Tag Archive for 'African American'

Executive Order 11246 and Affirmative Action

On September 24, 1965—47 years ago today—President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination and requiring contractors to take affirmative action.

The fight for equal employment opportunity had been ongoing. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, banning discrimination in defense industries and creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 through Executive Order 10479 created a committee to monitor compliance with equal employment opportunity programs. Then, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 required government contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”

Now, years later, Executive Order 11246 broadened this order, prohibiting employment discrimination on four grounds: race, color, religion, and national origin. (Two years later, President Johnson would add sex to this list.)

The Order states, in part:

The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

It included provisions for multiple areas, such as employment, upgrading, demotion, transfer, recruitment, compensation, and more. The Order required government contractors to “take affirmative action” toward prospective minority employees in all aspects of hiring and employment.

News articles published soon after the signing described Johnson’s efforts as a revamping of civil rights programs.

Today, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) within the U.S. Department of Labor ensures that government contractors comply with these provisions. (To learn more about how this works, check out the Department of Labor’s website.)

For more information, check out this page from the Department of Labor. To read the full text, click here or click here.

For a comprehensive list of related laws, check out this page from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To learn more about the history of affirmative action, check out this page from UC Irvine’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. Detailed studies can be found in J. Edward Kellough’s Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice (Georgetown University Press 2006) and Terry H. Anderson’s The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action (Oxford University Press 2005).

Affirmative action—not only in employment but also in school acceptances and other such arenas—is still debated today. For a discussion of the affirmative action debate, check out Faye Crosby and Cheryl VanDeVeer’s edited volume Sex, Race, and Merit: Debating Affirmative Action in Education and Employment (University of Michigan Press 2000).

To learn more about President Johnson, check out Robert Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power (Knopf 2012).

To learn about President Johnson’s relationship with the civil rights movement, check out David Carter’s The Music Has Gone Out of the Movement: Civil Rights and the Johnson Administration, 1965-1968 (UNC Press 2009).

Remembering Three Young Civil Rights Workers

On June 21, 1964—48 years ago today and only one day after they began a new civil rights campaign—three young civil rights organizers disappeared in Mississippi.

The three men—James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman—were part of the first wave of Mississippi Freedom Summer workers. At the time, intimidation of blacks was commonplace, and new voting laws had made registration increasingly difficult for African Americans. The young men and women set out in a hostile (and often violent) atmosphere to register thousands of African Americans to vote for the first time.

The activists—two of whom were white and one of whom was African American—were held in jail on a speeding charge while they were on their way to investigate a church burning. They were released from jail at night, and headed toward Meridian. The men, who had previously been quite careful to report their whereabouts, never arrived at their destination.

The FBI, on instruction from the Justice Department, began an exhaustive search for the missing civil rights workers—a search which ended six weeks later when the three bodies were recovered near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

The Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Cecil Price et. al. that the federal government had the power to police civil rights violations, and the FBI compiled enough evidence to convict seven individuals of violating the men’s civil rights. However, no one was convicted of murder; the 1967 federal trial of prime suspect Edgar Ray Killen ended in a hung jury.

In 2005—forty-one years after the workers’ deaths—Edgar Ray Killen (by then 80 years old) was convicted of recruiting the killers and was sentenced to 60 years in jail for manslaughter.

The horrifying disappearance and deaths of the three young workers shocked the nation and galvanized the civil rights movement. Hundreds of other Freedom Summer workers braved the journey, and successfully registered thousands of African Americans to vote.

To learn more, click here.

The movie Mississippi Burning recalls the investigation. (Note that the investigation was code-named Miburn, short for “Mississippi burning.”)

If you have access through your library, a good biography of James Earl Chaney is in African American National Biography, available online through the Oxford African American Studies Center.

For more information, check out Howard Ball’s Murder in Mississippi (University Press of Kansas, 2004) and Bill Scheppler’s The Mississippi Burning Trial: A Primary Source Account (Rosen Publishing Group, 2003).

To learn more about the activists’ work that summer, check out one young volunteer’s account of her experience, provided by PBS. The Wikipedia summary of Freedom Summer is available here.

There are also dozens of books available which provide insight into the struggles African Americans faced in Mississippi during this period. UNC Press offerings include Françoise Hamlin’s Crossroads at Clarksdale and Emilye Crosby’s A Little Taste of Freedom.

Remembering Medgar Evers

On June 12, 1963—49 years ago today—white separatist Byron De La Beckwith shot and killed civil rights worker Medgar Evers, horrifying the American public and galvanizing the civil rights movement.

As the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi, Medgar Evers was a vocal opponent of racial discrimination and a frequent victim of threats and violence. On June 12, he was shot in the back while walking from his car to the door of his house, where his wife and children were waiting for him. He died less than an hour later.

Although De La Beckwith was quickly apprehended, he was tried and acquitted twice in 1964, with hung juries both timesall-white juries, of course. More than two decades passed before further attempts at conviction were made. After the Jackson Clarion-Ledger uncovered documents that indicated official misconduct during the trial, Assistant District Attorney Bobby DeLaughter decided to retry the case—with a mixed-race jury this time.

Three decades after the crime, De La Beckwith was finally convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2001.

A former soldier, Evers made lasting contributions to the civil rights movement, organizing sit-ins and voter registration campaigns and fighting for the enforcement of Brown v. Board of Education. His violent death shocked the nation, forcing Americans to recognize the hostility and violence faced by Southern African Americans and further mobilizing the struggle for equality.

To learn more, click here.

Click here to watch a video of UNC’s Minrose Gwin discussing her scholarly project, Mourning Medgar Evers.

To learn more about Medgar Evers, click here. Numerous books also discuss his life, work, and death, including Michael Vinson Williams’ Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (University of Arkansas Press, 2011) and Adam Nossiter’s Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers (Da Capo Press, 2002).

DeLaughter later published a book about the 1994 trial: Never Too Late: A Prosecutor’s Story of Justice in the Medgar Evers Case (Scribner 2001).

There are also dozens of books available which provide insight into the struggles African Americans faced in Mississippi during this period. UNC Press offerings include Françoise Hamlin’s Crossroads at Clarksdale (2012) and Emilye Crosby’s A Little Taste of Freedom (2005).

On This Day: Wallace’s Stand and Alabama’s Long-Awaited Integration

On June 11, 1963—49 years ago today—in one of the most strikingly racist political displays in the nation’s history, Alabama’s Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama’s Foster Auditorium, attempting to prevent the enrollment of two African American students.

James Hood and Vivian Malone arrived on campus to register for classes on June 11, 1963—more than nine years after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ruled segregated public education unconstitutional. They met immediate resistance from Wallace, who vowed to physically block their enrollment.

Hood and Malone were not the first African Americans to attempt to integrate the University of Alabama. Seven years earlier, Autherine Lucy became the first African American student to attend the University. However, her time at the University was cut short after violence and threats against her ultimately gave the University an excuse to expel her.

Now, seven years later, Hood and Malone sought lasting integration—and Wallace was determined to prevent it.

Wallace’s speech that day was nothing short of hateful and discriminatory. Ironically, he used the rhetoric of constitutional rights to argue against integration—against a right which all American citizens were due. He argued, in part:

I stand here today, as Governor of this sovereign State, and refuse to willingly submit to illegal usurpation of power by the Central Government. I claim today for all the people of the State of Alabama those rights reserved to them under the Constitution of the United States. Among those powers so reserved and claimed is the right of state authority in the operation of the public schools, colleges, and Universities. . .

. . . It is the right of every citizen, however humble he may be, through his chosen officials of representative government to stand courageously against whatever he believes to be the exercise of power beyond the Constitutional rights conferred upon our Federal Government. It is this right which I assert for the people of Alabama by my presence here today.

In essence, Wallace argued that the constitution conferred on the states—not the federal government—authority over public schools. His anger over integration was certainly not a surprise; he had originally been elected to office as a segregationist, and had in his inauguration speech declared his support for “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

President Kennedy ordered Wallace to cease and desist—and still Wallace refused to move. It would be more than four hours until Brigadier General Henry Graham of the National Guard enforced the order, allowing Hood and Malone to register at long last and forever integrating the University. It was an historic moment in Alabama—one heavily reported in national and international media.

Hood and Malone’s enrollment paved the way for other African American students to attend the University; in fact, the next day, Dave Mack McGlathery was successfully registered at the Huntsville campus.

Malone, who became the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama in 1965, later worked for the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division. Hood withdrew soon after enrollment, but later returned and earned a doctorate degree. And, many years later, Autherine Lucy returned, receiving a master’s degree in 1992.

To learn more, click here. Also, check out NPR’s story about the event, complete with an audio excerpt from Wallace’s statement, an interview with Malone, and a video.

For more on the integration of the University of Alabama, click here and here.

To read Wallace’s speech, click here. Wallace later had a change of heart regarding race relations and segregation; however, his actions at the University that day would follow him for the rest of his life.

To learn more, check out E. Culpepper Clark’s The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama (University of Alabama Press, 2007).

James Meredith and the March Against Fear

On June 6, 1966—46 years ago today—James Meredith was shot and wounded on the second day of his 220-mile March Against Fear.

Meredith, best known for integrating the University of Mississippi four years earlier,  chose to march from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, to dispel fears of life in Mississippi and to encourage other African Americans to register to vote.  Although he planned the journey as a solitary march, a few companions joined him, as did three police cars.

That was not enough to protect him, though. Aubrey Norvell shot Meredith, who was taken to the hospital for surgery. Suddenly, in the face of violence, a march that had received little attention from larger civil rights organizations garnered interest. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., CORE’s Floyd McKissick, and SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael, after visiting Meredith at the hospital, elected to continue the march in his absence. It would be 20 days before Meredith was able to rejoin the march, which ended Sunday, June 26, 21 days after Meredith began the journey.

An estimated 16,000 African Americans and several hundred whites showed up in Jackson that day to see Meredith complete the journey. In his speech, Meredith called for the elimination of “the fear that grips the Negro in America to his very bones, not only in Mississippi, but in every section of this country, because every inch of the country is controlled by the system of white supremacy.” (For more about this speech, click here.)

Aubrey Norvell pled guilty to the shooting, and was sentenced to five years in prison (three of which were suspended). He was released from Parchman Penitentiary in June 1968.

A Duke University student last month fashioned his own march against North Carolina’s Amendment One; he compared the protest with Meredith’s March Against Fear.

For more information about the March Against Fear, click here.

To read news articles published during the march, click here, here, and here.

To watch a video clip of Meredith’s speech on June 26, click here.

To learn more about James Meredith, click here, or check out Charles W. Eagles’ The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss (UNC Press, 2009).

Remembering Heman Marion Sweatt and the Fight for Integration

On June 5, 1950—62 years ago today—the Supreme Court dealt a significant blow to segregated education when it ruled that the exclusion of an African American student from the University of Texas Law School was unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Four years earlier, Heman Marion Sweatt had been denied admission to the law school because of his race. After Sweatt pursued legal action, the University attempted to provide “separate but equal” facilities for African Americans wishing to pursue a legal education. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, with NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall arguing the case at the same time as another segregation case, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents.

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court held that the University’s actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. The separate school would have been unequal to the University of Texas Law School, the Court said:

. . . [W]e cannot find substantial equality in the educational opportunities offered white and Negro law students by the State. In terms of number of faculty, variety of courses and opportunity for specialization, size of the student body, scope of the library, availability of law review and similar activities, the University of Texas Law School is superior. What is more important, the University of Texas Law School possesses to a far greater degree those qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school. Such qualities, to name but a few, include reputation of the faculty, experience of the administration, position and influence of the alumni, standing in the community, traditions and prestige. It is difficult to believe that one who had a free choice between these law schools would consider the question close.

And the Court took it one step further, contending that separation in and of itself would harm the students’ abilities to compete in the legal arena:

The law school, a proving ground for legal learning and practice, cannot be effective in isolation from the individuals and institutions with which the law interacts. Few students and no one who has practiced law would choose to study in an academic vacuum, removed from the interplay of ideas and the exchange of views with which the law is concerned.

The Court stated unequivocally that the Fourteenth Amendment required the University to admit Sweatt to the law school, thereby striking an important blow to the “separate but equal” doctrine utilized in the decades following Plessy v. Ferguson.

The Sweatt v. Painter decision and the McLaurin v. Oklahoma decision the same day—milestones in the fight for integration—foreshadowed continued legal action and ultimate success. Within the next few years, the Supreme Court would further dismantle segregated education through Brown v. Board of Education and Brown II.

Click here for the article on the case in the Handbook of Texas, from the Texas State Historical Association.

To read the full text of the Court’s decision in Sweatt v. Painter, click here.

To learn more about the case and its significance, check out Gary Lavergne’s Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice (University of Texas Press, 2010).

To learn more about the fight for educational equality in Texas, check out Amilcar Shabazz’s Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas (UNC Press, 2003).

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).

Remembering Morgan v. Virginia

On June 3, 1946—66 years ago today—the Supreme Court voided a Virginia law requiring segregation on public transportation, taking a major step in the fight for equality.

Two years earlier, Irene Morgan, an African American woman, boarded a Greyhound bus in Virginia bound for Maryland. When ordered to move to the back of the bus as Virginia law required, Morgan refused, and was forcibly removed. She was fined $10—which she refused to pay—and the state appellate court upheld her conviction and fine.

A team of NAACP attorneys, including Thurgood Marshall, mounted a legal campaign on Morgan’s behalf, arguing that laws requiring segregation in interstate transportation placed an undue burden on interstate commerce and violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

The decision read, in part:

As no state law can reach beyond its own border nor bar transportation of passengers across its boundaries, diverse seating requirements for the races in interstate journeys result. As there is no federal act dealing with the separation of races in interstate transportation, we must decide the validity of this Virginia statute on the challenge that it interferes with commerce, as a matter of balance between the exercise of the local police power and the need for national uniformity in the regulations of interstate travel.

Although the ruling itself did not ban segregated transportation within the state, it was an important step in the fight against segregated transportation—a struggle which would continue for several decades.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, by extension, struck down all similar laws in other states. The following year, sixteen civil rights activists began the Journey of Reconciliation to test Southern states’ adherence to the Supreme Court’s ruling. The protest would be continued more than a decade later during the Freedom Rides of 1961. It was a long road ahead, but Morgan v. Virginia foreshadowed significant challenges to come—and Irene Morgan’s actions inspired future work by individuals like Rosa Parks.

Irene Morgan’s courage in refusing to give up her seat was finally honored in 2001, when President Clinton included Morgan among 28 recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal (also included in the list were Ruby Bridges, Constance Baker Motley, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth).

To read the full text of the Supreme Court’s decision, click here.

To read a New York Times article printed the following day, click here.

For more information, click here and here.

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).

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

On This Day: The Courage of Deputies Moore and Rogers

On June 2, 1965—47 years ago today—in a horrifying display of the ongoing racial tension in the area, one of the two first African American deputy sheriffs of Washington Parish, Louisiana, was shot and killed while on patrol.

Deputy O’Neal Moore and Deputy David “Creed” Rogers had been on the force for one year and one day when they—the two first African American sheriffs on the force—were ambushed by a group of white men driving a truck with a Confederate flag decal. Gunfire killed Moore instantly; Rogers was shot in the shoulder and lost an eye, but survived.

Although suspects were arrested, no charges were filed, and the case lay dormant for decades. It has been reopened three times, beginning in 1990. Prime suspect Ernest Ray McElveen, a known white supremacist, died in 2003 without ever being tried; while law enforcement officers believe there were two other men involved who may still be alive, they have so far been unable to move ahead with the case.

The shocking display of racial hatred brought to the nation’s attention the discrimination and violence African Americans faced in their daily life in Louisiana and other parts of the South, further mobilizing civil rights activists to fight for equality (and, on a more basic level, safety). Moore’s courage in remaining on the force amidst threats of violence for a full year before he was killed remains an inspiration to this day. (And in fact, Rogers completed a full career in law enforcement, despite his partner’s murder.) It is unclear whether law enforcement will ever be able to move forward with the case, but the murder remains a shocking reminder of America’s long struggle with racial violence.

To read a summary of the ambush and its aftermath, including information provided by Moore’s widow, click here.

To learn more, click here.

To learn more about the civil rights struggle in Louisiana, check out Adam Fairclough’s Race and Democracy: the Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972 (University of Georgia Press, 2008).

The Ku Klux Klan, which was both strong and ruthless in Louisiana at the time of Moore’s death, met resistance from the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of African American men who formed an armed self-defense organization to protect civil rights workers from  police violence. Moore’s widow has stated that the Deacons provided protection and support following her husband’s murder. To learn more about this group, check out Lance Hill’s The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement (UNC Press, 2004)

On This Day: Corrigan v. Buckley and Housing Discrimination

On May 24, 1926—86 years ago today—the Supreme Court through its refusal to hear a case upheld the legality of racially restrictive covenants, ushering in decades of unabated racially motivated housing discrimination.

The case, Corrigan v. Buckley, resulted from a 1921 agreement between thirty white persons who owned 25 parcels of land. These individuals agreed that no part of any of these properties would be sold, leased, or given to anyone of African American descent.

Irene Corrigan in 1922 sold a lot and house to Helen Curtis and her husband Dr. Arthur Curtis, both African American. John J. Buckley brought suit against Corrigan and Curtis in an attempt to prevent the sale, and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court.

Corrigan and Curtis argued that the covenant violated various rights conferred upon citizens by the Constitution of the United States, including the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, stating that constitutional amendments were applicable only to state action rather than individual action, that there was no substantial constitutional or statutory question giving the Court jurisdiction of the appeal, and that it thus could not determine that the covenant was void and discriminatory.

The Supreme Court’s quick dismissal of the case in effect validated the use of racially restrictive covenants—and in fact they became quite common afterwards. It would take decades 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 1940 case Hansberry v. Lee, the 1948 case Shelley v. Kraemer and the 1968 Fair Housing Act).

However, Corrigan inspired attorneys such as  Charles Hamilton Houston (of Howard University School of Law) and Thurgood Marshall to develop a legal strategy to outlaw such covenants—a struggle that would continue for years, frequently through the work of NAACP attorneys.

Today, the Curtis/Corrigan address is marked by the African American Heritage Trail.

To read the full text of the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Corrigan v. Buckley, click here.

Records from the case are available through Gale’s The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs collection through paid online access (click here) and in book form (click here).

To learn more about Hansberry v. Lee, click here.

To see a descriptive timeline of the fair housing struggle, click here.

To learn more about racially restrictive covenants, click here.

For more on this topic, check out Housing Desegregation and Federal Policy (ed. John Goering), available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

Freedom Riders Faced Stones and Fire

On May 14th, 1961—Mother’s day 51 years ago—a Greyhound bus carrying 9 Freedom Riders and 5 other individuals was stoned and burned outside of Anniston, Alabama.

The violence came only ten days after buses departed Washington, D.C., and headed to the segregated south to deliberately challenge Jim Crow laws, in particular strict prohibitions against integrated bus travel.

On May 14th, the Freedom Riders’ bus was forced to stop due to a flat tire. While the driver changed the tire, white men threw a firebomb through a broken window, forcing the passengers to disembark before the vehicle was consumed by fire.

Another group of Freedom Riders faced violence in Birmingham that very same day—and this was just the beginning of the violence these young civil rights activists would face. In the coming months, African American and white riders would be taunted and beaten. (Click here to read about James Zwerg, one young activist who fell victim to an angry white mob).

In the face of hostility, discrimination, and mob violence—in Anniston, in Birmingham, and during later protests—the freedom riders pushed on, determined to bring an end to segregation and inequality. Sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Freedom Rides would ultimately involve more than 400 African American and white individuals, who would prevail in the face of adversity. By the time the rides ended in November 1961 (following the Interstate Commerce Commission’s order to end segregation on interstate transportation), the participants had made a lasting impact on America.

To learn more about the May 14th violence and Anniston’s racial history, check out Phil Noble’s Beyond the Burning Bus: The Civil Rights Revolution in a Southern Town (New South Books, 2003).

For a photograph of the burning bus at Anniston, as well as additional information, click here.

For more information on the Freedom Riders, and for additional resources, click here.

To see a timeline of the movement, click here.

The National Geographic’s children’s book, Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement, outlines the convergent paths of two young men who braved the journey.

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).