Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Two phases of the civil rights movement

McKissick seeks to periodize the civil rights movement. He sees the movement in two parts: first a legal movement made some gains and stalled, and then the protest movement began to force change.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Did the biggest gains occur in the last ten years, say, compared to the fifteen years before that? Are is there any way to mark it off in terms of periods?
I think that most black people automatically distinguish, even by organizations, I think we start in 1960…the 1954 Supreme Court decision, I say you follow those suits, the pattern of those suits and how they were brought…and then you come to the second Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education and then you've got to take into concern the freedom rides that occurred in the forties. Then, you've got to take into consideration the sit-in movements of the sixties, which in my mind, was the real force in American society to really change American society. The demonstrations which went to bring about a substantial change in North Carolina in the line of public accomendations and moving up. So, I think that you could divide that movement on the basis of…I think if I were to divide it generally now, I'd divide it as the legal movement as one, in which you sought to get your rights and this legal movement bogged down. Then you had the protest movements that moved it forward.
Beginning with the sit-ins?
Well, I don't say beginning with the sit-ins, because you had the freedom riders prior to the sit-ins. You had two sets of freedom riders. The first one I was part of, I think, and another guy at Asheville by the name of Joe Feldman [unclear] I think, was part of it, Rustin, [unclear] Jim Houser, on the original freedom rides that happened about '46 or '47. These were the original freedom rides and that's where kids, when that bus came down, got beaten, And Chapel Hill, Jim Peck was the white guy that got beaten at the bus station in Chapel Hill. That was the first freedom ride and of course that took about that much item in the newspaper at that time. The climate wasn't ready to see blacks take that kind of step. I think the outward climate had moved and attitudes had changed to recognize that the freedom rides would make a front page item later.
You were a major participant in the Meridith march, what followed after James Meridith got shot in the continuing march in Mississippi.
Yeah. I led that, I organized that march. We issued the call to bring all the organizations together to continue the march at the spot where he fell.