To top it all, a tidy profit could be made to boost funds and put more restrictions in place. With the Liquor Act in place, police raids duly began. The privacy of homes was invaded; houses were wrecked, floors dug up, furniture smashed and liquor confiscated. There were also allegations of sexual harassment by police. Quite apart from the damage to their property, the new regulations hit the women very hard. The production and consumption of utshwala was restricted to municipal canteens. Not only did women lose their income from selling the home-brew, but they also had to watch their husbands using their wages in the canteens, thus making the authorities richer.
Moreover the women were enraged that the canteen sold utshwala to its customers at for to five times its cost price. In her article on the beer protests Helen Bradford explains that the women were determined not to be entirely under financial control of the male workers; they wanted the opportunity to be independent and this, more than anything else, motivated them to protest Bradford in Bozzoli They decided to take the matter into their own hands.
Backed by the Natal branch of the ICU and joined by some men, they were determined to resist the new regulations, boycott the canteens and force them to close. Bradford claims that the church, and particularly Christianity, was a unifying force among many of the women. One of the main organizers was Ma-Dhlamini who was reputed to be in the forefront of all the demonstrations.
In , beginning in Ladysmith, a rash of resistance began to spreading through Natal, focusing on small towns like Weenen, Glencoe, Howick, Dundee. Women marched into the towns in an overtly militant manner, shouting war chants and brandishing their sticks. They raided the canteens and assaulted the male customers. In Durban on 17 June chaos erupted with 2 whites clashing with 6 Africans on 17 June More than people were injured and eight died in the protracted unrest. Cases were heard by local magistrates and some towns issued beer-brewing permits.
Sentences were often suspended and a conciliatory approach was followed although some women received harsh sentences. By and large the municipal canteens and the liquor-brewing regulations apparently remained in place. Natal Trade Unionists. The early s were difficult years. There was a worldwide depression and South Africa did not escape its effects. Unemployment soared and there was widespread poverty.
Although urban dwellers felt the pinch too, it was the families in the rural areas and particularly those in the reserves that suffered the most. African women struggled to feed their families and often the only option was to go into the towns to look for some means of supplementing the family income; often domestic service proved to be the answer. In the s the government made some attempts to stem the flow of African women into the towns, but as women unlike men did not yet have to carry compulsory passes, female migration to the towns continued.
Urbanisation thus received another boost. Afrikaner women, like their African, Indian and Coloured counterparts, began to enter the labour market in increasing numbers, often finding work in the industrial sector. As women and mothers they had to find a way to escape the endless grind of poverty and give their children a better chance in life. In her article on Afrikaner women in the Garment Workers' Union GWU Vincent quotes a particularly poignant translated piece from an Afrikaans trade union newsletter:.
No beard grows upon my cheeks But in my heart I carry a sword The battle sword for bread and honour Against the poverty which pains my mother hear t. Bread and butter issues motivated women's to resist in the difficult s. This is why the socialist ideas of the CPSA and the work-oriented trade union movement appealed to women workers across the board. The main movements through which women expressed their growing political awareness in the s were therefore the ANC, the CPSA and the trade union movement.
The role of these movements in women's resistance, tenuous in the late s and s, began to escalate in the s and will be discussed in the next section. District Committee of the Communist Party. Josie Palmer is the first person on the right in the front row. The s opened with the devastating Second World War in full swing. This decade also marked the gradual transition from a mining and agricultural economy before the war to a flourishing industrial economy with the development of many new secondary industries in its aftermath. By this time the reserves were so depleted that they no longer provided a subsistence base for African families; they lived in extreme poverty.
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Urban blacks in the townships also lived under appalling conditions and Coloured and Indian people fared little better. The government and the black opposition moved even further apart. This trend was accentuated by significant shifts in both black and white politics.
This group of young, more assertive black leaders were destined to revive the ANC which had fallen into lethargy in the previous decade and the CYL began to set the tone for a new spirit of resistance. African women were quick to follow this lead and in began to press for the formation of a women's league within the ANC structures so that they, too, could join the struggle against oppression.
Black trade unions grew rapidly, fuelled by the growing numbers of urban workers. They were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo and a number of major strikes and boycotts were held in the s, notably the strike of African mineworkers in As we shall see, women workers of all races, now a permanent part of the industrial scene, were not slow to play their part in this climate of unrest.
Within the trade unions the names of militant working women such as Frances Baard, Lilian Ngoyi and Bertha Mashaba began to be heard. In fact the s and s highlight the changing role of African women, and particularly working-class black women, in South Africa's political economy. White politics took a dramatic new turn in The National Party won the whites-only election in and began systematically to entrench its control. The segregation policies of previous white governments now hardened into the birth of the apartheid regime and as the s gave way to the s the government began to implement a wide range of oppressive apartheid legislation, including attempts to control the mobility of African women and create a stable urban proletariat.
The stage was thus set for popular resistance that was to last until - resistance in which women played an important part. During the war the cost of living soared and economic hardship increased and women struggled to feed their families. Women in the sprawling squatter camps or informal settlements on the outskirts of the urban areas took on a variety of informal jobs in order to survive. And it was clear that in such dire poverty these women were becoming more politicised. In Johannesburg, women formed the People's Food Council in in an effort to improve the distribution of food; among other activities it held a conference on the food situation and organised raids on Fordsburg shopkeepers who were suspected of hoarding food.
In the residents including many women of Alexandra Township challenged an increase in the bus fare into Johannesburg and boycotted the buses until the bus company relented. Women were active in a number of squatter movements in and around the cities. And near Johannesburg black women applauded and supported James Mpanza's establishment of Shantytown in in defiance of the regulations against squatting.
The Alexandra Women's Council AWC was established at about this time too, and became active in issues relating to housing and squatting. Women also organised a march through Johannesburg in to protest against the housing shortage, a campaign in which Julia Mpanze was prominent. The restrictions on the home-brewing of beer also roused women into taking action against the authorities. There was unrest in Springs in when local women, with CPSA backing, organised a boycott of the municipal canteens.
This led to police action and many of those who were arrested were women. Part of the rejuvenation process of the ANC in the s was to build up mass membership and the role of women and their potential as a powerful agent of change was at last recognised. Previously women had not been accepted as full members but at an ANC conference held in it was decided that this should change.
It was also made clear from its establishment that the national struggle for freedom rather than women's rights would be its focus. Provincial congresses were only established after the war in the late s, although there are indications that women participated in discussions about the campaign against passes for men in the s women did not yet have to carry passes themselves that were held in But in the CYL introduced its Programme of Action, a new ANC president took over and this spirit of revival filtered through to the women's league.
Furthermore, the dynamic Ida Mtwana took over the leadership. Provincial branches of the ANCWL were established, incorporating township women countrywide; working-class women with their trade union background also brought a more assertive and impatient attitude into the ANCWL. In rumours were also rife that the new government was planning to enforce much tighter control of African women's mobility — in other words to make women, like the men, carry the dreaded passes. This news set off a wave of anger that boosted the ANCWL's profile as a viable resistance organisation.
We shall see how the ANCWL expanded in influence and effectiveness in the rising tide of black resistance of the s. Indian Passive Resistance. A mass meeting in Johannesburg. Although Indian women had become involved in Gandhi's passive resistance of they did not attempt to form any long-term women's organisations or play an overt political role again until the s. In the new leadership challenged the harsh, segregationist Asiatic Land Tenure and Representation Act the so-called Ghetto Act that was passed by the government.
This law established separate areas of land tenure in Natal towns and placed severe restrictions on Indian settlement. The SAIC decided to capitalise on the wave of anger that had arisen in the Indian community and launched a campaign of passive resistance. The campaign had an important impact on Indian women, initiating a new political activism in their ranks. Dr Goonam, a young medical doctor, was the main organiser, and in March a well-attended meeting of Indian women was held. The women pledged their support for the initiative and many women volunteered.
Zainab Asvat, a young medical student was one of the women among the group who set up camp on 13 June on the plot at the corner of Umbilo Road and Gale Street. They proposed to live there in tents until such time as they were arrested. On the night of Sunday, 16 June, white hooligans overran the camp. After this attack, the leaders asked the women to leave the camp but they refused to go. At a subsequent meeting Zainab Asvat made a fiery speech in which she denounced the violence, denounced discriminatory laws, affirmed the resisters' commitment and appealed to the people to remain calm but to take note of the circumstances.
Zainab was arrested and released later the same night. Her courage and determination were inspirational and several women joined in the campaign. Goonam and Miss Zohra Meer. In July , Zainab again led a batch of resisters, was arrested, sent to prison for three months. Goonam deputised on several occasions while senior NIC men were overseas, and later became the vice-president.
Amina Cachalia, sister of Zainap Asvat, and Fatima Meer became particularly prominent in the s when women across the race spectrum united under the banner of the Congress Alliance. The Treason Trial. In the s the government's increasingly repressive policies began to pose a direct threat to all people of colour, and there was a surge of mass political action by blacks in defiant response. The s certainly proved to be a turbulent decade. We shall see that women were prominent in virtually all these avenues of protest, but to none were they more committed than the anti-pass campaign.
The apartheid regime's influx control measures and pass laws were what women feared the most and reacted to most vehemently. Their fears were not unfounded. In the Native Laws Amendment Act tightened influx control, making it an offence for any African including women to be in any urban area for more than 72 hours unless in possession of the necessary documentation.
The only women who could live legally in the townships were the wives and unmarried daughters of the African men who were eligible for permanent residence. In terms of this act the many different documents African men had been required to carry were replaced by a single one - the reference book - which gave details of the holder's identity, employment, place of legal residence, payment of taxes, and, if applicable, permission to be in the urban areas.
The act further stipulated that African women, at an unspecified date in the near future, would for the first time be required to carry reference books. Protests started as early as when rumours of the new legislation were leaked in the press. By there were still sporadic demonstrations taking place and these accelerated when local officials began to enforce the new pass regulations.
Reaction was swift and hostile. On 4 January , hundreds of African men and women assembled in the Langa township outside Cape Town to protest against the new laws. Women during the Defiance Campaign Radical tactics of defiance were to be employed to exert pressure on the government.
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Women were prominent in many of these defiant incidents. Florence Matomela was among 35 activists arrested in Port Elizabeth and Bibi Dawood recruited volunteers in Worcester. Fatima Meer, an Indian woman, was arrested for her role in the unrest and was subsequently banned. She had previously kept a very low profile and been involved in church-related organisations, but the Defiance Campaign made her realize that only by adopting a more aggressive and militant approach would the government be fully aware of the commitment of women to the national struggle for freedom.
Women's involvement in the Defiance Campaign certainly proved to be an important stimulus in their political development across the board. Three important female activists were in Port Elizabeth in April at the time when the Defiance Campaign was underway and there was widespread political unrest in the region. Influx control measures had just been implemented in the region a few months before and had created a storm of protest from the people.
The three decided among themselves that the time was right to call women to a meeting to discuss the formation of a national women's organization. No record was kept of the informal meeting held that same evening, but Ray Alexander later said that it had been attended by about 40 women. Although from various different organizations all the women were committed to the Congress Alliance and the Defiance Campaign that had been initiated the previous year.
Ray Alexander pointed out the advantages of an umbrella body that would devise a national strategy to fight against the issues of importance to women: every-day matters such as rising food and transport costs, passes and influx control. The women were enthusiastic in their response and Ray Alexander was asked to pursue the matter further. Ray Alexander was based in Cape Town so the planning for the initial conference was done there.
Hilda Watts Bernstein , also a communist and an experienced political campaigner, was asked to handle the Johannesburg wing of the committee. An energetic, skilled organizer who had been a tireless campaigner for women's rights since the s, Ray Alexander was the ideal woman for the job.
She co-opted a number of influential women country-wide to help her but her individual contribution was enormous. The committee met regularly to plan the coming conference. Invitations to the inaugural conference of the FSAW were sent out in March , signed by 63 women who supported the aims of the Congress Alliance. One hundred and forty-six delegates, representing , women from all parts of South Africa, attended the founding conference and pledged their support for the broadly-based objectives of the Congress Alliance.
The specific aims of FSAW were to bring the women of South Africa together to secure full equality of opportunity for all women, regardless of race, colour or creed, as well as to remove their social, legal and economic disabilities. A draft Women's Charter was presented by Hilda Bernstein, and in complete identification with the national liberation movement as represented by the Congress Alliance, the Women's Charter called for the enfranchisement of men and women of all races; for equality of opportunity in employment; equal pay for equal work; equal rights in relation to property, marriage and children; and the removal of all laws and customs that denied women such equality.
It further demanded paid maternity leave, childcare for working mothers, and free and compulsory education for all South African children. These demands were later incorporated into the Freedom Charter that was adopted by the Congress of the People, held in Kliptown near Johannesburg, from June The administrative groundwork of the newly-established FSAW evolved over the months that followed, but a national executive committee was formed at the inaugural conference in April Ida Mtwana was elected as national president she was also the presiding ANCWL president , which indicated the key role the ANC the senior partner of the Democratic Alliance was destined to play in the new organisation.
The women were unanimous in their opinion that the inaugural conference had been an unqualified success. On Hilda Watts' suggestion men volunteers had been assigned the catering responsibilities for the conference. This was symbolic. Today they are marching side by side with men in the road to freedom' Walker The launch of the Freedom Charter. This is not to say that it had failed, despite it shortcomings. But the government had weathered the defiance and was introducing yet more of its apartheid measures with persistent vigour. It became clear that the national liberation movement needed to adopt a new initiative.
The Congress Alliance began to organise the Congress of the People; once again women were destined to play an important role. They were to help organise local bodies and recruit new grassroots support for the Alliance by holding house meetings and local conferences. This they did with great success in the opening months of In addition they took on the huge task of arranging accommodation for the more than 2 expected delegates. Their input gave the women an opportunity to lobby for the incorporation of some of their demands into the Freedom Charter adopted at the mass meeting.
Walker shows that although the FSAW was closely involved in the planning of the Congress of the People, women only played a limited role in the actual meeting. On June nearly 3 delegates gathered at Kliptown. There were women delegates in the official tally of 2 — in other words only about a quarter of the delegates at the Congress of the People were women. There were a few women, including Sonia Bunting, who spoke from the floor, but Helen Joseph, who was the FSAW's Transvaal secretary, was the only female platform speaker.
Frances Baard, a prominent trade unionist and member of the executive committee of the FSAW, was involved in the compilation of the Freedom Charter. After the Pretoria march the campaign continued until the end of the s, with in Zeerust in , Johannesburg in and Natal in FSAW had been dealt a severe blow. In December several female activists were involved in another high profile incident. In a determined effort to try to curtail the national liberation movement, the government rounded up and arrested leaders of the Congress Alliance.
They were accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and were tried in the infamous Treason Trial that lasted for four and a half years. In September the issue of passes burst into the public eye again when the government announced that it would start issuing reference books to black women from January Women, now politicised and well-organised into a powerful resistance movement, immediately rose to the challenge. No longer were they merely regarded as mothers, bound to the home; they were independent and assertive adult South Africans.
Passes threatened their basic rights of freedom and family life and they were going to resist them with everything they had. They were unequivocal in their message to the government: We shall not rest until ALL pass laws and all forms of permits restricting our freedoms have been abolished. We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights of freedom, justice and security.
As Walker puts it, the anti-pass protests by women in the s were a good indication that they had thrown off the shackles of the past. It was by now an accepted organisation within the ambit of the Congress Alliance, regional branches had been set up and mass membership was growing throughout the country. A march to Pretoria to present women's grievances had been mooted in August , and when the pass issue came to the fore in September the scale and urgency of the demonstration increased dramatically. The demonstration took place on 27 October , and was a great success. This was despite organisational difficulties — including police intimidation, and the banning of Josie Palmer, one of the main organisers, a week before the date of the gathering.
Furthermore, in addition to police action, the government had been as obstructionist as it could. The then Minister of Native Affairs, HF Verwoerd, under whose jurisdiction the pass laws fell, pointedly refused to receive any multiracial delegation. Pretoria City Council refused the women permission to hold the meeting and saw to it that public transport was stalled to make it difficult for the women to get to the Pretoria venue. Private transport had to be arranged and evasive tactics adopted for a multitude of other obstructionist measures launched by the authorities.
In the circumstances it was surprising, and very gratifying to the organisers that a crowd of between 1 and 2 women gathered in the grounds of the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Although the majority were African women, White, Coloured and Indian women also attended. The crowd, most of whom came from the Rand towns, was orderly and dignified throughout the proceedings. They handed their bundles of signed petitions to Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophie Williams, the main organisers, who deposited them at the ministers' office doors.
In the aftermath of the demonstration the government tried to downplay its influence by alleging erroneously that the meeting had only been successful because the organisation had been in the hands of white women. The success of the October gathering was highly motivating and buoyed up the women to capitalise on their success. From onwards the pass issue became the single most important focus of their militancy. But at its annual conference of , but did not appear to have a specific strategy in mind. In marked contrast the FSAW immediately set about working on a plan of meetings, demonstrations, and local initiatives.
The women, carried along by a mass following of females countrywide, recognised the authority of the ANC but were not prepared to delay their own preparations. Meetings held across the country on the anti-pass ticket proved to be remarkably successful, and were attended by huge crowds.
In reply the government threatened reprisals, but when it finally began issuing reference books it did so unobtrusively, starting in white agricultural areas and smaller towns, choosing Winburg in the Free State, where FSAW presence was minimal and the women were not well-informed. Here, on 22 March , they issued 1 black women with reference books and met with little reaction. Senior ANC officials were thereupon designated to go to Winburg immediately and Lilian Ngoyi and several men arrived in the town the next week and addressed the women. Inspired by the presence of Ngoyi, who was an excellent orator, the local women defiantly marched into town and publicly burnt their new reference books outside the magistrate's office.
The authorities reacted swiftly; the offenders were arrested and charged. Subsequently it was reported that their monthly pensions would not be paid to them unless they could produce their reference books. Again there was a wave of protest from all parts of the country, and anti-pass demonstrations were held in 38 different venues. The authorities continued to send out their units to issue the hated reference books. It was unwelcome news to the FSAW organisers that the government was persevering and that by September it had visited 37 small centres and succeeded in issuing 23 books. Although none of the major ANC strongholds had been visited and women throughout the country were in militant mood, it was clear that drastic action would have to be taken; and fast.
It decided to organise another massive march to Pretoria. This time women would come from all parts of the country, not just the Rand.
They vowed that the prime minister, JG Strijdom, would be left in no doubt about how the women felt about having to carry passes. We have put together a special page on this event. By the middle of plans had been laid for the Pretoria march and the FSAW had written to request that JG Strijdom, the current prime minister, meet with their leaders so they could present their point of view. The request was refused. The plan was to consult with local leaders who would then make arrangements to send delegates to the mass gathering in August.
The Women's March was a spectacular success. Women from all parts of the country arrived in Pretoria, some from as far afield as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. They then flocked to the Union Buildings in a determined yet orderly manner. Estimates of the number of women delegates ranged from 10 to 20 , with FSAW claiming that it was the biggest demonstration yet held. They filled the entire amphitheatre in the bow of the graceful Herbert Baker building. Walker describes the impressive scene:.
Many of the African women wore traditional dress, others wore the Congress colours, green, black and gold; Indian women were clothed in white saris. Many women had babies on their backs and some domestic workers brought their white employers' children along with them. Throughout the demonstration the huge crowd displayed a discipline and dignity that was deeply impressive Walker Neither the prime minister or any of his senior staff was there to see the women, so as they had done the previous year, the leaders left the huge bundles of signed petitions outside JG Strijdom's office door.
It later transpired that they were removed before he bothered to look at them. Then at Lilian Ngoyi's suggestion, a masterful tactic, the huge crowd stood in absolute silence for a full half hour. Without exception, those who participated in the event described it as a moving and emotional experience. The significance of the Women's March must be analysed. Women had once again shown that the stereotype of women as politically inept and immature, tied to the home, was outdated and inaccurate.
This was blatantly untrue. The FSAW had come of age politically and could no longer be underrated as a recognised organisation — a remarkable achievement for a body that was barely 2 years old. The Alliance decided that 9 August would henceforth be celebrated as Women's Day, and it is now, in the new South Africa, commemorated each year as a national holiday. In , government officials in the Orange Free State declared that women living in the urban townships would be required to buy new entry permits each month.
In response, the women sent deputations to the Government, collected thousands of signatures on petitions, and organised massive demonstrations to protest the permit requirement. Unrest spread throughout the province and hundreds of women were sent to prison. No further attempts were made to require permits or passes for African women until the s. Although laws requiring such documents were enacted in , the Government did not begin issuing permits to women until and reference books until The issuing of permits began in the Western Cape, which the Government had designated a "Coloured preference area".
Within the boundaries established by the Government, no African workers could be hired unless the Department of Labour determined that Coloured workers were not available. Foreign Africans were to be removed from the area altogether. No new families would be allowed to enter, and women and children who did not qualify to remain would be sent back to the reserves. The entrance of the migrant labourers would henceforth be strictly controlled. Male heads of households, whose families had been endorsed out or prevented from entering the area, were housed with migrant workers in single-sex hostels.
The availability of family accommodations was so limited that the number of units built lagged far behind the natural increase in population. In order to enforce such drastic influx control measures, the Government needed a means of identifying women who had no legal right to remain in the Western Cape. According to the terms of the Native Laws Amendment Act, women with Section 10 1 a , b , or c status were not compelled to carry permits.
Theoretically, only women in the Section 10 1 d category - that is, work-seekers or women with special permission to remain in the urban area - were required to possess such documents. In spite of their legal exemption, women with Section 10 1 a , b , and c rights were issued permits by local authorities which claimed that the documents were for their own protection. Any woman who could not prove her a , b , or c status was liable to arrest and deportation.
Soon after permits were issued to women in the Western Cape, local officials began to enforce the regulations throughout the Union. Reaction to the new system was swift and hostile. Even before the Western Cape was designated a "Coloured preference area", Africans were preparing for the inevitable. On January 4, , hundreds of African men and women assembled in the Langa township outside Cape Town to protest the impending application of the Native Laws Amendment Act. We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population.
We women do not form a society separate from the men. There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men. As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress. The level of civilisation which any society has reached can be measured by the degree of freedom that its members enjoy.
The status of women is a test of civilisation. Measured by that standard, South Africa must be considered low in the scale of civilised nations. We women share with our menfolk the cares and anxieties imposed by poverty and its evils. As wives and mothers, it falls upon us to make small wages stretch a long way. It is we who feel the cries of our children when they are hungry and sick. It is our lot to keep and care for the homes that are too small, broken and dirty to be kept clean. We know the burden of looking after children and land when our husbands are away in the mines, on the farms, and in the towns earning our daily bread.
We know what it is to keep family life going in pondokkies and shanties, or in overcrowded one-room apartments. We know the bitterness of children taken to lawless ways, of daughters becoming unmarried mothers whilst still at school, of boys and girls growing up without education, training or jobs at a living wage. These are evils that need not exist. They exist because the society in which we live is divided into poor and rich, into non-European and European. They exist because there are privileges for the few, discrimination and harsh treatment for the many.
We women have stood and will stand shoulder to shoulder with our menfolk in a common struggle against poverty, race and class discrimination, and the evils of the colourbar. As members of the National Liberatory movements and Trade Unions, in and through our various organisations, we march forward with our men in the struggle for liberation and the defence of the working people. We pledge ourselves to keep high the banner of equality, fraternity and liberty.
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As women there rests upon us also the burden of removing from our society all the social differences developed in past times between men and women, which have the effect of keeping our sex in a position of inferiority and subordination. We resolve to struggle for the removal of laws and customs that deny African women the right to own, inherit or alienate property. We resolve to work for a change in the laws of marriage such as are found amongst our African, Malay and Indian people, which have the effect of placing wives in the position of legal subjection to husbands, and giving husbands the power to dispose of wives' property and earnings, and dictate to them in all matters affecting them and their children.
This photograph shows the view from over the shoulder of the Abraham Lincoln statue to the marchers gathered along the length of the Reflecting Pool. As it did throughout the Second Reconstruction, pressure for change came from off Capitol Hill. By the need for a major civil rights bill weighed heavily on Congress and the John F. Kennedy administration. Protests at lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina, in were followed in by attempts to desegregate interstate buses by the Freedom Riders, who were arrested in Jackson, Mississippi.
Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene Bull Connor unleashed police dogs and high-powered hoses on the peaceful protesters. The images coming out of the Deep South horrified Americans from all walks of life. In August , King and other civil rights leaders organized what had been to that point the largest-ever demonstration in the capital: the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
A reluctant Kennedy administration began coordinating with congressional allies to pass a significant reform bill. McCulloch and Celler forged a coalition of moderate Republicans and northern Democrats while deflecting southern amendments determined to cripple the bill. I think we all realize that what we are doing [today] is a part of an act of God. In scope and effect, the act was among the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in U.
It contained sections prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations Title II ; in state and municipal facilities, including schools Titles III and IV ; and—incorporating the Powell Amendment—in any program receiving federal aid Title V. Having passed the House, the act faced its biggest hurdle in the Senate. President Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana tapped Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota to build Senate support for the measure and fend off the efforts of a determined southern minority to stall it.
President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, The legislation suspended the use of literacy tests and voter disqualification devices for five years, authorized the use of federal examiners to supervise voter registration in states that used tests or in which less than half the voting-eligible residents registered or voted, directed the U. Attorney General to institute proceedings against use of poll taxes, and provided criminal penalties for violations of the act.
Passage of the Civil Rights Act of dealt the deathblow to southern congressional opposition. On March 7, , marchers led by future Representative John R. As with the brutality in Birmingham, public reaction was swift and, if possible, even more powerful. The sight of them rolling over us like human tanks was something that had never been seen before. After President Johnson addressed a Joint Session of Congress to speak about the events in Selma, legislative action was swift. The bill that quickly moved through both chambers suspended the use of literacy tests for a five-year period and stationed federal poll watchers and voting registrars in states with persistent patterns of voting discrimination.
It also required the Justice Department to approve any change to election law in those states. Conyers, along with Representatives Diggs, Hawkins, and Powell, had visited Selma in February as part of a Member congressional delegation that investigated voting discrimination. An amended conference report passed both chambers by wide margins, and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of into law on August 6, The measure dramatically increased voter registration in the short term.
By , 60 percent of all southern blacks were registered. Predictably, the bill had the biggest effect in the Deep South.
In Mississippi, for instance, where less than 7 percent of African Americans qualified to vote in , 59 percent were on voter rolls by In southern states, particularly in cities such as Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis, the creation of districts with a majority of African-American constituents propelled greater numbers of African Americans into Congress by the early s. In northern cities, too, the growing influence of black voters reshaped Congress. African Americans constituted a growing percentage of the population of major U. Louis , and Shirley Chisholm Brooklyn were elected to Congress from redrawn majority-black districts in which white incumbents chose not to run.
The final major piece of civil rights legislation of the decade was designed to extend the legal protections outlawing racial discrimination beyond the Civil Rights Act of and the Voting Rights Act of In President Johnson called for additional legislation to protect the safety of civil rights workers, end discrimination in jury selection, and eliminate restrictions on the sale or rental of housing. Over the next two years, opposition to this legislation emerged from both parties, leading to a protracted battle that culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of Benefitting from Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Johnson administration instituted immigration reforms and created federally funded programs to stimulate urban development, bolster consumer protection, strengthen environmental regulations, fund education programs, and expand the social safety net by providing health coverage through Medicare and Medicaid.
Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of on April 11, The act prohibited discrimination in the sale or rental of approximately 80 percent of the housing in the U. Newly elected Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts fourth from left attended the signing. At the start of the 90th Congress — , President Johnson once again called for a new civil rights bill. This time, the Democratic strategy was to propose several bills based on the component parts of the failed bill from the 89th Congress.
In so doing, Democrats hoped to pass as many of the individual bills as possible. During the tumultuous summer of , access to housing was at the forefront of a national discussion on urban policy, particularly after violence erupted in cities such as Detroit and Newark, New Jersey. House Democrats were unable to attract support for a fair housing bill in the summer of But the House did pass a narrow civil rights bill on August 15, , which established federal penalties for anyone forcibly interfering with the civil and political rights of individuals.
The bill specified that civil rights workers would be afforded similar protections when serving as advocates for those trying to exercise their rights. Many justified their resistance to the proposed legislation by highlighting the riots that broke out in July In the Senate, Republicans joined segregationist Democrats in what seemed to be formidable opposition to the bill. When the upper chamber finally began to debate the legislation in February , Senator Brooke joined with Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota to draft an amendment designed to prohibit discrimination in the sale or rental of 91 percent of all housing in the nation.
On the Senate Floor, Brooke described the way segregated neighborhoods, typically far from employment opportunities, did extensive damage to the African-American community. When he declared that he was open to supporting the fair housing amendment with some revisions, negotiations began between the parties.
The final bill included several concessions to Dirksen, such as reducing the housing covered by the fair housing provision. Also, an amendment was added to the bill to attract the support of Senators who had been reluctant to vote for the civil rights bill, which made it a federal crime to cross state lines to participate in a riot. An additional amendment prohibited Native American tribal governments from restricting the exercise of specific constitutional rights on their lands.
For decades, opponents on the Rules Committee blocked civil rights initiatives, and Colmer sought to keep the Senate bill off the floor by sending it to a conference committee, where it could be debated and revised, or simply stalled, by Members. On April 4—the day before the Rules Committee was scheduled to vote on whether to send the bill to the House Floor or to send it to conference—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Rules Committee postponed its vote. A violent weekend in cities across the nation resulted in 46 people killed, thousands injured, and millions of dollars in property damage before the National Guard helped quelled the disturbances. Unexpectedly, a majority of the committee defied the chairman and voted to send the bill to the floor. Representative Joseph D. Less than a week later, the House approved the Senate bill by a vote of to , and President Johnson signed it into law on April 11, The enforcement mechanisms of the fair housing provision, however, ended up being somewhat limited in that it required private individuals or advocacy groups to file suit against housing discrimination.
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