UC Students Participate in Civil Rights Protest at 1960 Democratic National Convention is Los Angeles

 

A busload of U.C. Berkeley students, I and my girlfriend included, arrived at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on July 14, 1960, to support the Democratic National Convention's adoption of a meaningful civil rights platform.  My recollection is that the trip was organized by the recently-organized left-of-center student political party, Slate, mentioned elsewhere on this website.  If you know of other Bay Area groups' involvement in organizing the trip, please let me know.

The Democratic convention adopted a civil rights plank that  pledged support for an end to discrimination in voting, education, lunch counters, employment, and housing. It promised to use the "full powers" granted by the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 "to secure the right to vote;" "to take whatever action is necessary to eliminate literacy tests and . . . the poll taxes as requirements for voting;" supported "peaceful demonstrations for first-class citizenship;" and called for every school affected by the Brown decision "to submit a plan providing for at least first step compliance by 1963.

The Reverends Martin Luther King and  Ralph J. Abernathy and other national civil rights leaders led a march of 5000 people to the Convention venue, the LA Memorial Coliseum.  This march was the first modern day civil rights protest at a national convention of either party, and it's success helped spur King and others to join the southern students' lunch counter sit-ins in the South.  King and several others were arrested at a sit-in, but only King was jailed.  Senator John F. Kennedy, prior to running for the presidential nomination,had paid little attention to civil rights issues.  Seeing the protests outside the Coliseum and hearing the impassioned pleas of some of the delegates for a strong Democratic position on civil rights had stirred something new in JFK.  Having been recently nominated to run for President on the Democratic ticket, and heeding the advice of  some of his more progressive associates, JFK responded to King's jailing by calling Coretta King to offer his sympathies.  He also acted, by having his brother Bobby Kennedy pressure the local judge to release King.  

The seeds for a national civil rights movement had been sown before the convention. By February and March of 1960, black students were sitting in at southern lunch counters, and their supporters were demonstrating at Woolworths stores in the North.  The widespread  publicity given to the well-organized July protests at the Democratic Convention and the successful battle to get the Party to support civil rights, created a climate in which people could be mobilized into action.

Martin Luther King and Roy Wilkins (NAACP)

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MLK and Wilkins in front of banner by Charles White, noted black artist

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The head of the protest march.  Help me identify front row, other than MLK and Wilkins

The crowd assembles to march to the LA Memorial Coliseum

Bay Area group entertains crowd with protest songs

King speaks to the protest crowd

Picketer Evelyn (Nebby Lou) Louise Crawford, late writer and daughter of noted Bay Area civil rights activists Matt N. Crawford and Evelyn Graves Crawford

Kids, too

UC grad student and Slate President Aryay Lenske signing up participants for something