Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Montgomery Bus Boycott & Freedom Riders

You couldn't go there; you couldn't ride there; you couldn't sit there while waiting to ride there.



Colored Waiting Room Sign
Jim Crow Bus Station Waiting Room

Keeping people in their places was the nature of Jim Crow laws, which controlled every aspect of American life, including travel on the nation's buses, trains and certain roadways in the South. 


Oppression in transportation was fought on the very vehicles where Jim Crow segregation was practiced. Civil rights activists like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Diane Nash were among those who successfully led to the end of Jim Crow practices on America's public transportation through the Montgomery Bus Boycott in city bus transportation and the Freedom Riders on America's highways. Further, babies were not allowed to make their entrance into the world in certain hospitals. Clothing could bot be tried on in certain department stores. Dead bodies of different races could not be buried in the same cemetery. 


Discrimination and racial oppression was not always about color, but about difference and misunderstanding. 



Rights as basic as driving on certain highways, using restrooms while traveling, eating during a trip, sleeping at hotels and rest stops at roadside parks or seeking medical attention if involved in an accident were denied races of color and some races of different religion, language and culture, regardless of color, depending on the attitude of the community through which they were traveling. These were the signs of the times.



No Latinos

No Mexicans Allowed
No Mexicans


No Mexicans Allowed
No Mexicans

No Jews Allowed
No Jews


No Indians Allowed
No Indians


No Chinese Allowed
No Chinese

No Irish Allowed
No Irish

No Filipinos Allowed
No Filipinos


No Japanese Allowed
No Japanese


Colored Entrance Sign

There were highways that prohibited African Americans, Mexican Americans and Native Americans from use. Although, these prohibition was not official law, the prohibition was enforced by renegade officers of the law and other groups dedicated to humiliating and subjugating people of color; and bring on them all forms of disrespect and denial of their rights as citizens of the United States of America.

This is not ancient history as many may wish to believe. The denial of human rights, taking place even to this day, is a carryover from the old Jim Crow laws that had their origin during past centuries. Traditions die hard and, with the help of insensitive people, some find a way of mutating into less obvious offenses. But before we jump to today, let examine our topic as it affected thousands throughout the 1960s.

In the case of Jim Crow city bus services, the driver decided who sat down and who stood, and where customers entered or existed the bus. That constituted Jim Crow laws, exactly the same laws that regulated other pseudo public facilities like restrooms, where people in charge of the place made the decisions as to whom would be allowed to use the service, the entrance they would be allowed to enter and leave and whether or not and how their waiting room and restroom needs would be accommodated.

Decisions on access to facilities, accommodations and services were based on race, skin color or ethnicity, as Jim Crow laws applied . People of most ethnic groups--African American, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean, Jewish, Native American and others, many with white skin--could not pass the subjective racial test of Jim Crow law sympathizers. Colored was the category reserved for those who were of a dark-skinned, other non-white ethnicity, foreign undesirable groups, and people known to have at least one drop of African blood.

Jim Crow laws established separate but equal in (Plessy v Ferguson 1896). Businesses were obligated to provide facilities for all races and ethnic groups. Although Plessy was intended to prohibit black rights, the law also was applied to other people who did not fit the definition of white, and businesses serving whites only were not obligated to provide restrooms for patrons they considered to be non-white.

Although U.S. airline travel was not officially segregated, the price of tickets kept most poor people off of airplanes. However, African Americans who could afford to fly were often bumped from their flights by the airlines in favor of a white passenger who needed the same schedule. African American airline passengers also were moved to undesirable seats if a white passenger either wanted the seat or refused to sit beside a black passenger. Because there was an internationally famous entertainer in the music and movie business in my family, I heard stories about his travel difficulties. Rather than tolerate irregular treatment on his concert tours, he hired private airplanes for himself, his band, cast and staff. 

Black and colored female domestic workers were segregated by race and subject to unwanted sexual advances in homes of their employers. Economic intimidation was used to discourage these female workers from complaining, and if they did protest, their men, children, churches and communities were terrorized or burned in retaliation. 

I was only six years old when I began to understand that Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rest of them were doing something important for us, something they were giving their full concentration, a thought process shared by my mother and Rosa Parks, and others involved in important work, as well as ordinary daily tasks. "If you think enough of a thing to do it," I can hear my mother's voice echoing in my head as I write. "Then you should do it as well as you can or leave it to someone willing to give it their full attention." 


Freedom Walkers:  The Story of the Montgomery  Bus Boycott
Freedom Walkers: 
The Story of the Montgomery 
Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks by Douglas Brinkley
Rosa Parks: A Life
Greyhound Bus a few times on out-of-town trips with my mother and I didn't like the noise or fumes. But for the Freedom Walkers, as the Montgomery protesters became known, the reason for staying off of city buses during the Montgomery Bus Boycott was much more significant than my childish notion of not liking to ride buses.

Freedom Walkers were those who refused to ride Alabama buses during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman, the School Library Journal credits Freedman with excellent prose, a rich selection of photographs, extensive chapter notes and a large annotated bibliography. Many of the photographs in this book are the boycott images I remember from magazines of the time, particularly Life Magazine.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott, a movement to equalize local transportation in American cities, helped to dismantle Jim Crow laws across the nation.


Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King Montgomery Bus Boycott Mugshot
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King
Montgomery Bus Boycott Mugshot
By the time Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had led the Montgomery Bus Boycott to victory in 1956, more than a year after it started, I had learned to read. My mother subscribed to an array of national publications to keep up with world and national affairs. These publications stayed in the house for years neatly folded and stacked in boxes under her bed. I looked at pictures of activists in these newspapers and magazines and tried to read the articles. 

In 1954, the same year of Rosa Parks led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v the Board of Education. I had been unable to read any part of the articles, not having yet entered first grade. However, one year later after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, with my mother's assistance, I was picking my way through new articles about Rosa Parks and older coverage of BrownSince that time, I have read extensively from a scholarly perspective on the Civil Rights Movement and also examined resources available for young students.

Thurgood Marshall after Brown v the Board of Education Students on Steps of the U.S. Supreme Court
Thurgood Marshall after Brown v the Board of Education
Students on Steps of the U.S. Supreme Court 1954
My mother and father were very interested in the Brown decision because of its impact on my education--where, and under what circumstances, I would attend school when I started first grade. The issues of integration and school attendance were so pertinent in every community--black and white--that sides were being drawn for fear of harm coming to the children--black and white.

Racial lines were already being drawn in places where some members of our family lived in nearby towns. When my cousin died in Iola, Texas, a small town about 30 miles away, just one month after the Brown ruling, her school was closed when the town's political officials and school leaders invoked a statute to close its school for colored due to its small number of black students. For the next ten years, my cousins were forced to drive themselves to schools that would take them as far away as 30 miles away in beat-up old cars their father kept running with his mechanical skills. Again, transportation played a crucial part in Jim Crow laws.

Freedom Riders Burning Bus 1963
Freedom Riders Burning Bus 1963
Nine years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Riders replaced Freedom Walkers that grew out of the Rosa Parks-led Montgomery Bus Boycott and further bolstered the Brown decision with a continuation of demonstrations against Jim Crow transportation and Jim Crow laws in general. 

Both the Freedom Riders and the Freedom Walkers used buses as their protest vehicle against Jim Crow discrimination. The difference was, the Freedom Walkers stayed off all city buses during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in protest of Jim Crow laws that enforced discriminatory seating and service; and the Freedom Riders stayed on buses to protest Jim Crow laws that enforced discriminatory seating and service. 


Diane Nash (center) Leads Demonstration
Against Jim Crow Laws
Nashville, Tennessee 1962
A fearless young college student from Nashville, Tennessee, Diane Nash, locked horns with the office of Robert F. Kennedy, who was U.S. Attorney General, in 1963, when she refused to call off the Freedom Riders protest on Greyhound and Trailways buses through the southern United States. In a conversation with an official, Nash pledged to train more black and white freedom riders, also college students like herself, as needed in the protest to replace those who were arrested, jailed, imprisoned, hospitalized and killed. 

The Freedom Riders boarded buses to challenge southern Jim Crow laws  governing interstate transportation on interstate buses. By riding on Greyhound and Trailways buses through the Deep South, Freedom Riders protested Jim Crow laws that prevented African Americans from sitting in certain bus seats, waiting in certain areas of the station, and eating in bus station dining rooms.

for the next ten years, my younger cousins commuted to black schools in and around their county and graduated until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the younger ones were officially invited to attend the white school in their town, where they graduated and all went on to attend and graduate from college.

Lyndon Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act of 1964


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    Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash

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Sunny Nash author of bigmama didn't shop at woolworth's
Sunny Nash
Sunny Nash is an author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations. She writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking. Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement.

Sunny Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations. Nash's book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide for black studies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life--from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women's issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements--past and present—to today's post-racism.

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© 2014 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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~Thank You~



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Civil Rights Act of 1964 & First Black U.S. President

Did President Lyndon Johnson know one-half Century ago when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that an African American baby born that year would become the country's first black president?


JFK's Last Hundred
Days: The Transformation
 of a Man and the
Emergence of a
Great President
In 1961, three years before Barack Obama was born, Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General to and brother of President John F. Kennedy, predicted that the United States would elect a black president in some forty years. And it happened forty-seven years later.

The nation's slain president--many believe because of his stance on civil rights--John F. Kennedy, predecessor to Lyndon Johnson, helped to establish Johnson's  destiny as America's civil rights president.


President Kennedy, reluctant for political reasons to enter the civil rights struggle, finally made his declaration on civil rights one year before Obama was born. Kennedy spoke in a nationally televised speech on June 11, 1963, on  civil rights and said:

"The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the nation in which he is born, has about one half as much chance of completing high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one third as much chance of completing college, one third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year or more, a life expectancy which is seven years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much."

(By today's standards $10,000 in 1964 calculates to more than $75,000 today, according to Dollar Times.)


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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Others Witness  President Lyndon Johnson Sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Witnesses
President Lyndon Johnson
Sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964

President Johnson may not have known at the time of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he must have known he was making it possible for the United States to elect a black president some day.


Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother
A Singular Woman:
The Untold Story
of Barack Obama's
Mother
This president is Barack Obama, who, let us remember, was born in 1964 before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws against miscegenation in the Loving v the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1967. So, before 1967, Obama's parents broke Jim Crow laws when they married and broke Jim Crow laws again trying to live as a family in the United States. Although some interracial couples dealt with the struggle, others were not able to do so.

Because Jim Crow laws prevented legal marriage and attempted to prevent intimate relationships between people of different races, Barack Obama's parents and many other interracial couples residing in certain parts of America faced great difficulty living as a legal unit, known as a family. 


Loving v the Commonwealth of Virginia


The Loving Story, the Documentary Movie about the couple, Richard & Mildred Loving, whose 1967 case against Jim Crow miscegenation laws reached the supreme court
The Loving Story
Richard Loving and Loving Children


Interracial couples produced mixed-race offspring.


Like Barack Obama and children of Richard and Mildred Loving, mixed-race children were automatically labeled by the government and treated accordingly. Station in life was based on knowledge of their heritage, no matter how light the color of their skin. Racial labels dictated station in life, including occupation, who they could marry and where they could live. Ironically, a mixed-race person was barred by Jim Crow laws from marrying a person the same race as a parent, if one parent happened to be classified as black, no matter how light their skin.


Mississippi Delta Chinese Farm Laborers
Mississippi Delta Chinese Farm Laborers


Jim Crow laws against miscegenation also applied to other races, including the Chinese.


The Chinese, subjected to some of the worse discrimination and violence in American history, were "colored" to the law and treated accordingly. After coming to America during the Gold Rush and being denied claims, then building railroads across the nation and then being burned out of their homes after their labor was no longer needed, they were shipped off to the Mississippi Delta under indentured farm labor agreements with former plantation owners. 

Italian Farm Workers

Light or dark, Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans, former slaves, Italian immigrants and all the rest, who found themselves in rural regions were usually relegated to sharecropping arrangements, low-paying farm work, preaching, teaching, barbering and such, living in inferior housing resembling the slave quarters they had left only recently. Those migrating to the cities could expect to be relegated to similar low-end jobs and inferior ghetto housing. 

In the event skin color, hair texture and facial features did not reveal their racial makeup, direct testimony of their racial makeup, as in the one-drop theory, would certainly destroy their passing as white. In fact, white families were destroyed or driven from communities by slanderous neighbors of the possibility of African blood in their genetic line. Sometimes this happened if a white family was too sympathetic to a black or immigrant family or tried to help a black person or immigrant in trouble.

In the 1960s everyone on television started screaming about how the government needed to start cleaning up the ghettos.


To that, my mother said, "The government made the ghettos with its laws that kept us in them! Now they want to dress them up and give them another name? They are what they are until the government starts punishing people for stepping on other people's dreams! Just get out of my way," she'd say. "I'm as smart as anyone and smarter than most, but I can't get in the door to show what I can do! But things are going to change," she'd say to me. "And you're going to be ready. Go do your homework!"

"It's summer. I don't have any homework."

"Well, you'd better go find a book to read or something," she'd say. "Before I make you some homework."

Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King Booking Photos Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King
Booking Photos
Montgomery Bus Boycott




When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he changed U.S. civil rights history. 


This was ten years after Rosa Parks started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, administered by Martin Luther King; and ten years after the U.S. Supreme struck down public segregation in Brown v the Board of Education

Why are we still talking about racism? 


The answer is: Racism still exists in many areas of American life, such as 

  • Employment
  • The Professions
  • College Entrance
  • Primary Education
  • Judicial Justice
  • Housing

Although much has changed on the American racial landscape, there is still more to be done in the area of race relations than most American are willing to admit. And that work starts at home. The apple does not fall far from the tree, so to speak. Most people raise children who are like them in the way they treat people different from them, the way they treat people who are different from them and the way conduct their lives, in general. 

Families can take credit or blame for their offspring's attitudes about race. 


Racism Starts Early
Racism Starts Early
There are exceptions to the "apple falling close to the tree" rule. Some children go in the opposite direction of the family. A racist family can produce children who are sickened by their upbringing, resist those values and cannot wait to get away from it. Other families have been known to sicken their offspring with too much toleration of racial difference. I have been fortunate to know both kinds. 

I say fortunate to know both kinds because the more you know about something, anything, the better prepared you are to manage your life around it. I say manage your life around it because going around a problem or potential problem like bigotry is sometimes the only way to deal with it. I have learned that head-on collisions with certain certain people and their racial problems can only slow me down by making me spend too much precious time thinking about something I cannot change. I will go into a head-on collision when my rights are affected by a racist or other prejudiced decision against me. 

Remember, everyone of us holds prejudice against something, which may not be centered around race.I had a an editorial position in the past where I was the only black editor on staff. The other editors, all female, accused the male managing editor of hiring me because he liked my looks. Whether this was true or not, some of the editors made life pretty miserable for me. I thought I was qualified for the job and those qualifications did not include any particular appearance. Well, I made the best of a bad situation, but decided it would be too difficult for me to prove professional infringement on the basis of appearance, which may or may not have been connected to my ethnicity. So, I remained there for a respectable period and then moved on. Sometimes, the conditions of discrimination are so vague and shrouded over by other factors, it is not worth pursuing legal remedy.

In cases of culpable racial discrimination, we hope the law will step in on the behalf of the victim.


Montgomery Bus Boycott in the rain
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Hidden bigotry, prejudice and racism exist throughout society, even in families, where one child has advantages over another. Mild cases of family prejudice are called favoritism. What is the un-favorite child supposed to do in that situation? Figure out how to get as much as he or she can in spite of this condition and realize that life is rarely fair and hard to prove, in most cases, when it is not. In extreme cases of family prejudice, the media has documented child abuse, starvation, abandonment and other acts of cruelty. 

Claudette Colvin Montgomery Bus Boycott, Alabama Student
Claudette Colvin
Montgomery, Alabama
Student
Blatant racism and abuse, provable in a court of law, is what Rosa Parks, Jo Ann Robinson, E.B. Nixon and the teenage, Claudette Colvin were fighting when they ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1954; the discriminatory and abusive treatment of certain bus passengers because they were black. A great number of the victims of bus abuse were also female students and women employed in white homes. 

Jo Anne Robinson Montgomery Bus Boycott Organizer
Jo Anne Robinson
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Organizer
Jo Anne Robinson was one of brains and chief organizers behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott, conceiving of a protest that would last only a couple of days that turned into more than a year.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott gave the Montgomery, Alabama, NAACP president, E.B. Nixon, Jo Anne Robertson, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and many others a chance to turn the legal system in Montgomery, Alabama, on its ear and affect laws in the rest of nations that supported discrimination in public services and transportation.  

E.B. Nixon Montgomery, Alabama  NAACP President
E.B. Nixon
Montgomery, Alabama
NAACP President

Martin Luther King established the multiracial Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), in which Rosa Parks was an active member, to administer the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The MIA involved black and white members who gave moral and financial support to the boycott and also drove boycotting students and workers to school and jobs, providing alternative transportation and causing significant economic distress on the Montgomery Transit System. 

White participants in the Montgomery Bus Boycott also suffered hardships in their communities. Labeled traitors for doing what they thought was morally right, they lost jobs, businesses and standing among their racist neighbors, the consequences of standing up against wrong. White victims included children, spouses, relatives, friends and others closely or loosely associated with the white supporters of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Some were were shunned while others were forced to leave the state.

Rosa Parks  Arrest and Fingerprinting Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks
Arrest and Fingerprinting
Montgomery Bus Boycott
In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1955 stepped in on the behalf of the Montgomery Bus Boycott victims, which grew into the modern Civil Rights Movement, ignited by Rosa Parks in 1954 when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. It took another ten years for President Lyndon Johnson to completely obliterate Jim Crow law from the books with his signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to begin to deal with Jim Crow treatment of nonwhite U.S. citizens.

Check out my post: Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Fiftieth Anniversary.


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Sunny Nash 
Shares Thoughts About the Lyndon Johnson's 
Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964


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Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash
Bigmama Didn’t Shop 
At Woolworth’s 
Sunny Nash

Hard Cover

Amazon Kindle
Sunny Nash is an author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations. She writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking. Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement. 




Sunny Nash author of bigmama didn't shop at woolworth's
Sunny Nash
Sunny Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations.

Nash's book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide for black studies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life--from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women's issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements--past and present—to today's post-racism.

ushistory.org homepage


© 2014 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 www.sunnynash.blogspot.com 
~Thank You~

Sunny Nash – Race Relations in America


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