During the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders worked for change using nonviolence. But change was slow, and as the years went by many African Americans got tired of waiting. Why was change taking so long?
Especially for young men in northern and western cities, the dream Dr. King spoke about in 1963 seemed like a promise that would never be kept. For them, leaders like Malcolm X who said that African Americans should look out for themselves and should be ready to use violence to protect their neighborhoods, seemed more in touch with their lives.
So, even though the nonviolent protests and marches gave people hope and did lead to some changes, violence began to increase. Was this always going to happen? Could the movement’s leaders have done anything to stop this? Could White Americans have prevented this turn toward violence?
What do you think? Was violence always going to be part of the Civil Rights Movement?
On August 11, 1965, a riot broke out in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Police had stopped Marquette Frye, for possible drunk driving. A crowd gathered as Frye was asked to step out of his car. When the officer drew his gun, the people watching lost their temper.
Too many times the African Americans living in Watts had seen the White police officers abuse their friends and neighbors. They were tired of being turned down for jobs in Watts by White employers who lived in rich neighborhoods. They were upset about overcrowded old apartments. The Frye arrest was the match that lit their fire. What followed was five days of rioting, looting, and burning. The governor of California ordered the National Guard to bring order. When the smoke cleared, 34 people were killed and property damage was about $40 million.
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Police stand guard across from a burned out building during the 1967 Detroit Riots. A truck of National Guardsman rolls by.
The riots in Watts in Los Angeles were not the only time frustration and anger among urban African American communities turned into violence. Sometimes called The Long, Hot Summer, the riots had actually started in 1964 when a White policeman in Harlem in New York City shot an African American teenager leading to a riot. In 1967, there were riots in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tampa, Birmingham, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Britain, and Rochester. The most serious riots of the summer took place in July, with the riot in Newark, New Jersey and the Twelfth Street riot in Detroit, Michigan.
President Johnson created the Kerner Commission to look at the causes behind the rioting. After a six-month study, the committee found that the riots started because African Americans were upset about the lack of jobs in their neighborhoods. They blamed federal and state governments for failing to pass laws or spend money to make sure there were good homes and apartments to live in. They blamed the government for failing to provide good schools and pay for basic services. The report also criticized the news media. “The press has too long basked in a White world looking out of it, if at all, with White men’s eyes and White perspective.”
The report’s most famous passage warned, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one White — separate and unequal.” The report said that White Americans had been creating the problem for many years by ignoring the needs of African American neighborhoods. For many years, they wrote, de facto segregation like redlining had led to segregated neighborhoods in northern and western cities and White political leaders had ignored the needs of these neighborhoods.
The members of the Kerner Commission wrote that the government needed to start new programs to provide basic services, to hire more African Americans as police officers and, most importantly, to invest billions of dollars in housing programs that would end racial segregation in the cities.
Sadly, few listened to the Kerner Commission’s ideas. Few White politicians were comfortable spending their reputations fighting to improve conditions in mostly African American inner cities, and in the 1960s and 1970s, only a few African Americans had been elected to public office.
When Malcolm Little was growing up in Lansing, Michigan, he learned not to trust White Americans. Ku Klux Klan terrorists burned his house, and his father was murdered. After this, his mother had to take care of Malcolm and his brothers and sisters, and she started to have mental health problems Malcolm and his siblings were split up to live in foster care or with other families. When Malcolm was in middle school, he was elected class president and was one of the school’s top students. But even still, his White teachers told him that he shouldn’t try to become a lawyer, which was his dream, because he was African American. After moving to New York after school, he got involved in crime, was arrested and sent to jail.
The time he spent in prison changed Malcolm’s life. He read and worked on his education. He learned the rich history of Black Americans that his White teachers had never taught. He learned how Whites had used Christianity to justify slavery and discrimination. Other inmates, including Elijah Muhammad, convinced Malcolm to become a Muslim and join the Nation of Islam.
When he was released from prison, he was a changed man, and he changed his name to Malcolm X. X for the true African family name that he never could know. Malcolm wanted to give up the name Little, which had been the name of the White family that once owned his ancestors as slaves.
Not only had Malcolm X given up his old name, but he had also given up Christianity. Islam, Malcolm’s new faith, is one of the world’s largest religions, but for many African Americans, Islam had added meaning. When Wallace Fard founded the Nation of Islam in the 1930s, he said that Christianity was a White man’s faith. Although it had been founded by an Arab, Islam was practiced by many Africans and was a part of the African identity, said Fard. Like Muslims everywhere, members of the Nation of Islam read the Koran, believed in Allah as their God, and accepted Mohammed as their lead prophet. However, in America, Fard’s followers mixed the religious ideas of Islam with black nationalism. Fard’s followers became known as Black Muslims. When Fard mysteriously disappeared, Elijah Muhammad became the leader of the Nation of Islam.
Primary Source: Photograph
Malcolm X was, and continues to be, an influential figure in the African American community. Dr. King preached civil disobedience and non-violence, but Malcolm X has a complex legacy, meaning he changed his opinions on racial integration and violence during his lifetime.
The Nation of Islam attracted many followers, especially in prisons, where African Americans who had suffered in a White society looked for guidance. The Nation of Islam taught that its followers needed to follow a strict moral code, and that they should turn to other African Americans, and not Whites for help. Integration between Whites and Blacks was not a goal. Rather, the Nation of Islam wanted African Americans to set up their own schools, churches, and support networks. When Malcolm X joined the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad saw his talents and made him a leader for the movement.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his ideas about peaceful change and joining of Whites and Blacks together in society in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Malcolm X delivered a different message. He said Whites should not be trusted. He called on African Americans to be proud of their past and to set up strong communities without the help of White Americans. He believed strongly in the idea of self-defense. He said that African Americans should be able to have justice and equality and it did not matter how they got it, even if they used violence.
Malcolm X was smart, and he was an excellent speaker. His message was popular, especially for African Americans living in northern and western cities. However, in 1963, he split with the Nation of Islam after an argument with Elijah Muhammad. In 1964 he made the Hajj, a religious trip to Mecca, the city in the Middle East where Islam started.
After seeing Muslims from many parts of the world worshiping together, Malcolm started changing his ideas. He started to see the main problem as racism in American society, not just White people who society had taught to be racist. What Malcolm X, with all his talents, might have done with his new ideas is lost to history. As he led a meeting in Harlem, New York City on February 21, 1965, rival Black Muslims shot and killed him. Although his life ended, the ideas he shared lived on in the Black Power Movement.
In 1966, Stokely Carmichael of the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) told a group of marchers, “What we need is black power.” The people responded, “Black Power” and a new side of the Civil Rights Movement began.
Carmichael and some other young African American leaders liked the ideas of Malcolm X and did not think that Whites and African Americans needed to live together. Carmichael believed that African Americans needed most was pride and self-respect. Like Malcolm X, he wanted African American communities to get stronger without the help of Whites.
Chapters of SNCC and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) stopped letting Whites join as Carmichael gave up the idea of nonviolence. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the NAACP spoke out against the idea of black power because they thought it would get in the way of their work to bring Whites and Blacks together. But black power was a powerful message in the streets of American cities. For many young African Americans, racism was everywhere. They were always afraid of White police officers, and they believed White America had created a society that kept African Americans poor. Dr. King’s message of love, nonviolence, and integration into White society did not make sense to these young people.
African American students began to celebrate African American culture publicly. Young African American teenagers wore traditional African colors and clothes at their colleges. Soul singer James Brown had his audience saying, “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.” Young African Americans yelled, “Black Is Beautiful! ”
The Black Power movement turned popular fashion upside down. In the 1930s, skin lighteners and hair straighteners were used by popular African American women to try to look whiter. By the end of the 1960s, afro hair styles and dark skin were popular.
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The black power salute at the 1968 Olympics by Tommie Smith and John Carlos got the nation’s attention. Some felt that it was disrespectful to the flag, while others celebrated it as a powerful message of resistance to racism. It was the first, but not the last time African American athletes would use the opportunity they had as televised celebrities to send a political message.
That same year, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale took Carmichael’s idea a step further and formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Openly carrying guns, the Panthers decided to take control of their own neighborhoods to push back against the police. The Panthers believed in self-reliance. They served breakfast to children, organized food programs for families, opened schools, gave legal advice, gave out clothing, and started health clinics. As the Black Panthers became more popular and spread to more cities, White leaders began to worry. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover spied on the Panthers and White leaders called them terrorists because they carried guns.
For African Americans, the hypocrisy was thick. Whites proudly talked about their Second Amendment right to own guns and White members of the KKK in the South shot African Americans and got away with it. However, the moment Black Panthers carried guns and said that they would defend themselves, they were called terrorists.
For many Americans, the Black Power movement arrived in their living rooms while watching the 1968 Olympics. During their medal ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a fist in the Black Power salute during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. It was one of the most obvious political acts at the Olympic Games, and the first of many times African American athletes would use their moment on television to share their ideas about race in America.
THE DEATH OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
The Civil Rights Movement lost its greatest leader on the morning of April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed at his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.
King had come to Memphis to support garbage workers who were on strike. The night before, he had talked about the threats he had heard both then and throughout his life. At the end of the speech, King talked about dying, but said that he was not afraid. He said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.” He went on to describe how he could imagine a future without racism or discrimination. Using an image from the Bible, he said, “I’ve been to the mountaintop… I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So, I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
As news of King’s murder spread, rioting broke out in cities across the country as people let out their anger. For most African Americans, the murder of Dr. King, a man of understanding and peace, was the worst kind of attack. In fact, with King’s death much of the energy for the protests and marches of the Civil Rights Movement also died away. Although his followers continued to work for racial justice, the movement changed and the energy on the streets of the South, the courts, and the centers of political power began to disappear.
Dr. King is remembered as one of America’s greatest people. Time magazine had named him “Man of the Year” in 1963. In 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1977, after he had died, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian American can earn. In 1983, his birthday became a national holiday, giving people a chance once each year to think about the ideas he spent his life working for.
NIXON’S SOUTHERN STRATEGY
The violent protests in cities that first started in the summer of 1965 led to a reaction from White Americans. Fearful White Americans began to think about “law and order” more than civil rights. In 1968, Republican Richard Nixon decided to run again for president and promised a return to law and order. Nixon had been vice president in the 1950s and had lost one of the closest elections in 1960 to John F. Kennedy. However, in 1968 he saw an opportunity to return to government.
Nixon spoke to northern, blue-collar workers, who he called the silent majority. These voters were afraid of the social changes taking place in the country. Some felt left behind, as the government seemed to be focused on the problems of African Americans. After years hearing about riots, they liked Nixon’s promise of law and order.
Nixon also used the Southern Strategy in 1968. Ever since the end of the Civil War, White southerners had voted for democrats. Lincoln had been a Republican. But Nixon’s team wanted to change this pattern. He said he was against segregation and did not want to stop African Americans from voting, he also said that southern states should be allowed to change at their own pace. He said that he didn’t want to use the army or federal government to force Whites and Blacks to integrate the way democrats Kennedy and Johnson had done. Because of Nixon’s Southern Strategy in 1968, there was a major switch of the national parties as White Southerners switched to voting for Republicans and African Americans started to vote for Democrats. It has been that way ever since.
BUSSING AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Once Nixon became President, he did not focus on civil rights as much as Kennedy and Johnson. Support for civil rights was highest in the mid-1960s, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading marches, and the news was reporting about things in the South. With King gone, and Black Power on the rise, Nixon did not feel the same pressure to act like the presidents before him.
Since most students attended neighborhood schools, and Whites and African Americans mostly lived in separate neighborhoods, schools also were mostly divided. To create more integrated schools, some school leaders had started sending buses to bring students to schools far from where they lived. In this way, leaders could create integrated schools without forcing people to move. Nixon wanted a middle way between segregationists who wanted purely segregated schools and liberal Democrats who liked bussing and integration. He supported integration, but he was against the use of bussing to force integration.
Nixon wanted to keep the support of southern conservatives, many of whom had voted Republican for the first time in 1968. These southern voters did not like the Democratic Party because of Kennedy and Johnson’s support for civil rights laws. Nixon, however, was not a Southerner, and still wanted to make the lives of African Americans better.
While civil rights progress slowed during his time as president, he did not try to stop the civil rights movement. In fact, Nixon created the first major federal affirmative action program. The program made it a rule that companies that did work for the government had to hire minority workers. This was a successful way to fight discrimination in the workplace. Although the program had been started many years before, Nixon made it much larger. Affirmative action was later in other areas of American life, including college admissions.
THE WAR ON DRUGS AND MASS INCARCERATION
As Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, crime in the United States was reaching an all-time high. While there were different reasons for the rise in crime, the most important reason had to do with the Baby Boom. Most criminals were males between 16 and 36, and there were a lot of people this age in the late 1970s because of the Baby Boomer generation. But most politicians saw just the rising number of crimes and blamed a new, cheap drug sold illegally on city streets as the main problem.
Crack cocaine, a smokable type of cocaine popular with poor addicts, was hitting the streets in the 1980s, scaring middle-class Americans. Reagan and other conservatives led a campaign to “get tough on crime” and promised the country a war on drugs. Programs like the “Just Say No” campaign led by First Lady Nancy Reagan gave people the idea that drug use and drug-related crime were because of people’s poor choices. “Just Say No” led people to ignore problems like addiction and poverty.
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The rate of incarceration skyrocketed in America due to the War on Drugs. Many of those who were convicted were African American, and the effect on some neighborhoods has been catastrophic.
Nixon had first used the words “war on drugs” in 1971, but in the 1980s, the war on drugs took on a dark meaning, as politicians passed new laws to get tough on drug offenders and win votes. State after state switched to mandatory minimum sentences that were long and especially harsh for crimes related to the sale of drugs. The drug trade was carried out mostly by minorities in cities, so these new laws ended up affecting mostly minorities. This law-and-order movement peaked in the 1990s, when California introduced a three-strikes law. Named after the three strikes in baseball, the new law required life in prison for any third felony conviction, even nonviolent ones. As a result, prisons became crowded with drug offenders, and states went into debt to build more.
By 2000, the War on Drugs started to die down as the public lost interest in the problem and spending tax money on prisons made politicians unpopular. But the damage was already done. Hundreds of thousands of people had been put in prison for drug offenses and the total number of prisoners in the country had grown 400%. The War on Drugs had been very hard on African Americans who were seven times more likely to be in prison than Whites. The effects on communities were terrible. Large numbers of young Black men were in prison and could not work, support families, or be parents.
RODNEY KING AND THE LA RIOTS
On the evening of March 3, 1991, Rodney King and two passengers were driving west on the freeway through Los Angeles. The California Highway Patrol tried to make a traffic stop. A high-speed chase began. When King finally stopped, the police officers arrested him and his passengers.
After King’s two passengers were placed in the patrol car, five White Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers surrounded King, who came out of the car last. They tased him, beat with their batons, and knocked him to the ground before handcuffing him. Unknown to the police and King, the whole thing was recorded on video from a nearby apartment.
Primary Source: Video Still
The video of Rodney King being beaten by LAPD officers was shocking, not because the beating happened because African Americans knew such events were common, but because it was captured by a bystander on his video camera. In the days before cell phones, such video evidence was almost unheard of.
The video of King being beaten by police became the focus of media attention and a call to action in Los Angeles and around the United States. The Los Angeles Times published 43 articles about it, The New York Times published 17 articles, and the Chicago Tribune published 11 articles. Eight stories appeared on ABC News, including a one-hour special on Primetime Live. In the days before the Internet and social media, this news story stayed popular mostly because there was a video, which in the days before cell phone cameras, almost never happened.
Before the release of the Rodney King video, minority leaders in Los Angeles had often complained about LAPD officers attacking African Americans and other minorities. It was a problem that had been noticed by the Kerner Commission 26 years before but had never been fixed. In 1991, however, the Rodney King tape was the first time there was video to prove that what they were saying was true.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney charged four police officers with assault and use of excessive force. The jury in the trial was composed of nine White members, one bi-racial man, one Hispanic, and one Asian American. On April 29, 1992, after seven days, the jury decided that all four police officers were not guilty of assault and acquitted three of the four of using excessive force. African Americans were angry. Finally, they thought, there was video evidence that proved what had happened and still, the courts had not provided justice.
Rioting began the day the decision was announced and got worse over the next two days. Most of the rioting was in South Central Los Angeles, where the population was mostly African American and Hispanic. A total of 63 people died during the riots and more than 2,000 people were hurt. About 3,600 fires were set, burning 1,100 buildings, and looting was widespread.
During the riots, Rodney King went on television and begged the police and rioters to stop. He said, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all just get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. Well, we’ll get our justice Please, we can get along here.”
The LA Riots didn’t just affect African Americans. Rioters also attacked stores owned by Koreans and other ethnic Asians that were mixed into the mostly African American neighborhoods where the riots happened. Many Korean Americans in Los Angeles call the riots Sa-I-Gu, meaning “four-two-nine” in Korean, in reference to April 29, 1992, the day the riots started. Over 2,300 mom-and-pop shops run by Korean Americans were damaged. There was also a lot of emotional damage from the riots.
In response, Korean American started to work together to improve their lives in Los Angeles. A week after the riots, in the largest Asian American protest ever held in a city, about 30,000 Korean Americans walked the streets of the Los Angeles Koreatown, calling for peace and speaking out against police violence. They wanted to protect their political rights and identity. New leaders, especially second-generation children started to work to help the Korean American community be more integrated into the city and politics.
Even though they tried, most of the local stores affected by the riots were never rebuilt. Store owners had a hard time getting loans. The memory of the riots led many bankers and businesspeople to be afraid of South Los Angeles.
Primary Source: Magazine Covers
Both Newsweek and Time Magazines used OJ Simpson’s mug shot on their covers. However, Time darkened the image, leading to accusations that they were perpetuating the stereotype that darker skin should be equated with criminality and violence.
THE OJ SIMPSON TRIAL
On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ron Goldman were found killed outside her condo in Los Angeles. Nicole Brown Simpson’s ex-husband was the football star OJ Simpson and he was the most obvious suspect. Simpson did not turn himself in, and on June 17 police chased him in a white Ford Bronco. TV stations stopped showing the 1994 NBA Finals to show live footage of the chase taken from news helicopters. About a million Americans watched as OJ ran from the police. The chase and OJ’s trial were among the most watched events in American history.
OJ’s trial is sometimes called the Trial of the Century because it is so famous. It was shown on live cable television. Many people watched the months-long trial like a soap opera. When the trial ended after eleven months on October 3, 1995, 100 million people watched or listened as the jury gave a verdict of not guilty for the two murders.
The verdict showed just how divided America still was after all the work of the Civil Rights Movement. According to a 2016 poll, 83% of White Americans and 57% of African Americans believe Simpson was guilty. Many people thought that it was wrong that OJ was found not guilty. For many White Americans, a murderer went free because of mistakes by the police and prosecutors and because Simpson had the money to hire the very best lawyers. However, for many African Americans, after years of the Jim Crow system of the South, and the disappointment of the Rodney King trial, the OJ Simpson verdict was a cause for celebration as one of their own had finally beaten the White man’s criminal justice system.
The Kerner Commission pointed out the source of African American frustration, although anyone who lived in the ghettos of America’s great cities could have explained the causes of the violence that marked the later part of the Civil Rights Movement. Lack of jobs, abuse by police, discrimination, and being ignored by the government were problems that Dr. King and other leaders tried to fix. However, for the young African American men and women of the late-1960s and in the years that followed, nonviolence was simply too slow or didn’t work. And being human, sometimes anger turned into violence.
Should Americans in the early 1960s have seen that the Civil Rights Movement would take this turn? Should those who held up Dr. King as the model of a good protester have known that his influence would not reach to every corner of every city? Should we, as people, know ourselves better?
What do you think? Was violence an inevitable part of the Civil Rights Movement?
BIG IDEA: In the later 1960s African Americans grew impatient with the slow pace of change and riots and violent confrontations became more common. With the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 the Civil Rights Movement lost much of its energy. Events in the 1980s and 1990s showed just how much work was still left undone.
African Americans in northern and western cities had suffered for decades. Their neighborhoods were poor and they had few job opportunities. Although they did not live in the South, their children attended poor schools and they faced discrimination when looking for jobs. Frustration boiled over in the 1960s and there were riots in cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles, and Newark.
A government commission studied the riots to understand what caused them and to make recommendations to prevent future riots. In the end, however, elected leaders did not implement the commission’s recommendations.
Malcolm X was a leader of the Nation of Islam, an organization of African American Muslims. He believed that African Americans and Whites could not live together and that the best way to improve their lives was to become self-reliant. After he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and left the Nation of Islam, he began preaching a more inclusive message, but was killed by members of the Nation of Islam.
Some African Americans started to advocate Black Power in the later 1960s. They wanted African Americans to become self-reliant and to be proud. Some rejected nonviolence. One group, the Black Panthers, carried guns and promised to defend their neighborhoods from White police officers. The Black Power movement scared many Whites.
In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. Riots broke out in many cities as the news spread. King is remembered as one of America’s greatest leaders.
President Richard Nixon won election in 1968 by promising Whites in the South that he would not use the power of the federal government to promote civil rights. This was different from Democrats Kennedy and Johnson who had promoted new civil rights laws and had used the courts and National Guard to enforce civil rights. Nixon was not totally opposed to civil rights. He opposed bussing but promoted affirmative action.
In the 1980s, drug use increased and politicians promised to crack down. They past strict laws and people arrested for selling and possessing drugs ended up in jail with long sentences. These laws affected African American neighborhoods much more so than Whites.
In 1991, Rodney King was beaten by Los Angeles police when he was arrested. The attack was captured on video, however, the police officers were acquitted when they were put on trial. When the verdict was announced, a long riot broke out.
In 1995, football star OJ Simpson was put on trial in Los Angeles for murder. He was also acquitted. The OJ Trial was a media obsession. Many African Americans celebrated the outcome even though they believed he was guilty since is seemed like the first time one of their own could win in the justice system that had been biased toward Whites for so long.
PEOPLE AND GROUPS
Kerner Commission: Government commission appointed by President Johnson to study the urban riots of the late-1960. They found racism, lack of job opportunities, and poor education and social services as the root cause, but little was done to resolve the issues.
Malcolm X: Civil rights leader and spokesman for the Nation of Islam. He advocated African American self-reliance and was assassinated in 1965.
Nation of Islam: Organization of African American Muslims in the United States. It was led by Elijah Muhammad.
Black Muslims: Members of the Nation of Islam.
Elijah Muhammad: Leader of the Nation of Islam from 1934-1975. He and Malcolm X disagreed openly, leading to Malcolm X leaving the Nation of Islam.
Stokely Carmichael: Leader of SNCC who advocated for Black Power.
James Brown: African American soul singer and founder of funk music. His famous song “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was a hit during the Black Power era.
Huey Newton: Along with Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party.
Bobby Seale: Along with Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party.
Black Panther Party: African American political organization founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in the late 1960s. They carried guns in an effort to protect African Americans from police and government violence.
Richard Nixon: Republican president elected in 1968. He gained the support of White Southerners by promising to reduce the involvement of the federal government in implementing civil rights laws in the South.
Rodney King: African American man beaten by Los Angeles police officers during an arrest in 1991. The beating was filmed and when the officers were found not guilty, the LA Riots ensued. He is famous for saying, “Can we all just get along?”
OJ Simpson: Heisman Trophy winning running back who was accused and found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife and her boyfriend in 1995. His trial showed how racially divided the nation remained after the Civil Rights Movement.
Black is Beautiful: Phrase that captured the self-pride element of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Black Power: Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s which emphasized African American self-reliance. It deemphasized the nonviolent protests led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and was embraced by more militant, younger activists such as members of the Black Panther Party.
Southern Strategy: President Nixon’s strategy to gain the support of White southern voters by promising to limit the use of federal power to implement civil rights changes. Because of this, White Southerners have mostly supported Republicans, while African Americans have mostly supported Democrats.
I’ve Been to the Mountaintop: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last speech on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. In it he seemed to predict his own death.
Can we all just get along?: Famous question posed by Rodney King during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
The Long, Hot Summer: Nickname for a series of urban riots that took place in African American neighborhoods of major northern and western cities between 1964 and 1968. The cause of the riots was studied by the Kerner Commission.
Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics: Famous political statement made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African American runners, who raised closed fists during the National Anthem after winning medals the 1968 Olympics.
Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by rioting in most major cities.
1968 Presidential Election: Watershed election in American history in which the coalitions that supported each party shifted. Due to Nixon’s Southern Strategy, White Southerners switched to the Republican Party and African Americans switched to the Democratic Party.
War on Drugs: Nickname for a collection of programs and laws passed in the 1980s to fight the spread of crime related to the use and sale of drugs. It especially was known for the passage of strict sentencing laws that resulted in overcrowding of jails.
1992 Los Angeles Riots: Urban riots that followed the not guilty verdict in the beating of Rodney King by officers of the LAPD.
Trial of the Century: The highly publicized trial of OJ Simpson in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. He was found not guilty. The trial revealed how racially divided the nation remained.
LAWS & GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS
Bussing: Government policy of transporting students from one area of a town to another to attend school in order to create integrated school populations when neighborhoods were mostly segregated.
Affirmative Action: Government program in which certain numbers of minorities are hired in order to match the racial makeup of the surrounding population.
Three Strikes Laws: Nickname for state laws passed during the 1980s and 1990s that called for lifetime sentences for drug offenders convicted for their third time. It resulted in jails filling up with non-violent criminals and the social destruction of some neighborhoods.