This website is created by Veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement (1951-1968). It is where we tell it like it was, the way we lived it, the way we saw it, the way we still see it. With a few minor exceptions, everything on this site was written, created, or spoken by Movement activists who were direct participants in the events they chronicle.
We intend this site to be a non-commercial educational resource for students, academics, researchers, and people of all kinds who wish to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement from the point of view of those who were part of it, who passionately believed in it, and still do to this day.
The mass media calls it the "Civil Rights Movement," but many of us prefer the term "Freedom Movement" because it was about so much more than just a few narrowly-defined civil rights. The essence of the Freedom Movement was first to defy, and then to overthrow, a century of systemic racial oppression and exploitation across all aspects of society. At heart, the Freedom Movement was a demand for social and political equality, an end to economic injustice, and a fair share of political power for Blacks and other non-whites. Though the Freedom Movement failed to achieve all of these goals, it did decisively and permanently end the "Jim Crow" system of legally-enforced social inequality through segregation. And by winning voting rights for all non-whites it obliterated the main legal mechanism used to restrict American racial minorities to a form of second-class citizenship.
Today, from what you are taught in school, you would think that the Freedom Movement only existed in a few states of the deep South, but that is not so. The Freedom Movement lived and fought in every state and every city of America, North, South, East, and West. There were some differences between the Southern and Northern wings of the Movement, but those differences were minor compared to the Movement's essence. North or South, it was the same movement everywhere.
This website is devoted to the "Southern Freedom Movement," the Freedom Movement as it existed in the South. Not because the Northern wing of the Movement was unimportant it was enormously important, but because the Southern Movement was the part of the Movement that we participated in and know enough about to build this website. We've always hoped that activists from the Northern wing of the Movement will build a sister site.
Many textbooks and documentaries tell us that the Civil Rights Movement "began" in 1954 with the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v Board of Education, and "ended" with the call for "Black Power" in 1966 or with the assassination of Dr. King in 1968. But to us, our Freedom Movement grew out of all that came before and has never ended, but rather, like a living organism, it has evolved and flowered into struggles of many kinds that continue to this day.
For the purpose of this website, we have arbitrarily chosen 1951 as the start date of our phase of the long struggle for freedom, justice and equality because in that year a 16 year old high-school girl named Barbara Johns led her Virginia classmates out on a student strike to protest segregated schools. And we have arbitrarily concluded our coverage of the Southern Freedom Movement at the end of 1968 to mark the cross-over year in which the struggle evolved into new phases, and nation-wide campus uprisings against the Vietnam War brought us full circle to our student roots and the beginning of the next cycle.
For us, the heart and soul of our website is emphasizing the central role played by ordinary people transforming their lives through extraordinary courage. The Civil Rights Movement was above all a mass peoples' movement people coming together to change their lives for themselves. But all too often that central fact has been quietly dropped out of history in favor of a "benevolent" court ruling, a few charismatic leaders, a handful of famous protests in a few well-known places, some tragic martyrs, and the gracious largess of magnanimous legislators.
Our purpose is to make sure that there is at least one place where the Movement story is told by those who actually lived it. We want to set the record straight. Without the courage, determination, and activity of hundreds of thousands of men and women of all ages in cities, towns, and hamlets across the South (and the nation) there would have been no Civil Rights Movement, no famous leaders, no court rulings, no new laws, and no change.
In addition to documenting the Southern Freedom Movement by telling it like it was and testifying to what we did and what it meant to us, this website is also a place to begin renewing the ties that once bound us together in a beloved community, a place for finding lost friends, and a tool for helping fellow veterans in need. And it is a living memorial for our fallen comrades.
During the Freedom Movement era, "Negro" was the preferred term used by civil rights supporters.
Today, however, "Negro" is no longer an acceptable term in modern discourse. For historic accuracy, we have retained "Negro" unchanged wherever it was used in a document or speech from that era.
Original material written for this website most often uses "Black" to refer to Americans of Afican descent whose ancestors were brought to these shores as slaves. For variety's sake, we sometimes also use "Afro-American," or simply "Afro." As a general rule, this website tends to use "African-American" to refer to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation Americans who have immigrated here from Africa, the Caribbean, or Latin America in modern times. However, many contributing authors prefer to use "African-American" to refer to all all Americans of African descent regardless of when they or their ancestors reached these shores.
We capitalize the "B" in "Black" because it identifies a specific group of people — descendants of the colonial/slave-era African diaspora. For the same reason, many authors and publications from the 1960s capitalized the "N" in Negro. We do not capitalize "white" because it does not identify some particular people or historic group, such as Europeans, or Italians, or Catholics.
To meet our mission, we provide:
If you were active with CORE, NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, SCEF, SSOC, Delta Ministry, Deacons for Defense, local Movement organizations, or some other group active in the Southern Freedom Movement, we ask you to contribute yourself. Please consider adding your name, history, and testimony to the Civil Rights Movement Veterans Roll Call. And if the spirit moves, add a tribute for one who has moved on.
Note that our site is for documenting what we did and experienced in the Southern Freedom Movement, what it meant to us, what we learned from it, and how we view it today. We hope our site can contribute to rebuilding the beloved community that we once shared. Therefore, personal attacks on named individuals, or carrying on old vendettas, is not appropriate.
We also need your help to reach other sisters and brothers. Please tell those you know from the Movement about this site.
The Civil Rights Movement Veterans website is maintained by Westwind Writers Inc.
2301 Harrison St. #205
San Francisco, CA 94110