Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement

Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement

Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement

Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement

Synopsis

After the triumphs of Montgomery and Selma, the crusade for civil rights rapidly gathered momentum--until stalling in the heartland of America, Chicago. A vivid account of how the Chicago Freedom Movement of 1965-67 attempted to combat northern segregation.

Excerpt

In early April 1965 one of Martin Luther King's chief lieutenants, James Bevel, came to Chicago for a weekend of speeches, workshops on nonviolence, and fund raising. The triumphant march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, had occurred less than two weeks earlier, and as a key strategist of the Selma campaign, Bevel was greeted as a hero everywhere he went. By Sunday, as he awaited his turn to speak at a rally at Northwestern University, he was an exhausted conqueror. Yet he perked up when Studs Terkel, the event's emcee, introduced him. Known as one of the movement's most dynamic orators, Bevel rose to his reputation. In a piercing, tense voice, he transfixed the large crowd, surprising it by talking more about racism in the North than about racism in the South. He even predicted that 'the nonviolent movement in a few days, in a few weeks, in a few years will call on Chicago to address itself on the racist attitude that is denying Negroes the right to live in adequate housing." "We're going to have a movement in Chicago," Bevel declared. "We plan to close [Chicago] down."

It was a prophetic speech. In less than five months, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Andrew Young, encouraged by Bevel, announced that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had selected Chicago as the target of its first northern campaign. From late 1965 to mid-1967, King and SCLC teamed up with Al Raby and the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO), a federation of local civil rights groups, to form the Chicago Freedom Movement, an enterprise determined to root out racial injustice, particularly housing discrimination, in Chicago, to improve the quality of life for the city's black residents, and to prod the nation as a whole to combat urban ills.

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