Monthly Archive for November, 2012

Upcoming Events for the Week of November 26, 2012: Randal Jelks, Lori Rotskoff, Bland Simpson, and More

This week, a busy month of civil rights related events comes to a close with several book talks and signings. Here are a few highlights from this week’s calendar:

Washington, DC—On Tuesday, November 27, 2012, Randal Maurice Jelks, author of Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography, will give a book talk at Busboys and Poets.

Chicago, IL—On Thursday, November 29, 2012, Lori Rotskoff, co-editor of When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made, will give a book talk at Women & Children First.

Beaufort, NC—Bland Simpson, author of Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War, will spend Friday, November 30, 2012, in Beaufort. He will visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum at 12:00 and Scuttlebutt at 4:00.

For more information, and to see our full event calendar, click here.

On This Day: The Civil Rights Act of 1991

On November 21, 1991—21 years ago today—President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1991, strengthening Federal civil rights legislation and providing for monetary damages up to a certain limit in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

The Act had been a long time in the making. And, in fact, President Bush had vetoed a similar act just one year earlier amid political divisions and congressional conflict.

During the previous years, the Supreme Court had heard several employment discrimination cases, leading to decisions that made it more difficult for employment discrimination cases to resolve on the side of the plaintiff.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 allowed for jury trials and compensatory and punitive damages in cases involving intentional discrimination—both governmental and private. Codifying the disparate impact theory of discrimination, the Act allowed a plaintiff who showed that an employer had intentionally discriminated in employment to seek injunctive relief, attorney’s fees, and costs from the liable employer. However, it also placed caps on the amount of damages that could be awarded, based upon the size of the company in question.

Expanding the scope of protection, the Act also covered U.S. and U.S.-controlled employers operating abroad, provided increased protection to employees of Congress and certain high-level political appointees, and expanded the rights of women and religious minorities to sue.

The signing, though, was overshadowed by a proposed presidential order that would have ended the use of racial preferences and quotas in federal government hiring. Although spokespeople claimed President Bush had neither written nor seen the document, civil rights leaders were outraged and most Democrats protested by refusing to attend the signing ceremony for the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

To learn more, check out this summary form the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To read the full text of the Act, check out this page from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To learn about an earlier court case involving the disparate impact theory, check out this blog post about Griggs v. Duke Power Company.

To view newspaper articles published following the signing, click here and here.

To learn more about the Bush Administration’s relation to civil rights, check out this collection from Gale Cengage Learning.

For a comprehensive summary of civil rights acts, check out this page from Prentice Hall and this page from the Civil Rights Center.

For more laws and regulations related to equal employment, check out this page from the United States Coast Guard.

To learn more about employment discrimination, check out this page from Civil Rights 101.

The Civil Rights Monitor in 1991, prior to the bill’s signing, published this short report regarding current work on the legislation.

John F. Kennedy and Executive Order 11063

On November 20, 1962—only fifty years ago today—President John F. Kennedy signed into law Executive Order 11063, prohibiting segregation in the sale, leasing, or rental of federally owned or operated properties, as well as those provided with federal funds.

Arguing that excluding individuals because of their race, color, creed, or national origin was “unfair, unjust, and inconsistent with the public policy of the United States,” Kennedy stated that it was the duty of the executive branch of the federal government to ensure that laws were fairly administered. The order read:

I hereby direct all departments and agencies in the executive branch of the Federal Government, insofar as their functions relate to the provision, rehabilitation, or operation of housing and related facilities, to take all action necessary and appropriate to prevent discrimination because of race, color, creed, or national origin.

Furthermore, Kennedy directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other executive agencies to help eradicate discriminatory practices through litigation and other means. He established a President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity in Housing charged with enforcement. (To listen to a tape of a 1963 meeting of this committee, check out this link from the JFK Library.)

The portions of the order that established and delineated the powers of the Committee were amended in 1980 under Executive Order 12259, which placed authority under the leadership of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and were again amended in 1994 through Executive Order 12892.

Six years after Executive Order 11063, the spirit of the order would be furthered through the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which included fair housing legislation and significantly expanded on previous legislation, marking a huge step in eliminating discrimination in one of the most basic elements of life: finding a home. Later housing policy addressed other issues such as accessibility and affordability.

To learn more about the struggle against housing discrimination, check out John M. Goering’s edited volume, Housing Desegregation and Federal Policy, available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

For summaries of—and links to—fair housing laws and executive orders, check out this page from HUD’s web site.

For summaries of other discrimination-related executive orders, click here.

To learn more about Kennedy, check out Richard Reeves’ President Kennedy: Profile of Power (Simon & Schuster 1994).

Remembering the Albany Movement

On November 17, 1961—51 years ago today—representatives from various civil rights organizations including the NAACP and SNCC, as well as individual residents frustrated by segregation, came together in Georgia to form the Albany Movement—a coalition that would spend the next year fighting for integration.

Two weeks earlier, the Interstate Commerce Commission’s official ban of interstate bus segregation had gone into effect; on instruction from SNCC leaders, nine students from Albany State College had conducted a sit-in to test these policies. These students’ actions, as well as the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott several years earlier, helped inspire the formation of the Albany Movement.

Hoping to achieve the desegregation of all facilities throughout Albany, Georgia, activists utilized nonviolent mass demonstrations, sit-ins, litigation, and other tactics, all the while fighting for the release of individuals jailed in desegregation protests and for the establishment of a biracial committee to further the desegregation movement. These protesters lived under the constant threat of arrest; more than 500 were jailed in the first couple of weeks, and that number quickly reached 1,000.

Once Martin Luther King, Jr., became involved with the coalition, the Movement predictably gained national attention. After King was arrested on December 16, city officials and protesters reached a truce. However, the peace did not last, and demonstrations and arrests both increased.

Unfortunately, despite its success in mobilizing mass nonviolent protests, the Movement was not concretely successful at eliminating segregation policies. Albany’s police chief, Laurie Pritchett, was determined to block the movement’s progress, and his tactics were quite effective. That said, as King explained, civil rights leaders were able to learn from the Albany Movement, paving the way for future struggles, such as the Birmingham Campaign of 1963. And of course, local activism continued even after the Albany Movement itself wound down, with segregation laws ending in the spring of 1963.

To learn more about the Albany Movement, check out this page from Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, this page from the New Georgia Encyclopedia, this page from the University of Georgia, and this page from PBS.

Archival resources can be found in the Civil Rights Digital Library. Information on the Albany Movement is also included in Swarthmore College’s Global Nonviolent Action Database.

To learn more, check out this news story published fifty years after the movement.

To learn more about Charles Sherrod, one SNCC activist who helped start the campaign and later became a city commissioner, check out this article.

To learn more about the Interstate Commerce Commission’s segregation ban, check out this page from the Federal Highway Administration and this blog post. To read the regulations, click here.

To learn more about SNCC, check out this blog post.

Remembering Denver Smith and Leonard Brown

On November 16, 1972—forty years ago today—two African American students from Southern University (Baton Rouge) were killed on campus by white sheriff’s deputies during a peaceful protest.

The two victims were taking part in a peaceful, unarmed protest by African American students who gathered at the university’s administration building to protest against the administration officials and their policies. Protests were ongoing as students fought for a greater voice in school affairs and the resignation of certain administrators. Several student protesters had been arrested the previous night, and the students who entered the administration building on November 16 sought their release. State police and sheriff’s deputies entered the administration building with firearms and tear gas; when they left, two students, Denver Smith and Leonard Brown, lay dead.

Louisiana’s governor, Edwin Edwards, ordered the campus closed and declared a state of emergency for Baton Rouge, claiming that these “militant” students posed a threat. National Guard troops and police wearing riot gear patrolled Southern University.

Sheriffs denied shooting the young men; Governor Edwards said the fatal shots might have accidentally come from the deputies’ guns, or might have come from any of several other sources: “It is obvious there are discrepancies and questions. . . . In the heat of that kind of situation even if someone accidentally took a buckshot shell out of his pocket and loaded it and shot it, he would not be able to tell himself afterwards whether he had done it.”

Although Edwards ordered an investigation, the shooter or shooters were never identified.

This was not the first such shooting; two years earlier, unarmed students at Kent State had been killed by the Ohio National Guard during a protest against the American invasion of Cambodia. But this time, the shooting did not receive as much media attention—and most of the coverage that did appear cast the students as “militant” (see, for example, this UPI article).

Southern University’s Smith-Brown Memorial Union was named in honor of the two students.

Photographs from the event can be found online through the HBCU Library Alliance. To read newspaper articles printed after the shooting, click here, here, here, and here.  The New York Times article is available here. To read an article that appeared in the school newspaper in 1973, click here.

Elizabeth Keckley in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”

Today Steven Spielberg’s much-anticipated new film, Lincoln, opens in theaters across the United States. Covering Lincoln’s final months in office, the film portrays the actions he took to end the war and abolish slavery.

Spielberg based more than 40 of his characters on historical figures; included in this group is Elizabeth Keckley, an enslaved woman whose 1868 book (Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House) UNC Press and the UNC Library republished last year through the DocSouth Books program.

Keckley, born a slave in Virginia in 1818, suffered through decades of slavery’s horrors, including beatings and a sexual assault. Eventually, she raised enough money to purchase freedom for herself and her son, moving to Washington, D.C. to work as a seamstress. A close confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, for whom she sewed, Keckley eventually published Behind the Scenes both as a slave narrative and a memoir of her relationship with the First Lady. The book also attempted to defend the sale of Mrs. Lincoln’s dresses to help solve Lincoln’s financial problems.

Unfortunately, negative public reaction to the book’s revelations of Mrs. Lincoln’s private feelings and financial troubles caused Keckley’s dressmaking business to fail and the Lincoln family to cut off ties with her. But Behind the Scenes remains an important view into the Lincolns’ life and the White House of the 1860s, quoted to this day by biographers.

To learn more about Keckley, check out this summary from the Documenting the American South web site. To see a sketch of a gown Keckley created for Lincoln, check out this page from the Smithsonian Institution.

To purchase Behind the Scenes in print-on-demand paperback or electronic format, click hereDocSouth Books, a collaboration between UNC Press and UNC Library, brings classic works from the digital library of Documenting the American South back into print and makes them available as downloadable e-books or print-on-demand publications.

Slate recently published an article comparing historical photos of the real people to pictures of the actors who portray them. Click here to view this article.

Kate Masur, author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C., recently wrote about the movie in a New York Times op-ed. (Click here to read the story.) Harold Holzer, co-author of The Confederate Image and The Union Image, also commented on the movie in this article from The Telegraph.

Remembering Ruby Bridges

On November 14, 1960—52 years ago today—Ruby Bridges became the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South, when court-ordered integration in New Orleans, Louisiana, allowed her to enroll at William Frantz Elementary School. On the same day, three other African American students together integrated another previously all-white elementary school in New Orleans.

It had been more than six years since the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declared segregated public schools unconstitutional, but school districts across the South still resisted integration.

During the spring of 1960, Bridges’ parents had responded to requests from the NAACP for children to participate in the integration of the New Orleans Schools. After a test, six children were chosen to integrate the schools; two decided to remain in their old schools and three were transferred to integrate another school, McDonough No. 19. This left Bridges the sole African American student assigned to William Frantz Elementary. November 14 was set as the date when the four students would integrate the two schools.

That day, U.S. Marshals escorted six-year-old Bridges to her new school amid a large and loud crowd surrounded by police officers on horseback. It certainly was not a smooth transition at either school; white parents pulled their children out of school, and a new teacher had to be hired to teach only Bridges once all the other teachers refused. Bridges, at only six years old, endured constant hostility and threats.

The trouble was not confined to the school; Bridges’ father lost his job, and her grandparents, both sharecroppers, were turned off their land. Friends and family, though, both white and African American, supported Bridges and her family, protecting them and helping her father find a new job.

Fortunately, Bridges’ experience with her teacher, Barbara Henry, was excellent. She was Henry’s sole pupil that year, and Henry provided her not only with an education but with support. Bridges stayed at William Frantz Elementary through the sixth grade, and each year more African American students joined her.

She eventually returned to the school as a volunteer parent liaison after she took over guardianship of her deceased brother’s children. Bridges continues to travel around the country and observe how the civil rights movement is taught in schools. In 1999, she founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and respect.

Over the years, Bridges has been portrayed in multiple forms of media, such as the 1998 made-for-television movie Ruby Bridges and Lori McKenna’s song “Ruby’s Shoes.” Her first day of school was portrayed by Norman Rockwell in his 1964 painting “The Problem We All Live With.”

Bridges’ courage is still remembered today, more than five decades later. In 2001, President Clinton included Bridges among 28 recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal (also included in the list were Irene Morgan, Constance Baker Motley, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth). A school district later dedicated an elementary school to her, and Tulane University granted her an honorary degree earlier this year.

The school Bridges integrated eventually underwent significant demographic changes, becoming mostly African American. Bridges and others successfully had the school recognized on the National Register of Historic Places; however, just a few months later, the school closed after Hurricane Katrina damaged the building. Bridges wasn’t going to watch this important landmark disappear, though; the Recovery School District refurbished the school. Bridges remains active in the school, advocating the teaching of history and focusing on community service and social justice. (To learn more about this, check out this Washington Post article.)

Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist who volunteered to meet weekly with Bridges during her first year of school, later wrote a children’s book entitled The Story of Ruby Bridges.

To learn more, and to read Bridges’ memories, check out this article from CBS News and this PBS story. For newspaper coverage of that first day, check out this Associated Press article.

To learn more, check out Bridges’ children’s books, Through My Eyes (Scholastic 1999), Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (Scholastic 2009), and Let’s Read About . . . Ruby Bridges (Scholastic 2003).

In this 2010 Washington Post article, Bridges shares her memories of her first days of school.

To learn more about the integration of New Orleans’ public schools, check out this collection from the Civil Rights Digital Library.

In her children’s book, Remember: The Journey to School Integration (Houghton Mifflin 2004), which includes numerous archival photographs depicting school desegregation, Toni Morrison presented a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during this era.

To learn about racial and economic school resegregation, check out John Boger and Gary Orfield’s edited volume School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back? (UNC Press 2005).

To learn more about the fight for integration, check out Mark Tushnet’s The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (UNC Press, 2005).

From the Archives: Struggling for Its Place — Duke’s Black Studies Program Appeals to President Terry Sanford

This post is the 12th in a series from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions.  For more on this digitization project, click here.

Letter, Walter W. Buford to Terry Sanford, April 7, 1971.  Department of African and African-American Studies Records, Box 2, Folder 51, file ID daams02051013

Letter, Walter W. Burford to Terry Sanford, April 7, 1971. Department of African and African-American Studies Records, Box 2, Folder 51, file ID daams02051013

This blog post examines a letter sent in 1971 to Duke President Terry Sanford by professor Walter Burford of Duke’s Black Studies Program. This and other letters from professors Burford and William C. Turner, Jr., found in the Department of African and African-American Studies Records, provide a rough timeline of the Black Studies Program’s struggles for recognition and support.

President Terry Sanford first rose to statewide prominence in the 1960 N.C. gubernatorial campaign when he dispatched a segregationist challenger in the Democratic primary.  While in office, Sanford mandated statewide school integration. When Sanford arrived at Duke in April 1970, the university had recently experienced its own racial turmoil.  In February 1969, sixty members of the Afro-American Society occupied the Allen Building — home of Duke’s administration — with twelve demands, including the establishment of the Black Studies Program.  Although the occupying students peaceably exited the building, police engaged with students outside the building and fired tear gas upon them.  The university responded to the takeover by forming a committee that in May 1969 officially proposed the Black Studies Program.  (The records of the Allen Building Takeover will also be digitized in the coming years as part of the CCC Project.)

The letter shown above is the first sent to Terry Sanford by professor Burford, who wrote it contemporaneously to Sanford’s inauguration. Burford refers first to Sanford’s interest in Black Studies at Duke, indicating that Sanford likely asked Burford for this update as part of his orientation to the current issues facing the university. Burford then lays out a reasoned case as to why Black Studies deserved more recognition, funding, and professors. Burford uses the phrase “the ‘boy’ status” in describing his perception of how the Duke community perceived Black Studies. One could contend that Burford’s phraseology carried a double meaning, referring both to the newness of Black Studies as compared to other academic programs and the well-known use of “boy” as a denigrating term segregationists used in referring to African Americans.

Unfortunately, the records digitized for the CCC Project do not contain Sanford’s response to this or any of the other letters contained in the departmental records.  What we can gather from the subsequent letters is that, while some improvement occurred, progress was neither rapid nor easy.  In an April 1972 letter, Burford criticized the “weak support from the Administration” for Black Studies, going on to write the following strong rebuff:

I trust there is not a systematic disregard for such crucial matters as enumerated, for not only does such compromise the status of all Blacks at this Institution, but poses difficulties insurmountable to all seeking a relevant education.

The stern words must have initiated some progress; letters dated 1974 discuss transforming the Black Studies Program into a fully functioning department. We encourage you to peruse the records that are now available online to better understand the story of how the Black Studies Program at Duke transformed into the Department of African and African-American Studies.

 

Sources:

Biography of Sanford from UNC-TV:  http://www.unctv.org/biocon/tsanford/timeline.html

Allen Building Takeover:  http://library.duke.edu/uarchives/exhibits/allen-building/page5.html

Remembering Hansberry v. Lee

On November 12, 1940—72 years ago today—the Supreme Court in Hansberry v. Lee invalidated a racial covenant, ruling in favor of an African American man who bought a house in a formerly whites-only neighborhood.

It had been twenty-three years since the Supreme Court had, in Buchanan v. Warley, invalidated a Louisville, Kentucky, ordinance prohibiting the sale of property to African Americans. But, in the intervening decades, white supremacists had used racially restrictive covenants to separate African American and white neighborhoods. The Supreme Court’s refusal in 1926 to hear the case Corrigan v. Buckley had made possible the continued use of such covenants to promote housing discrimination.

Hansberry v. Lee resulted from a 1937 purchase of property by Carl Hansberry, who was a prominent African American. A white woman, Anna Lee, who was one of many signatories of a restrictive covenant by the property owners’ association not to sell lots to African Americans, sued for $100,000. Lee won her case in circuit court and in the Supreme Court of Illinois, and eventually the case landed in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Lee claimed that more than five hundred land owners had signed the agreement, which stated that it would be ineffective unless signed by 95 percent of the owners. She claimed that Hansberry had bought and occupied the land despite knowledge of the covenant. Hansberry’s lawyer, Earl Dickerson, argued that the required percentage of residents had not signed the agreement, thus voiding the contract.

Ultimately, the justices reversed the Supreme Court of Illinois’ decision on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process rights, arguing that it was unfair to allow the 54 percent of the neighborhood landowners who had signed the covenant to represent the 46 percent who had not. The decision read, in part.

It is one thing to say that some members of a class may represent other members in a litigation where the whole and common interest of the class in the litigation is either to assert a common right or to challenge an asserted obligation. . . . It is quite another to hold that all those who are free alternatively either to assert rights or to challenge them are of a single class, so that any group merely because it is of the class so constituted, may be deemed adequately to represent any others of the class in litigating their interests in either alternative. Such a selection of representatives for purposes of litigation, whose substantial interest are not necessarily or even probably the same as those whom they are deemed to represent, does not afford that protection to absent parties which due process requires.. . .

[W]e think that the representation in this case no more satisfies the requirements of due process than a trial by a judicial officer who is in such situation that he may have an interest in the outcome of the litigation in conflict with that of the litigants.

Although the justices’ ruling was based on a legal technicality and did not actually void restrictive covenants, the decision did represent a significant milestone in the fight against housing discrimination, and in fact opened up some areas formerly restricted from African American ownership. It would take many more years of legal wrangling before racially restrictive covenants would finally be declared unconstitutional and housing opportunity would finally begin to be equalized (see, for example, the 1948 case Shelley v. Kraemer and the 1968 Fair Housing Act), but it was a step in the right direction.

To read the full text of the decision, click here.

To learn more, check out this page from Columbia University’s Social Justice Movements web site, this page from Bedford St. Martin’s,  and this story from Daily Kos.

Hansberry’s daughter, Lorraine Hansberry, later authored A Raisin in the Sun, as well as various other plays relating to human rights and equality.

To learn more about Hansberry’s lawyer, check out Robert Blakely’s Earl B. Dickerson: A Voice for Freedom and Equality (Northwestern University Press 2006).

To see a descriptive timeline of the fair housing struggle, click here. To learn more about racially restrictive covenants, click here.

To learn more about the struggle against housing discrimination, check out John M. Goering’s edited volume, Housing Desegregation and Federal Policy, available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

Upcoming Events for the Week of November 12, 2012: Minorities in the 2012 Elections, Lori Rotskoff and Laura Lovett, and More

Community members across the country will have plenty of civil rights related events to choose from this week: book talks and signings, lectures by top-notch scholars, films about human rights and civil liberties, and more. Here are a few highlights from this week’s calendar:

Chapel Hill, NC—On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Bland Simpson will visit the Bull’s Head Bookshop to discuss his new book, Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War.

Durham, NC—On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, as part of the “Citizenship, Democracy, Elections” series, American political pollster, opinion leader, and author John Zogby will present a lecture at Duke University: “Did Minorities Matter? Their Impact on the 2012 Elections.”

New York, NY—On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, Lori Rotskoff and Laura L. Lovett will give a book talk and signing at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca. In their new book, When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made, thirty-two contributors explore the creation and legacy of the popular children’s classic Free to Be . . . You and Me, the groundbreaking children’s record, book, and television special that debuted forty years ago.

Jacksonville, IL—On Friday, November 16, 2012, C. Joseph Genetin-Pilawa will give a book talk at Our Town Books. Genetin-Pilawa’s recent book, Crooked Paths to Allotment: The Fight over Federal Indian Policy after the Civil War, examines the contests over Indian policy from Reconstruction through the Gilded Age, revealing the contingent state of American settler colonialism and showing how the ideas and policy frameworks espoused by reformers and activists—though repressed by assimilationists—established a tradition of dissent against disruptive colonial governance.

For more information, and to see our full event calendar, click here.