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Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings

The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn

Brian Purnell

Publication Year: 2013

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) established a reputation as one of the most important civil rights organizations of the early 1960s. In the wake of the southern student sit-ins, CORE created new chapters all over the country, including one in Brooklyn, New York, which quickly established itself as one of the most audacious and dynamic chapters in the nation. In Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings, historian Brian Purnell explores the chapter's numerous direct-action protest campaigns for economic justice and social equality. The group's tactics evolved from pickets and sit-ins for jobs and housing to more dramatic action, such as dumping trash on the steps of Borough Hall to protest inadequate garbage collection. The Brooklyn chapter's lengthy record of activism, however, yielded only modest progress. Its members eventually resorted to desperate measures, such as targeting the opening day of the 1964 World's Fair with a traffic-snarling "stall-in." After that moment, its interracial, nonviolent phase was effectively over. By 1966, the group was more aligned with the black power movement, and a new Brooklyn CORE emerged. Drawing from archival sources and interviews with individuals directly involved in the chapter, Purnell explores how people from diverse backgrounds joined together, solved internal problems, and earned one another's trust before eventually becoming disillusioned and frustrated. Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings adds to our understanding of the broader civil rights movement by examining how it was implemented in an iconic northern city, where interracial activists mounted a heroic struggle against powerful local forms of racism.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. 1-4

Copyright

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pp. 5-7

Contents

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p. 8-8

Maps and Illustrations

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pp. viii-x

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1. Nostalgia, Narrative, and Northern Civil Rights Movement History

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pp. 1-29

On February 3, 1964, one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in U.S. history occurred. Nearly half a million students boycotted a racially segregated municipal public school system as parents and activists ...

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2. "Pass Them By! Support Your Brothers and Sisters in the South!": The Origins of Brooklyn CORE

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pp. 31-58

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) formed in Chicago in 1942. Initially, CORE was a spin-off group of an interfaith, pacifist organization called the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). In the early 1940s a handful of ...

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3. Why Not Next Door?: Battling Housing Discrimination, Case by Case

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pp. 59-96

Housing discrimination was one of the most rampant forms of prejudice African Americans experienced in Brooklyn and in many other northern cities throughout the twentieth century. By the 1960s residential patterns in Brooklyn had ...

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4. Operation Unemployment: Breaking through the Color Line in Local Industries

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pp. 97-127

When Oliver Leeds became chairman of Brooklyn CORE in January 1962, he inherited a membership that was small, socially cohesive, and very energetic, but also extremely disorganized. Aside from problems with its ...

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5. Operation Clean Sweep: The Movement to Create a “First-Class Bedford-Stuyvesant”

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pp. 129-169

Brooklyn CORE members chose to address the issue of inadequate garbage collection because the excessive trash was such an odious part of people’s everyday life in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and, by late 1962, after their work ...

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6. "A War for the Minds and Futures of Our Negro and Puerto Rican Children": The Bibuld Family’s Fight to Desegregate Brooklyn’s Public Schools

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pp. 171-208

In New York City during the 1960s, the race and class of a neighborhood’s inhabitants powerfully shaped the quality of education in its public schools. In economically stable communities, where residents’ ...

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7. "We Had Struggled in Vain": Protest for Construction Jobs and Specters of Violence

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pp. 209-247

Brooklyn CORE’s campaign to integrate the construction workforce building the Downstate Medical Center inspired tremendous community support and attracted over one hundred new affiliate members to the ...

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8. "A Gun at the Heart of the City": The World’s Fair Stall-in and the Decline of Brooklyn CORE

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pp. 249-278

After the Downstate campaign, the Young Turks waited for an opportune moment to launch their first full-scale attack against racial discrimination. The upcoming 1964–65 World’s Fair, which would take place in New York City, seemed ...

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Conclusion: “Brooklyn Stands with Selma”

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pp. 279-295

After the stall-in, Brooklyn CORE members struggled to find an action campaign. The Young Turks faded away from power. Isaiah Brunson disappeared from the organization. Oliver Leeds remembered that Brunson was ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 297-298

I am very grateful for support from the following groups of people: participants in oral history interviews, which became the foundation for this book’s research; the excellent teachers and mentors I had at Xavier High School, ...

Notes

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pp. 299-332

Bibliography

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pp. 333-345

Index

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pp. 347-353


E-ISBN-13: 9780813141848
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813141824

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century

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Subject Headings

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Congress of Racial Equality. Brooklyn Chapter.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
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