Much of our memory of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is embodied in dramatic photographs, newsreels, and recorded speeches, which America encountered in daily papers and the nightly news.
As the movement rolled across the nation, Americans absorbed images of hopeful, disciplined, and dedicated young people shaping their destinies.
Houston saw school desegregation not as an end in itself, not to promote some amorphous “inclusion,” but as a major way to revolutionize American society.
The Cold War and Mc Carthyism put a hold on such expansive conceptions of civil/human rights.
Through the 1930s and much of the 1940s, the NAACP initiated suits that dismantled aspects of the edifice of segregated education, each building on the precedent of the previous one.
Not until the late 1940s did the NAACP believe it politically feasible to challenge directly the constitutionality of “separate but equal” education itself.Recognizing the interdependence of domestic and foreign affairs, the NAACP’s program in the 1920s and 1930s promoted solidarity with Haitians who were trying to end the American military occupation and with colonized blacks elsewhere in the Caribbean and in Africa.African Americans’ support for WWII and the battle against the Master Race ideology abroad was matched by equal determination to eradicate it in America, too.The NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign of the 1930s combined widespread publicity about the causes and costs of lynching, a successful drive to defeat Supreme Court nominee John J.Parker for his white supremacist and anti-union views and then defeat senators who voted for confirmation, and a skillful effort to lobby Congress and the Roosevelt administration to pass a federal anti-lynching law.In the post-war years blacks supported the decolonization of Africa and Asia.Gradualism was a smart legal strategy, but Charles Houston also knew that it was a mistake to trim political demands to suit the nation’s leaders’ ideas of propriety.The crowning achievements were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.The images are alternately angering and inspiring, powerful, iconic even.The movement encompassed both ad hoc local groups and established organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).Despite the fact that they were not always united around strategy and tactics and drew members from different classes and backgrounds, the movement nevertheless cohered around the aim of eliminating the system of Jim Crow segregation and the reform of some of the worst aspects of racism in American institutions and life.