Schools and Courts
THE democratic idealism which had been fostered by the Second World War and the Cold War made many American citizens increasingly uncomfortable about the legal support given to racism in the Southern states. A wide variety of organizations--labor unions, religious and fraternal societies as well as groups specifically concerned with attacking racism-- became increasingly active in trying to put democratic ideals into practice. America's competition with communism in gaining world leadership, made many Americans feel that it was necessary to prove, once and for all, the superiority of the American way of life. However, there was a growing concerted effort to destroy legal segregation because it was a serious blemish on this democratic image.
Believing strongly in the democratic process as these groups did, this attack was mounted within the framework of the legal system. The N.A.A.C.P. came to be the cutting edge of the campaign. In particular, the Legal Defense Fund of the N.A.A.C.P. and the small group of intelligent, dedicated Negro lawyers whom it financed, spearheaded the attack. It was clear that the legal system itself supported the position of Southern racists. Most Afro-Americans in the South could not vote, and Southern senators were in a position to sabotage any attempt to change the system through the legislative process. They were chosen through a white electorate, and Afro-Americans in the South could do little about that. Even if a favorable majority in Congress stemming from the North and West could be established, the one- party system in the South meant that Southern Senators were continually reelected and, therefore, had Congressional seniority. Consequently, they controlled most of the committees and were thereby in virtual control of the legislative process itself.
Although the courts had usually interpreted the Constitution so as to support segregation, much of that document's language supported democratic and equalitarian principles. If the courts could be persuaded to understand the Constitution differently, legal segregation might well be found to be unconstitutional. The judicial system to some degree reacts to popular pressure and events, and it too was influenced by the need to justify American democracy to the rest of the world.
The N.A.A.C.P. had already mounted a broad, concerted attack against legal segregation before the Second World War. When Walter White defeated W. E. B. DuBois in a struggle for leadership, he confirmed the Association's emphasis on striving for an integrated society. The number of white and middle-class black supporters of the N.A.A.C.P. grew, and its treasury prospered. The Association chose to concentrate its efforts on a gradual, relentless attack against segregation through the courts. Believing that education was an all-important factor in society, it decided that school desegregation should become the major target.
Thurgood Marshall was the master strategist in the school desegregation campaign. He decided that the attack should be a slow, indirect one. Most Southern school systems, although they had developed two separate institutions, had not established separate graduate and professional facilities for Negroes. Marshall decided to attack the school question on the graduate, professional, and law-school level. First, Southerners did not seem as frightened about racial mixing on the graduate school level, and second, the cost of developing separate graduate and professional schools for a handful of Negro students, it was reasoned, would be prohibitive.
In 1938, in Gaines v. Canada, the Supreme Court declared that Missouri's failure to admit a Negro, Lloyd Gaines, to the state law school, when the state did not have a comparable "separate but equal" institution for Negroes, constituted a violation of the "equal-protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Missouri wanted to solve the problem by paying the student's tuition in an integrated Northern law school, but the Court refused to accept that as a solution. It argued that the state had already created a privilege for whites which it was denying to Negroes. This, in itself, was a Constitutional violation.
A decade passed without any further action. In 1948, the Supreme Court attacked Oklahoma for its failure to permit a Negro to enroll in its state law school. The Oklahoma Board of Regents, then, decided to admit Negroes to any course of study not provided for by the state college for Negroes. This was a considerable step forward.
In 1950, in Sweatt v. Painter, the Supreme Court condemned an attempt by the state of Texas to establish a special law school overnight in which it could enroll a Negro applicant. The Court said that this fly-by-night institution was not equal, and it insisted that an equal institution must include equal faculty, equal library, and equal prestige. It argued that part of an equal degree was the prestige conferred on the graduate by the status of that institution. To be equal, the Court reasoned, the separate school must carry an equal degree of professional status. It also decided, in McLaurin v. Oklahama Regents, that it was unconstitutional for a university to segregate a Negro student within its premises. Oklahoma had roped off part of its university's classrooms, library, and dining room as a means of accommodating a graduate student in the School of Education. The Court argued that this handicapped a student in his pursuit of learning and that part of a graduate education included the ability to engage in open discussion with other students.
These decisions, in essence, meant that the South was compelled to integrate graduate and professional schools. In themselves, they did not constitute an attack on segregated education. They merely represented an attempt by the courts to guarantee that separate education was, in fact, equal education. Southern states, recognizing the trend of events, began crash programs to build and upgrade their Negro school systems. At this point, the N.A.A.C.P. was not certain whether to push on for total desegregation or whether temporarily to settle for quality education. However, the stubbornness of some Southern school boards in refusing to upgrade Negro schools forced the N.A.A.C.P. lawyers into their decision to make an outright attack on legal segregation.
In 1950 N.A.A.C.P. lawyers initiated a series of suits around the country attacking the quality of education in primary and secondary schools. Three of these suits--Topeka, Kansas, Clarendon County, South Carolina, and Prince Edward County, Virginia -- became involved in the 1954 Supreme Court desegregation decision. The N.A.A.C.P. charged that these schools, besides being inferior, were a violation of the "equal-protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. All of the suits, as had been expected, were defeated in the local courts. However, they were appealed.
Though the Supreme Court had allowed the decision made in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 to stand, the Court was moving closer to a reexamination of the "separate but equal" clause. That decision had argued that separate facilities, if they were equal, did not violate a citizen's right to equal protection under the law. It had become the cornerstone on which a whole dual society had been built. The Court had made no attempt, however, to guarantee that these separate institutions would be equal, and clearly they were not. At mid-century, the Court began by challenging this dual system at points of blatant and obvious inequity. By 1950 in Sweatt v. Painter, the Court was attacking subtle inequalities such as that of institutional prestige. The next step was for the Court to ask whether in fact separate institutions could ever be equal. In other words, the question was whether segregation, in itself, constituted inequality and was an infringement on a citizen's rights.
On May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education of the City of Topeka, the Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unconstitutional and that the "separate but equal" doctrine, which the Court itself had maintained for half a century, was also unconstitutional. Although the decision referred directly only to school segregation, in striking down the "separate but equal" doctrine, the Supreme Court implied that all legal segregation was unconstitutional. It contended that to separate children from other children of similar age and qualifications purely on the grounds of race generated feelings of inferiority in those children. It argued that the segregation of white and colored children in schools had a detrimental effect on the colored children. Further, the Court insisted that the damaging impact of segregation was greater when it had the sanction of law. It pointed out that segregation was usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the colored child. This resulted in a crippling psychological effect on his ability to learn by undermining his self-confidence and motivation. Therefore, segregation with the sanction of law deprived the child of equal education, and the Court concluded that it was a violation of the "equal-protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Southern whites were outraged, and they dubbed May 17 as "Black Monday." Ninety Southern Congressmen issued the "Southern Manifesto" condemning the Court decision as a usurpation of state powers. They said that the Court, instead of interpreting the law, was trying to legislate. Southern states resurrected the old doctrine of interposition which they had used against the Federal Government preceding the Civil War. Several state legislatures passed resolutions stating that the Federal Government did not have the power to prohibit segregation. Other Southerners resorted to a whole battery of tactics. The Ku Klux Klan was revived along with a host of new groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of White People. The White Citizens' councils spearheaded the resistance movement. Various forms of violence and intimidation became common. Bombings, beatings, and murders increased sharply all across the South. Outspoken proponents of desegregation were harassed in other ways as well. They lost their jobs, their banks called in their mortgages, and creditors of all kinds came to collect their debts.
In 1955 the Supreme Court declared that its desegregation decision should be carried out "with all deliberate speed." Southern school districts, however, became experts in tactics of avoiding or delaying compliance. It began to appear that each school board would have to be compelled to admit each individual Negro student. Even then, some officials said that they would never comply. They persisted in arguing that the Court had overstepped its constitutional functions. Again, the constitutional question of federal vs. state authority had come to a head just as it had a century earlier.
In 1957, the governor of Arkansas openly opposed a court decision ordering the integration of the Central High School in Little Rock. When federal marshals were sent to carry out the order, Little Rock citizens were in no mood to stand idly by and watch. Both the citizens and the local officials were united in opposing federal authority. Everyone watched to see what President Eisenhower would do in the face of this challenge. On the one hand, Eisenhower and the Republicans had condemned the increasing centralization of power in the federal government. On the other hand, Eisenhower had been a general who had been accustomed to having his subordinates carry out his orders. Eisenhower, the general, moved with decisiveness and sent troops into Little Rock to enforce the law. Although Eisenhower himself had said that men's hearts could not be changed by legislation, he diligently fulfilled his functions as the head of the Executive Branch of the government. Surprisingly enough, it was also under his administration that Congress passed the first Civil Rights Act since 1875. Although the bill was rather weak, it was an admission that the Federal government had an obligation to guarantee civil rights to individual citizens and to act on their behalf when state and local governments did not. This was a reversal of the traditional "hands off" position.
It cannot be stated with certainty that these events were merely calculated responses to the changing world situation, but the Cold War and the emergence of an independent Africa were nevertheless realities which could not be overlooked. Ghana had gained its status as an independent nation. It had also sought and gained admission to the United Nations in 1957, and in that same year, opened an embassy in Washington. African diplomats, traveling through the United States, were outraged whenever they were confronted by humiliations which were the consequence of segregation. Communist leaders, at the same time, took great pleasure in pointing out to these Africans the mistreatments of Afro-Americans within the United States. Although many Southern whites continued to insist that their freedom to maintain a separate society apart from that of the blacks was an essential part of democracy as they understood it, most Americans found legal segregation to be embarrassing in the face of America's claim to the democratic leadership of the world. Afro-Americans exploited the situation in order to involve the Federal Government in their desegregation campaign.
The Civil Rights Movement
On December 1, 1955, an obscure black woman, Mrs. Rosa Parks, was riding home on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As the bus gradually filled up with passengers, a white man demanded that she give him her seat and that she stand near the rear of the bus. Mrs. Parks, who did not have the reputation of being a troublemaker or a revolutionary, said that she was tired and that her feet were tired. The white man protested to the bus driver. When the driver also demanded that she move, she refused. Then, the driver summoned a policeman, and Mrs. Parks was arrested.
None of this was unusual. Daily, all across the South, black women surrendered their seats to demanding whites. Although most of them did it without complaint, the arrest of an obstructionist was entirely within the framework of local laws and in itself was not a noteworthy event. However, the arrest of Mrs. Parks touched off a chain reaction within Montgomery's Afro- American community. If she had been a troublemaker, the community might have thought that she had only received what she deserved. On the contrary, its citizens viewed her as an innocent, hardworking woman who had been mistreated. Her humiliation became their own.
Spontaneous protest meetings occurred all across Montgomery, and the idea of retaliating against the entire system by conducting a bus boycott took hold. Almost immediately, the call for a black boycott of Montgomery buses spread throughout the community, and car pools were quickly organized to help people in getting to and from their employment. Whites refused to believe that the black community could either organize or sustain such a campaign. Nevertheless, Montgomery buses were running half empty and all white.
The man chosen to lead the Montgomery bus boycott was a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. He and ninety others were indicted under the provisions of an anti-union law which made it illegal to conspire to obstruct the operation of a business. King and several others were found guilty, but they appealed their case. As the boycott dragged on month after month, Montgomery gained national prominence through the mass media, and King quickly gained a national reputation. When the bus company was finally compelled to capitulate and to drop its policy of segregated seating, King had become a national hero. Mass resistance, including some forms of civil disobedience, became popular as the best way to achieve racial change.
King had already given considerable thought to the question of how best to achieve social change, and, more important, to do it within the framework of moral law. His experiences with direct action techniques in Montgomery helped him to confirm and to further elaborate his thinking. His philosophy had been influenced by the writings of Henry Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi with the result that he developed an ideology of nonviolent resistance. Like Gandhi, King wanted to make clear that nonviolence was not the same as nonresistance. Both maintained that if it should come to a choice between submission and violence, violence was to be preferred. Both stressed that nonviolent resistance was not to be an excuse for cowardice. To the contrary, nonviolent resistance was the way of the strong. It meant the willingness to accept suffering but not the intention to inflict it.
King believed in nonviolent resistance both as a tactic and as a philosophy--both as means and end: ". . . the nonviolent approach does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect. It calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it so stirs the conscience of the opponent that reconciliation becomes a reality."
On the philosophical level, King said that nonviolent resistance was the key to building a new world. Throughout history, man had met violence with violence and hate with hate. He believed that only nonviolence and love could break this eternal cycle of revenge and retaliation. It was his hope that the Negro, through utilizing the philosophy of nonviolent resistance, could help to bring about the birth of a new day. To King, nonviolent resistance implied that the resister must love his enemy: "When we allow the spark of revenge in our souls to flame up in hate toward our enemies, Jesus teaches, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.'"
To him, love, in the most basic and Christian sense, did not require that the resister had to feel a surge of spontaneous sentiment, but it did mean that he had made a deep and sincere commitment to the other person's best interest. From this point of view, helping to free a racist from the shackles of his own prejudice was construed to be in his best interest and, therefore, a loving act. The Biblical injunction "Love your neighbor as yourself" meant being as concerned for his well-being as for your own. King believed that, if injustice could be attacked and overcome through a policy of nonviolent resistance, it would then lead to the creation of the "beloved community." This philosophy would become the means of reconciliation and, to put it in religious terms, would be redemptive.
King made it clear that nonviolent resistance was concerned with morality and justice and not merely with obtaining specific goals. When laws, themselves, were unjust, nonviolent resistance could engage in civil disobedience as a means of challenging those laws. Civil disobedience was not to be understood merely as law-breaking. Instead, King said that it was based in a belief in law and also in a belief in the necessity to obey the law. However, when a particular law was grossly unjust, that unjust law itself endangered society's respect for law in general. If the unjust law could not be changed through normal legal channels, deliberate breaking of that specific law might be justified. Because the person engaging in civil disobedience did believe in the value of law, he would break the unjust law openly, and he would willingly accept the consequences for breaking it. He would participate in law-breaking and accept its penalty as a means of drawing the attention of the community to the immorality of that specific law.
Largely inspired by the successful Montgomery bus boycott, mass protests and other direct action techniques began to spread rapidly throughout the South and even into the North. King was concerned that those using the technique should fully understand its meaning and value. Otherwise, he feared that it might be used carelessly and thereby distort its moral and redemptive quality. Therefore, King and a number of his supporters formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as an organization to spread these ideas and to provide help to any community which became involved in massive, nonviolent resistance protests.
On February 1, 1960, four Negro students from the Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina, entered a Woolworth's variety store and purchased several items. Then, they sat down at its lunch counter, which served whites only. When they were refused service, they took out their textbooks and began to do their homework. This protest immediately made local news. The next day, they were joined by a large number of fellow students.
In a matter of weeks, student sit-ins were occurring at segregated lunch counters all across the South. College and high school students by the thousands joined the Civil Rights Movement. These students felt the need to form their own organization to mobilize and facilitate the spontaneous demonstrations which were springing up everywhere. This resulted in the formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The S.C.L.C. and S.N.C.C. came to be the leading organizations in the Southern states. C.O.R.E.--Congress of Racial Equality--carried on the militant side of the struggle in Northern urban centers, and it involved many Northern liberals in crusades to help the movement in the South.
The N.A.A.C.P. tended to be uncomfortable with the new direct action techniques and preferred more traditional lobbying and legal tactics. It did get involved on a massive scale in giving legal aid to the thousands of demonstrators who were arrested for various legal infractions such as marching without a parade permit, disturbing the peace, and for trespassing. To some extent, the N.A.A.C.P. resented the fact that it had to carry the financial burden for the legal actions resulting from these mass protests, while the other organizations received all the publicity and most of the financial aid inspired by that publicity.
By the time the 1960 Presidential election approached, both political parties had become aware that the racial issue could not be ignored. In several Northern states, Afro-Americans held the balance of power in close elections. Also, by that year, over a million Afro-Americans had become eligible to vote in the Southern states. John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate, easily out-maneuvered his Republican opponent, Richard M. Nixon, in the search for Afro-American votes. Kennedy had projected an image of aggressive idealism which captured the imagination of white liberals and of Afro-Americans.
The move which guaranteed the support of most Afro-Americans for Kennedy came in October, a mere three weeks before the election. Martin Luther King, Jr., and several other Negroes had been arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, for staging a sit-in at a department store restaurant. While the others were released, King was sentenced to four months at hard labor. Kennedy immediately telephoned his sympathy to Mrs. King. Meanwhile, his brother and campaign manager, Robert Kennedy, telephoned the judge who had sentenced him and pleaded for his release. The next day, King was freed. The news was carefully and systematically spread throughout the entire Afro-American community. When Kennedy defeated Nixon in November, Afro-Americans believed that their vote had been the deciding factor in the close victory.
Two months after Kennedy took office, C.O.R.E., under the leadership of James Farmer, began an intensive campaign, involving "freedom rides." Scores ind scores of whites and blacks were recruited from Northern cities and sent throughout the South to test the state of desegregation of travel facilities as well as of waiting rooms and restaurants. As the campaign reached a climax, Attorney General Robert Kennedy became annoyed with its intensity. Apparently, he had hoped that the direct actionists would wait for the new Administration to take the lead in Civil Rights. Instead, they chose to try to make the new Administration live up to the image which it had projected. Kennedy requested a cooling-off period, but the freedom riders would not listen. But when the freedom riders were attacked in Montgomery, Alabama, without receiving adequate local police protection, Kennedy sent six hundred federal marshals to escort them on the rest of their pilgrimage.
The year 1963 was a target date for the Civil Rights Movement. It was the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Movement adopted the motto, "free in '63." In the spring, the S.C.L.C. spearheaded a massive campaign in Birmingham for desegregation and fair employment. Marches occurred almost daily. The marchers maintained their nonviolent tactics in the face of many arrests and much intimidation. In May, when the police resorted to the use of dogs and high-pressure water hoses, the nation and the world were shocked, Sympathy demonstrations occurred in dozens of cities all across the country, and expressions of indignation resounded from all around the world. In June, the head of Mississippi's N.A.A.C.P., Medgar Evers, was shot in the back outside his home and killed. Scores of sympathy demonstrations again reverberated throughout the country. Violence in the South was on the increase.
Although President Kennedy had intended to use his executive authority as his main weapon in securing civil rights, the mounting pressure on both sides of the conflict forced him to take more drastic action, and he submitted a Civil Rights Bill to Congress. Opponents of the Bill were particularly perturbed by the section which sought to guarantee the end of discrimination in all kinds of public accommodations--stores, restaurants, hotels, motels, etc. They claimed that this was an invasion of the owners' property rights. It soon became clear that the Bill would be entangled in a gigantic Congressional debate for months. Civil Rights supporters looked for new techniques which would bring added pressure on Congress. Again, the idea of a March on Washington was proposed, and this time it was carried through. The demonstration on August 28, 1963, was larger than any previous one in the history of the capital. At least a quarter of a million blacks and whites, from all over America, representing a wide spectrum of religious, labor, and civil rights organizations, flooded into Washington.
The occasion was peaceful and orderly. The marchers exuded an aura of interracial love and brotherhood. The emotional impact on the participants was almost that of a religious pilgrimage. President Kennedy, instead of trying to block the march as demanded by many Congressional leaders, aided it by providing security forces, and he also met Personally with a delegation of its leaders. The high point of the demonstration was Martin Luther King's famous speech:
"Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
"Now, I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the people's injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and Justice. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with -- with this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."
In November, Congressional debate on the Civil Rights Bill was still continuing, but the President had now made the passage of the Civil Rights Bill one of the most urgent goals of his Administration. But on the 22nd of November, John F. Kennedy was gunned down in the Presidential limousine in Dallas, Texas. The nation and the world were struck dumb with disbelief. Even those who had disliked his politics were horrified at the assassination of a President in a democratic state. His supporters felt that they had lost a friend as well as a leader. In fact many regarded Kennedy as a savior.
The sense of shock caused despair and gloom. The fact that his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, was a Southerner led most civil rights supporters to feel that there would be a reversal of federal policies on the racial question. However, Johnson immediately tried to reassure the nation that his intention was to carry on with the unfinished business of the Kennedy era. By the time the Bill passed in the spring of 1964, civil rights supporters felt that Johnson was as dependable an ally as Kennedy had been. Instead of the vehement opposition to the public accommodations provision of the Bill which had been expected, compliance was fairly wide-spread and came with relatively little opposition.
It soon became clear, however, that the passage of the Civil Rights Act was not the victory which would end the racial conflict. In fact, violence on both sides escalated. A Washington, D. C., Negro educator, Lemuel Penn, was gunned down by snipers as he drove through Georgia on his way home from a training session for reserve officers. Two Klansmen were charged, but they were acquitted. In Philadelphia, Mississippi, three civil rights workers--two white and one black--disappeared. The youths were later found brutally murdered. In spite of national protests, local justice was not forthcoming.
At the same time, forewarnings of anger and violence had begun to rumble in many Afro-American communities across the land. In spite of the legislative victories, most ghetto Negroes found that their daily lives had not changed. In fact, the economic gap between blacks and whites had tended to increase as whites received the benefits of prosperity in larger portions than did the blacks. Also, many ghetto residents, whose lives were surrounded with crime and violence, were further angered when they watched the evening news showing their Southern brothers kicked and clubbed by sheriffs. These ghetto residents had not been schooled in the tactics of nonviolent resistance. In the summer of 1964, race riots occurred in Harlem and Rochester, N.Y., as well as in several cities in New Jersey.
In the spring of 1965, Selma, Alabama, was the scene of a concentrated voter registration drive. The campaign was once again spearheaded by Martin Luther King and the S.C.L.C. During the demonstrations, a Black civil rights worker and a Northern Unitarian clergyman were both killed. Finally, a gigantic march was planned between Selma and the state capitol at Montgomery. State officials sought to prohibit the march. The U. S. District Judge at Montgomery, however, ordered officials to permit the march and to provide protection for the marchers. President Johnson federalized the Alabama National Guard and used it to guarantee the maintenance of law and order. When the procession reached the state capitol building, the demonstraters were addressed by two Afro-American Nobel Peace Prize winners. Ralph Bunche, who had received the award for mediating the Middle Eastern crisis, lamented the fact that he had to address an audience while standing under a Confederate flag. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had just received the award himself for his work in nonviolent resistance, told the marchers to take heart because they were on the road to victory:
"We are on the move now. The burning of our churches will not deter us. We are on the move now. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. We are on the move now. The beating and killing of our clergymen and young people will not divert us. We are on the move now. The arrest and release of known murderers will not discourage us, We are on the move now.
"Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom.
"Let us therefore continue our triumph and march to the realization of the American dream. Let us march on segregated housing, until every ghetto of social and economic depression dissolves and Negroes and whites live side by side in decent, safe and sanitary housing.
"Let us march on segregated schools until every vestige of a segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past and Negroes and whites study side by side in the socially healing context of the classroom.
"Let us march on poverty, until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may march on poverty, until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns in search of jobs that do not exist.
"Let us march on ballot boxes, march on ballot boxes until race baiters disappear from the political arena. Let us march on ballot boxes until the Wallaces of our nation tremble away in silence.
"Let us march on ballot boxes, until we send to our city councils, state legislatures, and the United States Congress men who will not fear to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. Let us march on ballot boxes until all over Alabama God's children will be able to walk the earth in decency and honor.
"For all of us today the battle is in our hands. The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways to lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. We must keep going."
Later that evening, a white woman from Detroit was shot and killed on the highway between Montgomery and Selma as she was ferrying marchers back home.
President Johnson sent a new voting rights bill to Congress which gave sweeping powers to the Attorney General's office allowing it to send federal registrars into localities to register voters when local officials were either unable or unwilling to do so. In the course of a television appearance in which Johnson announced this legislation and in which he expressed his own indignation at the events in Selma and Montgomery, he acknowledged the impact of demonstrations in pushing both the country and the Congress into taking positive action to remedy injustices. He implied that, while he did not always approve of the methods used, the demonstrators had done a positive service for justice and for the country. He promised to see the fight through to the end, and he said that it was the obligation of all good men to see that the battle was fought in the courts and through the legislative process rather than forcing it into the streets. He ended his speech by quoting the lead line from the popular civil rights hymn, "We Shall Overcome."
By 1965, the Federal Government had enacted legislation guaranteeing almost all the citizenship rights of America to Negroes and had also provided mechanisms with which to enforce this legislation. Nevertheless, the passage of a bill in Washington did not immediately secure the same right in Selma, Montgomery, or in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Each right, so it seemed, had to be fought for and won over and over again in almost each locality. Although discrimination continued and even seemed to intensify at times, it no longer carried with it the force of law. The Civil Rights Movement had, no matter what its critics said of it, accomplished one sweeping victory--the destruction of legal segregation in the United States.