The Struggle for Civil Rights

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Description

In 1964, a small but mighty group changed Arizona and paved the way for future civil rights advances. Among others, Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr., Clovis Campbell and Rev. George Brooks fought peacefully for the passing of a "public accommodations" bill that would make it illegal for businesses such as restaurants and hotels to discriminate against people of color. "We had a bunch of young people who were hell-fire bent on making sure that the message got across - we wanted the public accommodations bill..." Clovis Campbell.

Transcript

Crowd:
What do we want?!

Narrator:
the year, 1964. The location, the state capital. The issue, a public accommodations bill.

Clovis Campbell :
You were denied those rights to go into a public place, a public accommodation, into a restaurant, into a hotel, into a drug store, sit down and have a soda like anybody else.

Narrator:
Diabetes stole Clovis Campbell's eyesight in recent years, but the state's first black senator vividly remembers the protest of March 30, 1964. Campbell was a member of the House of Representatives.

Campbell :
You had a bunch of young people who were hellfire bent on making sure that the message got across: we wanted a public accommodation bill. Unfortunately, the police started to come down and wanted to arrest people because they started blocking off entrances to the state building.

Narrator:
Brooks was President of a local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. He and Vice President Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr. coordinated the protest. These pictures belong to the Ragsdale family.

Rev. George Brooks:
We made a conscious decision to confront the Senate, particularly where Senator Giss of Yuma was
stonewalli ng on the public accommodations bill.

Narrator:
the bill would force businesses to end decades of discrimination toward African-Americans.

Rev. Brooks:
I traveled with white Presbyterian preachers, all of whom were young, and we could not eat at restaurant – I remember one evening, we went into a restaurant, and we sat, and we sat, and obviously, these young white men did not understand. And finally, and I said, "we're not going to be served."

Narrator:
The protest could have erupted into more of an emotional confrontation, but police treated protesters gently, using blankets to carry people out of the capital. Governor Paul Fannin wanted no violence.

Rev. Brooks:
Paul Fannin had very poor understanding of how a class of people in this -- in these United States could be – could feel -- be left out, poor understanding that -- that "what we give them should be enough for them, and we don't kick them around. We don't do anything with them or for them."

Narrator:
Brooks vividly recalls an encounter with an aspiring attorney who vehemently opposed the bill.

Rev. Brooks:
A young man came out and accosted me as leader of that group, and -- to say that public accommodation was not necessary and giving all of his legal reasons why we ought not to have it and the reason why we ought to be still, and that young man was Mr. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Narrator:
Lawmakers eventually passed the public accommodations bill but after Congress approved the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Campbell :
I welcomed the protest because it did do some things. It did make some people stand up and listen even though it took a while to get it passed.

Narrator:
for those who participated, such as Clay Cavness, the protest was a validation of sorts.

Clay Cavness:
Here was this backwater which was very conservative, which was untouchable by outside currents. We were very much behind the times, and here we were just participating in the energy of the times. It was not supposed to be expressed here, and it was. So it was -- it was very gratifying.

Narrator:
For Reverend George Brooks, the protest set the stage for later civil rights victories.

Rev. Brooks:
We've come a long way, but so has society. Society in the whole has gone much further than we as a class of people have gone.