If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
“…the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama campus to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.”
Draft of the President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights speech on June 11, 1963, written by Theodore S. Sorensen with notes by Robert F. Kennedy, following Alabama Governor George Wallace’s refusal to admit two African American applicants to the University of Alabama, James Hood and Vivian Malone Jones.
Click to see the full draft as well as the final speech, which was delivered by the President nationwide on radio and television.
“I respectfully remind you sir, that we have been the most patient of all people.”
-Letter from Jackie Robinson to President Eisenhower of May 13, 1958
After he retired from Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson went on to champion the cause of civil rights from his position as a prominent executive of the Chock Full o’Nuts Corporation.
Robinson had grown increasingly impatient with what he regarded as President Eisenhower’s failure to act decisively in combating racism. In this letter dated May 13, 1958, he expresses his frustration and calls upon the President to finally guarantee Federal support of black civil rights.
Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. This decision would not only integrate baseball, but would help the country work to achieve equal rights for all. Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., once commented to baseball pitcher Don Newcombe, “Don, you and Jackie will never know how easy you made my job, through what you went through on the baseball field.”
Before becoming famous, Lt. Jack R. Robinson was court-martialed at Camp Hood, Texas, because he refused to move to the back of the bus after being told to do so by a bus driver and disobeying an order from a superior officer. Robinson was acquitted of all charges and received an honorable discharge, but this was not the only experience he would have in fighting discrimination.
After retiring from baseball, Robinson turned much of his attention to civil rights issues. He wrote to several Presidents about the cause, and even attended the March on Washington.
Many of these milestone events from Robinson’s life are documented in primary sources from the National Archives.
March 20, 1965. LBJ holds a news conference from the LBJ Ranch to announce that he has federalized the Alabama National Guard at Governor Wallace’s request.
“I have called selected elements of the Alabama National Guard into Federal Service. Additionally, I have military police put in position at both Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. In addition, we have Federal marshals, FBI agents on duty in that area at this time….
“Over the next several days the eyes of the Nation will be upon Alabama, and the eyes of the world will be upon America. It is my prayer, a prayer in which I hope all Americans will join me earnestly today, that the march in Alabama may proceed in a manner honoring our heritage and honoring all for which America stands.”
Read the full text here.
Plaintiffs’ Proposed Plan for March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965
This plan submitted to the court pertains to the march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama in support of voting rights in 1965. In association with this lawsuit, the marchers submitted a plan for the court’s approval defining their proposed route, number of participants, distance covered per day, and other details.
Check out our newest blog! “Rediscovering Black History: Updates from the National Archives” is now live.
This blog is a partner project to the work of National Archives staff who are updating Dr. Debra Newman Ham’s guide “Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives,” originally published in 1984.
The updated version of this award-winning black history guide will be more user friendly. It will also introduce non-traditional researchers to the valuable resources that the National Archives has to offer regarding the black experience.
Visit the blog at http://blogs.archives.gov/blackhistoryblog/
Image: Letter from Ida B. Wells to “Mrs. Dawes” ARC Identifier 578368. Ida B. Wells was among many individuals who wrote to the Department of Justice demanding Federal help to fight racial violence. Read the full story of this letter on the blog!
Rosa Parks, the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” would have turned 100 today (February 4, 1913 - October 24, 2005):
Fingerprint Card of Rosa Parks
Aurelia S. Browder et al. v. W. A. Gayle et al., No. 1147, from the Civil Cases series of the Records of District Courts of the United States
On December 1, 1955, during a typical evening rush hour in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42 year-old woman took a seat near the front of the bus on her way home from the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress. Before she reached her destination, she quietly set off a social revolution when the bus driver instructed her to move, and she refused. The bus driver called the police and they arrested Rosa Parks, an African American woman of unchallenged character.
The African-American community of Montgomery organized a boycott of the buses in protest of the discriminating treatment they had endured for years. The boycott, under the leadership of 26-year-old minister Martin Luther King, Jr., was a peaceful, coordinated protest that lasted 381 days and captured world attention.
Rosa Parks’ legacy is being honored with a special document display and programs at the National Archives during the month of February.
Rosa Parks, the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” will be honored with a special document display and programs at the National Archives during the month of February:
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat to a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This act inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by a young Martin Luther King, Jr., and began a movement that ended legal segregation in America.
Join us Monday, February 4, at noon for a special program celebrating her centennial year.
William S. Pretzer introduces the 2002 documentary Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks (40 mins.) Presented in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The program is free! Enter through the “Special Events” extrance on Constitution Avenue. Doors open at 6:30. Take the Green/Yellow Metro lines to the “Archives” stop.
Image: Rosa Parks at the ceremony awarding her the Congressional Gold Medal, June 15, 1999. William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives
“Equal pay or no pay at all”
In this letter, Col. E. N. Hallowell—who took command of the 54th Massachusetts after Col. Robert G. Shaw was killed—declined the state’s offer to make up the difference in Federal pay for white and black soldiers. This was in accordance with the wishes of his men, who refused to accept any pay until they received the proper amount from the Government. Hallowell’s letter parallels a scene in movie Glory where Shaw tears up his pay stub, stating that no one in the regiment will be paid until everyone receives the full contractual amount.
Letter from Colonel Edward Hallowell to the Governor of Massachusetts, 11/23/1863
“We Negroes are American Citizens - First Class tax payers, but so often we are treated as second class citizens, if there is such. In our hearts, we would like to know what it is that the White man has against the Negro. What can we do to make peace with the White man? We have to live on this earth together. We can not do without each other. We as a group, want your friendship, won’t you accept?”
Letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower from Mrs. Floy J. Anderson Regarding Racial Disputes, 10/15/1957
In this letter, Mrs. Floy J. Anderson, who describes herself as Negro, writes about racial disputes including the recent Little Rock School Integration Crisis, being treated as a second class citizens and an incident where she was refused a ride on a Trans-contentintal Railway Bus.
1964 Presidential Campaign - Civil Rights and the South
It was October 1964, and the November Presidential election was looming as parts of the country still seethed over the Civil Rights Act President Lyndon B. Johnson had signed into law just a few months earlier.
Many white southerners and politicians considered the law an assault on their long-established way of life. Southern Democrats threatened to bolt as racial politics threatened to splinter the party and cost Johnson the election.
It was during this tumultuous time that Lady Bird Johnson embarked on perhaps her most difficult assignment as First Lady. In a four-day, 1,628-mile trip aboard a train dubbed the Lady Bird Special, the First Lady traveled through eight southern states.
This was the first time a First Lady campaigned on her own for her husband and she championed the new legislation that eliminated “Jim Crow” laws and guaranteed African Americans access to all public accommodations and the right to equal employment opportunities.
Along the way, Mrs. Johnson was met with invective that no first lady has experienced since. But the ultimate success of the trip, as she defended the need for the Civil Rights Act, was a testament to Lady Bird’s spirit and stoicism.
While she loved her role as First Lady, she wrote at the end of her tenure, “I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience. But not for anything would I pay for the price of admission again.”
Images: “Please don’t forget to vote” Postcard, 1964 ; Lady Bird Johnson on her Whistle Stop Tour. 10/6/64.
President Kennedy Addresses the Nation
“Mr. James Meredith is now in residence on the campus of the University of Mississippi”
On May 31, 1961, James H. Meredith filed suit in the U.S. district court against the University of Mississippi, claiming that he had been denied admission because of his race. On June 25, 1962, more than a year after he had initially applied to the university, the U.S. Fifth Circuit court handed down its decision. James Meredith was to be allowed to attend the University of Mississippi.
Meredith’s legal victory was challenged. Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett proclaimed that the State of Mississippi would not conform to the federal court decision. The U.S. Government would not tolerate the defiance of the State of Mississippi. On September 30, 1962, the President of the United States issued an Executive Order stating that justice was not going to be obstructed by any person or state. In this speech, Kennedy reaffirmed the supremacy of the federal courts over the state courts in settling constitutional issues.
University of Mississippi Radio and Television Speech September 30, 1962