Fifty years ago in the early 1960's, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining national attention. But unbeknownst to many, African Americans had been working to gain political and economic rights for almost a century. A growing sense of urgency fanned the fire, rooted in the belief that change could wait no longer.
Laws enacted in many southern state legislatures known as Jim Crow laws continued to separate the races in restaurants, schools, theaters, parks and other public facilities. Outrage over poll taxes and the lack of voting rights for blacks brought waves of college students from the north in a massive push to register black voters particularly in Mississippi. Marches, protests, and interventions by the National Guard were becoming commonplace in the South.
The year 1962 was not the most memorable in Civil Rights history, but it was surrounded by events that changed history. The movement took root in the mid-1950's when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. This was followed by the Montgomery Bus Boycott which ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses and other public transportation was illegal. By 1957, Martin Luther King had helped to establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to help make church organizations a part of the Civil Rights Movement. Later that year, 9 black students attempted to enter classes at the segregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The National Guard was called and the black students were turned away. In 1960, 4 black freshmen from Greensboro, North Carolina sat down at a Woolworth's lunch counter and were refused service, starting a wave of sit-ins that spread to 15 southern states. In 1961, it was estimated that over 50,000 people took part in some sort of demonstration to end segregation.
In 1962, President Kennedy sent federal troops to the University of Mississippi to end riots so that James Meredith, the school's first black student could attend. The year 1964 was the watershed year for Civil Rights, culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act, declaring discrimination based on race illegal. Unfortunately change was slow in coming and acceptance was hard won. The sad saga continued through the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 and beyond.
The library has many recent books and DVDs that chronicle the Civil Rights Movement:
Great Migration North by Laurie Harris
While the World Watched: a Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn McKinstry
Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick
Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement by Vincent Harding
Let Freedom Sing: How Music Inspired the Civil Rights Movement (DVD)
Going Down Jericho Road: the Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign by Michael Honey
A History of the Civil Rights Movement (DVD)