A SOFTER INTRODUCTION
Emmett Till had been brutally murdered just a few months prior to the spark of the monumental Montgomery Bus Boycott, and his death - along with the brutal way he was tortured and murdered - was still fresh in the minds of Blacks throughout the country. Till was 14 years old, from Chicago, and was visiting his family in Mississippi. While there, he spoke to 21 year old Carolyn Bryant - a White woman - the wife of a small White-owned grocery store owner in the town he was residing in. A few nights later, her White husband Roy and his brother went to Till's relatives residence (where he had been staying) and abducted him. After taking him away, they beat him to the point of unrecognition, mutilated him, shot him - ultimately ending his life - then sank his body in the Tallahatchie River. The child's body was discovered and retrieved from the river 3 days later. Till's mother insisted on an open-casket funeral to show the world the brutality of her son's murder. Tens of thousands attended his viewing and funeral, while Black-oriented magazines and newspapers published his photos. It caused an uproar about the unprovoked violence on Blacks, especially the violence against Black children. Although initially local White and Jewish-owned newspapers decried the violence against Till and called for justice, they soon began defending Mississippians, many running smear campaigns against Till's family, which eventually transformed into support for the killers.
White children, especially teenagers were surprisingly more vocal about their disdain for Blacks during this time, and were more violent than their parents. They were overtly direct in displaying their intolerance of integration, and resorted to violence even faster when they encountered Blacks who vowed to non-violence. A strong example of this was the series of "wade-ins" that African Americans were participating in throughout the United States - one notably was at Chicago Rainbow Beach. A few Black teens went to the beach on a hot summer's day, but there was only one problem: beaches were for Whites-only on the Chicago lake front. An angry White mob arose around them, and when the Black teens calmly tried to leave the beach, they started singing "We Shall Overcome", and then the young Whites started pushing them down and preceded to throw rocks at them until they left the water. The Black teens were spat on, cursed at, pushed, stomped on, hit and kicked until they were off the beach and made no further attempts to wade; many Blacks were taken to the hospital and sustained critical injuries. The Black demonstrators nonetheless kept loyal to practicing non-violence, in hopes for a change and ultimately gain acceptance from Whites, and vowed to return every weekend until the beach allowed all races. In the days and weeks that followed, their courageous stand captured the city’s attention, making headlines and bringing hundreds of supporters to the beach to join them.
King soon led a strong following of Blacks who were willing to protest against segregation and oppression, and profoundly transformed the protest movement within the Black youth. Those who participated in his "sit-in" campaigns were determined to continue the tactics that would garner Blacks attention and sympathy - like being violently attacked by Whites while just sitting at a segregated lunch-counter, and being silent and still as the only response - that the older leaders had reservations about. The youths would sit inside White-only restaurants and other businesses, pray in White-only churches, and participated in other activities that forcefully, but non-aggressively assimilated Blacks into a rejected White society.
There were many Blacks who disagreed with the silent, resistant, non-violent tactics that were sweeping the American South under the direction of Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP. A change in their support came in especially after President John F. Kennedy (JFK) claimed to support Black civil rights, but took minimal action during his 3 year term in 1963, causing many Blacks to grow impatient with King, who had endorsed him. Medgar Evers, a veteran sergeant of World War II - who fought during the famous Battle of Normandy - had been active in Mississippi, and was adamant about using the United States law that Whites established against them, to stop Black oppression. While serving as the President of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, Evers organized boycotts for gasoline stations that were denying Blacks the use of their restrooms. This led to his recruitment by the NAACP, in which Evers became their first Field Secretary in Mississippi. In this role, he would continue protests - most notable were the Boloxi Wade-Ins - where he and other Blacks continued their attempts to integrate White-only beaches. Evers would publicly investigate Black injustices, particularly when teenager Emmitt Till was brutally murdered, and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard made him a prominent leader in the Black community.
Malcolm Little, who was once labeled a Harlem troublemaker for his prior incarceration (he had served time larceny, and breaking & entering) was now growing popular as Malcolm X, a member of the Nation of Islam. Under the guidance of the Honorable Elijah Mohammad, Malcolm X quickly rose to become one of their most influential leaders. Malcolm was controversial for Whites because he preached against the silent, hit-me-I-wont-hit-you-back mentality that many Southern Blacks (like MLK) were active in, and instead told them to bear arms and fight back against their violent attackers. With the Nation of Islam teachings, Malcolm X promoted Black supremacy, and advocated the separation of Blacks and Whites in America, rejecting the integration that Blacks in the South were fighting for. The Nation of Islam was highly successful in introducing Muslim practices to Blacks that were incarcerated or who were living destructive lives, with astonishing rates for converting their beliefs and improving their lives following release. Drug dependance, alcohol dependance, menacing, and criminal behavior was not tolerated amongst the Nation of Islam, and Elijah Mohammad developed programs for his followers to rid themselves of it. He promoted a focus on education and building for themselves instead, as well as promoting unification amongst peoples of African descent in America. The beliefs that the Nation of Islam taught - often through Malcolm X until his views changed and he separated from the group - were that: Black people are the original people of the world since scientists confirmed human civilization started in Africa, White people are "devils", Black people are superior to Whites, and the demise of the White race in America is imminent. In addition, the Nation also believed that African Americans should return to Africa, sponsored by the United States Government, and in the interim that there should be a separate country established for Blacks in America.
Many Whites and Blacks alike were alarmed by Malcolm X statements and the Nation of Islam's teaching during this time. The Jewish and White-owned media portrayed Malcolm X, Elijah Mohammad, and the Nation's members of being hateful, racist, Black Supremacists, irresponsible extremists, anti-Semitic advocates of violence, and a threat to "improving" race relations. Unlike the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., who heavily encouraged Blacks to vote and get involved in politics, the Nation of Islam forbade its members from even participating in voting or other aspects of political processes. There were almost polar-opposite beliefs in the majority of the Black population in the American North versus the American South; Blacks in the North wanted to defend themselves by "any means necessary", rejecting nonviolent resistance, while Blacks in the South gained notoriety in promoting a less aggressive, softer approach in gaining White respect, through gradual integration and assimilation. The Nation of Islam, who had rapidly growing numbers in the American North, were critical of Martin Luther King Jr's non-violent movement in the South, labeling him a "chump" and his accomplices as "stooges" to the White establishment. Malcolm X and the Nation's teachings would have a powerful effect on African Americans who were tired of being told to "wait" for freedom, justice, equality, and respect.
The "hands-on" approach that the Nation of Islam taught, and the intolerance of White disrespect or violence against Blacks from the Nation, had Whites and Blacks enamored. When Johnson Hinton, a Nation of Islam member, was beaten by two New York City police officers - to the point where he suffered brain contusions and subdural hemorrhaging, for speaking up about a Black man who was being brutally beaten on the street as he was passing by, and then arrested - Malcolm X led a small group of Nation of Islam Muslims to the police station demanding to see him. Police lied initially and denied that he was there. The crowd outside grew to nearly 500, and the police would allow Malcolm X to speak with him. When he saw Hinton, Malcolm X pled for an arrangement for an ambulance to take him to the hospital because of his injuries. By the time Hinton returned to the police station from the hospital, there were nearly 4,000 people gathered outside. They were dispersed by Malcolm X stepping outside and giving a single-gesture hand signal to the crowd - Nation members left without saying a word, puzzling Whites who watched the mob fade away around them.
The Black Panther Party, founded in Oakland, California, was attracting Blacks in the American West, for its direct and militaristic rejection to bullying from Whites, particularly police officers. Their beliefs were based on combined experiences working with a variety of other Black civil rights leaders and organizations. Led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seal, members were encouraged to donate money from their personal paychecks to contribute to Black youth service programs in Oakland, developing revolutionary nationalistic approaches to community service. The Party would establish reputable community survival programs, many which are still in effect today, including: the George Jackson Medical Clinic (provides free medical treatment and preventive medical care), the Sickle Cell Anemia Research Foundation (established to test and create a cure for sickle cell anemia, a prominent disease in the Black community), the Peoples's Free Ambulance Program (provides free transport for sick or injured people without time-consuming checks into the patients insurance or financial means), Free Food Program (provides free food to Blacks and other oppressed people, regardless of race), Free Breakfast Program (provides children with free nourishing, hot breakfast every school morning), and many others. At it's peak, the Black Panther Party had thousands of members, with offices in 68 cities across the United States. Because of the amount of influence spreading around the nation to make immediate changes to unequal treatment, the Black who led them would become targets by a series of White supremacists, the CIA and FBI, and many others.
DIFFERENT OPINIONS & TACTICS
As if economic differences and social unacceptance didn't separate Blacks from Whites enough, Government-enforced laws and Presidents would play their part in furthering the divide. President Woodrow Wilson - who was a Southern conservative racist, and Ku Klux Klan supporter - segregated all divisions of the military, and federal workplaces immediately upon entering office in the early 1910s. He had a firm belief that racial segregation was in the best interest of Black and White Americans alike. This belief was continued through Franklin D. Roosevelt's entire 4 elected-terms in office, until 1945.
The racist views of the of White political leaders and elected Congress led to the continuance of racist and prejudiced laws. The strongly-enforced Jim Crow laws were the most successful in keeping African Americans oppressed and separated from Whites, and a continued reminder that Blacks were separate and unequal to their fellow Americans. These segregation laws made it so Blacks could not use the same restrooms, water faucets, swimming pools, beaches, parks, or any other recreational facilities as Whites, unless they stayed in the "colored" sections designated for them. This practice expanded into private businesses, including restaurants, hotels, lounges, aboard transportation engines such as trains and buses, and in schools. Blacks were given older, unkept facilities to use, while Whites got to enjoy nicer, cleaner and more luxury accommodations, in the view of Black ones (for ex: clean White faucets were placed directly next to dirty Black faucets, with signs separating who they were designated for above).
African Americans started protesting the segregation and inhumane treatment, and looked to Jewish example - since Jews successfully tried many of their Nazi oppressors after World War II ended - by using the American Constitution and the American courts to fight the laws that were oppressing them. They were successful in gaining momentum and were able to attack Jim Crow statues, but White conservative governments that dominated Southern States were able to pass alternative restrictions to use against them. Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Committee (who was independent of the NAACP, due to beliefs that they were misleading Blacks and actually furthering their oppression) brought the landmark case Brown vs Board of Education. It would be a landmark case that challenged State segregation laws which weren't allowing Black students to attend schools for Whites. The Supreme Court would rule that the state laws separating public schools for Blacks and White students were unconstitutional, stating that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal. This marked the first large nation-wide victory for African Americans in their quest for Civil Rights and paved the way for integration, although it would get much worse before it got even slightly better.
African Americans saw an influx in being welcomed in the entertainment industry - specifically music, dance, and film - during the 1970s. Even if conservative Whites were unaccepting of Blacks in their neighborhoods, they would usually at least be familiar and tolerating of a Black entertainer. Blacks had been promoting having multiple talents within the household - usually dancing, singing, or musicianship - for decades, as that had been a means to a steady income when there were no jobs available. Even when Blacks were emancipated from slavery roughly 100 years prior, they could usually get tips from Whites for doing various street performances to survive.
Music written and created by Black artists has been copied and impersonated for hundreds of years. As Blacks invented new musical sounds and developed them into genres, from the slave hymns sang at plantations, to blues, to folk, to jazz, to soul, to funk and then closing the 70s decade with disco, audiences followed them. Similar to the past genres, Whites would continue their trend in trying to adopt Black sound, which consisted of having popular White artists mimic it, and exploit the genre until it was too sensationalized. Until Blacks developed something else, to which the cycle continued. The 70s, saw a decade of musical talents emerge from Motown Records - a predominately Black record label - including Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and the Jacksons.
The Jackson 5 were so popular in during the 1970s that White conservatives criticized radio stations and television networks for playing their music so often. As a result, White groups were formed to mimic the Jacksons, in an attempt to shift White fan bases to refocus on White performers. This led to groups like The Osmonds being formed as a direct response to the popularity of the Jacksons, but they failed to compare, and only had mediocre success comparatively. Michael Jackson went on to be a worldwide superstar as a solo artist later. Disco was one of the most popular genres of the decade, which was created by Black and Latino (of Puerto Rican and Dominican decent) urban communities, predominately their gay scene, and quickly became adopted throughout the country. TV shows like Soul Train glorified the emerging disco scene, which showcased new dances that Blacks and Latinos were creating to go with their new sound. Hosted by Don Cornelius, it would be one of the longest running shows of all time, launching and contributing to the careers of: Barry White, Donna Summer, The Jackson 5, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, and hundreds more.
Black actors and actresses were seeing a slight welcome in cinema with roles outside of the Blaxploitation, most which would become cult classics, like Lady Sings the Blues and The Wiz; Blacks would also start getting offers for roles at White sidekicks in comedies and action movies. James Earl Jones also had a notable role, voicing Darth Vader in the Star Wars trilogy - although most White audiences, who were the most devout fans of the Star Wars franchise, did not know that Jones was the voice for the star villain. This was because Jones' name wasn't featured on any posters, trailers, or promotional materials for the film. Bill Cosby was welcome by most White and Black Americans, he was an ex-Marine who had a very unique comic appeal, that captivated those who watched him. Cosby would have a starring role on television series I Spy and the children's television series The Electric Company. In addition, Cosby would develop a character he used during his stand-up routines - Fat Albert - into an animated comedy television series, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, which he also produced and hosted. During his popularity, Cosby recorded a half-dozen albums for Warner Brothers, and a single where he actually sang, that sold over 1 million copies - he would turn down a 5-year, $3.5 million dollar contract renewal offer to stay with them, which he turned down, to form a label of his own.
Many doors for Black comedians were opened in the 70s, with many getting personal offers to bring their stand up to the big screen. Richard Pryor, who was already a successful stand-up comic and Grammy Award winner for his comedic performances, saw several movie deals - some successful, some notorious box office flops. Pryor teamed with Gene Wilder to make a series of popular movies that further merged Black and White audiences. Black television shows like What's Happenin, Different Strokes, and Good Times dominated television for both African Americans during the late 1970s. The characters on the shows would have lasting impressions on audiences, and some unfortunately became stereotypes taken as a representation of all blacks - for ex: just because a Black man was skinny with a turtleneck, bell-bottom jeans and a hat on, it would be a norm for Whites to walk up to him and say "Dynomite!!" (the character phrase of Jimmie Walker's character JJ on the show Good Times) because it was assumed all Black men who dressed that way, must act like them. Many of the characters who were most popular during the 1970s - like Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman (played Willis and Arnold on Different Strokes), Jimmie Walker (played JJ on Good Times), Demond Wilson (played Lamont Sanford on Sanford & Son), and Fred Berry (played "Rerun" on Whats Happening!!), who were top paid actors during the height of their shows, would have horrible experiences trying to obtain roles outside of the typecasts of their characters following the show's end. Most of them would later become broke, some destitute, and never attracted series work again.
In sports, where most Blacks were allowed to play with Whites since the 50s, had found a thriving demand in the 1970s. African Americans started dominating basketball in the United States by the early 1970s. Where Whites were usually the most popular players in the NBA, Blacks increasingly grew clout with the excitement they brought to the game, including new ways of shooting the ball, innovative tricks for dribbling the ball, and excessively dunking the ball. The ethnic roster of each NBA basketball team made up with blacks making the majority by the mid 70s, and has maintained that consistency ever since. The most popular and impactful basketball players of this decade included Wilt Chamberlin, Clyde Frazier, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius "Dr J" Erving, and young promising Earvin "Magic" Johnson - they would make monumental changes to how the sport was played, and have become legends in their own right. Once Major League Baseball (MLB) starting allowing Blacks to play with Whites in their league, and promoted the demise of the Negro Leagues, African Americans eagerly sought to find their place. Although they never did see exaggerated numbers of Black presence in baseball, by the mid 1970s Blacks were reported to have made up approximately 27% of the Major League. However, American Boxing has been led prodimently by Blacks since it's beginning. Muhammad Ali was by far the most popular Boxer of the era, with 3 of his fights against Joe Frazier in the 1970s becoming some of the most famous fights in boxing history. African Americans would hold the Heavyweight Boxing Championship title (the highest title in boxing) for more than 20 years, before it was lost to a South African.
Although American Football had been a popular sport in the United States, it hadn't been the most profitable one. That all changed in the 1970s when the NFL started promoting a few of it's star athletes, and broke color barriers when they spotlighted one them: Orenthal James (OJ) Simpson. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Simpson's football career looked promising early on, when he was awarded an athletic scholarship to the University of Souther California (USC). He would lead the nation in rushing in 1967 and 1968, winning the prestigious heisman trophy (an award honoring the most outstanding player in college football in the United States) in 1968. His good looks, kind personality, and good "All-American" attitude, helped him win the hearts of many Whites, similar to Jackie Robinson's affect on Whites decades prior. Simpson would be one of the first Black athletes that Whites unanimously would acknowledge that they liked. He was named NFL Player of the Year in 1973 and played in 6 Pro Bowls (the NFL's yearly all-star football game); during Simpson's retirement he was placed 2nd on the NFL's all-time rushing list, and broke several records that he still holds today. He was the first African American NFL "superstar", and was actively sought after for endorsements by dozens of predominately White businesses including: Chevrolet, Hertz rental car company, America Broadcast Company, and HoneyBaked Ham. Although he would be arguably the number 1 most admired Black athlete of the 70s, and continued his popularity in acting and as a sportscaster in the 80s, Whites would take a different attitude indefinitely in the 1990s when he was accused and found not-guilty in the murder of his White wife, Nicole Brown. Almost all of the top Black entertainers of the 1970s would have troubled lives following their height, and usually found their legacy destroyed eventually because of focuses on their personal lives, rather than their professional ones.
By 1960, non-violent Black civil rights leaders, and militant ones had one common enemy: The United States Government. Even though there were different opinions and ideals for combating racism and violence from Whites, African Americans had united together willingly in mass numbers to fight against discrimination, which invoked fear for their potential as a mass group.
Medgar Evers, who was President of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, had tens of thousands of influencers that attended the RCNL annual conference. In response, conservative Whites in the American South founded the White Citizens Council in Mississippi, with numerous local chapters, to further resistance for integrating schools and halting civil rights goals. Evers would encounter new levels of hostility and violence, when a molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home, and he was nearly ran over by a car who was attempting to kill him after emerging from the NAACP office in Jackson, Mississippi. There would be no investigation on the White assailants, and no police protection for Evers. The police in Mississippi were generally conservative White racists - many who were active Ku Klux Klan members - who were completely opposed to the civil rights movement Evers was advocating in their state.
The feelings were mutual with Police Departments and other White authorities in the American North and West. Within a month of a police officer telling the New York Amsterdam news "No one man should have that much power" when speaking about Malcolm X's demonstration outside of a New York police station (which attracted thousands), the New York City Police Department arranged to keep Malcolm X under surveillance, and made continual inquiries with authorities about his past whereabouts. After Malcolm X sent a telegram outraged about the injustice for Johnson Hinton (all 4 of the White police officers who attacked him were acquitted), the NYPD assigned undercover officers to infiltrate the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X was the most influential leader of the Nation of Islam at the time after the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, dramatically rising members from the hundreds to nearly one hundred thousand within years. Malcolm X was already on the FBI watch list, after he wrote a letter to President Truman expressing opposition to the Korean War and tying himself to the communists who were also against it. In 1953, the FBI began surveillance of Malcolm X, focusing solely on his rapid ascent in the Nation of Islam and their activities.
J Edgar Hoover, Head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) formed the COINTELPRO (an acronym for for COunter INTELligence PROgram) which consisted of covert, mostly illegal, projects conducted by FBI agents. Their sole intent was to surveillance, infiltrate, discredit, and disrupt "political" organizations in the United States. Hoover had already earned a reputation for dissolving Black establishments, Black inequality protests, and potential leaders who were deemed "threats" - notably silencing and deporting Marcus Garvey and ingeniously destroying the "New Negro" movement of the Roaring 20s, diminishing Black enterprises. Hoover was not an ally to all Whites or White conservatives, as he lived a lifestyle most Whites didn't agree with - he was a closeted homosexual. Additionally, he was broody, cocky, and didn't exempt his friends, superiors, or closest associates from being targeted by his FBI. But he had a personal disdain for African Americans, and their potential rise in equality to Whites, which was evident in his COINTELPRO activities. Their main tactics consisted of weakening the power of their leaders, while discrediting the groups to reduce their support and growth.
Under the direct guidance of J Edgar Hoover, the agent hired to oversee COINTELPRO operations was William C. Sullivan. Although Federally operated, the FBI still had to respect the laws of United States citizens with respect to their privacy. In order to overturn this obstacle, Robert Kennedy - who was then United States Attorney General, and brother to then President John F. Kennedy - personally authorized some of the COINTELPRO programs. Operations began in the COINTELPRO with programs designed to "increase factionalism, cause disruption, and win defections" in only Communist Parties throughout the United States. However, with communist activities in the United States at a low-idle, Hoover would soon reclassify the FBI's ongoing surveillance and turn to Black leaders, including them in his COINTELPRO. Hoover's justification was that because Black leaders were defying their Country's beliefs and trying to change the political system, that their movements must have been infiltrated by communists. Among Hoover's COINTELPRO first assignments was to silence and ruin a wealthy Black surgeon, entrepreneur, and civil rights leader in Mississippi - TRM Howard - after he he criticized FBI inaction in solving murders of Blacks in the American South (such as Emmitt Till and George W. Lee). But they were unsuccessful. The FBI would learn from their mistakes with Howard, and amped-up their tactics. Hoover would take obsessive-like surveillance and other abusive approaches when it came to targeting other activists, including Elijah Muhammad, Stokely Carmichael, and Martin Luther King Jr.
John F. Kennedy personally sought to keep Martin Luther King Jr in his corner, believing that King was the least threatening Black civil rights activist, and who would have the strongest influence over keeping Blacks "peaceful" during violence and discrimination from Whites. JFK, and even LBJ (Lincoln B Johnson, who succeeded upon Kennedy's assassination) saw King as an asset, but Hoover felt differently - he saw him as a liability. Hoover would stop at nothing to find a way in destroying King, and found a dark secret of King's that he'd hope would do just that: King was a serial adulterer. King boasted to his inner circle of his infidelities while on the road, saying “…f******s a form of anxiety reduction”. Hoover struck gold by discovering his secret, and under years of 24-hour surveillance, Hoover's FBI agents recorded nearly all of King’s adulterous sexual affairs. Hoover was determined to ruin him with the information, even publically calling him the “most notorious liar in the country”, and a hypocrite publicly and privately. He used his clout to discredit King any opportunity he had, while in parallel using his FBI to destroy him.
Hoover would describe the Black Panther Party as the "greatest threat to the internal security of the country". Out of 295 authorized "Black Nationalist" COINTELPRO actions, 233 were against Black Panther Party members. A strong tactic of the COINTELPRO was to create and exploit existing rivalries between Black organizations. An example of this was between the Black Panther Party and the Blackstone Rangers (a street gang in Chicago); FBI agents sent an anonymous letter to the Ranger's gang leader claiming the Black Panther Party was threatening his life, with the goal being to induce "revenge" attacks against the Black Panther Party leadership, specifically Huey P. Newton. The FBI and CIA - under the direction of Hoover - additionally targeted the programs that the Black Panther Party had developed, which were mostly free meal programs to help the poor. The Party's successful Free Breakfast for Children Program had a tremendous positive effect on the Black community and was well received from the general public, but it "shed light on the government's failure to address child poverty and hunger". Because they organized and provided for children more effectively than the U.S. government, the FBI criticized the program, proclaiming it was just a propoganda tool to get more members and expose children to militant Black Panther propaganda. In response to the Black Panther Party's program, and as an effort to disassemble it, police and federal agents regularly harassed and intimidated program participants, supporters, and Party workers. In addition, they sought to scare away donors and organizations that housed the programs, such as churches and community centers. Hoover's COINTELPRO tactics also included causing dismay between members of the organizations, introducing drugs and other influencers to leaders, and forcing leaders to flee in fear of death.
When World War II erupted, more than 2.5 million African Americans registered for the draft, to honor and serve their country, and preserve the rights of those abroad - the Jews who were being deported, forced into slave labor, and murdered throughout Europe. 1 million Blacks served as draftees and volunteers in every branch of the military during the war. The Tuskegee Airmen - the first African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces - were among the most honorable military pilots (fighter and bomber) of the war, serving in 1578 combat missions, including 179 bomber escort missions, and destroying 112 enemy aircrafts in air, among other triumphs. But their achievements wouldn't be recognized at home in the United States. No African American soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II. President Bill Clinton would later fight for the authority to award the Medal of Honor more than 40 years later, and it was given to 7, in which one was alive to receive.
Upon returning from war, the American economy was improving because of the late Franklin D. Roosevelt-enacted "New Deal", with programs launched to offer relief to the unemployed and assist economic recovery. African Americans were not intended to benefit from these programs, and the programs vaguely applied to them, but they were able to benefit from some those that applied to general work force, like labor laws that were passed granting minimum wage for laborers who were underpaid. There was also an improvement with homelessness when the United States government founded the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), who began developing housing projects for the displaced - mostly African Americans - to live in.
Federally-backed corporations, like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Youth Administration, vastly employed African Americans, and programs were initiated to helped fund performances of Black composers - since Blacks never stopped being in demand as entertainers for Whites. Most Blacks took on odd-end jobs, such as shoe-shiners, housekeepers, train butlers, newspaper runners, milkmen, hotel housemen and bellmen, or street performers. It sparked a new ideal that Blacks should have more than one small job to equate to the amount of money they needed to survive, rather than seeking one job that could accommodate their lifestyles and needs. It also gave Blacks the notion that working Government-supported jobs would give them security, even if it was minimum wage and if there was no career opportunity, because it was a consistent paycheck - belief was that the government would never go "bankrupt" and always needed employees. FDR had been unpopular with African Americans because he shied away from promoting anti-lynching laws that could have saved Blacks from being murdered without consequence, because did not want to alienate Southern Whites. His wife, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, was much more sympathetic to Black rights, and repelled racism - in one instance, she moved Black singer Marian Anderson's performance to the Lincoln Memorial after she was denied performing at Constitution Hall because of her race. She would continue on as a pioneer for Civil Rights for Blacks and Women after FDR's death.
Blacks continued to be the targets of negative stereotypes and propaganda that degraded them in America continued on without pause after World War II ended, even though the same treatment was almost immediately phased out in Europe for the Jews. Warner Brothers, who were famous by this time for its Looney Tunes cartoons, continued producing racially prejudiced comedies portraying African Americans in derogatory manners, and the same negative stereotypes that generalized them, for years. This would surprise many Blacks, because Warner Brothers was Jewish-owned and predominately operated, and Blacks didn't understand why they would continue such depictions of them, when Jews had just experienced it years prior, and asked the world to intervene.
Many other famous cartoon producers - mostly of Jewish decent- would share in continuing racist Black stereotypes in America after Blacks returned from World War II, including creators of Popeye, and animators from Disney and MGM. The most popular racist stereotypes they used were the same ones that were used decades prior in the minstrel and vaudeville days. Characters included the "Pickaninny", which portrayed Blacks with bugling eyes, unkempt hair, fat red or pink lips, and wide mouths to ingest large slices of watermelon; "Mammie" characters, who were overweight African American women, who have "earthly" wisdom, take no backtalk, with loud and overbearing voices; and "Uncle Tom" characters who were kind, gentle, often elderly Black men, who were hard-working for their White overseers, were exaggeratedly submissive when serving them, and often referred to Whites excessively as "massa". They were the top-desired characters to be seen of African Americans. White-owned food corporations, like Aunt Jemima syrup and Uncle Ben's rice, still use these characters as the center of their marketing image today, continuing the teaching of prejudiced stereotypes to new generations.
Once the Great Depression passed, and lynchings and violence started to subside against Blacks, news outlets still focused their attentions on what African Americans were doing, seemingly enamored with their lives. The most promising example during this time was the The Fultz Quads legacy - the first identical Black babies born in the United States. They would be exploited throughout their lives, since infantry. Their parents were poor Black sharecroppers - their mother was a deaf-mute who could not read or write, and the couple was living on a small plantation in North Carolina. When the quadruplets were born, their Jewish doctor (Dr. Klenner) named the girls after his own family members, since their parents couldn't read or write the birth certificates anyway. Whites and Blacks alike were curious to see the girls, and Jewish media pursued photo opportunities of the babies for profit.
Baby formula companies - such as Gerber and PET - were struggling to find a market within the Black Community, because African Americans didn't buy formula - mothers opted to breast feed because it was healthier for the growth of their child, and was more cost-efficient. The companies wanted to use the newborn Black quadruplets as the center of their marketing ad campaign to sell their products to the Black community. Dr. Fred Klenner - who was the doctor that birthed the babies - struck a deal with PET for an undisclosed amount, and the Fultz Quads were on their way to fame, with the condition that Klenner be allowed to use them for his medical "Vitamin C therapy" experiment. This was a messianic-based (ancient Jewish) experiment that would attempt to prove that the baby formula would make the girls healthy, along with the PET evaporated milk formula. The Fultz Quads were given a small farm to live on, a nurse and free medical care, and $350 per month as compensation. The nursery they lived in initially was made of glass, so that curious onlookers could visit the farm and pay for photo opportunities. Dr. Fred Klenner would be the only one to receive any long-term financial compensation from the quadruplets exploits. As Blacks grew more and more frustrated with the images being portrayed of them, along with their exploits, and tiresome of unfair treatment, they would take firmer stances on it coming to an end.
THE NON-VIOLENT APPROACH
OFF TO VIETNAM
When Whites started disbanding Negro League Baseball - the million dollar empire mostly owned and operated by African Americans that was in affect when Major League Baseball (MLB) was suffering - and started integrating MLB, it wouldn't happen overnight, or with ease. Cap Anson made his opinions on Blacks playing alongside him very clear, years prior, and had the strongest influence in keeping the sport segregated for decades. While Anson was a player in the league - spending most of his time on the Chicago Cubs franchise (who were known that as the "White Stockings") - he famously refused to take the field when the opposing team included Black players, and led his teammates to do the same. Anson was one of the first baseball superstars of his era, breaking several records, and was regarded of one of the greatest players of his time. He would go on to manage the New York Giants (before they moved to California and became the San Francisco Giants), where he had even more of an opportunity to influence his racist beliefs. Once he retired from baseball management, he dabbled in politics and became the elected city clerk of Chicago, but would ultimately perform in vaudeville acts (where they had a blackface varieties) for nearly the remainder of his life. Anson was loved and respected by most Whites, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. If Major League Baseball was going to introduce a Black player, they would need one who was submissive and could make Whites comfortable, who would be able to turn a blind eye to racists who had beliefs like similar to Anson, and that would just do his job - play baseball. If Blacks could find some reception from Whites in sports at least, then it was possible that other sport franchises would follow, as would other businesses, eventually expanding into other areas. They would find America's Black gentle-giant, Jackie Robinson, as the star to bringing a softer introduction to integration.
Jackie Robinson was born from a poor sharecropper's family in Georgia, but moved to California where he excelled in academics and sports. He was the first athlete at UCLA to win varsity letters in four sports: basketball, baseball, track, and football. A promising professional football career followed but would come to an immediate halt when he was drafted to serve in World War II. When Robinson returned, he would have an opportunity of a lifetime - rather than playing football, he would be asked to play baseball, and be a central figure in the integration of Blacks in the league. Robinson was a mediocre baseball player, and didn't live up to the other Black teammates or competitors in the Negro Leagues - such as Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard, or Satchel Paige - but the Brooklyn Dodgers would make offer him nearly double of his current salary to join the White-owned-and-operated franchise, Major League Baseball. He wasn't the first Black player to join MLB, partly because the best and most famous Blacks preferred to play in the Negro Leagues, and weren't interested in playing with White players in MLB who they believed weren't matched to their skill set. But Jackie would fit right in with MLB players. If Robinson joined the franchise and was received by Whites, he could influence other Black players to join the league as well, which would make the MLB rich, destroy the Negro League, and make Robinson an American idol.
Robinson's signing to the Brooklyn Dodgers came with a soul-conflicting condition: he would have to take the racial animus that was guaranteed without reacting with anger, and instead show a calm, wholesome demeanor at all times. In a conversation between Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey (General Manager and Club President of the Brooklyn Dodgers), Robinson would famously ask “are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?", to which Branch replied he needed a Negro player “with guts enough not to fight back”. Robinson would comply easily with the request, and would further go on to declare that if a White man were to try to punch him in the cheek and assault him with racist remarks, that he would calmly respond "I've got two cheeks". He did just that, and did not publicly complain about the racism or segregation that he was facing, nor the physical assaults he endured from White MLB players. Robinson kept his wholesome image throughout his career, and many Blacks who wanted a chance to showcase their talents alongside White players in MLB, followed suit. The acceptance, integration, and financial gain Robinson marketed to Blacks would be all be a facade. In reality, Robinson wasn't allowed to enter or share locker rooms with Whites, wasn't allowed to ride on many of the same buses to away-games with his White-teammates, wasn't allowed to eat with his White teammates in public, and wasn't making much money. During the height of Robinson's popularity, in which he earned an MVP title, he was making more money in vaudeville acts off-season and in speaking engagements, than he was actually playing baseball for the MLB. But the story was a gimmick that worked and influenced many African American athletes to join the league. It set the tone for many Blacks that if you were willing to accept what racist jokes, stereotypes, comments, physical attacks, and discrimination came your way from Whites, then you could potentially earn acceptance and tolerance in return.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had been frustrated with the lack of change on public segregation policies. There were dozens of Blacks who were arrested for disregarding bus segregation laws, refusing to give up their seats to White passengers - including the arrest of Jackie Robinson. But there needed to be a more formal, and more public demonstration of this type of protest from Blacks. The secretary of the Montgomery, Alabama chapter of the NAACP, Rosa Parks, would be the perfect candidate to lead the example. Parks was in her 40s, was fair-skinned, was well-dressed, and was a recognized seamstress who mostly catered to White clientele, where she was adored. She would complete a course in "race relations" in Tennessee, where non-violent civil disobedience had been taught, and then soon after found herself at the epicenter of the bus-boycotting movement. Parks would enter a bus - driven by a White racist who she had encountered and had an issue with prior - and when he asked has to move a row back, to accommodate a White passenger, she refused. The NAACP called media and press to the incident, and they were there to capture the activities around her arrest. It would outrage many Whites who had enough with the segregation talks and were fine with bus integration, angered many White women for the unjust treatment of a middle-aged woman (who often looked at modern women's issues color-blind), and Blacks who were tired of the treatment. The NAACP sparked a region-wide boycott of segregated buses in the South, spearheaded by their prominent speaker, activist Martin Luther King Jr.
In his early years, Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) had preached retaliating physically against violent attacks from Whites, and held guns in his household - he rarely used the term "non violence" in his preaching or in boycotts. But after King was introduced to the theory of non-violence by his mentor, esteemed gay Black civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, and two White activists Harris Wofford and Glenn Smiley who brought him into the NAACP, his beliefs would sharply change. Smiley, a White civil rights consultant, visited King after the Montgomery bus boycott and advised him that non-violence and peaceful resistance were the only feasible solutions to overcome segregation. Smiley was quoted saying of King “If King can really be won to a faith of non-violence there is no end to what he can do. Soon he will be able to direct movement by sheer force of being the symbol of resistance.” If the NAACP could get King in their corner, with his reach and influence, the NAACP could control the Blacks in the American South. King quickly adopted Smiley and Wofford's non-violent approach, and heavily preached these ideals to his followers, attaching promises of victory for White acceptance and integration.
The CIA's COINTELPRO operation was a tremendous success, which made Hoover a hero and legend within the FBI and the United States government. To disrupt the Nation of Islam, the FBI deployed African American informants to join the Nation and relate information about their whereabouts, planned activities, the events in their leader's personal lives (e.g. birthdays or anniversary parties), rifts or arguments amongst members, gossip, and more. It is documented that the FBI worked to "widen the rift" between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, which ultimately led to Malcolm's departure from the organization. Malcolm X would take a noticeable shift in his views after allegations about his mentor, Elijah Muhammad, surfaced implicating Muhammad had several extra marital affairs, and subsequent "bastard" children, which went against the Nation's core principles that they were actively preaching. At the start of Malcolm X's address to the audience at his Organization of Afro-American Unity meeting in Manhattan, New York, someone in the 400-person audience yelled, "Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!" This created a diversion, and when Malcolm X and his bodyguards attempted to quiet the disturbance, a Black man rushed forward towards Malcolm X and shot him once in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage firing handguns, shooting Malcolm X several times, and then fled. His autopsy identified 21 gunshot wounds to the chest, left shoulder, arms and legs, including 10 buckshot wounds from the initial shotgun blast. 3 Nation of Islam members were tried and convicted of Malcolm X's murder, and sentenced to life in prison, but were eventually released on reduced sentences and returned to their normal lives.
Police officers continued violent attacks against Black Panther Party members, but it wouldn't go without violent retaliation. Oakland police officer John Frey was shot to death during an altercation with Huey P. Newton after pulling him over, with Newton and the backup officer Herbert Heanes also suffering gunshot wounds. Newton was convicted of manslaughter, sparking a huge "Free Huey!" campaign across the country, attracting support from dozens of Organizations, such as the Progressive Labor Party and the Red Guard. The Black Panthers would find success in this campaign, gaining wide recognition by the radical American left, resulting in Newton being released after 3 years, and his conviction was reversed on appeal. 17-year-old Black Panther National Treasurer Bobby Hutton was also killed in a shootout with Oakland police. There have been mixed stories on how the altercation erupted, with both sides citing each other for ambushing. The result was the arrest of 7 Black Panther Party leaders, including Chief of Staff David Hilliard. Dozens of other Black Panther Party leaders and members would be shot or killed by racist police officers, with no convictions for the officers. Fred Hampton, National Spokesman for the Black Panther Party, was killed by members of the Chicago Police Department as part of a publicly-known COINTELPRO operation. An FBI infiltrator slipped sedative drugs in Hampton's drink, unbeknownst to him, then the police raided his house while he was sleeping with his 8 1/2-month-pregnant fiancee, and shot him point blank in the head.
The FBI planted various Blacks as informants within the Black Panther Party, and instructed them in how to quickly elevate their power, just as they had the Nation of Islam. When one of them was confronted, Alex Rackley, by 3 Black Panther Party members who were convinced of his guilt, they killed him. One of his murderers, George Sams Jr., was also accused of being an informant, and proved to be accurate when he turned states evidence in return for a reduced charge of second-degree murder later. He testified that Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale arranged for Alex Rackley's kidnap and murder. The trial was time consuming and stressful for the Black Panthers, causing tension and division among many about how to handle the situation. Significant disagreements among the Black Panther's leaders furthered when faced with how to confront ideological differences: some members felt the Black Panthers should participate in government programs, while others wanted to continue resistance from the police who were attacking them, rather than work with them. Some of the core members of the Black Panther Party, particularly Huey P. Newton continued on a spree of incarceration, for petty and serious offenses, while concurrently developing a serious drug addiction - causing a lack of stability at the head of the organization's leadership. After a series of leadership changes over a short period of time, along with a split in membership when leaders started forming their own groups (like the Black Guerrilla Family), the incarceration of their most prominent figures (i.e. Angela Davis), and drugs plaguing the group (i.e. Huey Newton), the Black Panther Party met their demise. By the time Huey P. Newton took over leadership of the organization again in the late 70s, he had been completely engulfed in his addiction to drugs, and embezzled the programs he started with the Black Panthers to fund his addictions. Shortly after leaving a crack house in West Oakland, Newton was shot in the face twice, killed by his drug dealer, 24-year-old Tyrone Robinson, after an argument ensued about money Newton owned. The Black Panther Party membership quickly dissolved following, and never regained its power.
J Edgar Hoover had a special obsession with Martin Luther King Jr that was unique to any other leader or group. His 24/7 surveillance on King over the course of 5 years never did prove any wrongdoing (outside of King's adultery), and his bullying tactics didn't work. Before King accepted his Nobel Peace Price, the FBI anonymously sent him a letter that was intended for him to commit suicide. It read "... You are done. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significant). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation. " – included were audio recordings of his sexual infidelities. A copy was also sent to his wife, Coretta. The FBI was even monitoring King while he was at the Lorrain motel (where he spent the last night of his life) – they were at the fire station across the street, in the building next to where James Earl Ray (King’s convicted assassin) was staying. The agents were watching King during the time that he was shot, and captured audio from their wire tappings of the room, along with the images of King in his moments of death, as well as the events that took place afterwards. Unbeknownst to many, it was the federal agents who fled their station they were hiding in and rushed to aid King, before any paramedics arrived on the scene. It was also an undercover police officer, who “just happened to be around that morning” who administered first aid to King before the ambulance even arrived. The details and circumstances of that day were documented and recorded, but will not be available to the general public until released from the U.S. National Archives in 2027. Most believe that the death of King was a result of an United States government conspiracy, due to the overwhelming evidence to support that James Earl Ray was not the sole person behind King's murder. Ray maintained his innocent until his death, which was believed by Coretta Scott King.
Nearly all of the prominent and popular Black civil rights leaders during the civil rights movement were killed or incarcerated. J Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO initiative was successful in it's goals to dismantle Black civil rights organizations, discredit and destroy Black leaders, and was slowly restoring Black communities to tolerate the injustices, racism, discrimination, and oppressions they would face from Whites, again.
African Americans unitedly wanted an end to racist propaganda, an end to false portrayals from the media about them, an end to segregated facilities, an end to false imprisonment, and an end to the violence against them after the United States' victory in World War II. This was because Blacks - like in previous American wars - fought partially in the war to earn the respect of Whites by showing loyalty to the U.S. military, and felt they did so. It also sparked intolerance from Blacks after Jews in Europe were going through similar treatment as they, and the Allies (United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia) intervened and put an end to it - while it continued for Blacks in America. Reparations would be granted to the Jews who endured abuse and violence from the Nazis for 12 years; West Germany was to pay Israel (a land claimed by Jews from the Palestinians) for the slave labor of Jews during the Holocaust, and compensate for losses in Jewish livelihood and property that was stolen by the Nazis during their persecution and genocide. There would be no reparations given to African Americans for their experiencing the same treatment for 200 years (and even still up to that point). Instead of seeking reparations like Jews in Europe did, Blacks in 1945 started fighting for basic human rights in America, that would grant some of the same rights as Whites, sparking the Civil Rights Movement.
This monumental period was short lived, due to the direct intention to destroy it by the United States government, the imprisonment of the Black leaders who were spearheading it, and the murders of those who remained.
After a few landmark laws passed that granted Blacks some equal rights to Whites, and after the abrupt end to the quest for equality from Black civil rights leaders, African Americans shifted their attention to making the best of their surroundings, assimilating, and working around their circumstances. Many would focus on establishing themselves as a dominant force in an area where they had been most well-received: entertainment.
After President Richard Nixon put an end to the fighting in Vietnam and ordered all troops home, Black veterans would find themselves in similar predicaments as they had when returning home from previous American wars: they couldn't find work. The United States had been in promising direction with Richard Nixon. Nixon had ended the war in Vietnam which had lasted over 10 years, opened up relationships with China which had never been done - resulting in the alliance with America to this day. For Blacks specifically, Nixon enforced desegregation in the States that still had not complied to integrate Blacks (nearly 20 years after laws were imposed). However, a scandal erupted when it was discovered that President Nixon had directed his team to break in to his competing party's office (the Democrats), and wire tap the room so he could listen in on their conversations - it led to Nixon's resignation as President. Blacks, and the rest of America would take in a different direction under Gerald Ford, who wasn't prepared for the Presidency, only inheriting it from Nixon's departure from the role. The United States saw its worst economy since the Great Depression (4 decades prior) after, with growing inflation and recession. With no demand for work, and no money to spend to build the economy, the states that had the highest African American populations - like New York - were bankrupting.
During the Vietnam War, Americans were focused on what was happening in the real-world, because the events happening across the country affected almost every demographic. Hippie-culture was fading away, after the Manson murders shattered the "peace and love" image that hippies portrayed, and there was crisis in California on the displaced homeless youth and young adults who traveled there in its late 1960s hippie-hayday. Most of the White youth who rode the psychedelic drug wave of the 60s were now drug-addicted mature adults in the 70s, and because most practiced "free love" and not contraceptives, many would give birth to drug-addicted children. Blacks were still focused on equal rights to Whites returning from the war, but with no leadership, and minimal (or no) mental health support for the Black soldiers who had fought in war for 10 years. Women were concurrently in a movement for equal rights to men, while conservative Whites were trying to regain power in Washington. The Japanese living in the United States were fighting for reparations for how they were treated during World War II years prior - when the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, then-President Franklin D Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of nearly every Japense-American in the United States; FDR would force the relocation and incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese United States citizens. Americans were active - which led to a demise in profits for the entertainment industry, most notably in Hollywood.
As there was encouragement to take a break from all thats happening, and be entertained rather than deal with real-world problems, there would be an upshift in creative writers across the country who brought their ideas to the big screen. "B movies" were easy to make, and cheap to make, causing a soar of directors of all races to enter the field. Many Blacks who couldn't find work started investing in their own projects, particularly in the movie industry, and created films that were made specifically for Black audiences. They typically featured a Black-predominant cast, and centered around a Black star (which was a rarity in Hollywood, as most Black actors were supporting actors only), who was usually a hero or of heroic nature. During the films, the heroic Black star would typically face oppressions, racism, and/or violence - usually from Whites - and would overcome any challenges faced. Since the films were clearly derived from real-lives of Black experiences, and the film almost-always ended with Black rise, victory, and power, it caught the attention of all ethnicities in America.
As the films - and their stars - started to gain a following, Hollywood studios cashed in and started mass producing them, creating new consistent stereotypes for Black actors, and coining the the new movie genre as "Blaxploitation". The biggest budgeted films would be those backed by White or Jewish-owned movie companies. The locations of the films were mostly set in an urban metropolitan areas or in the American South, in poor (primarily Black) neighborhoods. Blacks int these films were portrayed to commonly use ethnic slurs when referring to or speaking to White characters - such as "honky" or "cracker" - and the slurs were often a main character element. The genre carried several subtypes, including crime, action, martial arts, westerns, comedies, musicals, and more. The Blaxploitation films also featured newly-created Black musical genres - like Disco and funk - on their soundtracks, which introduced new genres of music that dominated the radio. If Blaxploitation movies were set in the American South, they almost always centered around slavery and White racist ideals. Black men were usually typecast to characters that were either pimp or drug dealers, with lots of money, women, sex, and guns being the critical elements to their characters. Old stereotypes for Black women in these films were still being used, but would see a refresh. For instance, Foxy Brown (played by Pam Grier) was characterized as a sexual fiend, and was sexually aggressive, often wearing provocative clothing and actively attracting men of all races - just like the "Jezebel" characters Black women portrayed decades prior. Through 1976, which marked the almost immediate end to the Blaxploitation genre, over 200 films were produced. Guns, drugs, and violence (and sometimes the 3 combined) would be at the epicenter of the majority of their plots.
The Blaxploitation film genre's role in exploring and shaping race relations in the United States was controversial. Some held that Blaxploitation films perpetuated the stereotypes Whites were actively saying about them. When Black civil rights organizations got involved with resisting the Blaxploitation films - boycotting their support - the genre's demise fell just as quickly as it rose. But it would leave lasting impressions on those who watched them or were familiar with them. Blacks would find heroism in the films protagonist, who were often drug dealers, pimps, or gangsters, and some would follow in the footsteps of the characters portrayed in real-life because they were so identifiable, which brought new meanings to the stereotypes.
The Vietnam War, was a conflict going on in Vietnam, between the Vietnamese governments - the Viet Cong and North Vietnam - escalated by John F Kennedy. Americans only got involved after the Soviet Union - who was being marketed as an enemy of the United States - announced their support of the Viet Cong, along with China and other countries. The Viet Cong political party was trying to overthrow the existing party, in similar fashion to how Democrats try to win political power over Republicans in the U.S., and vise versa. But Kennedy wanted to ensure the existing party kept power. The United States military was to intervene and help eliminate the opposing Viet Cong. America's involvement progressed during the Kennedy administration, but began to soar when Johnson took office. Whites, Blacks, and other ethnic groups across the country united in not wanting to go to war, and not getting involved in Vietnamese problems. When Black civil rights leaders were alive, or were in the heights of their popularity, most openly and adamantly opposed the Vietnam War. International stars like Muhammad Ali - who was known at the time as by his birth name Cassius Clay - would famously refuse service in the United States military when selected for the draft after joining the Nation of Islam. He would suffer being banned from boxing in the United States for 3 years, and stripped from his passport, until the Supreme Court overturned the sentence.
With the majority of influential Black leaders killed, incarcerated, or out of the limelight, there was a lack of Black leadership. As a result, there was minimal influences or resources that helped Blacks understand how the war impacted them, and how to respond to it. The draft call was disproportionately claiming the lives of African American men over Whites. African Americans saw Lincoln B Johnson (LBJ) as an ally, so were conflicted on how to respond to his call of their service. As President, he had acted on his word in helping Blacks gain some civil equality to Whites, which had been missed during the Kennedy administration. He signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 (which Kennedy opposed) almost immediately upon taking office. Within a year of that monumental law, LBJ would continue his crusade for Black equal rights by signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965. However, those newfound liberties came with a condition: Black support in the war. The Vietnam War would see the highest proportion of Blacks ever to serve in an American war. Of the 246,000 men recruited under Project 100,000 (the federal war draft) between October 1966 and June 1969, 41% were black, although African Americans represented only 11% of the US population. In addition, Blacks were drafted mostly in the infantry, to serve on the frontline, and the firsts to die. In 1965 alone Blacks represented almost 25% of those killed in action.
White hostility in the United States Military towards Blacks did not end just because Blacks were fighting for the United States - they had done so for several wars and endured similar treatment. It would only intensify during the Vietnam War, because it was the first war where Blacks would actually fight alongside Whites in integrated units. Many Blacks who would serve and return from the Vietnam War spoke that they were treated kinder by the Vietnamese - who mostly opposed United States Military presence there - than White fellow Americans who they fought alongside. In response, the United States Military was forced to create interracial councils and have troops attend racial sensitivity training. Nearly 15% of the African Americans who joined the Vietnam War and served the United States, died in it.
Although Blacks won a critical legal battle when state-sponsored segregation in schools was found to be unconstitutional in 1954, it didn't mean that Whites who were for against integration accepted it. There were countless protests throughout the United States from Whites who didn't agree with the court decision in Northern schools, but primarily it was the American South who led the example in expressing their disdain their attention in the American South. Whites initially rebelled against the court decision outright, and many continued segregating public schools across the Nation. It would take 2-3 years before some states even acknowledged the law. It would take 4-5 years after the court ruling for some schools in the Deep South to integrate their high schools and actually allow Black students.
In Arkansas, the Governor of the State (Orval Faubus) called his state's National Guard to block African American students from entering Little Rock Central High School. Florida's legislature passed an Interposition Resolution denouncing the court decision and declared it null and void, so that they didn't have to integrate their schools. In Mississippi, Blacks were so fearful of lynchings and violence, that they didn't even attempt to integrate the schools for 9 years after the ruling. The integration attempt in Mississippi sparked when a Black man (Medgar Evers) sued to desegregate Jackson, Mississippi schools. Greensboro, North Carolina became the first city in the American South to publicly announce that it would abide by the court ruling and integrate its public schools. However, they would famously retract it, and would not actually desegregate their schools for another 15 years - after a series of lawsuits, protests, and violence erupted around the State; Greensboro would be one of the last cities to adopt integration.
Within a year of the Brown vs Board of Education ruling, conservative Whites had a victory that overshadowed it with Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County - often referred to as Brown II. The Supreme Court acknowledged arguments made by schools that were having problems desegregating, and those who needed or wanted more time in order to do so. It unfortunately granted schools legal justification for delaying, resisting, or avoiding integrating Blacks into White schools. Racist Whites united in boycotting their children from even attending the public schools in question, opting to home school them or take them to other "private" institutions instead. Employing tactics like these closed down pubic school systems. County Board of Supervisors in some cities stopped appropriating money for public schools, and instead used State money to finance "private" schools that they could segregate by choice. For the public schools left open, Whites would carefully select what Black children were admitted (sometimes allowing 1-2 per year), so they could claim they were compliant with the law, while the vast majority of African Americans were still in underfunded, unequal schools.
Many Whites responded to the pressure of desegregation with violence. Physical attacks against Blacks occurred throughout the country in response to the integration pressure, but it was far worse in the American South. Whites hastily threw stones in the faces of African Americans when they were walking to school, mocked them and antagonized them while they were in route to school, spat on them, kicked them in the face, stole their books and book bags, and violently attacked them while in groups. In the same fashion as lynch mobs and Ku Klux Klan antagonists, the Whites who attacked Blacks only did so only while outnumbering them. Blacks generally responded to these attacks with humility and rarely fought back, as they knew that death was a certain sentence from the courts if a Black ever fought back against Whites. This generation of Blacks had grandparents who had experienced slavery at the hands of Whites years prior, and were well aware of the violence Whites were capable of, and the consequences for any form of retaliation.
To continue racism across the country, and to reject the ideas of integration, Whites expanded from not allowing Blacks in their schools, to removing "colored" sections in their establishments. Whites closed and destroyed hundreds of "colored" faucets, restrooms, and more. In addition they replace "colored" section signs of restaurants and eateries with signs bearing "White-Only". Blacks hadn't been treated with respect in these establishments anyway, forced to sit in sections that were near smoke pits or in areas secluded from White vision, but at least they were allowed. But then Blacks became slowly excluded from any private business, and because most Blacks in the South were unable to start their own businesses, they had no where to go. Sadly Blacks during this time would start to slowly fill up more prisons and jails for erroneous crimes, just to remove them from wandering around the streets. Blacks would be arrested for crimes that included walking on the same street as a White person, making direct eye contact with a White person (which was deemed by many Whites as a threat), and entering a White establishment without written permission.
To escape the discrimination, the violence, murder, and false imprisonment, many Blacks would take part in another migration, leaving the American South. Most often referenced as the "Second Great Migration", millions of African Americans would gather their belongings - or just themselves - and moved to other cities in the North, Midwest, and the West. Many Blacks would make their way to California, where Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Long Beach offered the most work opportunities, and the least resistance from Whites. The migrants to California were mostly from Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. It would be coastal states like District of Columbia (Washington DC), Delaware, Maryland, and Florida, that would have the majority of an increase in their Black populations during this time.
Most of the Blacks working in these cities were already skilled laborers in the South, and found the work loads in these new cities easy compared to the conditions they were bearing in the South. But during this period of migration, unique from the first one 30+ years prior, Blacks would take on different jobs - rather than the field labor work that characterized them - and stayed away from taking agriculture work. African Americans were becoming more and more urbanized, working and living in major metropolitan cities - sometimes outnumbering the Whites who lived there - and although some discrimination was still faced, it was minimal compared to the abuse endured in the South. There still was a large population of Blacks that remained in the South, who were still hopeful of integrating with Whites, regardless of their direct rejection to it, leading to new attempts for gain equality and legal acceptance.