosters war. What is required is a small first step that may establish a new spirit of mutual confidence and respect a step capable of breaking the cycle of mistrust, violence and war."

August 11, 1965

Los Angeles Watts Riots Erupt

On this day in 1965, a six-day riot erupted in the ghetto of Watts, Los Angeles. The riot began when a man was pulled over for erratic driving. As the police used batons on the driver, his brother, and their mother, a crowd gathered. The angry crowd began harassing traffic. When police attempted to break up the crowd, rioters threw rocks, bottles, and pipes. Looting began and fires broke out in surrounding neighborhoods. On August 14th the National Guard was brought in. Slowly the rioters dispersed, and by the 17th the incident was over. 34 were dead and more than 1,000 injured. Watts became a symbol for urban neglect. This Day in Civil Rights History

August 10, 1964

Freedom School Students Respond to Firebombed Building in Gluckstadt, Mississippi

On the night of August 10, 1964, the Mt. Pleasant Society Hall in Gluckstadt (Madison County), Mississippi, was firebombed and destroyed. The building being used by the community Freedom School which taught students, ages 12 to 24. When they discovered that their school had been burned by racists, the Freedom School teachers asked the students to record their thoughts and feelings.

See all the student responses. Note that student names were withheld to protect them and their families from Klan retaliation.
Ruins of Mt. Pleasant Society Hall, a Baptist church in Gluckstadt, Mississippi. The church housed a CORE Voter School (Freedom School). According to reports at the time, the fire department never arrived.

August 9, 1964

Memorial Services Held for Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, 2 Days After James Chaney Buried

The funerals and memorials of slain civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were held over the 3-days ending on August 9, 1964. Chaney was buried in Meridian, Mississippi on August 7, and services for both Goodman and Schwerner were held in New York on August 9. The New York Times prominently covered all 3 events.

Dave Dennis, Assistant Director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) delivers a stirring emotional eulogy at the funeral of James Cheney in Meridian, Mississippi, August 7, 1964. Freedom Summer, clip 17
Mrs. Fannie Lou Chaney with younger son Ben Chaney at James Chaney Funeral, August 7, 1964 in Meridian, Mississippi. Bill Eppridge
Mrs. Caroline Goodman, center, with Mrs. Fannie Chaney, mother of James E. Chaney, slain civil rights worker, left, and Mrs. Nathan Schwerner, mother of slain Michael Schwerner, are escorted from Ethical Culture Society Hall August 9, 1964, after attending funeral services for her son Andrew Goodman, in New York. More than 1,200 mourners attended services for Goodman. Caption from CBS News. AP Photo

August 8, 2020

Matt Herron, Civil Rights Movement Photographer, Dies at Age 89

Note from Howard: I am breaking from the strict chronology to honor Matt Herron, the acclaimed documentary photographer of the Civil Rights Movement. Matt died yesterday at age 89 doing what he loved: flying a glider plane over northern California.

This short snippet of Matt describoing the events leading to an iconic photo is from a 2+ hour interview with Matt on July 21, 2010, conducted by several educators. See his full interview at Telling Their Stories. Students in our Oral History Production of the Civil Rights Movement recently completed an interview with Matt's wife, Dr Jeannine Herron.

That photo was taken in the summer of 1965 when I was back in Mississippi. COFO, the Council of Civil Rights Organizations, was trying to break the back of segregation in Jackson in that summer by filling the jails. They had filled the jails and the Jackson police had then opened the cattle stockades at the fairground. They were incarcerating people under the blazing sun in the cattle stockades.

The Movement had gotten to the point where they were running out of people, out of bodies to go to jail. So they changed tactics. The tactic would be non-violently you would announce what you were going to do to the police and where you were going to do it. You would arrive and before you could do your demonstration, they would bring up the paddy wagon and arrest everybody and take them off. Now they stopped announcing. Instead of doing big demonstrations, they were doing little guerrilla groups unannounced around the city, demonstrations that the police had no idea about. They would rush there and arrest people and then there would be another one here. So there was a lot of press in town. It was a kind of press pack. The press didn't know where these were occurring either because if they did know, somebody would have leaked it to the cops. So we'd hear on a scanner that this is happening here and everyone would rush there. Usually they got there after it was all finished and then everyone would sit on a curb and wait for the next one.

So I'm sitting on the curb there and I'm thinking, "Now, I don't know where the next demonstration is, but I do know one thing, it's not going to be here where I am right now. So I may not find the next one, but I'm sure as hell not going to find it here. So I'm better off moving."

So I got up and I began walking toward Capitol Street, which is the main street of Jackson. As I was walking down the sidewalk past the governor's mansion, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this flurry of activity. It was a mother and her three children—Mrs.Eileen Quinn of McComb, Mississippi. She was a civil rights leader, a local person from there, whose house had been firebombed the month before by the Klan. She had two daughters and a son with her.

Anthony Quinn, age 5, June 17, 1965, Matt Herron, Take Stock

The fourth person was June Finer, an M.D. from the Medical Committee for Human Rights, who'd tried to enter the fairgrounds to give medical aid to people who were suffering out in the sun and been refused by the Jackson police. She decided the way to get in was to take her medical bag and get arrested. And then there she would be. They were sitting on the side steps of the governor's mansion with a sign saying, "Protesting the fact that Mississippi senators had been elected without black representation."

I ran down the sidewalk and arrived there. The police had just come in and they were in the process of arresting Mrs. Quinn and her children, including five year old Anthony Quinn. The kids held little American flags. The flags were an important symbol in the South. An American flag said very simply, "I would like the laws of the United States to be enforced in Mississippi." If you had a Confederate flag on your pickup truck, it said, "We like things the way they are."

So people were pulled from cars and beaten on the highways in Mississippi because they had an American flag decal on their license plate frame. So carrying an American flag was an act of rebellion. \

The policeman, in the process of arresting little Anthony, tried to take the flag away from him. Mrs. Quinn said, "Anthony, don't let that man take your flag!" And Anthony, with all his five year bravery, Anthony held onto the flag. The ceiling had collapsed on him when the firebomb came through the front porch so he was already a civil rights veteran at five. The policeman undoubtedly had never experienced resistance from a small black child before. This was not in his lexicon and he reacted by yanking, by trying to yank the flag out of Anthony's hands. Anthony hung onto it and he was lifted off the sidewalk.

I was in close with a 24 mm lens. One thing I learned early on was you can't photograph action standing back with a telephoto lens. It doesn't look like anything. You've got to be right on top of it with the widest angle lens you've got. And then the action just flows around you and you get these very dynamic shots. So I was as close to them as I could possibly get and frame it, working totally on instinct, just winding film through the camera. This whole thing was like that. Nobody saw me. Everybody was so focused on what was going on and that was typical in these events. You were, at least for moments, you were almost invisible. At the end of it, it turned out a reporter from the Times and the LA Times were there. Almost in a whisper, they said to me, "Did you get it?" And I said, "I think I did." So we made a deal on the spot to transmit the image for front page publication in the LA Times and the NY Times the next morning.

Dr. Jeannine Herron & Matt Herron, May 18, 2020 - at the conclusion of a Zoom-recorded interview.

Led by L.A. Mueller, the grand Kleagle of Washington, the Ku Klux Klan booked 18 trains for their march and rally. Hotels filled with the hooded men. Lunch stands and tobacco shops quickly sold out. The Klan even brought their own ambulances to escort those felled by the August heat.

The Post story rhapsodizes about their parade pageantry but says very little about the group’s espousal of hatred. However, it does criticize their parade skills: “There were few drilled marchers in the parade. At times their lines, extending the full length of the Avenue, swayed hopelessly back and forth.”

August 7, 1962

Black Activists Swim in Segregated Pool in Raleigh, North Carolina

Pullen Park Pool August 7, 1962, by David Hoffman

Presented in whole from photo caption by photographer David Hoffman.

The public swimming pool in Pullen Park (Raleigh, North Carolina) was closed by the city after four black males went swimming with two white companions on August 7, 1962. All public pools in the city were closed until the issue could be resolved. Swimming facilities had been segregated and the city council felt that the public could not accept desegregation of swimming pools. Although this is a small incident in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, this demonstration was part of the cumulative effort on the part of African-Americans for equal rights in the country.

See above blog post by historian David Cecelski who writes about multiple attempts to integrate beaches and pools in the '60's.

It was claimed that city leaders later filled the pool with concrete assuring it would never been used again, however this requires additional research - see related Facebook post.

The Voting Rights Act was the culmination of organized civil rights activism and came after unchecked, systematic voter suppression had targeted African American communities in the South for generations. The VRA outlawed discriminatory barriers to voting like poll taxes and literacy tests, and also imposed strict oversight upon states and districts with histories of voter discrimination. The new law quickly proved extremely effective; Black registration rates soon rose throughout the South and Black officials were elected at the highest rates since Reconstruction. In this way, the VRA directly confronted and addressed a century of racist voting policies.

August 6, 1965

Voting Rights Act of 1965 Signed Into Law

Click above for full story. Adapted in whole and in part from the Equal Justice Initiative.

August 5, 1966

Martin Luther King, Jr. Attacked During Chicago March

Adapted in whole and in part from The Surprising Story Behind This Shocking Photo of Martin Luther King Jr. Under Attack, TIME

During the final years of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. turned his attention to the plight of the poor, in particular in the North, focusing on Chicago. He said, “It is reasonable to believe that if the problems of Chicago, the nation’s second largest city, can be solved, they can be solved everywhere.”

The Chicago campaign — the slogan for which was, at one point, simply “End Slums” — became known as the Chicago Freedom Movement, a collaboration between King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Chicago’s Coordinating Council of Community Organizations. One of its leaders was James Bevel, who had been an architect of the Children’s Crusade that was part of the May 1963 March on Birmingham. That summer in Chicago, two marches helped get the word out about what local civil rights activists were fighting for.

On Aug. 5, 1966, in Marquette Park, where King was planning to lead a march to a realtor’s office to demand properties be sold to everyone regardless of their race, he got swarmed by about 700 white protesters hurling bricks, bottles and rocks. One of those rocks hit King, and his aides rushed to shield him, as the photo shows.

“The blow knocked King to one knee and he thrust out an arm to break the fall,” the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. “He remained in this kneeling position, head bent, for a few seconds until his head cleared.”

Afterward, King told reporters, “I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’m seeing in Chicago.”

Hit n the head by a rock thrown by a group of hecklers, Dr. Martin Luther King falls to one knee. Dr. King regained his feet and led a group of marchers demonstrating alleged housing discrimination through an all-white district in Chicago, Aug. 5, 1966. Bettmann / Getty Images - Time

August 4, 1964

Bodies of Civil Rights Workers Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman Discovered

Text below copied in whole, the Equal Rights Initiative

On August 4, 1964, following several weeks of national news coverage and an intensive search by federal authorities, the bodies of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were found in Longdale, Mississippi. The three men, who went missing after being released from a local Mississippi jail, had been shot to death and buried in a shallow grave.

Earlier that year, Michael Schwerner had traveled to Mississippi to organize Black citizens to vote. A white New Yorker working with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Mr. Schwerner worked extensively with a Black CORE member from Meridian, Mississippi, named James Chaney. The activist pair led an effort to register Black voters and helped Mt. Zion Methodist Church, a Black church in Longdale, create an organizing center.

From Freedom Summer | American Experience | PBS

These developments angered local members of the Ku Klux Klan; on June 16, while Mr. Schwerner and Mr. Chaney were away, Klansmen torched the church and assaulted its members.

A member of the Ku Klux Klan, Mr. Price had been monitoring the activities of the civil rights workers. He arrested the men on traffic charges and held them in jail for about seven hours before releasing them on bail. Price escorted Mr. Schwerner, Mr. Chaney, and Mr. Goodman out of town, but soon re-arrested the men and held them until other Klansmen could join. They were not seen alive again.

When the three activists did not arrive in Meridian, they were reported missing and soon became the subjects of a highly-publicized FBI search and investigation. As the days turned into weeks, some Mississippi officials and white segregationists accused civil rights leaders of fabricating the workers' disappearance to gain support for their cause. Once the three men's bodies were discovered on August 4, however, no one could deny their fates.

While their disappearance resulted in national news stories, Michael Schwerner’s wife and fellow-CORE worker, Rita, admonished reporters in 1964: “The slaying of a Negro in Mississippi is not news. It is only because my husband and Andrew Goodman were white that the national alarm has been sounded.”

Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement following the missing civil rights workers death

Indeed, investigators searching Mississippi’s woods, fields, swamps, and rivers that summer found the remains of eight African American men: Henry Dee and Charles Moore, college students who were kidnapped, beaten, and murdered in May 1964; and six unidentified corpses, including one wearing a CORE T-shirt.

Scroll below to read full account by Eric Rainey, SNCC Field Secretary

August 3, 1963

Hundreds of Protesters Beaten and Arrested in Gadsden, Alabama

Multiple civil rights protests occurred throughout the summer of 1963, beginning in mid-June. when hundreds of peaceful, nonviolent marchers were arrested over multiple evenings.Police and State Troopers attacked protesters with a new weapon: cattle prods.

Violence against protesters came to a head on August 3. A mass march led by Rev. L.A. Warren was attacked by Alabama State Troopers using clubs, dogs, firehoses, and electric cattle prods. Under the command of Al Lingo, the marchers were arrested, and then beaten on the way to jail.. The overflow prisoners were lined up on the street two by two. The prisoners were herded down the street to the Gadsden Coliseum almost two miles away. Lingo wanted to provoke violence by the demonstrators to justify even greater brutality and felony charges against Movement leaders, but the East Gadsden Brotherhood held to its nonviolent discipline, denying victory to the hated troopers. "We won't turn around," vowed Rev. Warren.

Adapted in whole and in part from Savage Repression in Gadsden, AL.
Images of protesters and hecklers in Gadsden, Alabama, June 10, 1963. AP photo

August 2, 1963

Protesters Arrested in Clarksdale, Mississippi Sitting at Walgreen's Lunch Counter

Clarksdale, in Coahoma County, Mississippi was a center of civil rights actions throughout the early 1960's. This is just a snippet from one day in 1963, "Police arrested 5 Negroes during a lunch counter sit-in. Officers picked up the three women and two men when they took seats and tried to desegregate a lunch counter for whites in a Walgreen's drug store."

Clarksdale police mocking photographer Danny LyonMagnum Photos, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1963
John Lewis, Clarksdale Miss, May, 1963, by Steve Schapiro, republished on the cover of TIME, commemorating the life of Rep. John Lewis, August 3, 2020

August 1, 1955

Georgia Board of Education Fired All Teachers Who Held Membership in the NAACP

Schools throughout the country implemented a host of barriers in reaction to the Brown vs. Board ruling in 1954 mandating desegregation of schools throughout the country. This is just one tactic, banning teacher affiliation with the NAACP.

Above: Jet, Aug. 6, 1959
Left: Linda Brown, plaintiff in Brown vs. Board of Education, sitting in her segregated classroom (center) at the Monroe School in Topeka, KS in 1953. Photo from PBS

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

#ohpcrm #civilrights