103 deep sympathy for their objectives."

In document Political movements : three case studies of protest (Page 178-185)

From the middle of 1963 on, the effect of the demonstrations in the North on Kennedy*s civil rights proposals became a matter of concern for the civil rights movement. Even the most ardent supporters of civil rights feared the consequences of certain kinds of civil disobedience demonstrations. Senators Humphrey and Kuchel, the bipartisan floor managers of the civil rights bill, warned that illegal and unruly de-mon- strations would hur t congressional efforts to get the bill passed; those struggling for civil rights, they argued, would greatly help their clause if they conducted their peaceful crusade with the good manners, fore— bearance and devotion so abundantly displayed the previous August in the civil rights march on Washington.

Local authorities joined the ranks of those who deplored the *t*ali~in tactic, as did the congressional members from New York who warned th*at it could well injure the cause of civil rights and pending legi s l a t i o n . ^ ^ Senator Javits, otherwise sympathetic towards the objectives of the ccivil rights movement, at least toward that part of the movement which att^c^kcd racial barriers, argued: "The utility of demonstrations will have teeen lost if there is no focus on the problems which the law can attempt tto solve. President Johnson harped on a similar theme, arguing ttatt 103 Ibid 103A 104 105 Ibid See, CR, Aug. 23, 1963, p. 11. Apr. 16, 1964, p. 1.

e.g., Sen. Javits, CRS 110: 8243-45 (Apr. 17, 1964) 110: 8244 (Apr. 17, 1964).

violence and threats to safety "do the civil rights cause no g o o d . " ^ ^ The Attorney-General, Robert Kennedy, cautioned against "irresponsible a c t i v i t i e s " , b u t warned that the white community must act to relieve the Negroes of their desperate frustrations.

Acts of civil disobedience alienated those in the society who gave highest priority to the rule of law and who feared that tactics of law­ breaking invited and fomented violence and anarchy. Courts, even where sympathetic to the Negroes* depressed condition, warned that disregard of the laws could only lead to serious consequences, even to anarchy:

Peaceful demonstrations are not violative of the law. But what if the brakes on that truck had slipped and someone had been injured? A riot would have broken out and you couldn't have convinced the crowd that it was an accident. You cannot decide what laws to obey and what laws to disobey. If you don't like a law the remedy is to go to the Legislature, to the trade unions, to the city fathers - not to take the law in your own hands. This will result in anarchy.... 108

Evaluation

Had there been no direct action protests in northern cities, fewer people among the public or the authorities would have been confronted with the problems of ghetto living. Bayard Rustin, who had acted as the main organizer of the New York City school boycott, expressed the views of many within the civil rights movement: "The boycott and the rent strike are

fair warning that the civil rights revolution has reached out of the South 106

107

NYT, Apr. 17, 1964, p. 1.

Ibid,

108

174 -

109

and is now knocking at our door.” In addition to the significance which he attached to Negroes and Puerto Ricans having joined forces for the protest, Rustin emphasized the role of conflicts in social change. The battle for integrated education (or one could add, for other social reforms) had to be fought, he said, even if people were inconvenienced and victory was not immediate. The Board of Education had to be pried loose from its position of refusing to examine Negro

views on the school problem. Even if the explicit goals were not achieved, people learned about their society by fighting battles in the civil rights struggle. Rustin argued that since school integration had been the subject

for so long of volumes of research, speeches, policy statements, emergency meetings, newspaper and magazine articles, scholarly symposiums, public debate and demonstration, a boycott was needed to call attention afresh to the gchool situation: ”You can only get this thing over to the people by results. The threat of a boycott got the school board to get out a comprehensive plan for the first time in its existence. Maybe after a series of one-day boycotts, the board will come up with something significant and meaningful.

Other leaders as well emphasized the importance of merely getting people into the streets. Calamison argued that even if the goal is not

achieved ’’people learn a lesson in struggling for f r e e d o m . F a r m e r echoed remarks that King had made at the time of the Montgomery bus boycott: ’’One of the most valuable functions of demonstrations is to

1 OQ

Ibid. s Feb. 4, 1964, p. 1.

110 Ibid., Feb. 3, 1964, p. 18.

weld people together In unity, and to recruit.••• We have found, too, 112

that we have to have demonstrations to build a movement."

Short-range and long-range evaluations can be applied to the civil rights movement in the North. Only the rent strikes, of all of the New York City demonstrations discussed, were successful in short-range

objectives, in that they left judicial and administrative marks. But they had long-range success, too. Their success opened up the possibility of directing released energies of dissent into channels for other objects of protest. Gray, operating out of CCH, was able to organize several marches on New Y o r k ’s City Hall in protest over living conditions in the city’s slums; he also arranged for the sending of written protests to the White House in support of the claims of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

113

and threatened to storm the convention at Atlantic City. A leader who is able to deliver success on one issue finds it easier to get support in the next issue which arises.

However, it was one thing to succeed in getting improved building code enforcements and some Improved housing conditions. It was another to wipe out housing discrimination, slum deterioration and overcrowded living conditions. These problems remained even after the strikes had succeeded. 112

Quoted in Warren, op. eit., p. 198. 113 Ibid.,f. 137n.

CHAPTER VI

THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT ( 5 ) : FROM PROTEST TO POLITICS

I n t r o d u c t i o n

In t h i s c o n c lu d in g c h a p t e r on t h e c i v i l r i g h t s m ovem ent, I s h a l l d i s c u s s a new p h a s e o f th e movement - th e t r a n s i t i o n from p r o t e s t to p o l i t i c s ( t h e p h r a s e i s R u s t i n 's ) * D ir e c t a c t i o n was n o t d i s c a r d e d , b u t i t was fu s e d w ith

p o l i t i c a l action

- a c o n s c io u s e f f o r t t o g e t p o l i t i c a l power*

The y e a r 1964 saw t h e c l o s e o f a s p e c i f i c p e r io d I n t h e movement* I n th e S o u th , two a p p ro a c h e s w ere o c c u r r i n g s im u l ta n e o u s l y ; f i r s t , t h e r e w ere s t i l l d i r e c t a c t i o n d e m o n s tr a tio n s f o r demands w hich ra n g e d from th e l i m i t e d p ack a g e d e a l p re v ie w e d a t B irm ingham t o th e more f a r - r e a c h in g demands su c h a s w ere made by t h e movement i n A t l a n t a ; s e c o n d ly , t h e r e was m a jo r r e l i a n c e upon v o t e r r e g i s t r a t i o n c a m p a ig n s , e s p e c i a l l y i n a r e a s w here t h e r e was a h ig h p r o p o r t i o n o f N e g ro e s . As th e f i r s t ap p ro a c h s p r e a d t o i n c lu d e more c o m p re h e n siv e dem ands, t h e d e m o n s tr a tio n s b eg an t o re s e m b le th o s e i n t h e N o rth ; a s th e s e c o n d ap p ro a c h s p r e a d , th e

lo w e r c l a s s was b r o u g h t i n t o th e movement a s , i n many w ay s, i t h ad a l r e a d y b een b r o u g h t i n i n th e N orth*

I n t h e N o r th , t h e r e was a q u e s t i o n i n g o f t h e u s e f u l n e s s o f d i r e c t a c t i o n t a c t i c s , and w h ile no p r e c i s e a n sw ers w £re p r o v id e d , new m ethods o f a t t a c k w ere s u g g e s te d * I t had b een a g r e e d by t h e c i v i l r i g h t s

made a larger percentage of the public and more of the authorities aware of the race question; but it was agreed also that solutions to the

problems of the poor were still to be made concrete. The questioning of direct action, especially of shock tactics, concerned the role of such tactics in bringing about social change.

In the country at large, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which wrote into legislation much of what had been demanded by

the movement in the South in the period 1960-63, But the bill was proposed at a time when the ghetto minorities of the urban North had not been drawn actively into the movement. Few, if any, of the bill's provisions were applicable to the de facto race and class problems that had been thrown up once the movement spread north. After the Act had destroyed the legal foundations of discrimination, the movement was faced with pressing for legislation to destroy other vestiges of inequality.

By 1964, the aims of the movement were no longer those of the early phase. In many instances the demands went beyond those of civil rights.

In all Instances, whether the demands were race or class demands, they presented various problems: on the wisdom of the movement's fusing poli­

tical with direct action; on the need to have allies; on whether the civil rights movement could remain one of reform (that is, norm-oriented) or had to be transformed into one of revolution (that is value-oriented).

In thi3 chapter I shall examine the voter registration campaigns which were undertaken in the South, the tactics suited to those campaigns, and

the reactions to the voting drives. These campaigns raised the question for both the northern and southern sections of the movement of the precise

- 178 - n a t u r e o f p o l i t i c a l a c t i o n , t h a t i s , w h e th e r i t was to be u n d e r ta k e n w ith r e s p e c t t o th e e x i s t i n g p o l i t i c a l p a r t i e s . F i n a l l y , I s h a l l o f f e r an e v a l u a t i o n o f w h at th e movement h ad s u c c e e d e d i n d o in g i n th e p e r io d 1 9 5 4 -6 4 . T em poral P h a se s B e fo re d i s c u s s i n g t h e movement*s e f f o r t s to f u s e p o l i t i c a l w ith d i r e c t a c t i o n , I s h a l l d i s c u s s e v e n ts i n th e S o u th a f t e r th e March on W ash in g to n . The p e r io d a f t e r B irm ingham was c h a r a c t e r i z e d by o ld and new t r e n d s . N o n - v io le n t d i r e c t a c t i o n was s t i l l th e m a jo r t a c t i c a l w eapon, b u t a s d e m o n s tr a tio n s c o n tin u e d i n c i t i e s w h ere a g re e m e n ts on p u b l i c accom m odation and s c h o o l d e s e g r e g a t io n h ad a l r e a d y b een r e a c h e d ,

th e y ad d ed new demands f a r b r o a d e r i n s c o p e .

D em onstrations a f t e r Birmingham. - W hile d e m o n s tr a tio n s w ere o c c u r r i n g i n th e N o r th , new d e m o n s tr a tio n s w ere m a rk in g t h e s o u th e r n s c e n e . Any ch a n c e o f com placen cy s e t t i n g i n a f t e r th e tr iu m p h a n t March on W ashin gto n was r u l e d o u t by two e le m e n ts . One was t h e s p o r a d ic o u t b u r s t s o f v i o l e n c e w hich g r e e t e d new cam paigns i n th e s o u t h ; th e o t h e r was lo b b y in g p r e s s u r e s f o r th e p a s s a g e o f K ennedy’ s c i v i l r i g h t s l e g i s l a t i o n .

B irm ingham , q u i e t a f t e r th e l a t e s p r i n g d e m o n s tr a tio n s i n 1 9 6 3 , was th e s c e n e o f a bomb b l a s t i n a Negro c h u rc h w h ich to o k th e l i v e s o f f o u r N egro g i r l s ; e n s u in g r a c i a l c l a s h e s i n th e c i t y l e d t o two more d e a t h s , t h i s tim e o f N egro boys ( one a t th e h and o f a w h ite p o lic e m a n ) , and

In document Political movements : three case studies of protest (Page 178-185)