Tag Archive for 'equality'

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).

On This Day: The Civil Rights Act of 1957

On September 9, 1957—55 years ago today—President Eisenhower signed into law the first piece of federal civil rights legislation since the 19th century era of Reconstruction.

It had been a long time coming. Civil rights activists had long been struggling for equality in every element of life from schooling to voting rights. Six months earlier, civil rights leaders had organized a Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom to urge the federal government to fulfill promises laid out in the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Now, with discrimination and segregation issues at the forefront of the American discourse, President Eisenhower took a stand.

Originally proposed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was designed to protect voting rights, but also established the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Federal prosecutors were also empowered to use court injunctions against those who attempted to interfere with citizens’ voting rights.

In an effort to block the legislation, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond—a man famous for his discriminatory stands against integration and equality—set a record for the longest one-person filibuster in American history. Ultimately, though, the bill passed, and went to the President for approval.

It was a quiet signing, lacking the fanfare of other law enactments—after all, Americans were already tense as they watched a hotly contested integration process in Southern schools. (Two weeks later, President Eisenhower would send federal troops to protect African American students during the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.)

The Act was only the first in a series of laws designed to protect Americans’ civil rights, and indeed was by itself not very effective in increasing equality and providing African Americans with voting rights. However, it represented a significant step toward equality, paving the way for stronger legislation to come, including the Civil Rights Act of 1960, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To view documents related to the Act, check out this page from the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

To read the full text of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, check out this page from Teaching American History, a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University.

For archival resources, check out this page from the Civil Rights Digital Library.

For a comprehensive list of civil rights legislation, click here. To learn more about federal civil rights legislation, check out Robert Mann’s When Freedom Would Triumph: The Civil Rights Struggle in Congress, 1954-1968 (Louisiana State University Press 2007).

By the time the law was enacted, it had been 82 years since the last piece of federal civil rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Check out this blog post about the 1875 legislation.

To learn more, check out The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and Its Continuing Importance (BiblioGov).

For more on President Eisenhower and the struggle for equality, check out David Nichols’ A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution (Simon & Schuster 2008).

To learn about President Eisenhower’s relation with the media and the American public, check out Craig Allen’s Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, and Prime-time TV (UNC Press 1993), available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions Collection.

49 Years Ago: The March on Washington

On August 28, 1963—49 years ago today—more than 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr., present what would become his most famous speech.

It had been a long time coming. Famed activist A. Philip Randolph had proposed the march in late 1962. Organization took time, because Randolph needed to bring together various civil rights organizations, notably the NAACP, the SCLC, CORE, SNCC, and the National Urban League. Randolph’s associate, Bayard Rustin, worked with roughly 200 volunteers to put together the nonviolent protest.

The largest human rights demonstration in U.S. history, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brought individuals and civil rights organizations together. After a mile-long march across the National Mall, participants gathered to listen to speeches by activists and religious leaders. At the end of the day, protest leaders met with President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

The event’s significance cannot be overstated. In bringing so many people together in support of one common goal, the march helped pressure the federal government to create civil rights legislation. Soon after, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The march is not only famous for its sheer size and success, but also for a speech given that day by Martin Luther King, Jr.—a speech which today is still quoted in books and classrooms throughout the nation. In his “I Have a Dream” speech (audio), King spoke of a brighter future—a time when blacks and whites would be able to come together as brothers and sisters, when his children would be judged by their character rather than by the color of their skin, and when the American creed, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” would truly be realized.

Forty-eight years later, near the spot from which King spoke these famous words, Americans again celebrated the life of this well-known minister and the contributions of the civil rights movement. 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.

The spirit which brought the individuals and organizations together on August 28, 1963, is still remembered today. Large nonviolent protests modeled after the March on Washington have taken place in years since. Five years later, thousands of Americans camped out on the National Mall in opposition to economic inequality and poverty. And just recently, on August 18, 2012, individuals and activists again descended on the National Mall, this time for women’s rights. (Click here to see photos from the We Are Woman rally.)

To learn more, and to see the official program of the 1963 march, check out this page from the Our Documents Initiative, and this page from Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. This page from the White House Historical Association also provides information and photos.

To read a newspaper article published after the march, click here. For photos of the event, published in the Milwaukee Journal, click here.

To view photos from the October 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial dedication, click here.

For more on Bayard Rustin, check out PBS’s film Brother Outsider and the related website.

Remembering the Women’s Strike for Equality

On August 26th, 1970—42 years ago today—more than 20,000 women rallied across the country in favor of workplace, political, and social equality for females.

Coming 50 years after the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote, the protest was at that time the United States’ largest strike for women’s rights.

By 1970, women were still paid less than men who performed the same jobs, were restricted from higher education, and in some states were limited in their ability to own their own property or serve on juries.

Organized by leading feminist Betty Friedan and sponsored by the National Women’s Strike Coalition, the Women’s Strike for Equality was centered in New York City, where thousands of women gathered on Fifth Avenue to listen to speeches, carrying signs with such slogans as “Don’t Iron While the Strike Is Hot” and “Housewives are Unpaid Slave Laborers.” A group of women even placed a banner reading “Women of the World Unite!” on the Statue of Liberty.

The protest was not confined to New York City; individuals and groups in other cities across the country joined forces, holding their own marches and rallies.

Although there were of course mixed reactions, the strike was deemed a success and many political figures came out in support. The protest strengthened the second wave feminism movement already taking root in the U.S.

Since 1971, August 26th has been designated “Women’s Equality Day,” celebrating suffrage while also calling attention to women’s continued fight for full equality.

To learn more about the protest, check out this article from Ms. Magazine, and this page from the Jewish Women’s Archive. The protest was later chronicled in Al Sutton’s documentary Equality, I Am a Woman.

To read an Associated Press account of the protest, published the next day, click here.

Click here to read a March 21, 1970, New York Times article highlighting Betty Friedan’s initial call for the protest.

To learn more about Betty Friedan, check out this article from the New York Times. Friedan’s extensive writings are available through various publishers.

To learn more about the accomplishments of the women’s movement, check out Ruth Rosen’s The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America (Penguin 2006).

To learn more about second-wave feminists, check out Jules Archer’s Breaking Barriers: The Feminist Revolution from Susan B. Anthony to Margaret Sanger to Betty Friedan  (Puffin 1996)

To learn more about the suffrage struggle, check out Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr.’s Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement (published by the collaboration of American Graphic Press and the National Women’s History Project).

For a study of how physical spaces in society, work, and the home illustrated women’s inequality throughout history, check out Daphne Spain’s Gendered Spaces (UNC Press 1992).

For a discussion of the meaning of male and female in American history, check out Mary Ryan’s Mysteries of Sex: Tracing Men and Women through American History (UNC Press 2006).

For more on women’s history, check out the edited collection U.S. History As Women’s History: New Feminist Essays (UNC Press 1995).

Out of the feminist movement arose Ms. magazine, a popular icon of the women’s movement. To learn more, check out Amy Erdman Farrell’s Yours in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism (UNC Press 1993).

On This Day: Brown v. Board of Education II

On May 31st, 1955—57 years ago today—the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision revisited its milestone decision from the previous year, submitting an important, though somewhat ambiguous, ruling regarding the time frame and steps necessary to achieve desegregation in public schools.

A year earlier, on May 17th, 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education had ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. Now, in Brown v. Board of Education II, the Court delegated responsibility to local school authorities and courts to implement the principles laid out in the original Brown decision—and to do so “with all deliberate speed.”

The decision read, in part:

Full implementation of these constitutional principles may require solution of varied local school problems. School authorities have the primary responsibility for elucidating, assessing, and solving these problems; courts will have to consider whether the action of school authorities constitutes good faith implementation of the governing constitutional principles…

While giving weight to these public and private considerations, the courts will require that the defendants make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance with our May 17, 1954, ruling. Once such a start has been made, the course may find that additional time is necessary to carry out the ruling in an effective manner. The burden rests upon the defendants to establish that such time is necessary in the public interest and is consistent with good faith compliance at the earliest practicable date.

Opinions and the ensuing results were mixed. Although the ruling was an important reminder by America’s highest court that segregation was unconstitutional, the ambiguous language was used by some Southern states and school districts to justify delaying or avoiding significant integration for quite some time. Some districts and individual whites found ways around the law, closing schools or sending white students to private schools.

Continue reading ‘On This Day: Brown v. Board of Education II’

On This Day: Brown v. Board of Education

On May 17, 1954—58 years ago today—the Supreme Court handed down one of its most famous decisions, declaring segregation of public schools unconstitutional and thus forever changing the face of education in the United States.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, combined five cases into a battle against the “separate but equal” doctrine laid out 58 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson.

The cases originated in four different states—Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware—but all involved African Americans seeking the courts’ help in obtaining admission to schools which at the time were attended solely by white children. The NAACP, which represented the plaintiffs, argued that this segregation deprived African American children of the equal protection guaranteed to all citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In its unanimous decision, the Court stated:

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The battle was far from over. One year later, the Court would revisit integration when it handed down its May 31st, 1955, decision in Brown II, in which the Court detailed how school authorities were to implement the principles set out in Brown v. Board of Education and urged localities to more forward “with all deliberate speed.” Public schools would not fully integrate for several more years. However, Brown v. Board of Education marked a significant milestone in the fight for equality, galvanizing the civil rights movement.

For more information and to view pictures, documents, and audio files, check out the following sites:

The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, established in 1988, pays tribute to Brown v. Board of Education. Click here to learn more about the Foundation’s programs, and to explore a rich array of related resources.

Numerous books discuss the history of Brown v. Board of Education, including Waldo E. Martin’s Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998) and Robert Cottrol, Raymond Diamond, and Leland Ware’s Brown v. Board of Education, Caste, Culture, and the Constitution (University Press of Kansas, 2003).

To read about how Brown played out in one county in Virginia, check out Jill Titus’s Brown’s Battleground: Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia (UNC Press, 2011)

To learn more about the fight against segregation, check out Mark Tushnet’s The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (UNC Press, 1987).

For discussions about racial integration and educational policy, check out Integrating Schools in a Changing Society: New Politics and Legal Options for a Multiracial Generation (UNC Press 2011, edited by Erica Frankenberg and Elizabeth DeBray).

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).

On This Day: The Poor People’s Campaign

On May 12, 1968—44 years ago today, protesters began a movement that would soon involve thousands of Americans of all races and backgrounds in a multi-week protest and march against economic inequality and poverty.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders, had been preparing for the Poor People’s Campaign for several months. After King was assassinated on April 4th, his widow, Coretta Scott King, and a group of black ministers (including Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson), decided to move forward with the plans.

Originally conceived of by Marian Wright Edelman of the NAACP, the campaign sought help from Congress and governmental agencies: jobs for the unemployed, health care, education, and a fair minimum wage.

For six weeks—until their land use permit expired on June 24—protesters camped out in tents and shacks on the National Mall, in an area they named Resurrection City.

Ultimately, as many as 50,000 people participated in the campaign. At the time, many thought the concessions the protesters secured were insufficient. However, the campaign was highly visible and increased consciousness of poverty across the nation—and it foreshadowed protests to come in the ensuing decades, including the current Occupy Movement.

For more information, check out this story from NPR.

To learn more, and to view a video and several news articles, click here.

To view a flyer announcing the movement, click here.

Gerald McKnight’s The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign (Basic Books, 1998) examines the demonstration and responses to it.

Thirty-six years before the Poor People’s Campaign, another group of protesters set up encampments in Washington, D.C. During the Great Depression, World War I veterans—left hungry and homeless after the government announced they would not receive their service compensation until 1945—launched a large-scale protest. The Bonus Army arrived in D.C. on May 25, 1932, and quickly drew thousands of veterans. To learn more, click here.

On This Day: The Civil Rights Act of 1960

On May 6, 1960—52 year ago today—President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960, in an effort to increase protection for African Americans at the polls.

Although aimed primarily at voting rights, the Act—the second piece of federal civil rights legislation enacted in the twentieth century—also expanded the enforcement powers of the 1957 Civil Rights Act through its inclusion of provisions against bombings and local interference with federal court orders, among other issues.

The legislation, which sparked more than two months of debate in the House and Senate, faced strong opposition from conservative Southerners. In fact, the bill sparked the longest filibuster in history, which, led by 18 senators, lasted more than 125 hours.

Like the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960 was not, on its own, very effective in increasing equality and providing African Americans with voting rights. However, it represented a significant step toward equality, paving the way for stronger legislation to come, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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

For more information, check out this article from the Westlaw Insider.

Click here to see the event listed on President Eisenhower’s daily schedule.

For a comprehensive list of civil rights legislation, click here.

Remembering the Children’s Crusade

On May 2nd, 1963—49 years ago today—more than a thousand African American students gathered at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church of Birmingham to begin an unprecedented march downtown, facing police lines and arrest.

Trained in the strategies of nonviolent direct action by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), thousands of students on May 2ndseveral weeks after Martin Luther King, Jr., had been arrested in Birmingham—launched the Children’s Crusade, an initiative of the Birmingham Campaign.

Hundreds of the initial protesters were arrested and taken to jail, but hundreds more joined in the following day. After public safety commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor instructed police to use force against the demonstrators, television and newspaper coverage of children facing beatings, high-pressure fire hoses, and dog attacks spread quickly across the nation and world.

Ultimately, the Children’s Crusade proved much more expedient and successful than previous civil rights protests in the city: the Birmingham Campaign ended on May 10th  (after intervention from the U.S. Department of Justice), when local officials agreed to desegregate downtown stores and release jailed demonstrators following the end of the protest.

That wasn’t the end of the protesters’ struggle, though. Soon after the campaign ended, the city’s board of education announced that it would suspend or expel all students who had participated in the crusade. The local federal district court upheld the ruling, but, on the same day, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, condemning the board of education’s decision and ordering the schools to reinstate the students.

The young protesters’ success—as well as strong national outrage over the violence against schoolchildren—further energized the civil rights movement and highlighted the need for reforms that would soon be seen in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The children’s courage inspired countless other individuals and groups to continue the fight for equality and justice.

For more information, click here.

For the Encyclopedia of Alabama’s entry on the Birmingham Campaign, click here.

For more on Birmingham’s significance in the civil rights struggle, check out Glenn Eskew’s But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle (UNC Press 1997).

For more about the crusade, check out Cynthia Levinson’s We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, from Peachtree Publishers.

For more about children’s involvement in the civil rights movement, check out Rebecca de Schweinitz’s If We Could Change the World: Young People and America’s Long Struggle for Racial Equality (UNC Press 2009).