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Tennessee in the decades 1950 - 1960


Tennessee state capitol
Tennessee state capitol

Following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, token school integration was effected throughout the state without official resistance. Some violence occurred, however, in 1956, most notably in Clinton in reaction to efforts to integrate the high school. Integration proceeded unevenly in the 1960s. Civil rights demonstrations in the cities in the 1950s and early 1960s helped bring about desegregation of some public facilities.

Several blacks successfully sought public office. In 1964 A. W. Willis, Jr., of Memphis won election to the state legislature, the first black to do so since the 1880s. In 1966 Dorothy Brown of Nashville became the first black woman to serve in the Tennessee Senate. In 1974 Tennessee’s first black member of the U.S. House of Representatives since Reconstruction was elected from a Memphis district.

In April 1968 civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., who had gone to Memphis to support striking city sanitation workers, most of whom were blacks, was assassinated there. His death brought demonstrations and some violent reactions throughout the state and the nation. However, efforts by black and white leaders to improve living and working conditions for the city’s black residents gradually eased the unrest. In a largely ceremonial act, the Tennessee state legislature ratified the 15th amendment in April 1997. Tennessee was the last state to ratify the measure, which guaranteed the right to vote “regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The amendment was formally passed in February 1870 when it was approved by three quarters of the 37 states then in existence. Tennessee followed several other states that ratified the amendment after the turn of the century. "Tennessee" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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