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May 17

U.S. Supreme Court rules racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education

July 11

In Response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling the first White Citizens Council meeting is held in Mississippi to oppose desegregation.  After this meeting there are mass meetings by hundreds of white men of the White Citizens Council to protest school desegregation.

1954 was a year that saw a lot of change, most importantly the desegregation of public schools.  The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court was a big step towards equality for blacks.  The black community and the racism they were facing was now a key topic in the United States.  Racism and segregation in the Constitution was now a very important issue to the government and people of the United States and it was being challenged and actually changed for the better of society.   This was a year that threatened the dominant white ideology, and the creation of the White Citizens Council was a way for whites to try to defend their way of segregated life, in which blacks had little rights.  With the passing of more desegregation laws there is more action by whites, the actions become more violent and more aggressive to protect their way of life that they were accustomed to. 


May 31

U.S. Supreme Court orders all lower courts to use “all deliberative speed” in desegregating public schools.

July 22

The “pupil placement law” is enacted by the State of Alabama to slow desegregation within the school system.

Aug 28

The murder and brutal mutilation of 13 year old Emmett Till in Mississippi brings national attention to Southern brutality, lynchings, and murders against blacks.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling against segregation in schools the state of Alabama clearly stated its defense to desegregation by their actions in lower courts.  The pupil placement law effectively slowed integration of blacks into the public school system.  The tragic Emmett Till murder shocked the nation to the horrible brutality of the South against blacks.  These events highlighted the struggle that was taking place, blacks had won the Supreme Court case yet Alabama was doing all it could to slow the process of integration.  This speaks to the mindset of the time, whites were in high office, they ran the government, they controlled the police force, and they had the control.  In the research and class discussions I have concluded that the white mindset was above the law.  There was a lot of corruption within the government, the local and smaller courts and in the police system.  Whites could get away with crimes and they knew it and it was this that stagnated the black civil rights movement.  Many crimes against blacks were covered up, there were often no arrests, there were no convictions or jail time, but what this did do was scare blacks.  The fear was that blacks especially those involved in attaining voting rights, leading meetings, participating in marches or being any type of leader or participant of the civil rights movement could be victims.  And that there would be little consequence for whites who enacted these horrible hate crimes.

The Emmett Till murder brought hate crimes and racially motivated crimes to the national spotlight.  The photos published of Emmett Till and the national realization of Southern brutality against blacks further fueled the civil rights movement within the black community and the nation.  Yet the arrests and trial further showed the power of the states and the white community as above the law.  The two men arrested for the Till murder spent little time in court and no time in jail.  This further promoted white power and the ideology of racism and segregation in the states and within the judicial system.


Jan 30

The Montgomery Bus Boycott is in its third month, as blacks refuse to ride the city bus for 13 months.  Martin Luther King is elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, he would go on to become a key leader in the civil rights movement.  The U.S. Supreme Court rules bus segregation illegal and on December 20th 1956 the buses are desegregated.

March 12

The “Southern Manifesto is published by 101 southern senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress.  This manifesto calls for states to resist and disobey school segregation.

June 1

The NAACP is outlawed from the State of Alabama.


The black community came together in non-violent resistance towards racism and segregation in society with the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  There was success in the Bus Boycott and after 13 months the buses were desegregated.  This was a big step and success for the civil rights movement, and showed that with mass participation and commitment from the black community great things can happen.  During the bus boycott a key man, Martin Luther King became president of the MIA.  This making him a leader of the civil rights movement, King would go on to become one of the most famous and influential leaders of the civil rights movement.  There was still opposition to the integration of the public school system by the state and now high government.  This was demonstrated by the southern U.S. Congressmen’s Manifesto to resist integration.  This act further showed how deep racism infected the United States; racism was everywhere and was especially displayed by southern State governments and high authority figures.  Racism was still within the powerful institutions that were controlled by whites such as the police, in the court system and in the government.

Connection/Context regarding the Murder of Bessie McDowell

In June 1956, Bessie McDowell was killed by a gunshot to the head at her house in Andalusia Alabama.  The altercation was between Bessie’s nephew Charlie who owed a debt to the Bell Finance Company.  I believe that to an extent this situation is a racially motivated murder, though Bessie’s death was a case of being shot by an unintended bullet.  This was a time where black’s found it virtually impossible to get loans for homes or for business land.  There were a number of government laws that made it hard and impossible for blacks to receive loans.  The Federal Housing Administration that was created during the time of the New Deal, though created in the 1930s still had a lasting effect on the government’s role in housing and loan discrimination to blacks.  The Home Owners Corporation created a system of rating neighborhoods and residential areas that would become the standard way to keep blacks out of certain neighborhoods and to keep them from receiving home loans.

The Federal Housing Act of 1934 was created to help potential homebuyers receive the necessary credit/loans to be able to buy a house.  In this time the US was coming out of the Great Depression, this federal credit was to be used to put Americans in homes.  The Federal Housing Administration was supposed to be lending to everyone, but blacks were still excluded from federal loans.  The Federal Housing Act employed racist policies and they used discriminatory city surveys to prevent people of color from receiving home loans. 

The Home Owners Corporation was responsible for creating a rating system for the valuation of neighborhood’s and whether they were nice living areas.  The concept of redlining was used to describe a residential neighborhood that would decline in value and was seen as not worthy land for federal loans.  Redlined areas were usually urban neighborhoods that had a high population of African Americans and colored people, these neighborhoods were also interracial.  These home were considered areas of decline and the valuation of the neighborhood would go down making them bad investments.  In truth this was a racist rating system that created ghettos and low-income areas that were in horrible condition because they received little to no federal aid or loans to fix and buy homes.      

To me this is an opportunity to take advantage of desperate blacks and colored people who want loans to buy home, to fix home and to maybe start businesses but could not qualify for one because of the discrimination they faced from government institutions.  Small and large white owned banks and or loan agencies could provide loans to blacks, but they could take advantage of their desperation and their lack of knowledge about interest payments for loans.  This Bell Finance Company could easily have provided loans to colored people and blacks and then make unreasonable demands for payment, they could harass people who they gave loans to, and they were in the perfect position of empowerment over blacks.  Whites had the power in the south, they knew it, and if they were in a position of a minority/colored person owing a debt they could be very brutal and ruthless in their ways of getting their money back. 

In the case of Bessie McDowell it is quite clear that her nephew owed a debt to a Bell Finance Company.  Two white men, Claude Ingle and Bobby Ray Ingle went to Bessie’s house to collect the debt.  Why would they feel the need to bring a gun to this meeting?  It was also stated that Bobby Ray Ingle slapped Charlie, how and why would they physically hurt him?  I would answer these questions by saying these were the times.  In this era it was okay for white people to act this way toward blacks.  Aggression, physical abuse and threats were used to keep blacks and people of color fearful and constantly kept them inferior to blacks.  Whites had little fear of judicial consequences especially in small rural towns where they knew everyone; importantly they had connections with the local law enforcement.  In response to a crime or a murder by a white person against a person of color, the alibi was, “I thought he had a gun” or they said “I thought he was going to get a gun, I shot in self defense.”  This seems to be the common answer to killing a person of color, as it was in the case of Bessie McDowell.

Alabama was a heavily racist southern state that tried to keep society segregated.  Racism, oppression and discrimination were seen in all facets of life if you were black or a person of color.  Though there were many Supreme Court rulings that were pro integration, these new laws were met with great opposition by white society, law enforcement, courts, and even congressmen.  There was a lot of protest going on by both the black community and the white community during this time in Alabama.  Whites had the law on their side, they had the connections with the police and even in the judiciary system, and there was little consequence for whites.  This created a mindset where whites basically could not receive punishment for crimes, and if they did it was usually small.  There were many crimes against blacks that were never investigated as a result of this; there were little arrests, convictions, and little to no jail time for racial crimes.  Blacks also faced federal discrimination from the Federal Housing Act and the Home Owners Corporation.  These racist institutions made it virtually impossible for blacks and people of color to receive loans.  I feel this made it easy for white banks and loan agencies to take advantage of giving loans to blacks.  They could charge high interest rates and they could use threats to get what they wanted out of their fearful black clients.  In the 1950s and 60s blacks faced much racism and discrimination from not only white society but the U.S. government that kept them from progressing, becoming equals and integrated into society.