Blog Exercise #3 – Geography of the South Posted on October 13, 2014 by saorsa2014 Usual rules – 500 words by Sunday night… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
6 thoughts on “Blog Exercise #3 – Geography of the South”
I feel as though I have always known a handful of key figures, been able to recognize images of historic events, understood the basics of the Civil Rights Era. Learning more now – with the ability to reflect on it in context – I am not more horrified than I was as a child by the lynching and segregation, nor more amazed by the bravery of those who resisted. I am however, much more keenly aware of the carefully constructed textbook version of events, something I started to see when I became a teacher and has only grown more obvious ever since. In many ways the subtly makes it more frightening. The best excuse is that everything is abridged in the history classroom; to make complex concepts and events concise there is an inevitable watering down of content. There is truth to that, but compelling arguments exist for narrowing breadth and increasing depth of study K-12. The history of civil rights in the United States would be the perfect topic…except for the fact that textbook production is heavily influenced by the Texas School Board, who as far as I can tell, completely disagrees with me. (Actually, I am sure they would be happy to dive into the depths of their version of the same time frame…but I can’t imagine we’d agree on what to say.)
Getting off my soapbox and back on topic…prior to this post I had never associated the phrase “the law of the land” with the Civil Rights Movement nor thought much of it in general. Seeing, “the law of the land is our demand” and “take a stand with the law of the land” on the activists’ posters led me into the web. According to thefreedictionary.com the law of the land is: a phrase used in the Magna Carta to refer to the then established law of the kingdom (as distinct from Roman or civil law); today it refers to fundamental principles of justice commensurate with due process; “the United States Constitution declares itself to be `the supreme law of the land.’” I was also drawn to the use of the word terror on another poster, referring to how blacks were being treated in the American South. As the United States points a finger of “terrorism” out at the world, there are certainly more than three pointing right back.
The image of black youth huddled in doorways under their – our – government’s water hoses makes me hang my head. I am filled with an overwhelming mixture of sadness, disappointment and shame. At the same time, I find myself more and more convinced I should never be surprised by the horrors committed by the U.S. government. Why do I still react with disappointment? Photographs such as the bottom two do offer a striking contrast, beautiful images of trans-racial brotherhood and unity in places of great political significance. The diverse faces in the bus windows on the left also suggest reason for great hope. The brave and generous youth of America joined in a non-violent movement to end racial segregation. Some of my shame and disappointment is because I have not been as brave and generous. Some is because I am a non-conformist Protestant upper middle class woman with guilt over my white privilege. Some is because I just want my country not to suck so much.
Reblogged this on Neverending Wanderlust and commented:
The Civil Rights Era was a period of extreme divisions and conflict in American and Southern society. These images show us both sides of the conflict: whites and blacks working together to end segregation, and white officials using fire hoses to physically and mentally oppress blacks. Images like the one with the fire hoses turned onto blacks served to greatly embarrass the United States on the global stage at the time. The Soviet Union, for example, criticized the United States for its racism, segregation, and race-based violence. Unfortunately, this image is one of the tamer ones. Some of the images that came from this era were significantly more gruesome, like the image of Emmett Till’s mutilated body in an open casket. The international embarrassment that came from the release of such images forced the United States to act much quicker than it probably would have if the images had not gotten out.
For me, the image of the Freedom Riders is the most inspiring. The Freedom Riders rode an interstate bus from Washington, DC to New Orleans in a mixed race group in an act of rebellion against the South’s refusal to desegregate interstate bus facilities as demanded by the Interstate Commerce Commission. They wanted the government to enforce 13th-15th amendments of the Constitution, as one poster reads. The posters and faces of the individuals in the image shows how excited and happy they are to fight for what they believe and know to be right, even though they undoubtedly anticipated some of the “terror” that would arise when their bus entered the Deep South. When the Freedom Riders reached Birmingham, for example, the police commissioner allowed members of the Ku Klux Klan to meet the bus and have a guaranteed head start before the police would be forced to intervene. The KKK members often acted most harshly towards white Freedom Riders, since they were “betraying” their own race. One of the white Freedom Riders was severely injured, but was denied treatment at the hospital in Birmingham. For the rest of their journey, the Freedom Riders faced similar confrontations.
The images in the bottom of the collage of white and black people working together for equal rights are also inspiring. It shows how many people did not agree with the terrible segregation and overt racism that was prevalent in the South. Perhaps the most interesting part is looking at their signs and comparing them to the signs we saw from the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. The signs in this image ask for voting rights, jobs, and an end to segregation. However, there is a common thread in all of them: they are not attacking others. The signs we saw from the integration of Little Rock Central High called people who wanted integration communists, communist Jews, or even the antichrist. The rhetoric in those signs is shockingly similar to anti-Obama rhetoric that is prevalent today. Many on the far right insist that Obama is a communist, the antichrist, and a Muslim. It is very interesting how this rhetoric has persisted in the South over the past 50 years, although it has now switched sides of the political spectrum.
The pictures have Martin Luther King, Jr. displayed in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. King is recognizable with speeches and famous gatherings. King was the leader of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference (SLCC). King’s message of nonviolence was not always received well in other sectors of the Civil Rights Movement. For instance, some groups remained autonomous from King’s endorsement or leadership directions. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) pronounced snick was founded in 1960. SNCC was determined to be unassociated with the SLCC. I feel maybe because if they decided to scrap nonviolent tactics, no one will be able to stop them. SNCC was formed in the south by four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina. The opposition to King’s approach may have been fueled by Stokely Carmichael later in 1965 which ultimately led to the Black Panther Party, but I must stick with the beginning with SNCC’s first appointed chairman Marion Barry. Barry, who became mayor of Washington D.C in 1978 – 1990, leaned heavily on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s advice and counsel. Barry did not hold the position much longer after that. SNCC members also had involvement with the Freedom Riders in which the picture shows a young person holding up a sign saying “The Law of the Land is Out Demand” which embodies that the Negro was still in chains of slavery, lives in constant fear, and held in captivity in mind and spirit. The Freedom Riders were a huge symbol of organization. Organize efforts during those times may have made the Southern Traditionalists very uneasy and at times afraid. The traditionalists were afraid of losing the status quo of everyone know their place in society and staying there. The Civil Rights Movement went on to about 1965 after the Civil Rights Bill and Voting Rights Bill. But there was another case which had a huge notoriety, Reynolds vs. Sims in 1964 stated that states had to redistrict their legislature districts to represent their populations required by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Equal Protection Under the Law. One state, Alabama, had not updated their population criteria since 1900. Still allowing the Southern Traditionalists to carry out laws and regulations in their favor. Alabama pushed the case to the Supreme Court and Justice Warren ruled that the state was unconstitutional with their actions. I am amazed that people were still able to go that many years from post Reconstruction to 1965 living a lie to all of its citizens (Jim Crow Laws).
Barry, Marion Shepilov, Jr. (1936- ) . (2014, October 20). Retrieved from Martin Luther KIng, Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_barry_marion_shepilov_jr_1936/
McBride, A. (2014, October 20). Reynolds v. Sims (1964). Retrieved from The Supreme Court: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_reynolds.html
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) . (2014, October 20). Retrieved from Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_student_nonviolent_coordinating_committee_sncc/
This series of photos is related to different aspects of civil rights and the civil rights movement in the United States from roughly 1954 to 1968. The top left photo is from the Children’s Crusade in the summer of 1963. There was a march of high schoolers on the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama pushing for desegregation, right to vote funding for schools, etc. The second day they were met with police brutality including the use of water hoses and dogs to disperse/end the march.
The photo below is of the Freedom Riders. They took the bus from Washington DC to New Orleans through the South. In Birmingham, Alabama another form of non-violent protest was met with violence. The Commissioner of Public Safety, Bull Connor again, gave the KKK four hours on the bus before mobilizing the police. They also met violence in Aniston and Montgomery but it was the worst in Birmingham where 22 were beaten and hospitalized. In Mississippi the riders were arrested and put into over-crowded cells and allowed no medical treatment. They were frequently given hard labor in the penitentiary.
The top right photo is related to the voter registration drives in the South that occurred in attempts to get African Americans registered to vote in spite of Jim Crow laws. They were largely unsuccessful, in Mississippi in 1964 they got only 10% registered. They were met with a heightened level of violence and African Americans and their supporters. Some people attempting to help were assassinated.
These events were shared through media, the newspapers and television broadcast with countries overseas. The lack of control and events occurring became an embarrassment for the US government. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the US had a reputation abroad as the protector of democracy and freedom. President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy (a strong desegregation supporter) ordered the Interstate Commerce Comity to desegregate, and on November 1, 1961 the ICC banned segregation on buses and bus facilities.
In August 1963 in Washington DC there was a march attended by around 250,000 people. The march was televised, nonviolent and even peaceful. Speakers included Martin Luther King.
Selma 1965, there was a march on Montgomery, they were turned back by the local police force armed with guns and clubs and clubs wrapped in barbwire. James Reed, a white supporter of the movement was clubbed and refused care at the local hospital, he died. They tried the march again this time with the National Guard to help with the counter protesters.
During the summer of 1963 President Kennedy was getting nervous, he was afraid of frustration with the lack of results from the nonviolence approach would lead to violence (and in some cases it did). In June of 1963 the Civil Rights Bill was introduced to protect rights, it includes an equal opportunity bill for education, employment, public facilities, etc. It struck down Jim Crow laws at a Federal level, included a fair housing act and declared that businesses that operate in the public sphere have public obligations.
The Civil Right Movement was between (1954-1968). It began with the case of Brown v. Board of Education when the Supreme Court saw that “separate but equal” Logo is never right. The first facility African Americans wanted to desegregate was schools, and then buses in 1955 because transportation (buses) in that time, were a principle way to people travel interstate. African Americans tactics is not to violence as martin Luther king, the leader of Civil right movement and the Montgomery improvement association group, wanted because they can get a point in this, and if they violate, it was not good to them because they will be out of number.
Montgomery improvement association is a group aiming to desegregate facilities like schools, buses, terminals. Freedom Bus Riders are riders who ride from state to state to use segregated facilities. They faced serious troubles in Alabama, and Mississippi.
After three years from Brown v. Board of Education case, nine African Americans attempted to join central high school in Little rock in Arkansas. Martin Luther King wrote a letter to the president of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower asking him to allow these students to attend the school. In the first day of school crowd of the school’s student stopped in front of the school’s door to prevent the African American students from entering the school. National guards interfered in that day too. However, this was stopped by Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer, and let the students enter the school in later days but with help of police and from a side door. Later, King discussed with the president again to do something about this situation. Knowing this situation caused an international embarrassment to the United States, the President order army’s 101st Airborne Division to protect the students. In the end of the year, Ernest Green is the first African American graduated from central high school. King attend the ceremony to congratulate the student. The worthy to mention here is, in 1958, the governor Orval Faubus closed all four Little Rock public high schools, but he failed with his attempt because after a year the supreme court ordered to reopened the schools again on December 1959. This trick was common in many places. Public schools closed and private white schools opened to stand against desegregation .
The organization called “The Children’s Crusade” is one of the groups in the Civil Right movement period. It was initiated by African American by James Bevel. It aims desegregation for sure. They walked downtown to talk to the mayor in Birmingham, Alabama about segregation. The crowd was from all ages; parents, elders, and students in schools who left their schools in that day. The crowd was stopped by police, and many children were arrested and put in jail for day or two. Police dogs were set to push the crowd back, and also from what I can see in the photo water hoses were used against all people who protested in that day.
The Civil Rights Movement in the United States is one of the greatest triumphs will, persistence, and fortitude in American history. These images above each portray seminal moments in the fight for equality before the law. African Americans in the Southern United States had many of their constitutional rights violated since 1880 with imposition of the Jim Crow Laws. In a political sense, Southern elites wanted to maintain their status of power in post-Reconstruction South, and these elites would put forth as many types of impedances as they could before fully recognizing, let alone treating, legal citizenship of African Americans. These Southern elites comprised the Southern Democratic Party, which did not seek to challenge any of these controversial laws in place in the South at the time, but things would change. In 1948, the National Democratic Party puts in the Minority Plank, which was anti Jim Crow and segregation laws. When Southerners found out they broke off creating the Dixiecrats, and effectively extinguishing much of the political power held by the South in Washington. The images above show how the South did not accept the political, social, and cultural change without a fight. The Civil Rights Era is from 1954, the year of Brown vs, the Board of Education, to 1967, the year that interracial marriages was legalized.
The underlying theme in each of these images is that change is enacted through nonviolent protests, sit-ins, or marches. This principle was adapted from Gandhi’s freedom movement in India a few years earlier to the Civil Rights Movement. The lead proponent of this style of resistance was Dr. Martin Luther King. In fact, the bottom left image is from his iconic “I have a Dream” speech in Washington, D. C. The nonviolent movement first began with the Freedom Rider image, and the “One Man One Vote” image. The Freedom riders movement wanted to desegregate buses and bus terminals in the south. The incident with Rosa Parks is the one the most famous moments in the Civil Rights Era, which began a 381-day boycott of the interstate buses that passed through Alabama. This led to the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956, which led to the federal government to outlaw local bus segregation, but this ruling was virtually all but overlooked. The movement found traction with student who led sit-ins in diners, lunch counters, and family owned drug stores. The sit-ins brought attention to the segregation policies that very common in privately businesses in the south. These movements were highly effective with limited occurrences of counter white violence to them.
As the Civil Rights leaders saw effective their other tactics were they began to organize marches and protests to other forms of oppressive laws still in place in the South. The bottom left images is a march organized to draw attention to the reduced Civil liberties that southern Blacks had experienced. What is telling about this image is that there are whites that are joining the campaign for black enfranchisement. There are many cases where white scare groups targeted whites that were involved with these kind of movements. Assassinations were common of white social workers and critics of the southern political system. The top left image is the most telling image of how violent the Civil Rights movement was towards the end. Whites seeing the end of their reign turned to more violent measures to turn back and crush demonstrations. These images are so powerful, because you have men, women, and children being sprayed with water hoses and attacked by dogs. These images were internationally televised during the height of the cold war. The international reaction put increased pressure on Washington to step in and force change in the south. Even the Soviet Union was an outspoken critic of the United States’ domestic policy toward minorities in the South.
Eventually, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 is passed effectively re-certifying the legal status of African Americans in the eyes of the US judicial system. Then with legalization of interracial marriage in 1967, the Civil Rights Movement came to an end.