29.2 The triumphs of crusade (Book title- The Americans )
Freedom riders- In 1961, James Peck, a white civil rights activist, joined other CORE members on a historic bus trip across the South. The two-bus trip would test the Supreme Court decisions banning segregated seating on interstate bus routes. Peck and other freedom riders hoped to provoke a violent reaction that would convince the Kennedy administration to enforce the law. The violence was not long in coming. At the Alabama state line, white racists got on Bus One carrying chains, brass knuckles, and pistols. They brutally beat African-American riders and white activists who tried to intervene. Still the riders managed to go on. Then on May 4, 1961—Mother’s Day—the bus pulled into the Birmingham bus terminal. James Peck saw a hostile mob waiting, some holding iron bars
The ride of Bus One had ended, but Bus Two continued southward on a journey that would shock the Kennedy administration into action.
In Anniston, Alabama, about 200 angry whites attacked Bus Two.. The freedom riders spilled out just before the bus exploded.
CORE director James Farmer announced that a group of SNCC volunteers in Nashville were ready to pick up where the others had left off.
When a new band of freedom riders rode into Birmingham, policemen pulled them from the bus, beat them, and drove them into Tennessee. . After an angry phone call from U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, bus company officials convinced the driver to proceed. The riders set out for Montgomery on May 20
ARRIVAL OF FEDERAL MARSHALS--
President Kennedy arranged to give the freedom riders direct support. The Justice Department sent 400 U.S. marshals to protect the riders on the last part of their journey to Jackson, Mississippi. In addition, the attorney general and the Interstate Commerce Commission banned segregation in all interstate travel facilities, including waiting rooms, restrooms, and lunch counters
INTEGRATING OLE MISS In September 1962, Air Force veteran James Meredith won a federal court case that allowed him to enroll in the all-white University of Mississippi, nicknamed Ole Miss. But when Meredith arrived on campus, he faced Governor Ross Barnett, who refused to let him register as a student.
President Kennedy ordered federal marshals to escort Meredith to the registrar’s office. Barnett responded with a heated radio appeal: “I call on every Mississippian to keep his faith and courage. We will never surrender.” The broadcast turned out white demonstrators by the thousands. On the night of September 30, riots broke out on campus, resulting in two deaths. It took thousands of soldiers, 200 arrests, and 15 hours to stop the rioters. In the months that followed, federal officials accompanied Meredith to class and protected his parents from night riders who shot up their house.
HEADING TO BIRMINGHAM
Birmingham, a city known for its strict enforcement of total segregation in public life, also had a reputation for racial violence, including 18 bombings from 1957 to 1963
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, head of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and secretary of the SCLC, decided something had to be done about Birmingham and that it would be the ideal place to test the power of nonviolence. He invited Martin Luther King, Jr., and the SCLC to help desegregate the city. On April 3, 1963, King flew into Birmingham to hold a planning meeting with members of the African-American community. After days of demonstrations led by Shuttlesworth and others, King and a small band of marchers were finally arrested during a demonstration on Good Friday, April 12th
On April 20, King posted bail and began planning more demonstrations. On May 2, more than a thousand African-American children marched in Birmingham; Police commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor’s men arrested 959 of them. On May 3, a second “children’s crusade” came face to face with a helmeted police force. Police swept the marchers off TV cameras captured all of it, and millions of viewers heard the children screaming. Continued protests, an economic boycott, and negative media coverage finally convinced Birmingham officials to end segregation. It convinced President Kennedy that only a new civil rights act could end racial violence and satisfy the demands of African Americans—and many whites—for racial justice
KENNEDY TAKES A STAND
A tragic event just hours after Kennedy’s speech highlighted the racial tension in much of the South. Shortly after midnight, a sniper murdered Medgar Evers, NAACP field secretary and World War II veteran.
MARCHING ON WASHINGTON
The civil rights bill that President Kennedy sent to Congress guaranteed equal access to all public accommodations and gave the U.S. attorney general the power to file school desegregation suits. To persuade Congress to pass the bill, two veteran organizers—labor leader A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin of the SCLC—summoned Americans to a march on Washington, D.
Two months later after his speech I dream r, an assassin shot and killed John F. Kennedy On July 2, 1964, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination because of race, religion, national origin, and gender. It gave all citizens the right to enter libraries, parks, washrooms, restaurants, theaters, and other public accommodations.
In 1964, CORE and SNCC workers in the South began registering as many African Americans as they could to vote. They hoped their campaign would receive national publicity, which would in turn influence Congress to pass a voting rights act. Focused in Mississippi, the project became known as Freedom Summer.
NEW POLITICAL PARTY SNCC organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Fannie Lou Hamer, the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers, would be their voice at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. In a televised speech that shocked the convention and viewers nationwide, Hamer described how she was jailed for registering to vote in 1962, and how police forced other prisoners to beat her.
THE SELMA CAMPAIGN At the start of 1965, the SCLC conducted a major voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama, where SNCC had been working for two years to register voters. After a demonstrator named Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot and killed, King responded by announcing a 50-mile protest march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. On March 7, 1965, about 600 protesters set out for Montgomery. That night, mayhem broke out. Television cameras captured the scene. Ten days later, President Johnson presented Congress with a new voting rights act and asked for its swift passage. On March 21, 3,000 marchers again set out for Montgomery, this time with federal protection. Soon the number grew to an army of 25,000.
VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965
That summer, Congress finally passed Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act eliminated the so-called literacy tests that had disqualified many voters. It also stated that federal examiners could enroll voters who had been denied suffrage by local officials. In Selma, the proportion of African Americans registered to vote rose from 10 percent in 1964 to 60 percent in 1968. Overall the percentage of registered African-American voters in the South tripled.