February 26, 1961 – Civil Rights Review: 1960 – Past Daily Reference Room
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Civil Rights in 1960 as it was viewed in 1961.
In 1960, an Atlanta University Center group of students released An Appeal for Human Rights as a full page advertisement in newspapers, including the Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta Journal, and Atlanta Daily World. Known as the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights , the group initiated the Atlanta Student Movement and began to lead sit-ins starting on March 15, 1960. By the end of 1960, the process of sit-ins had spread to every southern and border state, and even to facilities in Nevada, Illinois, and Ohio that discriminated against blacks.
Demonstrators focused not only on lunch counters but also on parks, beaches, libraries, theaters, museums, and other public facilities. In April 1960 activists who had led these sit-ins were invited by SCLC activist Ella Baker to hold a conference at Shaw University, a historically black university in Raleigh, North Carolina. This conference led to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC took these tactics of nonviolent confrontation further, and organized the freedom rides. As the constitution protected interstate commerce, they decided to challenge segregation on interstate buses and in public bus facilities by putting interracial teams on them, to travel from the North through the segregated South.
Despite making some gains, blacks still experienced blatant prejudice in their daily lives. On February 1, 1960, four college students took a stand against segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina when they refused to leave a Woolworth’s lunch counter without being served.
Over the next several days, hundreds of people joined their cause in what became known as the Greensboro sit-ins. After some were arrested and charged with trespassing, protestors launched a boycott of all segregated lunch counters until the owners caved and the original four students were finally served at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where they’d first stood their ground.
Their efforts spearheaded peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations in dozens of cities and helped launch the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to encourage all students to get involved in the civil rights movement. It also caught the eye of young college graduate Stokely Carmichael, who joined the SNCC during the Freedom Summer of 1964 to register black voters in Mississippi. In 1966, Carmichael became the chair of the SNCC, giving his famous speech in which he originated the phrase “black power.”
This episode of The Open Mind features Father Donald R. Campion, associate Editor of the National Catholic Weekly America – Roy Wilkins, executive Secretary of the NAACP and Edwin J. Lukas, director of National Affairs Department of The American Jewish Committee. It was broadcast on February 26, 1961.