July 31, 1919
"Red Summer of 1919" Erupts in Chicago After Black Youth Killed for Swimming in a White Segregated Beach
Copied directly from the Equal Justice Initiative
By noon on July 31, 1919, more than thirty fires had been set in Chicago's African American neighborhood. Set by angry white mobs, these acts of arson were part of an extended barrage of violence targeting Chicago’s Black community during a summer filled with racial violence in America. This season was dubbed "Red Summer of 1919," and saw attacks targeting Black communities erupt in major cities throughout the country. The five days of riots and attacks that upended Chicago are widely considered the worst of the Red Summer riots.
The violence began on July 27, 1919, when a 17-year-old Black boy named Eugene Williams drowned in Lake Michigan. Eugene and some friends had been swimming at the segregated beach when a white man grew angry that the teens had drifted into the "white side" of the lake. The man threw a rock at the group, striking Eugene in the head, knocking him unconscious, and causing him to drown despite onlookers attempts to save him.
Police responded to the scene but refused to arrest the white man witnesses identified as the rock thrower; instead, officers arrested a Black man at the scene for not following their orders to calm down. Black onlookers who protested this injustice were shouted down and attacked by growing white crowds. Soon, a conflict sparked by the murder of a Black boy became an opportunity for white mobs to act on the tension and anger they felt toward Chicago's growing Black community. For several days, white mobs terrorized Black Chicago, attacking people and destroying property. The violence continued until August 3rd.
July 30, 1963
NAACP Issues Unified Call for the March on Washington, Scheduled for August 28, 1963
This historic document calls on all the NAACP chapters around the country to join in the March on Washington. It represents a unified front of several civil right organizations which joined to plan the huge march culminating in over 250,000 supporters and activists.
Roy Wilkins (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People , NAACP)
A. Phlip Randolph (Negro American Labor Council of the AFL-CIO)
Whitney Young (National Urban League)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, (Southern Christian Leadership Conference - SCLC)
Jamers Farmer (Congress of Racial Equality –C ORE)
John Lewis (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee –SNCC)
See full letter: https://www.crmvet.org/docs/6308_naacp_mow.pdf
July 29, 1961
Ten Freedom Riders Challenge the Colored Only Waiting Room in Jackson, Mississippi
Hundreds of Freedom Riders were arrested in 1961, with Jackson, Mississippi a common destinnation. This is just a sample. Most Freedom Rides were integrated. In this case, their primary act of resistance was entering the "Colored Only" waiting room upon arrival at the bus station in Jackson. Not pictured: Catherine Jo Prensky,,
Norma Wagner (not arrested)
July 28, 1917
10,000 African Americans March in New York City to Protest Racial Violence
Copied directly from the Equal Justice Initiative
On July 28, 1917, 10,000 African American men, women, and children marched in silence through the streets of New York City to protest lynching in America. In what is considered one of the first public demonstrations by African Americans in the 20th century, the NAACP mobilized thousands of members of the Black community in the "Negro Silent Protest Parade" down Fifth Avenue.
Formulated by James Weldon Johnson, the silent march was intended to be a public response and criticism of lynching and racial violence committed against African American communities in the United States. Earlier that summer, violence in East St. Louis, Illinois, killed many African Americans and devastated the Black community. Threatened by a growing African American labor force, a group of white men gathered in the downtown area of East St. Louis in May 1917 and began attacking and beating unsuspecting African Americans. That July, an armed white mob drove into Black residential areas and opened fire on men, women, and children; when Black residents shot back, a police officer was killed, triggering more violence. Armed white mobs flooded the Black community, shooting Black residents as they fled, hanging Black people from street lamps, and burning Black homes and businesses to the ground.
The thousands of marchers in New York City also were spurred to action by the racial terror lynching of 17-year-old Jesse Washington, who was hanged, burned, and dismembered by a white mob in front of City Hall in Waco, Texas, on May 15, 1916.
The silent marchers communicated their frustration to the nation by holding signs and banners, but did not speak one word. Children led the march wearing white, followed by prominent NAACP members like W.E.B. Du Bois and a banner that read "Your Hands Are Full of Blood." The American flag was carried as a reminder of the democratic ideals that failed to protect African Americans. The march launched the NAACP's public campaign against lynching and racial violence.
July 27, 1962
Students Arrested at Kneel-In at City Hall in Albany, Georgia
Quoted directly from the Civil Rights Digital Library
In this silent WSB newsfilm clip, police monitor a group of mostly African American students who have gathered in front of the city hall in Albany, Georgia for a "kneel-in"; afterwards the police lead demonstrators away.
The clip begins with small numbers of students, including Charles Jones, William Hansen, and Rutha Harris, congregating in front of Albany City Hall under the watchful eye of police. As the demonstrators kneel and pray, the police officers walk back and forth in front of students while onlookers observe from an alley beside the city hall building.
Large-scale demonstrations in Albany began after the arrival of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) volunteers Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon in the summer of 1961. Atlanta-based SNCC sent the two to Albany to evaluate the possibility of a voter registration project. Sherrod and Reagon found local high school and college students interested in the Civil Rights movement and taught principles of nonviolence to many of them. In November, 1961 the Albany Movement, created from the civil rights efforts of several local clubs, began leading civil rights demonstrations and protests. Albany demonstrations followed other civil rights efforts in the South by confronting segregation with direct action tactics such as marches; boycotts of the bus system and downtown businesses; and tests of the public library, public parks, and other segregated facilities. As in this clip, the Albany protesters also staged "kneel-ins," public prayers for the city and its leaders often held near City Hall. Civil rights activists frequently submitted to arrest rather than leave when confronted by police in order to demonstrate resistance against laws they considered unjust and to increase pressure on city officials. Albany police chief Laurie Pritchett, aware of the sympathetic national attention demonstrators gained by scenes of police violence during civil rights protests, instructed Albany officers to respond nonviolently to passive resistance.
WSB-TV newsfilm clip of African American students arrested after a kneel-in at city hall in Albany, Georgia, 1962 July 27, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1046, 43:04/44:28, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia. –http://crdl.usg.edu/news/mp4/wsbn44812.mp4
July 26, 1964
Mississippi Night Raids by Armed Riders
From the New York Times, page 17, July 27, 1964
JACKSON, Miss., July 26—Night riders used gunfire, dynamite, tear gas and Molotov cocktaIls to harass Negroes and civil rights workers in five Mississippi communities during the weekend,
The violence appeared to have stemmed from the stepped‐up efforts by terrorist groups to protest the presence of several hundred volunteers who are conducting schools and working for Negro voter registration and in behalf of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
The party is a predominantly Negro group seeking to become the official branch of the National Democratic party in this Mate.
Fire Damages Church
Before dawn yesterday, the Rose Hill Negro Church near McComb was damaged by fire apparently set by arsonists. The church is a few miles from other Negro churches burned in the blast few days. About the same time, a whiskey bottle filled with gasoline exploded on the porch of a home in Hattiesburg occupied by Negroes who have been active in the Freedom party. Both fires were extinguished before there was much damage.
Early today, night riders exploded two bombs in front of the home of Charles Bryant, a Negro who lives just outside the city limits of McComb. Mr. Bryant said two sticks of dynamite that failed to explode were found in his yard, which was to have been used for a civil rights meeting this afternoon.
Tear Gas Hurled
In Batesville, a Negro family and three civil rights workers were routed from the home of Robert K. Miles by tear gas from an Army‐type bomb that exploded in the front yard. The workers, two whites and a Negro, were living with the Miles family.
The automobile was burned in Mileston, a small community in Holmes County, at the home of David Howart, a Negro whose family has been housing white and Negro civil rights workers. Two white workers — Robert Greer of Oxford, England, and Don Hamer of Pittsburgh —were sleeping in the house at the time.
In Greenwood, the family of Silas McGhee, a 21‐year‐old Negro, reported that shots were fired into its home three miles from town. The family said the shots lodged in a wooden frael and did no other damage. Three Greenwood white men were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Friday on charges of conspiring to violate the newly enacted Civil flights Law in connection with the beating of Mr. McGhee on July 16. He had attended a movie theater integrated in compliance with the law.
On Thursday night, hooded men broke into the studio of Greenwood television station WABG and beat an announcer. Olin Higgs, after he had read a news agency account of the arrest. Willie A. Belk, 47 years old; his son, Jimmy A. Belk, 19 and am Allen Shaffer Jr., 40, were taken into custody and were freed under bond of $1,000 each pending a hearing before a United States Commissioner in Clarksdale.
July 25, 1963
Farmville, VA Protests Begin
A group of seventy demonstrators picketed downtown businesses, the courthouse, and the Farmville Shopping Center, kicking off 2 months of anti-segregation actions in Farmville, VA, which included sit-ins, kneel-ins, try-ins, and economic boycotts.
Reverend L. Francis Griffin organized the direct-action campaign to, as he told reporters, "protest closed schools, delay in the courts, and segregation in its totality." Public schools in Prince Edward County and its county seat, Farmville, had been closed since June 1959, when county officials refused to levy taxes to operate schools rather than follow federal court orders to desegregate. Prince Edward County remained steadfast and became the only place in the nation without public education.
Griffin found a cadre of young people eager to participate in the broader civil rights revolution in order to bring change to their community. Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) trained teenage volunteers, while NAACP attorneys advised them on how to respond to resistance from law enforcement officials.
The protests ended in September 1963, after the formation of the Prince Edward Free School Association, a nonprofit organization that established and maintained an integrated school system in Prince Edward County until 1964, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the county to reopen its public schools. The Farmville protests did not end the county's racial discrimination, but they helped set the community on a path to change.
Adapted in whole and in part from "Farmville Protests of 1963," Encyclopedia of Virginia
July 24, 1961
Freedom Rider Family Arrested Upon Landing at Jackson Airport
In July 24, 1961, Kredelle Petway, her father, Matthew Petway, a pastor and former NAACP activist, her younger brother, Alphonso Petway and Cecil A. Thomas, a fellow Freedom rider were arrested only minutes after arrival in the Jackson airport. She was just 20-years-old.
"When we landed in Jackson, they were waiting for us," Kredelle Petway said. The group spent three days in jail before being bailed out. "It was very interesting, because I knew we were going to get out," Petway said. "I was too excited to be nervous."
Born in Camden, Alabama in 1941, Kredelle participated in the Montgomery and Tallahassee sit-ins while studying mathematics at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. She spent her breaks at home in Montgomery, Ala. In 1961, she filled in as a secretary for the Montgomery Improvement Association, a group started in 1955, after Rosa Park's arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.
That summer she sat around the dinner table with Dr. Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy (Dr. King's close assistant and best friend) and her father Matthew Petway to discuss the Petway family's participation in the 2nd wave of Freedom Rides. The plan for the family was to board a flight from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi.
Following the rides, Petway graduated from Florida A & M University in 1972 with a degree in mathematics. Over the years, Petway worked for a number of organizations, including the Louisville Urban League, U.S. Department of Treasury and Veteran Affairs.
July 23, 1967
Detroit Police Spark 5-Days of Riots and Massive Destruction
The 12th Street Riot, one of the most violent riots in United States history, began in the predominantly African American inner city of Detroit. Over the next five days, 43 people were killed, 1,189 were injured and 7,231 had been arrested; 2,509 buildings were burned with an estimated loss of $36 million in insured property "and undoubtedly millions more were lost by those without insurance, not to mention wages, income and government costs."
The triggering event was a raid at 3:50 in the morning on the United Community and Civic League, "an illegal after-hours liquor operation" in an apartment at 9215 Twelfth Street at the corner of 12th and Clairmount. Police from Detroit's 10th Precinct closed six weeks of preparation with the arrest of 82 people who were having a party for two veterans who had recently returned from the Vietnam War.
While the police were making the arrests, a crowd had gathered to watch and, "As the last of the prisoners were loaded into cars", a reporter would note later, "someone whose name may never be known... picked an empty bottle off the street and from the protection of the crowd, hurled it toward the building." The bottle smashed the rear window of a squad car, and within moments, more people were throwing bottles, breaking store windows, and looting businesses.
"Of the 43 people who were killed", the Kerner Commission would note later, "33 were Negro and 10 were white. Seventeen were looters, of whom two were white. Fifteen citizens (of whom four were white), one white National Guardsman, one white firemen, and one Negro private guard died as the result of gunshot wounds."
Photo: Police and National Guardsmen prepare to search a black man in Detroit who they think has a knife in his pocket. (Wayne State University)
July 22, 1963
Treaty of Cambridge (Maryland) Agreement Signed
Cambridge, Maryland was a target of protests against segregation by northern activists throughout much of 1963. Multiple acts of violence, arrests, and boycotts occurred throughout that summer.
On July 22, 1963, Gloria Richardson, several state government representatives, and SNCC Chairman John Lewis met with Robert F. Kennedy at the Justice Department to hammer out an agreement. Unlike Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and most prominent white liberals, Richardson bristled at compromise, in part because she did not share the same stake in the status quo that they had as office holders, ministers, and business people. Moreover, Richardson believed the Kennedy Administration was more focused on ending violence than ensuring racial justice.
Even so, the group ultimately came to an agreement--the "Treaty of Cambridge," as it was called--to overhaul race relations in the divided city. The treaty established a local human rights commission, sped up the desegregation of public schools and the construction of public housing, amended the city charter to make racial discrimination in public accommodations illegal, and created an innovative job-training program.
July 21, 1961
Freedom Riders Arrested in Jackson
Over 400 Freedom Riders rode buses from various east and west coast cities into the deep south in 1961 to challenge local segregation practices in Alabama and Mississippi. This is the story of just one brave Freedom Rider, Charles G. Sellers, Jr.
In July, 1961, I flew to Jackson Mississippi with a group of religious leaders who were organized by the secretary of Berkeley’s YMCA, Cecil Thomas. Our group of nine (7 whites and 2 blacks) joined Martin Luther King, Jr. at nearby Tougaloo Southern Christian College for a one day conference on July 20 on the religious significance of racial inequality in travel. I decided that as a non-believer at a religious conference, I would attend but would not speak before the group.
After the conference, on July 21, our group entered the Jackson airport’s “white’s only” waiting room for the return flight home in deliberate defiance of the “breach of peace” law. We were told to “go back or move on” and when we refused were immediately escorted to police vans and charged with “breach of peace” on the grounds of public safety. We were then booked, mug shots taken, and jailed. But after a night in jail, where we experienced its dreadful food, we were released after we paid fines of $250 and were ordered to return for a hearing in two to three months.
In order to bankrupt CORE and other civil rights organizations, the Mississippi authorities refused to try us at the time. Instead they waited two or three months before summoning us back to Jackson on short notice for a grand jury hearing. We all made the trip back to Mississippi by car for the hearing. After it was over, I returned to my teaching duties in Berkeley and my academic research and writing. That fall, however, victory was achieved when the Interstate Commerce Commission at the behest of Attorney General Robert Kennedy began to enforce the 1960 law that prohibited segregation in interstate transit terminals.
Charles Sellers, arrested at Hawkins Field Airport in Jackson, Miss., on July 21, 1961; photographed Feb. 16, 2007, in Berkeley, Calif. Mississippi Department of Archives and history: Eric Etheridge
Today. Sellers, born September 9, retired in 1990 in where he was Professor of History at the University of California Berkeley.
Quoted sections from Memoirs of Charles G. Sellers, Jr. Vol 2
July 20, 1964
Ella Baker Calls on Democratic Convention Delegates to Support the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to be Seated at the Convention
Ella Baker, a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, wrote this letter to national delegates in preparation for the Convention in Atlantic City later in August. The MFDP, under Baker's leadership, fielded their own contingent of Mississippi delegates, challenging the all-white Mississippi contingent on the grounds that most Blacks in Mississippi were still prevented from voting.
This effort was another element of the season long 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer which included nearly 1000 volunteers who helped advocate for voting rights throughout Mississippi. Baker was a key leader in all these efforts.
Read more about Ella Baker and the MFDP
Left: Photocopy of original letter, https://www.crmvet.org/docs/640720_mfdp_letter.pdf
Bottom: Ella Baker, 1964. Dnny Lyon
July 19, 1964
Church Burnings and Violence Continue During Mississippi Freedom Summer
Violence against civil rights workers and burnings of Black community churches continued throughout the summer during Mississippi Freedom Summer. Churches were often targeted for burnings and bombings regardless of their association with civil rights actions.
Below quoted from The Student Voice, July 29, 1964.
McCOMB, MlSSlSSIPPI - Three churches have been burned to the ground here in the past week, and another church near Jackson was destroyed by fire July 19. A total of 13 churches have been burned or bombed in Mississippi since the Summer Project began. The most recent burning here occurred July 23, when the Rose Hill Baptist Church was burned down. The Mount Vernon Baptist Church burned July 22. and the Zion Hill Baptist Church was destroyed July 17. Neither church had been used for civil rights activity. The Christian Union Baptist Church in Madison County, near Jackson, burned July 19.
July 18, 1963
John Lewis Trains Volunteers in Non-Violence in Cambridge, Maryland
Rep. John Lewis passed away yesterday, July 17, 2020. For 60 years, Lewis worked feverishly as a giant of the Freedom Rights Movement.
Organized lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville – 1960
Among the first 13 Freedom Riders –1961
National Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) – 1963
Spoke at the March on Washington –1963
Coordinated SNCC's efforts for "Mississippi Freedom Summer" – 1964
Brutally beaten in Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge – 1965
Served in Congress – 1986-2020
John Lewis, center, national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee explains protective measures to two white students participating in the civil rights movement in Cambridge, Md., July 18, 1963. Lewis, from the Atlanta, Ga., office of the student group, is here to help in the integrationist struggle. On left is Gretchen Schwarz of Philadelphia, while Carol Rogoff of Brooklyn, N.Y., also participates. (AP Photo/William A. Smith)
July 17, 1964
5 Days of Riots End in Newark, New Jersey
Five days of bloodstained riots came to an end in New Jersey. Disintegrating urban neighborhoods, high poverty, unemployment levels, police brutality, and federal inaction led to a summer of unrest. By the end of the summer thousands were arrested, hundreds killed, and miles of city landscape reduced to rubble.
The rioting began in Newark after a Black cab driver was arrested for passing a double-parked police car. The arresting officers took him to the precinct and beat him senseless. A crowd formed outside, throwing rocks, brick, and glass bottles at the police station. The mob broke into smaller groups and began smashing out storefronts. Looters broke into businesses, setting fires. Two days into the looting the National Guard was called in. Five days after the arrest of the cab diver the riots ended. 26 dead, nearly 800 injured, and close to 1,500 in jail.
July 16, 1964
111 Arrested in Greenwood During Mississippi Freedom Day Voting Rights Actions
Full text from The Student Voice, July 22, 1964.
111 local Negroes. SNCC workers, and Mississippi Summer Project volunteers were arrested here after a Freedom Day on July 16. SNCC has been working in Greenwood since 1962. Greenwood's first "Freedom Day" was held March 25, and resulted in the arrests of 14 workers and local residents.
A second "Freedom Day" was held April 9 –46 persons were arrested. The jailings were made as integrated groups picketed the Leflore County Courthouse, carrying signs urging Negroes to register to vote.
Among those jailed were SNCC program director Courtland Cox, Second Congressional District project director Stokeley Carmichael, SNCC workers Frank Smith, Iris Greenberg, Gwen Gillon, Eli Zaretsky, and Charles Neblett.
Greenwood and Leflore County have a history of anti-civil rights activity. August 26, 1962 the SNCC office here was attacked by white men carrying ropes and chains. In Feb. 1963. SNCC worker Jimmy Travis was machine -gunned by three white men. In March. 1963 three SNCC workers were shot while they were sitting in a car. That same month. the SNCC office here was set on fire.
There are 10.274 whites and 13.567 Negroes of voting age in Leflore County. Ninety-five and one-half percent of the whites are registered voters. but only 1.9% of the eligible Negroes have been permitted to pass Mississippi's voting test. In nearby Drew, at least 20 other civil rights supporters were still being held behind bars. in lieu of bail totaling $3.500. They were arrested on July 15 after police ordered them from a church and a vacant lot. Summer worker Len Edwards reported that the White Citizens. Council had held a meeting in Drew shortly before the rights workers had been arrested.
In the fall of 1961, following SNCC led protests again segregation in Albany, Georgia, a coalition of civil rights organizations formed including the Ministerial Alliance, NAACP, Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Negro Voters League, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It was referred to as the Albany Movement, and its goal was to end all forms of segregation and discrimination in the region
Albany’s population was was 40 percent Black, few were registered to vote. The city itself was completely segregated. and under a culture of fear created by Police Chief Laurie Pritchett.
After months of protest actions, negotiations between the Albany Movement and city officials collapsed when movement leaders learned that earlier promises made by Pritchett were a sham leading to a collectively written Manifesto sent to to Albany mayor Asa D. Kelley.
July 15, 1962
"The Albany Movement totally rejects the response of the city of Albany toward its requests as transmitted through Chief of Police, Laurie Pritchett. We have discovered over the last six months that it is the intention of the city fathers to retain the system of segregation throughout the community regardless of the constitutional rights and just demands of the Negro citizenry."
July 14, 1964
Civil rights protesters climb unfinished Gateway Arch in St. Louis
St. Louis CORE activists, Percy Green and Richard Daly, climbed a construction ladder to the unfinished top of the Gateway Arch to protest lack of jobs for Blacks at the work site.
“I’ll stay up here until I starve to death,” shouted Percy Green. CORE had been picketing the riverfront work site and the Old Courthouse for several days before Green and Daly made their move. Other CORE members were picketing on the ground.
Green and Daly began descending the ladder about a half hour later, just as picketers below had told reporters they would. Green and Daly refused police orders to get up after laying on the ground. Officers carried them to a police vehicle for the ride to city lockup.
July 13, 1929
White Mob Forces 200 Black People Out of North Platte, Nebraska
On the afternoon of Saturday, July 13, 1929, more than 200 black residents of North Platte, Nebraska, were driven out of the city by a mob of white residents. The mob targeted the entire black community with violence after a black man was accused of killing a local white police officer.
The day before, two white police officers responded to a domestic violence call at the North Platte home of a black man named Louis "Slim" Seeman. When Mr. Seeman allegedly shot and killed one of the officers, a mob of white men and police descended on his home and trapped him inside of a chicken coop on the property. The mob doused the coop with gasoline and set it ablaze with Mr. Seeman inside; when his body was pulled from the wreckage, it was clear he had died from a gunshot wound -- either by his own hand or fired by a member of the mob.
Even after the object of their rage was dead, the large gathering of white men remained enraged at the bold violation of racial hierarchy represented by a black man taking the life of a white man. Determined to punish the entire black community, 500 angry white citizens wielding sticks and ropes demanded that all local black people leave the city. Facing the threat of deadly violence, after seeing the terrible fate of Mr. Seeman, North Platte’s 200 black residents departed that night by foot, train, and automobile, leaving behind most of their possessions.
A county sheriff later commented, “It was the understanding when they left that they were to stay away. The idea is to keep them out.”
July 12, 1964
Bodies of Henry Dee and Charles Moore Found During Search for Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner
On July 12, 1964 the bodies of Charles Eddie Moore, a college student, and Henry Hezekiah Dee, a millworker, both 19 and from Franklin County, Mississippi, were found.
On May 2, 1964, they had been abducted by Ku Klux Klan members, tortured, and drowned in the Mississippi River.
Their bodies were found, but then ignored by the authorities (some who were complicit in the horrific crime), during the search for Freedom Summer volunteers James Chaney, Andy Goodman, and Micky Schwerner.
It was not until Canadian filmmakers learned about and actively pursued the case in 2004 that charges were filed.
Learn more from the Civil Rights Cold Case Project - see "Henry Dee and Charles Moore Case" on the Cold Case Project via the web.archive.org
July 11, 1954
First White Citizens’ Council
A large group of white residents of Indianola, Mississippi, formed the first White Citizens’ Council to organize and carry out massive resistance to racial integration of public schools, a direct reaction to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling 2 months earlier. Within a year, 250 White Citizens’ Councils had been launched throughout the South, boasting a total of 60,000 members; by 1956, active Councils were operating in 30 states, and by 1957, membership reached 250,000.
The Councils’ membership of business, religious, and civic leaders defended white supremacy and used social pressure and economic retaliation to intimidate and coerce black and white people who supported integration. In South Carolina, where 55 Council chapters were active by July 1956, 17 black parents were fired or evicted from their farms within two weeks of signing a pro-integration petition in the small town of Elloree. In Yazoo County, Mississippi, when 53 black residents signed an NAACP petition for integration, the local Council published their names in a newspaper ad, leading to harassment, firing, and credit cancellation. In the end, all signers removed their names from the petition and the Yazoo County NAACP disbanded.
The White Citizens' Councils claimed to not endorse or engage in explicit violence, and in that way tried to differentiate themselves from groups like the Ku Klux Klan. The Councils, dubbed the "Uptown KKK," did largely avoid the Klan’s stigma but shared many goals -- and in some cases, members.
The massive resistance by the white community was largely successful in preventing the integration of schools in the South. In the five Deep South states, every single one of 1.4 million black schoolchildren attended segregated schools until the fall of 1960. By the start of the 1964-65 school year, less than 3 percent of the South’s African American children attended school with white students, and in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina that number remained substantially below 1 percent. In 1967, 13 years after Brown, a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that white violence and intimidation against black people “continues to be a deterrent to school desegregation.”
Greenwood, July 10-Phil Moore, a SNCC volunteer, reported he was beaten and hit with a club by a representative of the Interstate Insurance Company who told him to "get out of town."
Hattiesburg, July 10 - Three summer volunteers were assaulted by two white youths with metal bars and beaten on their way to SNCC canvassing headquarters. All three, Including a rabbi, were released after hospital treatment.
Greenwood, July 10 - SNCC worker Fred Mangrum was singled out of a group of 12 SNCC workers and arrested for profanity.
Hattiesburg, July 10 - SNCC worker reported interference by the telephone company with their phone lines after they made repeated calls to the FBI.
Jackson, July 10 - FBI director J. Edgar Hoover told newsmen the FBI would give "no protection" to civil rights workers.
July 10, 1964
Freedom Summer Underway Throughout Mississippi In Face of Constant Attacks
ississippi Freedom Summer involved hundreds of SNCC volunteers from the north who fanned out across Mississippi working on voting rights and running Freedom Schools. Their work continued throughout the summer despite daily threats, police intimidation and violence. This is just a snippet example of one day as reported in SNCC's newsletter, The Student Voice
July 9, 1978
White Supremacists Rally in Chicago Park
White supremacists wearing Nazi uniforms held a rally in Chicago’s Marquette Park. Over 2,000 spectators descended on the park as representatives of the National Socialist Party of America espoused their views; some eyewitnesses estimated that a third of the crowd was supportive of the speakers’ message, while others were curious onlookers or anti-racist protesters.
The majority of people living in the area of Marquette Park did not see themselves as sympathetic to Nazism, but many did support the goal of keeping black people out of their all-white neighborhood. More than a decade earlier, in 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assaulted in Marquette Park while campaigning for African Americans' rights to buy housing in the white community.
This 1978 rally was the culmination of a long legal fight between the National Socialist Party of America and Chicago officials. Founded in 1970 by a former member of the American Nazi Party, the NSPA was based in Marquette Park and engaged in several incidents of racial violence there during the summer of 1976. In 1977, the city of Chicago passed an ordinance requiring anyone seeking a permit to hold a rally in Marquette Park to first obtain thousands of dollars in insurance coverage.
The NSPA protested, arguing that it could not afford the insurance, and that the ordinance effectively infringed on their first amendment rights. In retaliation, the group made alternative attempts to get permits to march through suburban communities, including a Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Illinois, that was home to some survivors of the Holocaust. When Skokie officials were unsuccessful at blocking that march through the courts, Chicago officials granted the NSPA permission to rally in Marquette Park instead. The July 9 rally was the result.
At the rally, NSPA members expressed violent threats toward Jewish people and blamed them for bringing an influx of African Americans into the area. NSPA leader Frank Collin denied the Holocaust while declaring that Jewish people “deserve one and they will get it.” He also vowed that the NSPA would see Marquette Park become a “graveyard” before allowing it to be integrated or “taken over by blacks.”
Approximately forty police officers were present at the rally to separate counter-demonstrators from the speakers, but when the hurling of racial slurs led to scuffles and fights, more than seventy people were arrested.
July 8, 1964
SNCC Freedom House Bombed in McComb
Three bombs exploded in the early morning at the SNCC Freedom House at 702 Wall St. in McComb, Mississippi, severely damaging the building where 10 SNCC volunteers were sleeping inside. Curtis Hayes (who later changed his last name to Muhammad) was knocked unconscious and had cuts all over his arms, face and body. The police and fire dept. showed up 20 minutes later, offering very little help. Other people in the house included: George Greene (20), Julius Sampstein (25), Dennis Sweeney (21), Curtis Hayes (22), Don McCord (26), Sherry Everitt (19), Pat Walker, Freddye Greene (19), Clint Hopson (26), and Jesse Harris (22). About 100 Blacks gathered outside, lending support. The Freedom House also served as the Freedom School in McCcComb during the 1964 Freedom Summer.
July 7, 1961
John Lewis Released from Jail
Future U.S. Congressman John Lewis was released from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He and scores of other Freedom Riders were arrested and sent to the notorious prison throughout the summer.
In his own words, from an interview with John Lewis, November 20, 1973
We arrived in Jackson at the Trailways Bus Station there and we were arrested for refusing to move on, and disorderly conduct, and disturbing the peace. When the city jail got too full, they transferred us to the Hinds County jail and from Hinds County jail we were transferred to Parchman.
I will never forget the experience going from Hinds County jail in Jackson to Parchman, the state penitentiary. The jailers came to the cell and they did all of this late at night. [unclear]. They had a large van truck and they took all of the male prisoners, black and white, into this van truck. We had been segregated in the city jail, the Hinds County jail. Putting us together in this large van truck was the first integration, I guess. After we got off the bus, they thought of putting black and white people together to transport them to the State Pen. We arrived there and one of the guards said, "Sing your Freedom songs now, we have niggers here who will eat you up; sing your Freedom songs."
The moment we all started stepping off the van truck, walking to the gate through the gate that leads to maximum security, that's where we were being placed. We had to walk right in and you had to take off all of your clothes. So all of us-seventy-five guys, black and white, because during that period you had students, professors, ministers coming in from all parts of the country to continue the Freedom Ride. And we stood there for at least two hours without and clothes and I just felt that it was an attempt to belittle and dehumanize you.
Then they would take us in twos, two blacks and two whites—the segregation started all over again after we got inside the jail—to take a shower. While we were taking a shower, there was a guard standing there with a gun pointed on you while you showered. If you had a beard or a mustache, any hair, you had to shave your beard off, you had to shave your mustache off. After taking the showers in twos, you were placed in a cell and given a Mississippi undershirt and a pair of shorts.
During our stay in Mississippi Penitentiary we didn't have any visitors. We were able to write one person a letter. The second day Governor [unknown] came by with some state officials. We all got out within a forty-day period in order to appeal the charges.
July 6, 1964
50 Arrested Trying to Register to Vote in Selma
During one of only two registration days during the month of July, John Lewis led 50 black citizens to the courthouse in Selma, Alabama. County Sheriff Jim Clark arrested them all instead of allowing them to apply to vote. On July 9, 1964, Judge James Hare issued an injunction forbidding any gathering of three or more people under the sponsorship of civil rights organizations or leaders. This injunction made it illegal for more than two people at a time to talk about civil rights or voter registration in Selma, suppressing public civil rights activity there for the next six months.
July 5, 1962
SNCC Workers Beaten in Jackson Jail
Many dozens of SNCC and other Freedom Rights workers were arrested, threatened and beaten while in jail during the '60s. This is just a snippet of one event direct from the CRMVET Archives.
Jesse Harris, 20, and Luvaghn Brown, 17, SNCC workers, charged that they were beaten and threatened with death while serving a 30-day sentence In the county jail for contempt of court. The young Negroes had refused to move from a court bench customarily occupied by whites while they were attending the trial of Mrs. Diane Nash Bevel. The young men said that, in the courthouse elevator, a deputy sheriff called Harris "a damned nigger" and beat him about the head with his fist. At the county farm, they were singled out as freedom riders and wore striped uniforms. Both were beaten by guards. Harris was beaten by a guard named Keith while other prisoners held him. Keith beat him across the back with a length of hose threatening: "Nigger, I'll kill you."
July 4, 1964
No Freedom on Independence Day
In Selma, Alabama, four Black members of the literacy project — Silas Norman, Karen House, Carol Lawson and James Wiley — attempt to implement the new law by desegregating the Thirsty Boy drive-in. A crowd of whites attack them, and they are arrested for "Trespass." At the movie theater, Black students come down from the "Colored" balcony to the white-only main floor. They are also attacked and beaten by whites. The cops close the theater — there will be no integration in Selma, no matter what some federal law in Washington says.
On July 4, 1964, four of us were hungry and decided to test the stretch of new federal law by asking for sandwiches the Thirsty Boy Restaurant downtown. When we sat down, after being refused to be served, Clark was called in with goons and cattle prods. They ejected us and carried us off to jail. Hundreds of people joined us in jail as city-wide protests grew during the next week. ~James W. Wiley
Quoted directly from the The Student Voice, July 15, 1964
South of Atlanta, Alabama governor George Wallace gave a speech condemning the Civil Rights Act, claiming that it would threaten individual liberty, free enterprise and private property rights and adding: "The liberal left-wingers have passed it. Now let them employ some pinknik social engineers in Washington, D.C., to figure out what to do with it."The event, coming two days after the Civil Rights Act became law, included Mississippi governor Ross Barnett, and would degenate into violence after members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began booing and were attacked by angry audience members. Wikipedia
Georgia establishments in Atlanta, Albany, Thomasville, Tifton, Savannah and Americus integrated quietly on July 3. but on the days following, SNCC worker John Perdew, 22, of Denver, Colorado, was beaten in Americus four times by a white mob on July 4 after leaving a newly integrated restaurant; mobs of whites drove through Americus' Negro neighborhoods shooting and throwing bricks; four SNCC workers. Donald Harris, Randolph Battle, Roy Shields and Dale Smith and nine other Negroes were arrested on July 5th for trying to enter a public swimming pool in Albany; a mob of 250 whites and police chased Negroes away from an integrated movie theatre in Americus.
In Laurel, Mississippi on July 4, a group of Negroes attempting to enter a restaurant were refused by a white mob and two Negro youths were slashed with razor blades. In Selma. Alabama. Negros peacefully integrated a movie theatre on July 4 until the owner stopped selling tickets. Mobs of whites and policemen attacked the Negroes waiting outside.
In Pine Bluff, Arkansas.members of a SNCC testing team were served in two of four places they entered. At one, Ray's Truck Stop, where comedian Dick Gregory and Arkansas Project Director Bill Hansen were arrested earlier this year, a white customer hit a Negro SNCC worker. At another eating place, a white man threatened the group with a shotgun.
July 3, 1919
White Mobs Terrorize African Americans in East St. Louis Riots
Violence continued to rage in East St. Louis, Illinois (across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO), as white mobs attacked black residents and destroyed their homes and other property. The primary outbreak of violence began on July 2, 1917, when white residents of East St. Louis and other nearby communities ambushed African American workers as they left factories during a shift change. The National Guard was called in to suppress the violence but they were ordered not to shoot at white rioters; some troops reportedly joined the mobs targeting the black community. Periodic white violence against newly arriving Black workers moved north in search of industrial work. Beyond perceived economic threat, the white community reacted to false accusations of voter fraud, including unsubstantiated rumors that large numbers of black were shipped in to impact elections. Multiple efforts by local governments and the white population to stem the flow led to one of the nations worst events of white mob violence against blacks. (See Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921). Some estimates indicate up to 200, African American men, women, and children were shot, hanged, beaten to death, or burned alive after being driven into burning buildings. More than half of East St. Louis’s Black population permanently fled the city. While 105 people were indicted on charges related to the riot, only twenty members of the white mob received prison sentences for their roles in perpetrating the extreme violence and killings.
July 2, 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964 Signed
On this day in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After nearly half a century of legal campaigning from the NAACP, a decade of nonviolent civil disobedience by the SCLC, and years of voter campaigns and community building by the SNCC, the federal government passed the most important civil rights legislation since the abolition of slavery in 1865. Businesses were now required to provide equal services to customers of all races and creeds. Discriminatory hiring acts were illegal, and an agency was formed to assist African Americans with discrimination problems in their communities.This Day in Civil Rights History
July 1, 2027
Mississippi Sovereignty Commission Files Sealed for 50 Years
On this day in 2027, the remaining files of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission will be opened to the public after being sealed for 50 years. The MSC was founded in 1956 – as a state-funded agency –t o “do and perform any and all acts and things deemed necessary and proper to protect the sovereignty of the state of Mississippi and her sister states” from federal interference. State sovereignty commissions colluded with White Citizens’ Councils and local law enforcement to punish civil rights groups. Gradually over time, the commissions were shut down. Debate arose over whether to save or destroy files and paperwork. The Mississippi legislature avoided the issue by locking the files away for 50 years.
The ACLU successfully sued and nearly 100,000 documents were released and now published on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History online database.Adapted in whole and in part from This Day in Civil Rights History
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
Civil Rights Movement Timeline - History.com
US Civil Rights History - On This Day
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.