Seattle in Black and White

Seattle in Black and White

The Congress of Racial Equality and the Fight for Equal Opportunity

Book - 2011
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Seattle was a very different city in 1960 than it is today. There were no black bus drivers, sales clerks, or bank tellers. Black children rarely attended the same schools as white children. And few black people lived outside of the Central District. In 1960, Seattle was effectively a segregated town.

Energized by the national civil rights movement, an interracial group of Seattle residents joined together to form the Seattle chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Operational from 1961 through 1968, CORE had a brief but powerful effect on Seattle. The chapter began by challenging one of the more blatant forms of discrimination in the city, local supermarkets. Located within the black community and dependent on black customers, these supermarkets refused to hire black employees. CORE took the supermarkets to task by organizing hundreds of volunteers into shifts of continuous picketers until stores desegregated their staffs. From this initial effort CORE, in partnership with the NAACP and other groups, launched campaigns to increase employment and housing opportunities for black Seattleites, and to address racial inequalities in Seattle public schools. The members of Seattle CORE were committed to transforming Seattle into a more integrated and just society.

Seattle was one of more than one hundred cities to support an active CORE chapter. Seattle in Black and White tells the local, Seattle story about this national movement. Authored by four active members of Seattle CORE, this book not only recounts the actions of Seattle CORE but, through their memories, also captures the emotion and intensity of this pivotal and highly charged time in America's history.

A V Ethel Willis White Book

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Publisher: Seattle, Wash. : University of Washington Press, c2011.
ISBN: 9780295990842
Branch Call Number: 323.1196 SEATTLE
Characteristics: xiii, 279 p. : ill., map ; 23 cm.
Additional Contributors: Singler, Joan


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May 18, 2011

Although Seattle had, and still has, a small percentage of African Americans, racism and discrimination existed here as it did in the rest of the country. This is an important book about that history.

The focus of this book is on the Seattle chapter of CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality) during the early and mid 60s. This multiracial group of dedicated activists undertook an incredibly long list of actions to protest and change the rampant racial discrimination in our city, sometimes working in conjunction with other civil rights organizations and sometimes alone.

In 1963, to protest wide-spread discrimination in employment and after many attempts at negotiation, they called a boycott on the Bon Marche, organized shop-ins at grocery stores and boycotted downtown businesses for three months. They also organized boycotts of the Farwest and Graytop cab companies for refusing to hire black drivers.

Because the school district refused to desegregate twelve years after the Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation, a two-day boycott of Seattle schools was organized in 1966. 3000 students attended the Freedom Schools organized by CORE on the first day of the boycott and 4000 attended on the second day.

When Seattle voters turned down an open housing law by 2 to 1, the CORE chapter organized a sit-in at real estate offices. Despite CORE’s efforts, an open housing law didn’t pass in Seattle till shortly after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

The CORE chapter in Seattle was racially mixed and some of the volunteers who spent the most hours on projects were actually white women because the men of both races were usually working and so were black women. Women were routinely elected secretary for the chapter but the men didn’t allow them to function as negotiators or to be the chair or vice chair.

In 1967 at its national convention, CORE officially deleted “multiracial” from its mission statement and changed their goal from promoting integration to implementing Black power. By March of 1968, CORE had become an all-black organization. White members had varying reactions to their ouster but all continued to oppose racism and discrimination. Then, as other organizations and governmental agencies took over aspects of CORE’s mission, the chapter faded into history.


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