How Long? How Long?: African American Women and the Struggle for Civil Rights

By Belinda Robnett | Go to book overview

FIVE
Sowing the Seeds of Mass Mobilization

The Roots of Micromobilization

Daisy Bates's efforts as a community bridge leader were not unique. Black women all over the nation were leaders in the struggle for civil rights. During the 1950s, sit-ins occurred in such cities as Baltimore, St. Louis, Tallahassee, Rock Hill, Miami, and Oklahoma City. Most of these direct-action groups were affiliated with either CORE or the NAACP. Their tactics included picketing and sit-ills. In Oklahoma City, a successful effort to desegregate amusement parks, restaurants, swimming pools, and theaters was launched by Clara Luper, a community bridge leader, high school teacher, and formal local leader of the NAACP Youth Council. Luper admired Dr. King and the successes in Montgomery, and she believed that such tactics would work in Oklahoma City. In August 1958, Luper led her young charges to the food counter of a local segregated drugstore. Little did they know that their fight would last six years.

Yet beyond the efforts of the NAACP and the targeted protests, there was a need to mobilize a larger constituency of supporters. As Thurgood Marshall and others noted, many were afraid to join the movement. And as long as this fear persisted, areas of resistance to equality would remain intact. Rustin and Levinson continued to meet with Dr. King through 1958. The momentum of the movement continued to slacken and worsened with the near fatal stabbing of King by a crazed

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