The “deliberate speed” called for in the Supreme Court's Brown decision was quickly overshadowed by events outside the nation's courtrooms. In Montgomery, Alabama, a grassroots revolt against segregated public transportation inspired a multitude of similar protests and boycotts. A number of school districts in the Southern and border states desegregated peacefully. Elsewhere, white resistance to school desegregation resulted in open defiance and violent confrontations, requiring the use of federal troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Efforts to end segregation in Southern colleges were also marred by obstinate refusals to welcome African Americans into previously all-white student bodies.
By 1964, ten years after Brown, the NAACP's focused legal campaign had been transformed into a mass movement to eliminate all traces of institutionalized racism from American life. This effort, marked by struggle and sacrifice, soon captured the imagination and sympathies of much of the nation. In many respects, the ideals expressed in Brown v. Board had inspired the dream of a society based on justice and racial equality.
Mrs. Rosa Parks Fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, forty-three, was arrested for disorderly conducted for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her arrest and fourteen dollar fine for violating city ordinance, led African American bus riders and others to boycott the Montgomery city buses. It also helped to establish the Montgomery Improvement Association led by a then unknown young minister from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. The boycott lasted for one year and brought the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin King to the attention of the world.
Mrs. Rosa Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. Gelatin silver print. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (119)
Rosa Parks Arrest Record
Rosa Parks was a leader in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, which demonstrated that segregation would be contested in many social settings. A federal district court decided that segregation on publicly operated buses was unconstitutional and concluded that, “in the Brown case, Plessy v. Ferguson has been impliedly, though not explicitly, overruled.” The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court without opinion, a common procedure it followed in the interim between 1954 and 1958.
Black Monday, 1954
Following the Supreme Court's decision on Brown v Board of Education, U.S. Representative John Bell Williams (D-Mississippi) coined the term “Black Monday” on the floor of Congress to denote Monday, May 17, 1954, the date of the Supreme Court's decision. In opposition to the decision, white citizens' councils formally organized throughout the south to preserve segregation and defend segregated schools. The White Citizens' Council movement in Mississippi, led by Thomas Pickens Brady, a circuit court judge, published a handbook, Black Monday, in which the philosophy of the movement is stated, including its call for the nullification of the NAACP, the creation of a forty-ninth state for Negroes, and the abolition of public schools.
University of Alabama Students Protest Desegregation
Autherine Lucy's dream of obtaining a degree in library science was finally realized when she officially enrolled at the all-white University of Alabama in 1956. While the court had granted her the right to attend the university, the white population seemed intent on making this impossible by staging riots. Students, adults and even groups from outside of Alabama shouted racial epithets, threw eggs, sticks and rocks, and generally attempted to block her way. Protestors, like the group pictured here, prompted the University to expel Lucy on February 6, 1956, in order to ensure her personal safety.
University of Alabama Students burn desegregation literature, 1956. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (121A)
Autherine Lucy's Attorneys
Autherine Lucy, the first African American student to be admitted to the University of Alabama in 1956, is shown with her attorneys Thurgood Marshall and Arthur Shore. The case went to court in 1953, and a decision to prohibit the university from rejecting Lucy based on race was reached in 1955. This decision was amended days later to apply to all African American students seeking to enter the University of Alabama. Lucy enrolled on February 3, 1956, but was expelled for her own safety three days later. Marshall and Shores went back to court but were forced to withdraw the case due to lack of support. Lucy's expulsion was finally overturned in 1988.
Autherine Lucy's Expulsion
A day after Autherine Lucy's expulsion from the University of Alabama, Roy Wilkins sent this telegram to U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell requesting the institution of criminal contempt proceedings against all parties prohibiting Lucy from attending classes at the University. The federal government refused to intercede. Lucy's expulsion was finally overturned in 1988 by the Board of Regents. She entered the University in earnest the following year and graduated in 1992 with a master's degree in elementary education along with her daughter, Grazia, who was enrolled as an undergraduate.
School Integration in Clinton, Tennessee
In 1956, Clinton High School in Clinton, Anderson County, Tennessee, was set to be the first high school in the South to be integrated after the Brown decision. Integration was progressing smoothly until John Kasper, leader of the White Citizens Council and a staunch segregationist, came to town. Protests and riots ensued from that day until early in December, when several white citizens escorted the African American students to class, as shown here. One of the escorts was badly beaten afterwards. As a result of the episode the school was closed on December 4, but reopened six days later without incident.
Thomas J. O'Halloran, photographer. Clinton, Tennessee, school integration conflict, 1956. Gelatin silver print. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (125C) Digital ID # ppmsca 03093
A Classroom in Nashville After Integration
While many schools throughout the south were confronted with protesters attempting to prevent integration, Miss Mary Brent, principal of the previously all white Glenn Elementary School in Nashville greets black and white students, without incident, on the first day of school.
In 1957, fifteen-year-old Dorothy Geraldine Counts and three other students became the first African American students to attend the previously all white Harding High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were greeted by angry white mobs who screamed obscenities and racial slurs at the African American students. Counts's picture appeared in many newspapers as did others of black students attempting to attend white schools for the first time. Counts's family feared for her safety and withdrew her from Harding and sent her out of state to complete high school.
School Dilemma—Youths taunt Dorothy Geraldine Counts in Charlotte, North Carolina, 1957. Gelatin silver print. Visual Materials from the NAACP Records, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (125B) Courtesy of the NAACP
Anacostia High School, Washington, D.C.
In the 1950s, Washington, D.C. black schools were both segregated and inadequate. Many schools were overcrowded and lacked adequate educational materials. This photograph shows the results of the Brown decision with both black and white students in the same classroom in 1957. Today Anacostia, like many of the public high schools in D.C. is attended by predominantly African American students.
Warren K. Leffler, photographer. An integrated classroom at Anacostia High School, Washington, DC, 1957. Gelatin silver print. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (201)
The Little Rock Nine
Seventeen African American students were selected to attend the all white Central High School in 1957 but by opening day the number had dwindled to nine. Pictured here with Daisy Bates, a newspaper journalist and active member in the local NAACP, are nine students, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford, Terrace Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, Melba Pattillo, and Minnijean Brown. Bates would become the advisor for the nine students. The day before school opened, Governor Orval Faubus called the National Guard to surround Central High, declaring “blood would run in the streets” if blacks students attempted to enter.
Cecil Layne, photographer. Little Rock Nine and Daisy Bates pose in living room, ca. 1957-1960. Gelatin silver print. Visual Materials from the NAACP Records, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (128) Courtesy of the NAACP
U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division
On September 24, Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann sent a special request for federal assistance to President Dwight Eisenhower. The following day nine African American students entered Central under the protection of members of the 101st Airborne Division of the U. S. Army, shown here. The Little Rock Nine, as they have become known, finished the school year in 1958. One of the students, Ernest Green graduated that year with the help of federal protection. In September 1958, Governor Faubus closed all high schools in Little Rock. They reopened in August 1959 with the protection of local police. Only four of the nine students returned.
U.S. Troops escort African American students from Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas, October 3, 1957. Gelatin silver print. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (130B)
“Fables of Faubus”
Orval E. Faubus was the governor of Arkansas, who in 1957 sent out the National Guard to prevent African-American students from entering Little Rock's Central High School. American jazz musician Charles Mingus responded to the event by composing “Fables of Faubus,” a condemnation of the action. Unfortunately, Columbia Records prohibited Mingus and fellow musician, Danny Richmond from singing the following lyrics:
Name me someone who's ridiculous, Dannie. Governor Faubus!/ Why is he so sick and ridiculous? He won't permit integrated schools.
Columbia reconsidered and recorded the piece in its entirety two years later.
Daisy Bates and The Little Rock Nine
Daisy Bates, publisher of the newspaper The Arkansas State Press and president of the Arkansas NAACP Branches, led the NAACP's campaign to desegregate the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thurgood Marshall and Wiley Branton served as counsel. The school board agreed to begin the process with Central High School, approving the admission of nine black teenagers. The decision outraged many white citizens including Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock to ensure the protection of the nine students, and, on September 25, 1957, they entered the school. In the midst of the crisis, Daisy Bates wrote this letter to NAACP Executive Director Roy Wilkins to report on the students' progress.
Segregation's Citadel Unbreached, 1958
At the time of the May 1954 Brown v. Board of Education,decision seventeen states and the District of Columbia had laws enforcing school segregation. By 1958, only seven states—Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana—maintained public school segregation.
In 1956 U.S. District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools. After a series of appeals, in 1960, Wright set down a plan that required the integration of the schools on a grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade. The School Board issued a test to black kindergartners to determine the best candidates. Six-year old Ruby Bridges was one of six children selected. Four agreed to proceed. On November 14, Bridges integrated the William Frantz Public School. In retaliation, white parents withdrew her classmates and Bridges's father was fired from his job. Ruby completed the first grade alone with the support of Barbara Henry, a Boston teacher, and Dr. Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist. Ruby's walk to school the first day, escorted by U.S. Marshals, inspired the 1964 Norman Rockwell painting, “The Problem We All Live With.”
School Desegregation Spreads Through South
Faced with increasing public and state legislative support for desegregation, political leaders in Southern states gradually introduced desegregation measures. By 1961, only South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi still maintained completely segregated school systems.
The Library of Congress does not have permission to show this image online. School Desegregation Spreads Through South, Associated Press Newsfeatures, October 16, 1961. Newspaper map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (152)
“Meredith Enrolls at Ole Miss”
Riots erupted when James Meredith, armed with a Supreme Court order and guarded by federal marshals, enrolled at the University of Mississippi, known as “Ole Miss,” on October 1, 1962. In spite of Governor Ross Barnett's initial defiance of federal rulings, Meredith prevailed and graduated from the university in 1963. The Birmingham News, then an evening newspaper in Alabama, a state that experienced its own civil rights woes, reported that day's activities. Founded in 1888, the newspaper had a daily circulation of approximately 188,280 at the time.
Powerful images appearing in the news media captured the imaginations of ordinary Americans and helped enlist their sympathies in the cause of civil rights and school integration. In this letter to the NAACP, renowned illustrator Norman Rockwell offered for the organization's use his painting “The Problem We All Live With.” The painting, which was published in Look magazine, January 14, 1964, portrayed a young African American girl, escorted by federal marshals, as she made her way through a hostile environment toward a newly integrated school. The painting was based on the ordeal of Ruby Bridges in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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Norman Rockwell to John A. Morsell, December 3, 1963. Typed letter. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (155) Courtesy of the NAACP
The Library of Congress does not have permission to show this image online. Look magazine, January 14, 1964. Centerfold. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (175)
Federal Assistance Needed
On September 10, 1962, the Supreme Court ordered the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, a twenty-eight year old Air Force Veteran, after a sixteen month legal battle. Governor Ross Barnett disavowed the decree and had Meredith physically barred from enrolling. President Kennedy responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending Army troops to protect Meredith. After days of violence and rioting by whites, Meredith, escorted by federal marshals, enrolled on October 1, 1962. Two men were killed in the turmoil and more than 300 injured. Because he had earned credits in the military and at Jackson State College, Meredith graduated the following August without incident.
John A. Morsell, Assistant to NAACP Executive Secretary to President John F. Kennedy requesting the assistance of the federal government in the case of James Meredith, September 21, 1962. Page 2. Typed letter. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (156) Courtesy of the NAACP
Meredith with Constance B. Motley and Jack Greenberg
On September 28, the Fifth Circuit Court found Governor Ross Barnett guilty of civil contempt for defying two earlier orders to admit James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. Meredith left the courthouse accompanied by his attorneys Constance Baker Motley and Jack Greenberg. Motley received national recognition for her defense of Meredith. A graduate of Columbia Law School, she joined the Legal Defense Fund as a law clerk in 1946 and became assistant counsel in 1949. She helped prepare the Brown briefs. Thurgood Marshall hired Greenberg as an assistant counsel directly from Columbia Law School in 1949. Greenberg worked on the Sweatt case and was co-counsel on the Parker, Brown and Delaware cases. In 1961, he succeeded Marshall as Director-Counsel of the Legal Defense Fund , serving in that capacity until 1984.
James Meredith and NAACP lawyers Constance Baker Motley and Jack Greenberg, 1962. Gelatin silver print. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (157B)
“The Ballad of Oxford, Mississippi”
Phil Ochs, a topical-protest songwriter, played a central role in the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. “A Ballad of Oxford, Mississippi” chronicled James Meredith's 1962 enrollment at the University of Mississippi and was first published in Broadside magazine. Despite the magazine's small circulation, it had a strong impact on the folksong revival. The late 1962 issues contained numerous other songs about James Meredith including, for example, Bob Dylan's Oxford Town.
The Library of Congress does not have permission to show this image online. Phil Ochs. “The Ballad of Oxford, Mississippi.” Broadside 15, (November 1962). New York: 1962. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (157)
Governor George Wallace at the University of Alabama
This image of Governor George Wallace blocking the entrance to the University of Alabama is one of the most recognized of all the images from the civil rights period. On June 11, 1963, Wallace, surrounded by Alabama state troopers, confronted and blocked Assistant U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and the African American students from entering the university. President Kennedy had to federalize the National Guard and send them to the campus to assist with the integration process. Wallace did eventually step aside and allow the students to register.
Warren K. Leffler, photographer. Governor George Wallace attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama, 1963. Gelatin silver print. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (174A) Digital ID # ppmsca 04294
Vivian Malone at the University of Alabama
Vivian Malone and James Hood were the first two students to integrate the University of Alabama with the help of the National Guard, Assistant U.S. Attorney Katzenbach, and President Kennedy on June 11, 1963.
Warren K. Leffler, photographer. Students entering Foster Auditorium to register at the University of Alabama, June 11, 1963.Gelatin silver print. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (174B)
Summit Conference on Civil Rights
On the tenth anniversary of the Brown decision leaders of national organizations for blacks met in New York City to hold a Summit Conference on Civil Rights. Present (from left to right) were Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist; Jack Greenberg, Director of Counsel of the NAACP Educational and Legal Defense Fund; Whitney Young, Jr., Director of the National Urban League; James Farmer, National Director of Congress of Racial Equality; Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of NAACP; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; John Lewis, Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and A. Philip Randolph, Chairman of the National Negro American Labor Council.
The Newport Folk Festival
The Newport Folk Festival quickly became a showcase for 1960s folk revival artists. One festival highlight was the afternoon Topical Songs workshop hosted by Pete Seeger. The Vanguard Records release of topical songs from the 1963 festival includes “Fighting for My Rights” by the Freedom Singers, a group associated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The Library of Congress does not have permission to show this image online. Newport Broadside: Topical Songs at the Newport Folk Festival. Vanguard, 1964. Album cover. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (205)
The March on Washington
We Shall Overcome! captures one of the pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement, the March on Washington held on August 28, 1963. This LP was produced by the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership and issued by Folkways Records. It includes part of President Kennedy's news conference about the event, Dr. King's “I Have a Dream” speech, and Bayard Rustin's “Demands on the March,”speech that asked for civil rights legislation to “include public accommodations, decent housing, integrated education, and the right to vote.”
The Library of Congress does not have permission to show this image online. We Shall Overcome!: Documentary of the March on Washington. Folkways, 1964. Album cover. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (209)
March on Washington in Life, 1963
African American resistance to enslavement and multiple forms of social, political, and economic inequality included slave rebellions, marches, individual protests, and legislative action in the courts. The March on Washington, August 28, 1963, was a major expression of resistance in the continuing strugglefor African American freedom in the United States. Major organizers included Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist, A. Phillip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), Roy Wilkins (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), James Farmer (Congress of Racial Equality), John Lewis (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and Dorothy Height (National Council of Negro Women).
“We Don't Dig No Busing”
In 1971, the Supreme Court upheld legislation that caused children of different races to be transported to white schools for racial balance. The school districts spent millions of dollars each year busing minorities to white schools; however, opponents of forced integration believed that the transportation funding should have been used to improve the conditions of the poor schools.
Shown here is a recording of “We Don't Dig No Busing,” sung by the Greer Brothers ages nine through fourteen. It was produced in 1973 by an African American recording studio, the Don Music company in Houston, Texas.
The Library of Congress does not have permission to show this image online. Greer Brothers. “We Don't Dig No Busing,” (Busing Song). Houston: Don Music Company, 1973. Record. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (176A)
The Times They Are A-Changin
Bob Dylan's third recording was also his last to feature topical-protest songs. In compositions such as “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” Dylan described a specific civil rights event to his growing audience, in this case focusing upon the judicial system's inadequacies. The title track and other songs on the record such as “When the Ship Comes In” articulated a broad and defiant call for cultural change.
The Library of Congress does not have permission to show this image online. Bob Dylan. The Times They Are A-Changin'. Columbia , 1964. Album cover. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (206)
Obstruction and Delays in Virginia
The diehard segregationist campaign of “massive resistance” took many forms. In Virginia's Prince Edward County, location of one of the original school-segregation cases, local authorities evaded court-ordered integration by closing the public schools and supporting new, white-only, private schools. The Supreme Court reviewed these actions in 1964. This handwritten draft ruling by Justice William O. Douglas indicates his frustration with “over a decade” of delays since Brown: “Afterward numerous opinions were written by the District Court and the Court of Appeals but our mandate in the Brown case has never been implemented.”
“Free school” in Farmville, Virginia
When Prince Edward County closed all of its schools in 1959 rather than integrate in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision. The white citizens in the county formed a private all white academy where their children could continue their education. African American students were not provided public education until 1963. The Reverend Leslie Francis Griffin a member of the NAACP and the chairman of the Moton High School P.T.A. petitioned President Kennedy for support from the federal government to prepare the African American students for re-entering the public schools. As a result the Prince Edward County Free School System was created. Shown are students entering Free School #2.
Thomas J. O'Halloran, photographer. Students arriving at the Free School #2 in Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1963. Gelatin silver print. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (203A)
Tenth Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education
A press conference at the Hotel Americana celebrates the tenth anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. Four of the five plaintiffs whose class action cases combined in Brown are pictured together: Harry Briggs, Jr. (Briggs v Elliot), Linda Brown Smith (Brown v Board of Education of Topeka), Spottswood Bolling, Jr. (Bolling v. Sharpe), and Ethel Louise Belton Brown (Gebhart v. Belton [Bulah] ).The fifth case was Dorothy E. Davis v County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia.
Harry Briggs, Jr., Linda Brown Smith, Spottswood Bolling, Jr., and Ethel Louise Belton Brown during press conference, 1964. Gelatin silver print. New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (224)
The New Civil Rights Movement
On April 1, 2003, several thousands gathered for a new March on Washington sponsored by The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary. BAMN, the organization's acronym, were co-defendants in Grutter v. Bollinger, the case which disputed the University of Michigan's admissions policy. They felt many of the gains made by minorities would be lost if the case did not uphold the Brown decision. Many of the protesters carried these signs with the phrase “Save Affirmative Action” and “Save Brown v. Board of Education.”
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Bill Mauldin's Support for Integration
In this drawing, political cartoonist Bill Mauldin commented on the actions of Little Rock to establish private schools to circumvent the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals' November 10, 1958, order to integrate. He used the dilapidated schoolhouse as a metaphor for the disintegration of public school systems in the 1950s. Mauldin gained public recognition for his World War II army cartoons, but when asked what the most important issue of his career had been, Mauldin replied, “The one thing that meant the most to me and that I got involved in was the whole civil rights thing in the sixties.”
Bill Mauldin (1921-2003). “What is done in our classrooms today will be reflected in the successes or failures of civilization tomorrow.” Lindly C. Baxter, 1958. Ink, crayon, and white out over pencil on layered paper. Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 11, 1958. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (138) © Copyright 1958 by Bill Mauldin. Reproduced online courtesy of the Mauldin Estate.
Difficulty of Achieving Integration, 1960
Despite the legal mandate to integrate, school districts were slow to accommodate African American children, as Bill Mauldin metaphorically shows here with three young students working hard to open the door of “School segregation” a mere crack. At its annual meeting in 1960, the National Education Association rejected proposals to support the Supreme Court decision, instead opting for a watered-down resolution describing integration as “an evolving process.” Because of school boards' reluctance to follow either the letter or the spirit of the law, segregation remained in effect well into the 1960s.
Bill Mauldin (1921-2003). Inch by inch, 1960. Crayon, ink, blue pencil and white out over pencil on layered paper. Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 1, 1960. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (145) © Copyright 1960 by Bill Mauldin. Reproduced online courtesy of the Mauldin Estate.
Slow Pace of Integration
Political cartoonist Herb Block, better known by his pen name Herblock championed civil rights throughout his career. Eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, in the 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, he penned this cartoon expressing his dismay at the country's slow progress toward educational integration. In his 1964 book Straight Herblock he wrote, “The racist demagogues and rulers of state fiefdoms need not send to know for whom the school bell tolls. It tolls for them.”
Herb Block (1909-2001). I'm eight. I was born on the day of the Supreme Court decision, May 17, 1962. Ink, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post, May 17, 1962. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (169) © 1962 by Herblock in the Washington Post
Herblock on Private Schools to Avoid Integration
Commenting on white parents who sent their children to private school to avoid integration, Herb Block wrote in Straight Herblock, “I'll get in there and pitch for any child who is being denied schooling, whatever his race, color or religion. But when a public school is open and parents choose to send their children to a private school instead, I don't see how those children are being denied an education or denied any rights. And it seems ironic indeed that some people in effect feel discriminated against for lack of government-supported separate-but-equal religious schools, when real victims of discrimination have finally won recognition of the fact that schools which are separate are not equal.”
Herb Block (1909-2001). If the government doesn't support separate-but-equal schools for our children, it's guilty of discrimination!, February 12, 1963. Ink, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post, February 12, 1963. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (168) © 1962 by Herblock in the Washington Post
Supporting Civil Rights
Herb Block applauds the growing activism of the Civil Rights Movement in this cartoon. He shows an African American practically pushed into the street by a white man, while signs on all the buildings that line the street speak of restrictions on blacks. Block's cartoon reflects events of its time. In efforts to compel school districts to end de facto segregation in the North and to reduce school overcrowding, African American parents in Chicago, New York, New Jersey, and other areas publically demonstrated. President Kennedy, in a speech given on August 28, 1963, urged Americans to “accelerate our effort to achieve equal rights for all our citizens.”
Herb Block (1909-2001). “And remember, nothing can be accomplished by taking to the streets,” September 6, 1963. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post, September 6, 1963. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (170) © 1963 by Herblock in the Washington Post
Oliver Harrington's Dark Laughter
This cartoon appeared as President Kennedy announced integration of 157 city school districts, not as a milestone, but as progress “slow step by step.” Meanwhile some black children continued to live in areas without a public school system as officials attempted to bypass integration. Oliver Harrington, an influential African American cartoonist, published this image during a year of heightened interracial tension in the United States, from his home in East Berlin, Germany. This cartoon appeared in the African American newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier.
Oliver W. Harrington (1912-1995). Dark laughter. Now I aint so sure I wanna get educated, 1963. Crayon, ink, blue pencil, and pencil on paper. Published in the Pittsburgh Courier, September 21, 1963. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (172) Courtesy of Dr. Helma Harrington. Digital ID # ppmsca-05518
First Day of School
Artist Vincent Smith, once described himself as an “expressionist,” someone who experiences life on his own terms. As an African American artist, he became aware of social issues early in his career. An active member of the black arts movement in the1960s, Smith sometimes explored these issues in his work. His etching, First Day of School, shows a large crowd watching young black children on their way to school. The scene is reminiscent of attempts to integrate public schools in some areas throughout the South after the Brown decision.
Problems of “White Flight”
In this work, Herb Block reminded Americans of the divisions between public education in the inner cities and the suburbs, made more pronounced by “white flight” from urban areas after the Brown v. Board decision. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reported on February 15, 1977, that true desegregation could be achieved in urban areas only if students were bused between cities and suburbs. It argued that segregation had actually increased since 1954. Block strove to make Americans aware of the need for equality in education during his career, and bequeathed money to the United Negro College Fund in his will.
Herb Block (1909-2001). “ . . . One nation . . . indivisible . . . ,” February 22, 1977. Ink, graphite, and opaque white, with tonal film overlay and porous point pen over graphite underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post, February 22, 1977. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (182) © 1977 by Herblock in the Washington Post