Tag Archives: civil rights movement

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Becoming King colorMartin Luther King dreamt of a nation where all inhabitants of the United States would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their personal abilities and qualities. King became the face of the civil rights revolution through adhering to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and leading a movement based on peace, not conflict. On August 28, 1963, 250,000 demonstrators stood before the Lincoln Memorial while King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, one year before the United States passed a law prohibiting all racial discrimination.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 11.13.14 AMFor his tireless dedication and commitment towards civil rights and social justice, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on this day in 1964. At 35, he became the youngest person to have ever received this esteemed award.

In honor of Dr. King, his legacy, and the 54th anniversary of his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, here is an excerpt of his acceptance speech, which he made in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 1964.


“Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 12.29.27 PMAfter contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 12.30.27 PM.pngThis faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty – and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”


New Releases in African American Studies

In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring our favorite new releases in the fields of Civil Rights history and African American studies. Which ones will you read?

untitledFaith in Black Power: Religion, Race, and Resistance in Cairo, Illinois

In 1969, nineteen-year-old Robert Hunt was found dead in the Cairo, Illinois, police station. The white authorities ruled the death a suicide, but many members of the African American community believed that Hunt had been murdered—a sentiment that sparked rebellions and protests across the city.

In this vital reassessment of the impact of religion on the black power movement, Kerry Pimblott presents a nuanced discussion of the ways in which black churches supported and shaped the United Front. She deftly challenges conventional narratives of the de-Christianization of the movement, revealing that Cairoites embraced both old-time religion and revolutionary thought. Pimblott also investigates the impact of female leaders on the organization and their influence on young activists, offering new perspectives on the hypermasculine image of black power.

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untitledSelma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

The civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements were the two greatest protests of twentieth-century America. The dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1965 took precedence over civil rights legislation, which had dominated White House and congressional attention during the first half of the decade. The two issues became intertwined on January 6, 1966, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to formally oppose the war, protesting the injustice of drafting African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people when they were still denied basic freedoms at home.

Selma to Saigon explores the impact of the Vietnam War on the national civil rights movement. This powerful narrative illuminates the effects of the Vietnam War on the lives of leaders such as Whitney Young Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other activists who faced the threat of the military draft along with race-related discrimination and violence. Providing new insights into the evolution of the civil rights movement, this book fills a significant gap in the literature about one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

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miller_integrated_final.indd Integrated: The Lincoln Institute, Basketball, and a Vanished Tradition

In Integrated, James W. Miller explores an often-ignored aspect of America’s struggle for racial equality. He relates the story of the Lincoln Institute—an all-black high school in Shelby County, Kentucky, where students prospered both in the classroom and on the court. In 1960, the Lincoln Tigers men’s basketball team defeated three all-white schools to win the regional tournament and advance to one of Kentucky’s most popular events, the state high school basketball tournament. This proud tradition of African American schools—a celebration of their athletic achievements—was ironically destroyed by integration.

This evocative book is enriched by tales of individual courage from men who defied comfort and custom. Featuring accounts from former Lincoln Institute players, students, and teachers, Integrated not only documents the story of a fractured sports tradition but also addresses the far-reaching impact of the civil rights movement in the South.

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9780813169743Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence

On December 4, 1906, on Cornell University’s campus, seven black men founded one of the greatest and most enduring organizations in American history. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has brought together and shaped such esteemed men as Martin Luther King Jr., Cornel West, Thurgood Marshall, Wes Moore, W. E. B. DuBois, Roland Martin, and Paul Robeson. “Born in the shadow of slavery and on the lap of disenfranchisement,” Alpha Phi Alpha—like other black Greek-letter organizations—was founded to instill a spirit of high academic achievement and intellectualism, foster meaningful and lifelong ties, and racially uplift those brothers who would be initiated into its ranks.

In Alpha Phi Alpha, Gregory S. Parks, Stefan M. Bradley, and other contributing authors analyze the fraternity and its members’ fidelity to the founding precepts set forth in 1906. They discuss the identity established by the fraternity at its inception, the challenges of protecting the image and brand, and how the organization can identify and train future Alpha men to uphold the standards of an outstanding African American fraternity. Drawing on organizational identity theory and a diverse array of methodologies, the authors raise and answer questions that are relevant not only to Alpha Phi Alpha but to all black Greek-letter organizations.

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9780813169750Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun

For much of the twentieth century, black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) united individuals dedicated to excellence, fostering kinship ties, and uplifting African Americans. Despite the profound influence of BGLOs, many now question the continuing relevance of these groups, arguing that their golden age has passed. Partly because of the influence of hip-hop culture, the image of BGLOs has been unfairly reduced to a stereotype—a world of hazing and stepping without any real substance. Not only does the general public know very little about these groups, but often the members themselves do not have a deep understanding of their history and culture or of the issues facing their organizations.

Gregory S. Parks has assembled an impressive group of contributors to show that the BGLOs’ most important work lies ahead. Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun provides historical context for the development of BGLOs and explores their service activities as well as their relationships with other prominent African American institutions. The book examines BGLOs’ responses to a number of contemporary issues, including non-black membership, homosexuality within membership, and the perception of BGLOs as educated gangs, in order to demonstrate that these organizations can create a positive and enduring future.

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Visit our website to explore more titles in our series, Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016

A few days after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 87 years old, we remember his spirit, contributions, and the tremendous impact he made on both American lives and our culture.

Last year for MLK Day, Bernard Lafayette, a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and protege of Dr. King in the the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, spoke with CBS Evening News about the continuing influence of his mentor and the continued struggle for change through nonviolence.

LaFayette, author of In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma, took the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma at just the age of 22. He first met Dr. King as a student in Nashville, and again in Raleigh after founding SNCC. The following description of his second meeting with Dr. King comes from his memoir, In Peace and Freedom:

"In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma" by Bernard LaFayette Jr. and Kathryn Lee Johnson foreword by Congressman John Robert Lewis afterword by Raymond ArsenaultWhen I talked with Dr. King, I was always inspired by his words. I felt uplifted, buoyed by his presence. When the Nashville students and I arrived in Raleigh to join ranks with his organization, SCLC, I was bursting with youthful enthusiasm. We were also joined by some of our northern support groups with a mixture of white and black individuals, all committed to a common cause. There was electricity in the air, the desire to join with others who had been jailed or beaten. Such meetings reinforced the notion that we were not alone; this collection of college students was bonded by our experiences, dedication, and determination.”

In Peace and Freedom is now available in paperback, and Lafayette is coeditor of the forthcoming The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North.

Q&A with Lisa Anderson Todd

We recently spoke with UPK author Lisa Anderson Todd about her newest book, For a Voice and the Vote: My Journey with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. For a glimpse into her experience, check out our following Q&A.

UPK: Your involvement in this story doesn’t begin with your book, For a Voice and the Vote. You were present for many of the events that summer. Why have you chosen now to circle back to document this period in your life?

LAT: The summer of 1964 was a significant time in my life, but something that I did not reflect on as I focused on my legal career. I collected the books written about the Mississippi Summer Project, but did not take the time to read and evaluate them as they might pertain to my own experience. In retirement I decided to devote myself to learning more about the Mississippi civil rights movement, particularly what happened to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. I didn’t understand why or how the MFDP, having done all that was required to be an accredited delegation and entitled to represent all the citizens of Mississippi—black and white—was rejected by the Democratic Party. I wanted to reflect, satisfy my own curiosity, and provide a record of these important historical events from my position as a participant-observer.

UPK: What drew you, back in 1964, to volunteer for the Mississippi Summer Project?

LAT: In 1963, the summer before, I had spent time in Mississippi at a World Council of Churches work camp doing maintenance work for Tougaloo College and learning about the civil rights movement. I had not been active in the movement in college and now was seeing and hearing how black people were living as second class citizens in a segregated society. My experience made me decide to become a civil rights worker and to do what I could to help them gain their constitutional rights. My desire coincided with the plans for inviting as many as 1,000 college-age volunteers to spend the summer of 1964 working on voter registration, teaching in Freedom Schools, and helping in community centers.

UPK: As described by you, the summer of 1964 was a highly combustible and often scary situation for volunteers. Can you give us a sense of what it was like on the todd.final.inddground both for those involved locally and for outsiders like yourself who came in to volunteer?

LAT: The local people took real risks to participate in the civil rights movement: to attend mass meetings, to attempt to register to vote, to participate in demonstrations, or just to associate with the students encouraging local participation. They lost their jobs, lost credit needed to run a business or grow their crops, were arrested and beaten, had their homes shot into or firebombed, and were harassed with threatening phone calls. Outsiders could be arrested for disturbing the peace or traffic violations that did not occur. They were subject to harassment, called “communist,” and told to go back home. We found protection in the black community as we joined forces in the nonviolent struggle for freedom, equality, and justice.

UPK: After a summer spent rallying and registering voters in Mississippi, what was the mood like among those who made their way to Atlantic City for the Democratic Party Convention? Afterwards?

LAT: We were excited that finally we would draw the attention of the Democratic Party and the rest of the country to all that had happened in Mississippi during the summer. Publicity about the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner and the activities of the predominantly white volunteers in Mississippi had made the country more aware of the plight of disenfranchised Mississippi blacks. We were optimistic that the Democratic Party would seat the MFDP in lieu of the discriminatory, all-white official delegation. At the least we believed that there would be a reasonable compromise that would recognize the efforts of the MFDP. When the leadership of the Democratic Party—without negotiations with the delegation—made the final decision to give the MFDP two seats with at-large votes, we were disappointed and disillusioned.

UPK: In this book, you build upon your own experience with a vast amount of research including taped conversations from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library that have only recently become available. What was it like to go back and reconstruct the events and impacts of the MFDP’s efforts in 1964?

LAT: It was difficult to remember what happened fifty years ago, and I knew what I could remember might not be accurate, but I wanted to reconstruct the events as best I could. I was fortunate that I kept a detailed diary during the summer of 1963 that reflected how I learned about the Mississippi civil rights movement and that my parents saved the letters I sent them during the summer of 1964. I supplemented this information with accounts of the summer from books and internet sources. This was a new and interesting process for me.

Oral interviews of principals involved with the MFDP Convention Challenge and the LBJ tapes provided me my first information of what had been going on behind the scenes in Atlantic City. We heard at the time that LBJ pressured delegates to change their votes so there would not be a floor fight, but I did not know why he was so adamantly opposed to seating the MFDP and how he managed to obtain the result he wanted. The chronology of events over the five hectic days in Atlantic City has been confused in some accounts. With the facts I was able to find in primary sources, I have tried to set the record straight. The political strength of the MFDP is apparent from the efforts the Democratic Party leadership had to take to prevent the MFDP from winning public favor and obtaining a floor vote that would disrupt the Convention and reveal the split within the Democratic Party.

UPK: You say at one point in the introduction that you often caught yourself saying, “I never knew that.” Were there revelations in this book writing process that stood out or changed how you understood that summer? Did anything you learn change your understanding of your own experience?

LAT: One surprise was that many in SNCC opposed white volunteers coming, including Charlie Cobb, a leader of the opposition who was a project director in the Greenville area where I was assigned. I did not know about this opposition or the reasons for it, but can understand now how resentful the local black leadership could be of white volunteers.

UPK: Now, some fifty years removed from the events of that summer, what is the most important thing to remember about the efforts of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party?

LAT: The dispossessed, grassroots, poor, black underclass of Mississippi found their voice as they sought the right to vote. Their efforts began long before the Mississippi Summer Project, when stalwart individuals registered to vote and began to organize politically, but even with student assistance and encouragement in the early 1960s, the process proved to be slow. The formation of a new open political party—the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party—attracted national attention. What is most important to remember is that it was the courageous actions of many local people who were willing to take risks to join and organize the MFDP. It is now time to recognize the role of the MFDP played in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Remembering the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches, Celebrating with a Free Ebook

March marks the anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches—events that are widely considered to be the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. In honor of these historic events, we’re offering the ebook of In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma by Bernard LaFayette Jr. and Kathryn Lee Johnson for free all month.

Dedicated to working toward social change through nonviolence and peace since his teens, Bernard LaFayette Jr. has been a civil rights activist for more than fifty years. He was a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign. At the young age of twenty-two, he assumed the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma—a city that had previously been removed from the organization’s list due to the dangers of operating there.

LaFayette was one of the primary organizers of the 1965 Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and he relates his experiences of these historic initiatives in close detail. Important, compelling, and powerful, In Peace and Freedom presents a necessary perspective on the civil rights movement in the 1960s from one of its greatest leaders.

Fill out the form below, click SUBMIT, and your FREE EBOOK will be emailed to you within 48 hours!