Police Involvement During the Civil Rights Movement

Sarah Lyczkowski
Overview of the Police’s
involvement during the CRM
 The police had a big responsibility during the Civil
Rights Movement. Many people wanted segregation
and when it came to activists fighting for equality and
leading marches, the police were the ones who
responded to protests. Many of the police officers
responded violently and used excessive force but some
would try a nonviolent approach. Some policemen
would arrest activists in order to avoid violence.
Segregation in law enforcement
 In the 1950s African Americans were finally able to be
hired in as policemen. But they weren't able to wear
uniforms and they were only allowed to work with
African American juveniles. Many states didn’t allow
them to arrest whites either. Also in order to avoid
racial tension they were stationed separately from
white policemen.
James Cherry
 He was the first African American police officer in
Jackson city 1964. According to the Jackson Sun
newspaper, he faced many challenges during his
career. He not only was rejected by the white
community but also the black community. When he
would arrest an African American they normally would
put up a fight. But also he faced problems with the
white community, they didn’t see him as a “real police
officer” and would often want a white officer to help
Philosophy behind the Police’s response
 During a conference of the NAACP, Thurgood
Marshall made a speech summarizing their view on
the law enforcement and legal strategies. He claimed
that laws have been in place since the 1800s but they
weren't followed for three reasons:
 1) The judges and juries don’t follow the law
 2) When they do follow the law many juries are
reluctant to protect the rights of African Americans
 3) Many African Americans hesitate to go to the law
because they feel laws aren't enforced properly towards
Cited from the civil rights movement opposing
viewpoint 6 of chapter 1
Eugene “bull” Connor
 (1897 - 1973) was a police chief in Alabama during the
anti-segregation protests in downtown Birmingham.
 In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. launched
a series of non-violent anti-segregation protests in
Birmingham, Alabama. In response, Eugene "Bull"
Connor ordered his police department
to use fire hoses, police dogs,
and night sticks to break up
the demonstrations.
Cecil Price (1938-2001)
 A deputy sheriff who arrested three civil rights workers in
Mississippi in 1964. The slayings of the civil rights workers,
Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner of New York
City and James Chaney of Meridian, Miss., all in their early
20s, were among the most notorious crimes of the civil
rights era. He released them six hours later and then
investigators later established that Mr. Price followed
them, pulled their car over again, then turned them over to
a KKK mob. He was never charged with the murders but
there was a federal inquiry and, by early 1965, the sheriff
and his deputy and 16 other men had been charged with
conspiring to violate the victims' civil rights.
 In October 1967, Mr. Price was convicted and found guilty
James Bonard Fowler
 State Trooper in Alabama
 He and some other policemen were sent to Marion on
the night of February 18, 1965. About 500 civil rights
marchers were attacked by the police but the police
said that the crowd refused orders and the policemen
started swinging clubs. Fowler then shot Jimmy Lee
Jackson and claimed it was self defense. He was never
brought up on any charges after the shooting but in
May 2007 he was convicted of murder and sentenced
to jail.
Bloody Sunday
 The Selma to Montgomery march had a tragic end.
On March 7, 1965, 600 civil rights marchers were
stopped at the Edmund Pettus bridge. They were
blocked by state and local lawmen who greeted them
with billy clubs and tear gas and pushed back into
Laurie Pritchett (1926-2000)
 Police chief of Albany Georgia
 He had a nonviolent approach to demonstrations in
the 1960s. He saw this as an effective strategy for
bringing the campaign to an end before demonstrators
could secure any gains in the movement.
 Even though many police officers never followed
through on any of the promises so many people didn’t
trust them. MLK has said that he trusted Pritchett and
thought his nonviolent approach was a good
Some positive aspects of the police
 Police officers led the Little Rock Nine students to
Central High and they protected the students. Many
people protested the fact that the black students were
allowed to go to school and started to shout hateful
words to the policemen, but the police still protected
the students and made sure they got to school safely.
^^Police using fire hoses
at school children
^^Laurie Pritchett
Works Cited:
Crosby, Emilye. "Black Rage In New Orleans: Police Brutality And African American Activism From
World War II To Hurricane Katrina." Journal Of American History 98.2 (2011): 596-597. America:
History & Life.
HOSKEN, SIMON. "Policing The Blues: Remembering The Desegregation Of Law Enforcement In
West Memphis, Arkansas." Arkansas Historical Quarterly 72.2 (2013): 120-138. America: History &
Smith, Brad W., and Malcolm D. Holmes. "Community Accountability, Minority Threat, And Police
Brutality: An Examination Of Civil Rights Criminal Complaints." Criminology 41.4 (2003): 1035-1063.
Academic Search Complete.
Staples, Robert. "White Power, Black Crime, And Racial Politics." Black Scholar 41.4 (2011): 31-41.
America: History & Life.

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