Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Eyes on the Prize
The Story of the Movement — 26 Events

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26

Chicago Freedom Movement

1966

"It was said that you could not expose segregation in the North because it was subtle. This actually was everything except subtle. It was dynamic, it was real, blatant, ugly, violent."
—Jesse Jackson, SCLC organizer

Related Links:


The Watts riots of summer 1965 signal that the Civil Rights Movement has work to do outside of the South. Martin Luther King and SCLC go to Chicago to try to improve housing, jobs, and schools for the city's black residents, using non-violent methods. In January 1966, they begin by tackling slums. Many of the city's black citizens, who make up a quarter of the population, live in decaying, segregated neighborhoods where city and landlord services tend to disappear as soon as the last whites move away. Mayor Richard J. Daley uses his political machine to prevent the protesters from gaining any traction in the city. After six months of little progress, activists take their protest out of the slums and into the white areas that exclude blacks. They protest the real estate interests that keep the city segregated; King proves that realtors systematically deny blacks access to housing in white neighborhoods. Soon, angry white mobs attack the protesters.

Acting on his own, Jesse Jackson announces a march into Cicero, Illinois, a suburb known for its racial hatred. Concerned about possible rioting, leaders on both sides call a summit and on August 26 sign a ten point agreement calling for the enforcement of open housing laws and desegregated public housing. Dr. King announces that no more marches will take place. In response, skeptical local groups announce their own march. When 250 marchers go to Cicero, they find 3000 law enforcement officers, and a large mob of angry whites, who yell slurs and throw bricks. Unconstrained by Dr. King and the SCLC, the group responds with violence. Soon King will depart Chicago, having resolved little.

Context

Other Events: 1966

The Supreme Court establishes Miranda rights for criminal suspects, including the right to remain silent.

At the height of the space race, an unmanned spacecraft, Lunar Orbiter 1, takes the first photo of Earth shot from near the moon.

Robert Weaver becomes the first African American Cabinet member when President Lyndon Johnson appoints him Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Former President Harry Truman is issued the first Medicare ID card.

The Endangered Species List debuts.

New words include: LSD, cable TV, miniskirt, and Third World.

U.S. troop strength in Vietnam doubles to 400,000; General William Westmoreland declares, "We have stopped losing the war." By year's end, 6,000 American soldiers have died.

Press

Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1966

Letter to the Editor: Violence and Civil Rights

...it is high time for Negro rioters and those who incite and condone their actions to look at some facts...

...Up to a very few years ago, even in the northern states, Jim Crow was an ever-present reality to the Negro. Today we share the theater, train, bus, plane, and restaurant. We are guests in the same hotel and we worship in the same church...

...And not one of these long denied rights has been attained by violence on the part of the Negro!...

...And let no one forget that without the aid and sympathy of millions of whites, civil rights might still be nothing more than a hope for the future. It would seem that the responsible Negro community should raise its voices against the looting, burning, and shooting of the recent riots, not only because law and order have been outraged, but because history has shown that violence brings hatred, not reform.

Norman T. Leiber
Lakeside, Michigan

The Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1966

Whites Jeer as Negroes Stage March

Chicago -- More than 1,000 white persons hooted, jeered and shouted insults and obscenities at 300 white and Negro civil rights marchers Tuesday as the Chicago Freedom Movement staged an hour-long march on a northwest-side real estate office in an all-white neighborhood...

...The demonstrators were led by the Revs. James Bevel and Jesse Jackson of Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference...

...Bevel said the real estate firm was chosen merely as a symbol of what he called discriminatory practices by all real estate firms in the neighborhood...

...When the marchers reached the real estate company and kneeled on the sidewalk in front of it to pray, the white mob, kept to the opposite side of the street by police, began shouting, "Nigger," "White power," "The white man rules," "Go home, filth."

The crowd, mostly young men, taunted the police and shouted threats to go into the Negro ghettos of the city and stir trouble...

...[Rev.] Jackson said... that the SCLC would keep up its campaign to open up all-white neighborhoods to Negroes in the area of housing and jobs.

The Chicago Tribune, August 21, 1966

Letter to the Editor: Cleaning Up Slums

...One can understand the frustrations of the good Negro families and citizens who find it difficult if not impossible to rent or purchase property where they would like to live. On the other hand, one can also understand the fears of home owners that they will suffer financial losses and be subjected to unpleasant situations as Negroes move into a neighborhood.

The fact that areas deteriorate as Negroes take over is evident to anyone who will drive thru those sections of the city that have changed in the past 10 or 20 years. This deterioration is evident also in housing built with government money and assistance for low income families.

...Martin Luther King and the other leaders in the civil rights movement could make a great contribution toward the elimination of slums by activating their people to clean up the yards, streets, homes, and buildings in the areas where they live. Also by teaching them to have appreciation and regard for property and its care and maintenance...

Sanford Rubin
Skokie, Illinois

The Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1966

Chicago Group Seeks Negroes for Relocation
Committee in Search for 250 Families to Move Into All-White Neighborhoods

...Dr. Martin Luther King, co-chairman of the Freedom Movement, had called off his Cicero march scheduled for Aug. 28 as a show of "good faith" in the racial agreement reached Aug. 26 [by a special citizens committee negotiating for open housing].

But Robert L. Lucas, Chicago chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, was dissatisfied with the agreement and Sunday led about 250 marchers through a hail of curses, bricks, rocks, and bottles from crowds of hostile whites.

Albert A. Raby, the co-chairman with Dr. King of the Freedom Movement, was asked after attending the committee meeting if he thought Sunday's march had helped the civil rights cause here.

"I don't think it helped it or hurt it," he said. "I think it is unfortunate that it took place. It's too bad the purpose of the march was not clearer."

Though a member of the Freedom Movement, CORE is not represented on the movement's policymaking steering committee...

...[Raby said]... "We welcome anyone, but everyone must follow the discipline of the movement." He referred to the fact Lucas had staged his own march with demonstrators who, in some cases, retaliated against the heckling crowd...

Video

Chicago Freedom Movement
Duration: 0:54 min
Watch the Video

The first clip is of a white Chicago man saying blacks stand for crime.

This is followed by footage of whites (some of whom have swastika posters) screaming at and attacking civil rights protesters in a 1966 march through Cicero, Illinois. Some of this footage has no audio track.

Footage provided by BBC MOTION GALLERY.

Select an image to open the gallery.

back to top page created on 8.23.06

Eyes on the Prize Blackside American Experience