In the months following Birmingham, Negroes paraded, demonstrated, sat in, stormed and fought through civil rights sorties in 800 cities and towns in the land. The revolt's basic and startling new assumption -- that the black man can read and understand the Constitution, and can demand his equal rights without fear -- was not lost on Washington. President Kennedy, who had been in no great hurry to produce a civil rights bill, now moved swiftly. The Justice Department drew up a tight and tough bill, aimed particularly at voting rights, employment, and the end of segregation in public facilities.
To cap the summer's great storm of protest, the Negro leaders sponsored the now famous March on Washington. It was a remarkable spectacle, one of disorganized order, with a stateliness that no amount of planning could have produced. Some 200,000 strong, whites and blacks of all ages walked from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. There, the Negro leaders spoke -- Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Young and SNICK's Lewis.
But it was King who most dramatically articulated the Negro's grievances, and it was he whom those present, as well as millions who watched on television, would remember longest. "When we let freedom ring," he cried, "when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we ill be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing, in the words of the old Negro spiritual,
Even the Unions. The march made irreversible all that had gone before in the year of the Negro revolution. In that year, the Negroes made more gains than they had achieved in any year since the end of the Civil War. A speedup in school integration in the South brought to 1,141 the number of desegregated school districts. In the North, city after city re-examined de facto school segregation and set up plans to redress the balance. In 300 cities in the South, public facilities -- from swimming pools to restaurants -- were integrated, and in scores of cities across the nation, leaders established biracial committees as a start toward resolving local inequities.
New job opportunities opened nearly everywhere, as the nation's businesses sent out calls for qualified Negro help -- and, finding a shortage, began training programs for unskilled Negroes. Banks, supermarkets, hotels and department stores upgraded Negro employees. In Philadelphia, Cleveland and New York, pressure on the A.F.L.-C.I.O construction unions -- the most notorious Jim Crow organizations in the North -- produced progress toward training of Negro apprentices. San Francisco's tile setters, memphis' rubber workers and St. Louis' bricklayers opened their union rolls to willing beginners. Television and Madison Avenue blossomed with Negro actors and ad models in "non- Negro" roles. In Denver, Sears, Roebuck & Co., which hitherto had had one Negro employee (dusting shelves), hired 19 more Negroes for a variety of jobs. To varying degrees it was the same way in Houston, at Grant's five and ten, and in San Francisco, where Tidewater Oil took on a Negro for executive training. Even in the South, the job situation improved. Negroes began moving into professional positions in North Carolina's state government. Three Nashville banks agreed to hire Negroes in clerical positions, and some white-collar jobs opened in South Carolina.
Still, for every tortuous inch gained, there are miles of progress left to be covered. There remain 1,888 Southern school districts where segregation is the rule -- and scores of other districts where desegregation sits uneasily in token form. Though Montgomery buses are technically integrated, the city's other public facilities still are not. Team sports are still carefully segregated in a large number of Southern institutions; the NBC television network recently canceled coverage of the annual Blue-Gray football game because Negroes are not eligible to participate. Only 22 states have enforceable fair-employment laws on the books. And not counting Mississippi, where there is a total absence of integrated public facilities, those in other Southern states are so spotty and inconsistent (a downtown lunch counter, yes; the city swimming pool, no) that it is hard for a Negro nowadays to know where he may go and where he may not.
Backlash. In general, housing is still the Negro's toughest barrier. Here and there -- for example, in Denver's Park Hill residential section, where Negro home buying at first created flurries of panic -- colored families have been able to move into white sections with little trouble. But the major metropolitan areas of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Los Angeles continue to fill up at the heart with Negroes while whites from a suburban collar on the outside. California used to pride itself on its progressive attitude, and boasts a fair- housing law on the books to prove it. Now it has been struck with a campaign by the 40,000-member California Real Estate Association to nullify the law.
The white counterattack in California reflects one natural consequence of the Negro's militant position: a backlash reaction, derived from the notion that "the Negro is pushing too far, too fast," and that he is also threatening the unskilled white man's job security. James P. Mitchell, Eisenhower's onetime Labor Secretary, now San Francisco's human-relations coordinator and a friend of the Negro feels that "militancy could quite easily antagonize important people who are now prepared or preparing to do something. What Negroes have to remember is something they tend to forget: that they are a minority, and that they can only achieve what they want with the support of the majority." Says Los Angeles Housewife Maureen Hartman: "I don't see why the Negroes are weeping and wailing. This is not Birmingham. They can go anywhere. They can vote, hold good jobs, eat in the best restaurants. Just what do they expect from us?"
Re-examination. What the Negroes expect, and what they are getting to a degree that would have been astonishing at the start of 1963, is a change of attitude. "A lot of people," says Chicago's Negro Baptist Minister Arthur Brazier, "are re-examining their motives. Even if this means that a lot of hidden prejudices have been uncovered in Northerners, good will be gained from the fact that Americans have been forced to act on days other than Brotherhood Days and Weeks."
Often the changes in attitudes are tiny in scope but broad in meaning. No longer do the starters at Miami's municipal golf courses ask a trio of white men if they will accept a Negro fourth; they merely assign the Negro, and foursome heads onto the course. A New York adoption agency is asking white families to take Negro children. Louise Morgan, a former Chicago advertising executive, says: "I had conned myself into thinking I was a liberal. The rude awakening occurred less than a year ago, when a Negro writer and his family sought an apartment in my building and were turned down. I had met him. He was bright and a gentleman. Yet I didn't lift a finger to help him. That's all changed now." In California, Real Estate Dealer Richard S. Hallmark quit his job in protest over the commonly accepted methods of restricting Negro house buying. "I had never sold to a Negro family in my life, but it grated on my conscience," he says. "I'm tired of people telling me they don't give a goddam about the law and that they're just not going to sell or rent to 'niggers.' I'm not a martyr or a crusader, but they made me ashamed. The colored people are here to stay, so we might as well get used to it."
In addition to marching in demonstrations, clergymen are welcoming Negroes to their all-white congregations in many places, and are mounting mail campaigns to Congress in support of the civil rights bill. Several Roman Catholic archdioceses now require a specific number of sermons on race relations. The National Council of Churches has budgeted $300,000 to support civil rights activities.
A Different Image. The most striking aspect of the revolt, however, is the change in Negroes themselves. The Invisible Man has now become plainly visible -- in bars, restaurants, boards of education, city commissions, civic committees, theaters and mixed social activities, as well as in jobs. Says Mississippi's N.A.A.C.P. President Aaron Henry: "There has been a re-evaluation of our slave philosophy that permitted us to be satisfied with the leftovers at the back door rather than demand a full serving at the family dinner table." With this has come a new pride in race. Explains Dr. John R. Larkins, a Negro consultant in North Carolina's Department of Public Welfare: "Negroes have a feeling of self-respect that I've never seen in all my life. They are more sophisticated now. They have begun to think, to form positive opinions of themselves. There's none of that defeatism. the American Negro has a different image of himself." Moreover, says U.C.L.A.'s Negro Psychiatrist J. Alfred Cannon, "We've got to look within ourselves for some of the answers. We must be able to identify with ourselves as Negroes. Most Negro crimes of violence are directed against other Negroes; it's a way of expressing the Negro's self-hatred. Nonviolent demonstrations are a healthy way of channeling these feelings. But they won't be effective unless the Negro accepts his own identity."
Where most Negroes once deliberately ignored their African beginnings and looked down on the blacks of that continent, many now identify strongly with Africa -- though not to the point where they would repudiate their American loyalties -- and take pride in the emergence of the new nations there. Some Negro women are affecting African-style hairdos; Negroes are decorating their homes with paintings and sculpture that reflect interest in African culture. There has been a decline in sales of "whitening" creams, hair straighteners and pomades, which for years found a big market among Negroes obsessed with ridding themselves of their racial identity.
The Lull. There has been an inevitable lull in visible civil rights activity since the March on Washington, and this has disheartened some Negroes. Says Richard L. Banks, secretary of the Governor's advisory committee on civil rights in Massachusetts: "When the Negroes are not in the streets any more, I'm awfully afraid that some of the people who responded will forget it." But the lull is deceptive, and it is probably best described by James Baldwin. Says he, "This lull is like a football huddle. People are reassessing. They are planning. We will flush the villain out."
In fact, most Negro leaders are waiting for the outcome of the civil rights still in Congress, and are counseling patience until at least the end of this month. They are also carefully gauging the position of Lyndon Johnson. So far, the President's resolute support of the civil rights bill has been encouraging. Says the Rev. L. Sylvester Odom of Denver's African Methodist Episcopal Church: "Personally I wouldn't be surprised if President Johnson gets more out of Congress than President Kennedy could have. He may not get as deeply into the hearts of the people, but he may do pretty well with the Congress, and after all that is what counts." Degrees Virginia-born Social Psychologist Thomas Pettigrew: "Johnson will be tougher with the South. He knows them. Kennedy treated the South as if it were Boston. As a Southerner, I know damn well you don't treat the South that way. Johnson won't play patty-cake with them."
Martin Luther King Jr. has already met with President Johnson, and he is similarly optimistic. "I've had a good deal of contact with him in the past several years," says King. "He means business. I think we can expect even more from him than we have had up to now. I have implicit confidence in the man, and unless he betrays his past actions, we will proceed on the basis that we have in the White House a man who is deeply committed to help us."
Thus the support of the President for strong civil rights bill provides a basis for high Negro hopes. Though Negro leaders acknowledge that laws do not change people's hearts, they want the satisfaction of knowing that a federal law support them in, for example, their demands for equal voting rights and the right to share public accommodations with white men. If the civil rights bill circumvents these specifics, or if it should fail to pass altogether, the leaders are determined to push their revolution all the more strongly in 1964.