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Civil Rights Movement: Desegregation Quotes

They Said It

"They didn't mix the white and black in the [second world] war. But now it gives you a kind of independence because they felt that we gone off and fought, we should be equal. Everything started openin' up for us. We got a chance to go places we had never been able to go before."

- Sarah Killingsworth, a black property manager in Los Angeles originally from Tennessee40
"I am convinced that the Supreme Court decision [in Brown v. Board of Education] set back progress in the South at least fifteen years."President Dwight Eisenhower to White House aide, 195441"Nobody needs to explain to a Negro the difference between the law in books and the law in action."

- Charles Houston, special counsel to the NAACP, c. 1950.42
"In talking about the [Emmett Till murder trial], you have to repeat the atmosphere. This is Mississippi in 1955, with a long history of intimidation of witnesses and fear on the part of blacks to testify, in racial situations in particular. For someone like Mose Wright and others to testify against white defendants in a situation like this was historic."

- Charles Diggs, Michigan's first black congressman43
"When we need a baby sitter at home, we have a Negro woman come in, rather than a white girl. We do not lock up the baby's bank either. Does that sound like we do not trust the Negroes?"

- Lew Sadler, a white radio announcer in Mississippi during the Emmett Till trial, addressing black editors of the Chicago Defender in defense of the white South, September 195544
"If Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negroes, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother."

- Handbill written, reproduced, and distributed by Jo Ann Robinson and the WPC, December 195545
"The first thing that happened to whites like us who were sympathetic to the [Montgomery Bus Boycott] was that we lost our businesses... Some whites were scared... It's a terror of being a social failure, of not making your way in the world. Now that's not nearly as bad as being lynched or killed or beaten up. But it is a terrible fear; that's the fear that possesses most men today."

- Virginia Durr, resident of Birmingham, Alabama during the citywide bus boycott46
"The [Brown v. Board of Education] decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, however much we dislike it, is the declared law and is binding upon us. We think that the decision was erroneous... [However] we must in honesty recognize that, because the Supreme Court is the Court of last resort in the country, what it has said must stand until there is a correcting constitutional amendment or until the Court corrects its own error."

- The board of directors of the Little Rock, Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, 195947
"Because I grew up in Chicago, I didn't have an emotional relationship to segregation. I understood the facts and stories, but there was not an emotional relationship."

- Diane Nash, the first chairman of the central committee of the Nashville Student Movement who led a campaign to desegregate lunch counters in Tennessee48
"In plain fact, the relationship between white and Negro in the segregated South, in the country and in the city, has been far closer, more honest, less constrained, than such relations generally have been in the integrated North. In Charleston and New Orleans, among many other cities, residential segregation does not exist, for example, as it exists in Detroit or Chicago."

- James Jackson Kilpatrick, author of The Southern Case for School Segregation, 196249
"Sure we identified with the blacks in Africa... Here were black people, talking of freedom and liberation and independence, thousands of miles away... We couldn't even get a hamburger and a Coke at the soda fountain."

- John Lewis, one time chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee50
"We preach freedom around the world," he said, "but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other, that this is a land of the free except for Negroes?"

- President John F. Kennedy, 11 June 196351

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