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Jazz in America Student Handout–-Lesson Plan 7–-American History Essay

The Second Reconstruction: African Americans from 1954 to 1968

During the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, the nation focused its attention on the plight of the newly freed ex-slaves. Americans amended the U.S. Constitution three times, ending slavery and extending citizenship and voting rights to African Americans. Concern for the freedmen lasted only a short time, and by 1876 the nation turned its attention to other pressing issues. Federal troops left the South and Democrats “redeemed” southern states by establishing Jim Crow segregation there. Not until the 1950s and 1960s did the American people again consider the dreadful situation black citizens faced in the segregated southern states. The Second Reconstruction period, lasting from 1954 to 1968, desegregated Southern life and brought African Americans into the nation’s political process.

African Americans in the post-World War II period increased their efforts to end segregation, and so, too, did the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall and lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed school desegregation lawsuits in the late 1940s, hoping that the high court would reverse its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that had established the legal doctrine of “separate but equal.” The NAACP’s most important case involved young Linda Brown, a black school girl in Topeka, Kansas, who could not legally attend an all-white school near her house. In its landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court struck down the legal foundation of segregation, concluding that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” [Link: National Park Service, Brown v. Board of Education www.nps.gov/brvb/]

The arrest of Rosa Parks in late 1955 for refusing to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, soon tested the scope of this ruling. Alabama’s segregation laws forced African-American bus riders to yield their seats to white passengers, and Parks, a secretary for the NAACP office in Montgomery, deliberately tested the unfair law. [Link: Rosa Parks (Scholastic), “How I Fought for Civil Rights” http://teacher.scholastic.com/rosa/] In response to her arrest, legal and religious leaders in Montgomery’s black community decided to boycott city buses, an effective strategy since most of the riders were African Americans. Within a year, Montgomery desegregated city transportation. The emergence of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., as the boycott’s organizer and spokesperson was also a major gain for the cause of African Americans. [Link: Stanford University, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/]

As civil rights progressed, however, resistance intensified. In March 1956, 81 U.S. Representatives and 19 senators issued the “Southern Manifesto,” a segregationist document praising “the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means.” When Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, prepared to admit its first black students in 1957, segregationist Gov. Orval Faubus placed National Guardsmen around the campus. He later dismissed the troops, leaving the “Little Rock Nine” defenseless. [Link: Craig Rains, Little Rock Central High 40th Anniversary, www.centralhigh57.org] President Dwight Eisenhower had to send federal troops to Little Rock to protect African-American students entering school buildings. Central High School closed the following year rather than continue court-ordered integration.

College students began a period of civil rights activism and protest using non-violent means in the early 1960s. In February 1960, four African-American students sat at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Hundreds of student demonstrators had joined the “sit-in,” but success came only after months of arrests and boycotts of stores with segregated lunch counters. In May 1961, groups of interracial college students took bus trips into southern states to see if bus stations and terminals there were obeying new laws requiring integrated waiting areas. Segregationists greeted these “Freedom Rides” with mob violence, especially in Alabama and Mississippi, and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had to use federal marshals to guarantee their safety. [Links: The SNCC, Six Years of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee www.ibiblio.org/sncc and Jim Schlosser (News-Record.com), Greensboro Sit-ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement www.sitins.com] Peaceful protests for civil rights reached their high point on August 28, 1963, when more than 200,000 Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to urge civil rights for African Americans and hear Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated his new presidency to social reform and civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law with his signature and immediately increased the number of African-American voters throughout the former Confederate states. [Link: Jeremy D. Mayer (NARA), Prologue “LBJ Fights the White Backlash: The Racial Politics of the 1964 Campaign” (Spring 2001:33:1) http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2001/spring/lbj-and-white-backlash-2.html] Free to cast their ballots without hindrance or harassment, black voters elected local officials, state legislators, mayors, governors, and members of Congress more closely attuned to their interests.

Overshadowing these civil rights victories were race riots that hit American cites in 1965, 1967, and 1968. On August 11, 1965, a riot broke out in the Watts section of Los Angeles after police arrested a 21-year-old African-American male for a traffic violation. An estimated 30,000 rioters caused $40 million worth of damage, and similar upheavals occurred in Detroit and other cities in 1967. A presidential commission lay blame for the rioting on the “racial attitude and behavior of white Americans toward black Americans.” After a white assassin killed Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, race riots broke out again in more than 130 black neighborhoods across the country.

Because of protests against the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War, President Johnson announced in spring 1968 that he would not seek re-election. His successor, Richard M. Nixon, won the White House on a law-and-order campaign, and pledged to protect “the first civil right of every American . . . to be free from domestic violence.” His election marked the end of a liberal era and the beginning of another more conservative one. Although the nation gradually moved away from civil rights reform by 1968, African Americans held on to the gains they made during the Second Reconstruction years.

Questions to consider:
  1. What was the Second Reconstruction period? How long did it last and what happened during those years?
  2. What are civil rights? How did the Second Reconstruction period advance civil rights for African Americans?
  3. How did African Americans hold on to the gains they made during the Second Reconstruction years? Must they – or we – do anything else today to help them hold on to their civil rights gains?

Jazz in America Student Handout--Lesson Plan VII--Jazz Biography

Thelonious Sphere Monk, jazz pianist and composer (1917-1982)
Biography: http://www.monkinstitute.org/theloniousmonk/index2.php

Thelonious Monk was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. At the age of four, he moved with his family to New York, settling in the “San Juan Hill” neighborhood of Manhattan. His father played various instruments, including the harmonica and piano, and young Monk began to play the piano. Exactly when Monk began formal piano training is unclear, but by the age of 13 he was winning weekly amateur contests at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. The academically competitive Stuyvesant High School admitted Monk on the strength of his musical talent. There, Monk also excelled in physics and math. Discouraged that the school’s band leader would not make room for him in the band, Monk, who had musical experience with church choirs, began a two-year period of touring with a woman evangelist. By the 1940s, Monk had returned to New York, where he became the house pianist for several years at Minton’s Playhouse, a highly regarded jazz club. During this period, Monk showcased his unique style of music that came to be known as bebop, and he influenced prominent musicians who visited Minton’s to see, hear, and perform with him. Jazz greats influenced by Monk included Charlie Parker (http://www.cmgww.com/music/parker/), Don Byas, Mary Lou Williams, Kenny Clarke, Bud Powell, and, most notably, Dizzy Gillespie. In 1947, Monk married Nellie Smith, and she became his lifelong companion, constant supporter, mother of his two children, and his unofficial manager. Forced to play in nightclubs outside Manhattan after losing his cabaret card, Monk nevertheless obtained recording contracts and released several albums in the 1950s. Well known in jazz circles, Monk achieved wider public popularity in the 1960s after touring in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe, even appearing on the cover of Time Magazine in 1964. After the 1970s, Monk agreed to only a handful of appearances and lived the rest of his life in near seclusion with his wife, Nellie, in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Consider the following questions as you read the biography of Thelonious Monk:
  1. Monk was a man who loved jazz and took advantage of every opportunity to perform. Count the ways that young Monk enjoyed playing music.
  2. Monk not only loved to play music, but he studied it intensely. Count the ways that Monk studied and practiced to perfect his music.
  3. How important was Nellie Smith in Monk’s life? How did she help him?
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