CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT - NEW YORK CITY
A hotbed of activism throughout the 20th century, New York City has been a primary speaker’s podium to frame the world’s understanding of the Civil Rights Movement in America. It was the home of W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) and The Crisis magazine, which he edited for the NAACP. In The Crisis, Du Bois proclaimed his “Talented Tenth” doctrine of identifying our most talented leaders and grooming them to lead African Americans to the higher echelons of society. To begin understanding this man, read perhaps his greatest book,The Souls of Black Folk.
For many years The NAACP and National Urban League maintained headquarters in Harlem, though the NAACP has since relocated to Baltimore. The National Urban League headquarters relocated to Downtown.
Marcus Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association here, which was the first movement for Black Self-Determination on a grand scale. New York City was also home to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Malcolm X, who each contributed critical elements to the Civil Rights Movement and internationally, the Human Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his three greatest speeches at Riverside Church on the edge of Harlem and Columbia University. Theresa Hotel was perhaps, the most common meeting place of Civil Rights leaders.
Though he could claim a plane or train as home since he spent most of his adult life abroad, Paul Robeson (1898-1976) presented some of his most compelling human rights speeches in New York City and lived here from time to time. Many of Langston Hughes (1902-1967) most powerful poems and the Lift Every Voice anthem were composed in Harlem.
Asa Phillip Randolph (1889-1979), leader of the Pullman Porters and co-organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, attended the Community College of New York and called New York home during his adult life. This underrated leader met achievement in the context of worker unions to institutionalize progress in the pocketbook. We can thank Randolph for ensuring that the AFL-CIO treated Black worker rights the same as white worker rights. Imagine the time when Black laborers had half of or no health care benefits compared to white blue collar workers.
As the Civil Rights Movement morphed into something that struggles to eliminate racial profiling, police brutality, and increasing economic opportunity,Al Sharpton has seized the mantle of leadership in New York. His record for public service is growing. Using NYC as his base, he expanded his influence by running for President in 2004.