As I grew up, I remember the scandals involving mixed-race couples. It was in 1966 that a 14 year old white girl wrote a shocking song on interacial dating. Janis Ian was one of 5 white kids in an East Orange NJ school and she saw the situation from both sides. I clearly recall that it was especially reviled when a black man was with a white woman. Or even looked at a white woman.
Emmit Till, 14.
Until the 1950's there were no assurances from the Federal government that all citizens had the right to an equal education, fair employment, and non-discrimination in housing. There wasn't even a constitutional guarantee of the right to vote. These matters were left up to each individual state.
Thus, into the 1960's, 11 states still had poll taxes and literacy tests to specifically exclude black voters. There were 16 states that declared that interracial marriage was illegal with jail sentences of up to 5 years for the offense.
Mildred and Richard Perry Loving, both 25 when arrested.
During the middle 1950's, our nation seemed obsessed with the Communists in Russia. I recall that we would have frequent nuclear attack drills in elementary school. We would leave our little desks, march in the halls where we sat again the walls, our heads lowered between our knees. As if this would protect us somehow. If there was an attack, I think we were only in good position to kiss our asses goodbye.
Astoundingly, the war that could have broken out was between US Army forces! In 1957 in Little Rock Arkansas,The governor of Arkansas mobilized the National Guard to prevent 9 black students from entering the white High School. In response, President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne division and "federalized" the National Guard, and the Guard complied with the President.
Ernest Green,16; Elizabeth Eckford, 16; Jefferson Thomas, 15; Terrence Roberts, 16; Carlotta Walls LaNier, 15; Minnijean Brown,16; Gloria Ray Karlmark, 15; Thelma Mothershed,17; and Melba Pattillo,16.
I did not know any of the Freedom Riders - those brave young people, both black and white, who sought to register blacks to vote during the summer of 64. I was a senior in high school that year and our star running back was black and the senior class president was black also. But we had a very small minority of blacks in rural Jersey at the time. I recall no demonstrations and little talk in the school itself of what was happening in the South.
And there were fire bombings of churches. Yes, churches. I can't imagine that happening to the Roman Catholic church where our family belonged. My recollection of the sermons from that time centered around pleas for more money in the collection plates and a rather haughty attitude towards all non-catholics (we were the true faith). So, while we weren't anti-black, we were just anti-everyone else who wasn't Catholic. We prayed for the pagan babies who would never go to heaven because they were not baptized. We pledged to convert as many of the non-believers as possible to save their souls. Even as children then, we were asked to proselytize.
And very sadly, I don't recall us praying for the victims of some of the horrible acts that were occuring so frequently then.
Denise McNair, 11; Cynthia Wesley, 14; Carole Robertson, 14; and Addie Mae Collins, 14.
Human rights issues are still on the table. Gays, women, people of color, people of different religion in many nations, Chinese, Native Americans,Tibetans and many others. The election of Obama is a major signal that things can change.