Political Science – Eyes on the Prize Submission
On August 28, 1955, Emmet Til’s body was found lying in the river. Two local men were arrested and charged with murder. This was a significant event during the 50’s because it was very rare that a black man could press charges on a white person. Mose Wright was the uncle of Emmet Til. He said that the two men came to his door and asked if he had 2 boys from Chicago. They did this because earlier on, Emmet had walked into a store and said “bye baby” to a white woman. This was considered talking fresh. Emmet didn’t know any better because he was from up north.
His body was found maliciously beaten and it was barely recognizable. Emmet’s mother insisted on the body being shipped back up north for an open casket funeral. The picture of his casket was published in Jet Magazine. Roy Bryandt and the girl’s brother-in-law were the one’s arrested for committing this horrible crime. During the court case the blacks were forced to sit together and away from everyone else. It took the jury one hour to find these men not guilty. Martin Luther King, jr. was asked to head the boycott and Montgomery Improvement Association.
Coretta Scott King, MLK’s wife, testifies that he was weary at first of accepting this position because he wasn’t sure if he was qualified enough. He was a new minister and a young man. He finally came to the conclusion that if no one else would do it, he would accept the position. While the members of the Montgomery Improvement Association were on a bus ride, shots were fired at them. Martin Luther King, jr. and ED Nixon’s houses were both bombed. The Montgomery Improvement Association also headed the bus boycotts. James Meredith was a young black man that applied to a University in Mississippi.
Medgar Evars was the head of the Mississippi State NAACP and counseled James Meredith through this troubling time. After a long fight, the court ruled James Meredith must be accepted. (He was of course qualified. ) On September 20th, Governor Barnett personally flew up to the University of Mississippi and turned James away. On September 25th, James tried to register at the Jackson location and again, Governor Barnett was waiting and also blocked the door entrance so Meredith could not even enter. On Saturday the 29th, Ross Barnett had an engagement to attend to. He was the half time speaker at a football game.
On Sunday, September 30th, 100 US marshals were sent to help James Meredith register. President Kennedy was to make a speech in the state of Mississippi also. At 8:00 Mississippi University turned into a battlefield and no one even heard the President’s speech. The mob targeted the media but the marshals were instructed not to use guns. 35 marshals ended up being shot and 2 people were killed. James Meredith finally registered at a private office in Oxford and contested this; “I’ve been living a lonely life for a long time. ” Brown v. Board of Education ruled segregated schools were unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.
NAACP shut down schools in Alabama due to white violent resistance. Aubrey Lucy was a black female and went to a white college. Riots caused the board to suspend her temporarily. She ended up being expelled. President Eisenhower thought this of the desegregation of schools, “Too much, too fast. ” The desegregation of schools and getting whites to comply with it got so bad that in Little Rock, Arkansas national guards had to be brought in to sustain the peace. Central High School in Arkansas only admitted white students. 8 blacks went to register on the first day, accompanied by their parents.
The National Guard turned these students away as their presence would surely cause a riot. Seven of the eight black kids had made arrangements to walk to school together. Elisabeth Eckford had not heard of this arrangement. She walked alone to school and met a mob. She would not speak to the press at all. She sat down on a bench, shocked, amazed and afraid. The first peaceful sit-in occurred in Nashville, Tennessee. One day, black students entered the diner and sit at the counter where they were not allowed. They sat there and did homework, talked, and would not leave until they were served.
A recollected memory from one of the black women at the sit-in is that of a white waitress who repeatedly kept dropping dishes. She was so frightened that she just dropped one dish after another. Once black students were tired of sitting, others would come in their place. This went on for 3 weeks. 80 demonstrators were arrested and charged with unorderly protest. After this, the blacks decided to not buy from downtown. After 1 month the boycott closed a lot of stores down town. Blacks who worked down town were struck by random acts of violence. A car struck Z. Alexander Lubee’s house.
He was a man who defended the protesting students. 147 windows in the medical college across the street were shattered because it was so loud. Freedom rides were bus rides in which interracial passengers sat backwards and drove through the south. For example, the blacks would sit in the front and the whites in the back. They wanted to create a crisis so the government would react and enforce the law. The first freedom ride was on May 1st 1961. 7 whites and 6 blacks were to be the first freedom riders in Washington D. C. The night before the ride they all sat down to have dinner.
One freedom rider recalls that it was kind of like “The Last Supper. ” More and more freedom rides continued and on the first occasion, mobs firebombed the bus and blocked the exit. 12 riders were hospitalized and the bus was of course destroyed. Gov. John Patterson of AL said, “Stay home, fools! ” The FBI had information that the busses were going to be attacked but did nothing. Patterson refused to provide protection for these riders. 40 miles away from Montgomery there was no protection for these riders. MLK telephoned Kennedy to tell of the violence. Patterson then said he couldn’t guarantee the safety of MLK Jr.
George C. Wallace was the governor of Montgomery Alabama in 1963. He was strict, severe, a segregationist, and a racist. He was closely affiliated with Eugene “Bull” Connor. “Bull” Connor was a KKK member and the commissioner of public safety in Alabama at the time. Also, during this time the freedom riders were attacked on Mother’s day. People looked upon it as these students ruined mothers day and disgraced them or some nonsense like that. SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and SCLC (Southern Christ Leadership Council) were two student groups that fought for civil rights.
These two organizations at one time spawned a rivalry for one another because SNCC supposedly wanted more attention. During the times of these organizations was a movement called The Albany Movement. In conjunction with the Albany Movement 500 people were jailed. Laurie Pritchett was the chief of police in Albany at that time. He made sure that the jails would not fill up from the mass arrests that were being made. He stuffed 65 people in a cell built to hold only 10. Arrested persons were also sent to jails in other towns to make sure there was enough room for all.
In July 1962, MLK Jr. as sentenced to 40 days in jail. He was however, released 3 days later. His bond was paid at Pritchett’s request. The Albany Movement continued on without MLK Jr. for the time being. MKL Jr. was depressed at the fact that Albany was still segregated. Bull Connor also tried to run for mayor in this time but lost. The SCLC organized “project c” confrontation. The headquarters would be at 16th street Baptist Church. The goal was for demonstrations to target 3 main stores down town. 21 people were arrested the first day in Birmingham. Also, during this time there were 2 mayors and 2 governments in Alabama.
One government would just not leave. This was a major cause of the unorderly conduct in Alabama. Connor remained head of police in Birmingham AL. Demonstrations continued and badly affected businesses. Courts finally ordered the demonstrations to stop. MLK Jr. along with SCLC planed the second phase of project C in room 30 at the Gaston Motel. Children led phase 2. They were kept out of school and told to go and protest/demonstrate. Connor brought in police dogs and turned fire hoses on the kids. Finally, the jails filled up and there was an agreed one-day of truce.
Friday May 10, 38 days after project C, The Birmingham agreement was made. After this, police still beat blacks and blacks in turn rioted. The March in Washington had 200,000 people show up. It went from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Some speakers even rewrote their speeches as not to ruin Kennedy’s proposal. MLK Jr. gave his “Let Freedom Ring” speech and was from this point on seen as the true leader of the movement. On September 15th, the 16th street Baptist Church was bombed and temporarily halted the project. 15 were injured and 4 kids were killed.
The freedom summer in Mississippi was a basic invasion. It was designed to “open up” Mississippi. People risked beatings, arrests, and their lives. William J. Simmons of the White Citizen’s Council wanted to protect the white way of life. The Citizens Council opposed integration. Ross Barnett, a racist, went so far as to foreclose mortgages and punish whites that went against him. He denied loans and passed white-only laws. Blacks outnumbered whites 4-1 in some counties. 1961 was the last of the freedom rides and the end of Freedom Summer. Medgar Evars traveled to Mississippi to help organize the boycott on Capital Street.
Hundreds were arrested for marching in the demonstration. After Kennedy’s strongest speech on civil rights in 1963, Medgar Evars was shot in the back in his own driveway after getting out of his car. The wife and kids were inside and as soon as they heard gunshots, hit the floor, as previously rehearsed. His wife came out shortly after to find her husband dead. It was concluded that a member of the White Citizen’s Council shot Medgar Evars. There were 3 men, Goodman, Chaney, and Schreoner, which drove to investigate the burning of a black Methodist Church.
At around 3 O’clock their blue Ford station wagon stopped outside Philadelphia by the sheriff, Ceasil Price. They were released at 10pm but that was the last anyone saw of them. They disappeared and Johnson issued a search and FBI involvement. Hoover of the FBI said he wouldn’t protect people and that it was a matter to be dealt with by local authorities. 6 weeks later the bodies were found and Chaney, the only black man in the group, had a fractured skull. Dave Dennis of CORE blames the people who committed this crime just as much as those in Washington for not supporting or enforcing their laws.
Everyone knew the men who committed this crime would be found not guilty because they were white. During this time 80 arrests were made and thousands of arrests were made. After this, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. SNCC opened 41 freedom schools in Mississippi. Whites were now teaching blacks and living in black homes. Civil rights workers invaded the state. As soon as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed blacks lined up to register to vote. They were told to move to the sidewalk. Less than 1% of blacks were able to register to vote.
Sheriff Jim Clark arrested Amelia Bointon, a highly respected community leader during this time. This caused 105 teachers to protest down at the courthouse (Teacher’s March). This occurred in Selma, AL. Clark was confronted in the courthouse about his brutality towards blacks. He said he didn’t know what they were talking about. The Selma to Montgomery march was a response to Jimmy Lee Jackson’s death. A state trooper shot Jimmy because he wanted to protect his mother. Marchers were beaten. One white that marched with the blacks was badly injured.
He was told there were no doctors for “people like him”. SCLC opposed the march but 600 people gathered to march anyway. The marchers crossed over the Edmund Pettus Bridge and there were state troopers waiting for them on the other side. The marchers were ordered by Wallace to stop or brutality and tear gas would be enforced. MLK Jr. asked if they could sit down and pray, which they did. He then ordered the marchers to get up and turn around to avoid the fight. SNCC called this turn around a sell-out. Stokly Carmichael of SNCC withdrew from the Selma Campaign.