This Day in Civil Rights History - SEPTEMBER

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September 30, 1962

Southern Segregationists Riot at Ole Miss As James Meredith Moves Into Dorm – Kennedy Sends in Federal Troops

Excerpted in whole from, Ole Miss Riot (1962),, Brodsky, M.

On the evening of Sunday, September 30, 1962, Southern segregationists rioted and fought state and federal forces on the campus of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford, Mississippi to prevent the enrollment of the first African American student to attend the university, James Meredith, a U.S. military veteran.

President John F. Kennedy had sent federal marshals to Oxford on Saturday, September 29, 1962 to prepare for protests he knew would arise from Meredith’s arrival and enrollment. While this occurred, Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, a publicly avowed segregationist, spoke at an Ole Miss football game encouraging action on campus to block Meredith’s entry into the university. The next day, Meredith was escorted by Mississippi Highway Patrol as he made his way to the campus to move into his dorm room. He was greeted by 500 federal marshals assigned for his protection. Thousands of rioters from across the South gathered that evening at Ole Miss. The highway patrol tried to push back the crowd, but were dismissed by Mississippi Senator George Yarbrough at around 7:25 p.m. The crowd increased rapidly, and a full riot broke out at 7:30 p.m.

The crowd reached approximately three thousand rioters, led by former Army Major General Edwin Walker, who had recently been forced to retire when he was ordered to stop giving out racist hate literature to his troops but refused to do so. The crowd consisted of high school and college students, Ku Klux Klan members, Oxford residents, and people from outside the area.

By 9:00 p.m. the riot turned extremely violent. U.S. marshals who had been defending Meredith and university officials in the Lyceum building on campus, where Meredith registered, ran out of tear gas. Rioters threw rocks and bottles and began to shoot. President Kennedy then decided to bring in the Mississippi National Guard and Army troops from Memphis, Tennessee, during the middle of the night, led by Brigadier General Charles Billingslea.

Newsreel from September 30, 1962 with short clip of President John F. Kennedy's Address to the nation on radio and television to report on the situation at the University of Mississippi.
Students protest the enrollment of James Meredith, the University of Mississippi's first black student. September, 1962. Rolls Press—Getty Images
Soldiers stationed after Ole Miss Riot, Oxford, Mississippi, Russell H. Barrett Collection, University of Mississippi

Before their arrival, rioters learned of Meredith’s dorm hall, Baxter Hall, and began to attack it. When Billingslea and his men arrived, a white mob set his car on fire while he, the Deputy Commanding General John Corley, and aide Captain Harold Lyon were still inside. The three were able to escape but were forced to crawl 200 yards through gunfire from the mob to get to the Lyceum building. To try and keep control of the crowds, Billingslea created a sequence of secret code words to signal for first, when to issue ammunition to the platoons, second when to issue it to the squads, and finally when to load. None of these could occur without the codes given by Billingslea. This resulted in one third of the Marshals, totaling 166 men, were injured in the mass fight and 40 soldiers and National Guardsmen wounded.

Two men were murdered during the riot: French journalist Paul Guihard who was working for the Agence France-Presse, and 23-year-old Ray Gunter, a white jukebox repairman. In total, more than 300 people were injured. On October 1, 1962, the riot was suppressed with 3,000 soldiers stationed to occupy Oxford and the Ole Miss campus. Meredith, escorted by U.S. Marshals, attended his first class at Ole Miss, an American history course.

September 29, 1962

Mississippi Governor Stirs of A Crowd of Thousands at Halftime Show, While the Kennedy Brothers Urge Restraint

In what was an obvious veiled threat about his continued resistance to permit James Meredith from enrolling at 'Ole Miss, Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett spoke during halftime show in Oxford – University of Mississippi football game against Kentucky – Barnett whipped up the crowd: "I love Mississippi. I love her people. Our customs. I love and respect our heritage."

During the ensuing 24 hours, one day before riots broke out on campus both President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy have a series of telephone calls pleading with Barnett to maintain order.

President Kennedy responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending Army troops. Two men were killed in the turmoil and more than 300 injured during riots the next day.

Read and listen to the September 29, 1962 phone call between Barnett and President Kennedy.
Newsreel footage of Ross Barnett's speech at the University of Mississippi football game. Includes segment from President John F. Kennedy's Sept. 30th address to the nation on radio and television when he federalized the Mississippi National Guard and promised further federal military action to protect the rights of James Meredith to attend the University of Mississippi the next day. Note, embedded date of "Sep '63" is incorrect, should read "
September 29, 1962, as measures are taken to safely transport James Meredith to the University of Mississippi where he will enroll in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding desegregation of the institution, President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy make a series of phone calls to Gov. Ross Barnett who has openly defied the Court's ruling. In one secretly recorded call that day, Attorney General Kennedy gets exasperated when the governor shoots down his idea for crowd control. Text above excerpted from The History Channel

September 28, 1962

Mississippi Governor Found Guilty For Defying Federal Orders to Admit James Meredith to 'Ole Miss

Excerpted in whole from Brown v Board at Fifty: "With an Even Hand" The Aftermath, Library of Congress,

On September 28, the Fifth Circuit Court found Governor Ross Barnett guilty of civil contempt for defying two earlier orders to admit James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. Meredith left the courthouse accompanied by his attorneys Constance Baker Motley and Jack Greenberg. Motley received national recognition for her defense of Meredith. A graduate of Columbia Law School, she joined the Legal Defense Fund as a law clerk in 1946 and became assistant counsel in 1949. She helped prepare the Brown briefs. Thurgood Marshall hired Greenberg as an assistant counsel directly from Columbia Law School in 1949. Greenberg worked on the Sweatt case and was co-counsel on the Parker, Brown and Delaware cases. In 1961, he succeeded Marshall as Director-Counsel of the Legal Defense Fund , serving in that capacity until 1984.

Earlier in the month, on September 10, 1962, the Supreme Court ordered the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, a twenty-eight year old Air Force Veteran, after a sixteen month legal battle. Governor Ross Barnett disavowed the decree and had Meredith physically barred from enrolling. President Kennedy responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending Army troops to protect Meredith. After days of violence and rioting by whites, Meredith, escorted by federal marshals, enrolled on October 1, 1962. Two men were killed in the turmoil and more than 300 injured. Because he had earned credits in the military and at Jackson State College, Meredith graduated the following August without incident.

Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett & James Meredith
James Meredith, (center) and his NAACP attorneys, Mrs. Constance Motley, (left) and Jack Greenberg, (right) paused briefly to talk with reporters in front of the Federal Courts Building in New Orleans, September 28, 1962, Library of Congress
September 21, 1962, John A. Morsell, Assistant to NAACP Executive Secretary to President John F. Kennedy requested the assistance of the federal government in the case of James Meredith. Page 1 : Page 2.

September 27, 1958

One Year After Little Rock Nine, White Arkansas Voters Close Schools Rather Than Integrate

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On September 27, 1958, following violent resistance and political conflict from the white community over attempts to integrate Little Rock, Arkansas's Central High School, city residents voted to close local public schools rather than comply with federal desegregation orders.

After the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, school boards across the country were ordered to draft desegregation plans. The school board in Little Rock, Arkansas, drafted a plan for small numbers of Black students to begin attending previously all-white schools during the 1957-1958 school year. But when nine Black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, made their way to Central High School for the first day of classes in September 1957, they were met by angry crowds and the Arkansas National Guard blocked their entry. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus encouraged the protestors and did everything in his power to hinder integration. Eventually, President Dwight Eisenhower deployed federal troops to Arkansas and commanded the Arkansas National Guard to escort the students to school.

Still committed to resisting integration, Governor Faubus devised another plan. After the academic year ended in spring 1958, the Little Rock School Board petitioned the federal court for a delay in the implementation of its desegregation plan, and was granted a waiver until 1961. The NAACP promptly appealed and the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In September 1958, the Court overturned the granted delay and ordered Little Rock to integrate immediately.

In anticipation of such a development, the Arkansas Legislature had recently passed a law allowing Governor Faubus to close public schools as an emergency measure, and later hold a special election to determine public support. Immediately after the Supreme Court released its decision, the governor put the new law to use, ordering four public high schools closed. Shortly after, in a vote on September 27, an overwhelming majority of voters (19,470 to 7,561) supported continuing the school closure rather than integrating. The schools would remain closed for the entire 1958-1959 academic term, known as “the lost year.”

September 27, 1966

Nine Years After Little Rock Nine, Martin Luther King, Jr. Decries Reluctance of White Power to Make Change

“I contend that the cry of 'Black Power' is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years."

~Martin Luther King, Jr.,
60 Minutes Interview, 1966”

The massive resistance by the white community was largely successful in preventing 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.”

September 26, 1961

White State Legislator Acquitted the Day After Murdering Herbert Lee in Liberty, Mississippi in Broad Daylight with Multiple Witnesses

Herbert Lee was murdered on September 25, 1961. Lee was a dairy farmer in Liberty, Mississippi who helped SNCC field secretary, Robert "Bob" Moses during voter registration efforts in the summer of 1961. Lee was killed in broad daylight by his white childhood friend, E.H. Hurst, then a state legislator, who was angered by Lee's association with SNCC. Local black neighbors, including Louis Allen, witnessed the killing, declaring, under threat and intimidation, that Lee had threatened Hurst with a tire iron..

Below excerpted from Herbert Lee: SNCC Digital Gateway

Allen later reached out to Moses and Steptoe to tell them that the testimony he gave at the inquest was false. As he later told John Doar at the Department of Justice, the courtroom had been packed with armed men, and he was afraid for his family if he revealed the truth. Allen confessed that Lee had asked Hurst to put the gun down and that Hurst had shot him without provocation. When the local authorities got wind of Allen’s confession, he quickly recanted but nonetheless, began to receive death threats. In early 1964, he made plans to leave the state with his family, but was found murdered just outside his property early one morning.

Robert "Bob" Moses talks about the murder of Herbert Lee, Medgar Evers and Louis Allen at the funeral of Herbert's wife Prince Melson Lee.
Herbert Lee and Prince Melson Lee, Civil Rights Martyrs, Southern Poverty Law Center
Commemorative plaque in Liberty, Mississippi
CBS 60 Minutes, full text transcript, April 15, 2011

September 25, 1957

Little Rock Nine Finally Attend Central High School, Guarded by Federal Troops, after Weeks of Violence & Continued Intimidation

Excerpted from Little Rock Central High School Crisis Timeline, National Park Service

At 9:22 a.m., the Little Rock Nine are escorted through the front doors of Little Rock Central High School by more than 20 members of the 101st Airborne Infantry Division. As the Nine enter the main entrance under the care of 22 men, an Army helicopter circles overhead, 350+ paratroopers are surrounding the school's perimeter, and a crowd of students outside the building chant "2, 4, 6, 8, we ain't gonna integrate" in protest.

The area around the school has been cordoned off from spectators and protesters with only the press allowed inside a three-block perimeter; this is the first occasion since school began three weeks prior that crowds had been prevented from gathering outside Central High School.

Before the Nine arrive at Central, Major General Edwin Walker, head of the Little Rock military district, addresses the student body in Central High's auditorium, telling them that "no one will interfere with coming, going, or your peaceful pursuit of your studies." Meanwhile, Federal Judge Ronald Davies calls for all four high schools in Little Rock to be integrated - Hall, Horace Mann, Little Rock Tech and Central, but only Central will see this take place.

Governor Faubus, silent since returning the previous night from the Southern Governors Conference, releases a statement saying he will go on television and radio the following night to discuss the "naked force being employed by the federal government against the people of my state."

Some 750 of Central High School's 2,000 students are absent.

Nine From Little Rock was digitally restored by the Motion Picture Preservation Lab for the 50th anniversary of its win for Best Short Documentary at the 1965 Academy Awards.
A white student slugs an effigy of a black student outside Central High. (AP)
The Little Rock Nine: Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford, Terrace Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, Melba Pattillo, and Minnijean Brown with Daily Bates (standing, second from right)

September 24, 1956

LIFE Magazine Publishes The Restraints: Open and Hidden, Photographs by Gordon Parks

Acclaimed photographer Gordon Parks was LIFE magazine's first black photographer; his work became legendary.

In 1956, Gordon traveled to Alabama for LIFE to document the segregated South with writer Robert Wallace. Later that year in September, LIFE published 26 of Parks' photos in the story titled,"The Restraints: Open and Hidden."

Throughout his career Parks pursued social justice with his camera. His "quiet" images of daily life in Alabama, as published in "The Restraints," brought the reality of segregation to the public's consciousness in a profound way.

Title -page: Life Magazine, September 24, 1956
Photographer, Gordon Parks

September 23, 1957

Black Journalists Attacked By White Mob in Little Rock As Students Once Again Attempt to Enter Central High School

Excerpted from Little Rock Central High School Crisis Timeline, National Park Service

An angry mob of over 1,000 whites gathers in front of Central High School, while nine African American students are escorted inside. The students enter Central High under protection of the Little Rock police and state troopers armed with riot guns and tear gas. The crowd outside becomes very threatening and attacks three out-of-state news reporters.

Four African American journalists - reporters Alex Wilson of the Memphis Tri-State Defender, James Hicks of the Amsterdam News, Moses J, Newsom of the Afro-American newspapers and photographer Earl Davy of Little Rock - are attacked outside Central High School after providing cover for the Little Rock Nine to enter through a side entrance under police escort.

Shortly after the attack near the school, Alex Wilson wrote about what happened to him on the morning and the choice he made that day:

"The disgraceful incident .. , occurred about 8:20 a.m. Monday, near the 16th and Park Street entrance of Central High. I parked my car about two blocks from the intersection. Newsom and I were in front with Hicks and Davy following, when we began the long, apprehensive walk. We had firsthand knowledge of where the nine stout-hearted Negro students were to enter; and we set off at a fast clip to be on hand when they arrived at the campus entrance. About midway of the final block, we picked up a tail of two whites. They made no comment. We kept moving forward. A crowd of about one hundred faced the school (away from us), waiting for the nine students to appear. Then, someone in the crowd of whites spotted us advancing.

Suddenly the angry eyes of the entire pack were upon us. We moved forward to within ten feet of the mob, Two men spread their arms in eagle fashion, One shouted: "'You'll not pass!"

I tried to move to the left of the mob, but my efforts were thwarted. I made a half-turn left from the sidewalk and went over to a Little Rock policeman, who was standing mid-center of the street.

"What is your business?" he asked. I presented my press card. He took his time checking it. Then he said: "You better leave. Go on across the sidewalk" (away from the mob at my heels).

Photos of journalist Alex Wilson's taunting and beating, September, 23, 1957, Indiana University Archives

I followed his suggestion. After taking several steps, I looked back. The officer was near the opposite sidewalk, leaving the angry pack to track me.

The mob struck. I saw Davy being roughed up. Hicks and Newsom were retreating from kicks and blows. I stopped momentarily, as the boots and jeers behind me increased.

Strangely the vision of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine students, flashed before me as she with dignity strode through a jeering, hooting gauntlet of segregationists several days ago.

Journalist Moses Newson remembers running from the mob at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., and the consequences of reporter L. Alex Wilson's refusal to flee. Newseum, Digital Classroom's "Protesting for Right" Timeline, Central High School Integrates
Segment on the September 23 attacks outside Central High School, Eyes on the Prize, Fighting Back (1957-1962), PBS
More about L. Alex Wilson, Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes

Maybe, too, my training as a U.S. Marine in World War II and my experience as a war correspondent in Korea, and work on the Emmett Till case [a young African American boy who was lynched in Money, Mississippi, for whistling at a white woman] influenced my decision during that moment of crisis.

I decided not to run. If I were to be beaten, I'd take it walking if I could - not running."

Three and one-half hours after their entrance, school authorities and police remove the African American students through a side door and speed away in police cars. Reporters describe the crowds outside as "hysterical."

September 22, 1961

'61 Freedom Riders Protests Succeed in Pushing the ICC to Outlaw Segregated Interstate Bus Transportation

On September 22, 1961, after six months of protests, arrests, and press conferences by the Freedom Riders, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) finally outlawed discriminatory seating practices on interstate bus transit and ordered the removal of "whites only" signs from interstate bus terminals by November 1. Activists vowed to step up the pressure to enforce the ruling. While pockets of racist resistance persisted for several years, even segregationist Birmingham, AL had conceded the issue by January 1962.

The signs came down. More than simply a moral victory or a public relations coup, the victory won by the Freedom Riders changed the everyday lives of black travelers throughout the South, through the remainder of the 1960s and beyond.

Above: Freedom Riders hang posters from a bus. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives — and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment — for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South.

September 21, 1957

Orval Faubus Withdraws National Guard at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas - Eisenhower Proclamation Helps End Stand-Off - Peace Lasts TWO Days

Excerpted from Little Rock Central High School Crisis Timeline, National Park Service

September 20, 1957

Federal District Judge Ronald Davies, during an injunction hearing, rules that Governor Orval Faubus had not used Arkansas National Guard troops to prevent violence.

"The petition of the United States of America as amicus curiae for a preliminary injunction against Governor Faubus, General Clinger and Colonel Johnson, and all others named in the petition is granted; and such injunction shall issue without delay, enjoining those respondents from obstructing or preventing, by use of the National Guard or otherwise, the attendance of Negro students at Little Rock Central High School under the plan of integration approved by this Court and from otherwise obstructing or interfering with orders of this Court in connection with the plan of integration."

Three hours after the hearing ends, Faubus goes on television to announce the removal of the Arkansas National Guard from Central High School as members of the Little Rock Police Department assume duties around the high school campus. He leaves for the Southern Governor's Conference in Sea Island, Georgia.

Faubus tells the press: "I wouldn't think the parents of the Negro children would want their children in school with the situation that prevails now."

September 23, 1957

An angry mob of over 1,000 whites gathers in front of Central High School, while nine African American students are escorted inside. The students enter Central High under protection of the Little Rock police and state troopers armed with riot guns and tear gas. The crowd outside becomes very threatening and attacks three out-of-state news reporters.

Four African American journalists - reporters Alex Wilson of the Memphis Tri-State Defender, James Hicks of the Amsterdam News, Moses J, Newsom of the Afro-American newspapers and photographer Earl Davy of Little Rock - are attacked outside Central High School after providing cover for the Little Rock Nine to enter through a side entrance under police escort.

Shortly after the attack near the school, Alex Wilson wrote about what happened to him on the morning and the choice he made that day:

President Eisenhower addresses the "disgraceful occurrences" at Central High School and issues Presidential Proclamation 3204 which commands "all persons engaged in such obstruction of justice to cease and desist therefrom and to disperse forthwith."

Governor Faubus tells the press that he is keeping touch by phone with Lt. Governor Nathan Gordon and that he has "no plans at the moment to return to Little Rock" from Georgia.

September 20, 1964

Two More Bombings in McComb, Mississippi Include the Home of Aylene Quin & Society Hill Missionary Church

From The Present Day Ku Klux Klan Movement, Report by the Committee on Un-American Activities, U.S. House of Representatives, December 11, 1967.


The McComb, Mississippi Bombers

From April to October 1964, more than 25 bombings and/or acts of arsons took place in-the vicinity of McComb, Mississippi. While the methods of carrying out these violent acts showed a remarkable degree of similarity, the committee was unable to establish each act as the responsibility of a klan or its members. Committee investigation, together with sworn testimony, however, definitely established klan involvement in the majority of the crimes.

The klan responsible for these acts was the United Klans of America, Inc. The klansmen involved belonged to klaverns which the United Klans had organized in the McComb area. The violent acts were carried out by the membership of a klavern headed by Exalted Cyclops Ray Smith and another klavern organized in August 1964 under Exalted Cyclops Paul Wilson, a direct participant in the violence.

Following the formation of the new klavern headed by Paul Wilson, violent acts were assigned to members of the new klavern by means of a drawing. A hat containing slips of paper, each with the name and address of an intended victim, was placed on a table following the klavern meeting. Klan members were requested to draw "their job." Only the klansman drawing a slip knew the identity of the victim. Likewise, it was the klansman's responsibility to plan the violent act, obtain the dynamite bomb or material necessary for arson, and recruit his accomplice in such act if it could not be performed alone.

Following the drawing of September 15, dynamite bombs were exploded on September 20 at the Society Hill Missionary Church, a Negro church used for civil rights activity, and at the resilience of Mrs. Alyene Quinn, a. Negro restaurant. operator. On tie 23rd of September, bombs were exploded at the properties of Negroes Matthew Jackson and Artis Garner. All of these bombings were in the McComb area.

Billy Wilson admitted involvement in the bombing of Alyene Quinn's residence and identified his accomplices as fellow klansmen Paul Dewey Wilson, Jimmy Prinston Wilson, and Ernest Zeeck. The dynamite bomb used was obtained from klansman Emery Allen "Al" Lee, who possessed a sizable quantity of bombs. Lee wrote a letter bragging about the role lie played. "I am the one who is the demolition expert, who made t all the bombs and told the others where togo with tlhem," he wrote."I am proud of my part. "

Residence of Alyene Quinn in McComb, Miss., following bombing on Sept. 20, 1964 by members of Klan, Quinn's two children were asleep In the home and miraculously escaped Injury. House of Representatives
Aylene Quin and her two children during protests at Mississippi Governor Paul Johnson's mansion in Jackson, summer 1965. Her son, Anthony had been pinned to his bed when the ceiling collapsed on him when their McComb home was bombed on September 20, 1964, Photo by Matt Herron

September 19, 1955

Sham Trial of Emmett Till's Murderers Begins in Sumner, Mississippi

On this day in 1955, the trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam began for the murder of Emmett Till began in Mississipp.

The trial begin just two weeks after Till's body was found. Reporters, photographers, and the curious packed the tiny Mississippi court room during the proceedings.

Six eyewitnesses testified to the pair taking the boy from his uncle’s home.

Mississippi whites rallied around the two defendants. Five defense attorneys volunteered their services and a defense fund was set up. The defense used a familiar tactic: Don’t let outsiders tell Mississippians how to run their lives. The racially charged defense worked, and both Bryant and Milam were found not guilty, by an all white jury, even after admitting they kidnapped the boy.

Two months later, William Bradford Huie paid the two men to tell their story. Because of their acquittal, Double Jeopardy laws prevented them from being tried again. They recounted in chilling detail how they intended to scare Till to comply with local racial customs. When he refused and did not beg for mercy, they killed him. Kidnapping charges were brought upon both men, but were later found not guilty again.

Watch the PBS documentary that includes - advance to ~32:10 to watch video of the trial.

Two days into the trial, Moses Wright, Emmett Till's great-uncle, took the witness stand and identified J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant as his nephew's abductors. "It was the first time in my life I had the courage to accuse a white man of a crime, let alone something terrible as killing a boy," Wright said later. "I wasn't exactly brave and I wasn't scared. I just wanted to see justice done."

Excerpted from Brave Testimony, American Experience, PBS

Daring Testimony

Sensing danger, Moses put his wife Elizabeth on a train to Chicago. She wrote him begging him not to testify. Most local whites didn't think he'd show up. When the trial began, Moses defied all odds and testified.

When he stood up in open court and pointed his weathered finger at Milam and Bryant, his bravery surpassed his five-foot-three-inch height. With the simple words "Thar he," Moses Wright went down in history. It may have been the first time when a black man stood in open court in the South and accused a white man of a crime — and lived.

Departure North

While on the stand, Moses said he could feel the "blood boil" in the hundreds of white spectators. After the trial, Moses fled to join his wife in Chicago, leaving behind his 1941 Ford and his cotton blooming in the fields.

Moses returned in November to testify at the grand jury hearing for Milam and Bryant's kidnapping case. When the grand jury refused to return an indictment, Moses Wright left for Chicago. He never again returned to Mississippi.

September 18, 1963

Day of Mourning and Funeral for Birmingham Bombing Victims

September 18, 1963, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, Delivered at funeral service for three of the children - Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Diane Wesley - killed in the bombing. A separate service was held for the fourth victim, Carole Robertson.

Eulogy For The Young Victims Of The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came.

These children-unoffending, innocent, and beautiful-were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician [Audience:] (Yeah) who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats (Yeah) and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. (Speak) They have something to say to every Negro (Yeah) who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.

San Francisco rallies for Birmingham bombing victims, September 18, 1963

And so my friends, they did not die in vain. (Yeah) God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. (Oh yes) And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force (Yeah) that will bring new light to this dark city. (Yeah) The holy Scripture says, "A little child shall lead them." (Oh yeah) The death of these little children may lead our whole Southland (Yeah) from the low road of man's inhumanity to man to the high road of peace and brotherhood. (Yeah, Yes) These tragic deaths may lead our nation to substitute an aristocracy of character for an aristocracy of color. The spilled blood of these innocent girls may cause the whole citizenry of Birmingham (Yeah) to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future. Indeed this tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience. (Yeah)

And so I stand here to say this afternoon to all assembled here, that in spite of the darkness of this hour (Yeah Well), we must not despair. (Yeah, Well) We must not become bitter (Yeah, That's right), nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence. No, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. (Yeah, Yes) Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.

May I now say a word to you, the members of the bereaved families? It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointment which are floating in your mental skies. But I hope you can find a little consolation from the universality of this experience. Death comes to every individual. There is an amazing democracy about death. It is not aristocracy for some of the people, but a democracy for all of the people. Kings die and beggars die; rich men and poor men die; old people die and young people die. Death comes to the innocent and it comes to the guilty. Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men.

I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity's affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.

Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. (Yeah, Yes) Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. (Yeah) And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him (Yeah, Well), and that God is able (Yeah, Yes) to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.

And so today, you do not walk alone. You gave to this world wonderful children. [moans] They didn't live long lives, but they lived meaningful lives. (Well) Their lives were distressingly small in quantity, but glowingly large in quality. (Yeah) And no greater tribute can be paid to you as parents, and no greater epitaph can come to them as children, than where they died and what they were doing when they died. (Yeah) They did not die

in the dives and dens of Birmingham (Yeah, Well), nor did they die discussing and listening to filthy jokes. (Yeah) They died between the sacred walls of the church of God (Yeah, Yes), and they were discussing the eternal meaning (Yes) of love. This stands out as a beautiful, beautiful thing for all generations. (Yes) Shakespeare had Horatio to say some beautiful words as he stood over the dead body of Hamlet. And today, as I stand over the remains of these beautiful, darling girls, I paraphrase the words of Shakespeare: (Yeah, Well): Good night, sweet princesses. Good night, those who symbolize a new day. (Yeah, Yes) And may the flight of angels (That's right) take thee to thy eternal rest. God bless you.

Joan Mulholland was among the mourners at a funeral service for three of the girls on September 18, 1963.

September 17, 1963

Diane Nash Writes "Proposal for Action in Montgomery" In Reaction to Birmingham Church Bombing, Pushes Movement Toward More Action

Exepted from CRMVet, Birmingham Church Bombing (Sept)

In the aftermath of this heinous crime and federal indifference to Black suffering, increasing numbers of Movement activists turn away from philosophical, "love-your-enemy" type nonviolence. Some reject nonviolence altogether, others remain committed to tactical nonviolence aimed at building political movements capable of forcing change.

Diane Nash and her husband James Bevel respond to the bombing by drawing up a plan to drive George Wallace, Al Lingo, and their segregationist allies from office by winning voting rights for Blacks in Alabama. To achieve this they envision large-scale, disruptive, nonviolent direct action in Montgomery. Calling it the "Alabama Project," she presents the idea to Dr. King. SNCC Chairman and SCLC board member John Lewis supports her proposal, but Dr. King is skeptical. Over the following year she continues to advocate massive, nonviolent demonstrations in Alabama for the right to vote. In August of 1964, the betrayal of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Atlantic City Convention proves the futility of relying on the good will of liberal politicians. In November, Dr. King agrees to support her plan which evolves into the Selma Voting Rights Campaign.

September 17, 1963



  1. Removal .or George Wallace from the governorship of Alabama

  2. Every 21 year old resident or Alabama can register to vote


Immediately recruit Alabama students and adults who will be trained intensively in nonviolent discipline.A school and headquarters for this should be set up in Montgomery. The program must include:

  1. Nonviolent ,workshops--general & specific

  2. Marching and drills in command and coordInation or battle groups

  3. Instruction in jail know-how; cooperation or noncooperation with jail procedures and trial

  4. Group morale while imprisoned

  5. Drill in dealing with fire hoses, dogs, tear gas, cattle prods, police brutality, etc.

  6. Practice in blocking runways, train tracks, etc.

  7. Elementary politics including an analysis or the objectives or this program

Access full pdf of original document

DECLARATION: A written case against George Wallace be presented and a declaration that within our conscience his government is null and void.

REVOLUTION: Severing communication !'rom state capitol bldg. and from city or Montgomery by:

  1. Surrounding the capitol building in such a way as to allow no vehicles to enter or leave the bldg. and preferably in such a way that pedestrians may not enter or leave also.

  2. Keeping busy all the telephones in the capitol bldg. by calling and talking about freedom.

  3. Lying on railroad tracks, runways, and bus driveways cutting off train, bus, and plane transportation.

  4. Organize a general work strike

  5. Study the tax set up and refuse to pay taxes in the most feasible manner.

  6. Wear overalls and something black at all times (armbands, maybe)

  7. Establish instructive mass meetings several times a week in several towns

  8. Demonstrations aimed at federal government to insure our right to vote.

  9. Demonstrations at the United Nations to secure the vote.


This is an army. Develop a flag and an insignia or pin or button. Use candlelight and kerosene lamps and close down the power company. Many other such possibilities. Ask Kennedy not to recognize Wallace government and cut off federal funds.


Start recruiting Birmingham students to train and then to demonstrate and also to be used to recruit students in Montgomery and other cities

September 16, 1963

A Time to Speak, Birmingham, Alabama Lawyer, Charles Morgan the Day After the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombings

Excerpted in part from The Speech That Shocked Birmingham the Day After the Church Bombing, Andrew Cohen, Atlantic, September 13, 2013

On Monday, September 16, 1963, a young Alabama lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr., a white man with a young family, a Southerner by heart and heritage, stood up at a lunch meeting of the Birmingham Young Men's Business Club, at the heart of the city's white Establishment, and delivered a speech about race and prejudice that bent the arc of the moral universe just a little bit more toward justice. It was a speech that changed Morgan's life—and 50 years later its power and eloquence are worth revisiting. Just hours after the church bombing, Morgan spoke these words (see insert).

He had written the speech that morning, he would recount years later after he and his family were forced to flee Birmingham because of the vicious reaction his words had generated from his fellow Alabamans. He had jotted down his remarks, he said, "from anger and despair, from frustration and empathy. And from years of hopes, hopes that were shattered and crumbled with the steps of that Negro Baptist Church." He had had enough of the silent acquiescence of good people who saw wrong but didn't try to right it.

Following the speech, the threats began almost immediately. The very next morning, at 5 a.m., Morgan received a call. "Is the mortician there yet?" a voice asked. "I don't know any morticians," Morgan responded. "Well, you will," the voice answered, "when the bodies are all over your front yard." Later, Morgan recounted, a client of his drove an hour to tell him to flee Birmingham. "They'll shoot you down like a dog," the client told Morgan. Little wonder that Morgan quickly closed down his law practice and moved himself and his family to safety.

Four Little Girls Were Killed

Text of Charles Morgan, Jr.'s speech, 9-16-1963

Four little girls were killed in Birmingham yesterday.

A mad, remorseful worried community asks, "Who did it? Who threw that bomb? Was it a Negro or a white?" The answer should be, "We all did it." Every last one of us is condemned for that crime and the bombing before it and a decade ago. We all did it.

A short time later, white policemen kill a Negro and wound another. A few hours later, two young men on a motorbike shoot and kill a Negro child. Fires break out, and, in Montgomery, white youths assault Negroes.

And all across Alabama, an angry, guilty people cry out their mocking shouts of indignity and say they wonder "Why?" "Who?" Everyone then "deplores" the "dastardly" act.

But you know the "who" of "Who did it" is really rather simple. The "who" is every little individual who talks about the "niggers" and spreads the seeds of his hate to his neighbor and his son. The jokester, the crude oaf whose racial jokes rock the party with laughter.

The "who" is every governor who ever shouted for lawlessness and became a law violator.

It is every senator and every representative who in the halls of Congress stands and with mock humility tells the world that things back home aren't really like they are.

It is courts that move ever so slowly, and newspapers that timorously defend the law.

It is all the Christians and all their ministers who spoke too late in anguished cries against violence. It is the coward in each of us who clucks admonitions.

Video production included speech by Birmingham, Ala. civil rights lawyer Charles Morgan after the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church which killed four black girls on Sept. 15, 1963. Produced by the Southern Policy Law Center, narrated by Julian Bond, speech read by Jamie Lawrence

We have 10 years of lawless preachments, 10 years of criticism of law, of courts, of our fellow man, a decade of telling school children the opposite of what the civics books say.

We are a mass of intolerance and bigotry and stand indicted before our young. We are cursed by the failure of each of us to accept responsibility, by our defense of an already dead institution.

Yesterday while Birmingham, which prides itself on the number of its churches, was attending worship services, a bomb went off and an all-white police force moved into action, a police force which has been praised by city officials and others at least once a day for a month or so. A police force which has solved no bombings. A police force which many Negroes feel is perpetrating the very evils we decry. . . .

Birmingham is the only city in America where the police chief and the sheriff in the school crisis had to call our local ministers together to tell them to do their duty. The ministers of Birmingham who have done so little for Christianity call for prayer at high noon in a city of lawlessness, and in the same breath, speak of our city's "image." . . .

Those four little Negro girls were human beings. They have their 14 years in a leaderless city; a city where no one accepts responsibility; where everybody wants to blame somebody else. A city with a reward fund which grew like Topsy as a sort of sacrificial offering, a balm for the conscience of the "good people". . . .

Birmingham is a city ... where four little Negro girls can be born into a second-class school system, live a segregated life, ghettoed into their own little neighborhoods, restricted to Negro churches, destined to ride in Negro ambulances, to Negro wards of hospitals or to a Negro cemetery. Local papers, on their front and editorial pages, call for order and then exclude their names from obituary columns.

And, who is really guilty? Each of us. Each citizen who has not consciously attempted to bring about peaceful compliance with the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, every citizen and every school board member and schoolteacher and principal and businessman and judge and lawyer who has corrupted the minds of our youth; every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred, is at least as guilty, or more so, than the demented fool who threw that bomb.

What's it like living in Birmingham? No one ever really has known and no one will until this city becomes part of the United States.

Birmingham is not a dying city; it is dead.

Charles Morgan, Jr., with the 4 child victims

September 15, 1963

Four Black Children – Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley – Murdered in Bombing of Birmingham, Alabama, Church

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On the morning of Sunday, September 15, 1963, a white man was seen placing a box under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Shortly afterward, the explosives inside detonated, devastating the church building and the 400 congregants inside. Parents rushed to the Sunday school classroom to check on their children and soon discovered that four young girls had been killed in the blast: Denise McNair (11), Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14). More than twenty others were injured.

In 1963, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was the largest Black church in Birmingham, Alabama, and served as a meeting place for civil rights activities. As demonstrations to desegregate public spaces and secure Black voting rights became more frequent and visible, meeting places like the church became targets for white segregationists looking to terrorize Black activists and their supporters.

Immediately after the bombing, violence surged throughout the city as police clashed with enraged members of the Black community. Before the day ended, at least two other African American children had been slain: 16-year-old Johnny Robinson was shot by police as he fled down an alley, and 13-year-old Virgil Ware was shot and killed by white youths while riding his bicycle.

More than a decade later, in 1977, Ku Klux Klan leader Robert Chambliss was convicted of murder for participating in the church bombing and later died in prison. Several decades later, in the early 2000s, Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton were also convicted of murder for their roles in the bombing; both men were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Above: Hear Sarah Collins Rudolph recounting the moment and the aftermath, NPR
Movement activist, Jeannine Herron, recounts attending the funeral of the 4 murdered children and the meaning of shards of church glass. From an interview with OHPCRM students, 5-18-20, see full interview.

September 14, 1960

Lunch Counters Integrated in Tampa Bay, Florida

Excerpted in whole and in part from Black Then: Discovering Our History

Clarence Fort and other local black youth activists dined at the city's newly integrated lunch counter after several months of successful protest. Fort organized and participated in the city’s first lunch counter sit-ins in the Woolworth Department store earlier in the year on February 29, among the nation's earlier protests. Fort, a 20-year-old barber at the time, was the new president of the NAACP Youth Council in Tampa. He and Rev. A. Leon Lowry organized 50 students from all-black Middleton and Blake high schools for a sit-in at F.W. Woolworth’s lunch counter on Franklin Street. “We picked a big chain because if we opened one counter, they’d have to open them all.” The store tried ignoring their black customers. They turned off lights and even closed the store. White men surrounded him at the counter and cursed at him.

After a week of the non-violent sit-ins, Tampa’s then-Mayor Julian Lane appointed a biracial committee to discuss segregation issues and, by September 1960, the city’s lunch counters were integrated.

Fort continued his civil rights leadership, leading an initiative to integrate the workforce of Tampa Transit Lines and later, as a Trailways Bus Co. employee, he became Florida’s first African-American long-distance bus driver. He later spent 20 years as a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy.

In 2015, on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the city honored Fort by dedicating a public park and the half-mile fitness trail that runs through it in his name.

View short film produced by Hillsborough County on the Tampa Sit-ins.
Below, excerpt from a 2009 oral history with Clarence Fort, University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program

And the minute I sit down and order—we order a certain meal; everybody ordered the same thing, eggs, bacon, coffee. And we were told, “If you have any trouble, call a waitress, pay for the bill, and get up and leave.” So, as I sit down, and they brought my food, and I think I was putting butter on my toast, two guys walked up behind me and said, “Look what we have here, this nigger. And we're not going to let him eat here.”

So, at that particular time, I called the waitress over. I was too nervous to eat anyway. (laughs) So, I call the waitress over and told her to bring my check. And she did, and I paid for it and I got up to leave. And as I was leaving, he followed me around the store. So the same young man that I was cutting hair with at his shop, he walked in the door. He came down to see how it was going. But before he got there, there was an African American female [who] saw what was happening. She said, “Look, why don't you just walk with me? Maybe they won't attack you while I'm walking with you.” So, when he walked in and she recognized that I knew him, she said, “Well, there's another man here, I'll just leave, I think you'll be okay.” So he immediately said, “Well, let's get out of the store.” I said, “No, we can't do that because I think if we leave they will probably attack us.”

So the store manager saw what was going on. And he approached them and told them he wasn't going to have any trouble in his store. And he told them if they didn’t leave, he would call the police. And he did call the police. So as the police walked in the door, we walked out. And they, of course, talked with the gentlemen. I don't know what they did about—I don't think they were arrested. They just stopped them from—one of them spit over his shoulder at me as we walked out.

Clarence Ford, from March, 2018 video story

September 13, 1961

Prayer Pilgrimage Freedom Ride – Episcopal Priests Arrested at Jackson, Mississippi Trailways Station

A group 15 Episcopal priests including 3 black priests entered the Jackson, Mississippi Trailways bus terminal. Upon entering the coffee shop, they were stopped by two policemen, Officers David Allison Nichols and Joseph David Griffith, who asked them to leave. After refusing to leave, Captain JL Ray arrested and jailed all 15 priests for breach of peace, using a now-repealed section of the Mississippi code § 2087.5 that "makes guilty of a misdemeanor anyone who congregates with others in a public place under circumstances such that a breach of the peace may be occasioned thereby, and refuses to move on when ordered to do so by a police officer."

The group included 35-year-old Reverend Robert L Pierson. After the case against the priests was dismissed on May 21, 1962, they sought damages against the police under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Their claims were ultimately rejected in the United States Supreme Court case Pierson v. Ray (1967), which held that the police were protected by qualified immunity - a legal concept currently under scrutiny in 2020.

Prayer Pilgrimage clergy gathered outside of their bus, 1961, Archives of the Episcopal Church
Gilbert S Avery, III
James W. Evans
John B. Morris
Robert P. Taylor
Myron B. Bloy, Jr.
John M. Evans
Robert L. Pierson
William A. Wendt
James P. Breeden
Quinland R. Gordon
Geoffrey S. Simpson
Merrill O. Young
John Crocker, Jr.
James G. Jones
Vernon P. Woodward

Images from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Sovereignty Commission Online search for Episcopal Church--Clergy

September 12, 1966

Black School Children Attacked With Chains, Pipes & Clubs in Grenada, Mississippi

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On September 12, 1966, 250 African American students attempted to integrate Grenada, Mississippi, schools on the first day of class. Though it was twelve years after the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling held racially-segregated public schooling unconstitutional, the city of Grenada, Mississippi, had not stopped operating a segregated school system. In August 1966, a federal judge ordered Grenada officials to enroll African American students in the formerly white-only schools, and approximately 450 students had enrolled by the start of the 1966 school year.

On September 2, the school district postponed the start of school by ten days. During that time, white leaders tried to coerce African American parents into withdrawing their children from the white schools by threatening them with firing or eviction. As a result, 200 students withdrew.

When the remaining 250 Black students arrived for classes on September 12, a large white mob surrounded the school and turned them away. As the students retreated, members of the mob pursued them through the streets, beating them with chains, pipes, and clubs. At lunchtime, the mob returned to the school to attack the few African American students who had made it inside that morning. As the students left for lunch, members of the mob attacked them, leaving some hospitalized with broken bones. Some reporters covering the story were also beaten.

The mob violence continued for several days with no intervention from law enforcement. On September 16, a federal judge ordered protection for the students, and on September 17, thirteen members of the mob were arrested by the FBI.

Bruce Hartford, SCLC activist, recounts when children were attacked by white mobs on the first day of school, September 12, 1966.

Short segment from a series of interviews with Bruce Hartford conducted by students in the Oral History Production of the Civil Rights Movement class, May 5, 2020.
Mississippi highway patrolmen hold shotguns as two black students pass by on their way to the Grenada, Mississippi, high school on Monday, Sept. 12, 1966. AP

On the first day of integrated school in Grenada, September 1966:

"We walked out into the mob. And they beat us. And you know, just swinging the bats and whatever weapon it was they had in their hands. The one thing that I remember is them saying, constantly saying over and over again, 'Nigger, go back to your school. We built a school for you. Why you coming over here with us?'"

-Diana Freelon-Foster, then a 15-year-old student at John Rundle High School in Grenada, Mississippi. In 2004, Freelon-Foster was elected first female and African-American mayor in Grenada. In the Dark
September 12, 1966 - Grenada, Mississippi: Memphis Press Scimitar Photographer Jack Cantrell is attacked by several mob members during racial violence. He later was thrown to the ground and stomped. Getty Images
Three students, Robert G. Anderson, Henrie Monteith Treadwell and James L. Solomon Jr., became the first Black students at the University of South Carolina since 1877. See short bios of the three.

September 11, 1963

Henri Monteith Treadwell, James Solomon Jr. and Robert Anderson Break the Color Barrier and Enroll at University of South Carolina

From left: Robert Anderson, Henrie Monteith, & James Solomon, first Black students to enroll at the University of South Carolina since the era of Reconstruction
Henrie Monteith is interviewed on the front porch of her home about her admission to the University of South Carolina. Monteith was one of three students to desegregate the university in 1963. When asked if she believes her admission will be a source of trouble on campus, she replies, "I hope not." From news report, July, 1963 as she filed class action to demand right to attend.
See above story highlighting 17-year-old Henrie Treadwell's (formerly Henrie Monteith) successful legal challenge to become the first African American women student at the University of South Carolina in nearly 100 years. Just a month earlier, her home was bombed. (The Post and Courier)

September 10, 1957

The Day After Alabama Governor George Wallace Barred Desegregated Schools, Black Students Attend and White Students Flee

On September 9, 1963, Dorothy Davis and Henry Hobdy arrived at the campus of Mobile’s Murphy High School. The court-ordered integration of the school system was prompted by a lawsuit earlier that year brought by the Non-Partisan Voters’ League, a Mobile civil rights organization. Hobdy and Davis found their entry to the school temporarily blocked by Alabama State Troopers, who presented them with an executive order signed by Gov. George C. Wallace. The order stated that the presence of the new African American students was “an abridgment of the civil rights of other children attending the public schools.” That afternoon, a U.S. District Court judge in Mobile barred Wallace from further interference at the school.

Davis and Hobdy attended their first classes at Murphy on September 10, 1963.

Elsewhere in Alabama, as was true throughout the south, white-only private schools, often supported with state money, formed to effectively block the intent of integration.

Below is excerpt from the Equal Justice Initiative

On September 10, 1963, white students began to withdraw from newly-integrated Tuskegee High School in Alabama to avoid attending school with Black students. Within one week, all 275 white students had stopped attending the school.

Most of Tuskegee High School's former white students enrolled at Macon Academy, a newly formed, all-white private school. In support of the community's efforts to sidestep federal law and maintain school segregation, Governor Wallace and the school board approved the use of state funds to provide scholarships for white students abandoning the public school system to use at Macon Academy.

Order from George Wallace, September, 9, 1963. Later that afternoon, a U.S. District Court judge barred Wallace from further interference at the school, and Black students began attending the next day, September, 10, 1963. Altered slightly to fit - see original: Alabama Archives
State troopers preventing Henry Hobdy and Dorothy Davis from entering Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama, September 9, 1963, Alabama Archives

September 9, 1957

Eisenhower Signs the Civil Rights Act While Nashville Residents Bomb Elementary School to Prevent Integration

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first federal civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1875. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law on September 9, 1957, the timing in part prompted in part by school desegregation and anti-integration actions throughout the country as Southern leaders began a campaign of "massive resistance" against desegregation as mandated in the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision. Eisenhower proposed a civil rights bill designed to provide federal protection for African-American voting rights; most African Americans in the Southern United States had been effectively disenfranchised by various state and local laws. In the end, however, opponents of the act were able to remove several provisions, limiting its immediate impact. During the debate over the law, Senator Strom Thurmond conducted the longest one-person filibuster in Senate history.

Despite having a limited impact on African-American voter participation, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 did establish the United States Commission on Civil Rights and the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Congress would later pass far more effective civil rights laws in the form of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Excerpted from Wikipedia
Hattie Cotton Elementary School, bombed the evening after Nashville schools were officially desegregated on Sept. 9, 1957

Excerpted from the Equal Justice Initiative, click image above for full story.

On September 9, 1957, as nineteen Black six-year-olds integrated all-white elementary schools in Nashville, Tennessee, white church members, including one local minister, organized a persistent and violent campaign to oppose the integration of Nashville public schools. Outside Fehr Elementary School, one person held a sign that read “God is the author of segregation” and pursued two Black children walking to the school. Outside three different elementary schools that same morning, Fred Stroud - a white minister - sought to dissuade white parents from permitting their children to be educated with Black children, by preaching damnation for those who did not uphold segregation.

That night, just after midnight, 100 sticks of dynamite were thrown into Hattie Cotton Elementary School and exploded. The one Black elementary student, Patricia Watson, who had sat in class that previous morning did not return. No Black children returned to Hattie Cotton Elementary School the following year, and no one faced criminal charges for the bombing that occurred.

September 8, 1963

Henrietta Fuller, Age 13, Released from the Leesburg Stockade – Other Teenage Girls Remain

Excerpted in whole and in part from Wikipedia article, Leesburg Stockade

In July, 1963 SNCC, in cooperation with the NAACP, organized a protest march in Americus, Georgia from the Friendship Baptist Church to a segregated movie theater. As part of the protest, a group of young women joined the line to attempt to purchase tickets at the movie theater, and were arrested for doing so.

Some of the prisoners were as young as 12. Conditions in the stockade were poor: the prisoners had only concrete floors to sleep on, water only in drips from a shower, a single non-functional toilet, and poor food. The prison authorities did not inform the parents of the prisoners of their arrest or location, and they only found out through the help of a janitor. The young women were threatened with murder, and at one point a rattlesnake was thrown into their cell. After SNCC and Senator Harrison A. Williams used a set of photos by Danny Lyon to publicize the situation, the young women were released, and did not face any criminal charges, but were nevertheless charged a fee for their use of the facilities.

See more photos of the Leesburg Stockade by Danny Lyon on CRMVet.
Danny Lyon with the Leesburg Stockade women, 53 years later. Return to Leesburg Stockade
Leesburg prisoner, Billie Jo Thornton, age 13. Photo by Danny Lyon

Henrietta Fuller, age 13, from affidavit after her September 8, 1963 release from the Leesburg Stockade, signed September 13, 1963.

I am 13 years old and was in Leesburg stockade from August 31 to September 8. There were 32 kids in there with me. There were no beds, no mattresses, no blankets, pillows, no sheets. The floor was cold. You lay down for awhile and soon it starts hurting you so you sit up for awhile and it starts hurting so you have to walk around for a while.

The hamburgers were dry and were not cooked well because when you break your meat open you can see a lot of red meat inside.

The smell of the waste material was bad. I went to the bathroom there to urinate, but didn't have a bowel movement during the entire nine days I was there. I urinated where the water from the shower drains down. Some of the girls used a piece ot cardboard that came from the boxes, the cardboard boxes, that the hamburgers were brought in.

The water was hot and it was running all the while. The man gave us three cups for the 32 of us.

There was a shower but it wasn't clean enough for you to bathe in. Cardboard with waste material had been put there and it needed cleaning and scrubbing.

At night the mosquitoes and roaches were at us. In the middle of the week the white man gave us some blankets. They were the ones which had been burned. He put them out in the sun and then gave them back to us. Two or three of us slept on one blanket.

See 5-minute compilation of photos by Danny Lyon, including an image 53 years later.

September 7, 1961

John W. Hardy, SNCC Activist, Pistol-Whipped in Tylertown, Mississippi for Attempting to Help Register Voters

Nashville native John W. Hardy was SNCC member and Freedom Ride organizer who participated in lunch counter sit-ins, marches and boycotts throughout the '60's. While working on voter registration Walthall County, Mississippi in 1961, 21-year-old Hardy was pistol whipped by the Election Registrar after attempting to help local black residents, a 63-year old woman and 62-year old, to register to vote. The assault resulted in Hardy being charged with “inciting a riot”and “resisting arrest."

ee short News 4 Nashville interview with John W. Hardy
From Facebook post, A Salute to African American History. On the left pictured at the sit-Ins at Walgreen's Drug Store Lunch Counter in Nashville and on right, in jail cell following his arrest. Hardy is in foreground in black coat and with hand on chin in striped sweater lower bunk.
See his presentation at Oakland University History Department (MI) in 2016 - Sit Ins & Freedom Rides of the 1960's: My Experience with John W. Hardy - video begins at 43:00 when John begins to discuss his experiences in McComb, Mississippi that led to his September 7 attack.
Above: Bruce Harford during one of dozens of 1966 marches in Grenada, Mississippi. Bob Fitch Photography Archive
Below: Quoted directly from Troublemaker: Memories of the Freedom Movement, Bruce Hartford

Activists walking on the streets in the Afro-American community were now at risk. One day I was on Cherry Street, headed back toward the Belle Flower after a catfish sandwich at Chat's when a pickup truck came screeching to a halt next to me. The driver, a hefty white guy, leapt out, knocked me down, and when I curled up in the nonviolent defense position he kicked me again and again.

His son, maybe 10 or 11, jumped out and began stomping on my glasses which had fallen on the pavement. "Daddy, Daddy, they won't break!" he shouted. Damn straight. On one of my visits to my parents in New Haven I'd had a special unbreakable pair of industrial-strength safety glasses made. He was able to damage the plastic frames. but not the lenses. After a couple of minutes they both got tired, returned to their truck, and drove off – their civic duty for the day accomplished. I wasn't insured, just the usual bruises and scrapes, so I dusted myself off and continued to our office in the back of the church.

September 6, 1966

Freedom Rights Worker Attacked in Grenada, Mississippi Supporting School Desegregation Efforts

Bruce Hartford was a SCLC fieldworker stationed in Grenada, Mississippi helping with voting rights and school desegregation efforts. On September 6, he was attacked by white man and his young son. Below he provides an overview of the significance of the Grenada Freedom Movement.
Short segment from a series of interviews with Bruce Hartford conducted by students in the Oral History Production of the Civil Rights Movement class, May 5, 2020.

Welcome to Grenada, Bruce!

The thing about Grenada – July, August, September, October, November – in five months from the beginning of July to the end of November, the Grenada Freedom Movement replicated the entire history of the broader Southern Freedom Movement. Fighting around segregation –this was a year after the Civil Rights Bill passed, all of the public facilities, including the library and the swimming pool, were still completely segregated – so fighting against segregation. Fighting for jobs. Fighting for voter registration. And fighting against school segregation. This is 1966, Brown v Board of Education was in 1954, so that was 12 years earlier. Grenada schools: totally segregated. You had a white elementary and a white high school and you had a colored elementary school and high school. And you could look at them and see which was which, you didn't even have to read the sign, you could just look at the quality of the buildings.

So we did the whole nine yards: sit-ins, canvassing, voter registration, mass marches. We had nightly mass marches. Sometimes we had two or three marches a day. The Movement was amazing. And usually, we would go up and circle around – initially we would have rallies on the green, then they made that illegal. But the thing I remember, three or four times in the course of these over these months – the white power structure was split. You had the hardliners whose political philosophy was, “Knock them in the head, throw them in jail, and they'll go back to normal.” And you had the moderates whose political strategy is, “We need to attract northern investment, we can't have all this bad publicity, so we need to make the minimum number of concessions we can while still holding power, but yes, allow some Afro Americans to vote and we'll hire a couple janitors or something and we'll keep calm that way.”

September 5, 1964

Prominent White Family Run Out of Town for Hosting Dialogue with Civil Rights Workers in their Home in McComb, Mississippi

Adapted from the synopsis of the book, So the Hefners Left McComb

The family of Albert W. "Red" Heffner Jr., a successful insurance agent, left their house at 202 Shannon Drive in McComb, Mississippi, where they had lived for ten years. They never returned. In the eyes of neighbors, their unforgiveable sin was to have spoken on several occasions with civil rights workers and to have invited two into their home. Consequently, the Heffners were subjected to a campaign of harassment, ostracism, and economic retaliation shocking to a white family who believed that they were respected community members.

The Heffners' story demonstrates the forces of fear, conformity, communal pressure, and threats of retaliation that silenced so many white Mississippians during the 1950s and 1960s. The Heffners were systematically punished and driven into exile for what was perceived as treason against white apartheid.

Jan Nave Barnes, the daughter of Albert and Malva Hefner, was crowned Miss Mississippi in 1963. She recounts memories of her parents prior to their ostracism from the community after hosting civil rights workers Reverend Donald McCord of COFO and Dennis Sweeny of SNCC for a conversation at their home during the summer of 1964.
Note: This segment is from the published interviews at Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project.
"I am Elizabeth Eckford. I am part of the group that became known as the Little Rock Nine." Listen to Eckford 50 years later recounting her experience on the morning of September 4, 1957. Facing History

September 4, 1957

Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine Faces Vicious Crowd at Central High School

On September 4, 1957, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus ordered National Guard troops to surround Central High School in Little Rock, to keep nine black teenagers from entering. His action was in direct defiance of the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which said black students had a right to attend integrated schools. That same afternoon, a federal judge ordered Faubus to let the black students attend the white school. The next day, when 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford set out for class, she was mobbed, spit upon and cursed by angry Whites. When she finally made her way to the front steps of Central High, National Guard soldiers turned her away.

Excerpted in part from Gates of Change, Reach and Teach,

Eyes On The Prize (Part 2): Fighting Back 1957 1962 Americas Civil Rights Movement, PBS

September 3, 1964

Canton, Mississippi Petition To Desegregate City Schools - Likely Lead to Murder of 14-Year-Old

Image from PBS video interview with civil rights volunteer recounting the bombing of the Freedom School in Canton in October, 1964.

Black parents filed this included petition to Judge Harold Cox to integrate the public schools. This is but one of hundreds of failed attempts to force cities and schools to integrate 10 years after Brown v Board of Education.

Likely connected (and requires additional research), a week later, the body of 14-year-old Hubert Orsby was found in the Big Black River. On the day of his death, witnesses saw an African-American youth forced into a truck at gunpoint by a white man. Reports claim the boy was wearing a CORE T-shirt at the time of his death. (Civil Rights Trail - Canton)

Canton was one of many active centers of voting rights actions in Mississippi in 1964, home of a Freedom School and resulting multiple actions of violence, intimidation and threats against both civil rights workers and participating local black citizens.

Canton continued to resist integration until 1970 when private segregation academies opened all over the south to effectively block forced integration.

September 3, 1964

We are American citizen s complying with the Civil Rights Bill, Title IV, Sec. 401 (B) and 401 (C), which assures us that "Desegregation means the assignment of students to public schools and within such schools without regard to their race, color, religion , or national origin...". "Public school means any elementary or secondary educational institution, and public college means any institution of higher education or any technical or vocational school above the secondary school level, provided that such public school or public college is operated by a State , subdivision of a State, or governmental agency within a State , or operated wholly or predominantly from or through the use of governmental funds or property, or funds or property derived from a governmental source,

In Canton, Mississippi, a county with a population of 71,2 percent Negroes, the Civil Rights, Bill has been ignored. There have been no moves on the part of the School Board to initiate any plans for desegregation of the public schools.

Today, September 3, 1964, we, the citizens of Madison County, intend to register our children at Canton High School because it is our constitutional right to do so and because Negro schools do not have adequate supplies. Curriculum isn't good enough to properly prepare our children for college, and classrooms are overcrowded. We feel that Canton High is better equipped and can provide a greater opportunity for our children to get a better education, We will use every legal means available to us at this time in order to exercise the right to an equal education for our children.

Read full text of the Orval Faubus speech delivered Sept. 2, 1957 on local Little Rock television

September 2, 1963

Arkansas Governor, Orval Faubus Orders National Guard to Little Rock Central High School to Prevent School Integration

From Little Rock Central High School - Crisis Timeline, National Park Service

Labor Day is the final day of summer vacation for all Little Rock students. Governor Orval Faubus interrupts the “I Love Lucy Show” on local television to announce that he has received reports detailing “caravans” of white supremacists bound for Little Rock with the intention of preventing integration at Central High School. In order to prevent “blood in the streets,” he has called out the Arkansas National Guard (ANG) to preserve order at Central High. He says that the state militia will act not as segregationists or integrationists, but as "soldiers called to active duty to carry out their assigned tasks."

"Now that a federal court has ruled that no further litigation is possible before the forcible integration of Negroes and whites in Central High School tomorrow, the evidence of discord, anger, and resentment has come to me from so many sources as to become a deluge. There is evidence of disorder and threats of disorder which could have but one inevitable result— that is, violence which can lead to injury and the doing of harm to persons and property."

September 1, 1963

Demonstrators in Plaquemine, Louisiana Attacked By State Troopers on Horseback with Cattle Prods and Tear Gas

Three days after the March on Washington, demonstrations in Plaquemine turned violent when state troopers stormed the old Plymouth Rock Baptist Church on horseback. Troopers were searching for James Farmer, founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) who had been leading peaceful demonstrations and voting rights actions during the previous week.

Farmer wrote this passage in his journal about that night.

Doors were kicked-in and houses invaded as the troopers loudly proclaimed, "We want Farmer!"

Negroes beaten in the streets were told, 'We'll let you go if you tell us where Farmer is."

Two Negro girls heard troopers say, 'When we catch Farmer, We're going to lynch him!'

Hearing those bloodthirsty threats, I started to walk over and turn myself in. I was stopped by local citizens who insisted that if I surrendered, I would not be alive in the morning. They persuaded me to take refuge in a hearse. With another hearse as a decoy, I thus escaped from the frenzied mob, composed by law enforcement officers."

See Louisanna Public Broadcasting story which Includes oral histories and content from the documentary, Louisiana Diary.
James Farmer's diary of events in and around Plaquemine, Louisiana.
Caption from original photo: 9/3/63 – PLAQUEMINE, LA: CORE leader James Farmer leaves court here 9/3 after opening trials for 16 Negro leaders arrested in a racial demonstrtion 8/19. Three of the sixteen were convicted and fined on charges stemming from the demonstration. Man at right is unidentified. UPI Telephoto.

Resources Used – common sources used to find daily posts


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

~Howard Levin

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