- What is the date of this letter?
- Who is the letter written to? Who is it from?
- What does the organization ask the governor to do?
- Why might this organization be interested in supporting the investigation?
- Why does the organization feel that state action is necessary?
- What might some alternatives to state action be? How successful do you think they would be?
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African American Citizen Action in the 20th Century
the United States, has been driven by the actions of countless ordinary individuals and small
organizations. While students are commonly exposed to the most charismatic leaders of the
Civil Rights Movement, the most memorable public protests, and the landmark court rulings and federal laws, individual acts by civic minded people are often lost to history. It is these
seemingly insignificant acts that have combined together to spread ideas, empower leaders, and ultimately force change.
In 1919, for example, W.E.B. DuBois enlisted the help of a lesser-known lawyer in the New
York County District Attorney's office to seek justice in the caseof NAACP Secretary John
Shillady, recently assaulted in Texas. Ferdinand Q. Morton succeeded in enlisting the support of New York Governor Alfred E. Smith in the call for justice. The Permanent Committee for Better Schools in Harlem likewise drew Governor Herbert Lehman's attention to the vital importance of the work being carried out by the New York State Temporary Commission on the Condition of the Urban Colored Population in the 1930s.
New York State War Council member Elmer Carter used his office to lobby for an end to discrimination in the World War II defense industries. New York City resident Mary A. Young brought a case of alleged discrimination to the attention of the State War Council Committee on Discrimination in Employment. Leslie Levi, Jr. testified before the New York State Assembly Subcommittee on Affirmative Action regarding the opportunities provided to minority businesses under the Wicks Law. Time after time, everyday citizens used the civic channels that were open to them to challenge their government and communities to extend equality and justice to all.
African Americans' struggle for civil rights and equality continues in New York and across the
nation today. The lessons evident in the many individual acts that have made up this struggle help us to understand the Civil Rights Movement as well as the general power of civic
engagement and participation in a democratic society.
Your essay should be well organized and should include an introduction, at least three paragraphs, and a conclusion.
b. Using information and evidence from all of the documents to support your thinking, and using your own knowledge of history, write an essay answering the following question: Have ordinary individuals or famous activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. been more instrumental in the struggle for civil rights? Your essay should be well organized and should include an
introduction, at least three paragraphs, and a conclusion.