Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s

When we think about movements, we think about great people working to make great change. But often, movements start slowly, with everyday, ordinary people who have ideas that they share with others. Those ideas gain momentum, through hard work and refusal to stay hidden and silent. In our series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, we take a look at the first decade of the Civil Rights Movement: its key players–some well known, and some not so well known–and the ideas that picked up speed as the nation barreled toward the policy changes of the 1960s.

Episode 17:

Part 17

On the last episode in our series, Momentum, Sharon ties up a few loose ends. The 1950s was a decade full of change, but the Civil Rights Movement didn’t end when the calendar flipped to 1960. Most of the people we’ve followed throughout this series continued their crusade for–or against–civil freedoms well into the next several decades. Read the show notes.

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Episode 16:

Part 16

On our second to last episode in our series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, We learn about the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the commission born of it. For two years, the United States Commission on Civil Rights researched and released a 600+ page report about the state of voting rights in the US. Read the show notes.

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Episode 15:

Part 15

In this episode of Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, we learn about the women who gave the movement its backbone. Listen in as Sharon speaks about the Queen of the Civil Rights Movement, Septima Poinsette Clark, and another woman, Bernice Robinson, who, together, were effective teachers and leaders in the Civil Rights community. Read the show notes.

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Episode 14:

Part 14

In this episode, Sharon tackles the vast topic of religion within the Civil RIghts Movement. During the Civil Rights Movement, religion was used as a tool of oppression and an excuse for many white people, especially in the South, to remain firm and justified in their belief of white supremacy. Read the show notes.

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Episode 13:

Part 13

In this episode, Sharon tackles the vast topic of religion within the Civil RIghts Movement. During the Civil Rights Movement, religion was used as a tool of oppression and an excuse for many white people, especially in the South, to remain firm and justified in their belief of white supremacy. Read the show notes.

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Episode 12:

Part 12

Sharon rewinds and takes us back to the origin story of a life lost far too soon due to a brutal and racist attack: the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. What began with a young boy who desired to connect with family and learn where his mother came from in Mississippi, ended in horror for the Chicago 14-year-old boy. Though no one will ever know exactly what happened in the grocery store co-owned by Carolyn Bryant leading up to the murder, history will show that what began with a lie from Bryant, resulted in the death of Emmett Till at the hands of Roy Bryant and JW Milam. Three days later, when his body was finally found, it was mutilated and nearly unrecognizable. Read the show notes.

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Episode 11:

Part 11

In this episode of Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon talks about the rising popularity of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how, with greater visibility comes greater threat. We follow Dr. King as he and his comrades persevere through bombings, arrests, scathing rumors, wiretaps, and assassination attempts. Who was one of Dr. King’s biggest adversaries? If you’ve been following along since the beginning of the series, it may not surprise you to know it was J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Read the show notes.

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Episode 10:

Part 10

Sharon begins this episode with a woman who is surely familiar to anyone who has received a crash course on the Civil Rights movement in America: Rosa Parks. While Rosa Parks earned her position in history, this story does not begin with a tired woman who simply needed to rest her feet on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama. Before Rosa Parks, there was Lucille Times. And before there was Lucille times, there was Claudette Colvin. Before Rosa Parks, there was Aurelia Browder, and Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith. The Civil Rights Movement would be nowhere without the extraordinary and prolonged courage and efforts of women. In the words of Rosa Parks, “We must live our lives as a model for others.” Read the show notes.

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Episode 9:

Part 9

Sharon begins this episode by picking up after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was released. The courts ordered for integration “with all deliberate speed” which meant slowly and over time. This vague order left room for schools to drag their heels or ignore the ruling all together. Read the show notes.

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Episode 8:

Part 8

In this episode, Sharon talks about America’s push to eradicate communists during the Red Scare and Korean War. Many people working toward the goal of civil rights and liberties shared links to the Communist Party, like William Patterson and Paul Robeson. In 1951, Patterson submitted a 237-page petition to the United Nations, called We Charge Genocide. After Patterson and Robeson presented their petition, the U.S. retaliated by seizing their passports, smearing their public image, and labeling the Civil Rights Commission as a communist-front organization. Read the show notes.

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Episode 7:

Part 7

Sharon establishes the foundation of another man who played a pivotal role in Brown v. The Board of Education. Today, in 2022, the idea of someone serving as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court with no previous experience working in the Judicial Branch of government, would be unheard of. And it would certainly be unheard of for a gubernatorial candidate to win both the Republican AND Democratic primaries when running for office in California. However, that is exactly what prosecutor, turned Governor, turned Chief Justice did, in what would become a 50-year career of public service for Earl Warren. Read the show notes.

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Episode 6:

Part 6

On today’s episode of our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon continues a riveting conversation with pulitzer-prize winning author, Gilbert King. We pick up with the involvement of J.Edgar Hoover and the case of The Groveland Four, including the political dance Thurgood Marshall did with Hoover to strategically move the Civil Rights movement forward. Read the show notes.

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Episode 5:

Part 5

On today’s episode of our special series, Momentum: Civil Rights in the 1950s, Sharon speaks with pulitzer-prize winning author, Gilbert King. This leads us to The Groveland Four: A harrowing story of 4 young black men who were targeted, and wrongly accused of the rape of a 17-year old white farm wife in rural Florida. “Mr. Civil Rights” himself, Thurgood Marshall, learned of the capital punishment case and was eventually able to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, though not in time to save them all. How did he appeal this case to the U.S. Supreme Court? And what happens when the town sheriff takes the law into his own hands? Read the show notes.

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Episode 4:

Part 4

In this episode, Sharon makes the connection between the desegregation of the United States military to the power of writing a letter. It can be hard to believe sometimes that speaking out, writing a letter, or contacting elected representatives can make a difference, but that is exactly what one honorably discharged decorated Veteran did. The ripples of the letter written by Isaac Woodwards would contribute to a tidal wave in the Civil Rights movement. Read the show notes.

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Episode 3:

Part 3

In this episode, Sharon guides us to a lawsuit years in the making, that shaped America. While some of the names tied with the milestone have been all but lost to history, you will hear many of those uncredited names mentioned in this episode, including McKinley Bernet, Vivian Marshall, and Lucinda Todd. The year was 1952 when Brown v. The Board of Education was argued before the Supreme Court by our friend, Thurgood Marshall. But did you know that the case was actually heard by the high court twice? You also might not know that J. Edgar Hoover was spying on the Supreme Court Justices for decades. What would Hoover have to gain from these warrantless wiretaps? Read the show notes.

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Episode 2:

Part 2

What made J. Edgar Hoover so hesitant to pursue mid-century crime bosses? And how did he transform the Federal Bureau of Investigation, though not without stirring up controversy over his denial of organized crime?  Sharon answers these questions, and continues the story of young Thurgood Marshall as he travels to rural Tennessee on behalf of the NAACP and finds himself on the wrong side of trumped up charges and an angry mob. We also reconnect with George McLaurin and hear about Ada Fisher, two lifelong students who wanted equal opportunities in education and stood firm until they had a victorious Supreme Court ruling.  Read the show notes.

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Episode 1:

Part 1

In this first episode, Sharon introduces us to a few key people who became the driving force behind early Civil Rights activism. We meet a young man named Thuroughgood–a bit of a troublemaker who put his curiosity and sense of justice to work and sought incremental change through the legal system. Joining him in the fight against the longstanding legality of “separate but equal” was the McLaurin family. Together, they sued the University of Oklahoma, which gave George McLaurin admission to the graduate program alongside white students… but the journey to true equal learning had only just begun. Sharon also introduces us to another important person–arguably America’s most powerful man in the mid-20th century–who was both a help and hindrance to the Civil Rights Movement. Read the show notes.

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