44 Photos From The Anti-Civil Rights Movement That United Most Of White America In The 1960s
As the civil rights movement brought attention to Black Americans’ struggle for equality, whites across the country launched a brutal counter-movement.
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In 1964, a self-proclaimed American Nazi protested the Civil Rights Act on behalf of “America’s white majority.”Francis Miller/Getty Images
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During his inaugural address on January 14, 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace vowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” As civil rights activists fought for integration, this speech was considered one of the loudest rallying cries against racial equality. AP
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In 1973, an anti-busing group held a massive protest in Boston.
White protestors resisted the city’s plan for desegregation busing, which took Black students to majority-white schools and white students to majority-Black schools.Boston Globe/Getty Images
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In a 1965 photograph, Black children walk past white mothers demanding an end to school busing policies that promoted integration. The students attended PS204 in New York. Dick DeMarsico/Library of Congress
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High school junior John Carter carries a sign reading, “We Won’t Go To School With Negroes” outside of Clinton High School in Tennessee during a 1956 protest against integration. Bettmann/Getty Images
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A young Black boy watches white protestors marching against integration in Little Rock, Arkansas. John T. Bledsoe/Library of Congress
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Edward R. Fields and James Murray, members of the National States Rights Party, hang an effigy of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the party’s headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
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In 1957, army soldiers escort Black students to Little Rock’s Central High School. In response to “forced integration,” the governor shut down high schools in the city. Unknown/U.S. Army
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In Baltimore, Black students walk to high school in 1954, followed by white students carrying a sign that reads, “Southern Don’t Want Negroes.” Bettmann/Getty Images
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Outside a Baltimore high school, Black students walk past demonstrators carrying signs that read, “We Want Segregation Now” and “We Want Equal–But Segregation.”
During the 1954 anti-segregation march, around 2,000 white teenagers staged demonstrations outside Baltimore schools. Bettmann/Getty Images
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On the first day of school for two Black girls in Birmingham, a white student yells at them through a police blockade. Getty Images
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In 1963, Birmingham police used harsh methods against civil rights protestors, including attack dogs and fire hoses. During a protest against police brutality, the police beat unarmed women and children. Charles Moore/Getty Images
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Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to register Black voters. Police officers and KKK members attacked and murdered the three men, triggering an FBI manhunt and a federal investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation
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When the Freedom Riders arrived in Birmingham, Alabama in 1961, a mob attacked them.
Police Chief Bull Connor made a deal with the KKK, promising that the police would not show up until 15 minutes after the Freedom Riders arrived, allowing the vicious beating.
Federal Bureau of Investigation/Wikimedia Commons
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In 1961, white supremacists threw tear gas bombs at Freedom Riders, forcing them out of the church where they were meeting. A. Y. Owen/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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In 1958, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus closed public high schools in Little Rock to avoid integration. As a result, thousands of high schoolers had to study from home. Thomas J. O’Halloran/Library of Congress
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During the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, KKK members appeared to support candidate Barry Goldwater. Their signs read, “Grand Imperial Wizards for Goldwater.” Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress
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A boy wearing a white hood leans out of his car next to his sister. His family watches from their car as a KKK cross burns across the street. The sign on the car argues against integration. Bettmann/Getty Images
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In 1959, white protestors held a rally at the Little Rock state capitol to keep schools segregated. Speakers rallied the crowd, which included people carrying Confederate flags. John T. Bledsoe/Library of Congress
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In 1956, white residents of Louisville, Kentucky protested school integration, carrying signs that read, “We Appose [sic] Race Mixing in School” and “Forced Integration Creates Racial Hatred.”James Burke/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Outside of Hattie Cotton Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee, men make signs to protest integration. The signs read, “Keep Your Kids At Home.” Getty Images
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In 1957, segregationists bombed Hattie Cotton School the day after it integrated. Getty Images
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On the third day of a 1968 protest in Memphis, civil rights marchers carry signs reading, “I am a man.” U.S. National Guard troops point their bayonets at the marchers.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
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A frightened young Black girl sits in the front row of a newly integrated Tennessee classroom in 1957. Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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When police shot a Black teenager in Harlem in 1964, protestors took to the street. Police beat the protestors demonstrating against police brutality.Dick DeMarsico/Wikimedia Commons
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Segregationists carry signs at the World’s Fair in New York in 1965. One reads, “Society of the Prevention of Negroes Getting Everything,” while another declares, “I am Jim Crow and I Shall Live Forever.” Dan Farrell/NY Daily News/Getty Images
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During a 1963 protest against segregation, police in Birmingham, Alabama turned their hoses against the demonstrators. Three women joined hands to resist the spray.Bettmann/Getty Images
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Protestors at the Little Rock state capitol carry signs reading, “Race Mixing is Communism” and “Stop the Race Mixing March of the Anti-Christ.” The 1959 rally protested the integration of Little Rock schools.John T. Bledsoe/Library of Congress
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As Freedom Riders travel from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi, young men watch them from outside.Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images
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In 1960, U.S. Marshals escort Ruby Bridges to and from school through a crowd of protestors. Segregationists threatened to kill the young girl. Department of Justice
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Two Black girls flee the police during a 1964 protest in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The crowd had been protesting police brutality. Bettmann/Getty Images
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White spectators attack three segregation protestors at a Jackson, Mississippi lunch counter. The crowd sprayed the protestors with condiments, poured water on their heads, and beat them. Bettmann/Getty Images
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During a 1966 civil rights march in Canton, Mississippi, civil rights protestors huddle to avoid tear gas from Mississippi Highway Patrolmen. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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Two white high schoolers tried to push Johnny and Mary Gray outside of a school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. After warning the boys to back off, Johnny eventually chased them down the street.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
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In 1963, four KKK members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls during their Sunday school class.
Sarah Jean Collins, just 12 years old, survived the bombing, but her sister died.
Frank Dandridge/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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In 1963, Vivian Malone walked into the University of Alabama to register for classes. Governor George Wallace and a group of state troopers attempted to block Malone, as part of Wallace’s vow “to stand in the schoolhouse door.” Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress
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Benny Oliver, a former police officer, kicks Memphis Norman, a Black student who placed an order at a segregated lunch counter. Onlookers cheered the beating in 1963. Bettmann/Getty Images
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On the first day of school at Little Rock Central High School, white students heckle Elizabeth Eckford, one of nine Black students who integrated the school in September 1957.Bettmann/Getty Images
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In Detroit, white residents put up a sign across the street from a federal housing project named after Sojourner Truth. The sign proclaimed, “We want white tenants in our white community.”Arthur S. Siegel/Library of Congress
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A white woman blocks a Black couple from entering a Memphis department store in 1961. During the height of the lunch counter demonstrations, stores tried to exclude activists protesting segregationist policies.Bettmann/Getty Images
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John Patler, who founded the racist White Shirt American National Party, carries a sign reading, “Whites Have Rights Too” in Englewood, New Jersey in 1962.Imagno/Getty Images
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U.S. Marshals escort a Black girl to her school in New Orleans, Louisiana. City police guarded the school in 1960 on its first day of school integration. Underwood Archives/Getty Images
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On June 18, 1964, Black and white protestors jumped into the whites-only pool at the Mondon Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida. In an attempt to force them out, hotel owner James Brock dumped acid into the water.
One protestor recalled, “All of the news media were there, because somehow I guess they’d gotten word that something was going to happen at that pool that day. And I think that’s when President [Lyndon B.] Johnson got the message.”
The Civil Rights Act was passed the next day.AP
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44 Photos From The Anti-Civil Rights Movement That United Most Of White America In The 1960s
In 1963, 78 percent of white Americans said they would leave their neighborhoods if Black families moved in. Meanwhile, 60 percent of them had an unfavorable view of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. All in all, many white people were not afraid to say they opposed the civil rights movement while it was actually happening.
The Alabama newspaper Montgomery Advertiser loudly declared in 1955, “The white man’s economic artillery is far superior, better emplaced, and commanded by more experienced gunners. Second, the white man holds all the offices of government machinery. There will be white rule for as far as the eye can see. Are those not facts of life?”
But it wasn’t just people in the South who had a problem with civil rights. In 1964, a majority of white New Yorkers said the civil rights movement had gone too far. All across the country, many people shared that view.
The Fight To Keep America Segregated
Underwood Archives/Getty ImagesA white teenager rips up a civil rights sign outside a Tallahassee store in 1960.
After the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia said, “If we can organize the Southern States for massive resistance to this order, I think that in time the rest of the country will realize that racial integration is not going to be accepted in the South.”
So as civil rights activists marched in the streets for integration, their opponents also mobilized. They jeered and harassed Black students – some as young as six years old – who enrolled in previously all-white schools. They pulled their children from public schools and sent them to private ones. And they attacked Black communities using the power of the state.
Alabama’s governor George Wallace vowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever,” in his 1963 inaugural address. Under Wallace, state troopers and police officers carried out his segregationist vision using the power of government.
Schools Were The Front Lines Of The Fight
Wikimedia CommonsIn 1962, James Meredith became the first African American student to attend the University of Mississippi.
Meanwhile, many schools in the South became a battlefield in the fight as mobs of white protestors threw rocks and bottles at Black students.
When a six-year-old Black girl named Ruby Bridges integrated a New Orleans elementary school in 1960, a white woman shoved a coffin holding a Black doll in the child’s face. Other white protestors threatened to hang Ruby.
In 1957, segregationists called the parents of Black first graders in Tennessee, threatening to shoot, hang, or bomb anyone who sent their children to the previously all-white elementary schools. One Black student attended Hattie Cotton Elementary School on the first day of classes in 1957 – and that night, white supremacists blew up the school.
Violent protests and states ignoring federal orders kept nearly all Southern schools segregated well into the 1960s. In 1964, just 2.3 percent of Black students attended schools that were majority-white.
The Anti-Civil Rights Movement Was National, Not Just Southern
Boston Globe/Getty ImagesAn anti-busing group holds a massive protest in Boston in 1973.
Opposition to the civil rights movement was not restricted to the South. In fact, by 1970, residential segregation was worse in the North and West than in the South.
A counter-protester threw a rock at Martin Luther King Jr. during a 1966 march in Chicago. “I have seen many demonstrations in the south but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today,” King said of the march.
In Boston, the 1974 busing crisis saw white parents leave their school district altogether rather than send their children to integrated schools.
Many of them participated in anti-busing protests, resisting the city’s plan for buses that took Black students to majority-white schools and white students to majority-Black schools.
Meanwhile, some other people in the North voiced more explicit support for segregation — and racist views on interracial marriage.
Orville Hubbard, the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan from 1942 to 1978, told the New York Times, “I favor segregation, because if you have integration, first you have kids going to school together, then next thing you know, they’re grab-assing around, then they’re getting married and having half-breed kids. Then you wind up with a mongrel race. And from what I know of history, that’s the end of civilization.”
The Anti-Civil Rights Movement Continued After The 1960s
Although the civil rights movement achieved major legislative and legal victories, opposition to civil rights continued.
However, the language of civil rights opponents changed after the 1960s. Instead of using the N-word, explained Reagan advisor Lee Atwater, “You say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff.”
Coded language like “law and order” also signaled opposition to Black rights. During the 1988 presidential campaign, George Bush’s Willie Horton ad implied his opponent’s “soft on crime” policies allowed a Black convict to rape a white woman.
Perhaps even more publicly, many states erected Confederate monuments after the civil rights movement. In Tennessee, at least 30 Confederate monuments went up after 1976.
More than a century after the South lost the war, these monuments reminded many Americans of “white rule.”
The images only tell part of the story. Learn more about the anti-civil rights movement and then see the effort to integrate schools from a new angle.