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Christopher Phelps

a Philadelphia radio journalist who became an international icon in debates over race and the death penalty after he was convicted for the murder of a police officer, was born Wesley Cook to Edith and William Cook, migrants from the South. The family subsisted on welfare in the housing projects of North Philadelphia. As a boy Cook read avidly and sought enlightenment, attending services with his Baptist mother and Episcopalian father, then dabbling in Judaism, Catholicism, and the Nation of Islam. When he was about ten years old his father died of a heart attack, prompting him to assume a protective role toward his twin brother, Wayne, and younger brother, William.

The black liberation movement shaped Cook's coming of age. In a 1967 school class in Swahili, a Kenyan teacher assigned him the first name Mumia. In 1968 at age fourteen he and some friends protested ...


Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...


Shattered windows, bombed-out churches, white mobs jeering at black schoolchildren, southern governors defiantly proclaiming that their states would never integrate—these are, with good reason, the images of the white response to civil rights that remain seared into American public memory. Violence always underpinned the South's system of Jim Crow segregation and black disfranchisement, and a significant number of whites were prepared to suppress violently any African American challenge to the prevailing racial hierarchy. Yet the acts of terrorism against civil rights workers and the bombast of white-supremacist politicians, though important, do not capture the full spectrum of the white response to the African American freedom struggle of the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

The term commonly used to describe white opposition to the civil rights movement massive resistance implies a unified synchronized counterattack As leaders of the organized resistance discovered however strategic unanimity eluded segregationists from the start Some whites ...


Eric W. Rise

The history of the criminal justice system has been closely linked to the African American experience in the twentieth century. In the wake of emancipation, southern states turned to the criminal justice system to perform social control functions previously served by slavery. After the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century, politicians used the language of crime control to signify lingering racial animosities. In the meantime blacks were arrested, convicted, and incarcerated in numbers far greater than would be predicted based on their representation in the total population. In 1940 the Uniform Crime Reports compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that the arrest rate for serious felonies was 17 per thousand for blacks compared to 6 per thousand for whites. By 1978 those rates had climbed to 100 per thousand for blacks and 35 per thousand for whites. In 1923 blacks constituted about 10 percent of the ...


Miguel Gonzalez Perez

was born in Bilwaskarma, in Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region, on 10 November 1947. She is best known for the leading role she played in promoting the peace negotiation process that in 1986 ended a ten-year military conflict that pitted the FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or Sandinista National Liberation Front) revolutionary government against the Miskito indigenous rebels who were struggling for autonomy along the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast. She is also an international advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples.

Cunningham grew up in Waspam the capital city of the Wangki River region near the border with Honduras which is considered the motherland of the Miskito people She was born to Nester Judith Kain Nelson and Wilfred Bill Cunningham Davis both from Pearl Lagoon on the southern part of the Caribbean coast She grew up in a working class family of mixed cultural heritage of Miskito African and ...


Wesley Borucki and Joseph Wilson

[This entry contains two subentries, on the riots of 1943 and 1967.]


DeCarlous Spearman

attorney, judge, poet, and activist, was one of ten children born to Albert, a laborer, and Mary Burleson Doyle, a laundress, in a four room house in Austin, Texas. In 1928 Doyle graduated Salutatorian from Anderson High School and magna cum laude from Samuel Huston College (later Huston-Tillotson College) in 1933. After college he taught in the Austin public school system and later took graduate courses at Columbia University.

On 4 March 1947 the Texas State University for Negroes (later Texas Southern University) was established to keep Heman Sweatt, a black applicant, from entering law school at the University of Texas (UT). This new school offered something unavailable to blacks in Texas, the opportunity to attend law school in their own state. On 22 September 1947 Doyle was the first student to register at the new law school This would be ...


Julie Gallagher

lawyer, activist, and children's advocate. Marian Wright was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to Arthur Jerome Wright, a Baptist preacher, and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright. Raised with a strong sense of community, Marian Wright was taught that character, self-discipline, determination, attitude, and service were the substance of life.

As a student at Spelman College in Atlanta, Wright studied with the historian and civil rights activist Howard Zinn. She also traveled to Europe, where she spent fifteen months learning to take risks and to follow her own path. Wright graduated as valedictorian of her Spelman College class in 1960 and proceeded directly to Yale University Law School. While still a law student she worked on a project to register African American voters in Mississippi. She graduated with a law degree in 1963.

Wright first went to work for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational ...


The years of Dwight D. Eisenhower's two terms as president, 1953–1961, were turbulent ones for African Americans and civil rights in the United States. Although most historians agree that the new Republican President Eisenhower would have preferred simply to avoid the issues of racism and civil rights, he instead found himself plunged into the midst of some of the most significant moments in the African American struggle for equal rights. Buffeted at home and abroad by the impact of the increasing racial tensions and violence, Eisenhower compiled a record in dealing with the momentous issue of civil rights that was less than laudable—although, indeed, he did more than his predecessors Franklin D. Roosevelt, who refused to seek antilynching or civil rights legislation, and Harry S. Truman, who failed to get civil rights legislation through Congress and only reluctantly ordered the desegregation of the military.

For a man ...


The agency that became the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) originated on 26 July 1908 when U.S. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte ordered nine newly hired detectives thirteen civil rights investigators and twelve accountants to take on investigative assignments in connection with the need to regulate interstate commerce One hundred years later that cadre of thirty four had increased to over thirty thousand employees including more than twelve thousand special agents and more than eighteen thousand support professionals such as intelligence analysts language specialists scientists information technology specialists and others with a budget of more than $5 billion The modern FBI headquarters is located in Washington D C and the agency also has fifty six field offices in major cities throughout the United States more than four hundred resident agencies in smaller cities and towns across the nation and more than fifty offices known as Legal Attachés in U S ...


SaFiya D. Hoskins

gang and organization founder, criminal, was born Jeff Fort in Aberdeen, Mississippi, to John Lee Fort, a steel mill worker, and a mother about whom little information is available. In 1955 Jeff moved with his parents and ten siblings to the South Side of Chicago and settled down in Woodlawn, a middle-class white neighborhood prior to the influx of blacks migrating from the South, and the backdrop for Woodlawn native Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun. Jeff's father John Lee Fort had secured employment in a Chicago steel mill. Spurning hostile neighbors and a divided community, Fort, twelve years old and relatively small for his age, organized a group of boys who patrolled Blackstone Street between the corners of 64th and 66th where his family lived, to battle with white and black gangs in the area. In 1960 one year later Fort founded ...


Andre D. Vann

lawyer, educator, and first black chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, was born in Ellerbe, North Carolina, the eighth of the twelve children of Walter Frye and Pearl Motley, farmers. In the late 1920s his father sought to ensure financial security for his family by purchasing a forty-six-acre tobacco and cotton farm with the assistance of a loan from a local bank, which made him one of only a handful of blacks who owned land in Ellerbe. Later his father purchased a small sawmill from white owners. Frye attended the segregated Mineral Springs School in Ellerbe and graduated as valedictorian in 1949. In June 1953 he earned a BS in biology with highest honors from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College later North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U S Air Force and served ...


Lucinda M. Deason

Black women have been incarcerated since the beginning of this nation’s history and have constituted the largest percentage of imprisoned women throughout U.S. history. During the American colonial period jails were developed that closely mirrored those established in England, from which many of the colonists came. They brought their customs, traditions, and religious beliefs to America, which influenced the penal and incarceration systems of the colonies. As colonial society developed, prison rules became especially closely related to the religious beliefs of the settlers and were strictly enforced when applied to women offenders—a characteristic still common in today’s criminal justice system.

Slavery was another tradition settlers brought to America Slavery necessitated a large degree of social control Prior to the Civil War African American slaves were imprisoned in plantation built jails and punished by the slave master who had unlimited power including the use of capital punishment African American slaves were ...


Donna A. Patterson

lawyer, politician, state senator, and U.S. congressman, was born one of nine children in Lake Providence, Louisiana, to Mose and Angelina Jefferson. His father worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and managed a sharecropping plot. After graduating from high school, Jefferson majored in political science and English at Southern University in Baton Rouge where he met his future wife, Andrea Green. There he became involved in campus politics. His activities included organizing a protest about campus living conditions; he was also elected student body president. In 1969 he received his BA, and in 1972 he was awarded a JD degree from Harvard University. In 1996 he returned to school to complete a master of laws in Taxation from Georgetown University.

He married Green in 1970. Their union produced five daughters: Jamila, Jalila, Jelani, Nailah, and Akilah His ...


Samuel Brenner

Between the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twenty first century African Americans interacted with judges and the judiciary on two major levels first as objects of legal decisionmaking whether as lawyers parties or uninvolved citizens notably in cases involving civil rights and second as members of the judiciary making those decisions The later history of the first level is ironic while the federal courts led the way in the mid twentieth century in dismantling the system of Jim Crow legalized segregation the only reason it was the judiciary rather than the federal legislature that needed to do so was that in the late nineteenth century the U S Supreme Court had acted specifically to thwart Congress s probable attempt to accomplish the same goal decades earlier On the second level while at the beginning of the twenty first century the total number of African American judges remained ...


Shana L. Redmond

taxi driver whose videotaped beating by police officers in March 1991 provoked international outrage, was born in Sacramento, California, to working-class parents. His father was a construction worker and cleaner, and as a child Rodney worked long hours as a cleaner along with his father. His work schedule along with a learning disability contributed to his lack of academic success, and despite considerable athletic ability, he dropped out in 1984 during his senior year of high school. Afterward King found work in construction. During his early adulthood he had two daughters and married Crystal Waters, a woman with two children of her own. Prior to 1991 King was in and out of jail for crimes ranging from robbery to intoxication.King became an international celebrity and emblem of police abuse in 1991, when a videotape, shot by the amateur cameraman George Holliday was broadcast by Los Angeles ...


Shawn Lay

First established in the spring of 1866 the Ku Klux Klan is the most notorious and enduring racial hate group in American history. Although the Klan's organizational structure and political agenda have varied over the years, the secret order has consistently maintained a commitment to white supremacy and the subordination of African Americans.


Elizabeth K. Davenport

attorney and civic leader, was born in Chicago into an African American family of successful lawyers. Her father, C. Francis Stradford, was a prominent attorney on Chicago's South Side and the founder of the National Bar Association (NBA), which he established in 1925. In 1940 C. Francis Stradford successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark case Hansberry v. Lee, which abolished the restrictive covenants that had limited racial integration in Chicago neighborhoods. Her grandfather, J. B. Stradford, was a well-known lawyer in the African American community and the owner of the only black hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her mother, Aida Arrabella Carter Stradford, was an artist and a homemaker.LaFontant's indoctrination to the legal profession occurred early. As a student at Englewood Public High School in Chicago, she spent the summers working in her father's law office. In the autumn of 1939 she ...


Robert A. Pratt

a housewife, whose marriage in 1958 to Richard Loving sparked one of the nation's most important civil rights cases, was born Mildred Delores Jeter, of African American and Native American ancestry. Loving was one of five children born to Theoliver Jeter, a sharecropper, and Musiel Byrd, a homemaker. She also had four half brothers. She graduated from Union High School in Bowling Green, Virginia in 1957. In 1958 she married her childhood sweetheart who was white Both Jeter and Loving were born in Caroline County Virginia an area with a well known history of black white interracial sexual liaisons As was the local custom however and true for most of the South these unions occurred under cover of darkness and without legal sanction Many states had laws prohibiting interracial marriages some with restrictions dating back to the nineteenth century While enforcement of these laws ...


Christopher Waldrep

In 1885 the Chicago Tribune reported that ninety-seven whites and only seventy-eight “colored” persons had perished at the hands of lynchers. The next year “colored” victims outnumbered whites, seventy-one to sixty-two, according to the Tribune. The following year, 1887, black victims outnumbered white victims nearly two to one. In 1890 the newspaper headlined its annual lynching tally “How the Colored Man Has Suffered.” Lynching had become a word for white racial violence directed at African Americans. Although it is not at all clear whether the nature of mob violence actually changed, it is undeniable that white newspapers’ understanding of mob violence shifted dramatically.