Tag: Brown V. Board Of Education

The Forgotten Girls Who Led the Movement for School Desegregation

Millicent Brown, left, 15, daughter of state NAACP President J. Arthur Brown, one of two black girls to enter Rivers High School in Charleston, S.C, chats with fellow students while awaiting a report from police and fireman concerning a bomb scare at the school on Sept. 3, 1963. (AP Photo)

by Melinda D. Anderson via theatlantic.com

There’s an enduring myth that the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was “the first step” in the fight to desegregate schools. Rachel Devlin, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, is looking to upend that myth. A Girl Stands At The Door, her new account of the black girls and teens who laid the groundwork for the historic ruling, draws from interviews and archival research to show that before Linda Brown, a 9-year-old, became the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, a generation of black girls and young women from the Deep South to the Midwest fueled the grassroots crusade to strike down the “separate but equal” doctrine in America’s public schools and colleges.

Before Brown, some dozen lawsuits were filed on behalf of young black women attempting to enroll in all-white schools—and after Brown, black girls, almost exclusively, did the hard labor of walking through all-white mobs and sitting in previously all-white classrooms, with sometimes hostile classmates and teachers, in pursuit of school integration.

I spoke with Devlin about the black youth who led the effort to racially integrate schools and catalyzed the broader anti-segregation movement. The interview that follows has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.


Melinda D. Anderson: A disproportionate number of black girls were at the forefront of the school-desegregation movement from the late ’40s to the mid-’60s. Why were black girls continually chosen to break the color barrier?

Rachel Devlin: Interestingly, there are no written records about why girls were chosen over and over again in individual lawsuits. These choices were made on a level that was not always entirely conscious. Parents would explain why they should file a lawsuit, and girls agreed. Many of them said, “I was willing.” Other parents drafted their daughters, and the young women cooperated, yet most of the young women who participated were fully invested in school desegregation.

The other thing about girls is that they were good at it. To speak to principals and lawyers and the press you have to be poised, you have to be personable and diplomatic, and young black women had these attributes. They dealt with constant verbal and sexual harassment on the streets of southern cities, of northern cities, and they were acutely aware of their self-presentation in public. It was drilled into them as a way to protect their dignity. Also, very few African American girls and young women did not at some point in their lives work in a white home, and they had to learn how to navigate around white people.

But I want to be clear. This was not just about being accommodating—they knew how to stand their ground. Girls were good at combining different forms of bravery; they could be both stubborn and tough, but also project social openness. They had that sense of self-possession that was extremely useful in these situations.Anderson: You write that the language in the Brown v. Board of Education decision contains “the same moral conviction that inspired black girls to walk up to the doors of white schools and seek to cross the threshold.” In what way are these girls’ untold stories reflected in this landmark ruling?

Devlin: A black girl walking up the steps of a white school and announcing her intentions to go to school with white children was a radical act of social optimism.  Most white people—and a good many African Americans—in the late 1940s and early 1950s believed that white and black children would never be able to learn in an integrated setting. That racial hostility was intractable.

In fact, judges who ruled against these plaintiffs said just that in their decisions. By showing up at the schoolhouse door, these girls were asserting not only their right to attend historically white schools, but that they believed they were capable of sharing a classroom with white students. Their actions and moral clarity reflected their confidence that they and their white peers could coexist in the intimate setting of a school. The Supreme Court decision asserted this same presumption: that it was fitting, right, and possible for children of different races to attend school together in the United States.

Anderson: The battle for school integration sparked bitterness, anger, and even violence. Some of these black girls were elementary-school age. What was the physical and psychological cost of being first?Devlin: Tessie Prevost-Williams and Leona Tate integrated T.J. Semmes Elementary School in New Orleans, in third grade. Along with Gail Etienne, the three of them received the worst violence that I recorded in the book. Because they were so young and so little, people would punch them, trip them, spit in their food. They said they could hardly go to the bathroom because that was a very dangerous space. It was a war inside the school. Tessie, Leona, and Gail all said it was a living hell.

I think the resilience that these young women had is hard to imagine. One would think that it would have been a crippling experience, but they sensed from a very early age the weight and enormity of what they were doing. They came to understand the notion of sacrifice for social justice. The stamina that it took to survive was fed and reinforced by the magnitude of what they were accomplishing.

I think it’s very hard from a current-day perspective to imagine a child going through that. In some ways we just have to be astonished at what they did. America was effecting social change on the backs of young children, and we have to ask ourselves what this means about political change in this country, that we leaned on young children to do this work of racial reconciliation.

Anderson: You talked to some of these women in your research. How do they view the resegregation of schools today—what some have called the broken promises of Brown v. Board of Education?

Devlin: Of the nearly 30 people that I interviewed, to a person, they still very much believe in what they did. They tend to look at the broader changes that have happened as a result of Brown v. Board, the day-to-day interactions between white and black Americans in a society that is diverse and desegregated. They see a larger tableau that has been fundamentally altered because the schools desegregated—the ripple effects of the Brown decision.

They also understand that people within the black community question desegregation. Some of them have even been the object of complaints: If you hadn’t done this, we would still have all-black schools. But they say it had to be done. Millicent Brown, who was among the first to integrate schools in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1963, put it in a way that’s quite striking: “We could not have apartheid in the schools.”

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/05/rachel-devlin-school-desegregation/561284/

Noted Political Scientist Dr. Charles V. Hamilton Establishes Research Institute at DuSable Museum in Chicago

DuSable Museum in Chicago (photo via timeout.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Dr. Charles V. Hamilton, a political scientist, activist and Professor Emeritus at Columbia University best known for his 1967 book co-written with Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, has established The Drs. Charles V. and Dona C. Hamilton Institute for Research and Civic Involvement at the DuSable Museum of African American History.  The DuSable is scheduled to open the Hamilton Institute’s Reading Room on Monday, February 19, 2018 with a special dedication event.

The Hamilton Institute will provide a range of opportunities for visitors to peruse its non-circulating reference collection, including a special collection of rare books, to research the DuSable Museum archives and to attend scholarly lectures and history & policy discussions, many of which will be directed toward youth audiences to inspire their interest and encourage their involvement in topics that affect the African American community. Visitors to the Hamilton Institute’s Reading Room will include educators, authors, photo researchers, independent scholars, journalists, students, historians, community members and others. Visitors will be allowed access to the DuSable Museum Archives, one of the oldest and richest African American archival collections in the nation, which includes manuscripts, books and journals, photographs, slides, and other printed materials.

Dr. Charles V. Hamilton (photo via columbia.edu)

“I was interested in combining academic studies with political action. My concern was not only to profess but to participate. I see the DuSable Museum as a repository of study of those efforts; and people will come look at them with those eyes; that people will see someone who not just wrote books but participated,” said Dr. Charles V. Hamilton.

Although Dr. Charles V. Hamilton was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, raised on the South Side of Chicago, and educated at Roosevelt University, Loyola University and the University of Chicago. The contribution to establish the Hamilton Research Institute and Reading Room is one that supports the continuation of progressive development for the city of Chicago—a place near and dear to Dr. Hamilton. His donation represents one of the largest individual gifts in the DuSable Museum’s history.

When President Truman integrated the military (1948), Hamilton served for a year. A chronicler of the Civil Rights Movement, he was a young adult at the time of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56). He lived through the Jim Crow era and witnessed the political transformation that made possible the election of Black officials in the South. Watching the unfolding of civil rights history informed and enriched his scholarship as he created a role for himself as an intellectual amongst activists.

In 1969, Hamilton arrived at Columbia University as a Ford Foundation funded professor in urban political science and became one of the first African Americans to hold an academic chair at an Ivy League university. It was the height of the turbulent 1960s and the nation was reeling from assassinations, demonstrations and riots. Hamilton was at the peak of his fame as the intellectual half of the “Black Power Duo.”

The activist half was Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture), a former leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, self-professed Black Nationalist and nascent Pan-Africanist. In a brilliant stroke, Hamilton had teamed up with Carmichael, a folk hero and icon for his generation to write what would be Hamilton’s most famous book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (1967).

“This is a game changer for the DuSable Museum,” said Perri Irmer, President and CEO. “The over-arching mission of this institution is the education of all people through African American history, art and culture. The creation of the Hamilton Institute gives concrete form to this education mission, allowing us to present a commitment to a superior level of scholarly activity and engagement. Now, thanks to Dr. Hamilton, we will have the infrastructure and a vehicle for the engagement of young audiences and visitors of all ages, from around the world, in what I believe will become a center for black thought leadership and intellectual exploration. What better place to do this but Chicago, and in what finer institution than the DuSable Museum of African American History?”

About The Hamilton Research Institute and Reading Room

The Drs. Charles V. and Dona C. Hamilton Institute for Research and Civic Involvement’s Reading Room will be open by appointment only, Tuesday through Saturday to anyone who is at least 14 years of age or in the ninth grade (younger visitors must be accompanied by an adult). The Hamilton Institute staff will provide a range of services to visitors interested in conducting research in the Museum. Reading Room Procedures and Policies will be made available on DuSable’s website, and visitors will be able to make follow-up appointments as related to research needs during the time of their visit.

About The DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the country. Their mission is to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture and art. The DuSable Museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. For more information on the Museum and its programs, call 773-947-0600 or visit at www.dusablemuseum

Civil Rights Activist Autherine Lucy Foster Honored with Historical Marker at University of Alabama

Autherine Lucy Foster (photo via universityofalabama.tumblr.com)

via jbhe.com

On June 11, 1963, Vivian Malone and James Hood, under the protection of federal marshals and the federalized Alabama National Guard, broke the racial barrier and enrolled as undergraduate students at the University of Alabama. That day, Alabama Governor George Wallace made a ceremonial stand in the schoolhouse door protesting the federal court order that called for the admittance of the Black students. But Malone and Hood were not the first Black students at the university.

Autherine Lucy Foster Historical Marker

In 1952, after graduating with an English degree from Miles College, Autherine Lucy Foster applied to the graduate program in education at the University of Alabama but was rejected because of her race. After a three-year legal battle, she was admitted to the university by court order. In 1956 Foster enrolled in a graduate program in education at the university. Angry protests by White students ensued. Foster was suspended three days later “for her own safety” and she was later expelled.

In 1988, the University officially annulled her expulsion. The next year she re-enrolled at the University of Alabama with her daughter, Grazia. Foster earned a master’s degree in elementary education in 1991 and participated in the graduation ceremony in May 1992 with her daughter, a corporate finance major. In 1998, the University of Alabama named an endowed fellowship in Foster’s honor and unveiled a portrait of her in the Student Union Building. She was recognized again in 2010 when the university dedicated the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower.

Recently, the Autherine Lucy Foster Historical Marker was unveiled on the Tuscaloosa campus near where the mob gathered to protest her presence at the university. A video of the dedication ceremony for the historical marker can be seen below.

Source: A Historical Marker at the University of Alabama Honors Autherine Lucy Foster : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

R.I.P. William T. Coleman Jr., 96, Who Broke Racial Barriers in Supreme Court and White House Cabinet

William T. Coleman Jr., then the secretary of transportation, testified in 1976 before a Senate subcommittee. (Credit: Harvey Georges/Associated Press)

article by  via nytimes.com

William T. Coleman Jr., who championed the cause of civil rights in milestone cases before the Supreme Court and who rose above racial barriers himself as an influential lawyer and as a cabinet secretary, died Friday at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 96.

His death was confirmed by a spokeswoman for the international law firm O’Melveny & Myers, where Mr. Coleman was a senior partner in its Washington office. He lived at a care facility with his wife of more than 70 years, Lovida Coleman. A lifelong Republican, Mr. Coleman was as comfortable in the boardrooms of powerful corporations — PepsiCo, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank — as he was in the halls of government.

He was the second African-American to serve in a White House cabinet, heading the Department of Transportation. Mr. Coleman found success on the heels of a brilliant academic career, but he did so in the face of bigotry — what he called “the more subtle brand of Yankee racism” — from which his middle-class upbringing in Philadelphia did not shield him. In one episode, his high school disbanded its all-white swimming team rather than let him join it.

Those experiences would inform his efforts in three major civil rights cases before the United States Supreme Court. In one, Mr. Coleman, recruited by Thurgood Marshall, was an author of the legal briefs that successfully pressed the court to outlaw segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Ten years later, he argued a case that led to a Supreme Court decision establishing the constitutionality of racially mixed sexual relations and cohabitation. (McLaughlin v. Florida, in which the Supreme Court overturned a Florida law that prohibited an interracial couple from living together under the state’s anti-miscegenation statutes.) And in 1982, he argued that segregated private schools should be barred from receiving federal tax exemptions. The court agreed.

Mr. Coleman was appointed transportation secretary by President Gerald R. Ford in March 1975, a little more than six months after Ford, who had been vice president, succeeded President Richard M. Nixon after Nixon’s resignation in the Watergate affair. Mr. Coleman, a corporate lawyer with expertise in transportation issues, was on the Pan Am board of directors at the time.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/us/politics/william-coleman-jr-dies.html?_r=0

Mississippi State Hosts “African American Treasures” From the Kinsey Collection Starting this March

msu art

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have one of the largest private collections of African-American art, artifacts, and documents, spanning the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries. From March 21 to June 20, items from the collection will be on display at the Mitchell Memorial Library on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville. The exhibit, “African American Treasures from the Kinsey Collection” is free and will be open to the general public.

Among the items that will be on display are an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and a signed copy of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. The collection does not focus on the struggles faced by African Americans over their history but rather their achievements.

article via jbhe.com

Duke University Acquires Papers Of Noted Historian John Hope Franklin

Duke University has announced that it has acquired a vast archive of papers of John Hope Franklin. Professor Franklin was the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University and one of the most prolific and respected historians of the twentieth century. He died of congestive heart failure on March 25, 2009 at Duke University Hospital. He was 94 years old.

The archive includes more than 300 boxes of materials that were donated to the university by his son and daughter-in-law. Included in the archive are diaries, correspondence, manuscripts, drafts of speeches, photographs, and video recordings. The collection will be housed at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke. The collection will be made available to researchers once it has been preserved and cataloged.

John Hope Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, in 1915. His grandfather had been a slave. His father was one of the first black lawyers in Oklahoma. His mother was a schoolteacher. Franklin was named after John Hope, the former president of Morehouse College and Atlanta University.

Franklin attended racially segregated schools in Oklahoma. He was valedictorian of his high school class. He wanted to attend the University of Oklahoma but at that time, and for many years later, the state’s flagship university was closed to blacks. Continue reading “Duke University Acquires Papers Of Noted Historian John Hope Franklin”