One by one - beginning with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954, which outlawed school
segregation, reaching on through the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, 1965 and 1968 - the barriers
against blacks in the South have come tumbling down. But it is shocking to recall how high they
were in 1954, and in many cases much later than that. By statute, ordinance or custom that had the
force of law, blacks in most parts of the eleven states of the Confederacy, plus some border
states and Washington, D.C., did not:
Serve on juries.
Send children to white public schools.
Drink from 'whites only' water fountains.
Use a 'whites only' restroom.
Rent a room in a white hotel, motel or apartment building.
Try on clothing in a store.
Sit down in a white restaurant.
Sit on the main floor of a movie theater, concert hall or other public arena.
Sit in the front of the bus.
Visit a white public park, beach or swimming pool.
Marry a white or even whistle at one.
Emmett Till, 14, from Chicago, was beaten and shot to death in Mississippi in 1955 for such a 'crime', and
other blacks were routinely beaten for 'reckless eyeballing', i.e. looking at a white female.
To most Southern whites, blacks were not entitled to normal courtesies in courtrooms, black witnesses
were usually called by their first names or 'uncle' or 'gal'. In some Southern towns, blacks were
obliged to step off the sidewalk into the street to make room for passing whites. In some areas they
were warned to be out of town by sunset. The few black policemen could not arrest whites.
Southern newspapers routinely relegated announcements of black births, deaths and marriages
to special Jim Crow pages. In 1956, the Wilmington, N.C., Star went to press with a frontage photo
of four Marines who were to testify in the court-martial of a drill instructor charged with
brutality. When an editor noticed that one of the witnesses was black, he ordered an employee to chisel
the Negro's image out of the press plate. The paper appeared with a ragged white space where the
black face had been.
In some rural areas, remnants of the barricades remain. Voter registration is occasionally made
difficult for blacks, and without it, they cannot serve as jurors. There are neighborhoods and
apartment buildings that still exclude blacks. Courtrooms where blacks are not accorded the
courtesy of Mr or Mrs still exist. Interracial couples face severe - often unbearable -
harassment in small Southern towns. But because the other vestiges of a segregated society have largely
disappeared, there is reason to hope that those remaining will disappear as well.
1. What were the things blacks most suffered from by 1954?
2. How did the newspaper 'Star' handle the black problem in 1956? Describe the incident and comment on it.
3. What were the landmarks in the Civil Rights movement and have the hopes of the blacks been realized?