Monthly Archive for December, 2012

From the Archives: A Study on Population Problems in the South

This post contains highlights of material 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.

Population Problems in the South, 1937. Guy Benton Johnson Papers, Folder 1288, Item ID: 03826_1288_0034

In 1937, the Conference on Education and Race Relations in Atlanta, Georgia, produced a study on “Population Problems in the South.” Referring to the South’s current state of racial discord and inequality, the publication of the study’s findings quotes Thomas Nelson Page, a noted Southern writer, who said that “In dealing with this question in the past, nearly every mistake that could possibly be made has been made.” From the immorality of the practice of slavery, to the tragedy surrounding the Civil War, to a flawed period of Reconstruction, to the lack of social justice education in schools, the problems and mistakes in the history our Southern society have been far from few.

The study looks at population statistics, standard of living inconsistencies, wages, health issues, and public schools, among other topics, in a thorough examination of the current inequalities between blacks and whites in the South. Taking all of this information into consideration, the study identifies two overarching civic problems: “(1) That of doing justice to a minority group, and (2) that of serving the best interests of all.” The writers go on to propose the difficulty of approaching these problems: “the American people would like to do both, of course. Is it possible to do both at the same time, or must we sacrifice one to accomplish the other?”

The data and reflections reported in the study findings constitute an interesting resource and a fascinating glimpse of 1930s perceptions of race relations. The “Population Problems in the South” publication is part of the Guy Benton Johnson collection and has been digitized through the CCC grant. See the entire document here.

From the Archives: Women for the Future

This post contains highlights of material 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.

Speech, Helen G. Edmonds. June 9, 1977. Helen G. Edmonds Papers, Folder 243, Item ID: 50003_0243_0002

At the Annual Continuing Education Conference for the Women of Maryland on June 9, 1977, Dr. Helen G. Edmonds gave a speech on the “Roles of Women in the Future.” A well-known professor of history at North Carolina Central University, Edmonds looks at activism from a historian’s perspective in her lecture and applauds the women in the audience for “making giant strides in some areas of American life.” Going on to describe the 1970s as the belated dawn of women activists in the US and the celebrated arrival of the Women’s Liberation Movement, Edmonds gives a broad overview of earlier “revolutionary movements” from the recent history of activism across various minority groups in the US: Mexican Americans, Native Americans, blacks, students, and women (who were surely minorities in representation if not in number).

Looking to the future, Edmonds envisions great improvements in the lives of women and tremendous changes to their roles within society. In her speech she outlines fundamental goals regarding political action, where she hopes women will take on higher and more numerous government positions; employment conditions, where America needs to strive for “equal opportunity and treatment of women workers”; the health and nutrition of American women and families; and the collection and analysis of reliable research data on women.

Photograph, Helen G. Edmonds. NCCU Faculty and Staff Photograph Records, Image folder 80, Item ID: 50007_pf0080_0027

The words of Helen Edmonds reconfirm her as an inspirational speaker and a true visionary and offer the opportunity to learn more about this remarkable woman and scholar. Her 1977 speech can be read in full here, as part of the Helen G. Edmonds Papers online, digitized by the CCC grant. The photograph of Edmonds is from the NCCU Faculty and Staff Photograph Records.

From the Archives: Greensboro Demonstrates

This post contains highlights of material 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.

Newspaper Clipping, from the Durham Morning Herald, May 17, 1963. Floyd B. McKissick Papers, Folder 7013, Item ID: 04930_7013_0009

In May of 1963 the Greensboro downtown area was filled with protesters campaigning for an end to segregation in city businesses, and close to 240 students, many from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (now University), were arrested in a single day on trespassing charges. The demonstrations were staged largely due to the unwillingness of four major Greensboro establishments, S&W Cafeteria, Mayfair Cafeteria, the Center Theater, and the Carolina Theater, to change their segregation policies despite both community protests and the urging of two Greensboro business groups.

These two groups, the Greensboro Merchants Association and the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, responded to anti-segregation reports from the Mayor’s Committee on Human Relations by encouraging businesses throughout the city to cease all practices “which deny rights or services to any citizen.” Even after this plea, Boyd Morris, the owner of the Mayfair Cafeteria, one of the restaurants targeted by Greensboro protesters, remained firm in his resolution against integrating his business, pledging that he would not change company policy until “the US Supreme Court rules against ‘the rights of an individual to operate his business as he wishes.’”

You can read more about these turbulent times in a May 17, 1963, article from the Durham Morning Herald. This article was digitized as part of the TRLN CCC grant; find it here in the Floyd B. McKissick Papers.

On This Day: Martin Luther King, Jr., Accepts the Nobel Peace Prize

On December 10, 1964—48 years ago today—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., accepted the Nobel Peace Prize “as a trustee … on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood.”

Two months earlier, on October 14, 1964, news of King’s award was released. King, at only 35 years old, became the youngest winner of the prize in its 63 year history. King pledged every penny of the prize (over $50,000) to the civil rights movement.

In his acceptance speech, King expressed hope for the eventual success of the civil rights movement, and honored all those who fought for justice, stating “[I]n the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.” His speech read, in part:

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. …

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. …

I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. … I still believe that we shall overcome”

Over the next three and a half years before he was shot and killed, King continued to make a lasting impact on America through his unending dedication to nonviolence and the struggle for civil rights and equality—both in his capacity as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and in his work with other civil rights activists.

Today, King’s contributions are remembered each January on Martin Luther King Day. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial opened to the public in August 2011 south of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In October 2011, politicians, public figures, and citizens from across the country came together to dedicate the memorial, which had been in planning for more than two decades.

To view a video excerpt of King’s acceptance speech, check out this link from CBS News. To read the full speech, check out this link from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

To read the October 14 New York Times article announcing King’s award, click here.

Publications and collections that pay tribute to King are almost too numerous to list; here is a modest sampling:

To learn more about King, check out the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and this blog post.

HarperOne published a collection of King’s writings and speeches: A Testament to Hope.

The University of Pennsylvania Press published Thomas F. Jackson’s From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice back in 2006.

On This Day: The Thirteenth Amendment

On December 6, 1865—147 years ago today—the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States.

It had been a long time coming. Nearly three years earlier, in January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the rebellious states. (Lincoln had also issued a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation several months earlier, on September 22, 1862.) Before the end of the Civil War in 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to formally abolish slavery. It would take months, though, before the Amendment was ratified—and President Lincoln, who had fought tirelessly for the Amendment, was assassinated before he could see it ratified.

On December 6, 1865, the amendment finally received the necessary number of state ratifications. Consisting of two sections, the Amendment read as follows:

Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Amendment was one of three Reconstruction Era Constitutional amendments. Nineteen months later, the Fourteenth Amendment would be ratified, extending the liberties of the Bill of Rights to former slaves. And, in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment would grant African American men the right to vote. To learn more about the three Reconstruction Amendments, check out this summary from the United States Senate’s website. The Our Documents initiative also provides summaries and the full text of all three amendments: Thirteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Fifteenth Amendment.

To learn more about the Thirteenth Amendment, and to view a digitized copy, check out this page from the National Archives.

For a chronological list and summary of Reconstruction Era policies, check out this page from the Digital History collection. For a comprehensive list of civil rights legislation, check out this page from Black Americans in Congress, hosted by the United States House of Representatives’ website.

To learn more about the Thirteenth Amendment, check out Alexander Tsesis’ The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History (NYU Press 2004), and his edited volume, The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment (Columbia University Press 2010).

To learn more about the abolition of slavery, check out Michael Vorenberg’s Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Cambridge University Press 2001).

The recently released movie, Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis as President Lincoln, was co-written by the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and focuses on Lincoln’s drive to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  To learn more about President Lincoln’s work toward emancipation, check out Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard’s edited volume, Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Southern Illinois University Press 2007). For more on the Emancipation Proclamation, check out William A. Blair and Karen Fisher Younger’s edited volume, Lincoln’s Proclamation: Emancipation Reconsidered (UNC Press 2009).

Remembering Boynton v. Virginia

On December 5, 1960—52 years ago today—the Supreme Court in Boynton v. Virginia held racial segregation in bus terminals illegal, stating that such segregation violates the Interstate Commerce Act.

The case had been ongoing for two years, since Howard University Law School student Bruce Boynton boarded a Trailways bus to travel to his home in Alabama. During a forty-minute stop in Richmond, Virginia, he was arrested for trespassing for sitting in the whites-only section of a bus terminal restaurant. The NAACP, led by Thurgood Marshall, represented Boynton in court, arguing that Boynton had been denied equal protection under the law, and that the arrest placed an undue burden on interstate commerce.

In a 7-to-2 decision, the Court ruled in favor of Boynton, stating that interstate passengers were protected by the Interstate Commerce Act, and representing bus transportation facilities (in this case, the terminal’s restaurant) as sufficiently related to interstate commerce to warrant provisions against racial discrimination. The decision read, in part,

Without regard to contracts, if the bus carrier has volunteered to make terminal and restaurant facilities and services available to its interstate passengers as a regular part of their transportation, and the terminal and restaurant have acquiesced and cooperated in this undertaking, the terminal and restaurant must perform these services without discriminations prohibited by the Act. In the performance of these services under such conditions the terminal and restaurant stand in place of the bus company in the performance of its transportation obligations.

This ruling effectively extended to interstate travel the Court’s earlier ruling in Morgan v. Virginia, which had voided a Virginia law requiring segregation on public transportation; however, Southern states were reluctant to enforce it.

The Court’s decision inspired the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to adapt the earlier Journey of Reconciliation (meant to test Southern states’ adherence to the Supreme Court’s ruling) into a new protest: the Freedom Rides of 1961. During the Freedom Rides, civil rights activists rode Greyhound and Trailways buses through the Deep South to challenge local segregation laws and customs.

In 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission would finally finish the job, at Robert Kennedy’s insistence, by ordering an end to segregation on interstate transportation and within transportation facilities.

To learn more about Boynton v. Virginia, check out this page from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and this 1961 article from the California Law Review. To hear the oral argument, click here.

The ruling had been a long time coming; five years earlier, the Supreme Court in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company had outlawed segregation on interstate buses and at the terminals servicing such buses. To learn more about protests against transportation discrimination, check out Blair Kelley’s Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson (UNC Press, 2010), and this page from the Virginia Historical Society.

To learn more about the 1961 Interstate Commerce Commission ruling, check out this page from the Federal Highway Administration. To read the regulations, click here.

To read about the Freedom Rides, check out this blog post and also Raymond Arsenault’s Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford University Press 2007).  A documentary film on the freedom riders is available via PBS.

To learn more about other important cases argued by the NAACP, click here.

On This Day: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander

On December 5, 1925—87 years ago today—the jury in the annulment trial Rhinelander v. Rhinelander found in favor of a mixed-race woman sued for marriage annulment by her white husband.

Leonard Kip Rhinelander, a wealthy white society man, pursued and in 1924 married Alice Jones, a working class woman with British parents—one white, the other of mixed ethnicity. Only one month after their marriage, Leonard sued to annul the marriage, claiming that Alice had misrepresented her racial background.

Leonard’s family had objected to the couple’s relationship throughout their courtship, but had failed to break them up. By marrying Alice, Leonard caused her to be the first African American woman listed in The Social Register.

Although many individuals were against mixed-ethnicity marriages and laws existed to block them in many states, interracial marriage was not illegal in New York. That said, racial classification was so important to white society at the time that knowledge of an individual’s background was considered crucial in understanding a marriage contract—to the point that annulment based on a lack of this knowledge was considered acceptable.

Once news of the Rhinelanders’ marriage broke, media surrounded them. Leonard soon left with his family and filed the annulment suit.

Characterized by fiery rhetoric, the trial was heavily reported in national news. Leonard’s lawyers tried to characterize Alice as a low-class woman who tricked Leonard into marrying her—and Leonard as a boy incapable of making rational decisions or successfully avoiding temptation. When lawyers read out loud love letters to prove Alice’s inferior character, the judge asked the women present to leave the courtroom.

Alice’s lawyer, though, introduced evidence showing that Leonard was indeed aware of Alice’s racial background at the time of their marriage. In an important victory, the jury found that Alice did not conceal her racial background from Leonard and that Leonard had married her fully aware of this background.

This decision was not the end of the matter, though. After Leonard sued Alice for divorce, Alice sued both him and his father. It would be five years before the legal conflicts were resolved, but eventually Alice dropped her lawsuits and received a monetary settlement.

In Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness (UNC Press 2009), Elizabeth Smith-Pryor argues that the Rhinelander trial encapsulated the tremendous anxieties over racial passing, class slippage, and black migration in the northern United States during this era.

Other books about the trial include Angela Onwuachi-Willig’s According to Our Hearts: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander and the Law of the Multiracial Family (Yale University Press , forthcoming in 2013) and Heidi Ardizzone’s Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White (Norton 2002).

To view a photograph from the trial, click here.

The concept of interracial marriage would continue to be debated for decades, especially in states which, unlike New York, had outlawed such marriages. Finally, in 1967, interracial marriage was legalized across the country through Loving v. Virginia.

For an excellent study on interracial marriage, check out Fay Botham’s Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law (UNC Press, 2009).

Shaw University: 147 Years of History

On December 1, 1865—147 years ago today—Rev. Dr.  Henry Martin Tupper formed a theological class that would soon develop into Shaw University, the first HBCU in the American South.

After moving to Raleigh, Tupper, a former Union soldier, began to teach Bible classes to freed slaves. However, it soon became clear that demand existed for an overall education beyond simply religious study.

Initially, classes were held in the Guion Hotel and in Tupper’s home, but more permanent facilities were soon needed. The Institution moved to a lot on the corner of Blount and Cabarrus streets, where it became known as the Raleigh Theological Institute, educating equal numbers of men and women. The lot and structure were financed by Tupper’s own money, the Freedman’s Bureau, and the American Baptist Home Mission Society.

The school continued to grow, though, and soon needed even more space. In the 1870s, the institution moved to its present site. The new building was named Shaw Hall in honor of Elijah Shaw, its largest contributor, and the school became known first as the Shaw Collegiate Institute and then, in 1875, as Shaw University.

The university continued to expand, and celebrated many more firsts. Shaw’s Leonard Medical School was the first four-year medical school in North Carolina to train African Americans for careers as doctors and pharmacists; the University also provided the only law school for African American students in the South.

Shaw alumni later became presidents of new HBCUs founded in North Carolina, such as Fayetteville State University and North Carolina Central University. Other notable alumni include SNCC leader Ella Baker, twentieth-century NCCU president James Shepard, and historian Benjamin Quarles.

In 1960, Shaw University was also the site of the organizing conference of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; some 300 students gathered at the university to form an organization which over the coming years would become deeply involved in the freedom rides, the Albany Movement, the 1963 March on Washington, and the Mississippi Freedom Summer, discussing issues ranging from desegregation of public facilities to racial problems in education.

One hundred forty-seven years after its founding, Shaw University continues to educate young men and women in Raleigh, North Carolina.

To learn more, and to view illustrations, check out this link from Shaw University Archives & Special Collections, this link from the UNC Library, and this page from the North Carolina History Project. Additional information can be found in Wilmoth Annette Carter’s Shaw’s Universe: A Monument to Educational Innovation (Shaw University 1973).

To learn more about Henry Martin Tupper, check out this link from North Carolina State University. The Tupper Memorial Baptist Church was named for him.

To view The Catalogue of Shaw University (1876-1877), check out this link from Documenting the American South, which also provides a summary of Shaw University’s history.

For more about SNCC, check out Wesley Hogan’s Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America (UNC Press 2007), and this blog post. To learn more about Ella Baker, check out Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement (UNC Press 2005).

Benjamin Quarles’ 1961 publication The Negro in the American Revolution is available from UNC Press and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Remembering Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955—57 years ago today—civil rights activist Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her arrest would set off a nearly year-long battle against segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama.

In the 1950s, the first ten seats in Montgomery’s public buses were reserved for white passengers, while African Americans were made to sit in the back. Seated in the front of the African American section of a city bus, Parks refused to move when the driver told her to give up her seat to a white male passenger. She was arrested and convicted of disorderly contact.

Her arrest inspired a group of civil rights leaders to organize a bus boycott, which was immediately successful in emptying the buses. The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), headed by Martin Luther King, Jr., was formed to supervise the boycott that emerged and gained momentum over the next year as African Americans boycotted public transportation facilities in protest of the arrest and of segregation laws in general. Simultaneously, Parks’ lawyer filed for appeal of her conviction.

Nearly a year later, in November 1956, leaders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott were at long last able to celebrate victory after the Supreme Court (in a separate case regarding racial segregation) ruled Alabama’s bus segregation laws unconstitutional. The Court upheld a U.S. district court’s ruling in Browder v. Gayle, in which bus segregation laws were found to be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision involved only Alabama laws, but it had far-reaching effects; at the time, seven other states had laws similar to those found unconstitutional in Alabama.

Thus, the movement Rosa Parks helped inspire achieved a decisive victory; the activists’ success heralded future progress against segregation and discrimination.

Parks paid the price; she lost her job after her arrest and had to move after she was unable to secure new work. Later, she would spend more than twenty years as secretary to U.S. Representative John Conyers. At the same time, she cofounded the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation, and, a few years later, the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.

Parks later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, among many other awards and honors. After her death, she became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Her life was chronicled in the documentary Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks.

To learn more about Rosa Parks, and to view her arrest records, check out this page from the National Archives’ website. To view Parks’ arrest photo, click here. More information can also be found on the Scholastic website, online at Gale Cengage Learning,  and in Rosa Parks and Jim Haskins’ Rosa Parks: My Story (Puffin 1992). With Gregory Reed, she also published a memoir, Quite Strength.

Numerous books pay tribute to Parks’ courage; some of these include Douglas Brinkley’s Rosa Parks: A Life (Penguin 2005) and Jeanne Theoharis’ The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon, forthcoming in January 2013). Readers may also be interested in the juvenile nonfiction book, The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks, by Danny Shanahan and Pamela Duncan Edwards (Houghton Mifflin 2005).

To learn more about the long history of protests against transportation discrimination, check out Blair Kelley’s Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson (UNC Press, 2010).

For more information about the Montgomery bus boycott, check out Stewart Burns’ Daybreak of Freedom (UNC Press, 1997), this blog post, and this page from the PBS website. For a video clip from PBS, click here.