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civil rights movement


  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Julius Chambers, a fighter for civil rights, dies at 76

    Julius L. Chambers, a civil rights lawyer who endured firebombings of his house, office and car in winning case after case against racial segregation, including one that led to a landmark Supreme Court decision allowing forced busing, died on Friday at his home in Charlotte, N.C. He was 76.Geraldine Sumter, a law partner, confirmed the death, saying Mr. Chambers had had a heart attack in April and had been in declining health.Mr. Chambers began championing civil rights well before he succeeded Thurgood Marshall and Jack Greenberg as president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1984. Two decades earlier, he had left an internship at the fund to open a one-man law practice in Charlotte specializing in civil rights, its office in a cold-water walk-up. It grew to become North Carolina’s first integrated law firm....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Jesmyn Ward: A Cold Current

    Jesmyn Ward is the author of the novel “Salvage the Bones” and the forthcoming memoir “Men We Reaped.”DeLisle, Miss.There are moments from childhood that attract heat in our memories, some for their sublime brilliance, some for their malignancy. The first time that I was treated differently because of my race is one such memory.As a child of the ’80s, my realization of what it meant to be black in Mississippi was nothing like my grandmother’s in the ’30s. For her it was deadly; it meant that her grandfather was shot to death in the woods near his house, by a gang of white patrollers looking for illegal liquor stills. None of the men who killed her grandfather were ever held accountable for the crime. Being black in Mississippi meant that, when she and her siblings drove through a Klan area, they had to hide in the back of the car, blankets thrown over them to cover their dark skin, their dark hair, while their father, who looked white, drove.Of course, my introduction to racism wasn’t nearly as difficult as my mother’s, either. She found that being black in Mississippi in the late ’50s meant that she was one of a few who integrated her local elementary school, where the teachers, administrators and bus drivers, she said, either ignored the new black students or spoke to them like dogs....

  • Originally published 07/15/2013

    Ron Briley: Review of "Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball," edited by Michael Long

    The courage and athletic ability demonstrated by Jackie Robinson in breaking Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947 and making the Brooklyn Dodgers a dominant National League club during the 1950s resulted in the ballplayer’s induction into the pantheon of baseball immortals at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Robinson’s career after he retired from the sport following the 1956 season is, however, less well known, but Robinson’s decision to take an active role in the civil rights movement provides ample proof that the courage displayed on the playing field carried over into the struggle for a democratic nation freed from the scourge of racial discrimination and segregation.

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Paying tribute to Medgar Evers

    ARLINGTON, Va. — Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, said her husband was a man who saw a job that needed to be done, and he answered the call, “not just for his people but for all people.”Ms. Evers-Williams and a group of about 300 visitors, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and former President Bill Clinton, observed the 50th anniversary of Mr. Evers’s assassination on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery, where Mr. Evers is buried.Mr. Evers was working as a field secretary for the N.A.A.C.P. when he was gunned down in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Miss., on June 12, 1963, at the age of 37. Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist, was convicted of the murder in 1994, 30 years after two all-white juries deadlocked on earlier charges....

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Remembering "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

    Martin Luther King in Birmingham Jail.Originally posted on the UNC Press Blog.When the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) staff received the handwritten “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and publicized it, the letter became almost instantly canonical. Long before the advent of social media, SCLC’s marketers swiftly put the letter before the wider public through the auspices of the Friends Service Committee, which initially wanted to title Martin Luther King Jr.’s missive “Tears of Love.” But the Reverend Wyatt T. Walker, SCLC’s chief strategist, insisted that it be titled in New Testament epistle fashion “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Jonathan Rieder: Dr. King’s Righteous Fury

    Jonathan Rieder is a professor of sociology at Barnard College and the author of “Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation.”CHRIS ROCK caused a stir last Fourth of July when he tweeted, “Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.” Mr. Rock’s tweet may not have topped the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s “God damn America” sermon, but both sentiments are of a piece, and both seem a far cry from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s appeal to the American dream and his embrace of “the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”

  • Originally published 04/15/2013

    Towards a New History of the Civil Rights Movement

    LBJ signs the Voting Rights Act while Martin Luther King, Jr. looks on.Hilary Rodham Clinton awoke on the morning of January 3, 2008, exhausted and depressed. The New York Senator had started her quest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination believing in its inevitability, only to be surprisingly blindsided by Barack Obama, a forty-six year old first term Senator. Only a few hours earlier, Obama had crushed Clinton in the Iowa caucus and now her advisors feared defeat in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. She was stunned while her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was furious. “[Obama’s] a phony,” Clinton insisted, “…he has no experience…What has he really done?”

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Akinyele Umoja: Black Ambivalence About Gun Control

    Akinyele Umoja is an associate professor and chair of the department of African-American studies at Georgia State University. He is the author of  We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, to be published by New York University Press in April.The gun-control debate is complex, particularly as it relates to African descendants in the United States. As with almost every other issue, the racial dimensions cannot be dismissed.From the beginning, slave-holding society fought to block enslaved Africans’ access to weapons, to reduce the likelihood of insurrection. After emancipation, blacks sought arms not only to hunt but to protect themselves from white-supremacist terror. Since the “right to bear arms” was denied them during their enslavement, emancipated blacks associated gun ownership with citizenship and liberty. But segregationists continued trying to disarm blacks after emancipation.

  • Originally published 03/17/2013

    South's civil rights cold cases

    FERRIDAY, La. — In the spring of 1965, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington received a letter from Concordia Parish in northeastern Louisiana. Addressed to the bureau’s director, J. Edgar Hoover, the letter pleaded for justice in the killing of a well-respected black merchant.A few months earlier, the businessman, Frank Morris, had come upon two white men early one morning at the front of his shoe-repair shop, one pointing a shotgun at him, the other holding a canister of gas. A match was ignited, a conflagration begun, and Morris died four days later of his burns without naming the men, perhaps fearing retribution against his family.The letter expressed grave concern that the crime would go unpunished because the local police were probably complicit. “Your office is our only hope so don’t fail us,” it concluded. It was signed:“Yours truly, The Colored People of Concordia Parish.”

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Rosa Parks statue unveiled at Capitol

    President Barack Obama says civil rights icon Rosa Parks has taken her rightful place among those who have shaped the course of U.S. history.Obama and House Speaker John Boehner unveiled a statue of Parks in a ceremony at the Capitol. Parks becomes the first black woman to be honored with a full-length statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall.A bust of another black woman, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, sits in the Capitol Visitors Center.Obama says the nation learned from Parks that there is always something we can do to improve the future...

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Who Killed Emmett Till?

    Emmett Till was one of the 3,446 black men lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968, but his story is not just one more statistic. How the death of a boy from Chicago galvanized the civil rights movement and changed the world.