January 31, 1964
Louis Allen, Local Witness to the Herbert Lee Murder, Assassinated in Liberty, Amite County, Mississippi
The traditional narrative of the Civil Rights Movement often ignores the fact that the struggle for civil rights, voting rights, and freedom was a life and death struggle, as exemplified by this story.
WWII veteran Louis Allen was murdered on January 31, 1964.
Allen had witnessed the murder of NAACP chapter charter member and SNCC supporter Herbert Lee by state legislator E. H. Hurst on September 25, 1961.
Allen secretly talked to Justice Department officials, telling them that he was willing to testify against Hurst if they him provided federal protection. The Justice Department refused. Word that Allen was talking to the feds was leaked to white segregationists. Death threats were made against Allen and his timber business suffered from boycotts.
Allen knew his life was in danger if he stayed in Amite County, but he had to care for his elderly mother. Movement organizers begged the FBI to provide him protection. They still refused. After his mother passed away, Allen made plans to move to Milwaukee.
On January 31, 1964, the night before Allen was to leave, he was killed. The Amite County sheriff assured reporters that Allen’s assassination had nothing to do with voting rights. The FBI quickly endorsed the sheriff’s version, claiming (falsely) that there was not a federal crime because “the victim is not a registered voter, has never been active in voter registration activities, and there has been no voter registration activity in Amite County in the past two or three years.”
No one was ever arrested for Allen’s murder.
Cold case: The murder of Louis Allen
January 30, 1956
Martin Luther King's Home Bombed in Montgomery Alabama 1-Month Into Bus Boycott
On the evening of January 30, 1956, one month after the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott, the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was bombed while his wife Coretta, seven-week-old daughter Yolanda, and a neighbor were inside. The front of the home was damaged but no one was injured.
Dr. King was speaking at a large meeting when he learned about the bombing. He rushed home to find a large crowd gathered outside, some carrying weapons and prepared to take action in his defense. The crowd cheered Dr. King's arrival, and the mayor and police commissioner urged the crowd to remain calm and promised the bombing would be fully investigated.
Dr. King confirmed his family was safe and then addressed the anxious and angry crowd, many of whom were members of his church. He advocated for nonviolence. "If you have weapons," he pleaded, "take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek them. We cannot solve this problem through violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence." The crowd dispersed peacefully after Dr. King assured them, "Go home and don't worry. We are not hurt, and remember, if anything happens to me there will be others to take my place."
No one was ever prosecuted or held accountable for this bombing on Dr. King's home.
January 29, 1962
Linda Woodruff & Owen Cardwell First to Integrate High School in Lynchburg, Virginia
On January 29, 1962, Owen Cardwell, Jr. and Lynda Woodruff became as the first two African-American students to attend previously all-white E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Woodruff & Cardwell's lives became forever intertwined the morning of Jan. 29, 1962, when armed with a court order, they showed up at Glass with their parents to walk across a literal and figurative threshold. Lynda was 13 years old, Owen 14, and they enrolled as freshmen. Although no overt violence greeted them on that day, or even thereafter, the two students hardly were made to feel welcome.
Woodruff, who passed away in March 2018, went on to earn a doctorate and take her place as a leader in the field of physical therapy, serving as chairman of that department at North Georgia College and frequently speaking before national academic and medical audiences. Cardwell became pastor of the New Canaan International Church in Richmond, VA.
“People talk about her civil rights heritage, but Lynda was a tremendous force in making sure that minorities got an opportunity to be trained physical therapists. She was a giant in that field, not just as a physical therapist but as an educator,” Cardwell said.
But she never forgot her four years as a virtual alien at E.C. Glass, frequently returning to her hometown to give talks on that experience.
“Are we glad we did it?” she mused during one of those visits home in 2012. “Most of the time. Would I do it again? It depends on the day.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. After a federal court ruled African-American students had to be admitted to previously all-white E.C. Glass High School, a community meeting was held at Diamond Hill Baptist Church to encourage students at all-black Dunbar High School to transfer. Woodruff remembered “more than a dozen” raising their hands, but only four families decided to stay the course.
“Owen and I were picked to go first,” Woodruff said, “and our IQ’s were published in the newspaper.”
Woodruff and Cardwell stuck it out at E.C. Glass and graduated. Yet even as she was walking across the stage to receive her diploma, Woodruff once recalled, “Some big ol’ fat guy yelled ‘Sapphire!’ (a character from the old ‘Amos and Andy’ program). He just had to get it out one last time.”
Freshman year was by far the worst, since two other Dunbar transfers joined them at Glass the following fall. During that first semester, Woodruff became accustomed to other students leaving the table when she sat down to eat lunch, a school bus driver repeatedly driving past her stop without slowing down and a daily diet of snickers and racial jokes.
When Woodruff and Cardwell returned to Dunbar one night for a basketball game, they were snubbed by former friends who told them: “What are you doing back here? You go to the white school now.”
“Martin Luther King had prepared us for name-calling,” Woodruff once said, “and we were true blue to that. What devastated us was being stripped of all the things we’d been identified with.”
Academics also proved a challenge.
“When we left Dunbar, we were on Chapter 11 in our Latin books,” Woodruff said. “When we got to Glass, we sat down the first day and the teacher said, ‘Open your books to Chapter 32.’ I remember we looked across the room at each other. Owen was being brave. I started to cry.”
January 28, 1963
Harvey Gantt Integrates Clemson University, First to Break College Color-Barrier in South Carolina
In 1961, Harvey Gantt attended Iowa State University. After one year of study, he returned to South Carolina and soon afterwards sued to enter racially segregated Clemson University. On January 16, 1963, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Clemson to admit Gantt who became its first African American student on January 28. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Clemson with honors in 1965. In 1970, Gantt earned a M.A. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gantt is an architect and former politician from Charleston, South Carolina. He has served on the North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Council, the Democratic National Committee, and the National Capital Planning Commission.
As an architecht, 1971 he collaborated with civil rights activist Floyd B. McKissick to design Soul City, North Carolina, an experimental interracial community in eastern North Carolina.
In 1974 Gantt’s political career began with his appointment to the Charlotte City Council to fill the seat vacated by Fred Alexander, the council’s only black member. While on the council, he encouraged black voting and reformed the process of electing city council members. In 1983
Gantt was nominated as the Democratic candidate for mayor and elected as Charlotte’s first and, to date, only black mayor. He won the election with 52% of the overall vote and 36% of the white vote and then served a four-year term as mayor.
Gantt has also received awards from the Charlotte branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Leadership Charlotte in 2006.
January 27, 1966
Kentucky Civil Rights Act of 1966 Signed, Caps Years of Protest Efforts
Civil Rights Bill Signed
FRANKFORT, Ky., Jan. 27 (UPI)
With a Negro chorus singing the ''Battle Hymn of the Republic, Governor Breathitt signed today the first state civil rights bill enacted in the old South.
The singing by a choir from Kentucky State College filled the marble halls of the Capitol and a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln cast a symbolic shadow over the Governor as he signed the legislation before a cheerinng crowd of nearly 1,000 persons.
"This civil rights act is a moral commitment kept after a hundred years of hope deferred–a promisory note long overdue.," Breathitt said referrlng to Lincoln's Emancipa tlon Proclamation.
The civil rights bill will take effect July 1. It bans all discrimina.tion on racial and other grounds in public places and in employment by businesses with eight or more workers.
Kentucky Governor Edward (Ned) T. Breathitt, Jr. signing the KY Civil Rights bill on January 27, 1966. Gov. Breathitt presents pens to various dignitaries including Dr. A.D. Williams King, younger brother of Martin Luther King, Jr. - KYStateArchives
January 26, 1956
Martin Luther King Arrested & Jailed in Montgomery, Alabama for Speeding Driving 30mph – His First of 29 Arrests
By January, 1956, the Montgomery Bus boycott was in full-swing. Black citizens in Montgomery, Alabama were refusing to ride the city’s private buses to protest racially segregated seating.
On the afternoon of January 26, 1956, twenty-seven-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. had finished his day of work at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. On his drive home, King stopped his vehicle to offer a ride to a group of bus boycotters standing at a downtown car-pool location. After the boycotters entered King’s car, two motorcycle policemen pulled-in behind King’s vehicle. While everyone in King’s car tried to remain calm, the police continued to follow King’s car. At the next car-pool location, when some of King’s passengers began to exit, one of the policemen pulled next to King’s window, stating: “‘Get out, King. You’re under arrest for speeding thirty miles an hour in a twenty-five-mile zone.’” While stunned by the police action, King did not protest. He was arrested and taken to the Montgomery City Jail, where he was processed, fingerprinted and jailed with other black prisoners, , including a schoolteacher who was also arrested during the bus boycott.
Even in 1956, stopping (and arresting) blacks for petty or nonexistent offenses had a long-standing pedigree. In America, police targeting blacks for arbitrary and disproportionate searches and seizures is a tradition as old as the nation itself. What happened to King is known as an investigatory or “pretext” stop.
The pretext for the stop was the commission of a traffic offense—allegedly driving thirty miles per hour in a twenty-five mile-per-hour zone—but the real reason to stop and arrest King had nothing to do with the alleged speeding violation. On the contrary, the Montgomery police wanted to intimidate King and send a message to Montgomery’s black community.
It has been over sixty years since Martin Luther King Jr. was subjected to this arbitrary and discriminatory police practice. Surely, things have changed in America. After the demise of the Jim Crow system, the enactment of federal civil rights legislation protecting blacks from discriminatory application of state and local laws, as well as several decades of Supreme Court rulings enforcing the rights of black citizens, it would seem that law enforcement officials can no longer perform this type of arbitrary and bigoted policing.
January 25, 1965
Constance Baker Motley - Civil Rights Attorney – Becomes First African-American Woman Appointed to the Federal Judiciary
Constance Baker Motley was born on September 14, 1921 in New Haven, Connecticut. She was the ninth child in a family of 12 children. Her parents were emigrants from the island of Nevis in the West Indies. Motley grew up attending New Haven’s integrated public schools and soon became an avid reader. She was inspired by books concerning civil rights heroes and by the age of 15 she had decided to become a lawyer. Due to her family’s economic situation she could not afford to attend college immediately after graduating high school. Instead she took up a job as a maid for a short time before finding a job with the National Youth Administration. Giving a speech at the local community center one night, a wealthy white contractor, Clarence Blakeslee, was so impressed that he offered to pay for her college.
Motley began her college career at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1941. In 1943 she transferred to New York University where she received her bachelor’s degree in economics. In 1944 she became the first black woman to be accepted into Columbia Law School. It was here where she met Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Motley worked for the Legal Defense Fund while she obtaining her degree, which she received in 1946. In that same year she married a real estate broker, Joel Wilson Motley, Jr. Their marriage would eventually produce a son, Joel Wilson Motley III.
Motley’s career with the NAACP would bring her many high profile cases often involving school desegregation. She played a major role in the legal preparation for the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case and was the first black woman to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court. She was also the lead council in the case to allow James Meredith to gain admission to the University of Mississippi in 1962. Besides fighting for the rights of blacks to get into segregated schools, Motley also defended protestors arrested during the Freedom Rides sit-ins of the early 1960’s. She won nine out of ten cases argued before the Supreme Court between 1961 and 1963.
In 1964 Judge Motley entered politics. She was the first woman to be elected into the New York State Senate in 1964 and in 1965 became the first woman to hold the position of Manhattan Borough President. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Motley to the United States District Court in 1966, making her the first African American woman to hold a Federal Judgeship.
Judge Constance Baker Motley died of congestive heart failure on September 28, 2005 at the age of 84. Over the course of her long career in law and politics she has received over 70 awards and 8 honorary degrees from universities.
January 24, 1956
Look Magazine Publishes Confession of Emmett Till's Murderers Just Months After Their Acquittal
On January 24, 1956, Look magazine publishes the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, two white men from Mississippi who were acquitted in the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till, an African American teenager from Chicago. In the Look article, titled “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” the men detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article.
In August 1955, 14-year-old Till, whose nickname was Bobo, traveled to Mississippi to visit relatives and stay at the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright. On August 24, Till went into Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, to buy candy. At some point, he allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who ran the store with her husband Roy, who was away at the time. (Bryant later admitted she made this up.) Till’s a harmless actions carried weight in an era when prejudice and discrimination against Black people was persistent throughout the segregated South.
In the early hours of August 28, Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, abducted Emmett Till from his great-uncle’s home. The men were soon arrested but maintained their innocence. On August 31, Till’s decomposed body was found in the Tallahatchie River. On September 3, Till’s mother held an open-casket funeral for her son, in order to bring attention to his murder. An estimated 50,000 mourners attended. Afterward, Jet magazine published graphic photos of Till’s corpse.
On September 19, the kidnapping and murder trial of Bryant and Milam began in Sumner, Mississippi. Five days later, on September 23, the all-white, all-male jury acquitted the two men of murder after deliberating for little over an hour. The jury claimed it would’ve reached its decision even more quickly—despite overwhelming evidence that the defendants were guilty—had it not taken a soda break. The acquittal caused international outrage and helped spark the American civil rights movement.
Milam and Bryant were never brought to justice and both later died of cancer. In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department reopened the case amid suggestions that other people—some of whom are still alive—might have participated in the crime. Till’s body was exhumed by the FBI in 2005 and an autopsy was performed. In 2007 a grand jury decided not to seek an indictment against additional individuals. In 2017, Tim Tyson, author of the book The Blood of Emmett Till, revealed that Carolyn Bryant recanted her testimony, admitting that Till had never touched, threatened or harassed her. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Bryant said.
Emmett Till at 14 when he was killed in 1955, AP
Look Magazine cover, January 24, 1956.
January 23, 1964
24th Amendment Ratified – Abolishes Poll Taxes Only in Federal Elections
On this day in civil rights history, the 24th Amendment wa ratified, abolishing the poll taxes in the South used to disenfranchise generation of African American and some poor white voter.
The poll tax was just one of many devices used by the white power structure in the South to regulate voting. During the Reconstruction era, blacks in the South voted in high number. In fact, more African Americans were elected into offices between 1865 and 1880 than at any other time in history until the late 20th century. This scared the South, both politically (the African Americans elected proposed legislation that was at the time considered radical, including public education) and racially.
So the Southern states devised a number of ingenious methods to prevent blacks from voting en masse. The first was the poll tax, a fee new voters had to pay to register. Not only was it expensive, but also confusing. The tax had to be paid by a certain date or the person in question couldn't vote. But often the location where it could be paid wasn't known. The poll tax affected both blacks and whites, but many poor whites were protected by a grandfather clause, which exempted anyone whose father or grandfather had voted before 1867.
A second barrier was the Understanding Clause, a law that required literacy tests to qualify to vote. The tests were difficult, devised to prevent the taker from passing. And, once again, the white voters were grandfathered in.
The few African Americans who paid the poll tax, passed the literacy test, or bypassed the myriad obstacles in place, including physical harassment and intimidation, found his vote meant nothing anyway, as elections in the solidly Democratic South were decided in the primaries, which, by law, were for whites only.
This dismal state of affairs offered a rallying point to civil rights groups. The right to vote symbolized the first step in freedom from oppression. With the entrenched power structure fighting every step of the way, it was an arduous process.
But once passed, the 24th Amendment was the first in a series of legislation that legally destroyed the racist apparatus that maintained the status quo in the South. African Americans still encountered fierce resistance when registering to vote, but now had legal recourse when they did.
January 22, 1964
'Freedom Day' Protests as Blacks Register to Vote in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
“We have come here tonight to renew our struggle,” Ella Baker told the audience overflowing into the aisles of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Many in the crowd were from nearby Palmer’s Crossing, a historically-Black community just south of Hattiesburg and a center of movement activity.
Those gathered in St. Paul’s intended to participate in what would be one of the largest planned protests of the Civil Rights Movement to date – a “Freedom Day.” The first Freedom Day had happened in Selma, Alabama the previous fall, and Hattiesburg, or “Hub City,” was chosen as the site for the second one because of local circuit clerk Theron Lynd’s continuing refusal to register Black voters. His intransigence had already brought a federal contempt citation. But he continued to resist registering potential Black voters. So local activists decided that the time to draw attention to their struggle had come. Creating further incentive over half of the county’s eligible Black voters had turned out for the November 1963 Freedom Ballot. This turnout convinced Vernon Dahmer that the time was right to stage a larger protest.
The morning of the protest, a cold rain fell on Hattiesburg. It was January 22, 1964. Students held placards with SNCC’s new slogan, “One Man, One Vote,” while adults lined up in front of the door to the county registrar’s office. The protesters were met by dozens of state patrol officers, sheriff’s deputies, and volunteer auxiliary police. The sheriff, Bud Gray, told the assembled men and women through a bullhorn, “this is the Hattiesburg Police Department. We’re ordering you to disperse. Clear the sidewalk!” Sheriff Gray did not force the protesters to leave, and when it became clear that violence was not forthcoming, the ranks of the protesters doubled. By mid-afternoon, the line to register to vote stretched nearly two blocks down the street.
In spite of only being allowed into the county registrar’s office four at a time, nearly 150 people made their way before Lynd to register to vote by the end of Freedom Day. Only three people were arrested, and despite the heavy police presence, no violence occurred. Freedom Day in Hattiesburg inspired later protests in Greenwood in March and even in the notoriously violent Southwest Mississippi town of Liberty, in April. With a significant presence of white northerners, Freedom Day also signaled the beginning of what would be SNCC and the Mississippi Movement’s most ambitious effort in 1964: the Mississippi Summer Project.
Sometimes it seem like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing off. ~ Fannie Lou Hamer
NOTICEApplications for registration must be completely filled out without any assistance or suggestions of any person or memorandum.After 10 days applicants names and addresses are published for two consecutive weeks in the newspaper. They cannot be ruled on for 14 days after the second publication. Therefore it can take as long as 33 days before we can give you an answer as to your application being accepted or rejected.Your indulgence is appreciated.The Registrar.
January 21, 2008
John Lewis Meets With White Attacker 47 Years After Freedom Ride Beating
Civil rights leader John Lewis, a respected member of the House of Representatives, had been a participant in the 1961 Freedom Rides, which began on May 4, 1961. On May 9, 1961, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, he was savagely beaten by Elwin Wilson, a Ku Klux Klan member and racist opponent of integration. On this day, Lewis returned to the scene of the beating and reconciled with Wilson, who had beaten him 47 years earlier. Wilson died in 2013.
Lewis was beaten again on May 20th, when the Freedom Ride reached Montgomery, Alabama. Fifty-two years later, on March 2, 2013, then-Montgomery police chief Kevin Murphy apologized to Lewis for the failure of the police to protect him in 1961, and gave him his police badge as a symbol of reconciliation.
Lewis had a long and courageous and distinguished career as a civil rights activist and public servant. On August 28, 1963 he spoke at the historic civil rights March on Washington, but march leaders forced him to delete sections of his speech that criticized the Kennedy administration for failing to fully support civil rights.
Lewis was brutally beaten in the first attempted Selma voting rights march on March 7, 1965 (“Bloody Sunday”). The beatings outraged public opinion across the U.S. and around the world, and led directly to the enactment of the historic Voting Rights Law, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law on August 6, 1965.
Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986, and eventually became one of the most senior and respected member of the House of Representatives as a representative from Georgia.
January 20, 1955
7 Morgan State Black Students Sit Down at Read's Drug Store Sparking Integration of Lunch Counters in Baltimore, Maryland
The four-story, Read's drug store at Howard and Lexington Street in the heart of Baltimore's downtown shopping district is the flagship of the Read's chain throughout the region. Black customers are encouraged to buy items and spend their money — but not at the lunch-counter, that's for "Whites Only." The same is true for other Read's branches in the metro area including the one in the Northwood Shopping Center adjacent to Morgan State College (today, Morgan State University) whose student body is almost entirely Black.
Formed in late 1952 and early 1953, the Baltimore chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) convinces Kresage (now Kmart) and other chain stores to desegregate their lunch counters in the Baltimore area. But not the Grant's or Read's chains. After protests at Grant's annual stock-holder meeting and it's flagship stores in Baltimore and Harlem, Grant's also ends segregation at many of its Border-South outlets in May of 1954. That leaves Read's.
In January of 1955, CORE and Morgan State students commence a direct-action campaign at the downtown and Northwood stores. Ben Everinghim, leader of Baltimore CORE, Dean McQuay Kiah of Morgan State, Dr. Helena Hicks, and a group of student activists sit-in at the Howard & Lexington lunch counter while other Morgan students stage of demonstrations at the Read's store at the Northwood Shopping Center.
Their efforts win a quick victory. An article in the Baltimore Afro American titled "A True Story," describes a conversation between Dean George Grant of Morgan State and a Read's manager:
Read's: Please call your students off. They're staging a showdown here in our Northwood store. We're losing business.
Grant: We teach our students here they must practice democracy and help others to understand it. I don't think you want us to tell them what they're doing is wrong.
Read's: Yes, but we're losing business with them sitting at our counters.
Grant: Well, there are several things you can do.
Read's: What's that?
Grant: Why not put a sign up in your store saying dogs, cats and colored people are not allowed?
Read's: Well, we couldn't do that.
Grant: Well, why not put an ad in the Afro saying that Read's wants colored people to shop there but they can't eat there; and you know you have another alternative, you can say to all your customers everyone can be served at our lunch counters.
Read's: Well, we are in sympathy with this thing — we'll see what can be done.
Two hours later a Read's official calls back to say that their Baltimore area stores will desegregate. The headline of the January 22, 1955, Afro proclaims: Now Serve All and the article quotes a statement by Read's President Arthur Nattans Sr.:
We will serve all customers throughout our entire stores, including the fountains, and this becomes effective immediately.
January 19, 1965
67 Arrested During Voting Registration Efforts in Selma, Alabama
SELMA, ALA., JAN.19 - A group of Negroes who have been trying to register to vote refused today to return to a courthouse alley assigned to them and wound up in jail.
Sheriff James G. Clark arrested 62 on a charge of unlawful assembly and five others for "criminal provocation."
One of those arrested on the latter charge, a misdemeanor, was Mrs. Amelia Boynton, an insurance agent and local civil rights leader. When she refused to leave the sidewalk in front of the courthouse, Sheriff Clark grabbed her by the back of her collar and pushed her roughly and swiftly for half a block into a patrol car.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was watching from a car parked across the street. He stepped out of the car, walked into the Federal building, which faces the courthouse, and asked the Justice Department to file for a court injunction against the sheriff.
Dr. King, who is leading a voter registration drive throughout Alabama, charged that the arrests were unlawful and that the sheriff had been brutal.
"I met with two officers of the Justice Department and filed a complaint that is to be immediately sent to Washington," he told reporters later. "It was one of the most brutal and unlawful acts I have seen an officer commit."
Dr. King left Selma tonight after telling a rally of 800 Negroes that he would return at the end of the week to continue "plaguing Dallas County - creatively and nonviolently."
He announced plans to set up a "freedom registration" project whereby a team of college professors would be brought in to draw up registration requirements they consider necessary to meet constitutional requirements.
"Negroes will go in and sign up by the thousands," he said, "and these will be presented to the Federal courts to show that discrimination exists."
Those arrested were released tonight pending arraignment without having to post bond.
Sheriff Clark, who has become a symbol of aggression to Selma Negroes, has been named a defendant in previous Justice Department suits, now pending in the courts. One charges that he used his office to prevent compliance with the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Yesterday about 400 Negroes marched to the courthouse to register. Sheriff Clark directed them through the building and into an alley that had been cordoned off with ropes. They applicants stood there all day.
The courthouse was closed to reporters. But it was learned none of the Negroes took the written test prescribed by state law for registration. The registration board apparently used the day to test applicants already there when the Negroes arrived. When the group returned today, Sheriff Clark again assigned them to the alley. Normally, applicants wait in line in corridors and along the sidewalk. The lines form because only a few days in each month are set aside for registration.
When the Negroes refused to go into the alley today, Sheriff Clark arrested them for unlawful assembly. Those charged with criminal provocation were not trying to register, but they were leading the group.
In City Court, Jimmy George Robinson was fined $100 and sentenced to 60 days of hard labor for striking Dr. King in the lobby of the Hotel Albert yesterday. Robinson, 26 years old, of Birmingham, is a member of the National States Rights party, a small segregationist organization.
Judge Edgar P. Russell dismissed a charge of disorderly conduct against Robert A. Lloyd, 20, of Richmond, who was found in black face and costume in a restaurant about to be integrated. Lloyd, a member of the American Nazi party, said he had intended to mimic Negroes when they arrived to eat.
January 18, 1958
500 Lumbee Native Americans Challenge the KKK in Maxton, North Carolina
The Battle of Hayes Pond or Maxton Riot was an armed confrontation between members of the Ku Klux Klan and the Lumbee Native Americans at a Klan rally near Maxton, North Carolina, on the night of January 18, 1958. Grand Dragon James W. "Catfish" Cole was the organizer of the Klan rally. Sanford Locklear, Simeon Oxendine and Neill Lowery were leaders of the Lumbee who attacked the Klansmen and successfully disrupted the rally.
In 1957, Cole began a campaign of harassment designed to intimidate the Lumbee Tribe. He hoped to use his campaign against the Lumbee to build up the Klan organization in North Carolina.
Believing that he had the Lumbee on the run, Cole announced plans for a Klan rally on January 18, 1958, near the small town of Maxton, intended "to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing".
On the night of the rally, 50–100 Klansmen arrived at the private field near Hayes Pond which Cole had leased from a sympathetic farmer. Cole set up the public address system and erected the cross, all under the illumination of a single light bulb. Before Cole could finish the arrangements, over 500 Lumbee men, many armed with rocks, sticks and firearms, appeared and encircled the assembled Klansmen.
Afterward, the Lumbee celebrated by holding up the abandoned KKK banner; Charlie Warriax and World War II veteran Simeon Oxendine were shown wrapped in it in Life magazine photos.
In the days after the confrontation, a defiant Cole called the Lumbee "lawless mongrels" and denounced local law enforcement for failing to intervene earlier in the confrontation. Public opinion, however, turned against Cole. North Carolina Governor Luther H. Hodges denounced the Klan in a press statement, and Cole was later convicted for inciting a riot and given a two-year sentence.
January 17, 1965
Two Churches Used by CORE for Civil Rights Meetings Burned to the Ground in Jonesboro, Louisiana
JONESBORO La., Jan. 17 (AP)
Pre-dawn fires of undermined origin destroyed two rural Negro churches near this north Louisiana town today.
A spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality said that both churches , the Pleasant Grove Baptist and the Behany Baptist had been used recently for civil rights meetings.
CORE workers have been activive in Jonesboro in recent weeks testing desegregation of public accommodations.
A spokesman for the Jonesboro Fire Department said it had been called to the Pleasant Grove fire but that the building had been too far gone to save. The cause of the blaze was unknown. The spokesman said the department had received no call to the Bethany Church fire.
The Federal Beurau of Investigation said it was investigating the fires to determmin if there had been any violation of Federal law.
CORE said the two churches had been the only ones in the area used since last summer for any civil rights meetings.
The church burnings were the first reported in Louisiana since rights groups began stepping up their activieis in recent years.
Meanwhile, Negroes were served at two white eating places in Joneboro yesterday in the latest desegreation test.
January 16, 1965
AFL Football All-Star Game Moved to Houston 6-Days After Black Players Boycott Due to Wide-Spread Discrimination in New Orleans, Louisiana
The American Football League scheduled its annual All-Star game for Saturday, January 16, 1965, to be played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. This contest came just ten days after the city had hosted the first completely integrated Sugar Bowl game without incident. Syracuse, whose roster included eight African American players, lost to Louisiana State 13-0 in that game.
This seemed to bode well for the city. New Orleans had been vocal about its attempt to attract a professional football franchise whether in the AFL or the National Football League. Those aspirations received a major setback in the days to come as the AFL All-Stars began to arrive at the airport.
The AFL players were assured by Dave Dixon, head of the group sponsoring and promoting the game that the city was safe and there would be no problems. Running Back Clem Daniels of the Oakland Raiders explained, “they told us (to) bring your wife and kids. There will also be a golf tournament. It sounded like a big picnic.”
It eventually turned into a nightmare as many of the black players were left stranded at the airport for hours when they arrived in town. Once in the city African American players were refused cab service and in some cases those who were given rides were dropped off miles from their destinations.
Other players were refused admittance to nightspots and restaurants, while nearly all were subjected to tongue-lashings and to a hostile atmosphere on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter while sightseeing. The situation became so uncomfortable for the black players who clearly felt unwelcome that most simply returned to their hotels.
Later, all 21 African American players who were scheduled to suit up met at the Roosevelt Hotel, the headquarters for the East team. The group discussed in great detail the treatment they had received and with a vote decided to walk out on the All-Star game.
“The majority ruled. We felt we couldn’t perform 100% under the current circumstances,” said Buffalo Bills end Ernie Warlick. “Actually this came as a complete surprise to us. We were led to believe that we could relax and enjoy ourselves in New Orleans just like other citizens.”
Some players were more vocal than others about the adverse conditions and discriminatory practices experienced in New Orleans. But, in the end Warlick and other black All-Stars, came together. Finding the situation unacceptable, the players decided that they would not play in the All-Star as long as it was to be hosted in New Orleans.
As the black athletes made it clear that they were heading home, league officials and the game organizers had a decision to make. Would the game go on without the nearly two dozen players who walked out? That question was soon answered when, in a show of support and sympathy for their cause, white players such as Hall of Fame Tackle Ron Mix of the San Diego Chargers decided a statement was needed.
“I made a decision then that if the game were to go on despite the absence of the black players, I would not play,” reflected Mix. “I felt I would be wrong in not playing but that it was important for at least one white player to join them, to say we’re with you.”
Mix was not the only white player to join the boycott. The next day, on Monday, Jan. 11, AFL commissioner Joe Foss announced that the game would be moved to Houston and played at Jeppesen Stadium.
"Dixon assured me that New Orleans was ready in all aspects for a game between racially mixed teams. Evidently, it isn't." Foss remarked at the time. "They contacted as many businessmen as possible and got them to agree to treat the Negro players well. But they just couldn't get to everyone. Negro players run into problems in nearly every city. But I guess what went on in New Orleans was more than they could be expected to take. I can't say that I blame them."
The stand the AFL and its players took against the city of New Orleans was unprecedented. It ultimately brought about change that was necessary in order for the city to get a NFL franchise. That came to fruition two years later when the league granted New Orleans a team.
The boycott was clearly a milestone event that went beyond the world of sports and was more a reflection of American society at the time. It helped shine a spotlight on Congress’s ability to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and proved that if America was to desegregate, the culture needed to change its mindset and adopt a more progressive view of the human race as quickly as possible.
January 15, 1965
LBJ's Birthday Call to Martin Luther King Becomes a Strategy Session on Voting Rights
President Lyndon B. Johnson called Dr. Martin Luther King on this day, ostensibly to congratulate him on his birthday. LBJ’s real purpose, however, was to plan a strategy on how to generate public support for a federal voting rights act.
As one historian has written, by the end of the phone call, the president and the civil rights leader sounded like two veteran politicians plotting strategy. Johnson clearly supported King’s plan for demonstrations in Selma, Alabama. Recordings and transcripts of the phone conversation are widely available. Without the recordings, it is unlikely that many people would believe the conversation actually occurred.
National outrage followed the brutal beating of civil rights marchers on “Bloody Sunday” (March 7, 1965), to as the marchers were halted in their attempt to march to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand voting rights legislation. President Johnson followed up with one of his greatest speeches, “The American Promise,” on March 15, 1965, in support of voting rights.The historic 1965 Voting Rights Act became law on August 6, 1965.
January 14, 1963
Alabama Governor George Wallace Declares “Segregation Now... Segregation Tomorrow... Segregation Forever!"
On January 14, 1963, after being overwhelmingly elected by white Alabama voters, George Wallace, the infamous segregationist and white supremacist, delivered his inaugural address as the governor of Alabama, and called for “segregation now... segregation tomorrow... segregation forever!” Throughout his speech he condemned integration and criticized federal intervention in state affairs.
Running for office almost a decade after Brown v. Board of Education, Governor Wallace’s 1962 campaign used the slogan “Stand up for Alabama,” and he vowed to fight integration at the University of Alabama. Six months later, Governor Wallace launched himself into the national spotlight by physically blocking two Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from enrolling at the University of Alabama. The dramatic “stand in the schoolhouse door” was broadcast on national television, and within a week, Wallace received over 100,000 telegrams from white people commending his actions.
The political legacy of four-time Alabama governor and four-time presidential candidate George Wallace is enduring and increasingly relevant today. Governor Wallace developed a political identity that combined racial demagoguery and fiery rhetoric to defend segregation under the veneer of “states’ rights.” By appealing to racial sentiments, Wallace gained the support of voters who felt threatened by increasing Black political power.
During the 1968 presidential election campaign, a year fraught with racial injustice after, among other things, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Governor Wallace ran as an independent candidate on the back of his racially charged message. At a campaign stop where he was asked about the year’s protests against racial injustice, Governor Wallace said: "We don't have riots in Alabama! They start a riot down there, first one of 'em to pick up a brick gets a bullet in the brain, that's all. And then you walk over to the next one and say, 'All right, pick up a brick. We just want to see you pick up one of them bricks now!” Governor Wallace was overwhelmingly popular with southern white people and became the most successful and popular independent candidate in modern presidential election history — receiving almost 10,000,000 votes during the general election and winning the electoral votes of five states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Today, a portion of Interstate 10 in Alabama and community colleges in the cities of Dothan and Eufaula bear George Wallace’s name. He remains one of the most infamous and influential segregationist leaders of his era.
Segregationists like Governor Wallace, operating at the highest levels of government, represented and advanced the views of the majority of white citizens at the time.
January 13, 1957
Community Gathers for Sunday Services 3 Days After 6 Bombings Rock Black Churches in Montgomery, Alabama
On January 13, 1957, three days after four black churches and two pastors' homes were bombed in Montgomery, Alabama, congregations held Sunday services amidst the debris. Less than a month before, the Supreme Court ordered desegregation of the citys buses ending a year-long bus boycott, which was supported by all four churches and the targeted pastors, one black and one white, were civil rights leaders.
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Jan. 10, 1957 (UP) - Six dynamite blasts heavily damaged four Negro churches and the homes of two ministers early today. It was the worst flareup of racial violence in the South's bus integration movement. There were no injuries.
The city commission ordered bus service here suspended indefinitely.
The predawn blasts hit the homes of two leaders in the Negroes' long-fought drive against "Jim Crow" and wrecked churches that had been used for Negro rallies.
Despite the night of terror, Negro leaders here vowed to carry on their integration battle-"even in the face of death."
The Rev. Martin Luther King, leader of the Montgomery bus boycott, and the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, whose home and church were damaged, rushed back to Montgomery from Atlanta.
The explosions started a flurry of police activity. The FBI said it will investigate the bombings.
Gov. James E. Folsom and State Safety Director Bill Lyerly inspected the bombed buildings and then began conferring at the governor's mansion.
Folsom said the bombings were the "work of anarchists" and offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to conviction of the terrorists. He put state police "at the command of all local officials" in Alabama to combat racial terrorism.
"Any group of groups of persons that will stoop to bomb the house of worship endangers the lives of every man, woman, and child in this state," Folsom said.
Folsom has pledged to provide state help for any Alabama city requesting it in connection with the integration incidents.
One of the earlier explosions blew in the front of a home in which a Negro mother and her baby slept. The blast also shattered a plate glass window across the street.
While Negro neighbors and police milled about the damaged home of the frightened mother, a sixth explosion went off some distance away, wrecking the fourth church. This was about 6 o'clock this morning.
The blast blew in the front end of the rural Mount Olive Baptist Church, located outside the city limits but within city police jurisdiction.
An explosion at the Bell St. Baptist Church blasted out its back wall, splintered its altar and covered pews with debris. The rear ceiling sagged as though about to collapse.
Police said the dynamite was a type farmers obtain from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for about 15 or 20 cents per stick for blowing up stumps.
Another bomb damaged the home of the Rev. Robert Graetz, white minister of a Negro Lutheran church and a sympathizer of the Negro movement for a right to ride buses as equals of whites.
January 13, 1957 - Four Black Churches Bombed, Sixty years ago today, parishioners of four black churches in Montgomery, Ala., attended Sunday services amidst devastation. Three days earlier, their houses of worship were bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. From Voices of the Civil Rights Movement
January 12, 1962
NAACP Files Successful Lawsuit Defending the Tougaloo Nine's Sit-Ins to Integrate All-White Library in Jackson, Mississippi
January 11, 1957
Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy Form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
We urge them ("Negroes"), no matter how great the provocation, to dedicate themselves to this motto:
“Not one hair of one head of one white person shall be harmed.”
We advocate non-violence in words, thought and deed, we believe this spirit and this spirit alone can overcome the decades of mutual fear and suspicion that have infested and poisoned our Southern culture.
In this same spirit, we place the following concerns before white Southerners of goodwill:
We call upon white Southern Christians to realize that the treatment of Negroes is a basic spiritual problem. We believe that no legal approach can fully redeem or reconcile man. We urge them in Christ’s name to join the struggle for justice. They, as individuals, can begin now:
a. By working to see that all persons, regardless of color or creed, who seek the saving grace of Christ are accepted as equals in their churches.
b. By encouraging schools and colleges controlled by the church to set an example of brotherhood.
c. By speaking out in moral terms and by acting on the basis of their inner convictions, and accepting as Negro Christians must, the consequences of the Christian imperative. In this way they may well reduce the violence directed toward the Negro community; restore order and hasten reconciliation.
We call upon every white Southerner to realize that the major choice may no longer be segregation or integration, but anarchy or law. We remind them that communities control their destinies only when order prevails. Disorder places all major decisions in the hands of state or federal police. We do not prefer this, for our ultimate aim is to win understanding with our neighbors. In a profound sense, the lawlessness and violence our people face is blood upon the hands of Southern Christians. Far too many have silently stood by as a violent minority stalks over the southland. We implore men of goodwill to speak out for law and order.
January 10, 1966
KKK Bombs Home of NAACP Leader in Mississippi Killing Vernon Dahmer - His Wife and 3 Children Narrowly Escape
In the early morning hours of January 10, 1966, two carloads of armed Ku Klux Klan members drove onto the property of Vernon Dahmer and his family, ten miles outside of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The white men set fire to the Dahmers' grocery store and house and blasted the buildings with gunfire. Mrs. Dahmer and three of their children managed to escape, but Mr. Dahmer sustained fatal lung damage while holding off attackers as his family fled; he died later that day.
For years, Vernon Dahmer and his wife, Elli, had slept in shifts to keep watch over their home in anticipation of attacks from local white terrorists. As a successful Black businessman and NAACP leader active in the voting rights movement, Mr. Dahmer and his family were the targets of local white residents' hostility and violent attacks.
Following Mr. Dahmer's murder, a massive crowd of Black residents gathered at the local courthouse, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a wire expressing condolences. Mr. Dahmer's funeral was well attended and local residents raised money to restore the family's house. Four of the Dahmers' sons, who were serving in the U.S. military at the time, obtained leave to come home for their father's funeral and help their mother rebuild.
Fourteen klansmen were arrested and charged with murder, arson, and conspiracy in the attack on the Dahmer home. Four of the men were convicted and a fifth pleaded guilty, but none served more than four years. In 1998, prosecutors reopened the case against Sam Bowers, the klansman who ordered the attack. Bowers, at age 74, was convicted on August 21, 1998, and sentenced to life in prison; he died in 2006.
Listen to Ellie Dahmer recount the night of the bombing, What One Family Sacrificed To Help Black People Vote In 1966, StoryCorps, NPR.
Mitchell helped rekindle the case against former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers, who ordered the murder but remained free. Bowers was tried for a fifth time, convicted and sentenced to life in prison on August 21, 1998. Below is a short exerpt from Mitchell's book.
Just a day later, two carloads of Klansmen made their way to the Dahmer home in the frigid early morning hours. One group launched firebombs into the family's grocery score. Another group sailed firebombs into the Dahmer family home. One bomb hit the family’s 1964 Ford Fairlane, setting it ablaze and causing the horn to stick.
The noise woke Dennis, twelve at the time. He opened his bedroom door, only to encounter a wall of fire. He climbed out a window, wearing only, his underwear.
Ellie Dahmer stirred to the blare of the car horn, smelling smoke. She yelled out, "Veron, I believe they got us this time."
He jumped out of bed and grabbed a shotgun, loaded with double aught buckshot. "Get the children out while I hold them off!"
She darted inside the bedroom of ten-year-old daughter Bettie. The fire had almost reached the ceiling, and her pajamas were ablaze. She grabbed her daughter and ran. When she reached the back window, she opened it, on1y for the window to fall back shut and jam. She couldn't open it. Bettie screamed they were going to die.
Vernon Dahmer dashed to the front of the house, where the flames were fiercest. Klansmen shot up the house, and Vernon blasted his shotgun back at them. But even as he dodged the spray of bullets, the fire kept raging, with Vernon in the middle.
Ellie Dahmer hurled her shoulder against the jan1med window. Both she and the window hit the ground outside. By the time she made it back to her feet, her husband was at the wi11dow, handing Bettie to her. Vernon struggled down after, joining Dennis, who had already escaped.
Gazing around, Dennis realized Harold, his twenty-six-year-old brother, home from the army, was still inside. His father tried to climb back inside, but he had been burned too badly. Dennis jumped through the window and pulled his brother out.
January 9, 1967
Julian Bond Seated in Georgia State Legislature 1-Year After Election
Julian Bond, a civil rights leader, was sworn in as a Georgia state legislator but only after the legislature had denied him his seat because of his political activities and and the U.S. Supreme Court ordered him seated.
Bond was a leader of the early sit-in movement beginning in 1960 and a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Hew as a leader, for example, of the first sit-ins in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 15, 1960.
He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but the Georgia House voted, 184–12, to bar him from taking his seat because of his political views. The Supreme Court, in Bond v. Floyd, decided on December 5, 1966, ordered the legislature to seat him — and he took his seat on this day.
January 8, 1961
University of Georgia Students Petition School to Stay Open After Court Ordered Integration – First Two Black Students Enroll the Next Day
Charlayne Hunter-Galt, PBS and CNN award-winning broadcast journalist, became one of the first two Black students at the University of Georgia, just days after white students helped pave the way with petitions and protests in favor of their admittance.
In 1958, members of the Atlanta Committee for Cooperative Action (ACCA) began to search for high-achieving African-American seniors who attended high schools in Atlanta. They were interested in jump-starting the integration of white universities in Georgia. They were searching for the best students so that universities would have no reason to reject them other than race. Hunter, along with Hamilton Holmes were the two students selected by the committee to integrate Georgia State College (later Georgia State University) in Atlanta. However, Hunter and Holmes were more interested in attending the University of Georgia.
The two were initially rejected by the university on the grounds that there was no more room in the dorms for incoming freshmen who were required to live there. That fall, Hunter enrolled at Wayne University (later Wayne State University) in Detroit where she received assistance from the Georgia tuition program on the basis that there were no black universities in the state who offered a journalism program.
Despite meeting the qualifications to transfer to the University of Georgia, she and Holmes were rejected every quarter due to the fact that there was no room for them in the dorms, but transfer students in similar situations were admitted. This led to court case Holmes v. Danner, in which the registrar of the university, Walter Danner, was the defendant. After winning the case, Holmes and Hunter became the first two African-American students to enroll in the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.
On January 8, several hundred white students gathered at the chapel on campus and signed a petition asking the legislature not to close the now-integrated university; the petition with 2,600 signatures was presented to Frank Twitty of the House of Representatives the next morning
Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes first applied to the University of Georgia in July 1959. University officials claimed "lack of space" and refused to admit the two African American students for several quarters. In the fall of 1960, African American attorneys Donald Hollowell, Constance B. Motley, and Horace T. Ward filed a federal lawsuit seeking admission for the two students. Federal judge William A. Bootle on January 6, 1961 ordered the university to admit the two students, ending the university's segregation.
Reporter Ray Moore asks the governor if he will recommend that the legislature remove a law prohibiting the state from funding integrated schools. Governor Vandiver says that he will address the question in his state of the state message, scheduled for the opening of the legislature the next day. Vandiver clarifies that he has called a meeting of legislators and members of the Board of Regents, the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, and President of the University of Georgia to discuss the implications of the court-ordered integration of the university.
Vandiver refuses to answer questions about the university's use of stand-by funds or the presence of state troopers at the university when the first African American students arrive. While he, like many parents and citizens of the state, is concerned about the university's future, he declines to comment until after his state of the state address. When asked by an unidentified off-camera reporter, Vandiver will not comment on whether state troopers will be present the following morning, Hunter's and Holmes' first day.
Governor Vandiver, who had campaigned on the segregationist-slogan "no, not one," threatened to comply with a 1956 state appropriations law that prohibited the state from funding integrated schools and effectively shutting down the university. Judge Bootle issued a temporary restraining order against such action on January 10, and on January 13 declared the 1956 law unconstitutional.
January 7, 1966
Martin Luther King Announces "Chicago Campaign" – Shifting Attention to Poverty of Blacks in Northern Cities
On 7 January 1966, Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) announced plans for the Chicago Freedom Movement, a campaign that marked the expansion of their civil rights activities from the South to northern cities. King believed that “the moral force of SCLC’s nonviolent movement philosophy was needed to help eradicate a vicious system which seeks to further colonize thousands of Negroes within a slum environment.” King and his family moved to one such Chicago slum at the end of January so that he could be closer to the movement.
Groundwork for the Chicago Campaign began in the summer of 1965. In July, Chicago civil rights groups invited King to lead a demonstration against de facto segregation in education, housing, and employment. The Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO), convened by Chicago activist Albert Raby, subsequently asked SCLC to join them in a major nonviolent campaign geared specifically at achieving fair housing practices. King believed that turning SCLC’s attention to the North made sense: “In the South, we always had segregationists to help make issues clear.… This ghetto Negro has been invisible so long and has become visible through violence.”
The campaigns had gained momentum through demonstrations and marches, when race riots erupted on Chicago’s West Side in July 1966. During a march through an all-white neighborhood on 5 August, black demonstrators were met with racially fueled hostility. Bottles and bricks were thrown at them, and King was struck by a rock. Afterward he noted: “I have seen many demonstrations in the south but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.”
Throughout the summer, King faced the organizational challenges of mobilizing Chicago’s diverse African American community, cautioning against further violence and working to counter the mounting resistance of working-class whites who feared the impact of open housing on their neighborhoods. King observed, “Many whites who oppose open housing would deny that they are racists. They turn to sociological arguments … [without realizing] that criminal responses are environmental, not racial.”
The campaigns had gained momentum through demonstrations and marches, when race riots erupted on Chicago’s West Side in July 1966. During a march through an all-white neighborhood on 5 August, black demonstrators were met with racially fueled hostility. Bottles and bricks were thrown at them, and King was struck by a rock. Afterward he noted: “I have seen many demonstrations in the south but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.”
January 6, 1956
Virginia Couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, Convicted of Interracial Marriage and Banished from the State
On January 6, 1959, Richard and Mildred Loving were convicted of interracial marriage, given a one-year suspended sentence, and banished from the state of Virginia by court order.
After marrying in Washington, D.C., in 1958, the Lovings returned to their native Caroline County, Virginia, to build a home and start a family. Their union was a criminal act in Virginia because Richard was white, Mildred was Black, and the state's Racial Integrity Act, passed in 1924, criminalized interracial marriage.
Caroline County police arrested the Lovings in their home in an early morning raid and took them to jail. They were charged with marrying interracially out of state and then returning to reside in Virginia. "Miscegenation," a felony, carried a penalty of up to five years in prison.
On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to both charges. The judge agreed to impose a suspended one-year prison sentence, so long as the couple left the state of Virginia for 25 years. Before entering judgment, Judge Leon Bazile condemned the Lovings' marriage and declared that God's decision to place the races on different continents demonstrated a divine intent to avoid intermarriage.
After their conviction and release, the Lovings relocated to Washington, D.C., but remained unsettled by their criminalization and exile. They later fought the law that had branded their love a crime and, on June 12, 1967, won a United States Supreme Court decision (Loving v. Virginnia) striking down all bans on interracial marriage throughout the country.
January 5, 1964
FBI Bugs Martin Luther King's Hotel Room in Campaign to Undermine His Civil Rights Movement Leadership
The FBI installed a listening device in Dr. King’s room at the Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C., on this day, marking a new stage in the FBI’s vendetta against King.
Listening devices, or “bugs,” are far more intrusive than wiretaps because they capture conversations in many locations, living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, allowing the listener to invade the subject’s privacy far more deeply than a telephone wiretap. These bugs were installed without the approval of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who had authorized only wiretaps on October 10, 1963.
The FBI had decided on a campaign to “neutralize” King as a civil rights leader on December 23, 1963. And on November 21, 1964, the FBI mailed an anonymous package to King and his wife containing recordings of King allegedly engaged in extramarital activities (which came from the bugs, although it has never been clear that the recordings actually involved sexual activity), and strongly suggested that King should commit suicide.
January 4, 1964
Black Voters Urged to Pay Poll Taxes to Preserve Voting Rights - Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia Continue Discriminatory Practice
After the ratification of the 15th Amendment (1870), in an attempt to limit Black voter registration and turnout, many states re-established poll taxes. The combination of poll taxes, literacy tests, White primaries (permitting only Whites to vote in primary elections), intimidation, violence, and disqualification of people convicted of felonies succeeded in reducing Black voter participation.
A poll tax of $2 in 1962 would convert to approximately $17 in 2020 dollars. This would be a major burden for people with low incomes.
By 1962, only five states continued to require poll taxes: Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia. In his 1962 State of the Union Address, President Kennedy put the issue on the national agenda when he called for the elimination of poll taxes and literacy tests, stating that voting rights “should no longer be denied through such arbitrary devices on a local level.” Congress passed the 24th Amendment, abolishing poll taxes in federal elections on August 27, 1962. Kennedy then urged governors and legislators to move ahead with ratification. The Amendment was ratified after his death, on January 23, 1964.
However, even with the passage of the 24th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices such as literacy tests, African Americans experienced impediments to voting. On March 24, 1966, the Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that poll taxes could not be collected in any election, including state and local elections, since they violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
January 3, 1966
Sammy Younge Leamon, Jr. Killed Wanting to Use Whites-Only Restroom in Macom County, Alabama - First Black College Activist Killed in the Movement
Samuel (“Sammy”) Leamon Younge Jr. was a young civil rights activist who was shot to death on January 3, 1966 when he attempted to use a whites-only restroom at a gas station in Macon County, Alabama. He was 21 years old.. At the time of his death he was a military veteran and Tuskegee Institute political science student.
After attending Cornwall Academy, a college preparatory school for boys in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Younge graduated from Tuskegee Institute High School in 1962 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served on the aircraft carrier USS Independence during the Cuban Missile Crisis when the vessel participated in the United States blockade of Cuba. After a year in the Navy, Young developed a failing kidney that had to be surgically removed. He was given a medical discharge from the Navy in July 1964.
Younge returned to Tuskegee after a medical discharge from the Navy. He entered Tuskegee Institute in January 1965 as a freshman. In March 1965 Younge took part in the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches in support of voting rights. That participation led to his joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League (TIAL), groups that led voter registration drives for African Americans, and worked to help desegregate public facilities, recreational facilities, and schools. Younge also traveled to Mississippi later in 1965 to help SNCC and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party register black voters.
Younge’s murder in January 1966 at the Standard Oil Gas Station by its elderly white night attendant, Marvin Segrest, came as he was involved in a voter registration campaign in Macon County. It sparked a variety of protests. Three days after his murder SNCC called a press conference in which it declared its opposition to the war in Vietnam. Younge’s death was highlighted as an example of fighting for freedom abroad that was denied at home. There were protests in Tuskegee when white county officials initially refused to indict Segrest and later when an all-white jury, in an overwhelmingly black county, took only one hour and ten minutes to acquit Segrest in his December 1966 trial.
SNCC and local black leaders used Younge’s death to inspire a rise in black political participation in the region. By 1970 the majority of office holders in Macon County and other predominately black central Alabama counties were African American.
Today Younge’s name is carved on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, a tribute to the 40 people who were slain between 1954 and 1968.
January 2, 1965
700 Gather at Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama, Defying the "Selma Injunction" Which Prohibited Gatherings - Selma Voting Rights Campaign Launched
On December 28, Dr. King convenes a much larger meeting where he presents the SCLC plan, now called the "Project for an Alabama Political Freedom Movement." The proposal is to break the Selma injunction on January 2, engage in mass action and voter registration in Dallas County, and then spread out into the rural counties of the Alabama Black Belt.
Breaking the Selma Injunction
On New Year's Day, January 1, 1965, James Bevel (SCLC project director) meets with Black leaders in Selma to prepare for breaking the injunction on the morrow. The January 2nd date is chosen because Sheriff Jim Clark will be out of town at the Orange Bowl football game in Miami. Chief Baker has stated that city police under his command will not enforce Judge Hare's illegal injunction, and without Clark to lead them, there is little chance that sheriff's deputies will break up the mass meeting on their own.
The day before the scheduled Mass Meeting it snowed. On 2 January 1965, the first Mass Meeting since July 1964 was held at Brown Chapel. When the injunction was imposed in the summer of 1964, mass meetings were suspended by the courts and there were no such gatherings in Selma for six months.
When we decided to resume the mass meetings in January 1965, all of the local pastors declined to host the initial meeting at their church. Brown Chapel was the only church that opened its doors to the people. This is how Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma became famous and her long time reputation for the cause of Christ remained unblemished. ...
Around 3:00 p.m. on 2 January 1965 we thought no one was going to show for the mass meeting. ... Slowly the people started coming into the church. The Courageous Eight had given every indication that we were ready to go to jail. Law enforcement officers were present to see how many people would turn out. More people turned out than the city authorities expected. They did not arrest us. There were too many Black people inside and outside of Brown Chapel to be confined to the Selma City Jail. — Rev. F.D. Reese, DCVL
The mass meeting is a huge success, some 700 Black citizens from Selma, Dallas County, and the surrounding Black Belt fill Brown Chapel to overflowing. They are determined to defy the injunction, determined to be free. Also in the audience are numerous reporters and both state and local cops. Clark is not yet back from Miami and no effort is made to enforce the injunction. Dr. King tells them:
Today marks the beginning of a determined, organized, mobilized campaign to get the right to vote everywhere in Alabama. If we are refused we will appeal to Governor George Wallace. If he refuses to listen, we will appeal to the legislature. If they don't listen, we will appeal to the conscience of Congress. ... We must be ready to march. We must be ready to go to jail by the thousands. ... Our cry to the state of Alabama is a simple one. Give us the ballot! — Martin Luther King.
After the rally, King, local Black leaders, SCLC and SNCC staff meet at Mrs. Amelia Boynton's home to plan the next steps. Now that the injunction has been defied without arrests or violence, the focus turns to the demand for voting rights. The voter registration office at the courthouse is only open on alternate Mondays — the next date is January 18. That gives two weeks to recruit, organize, and train voter applicants to show up en masse to register.
January 1, 1960
1000+ March to Airport in Protest Sparked by Jackie Robinson's Treatment in Greenville, South Carolina
On October 25, 1959, the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP held its annual meeting at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, SC. Jackie Robinson, the famed baseball player, was their invited banquet speaker. When the NAACP leadership took Robinson back to the airport, officials asked the group to leave the main lounge and move to the colored lounge.
NAACP Branch Director, Gloster B. Current, informed the manager that “threats of jail can no longer be counted on to frighten colored Americans who are sure of their rights.” The group informed the officer that they had no desire to create a disturbance, but pointed out that under the rules and regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission they could not be ordered to move. They all stayed in the main waiting area until the plane arrived.
This energized Greenville’s black community and, in protest, almost 1,000 people staged a march from Springfield Baptist Church to the downtown airport on Jan. 1, 1960. Inside the terminal, Reverend Matthew McCollough of Orangeburg delivered a speech in which he said “we will not make a pretense of being satisfied with the crumbs of citizenship while others enjoy the whole loaf only by right of a whiteskinned birth.”
The Greenville march was quickly followed by the famous Greensboro sit-in and another sit-in at the Greenville Library, led in part by Jesse Jackson, who was one of the Greenville Eight arrested for trespassing. For blacks in Greenville, the Jackie Robinson incident was the rock thrown in the pond, with its ripples playing a key role in changing their world.
Baseball great, Jackie Robinson, (2nd from left) spoke at an NAACP event in Greenville, South Carolina in October, 1959. He subsequently refused to sit in the "Negro waiting room" at the airport, sparking the January 1, 1960 protest march. See original news story of his October at the Greenville News.
Resources Used – common sources used to find daily posts
This Day in Civil Rights History, Williams and Beard, NewSouth Books, 2009
A History of Racial Injustice - The Equal Justice Initiative
Timeline - SNCC Digital Gateway
This Week in Civil Rights History - New York State United Teachers
Civil Rights Movement Archive - CRMVet.org
Timeline of the Civil Rights Movement - Wikipedia
Today in Civil Liberties History - by Sam Walker, University of Nebraska at Omaha
BlackPast.org - online reference center of materials on African American history
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.