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Please note: Not all terms associated with the Civil Rights movement are defined in this glossary. Words and concepts found here were selected based on the topics, people, events, and artworks highlighted in Oh Freedom! As you research and develop your lessons, you might need to incorporate additional terms.
abstract expressionism: Abstract expressionism is an art movement that originated in New York during the 1940s. The movement encompassed a wide variety of painting styles and techniques that emerged after World War II. Abstract expressionist paintings were non-representational and usually done on large canvases, and artists typically used large, loose brushstrokes and texture to convey emotion. Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell were key figures of the movement. Abstract expressionism had a major influence on the art world throughout the 1950s, achieving international acclaim and establishing New York as the center of the modern art world.
African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA): The African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) is a visual arts group that began in Chicago, Illinois, in 1968 under the leadership of artists Jeff Donaldson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Wadsworth Jarrell. The group wished to develop a new identity for African American art that would serve to uplift and strengthen the black community. Composed of printmakers, photographers, textile designers, and painters, the group established a list of principles, which included social responsibility and artist involvement in the community. Member artists stressed black independence and artistic self determination and agreed to employ bright colors, the human figure, lost and found lines, and lettering in their work. The group is still active today.
American Red Cross: Clara Barton and her associates founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. in 1881. It is an independent, humanitarian, volunteer-led organization that provides emergency relief and assistance to national and international disaster victims. The organization also serves as a medium of communication between members of the United States military and their families. During World War I, the organization grew rapidly to serve the needs of both the military and civilians affected by the conflict. The American Red Cross established fifty-four hospitals in Europe, primarily in France, and provided soldiers and civilians with food, clothing, medical supplies and care, and recreational services.
American Colonization Society: The American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color in the United States, known as the American Colonization Society, was formed in 1817 to help free black people emigrate from the United States to Africa. In 1822, the society created a colony in west Africa, which became the independent country of Liberia in 1847. More than ten thousand black Americans moved to Africa through the American Colonization Society.
Reverend Robert Finley, founder of the society, believed that former slaves would have greater freedom and equality in their ancestral homeland than in the United States. He also rationalized that the movement could help gradually end slavery. African colonization, however, was a matter of debate. Some condemned it because they perceived racist tendencies among some advocates. For example, slaveholders feared that former slaves would foment rebellion, so they often supported the idea of sending them abroad. Others opposed the movement because they believed in fighting for African American freedom and legal rights in the United States. After the Civil War ended, support for colonization waned, and the society formally dissolved in 1964.
black arts movement (BAM): Noted playwright, poet, music critic, and writer Amiri Baraka (Everett LeRoi Jones) started the black arts movement (BAM) in 1965 as an artistic division of the Black Power movement. BAM encompassed music, literature, and the performing and visual arts. After the assassination of Malcolm X in February 1965, artists, playwrights, poets, writers, and musicians focused on creating and producing work for black audiences that celebrated African American culture and historical experiences. The movement was a nationwide effort to formulate a black aesthetic. The black arts movement encouraged political activism and inspired the opening of African American-owned publishing houses, magazines, journals, and arts institutions. The movement ended in the mid-1970s.
black feminism: The black feminism movement emerged in the early 1970s to address the impact of sexism, racism, and classism on the lives of black women and others. Women involved in the movement believed that the efforts of neither the Civil Rights movement nor the women's movement had incorporated the struggles for equality faced by women of color. Black feminists sought the liberation of all people. Issues targeted by black feminism included reproductive rights, child care, rights for the disabled, prevention of violence against women, and preservation of the environment.
black nationalism: Black nationalism is a social and political movement that promotes black unity and black independence. The roots of black nationalism emerged in the United States during the late eighteenth century when freed African Americans sought to identify with Africa and claim it as their homeland. In the 1920s, Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) became the most powerful black nationalist organization in history, promoting the organization of an African state for blacks along with racial pride and self-help. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Nation of Islam (NOI), under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, focused on racial independence and self-help. Likewise the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s embraced black nationalism philosophies of battling racism and promoting African cultural heritage, racial pride, and self-reliance. Not all advocates of black nationalism support the creation of an independent nation. Although the movement was most prominent in the 1960s and 1970s, black nationalism still resonates with many African Americans.
Black Power movement: The Black Power movement emerged during the Civil Rights movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the intention of promoting racial pride and black interests. The movement was not formally organized and had no central leader. The term "black power" was first used in the book Black Power, written by Richard Wright in 1959. The term gained prominence in 1966, when Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), used the phrase in a speech. Carmichael defined black power as an assertion of racial pride and identity. Black Power manifested itself in a variety of forms, including the development of black-owned businesses, advocacy for the incorporation of African American studies into the curriculums at schools and universities, the election of black politicians, and some militant acts committed in the name of racial equality. Some, including Martin Luther King Jr., saw the Black Power movement as an effort to further segregate blacks and whites and thereby undo all that the Civil Rights movement had accomplished, while others saw it as a means of defense against continued racial oppression. Black Power became a political slogan that was identified with a variety of political goals during the 1960s and early 1970s. The black power movement was instrumental in helping African Americans organize community self-help groups, and it inspired the development of black politics and the celebration of racial pride in black arts and culture.
blaxploitation: Blaxploitation, a blend of the words "black" and "exploitation," describes a controversial film genre that emerged in the United States during the early 1970s. Blaxploitation was the film industry's first effort at targeting an urban African American audience. Films featured soundtracks of funk and soul music and presented black actors in primarily stereotypical roles. Plots often included criminal activities and tended to glorify violence. Despite being incredibly popular among audiences, blaxploitation films were largely opposed by civil rights groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Urban League, due to the way they depicted African Americans. Though blaxploitaton largely disappeared by the late 1970s, the genre made the film industry aware of the potential success to be had by placing black actors in key roles. Films such as Shaft (1971) and Super Fly (1972) are well known blaxploitation films.
Booker T. Washington: Booker Taliaferro Washington (1856-1915) was an author, educator, and political leader who played a major role in southern race relations in the early part of the twentieth century. Washington was born into slavery in Virginia and worked in the salt furnaces and coal mines in West Virginia after emancipation. He attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia, and then completed studies for becoming a teacher at Wayland Seminary. As a teacher, he returned to Hampton, where the school's president recommended that Washington become the first leader of a school being established for African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama.
The Tuskegee Institute opened in July 1881, and Washington served as its leader from its founding until his death. He was skilled at fundraising for the institute and at acquiring support for the creation of schools and educational institutions for African Americans throughout the South. Washington believed that creating educational opportunities would lead to options of self-employment, land ownership, and business prospects for members of his race. He thought that if African Americans became instrumental to the prosperity of the South, social and political rights would eventually be granted to them. His influential "Atlanta compromise" speech, delivered at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895, outlined his social philosophy and race strategy and urged African Americans to expand their skills as agricultural and industrial laborers. His ideas were met with great enthusiasm by white advocates of the New South, and Washington was pushed into a leadership role among the black community. His opinion was sought in areas of business, labor relations, politics, and public affairs. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery, published in 1901, offered an optimistic view of race relations in America. Opposition to his ideas came from the Niagara Movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and African American leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas: On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous ruling in the historic civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. It held that school segregation violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. Almost sixty years earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled that "separate but equal" facilities were legal in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the precedent that Brown overturned. On May 31, 1955, the Court ordered the states to integrate public schools "with all deliberate speed."
Activists had worked for decades to end the racial segregation of students. Beginning in the 1930s, lawyers from Howard University Law School and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund began a campaign. Initially, they brought lawsuits demanding equal opportunities in graduate and professional schools on behalf of African American plaintiffs. Several of these court rulings began to undermine the "separate but equal" precedent. The campaign culminated in the early 1950s, when African Americans from five different states turned to the courts to demand better education for their children. Five separate cases were filed in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Delaware. Although each case was unique, all of them involved elementary schools for black children that were inferior to those for whites, and all claimed that the "separate but equal" doctrine violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The lower courts ruled against the plaintiffs in each case, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear all five cases collectively in 1952, though the ruling is often referred to the shortened case title Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
Charles Hamilton Houston: An influential law school professor and civil rights activist, Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950) believed that training black attorneys was the key to fighting segregation and racial inequality. A lawyer himself, he helped bring numerous civil rights cases before the Supreme Court. His activism extended outside the courtroom. In 1939 he led the Marian Anderson Citizens Committee, which coordinated the historic Easter Sunday concert by renowned opera singer Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial.
Born in Washington, D.C., Houston taught English at Howard University for two years before serving in World War I as a second lieutenant in a segregated unit of the U.S. Army in France. After returning to the United States in 1919, he attended Harvard Law School. Houston went on to practice law and teach at Howard University Law School. He then led the Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he worked on several prominent civil rights cases.
Civil Rights Act of 1964: Signed into United States law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1964, the Civil Rights Act was a milestone piece of legislation that banned discriminatory employment practices, outlawed segregation in businesses like hotels and restaurants, ended segregation in public places and facilities, such as swimming pools, schools, and libraries, and made unequal application of voter registration requirements illegal. It did not, however, abolish the use of literacy tests, which were often used to disqualify African Americans and poor whites from voting. The act also created the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) to review complaints of discrimination in the workplace. The passage of the Civil Rights Act essentially invalidated the Jim Crow laws that existed throughout the southern United States. The act was considered to be the most extensive legislation on civil rights since Reconstruction, signifying the changing social conditions throughout the nation, primarily the improving quality of life for African Americans and other minority groups.
Emmett Till: Emmett Louis Till (1941-1955) was an African American boy who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white woman, thus becoming an important figure in the Civil Rights movement. Till, who was born in Chicago, traveled to Money, Mississippi, in August 1955 to visit family. His mother, Mamie Till, warned her son about Mississippi's Jim Crow laws and practices but allowed him to go despite her reservations. Soon after Till's arrival in Money, he went to a local grocery store, where he bought some bubble gum and allegedly whistled at the white female shopkeeper. Three days after the reported incident, Till was abducted from his bed early in the morning and brutally beaten and killed by two white men, one the husband of the shopkeeper, Roy Bryant, and the other Bryant's half brother, J. W. Milam. The two men were arrested for kidnapping. After Till's body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the governor of Mississippi ordered the full prosecution of Bryant and Milam for kidnapping and murder. Till's mutilated body was returned to his mother in Chicago, where she, believing that the world needed to know what had happened to her son, held an open casket service for him.
The horrific murder of Till brought international attention to racism and segregationist practices in Mississippi and throughout the South. Graphic images of Till's body were published in magazines and newspapers throughout the United States and abroad. The violent crime and the acquittal on September 23, 1955, of Bryant and Milam, who were tried by a jury of twelve white men (women and blacks were not permitted to serve), outraged many, who unsuccessfully urged the federal government to intervene. Till's killers went unpunished despite their public confession in Look magazine in January 1956. Till's murder inspired young African Americans to pay closer attention to civil rights issues and to get involved in the movement towards social transformation in the United States. Only a few months after Till's murder, the Montgomery bus boycott began in Alabama.
Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972: The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 made significant amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act gave the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) authority to pursue legal action again non-governmental respondents, including employers and unions, that maintained discriminatory practices. The act also expanded Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964which made it illegal for employers, unions, employment agencies, and joint apprenticeship or training committees to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, or national originto include federal, state, and local governments, educational institutions of all levels both public and private, public and private employment agencies, and labor unions of fifteen or more members.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Created by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United States Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) was tasked with the mission of eliminating illegal discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC began operating in July 1965, and the understaffed and still developing agency received over 8,000 charges of discrimination during its first year. Under the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC did not, however, have the power to enforce compliance with the law through litigation. Thus many civil rights groups referred to the EEOC as a "toothless tiger." Congress finally awarded litigation enforcement authority to the EEOC as part of the Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1972. Today the agency enforces federal laws that make discrimination against job applicants and employees because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (over forty), disability, or genetic information illegal.
expressionism: Expressionism is an art movement that emerged in Europe in the early twentieth century. In expressionist art, the image of reality is generally changed in color or form to express the artist's inner feelings about the subject depicted. Color can be very vibrant and is not often naturalistic, while brushwork is loose and paint may be generously applied.
Executive Order 9981: Executive Order 9981, issued by President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1948, committed the government to integrating the United States military. The order stated, "There shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order was met with some resistance by the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, nearly all branches were integrated.
feminism: Feminism is the belief in and support of equal rights within a society for women and girls. The term may also describe the political, cultural, and economic movements that sought equal rights in the areas of voting, employment and business opportunities, education, and legal protection. Feminism in the United States is often separated into three waves. The first wave occurred in the nineteenth century, when women fought for suffrage and equality in property rights and marriage relationships. The second wave emerged in the 1960s alongside the Civil Rights movement and is sometimes referred to as women's liberation. During this period, issues such as equality in the workplace and educational opportunities were addressed. The third wave emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, when feminism expanded across class and race lines. Many argued that the earlier movements had focused exclusively on the struggles of middle-class, white women.
Folk art: Folk art describes works of art that are created by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training in art. Folk art can be created in any medium—such as fabric, stone, wood, paint, or clay—and in any style. These works can be highly personal. They can be made and kept for private use or to form vocal public displays.
Freedom Rides: Freedom Rides were a series of protests between May and November 1961, when about four hundred volunteers rode buses and trains into the South to challenge racial segregation in public transportation. Supreme Court rulings in 1946 (Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia) and 1960 (Boynton v. Virginia) outlawed racial segregation in interstate buses and railways and in associated facilities such as dining counters, waiting rooms, and restrooms. Despite these federal court decisions, many parts of the South continued to enforce local segregation laws.
The first Freedom Ride, on May 4, 1961, was organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). A group of thirteen riders who had been trained in nonviolent protest traveled from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, Louisiana, to test whether buses and stations complied with the Supreme Court rulings. When attempting to integrate, the Freedom Riders met with violence, including the burning of a bus in Anniston, Alabama, and riots in Birmingham, Alabama. After these incidents, recruits from the Nashville Student Movement joined the original CORE protesters. More rides followed, and by early summer, hundreds of activists from many civil rights organizations participated.
Freedom Rides drew national attention and pressured the federal government to enforce national transportation laws. On September 22, 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawed discriminatory seating practices on interstate buses and ordered the removal of "whites only" and "colored only" signs from rail and bus stations. Although changes were not immediate, the Freedom Rides were successful because they gained a sympathetic national audience.
Great Depression: The Great Depression was the severe economic depression that affected the industrialized western world between the years 1929 and 1939. The collapse of the United States stock market in 1929, which led to a dramatic downturn of the American economy that ultimately spread throughout the industrialized world, marked the beginning of the Great Depression. Banks failed, companies went bankrupt, and by 1932, nearly a quarter of Americans were unemployed. The environment played its own part in making life in America difficult during this period. The Dust Bowl curtailed agricultural production in the Great Plains, and the flooding of the Tennessee River Valley destroyed crops in the southeastern states. The election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 brought some hope to Americans. His New Deal helped create jobs, build infrastructure, and stabilize the economy. The United States did not fully recover from the economic devastation of the Great Depression until World War II.
Great Migration: The Great Migration was the voluntary emigration of a large number of African Americans from the southern United States to areas in the Northeast, Midwest, and West between 1910 and 1930. Migrants were searching for employment in industrial cities, educational opportunities, and an escape from the discrimination and segregation imposed by Jim Crow laws in the South. The migration was also partially inspired by the South's struggling agricultural system, which left many African Americans poor and jobless. A second migration of African Americans from the South took place between the years 1940 and 1970. These years of emigration altered the demographic structure of the nation and changed the cultural, political, economic, and social lives of African Americans.
Harlem Community Art Center: Organized and funded through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Harlem Community Art Center opened in November 1938 as a place where members of the Harlem community could take part in art classes for little or no charge. The sculptor and educator Augusta Savage was the first director of the center, and writer and graphic artist Gwendolyn Bennett later took over leadership. In the sixteen months the center operated before funding ran out, it served an estimated 80,000 adult and youth students, including several students who were or became very accomplished artists, including Jacob Lawrence and Roy DeCarava.
Harlem Renaissance: The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement in the 1920s and 1930s that took place in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. Home to a large number of middle-class blacks, Harlem was a cultural center for the African American community and was referred to as "the capital of black America." First called the New Negro movement, the Harlem Renaissance was a time of change in the black community, when literature and the arts flourished. Works of literature, plays, poetry, artworks, and musicespecially jazzproduced during this period celebrated the cultural traditions of African Americans and were absorbed into mainstream American culture.
Jim Crow: The name Jim Crow comes from a song in a minstrel show that was popular in the nineteenth century. At the end of Reconstruction in 1877, state and local laws and practices emerged forbidding African Americans from using the same public accommodations as whites. These laws (18761965) and associated discriminating practices became known as Jim Crow laws. During this time African Americans were treated as second-class citizens, and their civil and human rights were limited. State laws and societal practices imposed economic, educational, and social disadvantages on African Americans, and they were given inferior accommodations in areas such as schools, medical facilities and care, and public transportation. The legality of such segregationist practices was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in 1896 with their decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the constitutionality of laws requiring racial segregation in private business under the doctrine of "separate but equal." Jim Crow lasted well into the civil rights era of the 1960s throughout the United States, though such laws were most prominent in southern and border states. Three major actsthe 1954 United States Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas, which declared state-sponsored segregation in schools unconstitutional; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Voting Rights Act of 1965ended the era of Jim Crow.
Ku Klux Klan (KKK): The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the most famous hate group in the United States. First organized in 1865 by a group of Confederate veterans in Tennessee, the secret fraternal society operates on a philosophy of white supremacy and utilizes brutal tactics as a means of intimidation. Strongly opposed to the Reconstruction-era changes instituted in the southern states, the Klan terrorized African Americans who attempted to exercise their new rights. While Klan activity subsided somewhat after Reconstruction, the group has had two significant revivals in the twentieth century. The first revival occurred between 1910 and the mid-1920s. During these years, the group's membership soared to nearly four million members, with especially strong numbers in the Midwest. The Klan used intimidation to influence politics, and the majority of their aggressions during this time were focused upon African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. The second rise in activity took place during the 1950s and 1960s, when the Klan focused on opposing the Civil Rights movement and desegregation. The violent nature of the Klan's tactics (murder, lynching, assault, destruction of property) makes the Ku Klux Klan a terrorist group. Despite legal condemnation of their actions, the KKK continues to be active today but on a reduced scale.
Langston Hughes: Missouri-born James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was an activist and writer known for capturing the joys and challenges of black life during the Harlem Renaissance. He moved to New York City in 1921 and enrolled in Columbia University, where he wrote his first poems. He also wrote for Crisis, the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Within a few years, Hughes published a book of poems, The Weary Blues, which gained wide acclaim. Hughes intended those poems to be performed along with music in Harlem nightclubs. Although he wrote plays, novels, and essays, he is best remembered for his verse.
Malcolm X: Born Malcolm Little (1925-1965) in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm X was a Muslim minister, human rights activist, and powerful speaker. His father, an early supporter of Marcus Garvey and an active leader in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), instilled ideals of black pride and self-reliance in his children. After his father died and his mother was committed to a mental hospital, Malcolm was placed in foster homes and eventually dropped out of school. As a teenager he moved to Boston, and later New York, where he became involved in drugs, burglaries, and gambling. While serving a prison sentence for grand larceny, Malcolm began educating himself and became acquainted with the Nation of Islam (NOI). Upon his release in 1952, he joined the NOI and replaced the surname Little with X. Malcolm X quickly rose to acclaim within the NOI and was named assistant minister in 1953. He was a charismatic public speaker with a strong physical presence that attracted many African Americans to the NOI in the 1950s and 1960s. Malcolm X criticized other civil rights activists' ideas of non-violence and encouraged black nationalism, racial pride, and self-defense. In 1964, however, he left the NOI, after developing a new perspective and new understanding of the Muslim religion during trips to Africa and a pilgrimage to Mecca. He became a Sunni Muslim, established the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), and began to work with leaders of the non-violent Civil Rights movement while continuing to advocate black nationalism. While speaking at an OAAU rally in Harlem in 1965, Malcolm X was shot and killed. Three members of the NOI were convicted of his assassination. Many people continue to hail Malcolm X as a hero, and his ideas inspired many in the struggle for civil rights, including Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther party, and Everett LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), leader of the black arts movement.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a civil rights demonstration held on Wednesday, August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. More than two hundred thousand people gathered peacefully to promote social and economic equality for African Americans. A Philip Randolph, a longtime labor and civil rights leader, conceived the idea for the march and formed a coalition with civil rights organizations and their leaders. They included Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Whitney Young Jr. of the National Urban League, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), James Farmer of the Conference of Racial Equality (CORE), and John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
The event began at the Washington Monument with a rally. Participants then marched about one mile down the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial. The program at the Lincoln Memorial included performances by renowned opera singer Marian Anderson, gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, and speeches from civil rights and religious leaders including Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous I Have a Dream speech, during which he said, "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." March leaders ended the day meeting President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House, where they discussed the need for civil rights legislation. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 reflects some of the demands of the march and are landmark achievements of decades of civil rights activism.
Marcus Garvey: Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) was the founder and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). A vocal and assertive advocate of black self-help, racial pride, and the unification of people of African ancestry, Garvey had a major impact on culture and politics throughout the world. Born in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, in 1887, Marcus Garvey was an avid reader as a child and attended school until age fourteen. He worked as a printer and journalist and traveled in Central America before attending college in London in 1912. His travels convinced him that black people would need to join together if they wanted to improve their quality of life. After returning to Jamaica, Garvey organized the UNIA. Eager to establish a Jamaican school similar to the Tuskegee Institute, he traveled to the United States in 1916. He toured the country, where his ideas on social, political, and economic freedom were well received by working-class African Americans. In 1917, Garvey and thirteen associates set up UNIA headquarters in Harlem. The organization quickly grew to one million members. However, his Pan-African philosophy, desire to set up an African state for black people, and thoughts on the segregation of races were not well received by W. E. B. Du Bois and other civil rights activists. After Garvey was deported to Jamaica in 1927 following a prison sentence for a mail fraud conviction, the UNIA declined in influence and prestige. Garvey, however, remained true to his causes, forming Jamaica's first modern political party, the People's Political Party, in 1929, and writing and advocating for the freedom of blacks until his death. Although a controversial figure, he was one of the most recognized African Americans of his day and is still hailed as a national hero in Jamaica.
Martin Luther King Jr.: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a clergyman, social activist, and renowned leader of the non-violent Civil Rights movement . King grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where his father was a Baptist minister. He entered Morehouse College at the age of 15, and after graduating, he attended Crozer Theological Seminary, where he became acquainted with the theories of Mohandas Gandhi. He went on to earn a PhD from Boston University. While in Boston, he met his wife, Coretta Scott King, who also was active in the Civil Rights movement.
In 1955, while working as a minister, King led the Montgomery bus boycott, which brought the issue of civil rights to national attention. He helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, which worked to end all forms of segregation. King was an eloquent and skilled speaker who utilized media, especially television, to draw attention and support to the issues of civil rights. His non-violent methods of protest included activities such as sit-ins and marches. In 1963, he worked with other civil rights activists to organize a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which he delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his efforts to end racial segregation and discrimination. On April 3, 1968, King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was working in support of a strike by African American sanitation workers. In 1986, a national holiday was instituted in the United States honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and his efforts to peacefully bring about change. A national memorial commemorating his life and work is on display in Washington, D.C.
middle passage: The middle passage was the middle, or second, leg of the transatlantic trade triangle used to transport goods and slaves between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. In the first leg, ships loaded with goods from Europe traveled to West Africa, where their cargo was traded for imprisoned Africans destined for slavery. Once loaded with the human cargo, the ships sailed to the Caribbean or North or South America. This leg of the trip, referred to as the middle passage, lasted between six and eight weeks. The close quarters and deplorable conditions in which the Africans were held led to suicide attempts, the spread of disease, and death. Upon arrival in the Caribbean or the Americas, the captured Africans were traded for raw materials like sugar, tobacco, or rice. On the final leg of the voyage, the ship returned to Europe with the goods received in trade for the slaves.
Million Man March: The Million Man March was held on Monday, October 16, 1995 in Washington, D.C. More than four hundred thousand peopleprimarily African American males from schools, churches, and social organizations from across the countrygathered on the National Mall to address social and economic problems in many black communities. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, organized the march. He urged participants to "take responsibility for their lives and families, and commit to stopping the scourges of drugs, violence and unemployment."
Although the March had the support of many civil rights leaders, it was not without controversy. Some commentators wondered whether the effectiveness of the march would be compromised by Farrakhan's inflammatory remarks about race and religion. Female civil rights leaders believed that the march's male focus excluded women.
Montgomery bus boycott: The Montgomery bus boycott was a 381-day protest of the segregated seating policies on Montgomery, Alabama's public transit system. The boycott began on December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, was arrested for refusing the bus driver's order to give her seat to a white man. At the time, public transit policy required blacks to pay their fare at the front of the bus and then re-board and sit at the back. Should the bus fill, black passengers were expected to give up their seats to white passengers. After Parks's arrest, local members of the NAACP and other black community leaders planned a one-day boycott of the city's buses to coincide with Parks's trial. They formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and elected a local minister, Martin Luther King Jr., to be their president and lead the boycott. It is estimated that 42,000 black residents of Montgomery participated in the boycott, which followed King's philosophy of non-violent resistance and extended beyond Parks's trail to last for 381 days. Because the majority of bus ridership in Montgomery was black, the campaign crippled the transit system financially. Black residents took taxis, carpooled, and walked wherever they needed to go. In February 1956, black lawyer and civil rights activist Fred Gray filed Browder vs. Gayle in U.S. District Court, challenging the constitutionality of bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama. In June 1956, federal judges ruled that the bus segregation laws were unconstitutional, but the decision was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court for appeal. In November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the district court's ruling. The decision led to a Montgomery city ordinance enabling black passengers to sit anywhere they wished on city buses, and on December 20, 1956, the boycott ended. The Montgomery bus boycott was instrumental in bringing the nation's attention to civil rights issues and made Martin Luther King Jr. a leading figure in the movement.
Nation of Islam: The Nation of Islam (NOI) is an African American religious organization that combines elements of Islamic teachings and black nationalism. It was founded in Detroit, Michigan, in 1930 by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad (1877-1934), who spoke of freedom, justice, and equality for people of African descent and declared that Islam was the true religion of blacks. His message was welcomed by poor and working-class African Americans hit hard by the Depression. Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole, 1897--1975) took over leadership of the NOI in 1935 and promoted economic advancement, self-help, racial unity, and a strict code of discipline. In 1952, Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little, 1925-1965) converted to Islam and became the public face of the NOI. During the 1950s and 1960s, membership grew extensively. One of the NOI's most notable converts was heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay, 1942), who brought his affiliation with the NOI to national attention when he claimed conscientious objector status after being classified draft-eligible for the United States Army. In 1964, Malcolm X separated from the NOI, and since Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975, the organization has undergone several changes in leadership and direction. The current leader of the Nation of Islam is Louis Farrakhan (born Louis Eugene Walcott, 1933), who organized the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., in 1995.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): Founded in 1909 by a group of social and political activists in New York, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest, largest, and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Mary White Ovington, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois, Henry Moskowitz, and William English Walling formed the organization in response to the practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, Illinois. They wished to promote equality and eradicate racial discrimination.
Now more than one hundred years old, the NAACP continues to work toward removing all barriers of racial discrimination through the democratic process. The NAACP's mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. Currently the organization focuses on disparities in economics, health care, education, voter empowerment, and the criminal justice system.
New Negro movement: The New Negro movement of the early 1900s was an effort on the part of African Americans to use art and literature to redefine how they were viewed by America. The movement brought about a new sense of pride within the African American community in regards to race and culture and made way for the Harlem Renaissance, a period in which arts and literature flourished in the African American community. Key figures in the New Negro movement were professor Alain Locke, writer Zora Neale Hurston, poet Langston Hughes, and painters Aaron Douglas and William H. Johnson. The term "new Negro" had been used prior to the movement. Initially it described recently transplanted slaves to the New World; it then referred to emancipated slaves, and later to politically active African Americans.
Niagara movement: The Niagara movement was an African American civil rights group that began with a meeting at Niagara Falls in July 1905. W .E. B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter gathered a group of twenty-nine professional African American men to discuss the challenges faced by people of color in the United States and possible strategies for gaining full rights for African Americans. The men called themselves the Niagara movement after the location of their first meeting and the "mighty current of change" they wanted to create. Members of the movement opposed racial segregation and the accommodationist philosophies of Booker T. Washington. The group drafted a declaration of principles, which addressed issues of employment, education, economics, health care, housing, and suffrage. The Niagara movement differed from other African American organizations of the time in that it demanded equal rights for all. By the end of its first year, the group had more than 150 members active in more than thirty states. Subsequent annual meetings took place in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (1906), Boston, Massachusetts (1907), and Oberlin, Ohio (1908), but the stresses of internal disagreements, lack of leadership, and limited funds caused the group to disband in 1911. Many members of the movement, including Du Bois went on to help create the NAACP.
photojournalist: A photojournalist is a reporter or journalist who shares news stories by taking photographs. Their photographs tell an objective story of a specific time or event. Photojournalists are employed by newspapers, journals, magazines, television stations, and websites.
Public Works of Art Project: During the Great Depression, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was the first of the New Deal art programs that put unemployed visual artists to work. Between December 1933 and June 1934, the PWAP funded 3,750 artists who produced 15,600 artworks at a cost of $1,312,000. The enormous success of this program spawned several other New Deal arts initiatives.
Reconstruction: Reconstruction is the name of the period immediately following the Civil War, from 1865 to 1877, when the issue of restoring the South was addressed. Reconstruction was a turbulent era in American history, marked by controversy over how the eleven seceding states would rejoin the Union, debate over the constitutional and legal rights of freedmen, and questions about how to rebuild the economy. The passing of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments provided African Americans with new freedoms, but enforcement of the rights granted by these amendments proved difficult in the southern states. Reconstruction changed race relations in America, brought the first public schools to the south, and allowed for the election of several African Americans to political offices on local and state levels.
regionalism: Regionalism is a modern American realist art movement that was popular between 1930 and 1945. Artists of the movement were called regionalists, and they created images of everyday life in America. They rejected the styles of European abstract art and painted in a representational style that could be easily understood by viewers. Work by regionalist artists such as Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry showed scenes of small towns, the Midwest's rural heartland, and current events. The images evoked a sense of hope and pride that appealed to many Americans suffering through the Great Depression. Sometimes regionalist artists are called American scene painters.
Julius Rosenwald Fellowships: Julius Rosenwald Fellowships, awarded between 1928 and 1948, helped hundreds of black artists, writers, and scholars further their professional studies and become leaders in their respective fields. Recipients included W. E. B. Du Bois and artists Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks, Augusta Savage, and Charles White.
Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), a wealthy businessman who made most of his money as CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Company, created the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which was dedicated to improving race relations and advancing educational opportunities for African Americans. The Rosenwald Fund administered the Rosenwald Fellowships and other philanthropic programs, such as the Rosenwald Schools.
Rosenwald schools: Rosenwald schools were conceived and partially funded by Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), a wealthy clothier and businessman, to improve education for African American children in the rural South. He helped communities pay for the construction of some 5,000 public schools and teacher's homes between 1913 and 1932. Rosenwald collaborated with Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute to build the first Rosenwald schools in Alabama. In 1917, Rosenwald formed the Julius Rosenwald Fund to administer the expanding Rosenwald school project and his other philanthropic activities.
segregation: In a Civil Rights context, segregation is the act or process of separating, through legal or social means, African Americans from other races, but it can also refer to separation of other racial or ethnic minorities from the majority mainstream society. De jure segregation refers to the intentional actions by the government to enforce racial segregation by law. De jure is a Latin expression that means "in law." For example, the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson ruled that "separate but equal facilities" were legal. The Jim Crow laws in the southern states that followed are examples of de jure segregation. This form of segregation was ended by federal enforcement of a series of Supreme Court decisions that were put into place after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954. De facto segregation is segregation that is not ordered by law, but it occurs in practice anyway without being officially established. De facto is a Latin expression that means "in fact." An example of de facto segregation is the separation of individuals of one race in residential neighborhoods. De facto segregation continues to occur in varying degrees today without sanction of law.
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): African American college students in the South founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC (pronounced "snick") in April 1960 to end racial discrimination. The SNCC began with the student-led sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's use of nonviolent civil disobedience in India, SNCC leaders sponsored workshops where they taught nonviolent direct action, which they would use in the 1961 Freedom Rides, the March on Washington in 1963, and voter education projects in Mississippi in 1964. In the later 1960s, under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael, SNCC focused on Black Power and protesting the Vietnam War. In 1969, SNCC officially changed its name to the Student National Coordinating Committee to reflect the broadening of its strategies. The organization disbanded in the 1970s.
social realism: Social realism is an art movement that was popular in America during the 1930s. Artists called social realists created realistic scenes of urban areas that brought attention to current social and political injustices. By focusing their art on the everyday hardships of the poor and working classes, social realists tried to send messages of protest and the need for reform. Issues such as racial discrimination, lynching, and the rights of American workers were topics important to social realists. Ben Shahn, Jack Levine, Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Douglas, and John Steuart Curry are well-known social realists.
Spiral: Spiral was an African American artist group active between 1963 and 1966. The group met weekly, first in the apartment of Romare Bearden and later in a rented space, to discuss aesthetics, artistic practice, and the challenges members faced as African American artists. The artists named the group Spiral after the Archimedean spiral, which moves outward from a starting point while moving upward at the same time. The group was made up of fifteen artists, including organizers Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Charles Alston, and Hal Woodruff. Only one woman, Emma Amos, was a member of the group. Skills and interests varied greatly, causing friction among the group, but members' collective frustrations at not finding collectors, representation in galleries, or support from museums unified them. Members put together one group exhibition entitled Spiral Works in Black and White (1965). All members contributed a piece in black and white, many of which were abstract. While the show was a success, the group split soon after the show closed.
Tuskegee Institute: Established in 1881 in Tuskegee, Alabama, first in a church and a year later on the grounds of a former plantation, the Tuskegee Institute is a private, historically black institute of higher learning that began as a normal school (teacher's college) and agricultural school for free men, freed slaves, and their children. Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was the founding head of the school, and noted scientist George Washington Carver (1864-1943) led the Agricultural Department for forty-seven years. In 1985, Tuskegee Institute became Tuskegee University, and today, Tuskegee has a student body of about 3,000 and offers thirty-nine undergraduate programs and a number of advanced degrees.
Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA): Organized as a fraternal association dedicated to racial uplift and promoting the establishment of educational and industrial opportunities for blacks, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was started by Marcus Garvey in Jamaica in 1914. After moving to the United States, Garvey set up the association's headquarters in Harlem in 1917. He advocated economic and political independence for blacks, self-help, racial pride, and unity among people of African ancestry. He hoped to establish an African state for black people. Under Garvey's leadership, the UNIA became the largest black organization in history, with a membership in the early 1920s of over one million people and with more than 800 chapters in forty countries. Much of the UNIA's support came from within the United States, particularly from working-class African Americans in northern cities who were in search of economic stability and relief from racism. The UNIA's promotion of economic independence for all people of African descent led the organization to set up several business, including grocery stores, restaurants, laundries, a greeting card company, and a publishing house. Probably the most recognized endeavor was the Black Star Line—a shipping company that Garvey hoped would lead to worldwide commerce trade among black communities. Support and membership in the UNIA declined dramatically after Garvey was sent to prison for mail fraud in 1925 and later deported, but the UNIA's messages of self-reliance and racial pride remained with many African Americans and served as inspiration for the black nationalism movement and for leaders such as Malcolm X. Different organizations exist today under the same or similar names, but their efforts and ideology are not quite the same as that of the UNIA led by Garvey.
W. E. B. Du Bois: William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) was a civil rights activist, author, editor, historian, professor, and sociologist. Raised in Massachusetts by a single mother, Du Bois found early success in academics, which was encouraged by his teachers. He graduated from Fisk University in Nashville and then received a scholarship to attend Harvard, where he was the university's first African American student to earn a PhD. His interest in sociology led him to study the condition of blacks in America. He taught at two universities before starting the Department of Social Work at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Du Bois wrote numerous books and essays about being African American in American society and about African American history. He played key roles in the founding of both the Niagara Movement and the NAACP. Du Bois was also an early supporter of Pan-Africanism. Considered to be the most recognized African American political leader of the early twentieth century, Du Bois's writings and efforts made significant contributions to the pursuit of racial equality.
William E. Harmon Foundation: The William E. Harmon Foundation was a nonprofit, private foundation dedicated to encouraging and stimulating individuals to self-help. The foundation was established in 1922 by William E. Harmon (1862-1928), a successful real estate developer and philanthropist who was interested in the art and literature being produced by African Americans in the 1920s. Early foundation projects included funding parks and playgrounds and providing education loans to disadvantaged students. In 1926, the foundation recognized efforts of African Americans in the visual arts, music, literature, science, education, and race relations. In 1928, the foundation sponsored an exhibition of works created by African American artists. Between 1928 and 1933, the foundation sponsored 500 juried exhibitions, at which the work of 125 African American artists was shown. The foundation ran under the directorship of Mary Bettie Brady from 1922 until it dissolved in 1967.
Works Progress Administration (WPA): The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was the largest New Deal agency. Created by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the WPA provided nearly eight million jobs to out-of-work Americans. The WPA constructed bridges, buildings, parks, and roads, created large arts, drama, and literacy projects, and distributed food, clothing, and housing. Through the WPA's Federal Art Project (FAP), about 5,000 unemployed artists painted canvases, murals, and posters for public buildings across the country. From August 1935 through June 1943, FAP artists created 225,000 works of art for the American people.
World War I: World War I was an international military conflict that involved the majority of the world's most powerful countries. The war began in the summer of 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and continued through late 1918. World War I was the first time in history that so many countries had gone to war at the same time. Tactics and technology aided in the creation of a new kind of warfare that made World War I one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million people killed. New to war were telephones, armored cars, tanks, poisonous gas, and machine guns. The Allied Powers, made up of Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Japan, and the United States (after 1917), fought against and finally defeated the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. More than 350,000 African Americans served in segregated units during World War I.
World War II: World War II was a global military conflict that was fought on multiple continents and involved most of the world's nations. The war began with Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ended with the Japanese surrender in September 1945. In what was to become the deadliest conflict in history, with over sixty million people killed, the Allies, consisting of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and other smaller nations, fought the Axis Powers, which included Germany, Italy, and Japan. Though most branches of the United States military were segregated during the war, more than one million African Americans soldiers served during World War II and units such as the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American pilots, emerged as major contributors to the war effort.
1936 Summer Olympics: The 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin, Germany, was one of the most controversial Olympics in history. The International Olympic Committee granted the honor of hosting the games to Berlin in 1931, before Hitler had risen to power, and was intended to signal Germany's return to the world community following World War I. Due to the politics of Nazi Germany, extensive debates about boycotting the 1936 Olympics took place in many countries, including the United States, but ultimately the United States and forty-eight other nations competed in the games, resulting in the largest representation of countries in the history of the competition up to that point. Jewish athletes were prohibited from competing on Germany's Olympic team with the exception of one partly Jewish female fencer, Helene Mayer, who won a silver medal. In total, nine Jewish athletes won medals at the Games. Eighteen African American athletes competed for the United States, despite the discrimination they faced on American soil. Of the fifty-six medals the United States won at the 1936 Games, fourteen were won by African Americans, including four by noted track and field athlete Jesse Owens.