Long before the Montgomery bus boycott and the march on Washington, blacks worked individually and collectively to resist the political, economic, and social discrimination enmeshed in law and enforced by violence.

One champion in the fight for equal rights in Virginia was John Mitchell, Jr., editor of The Richmond Planet. Born a slave, he became editor of the paper at the age of 21, and for 45 years wrote articles and editorials, drew cartoons, and gave speeches protesting the treatment of colored people. This 1891 political cartoon by Mitchell poked fun at the Separate Car Law requiring blacks and whites to use segregated rail cars. In 1895, his paper was instrumental in organizing a successful boycott of city streetcars because of segregation and mistreatment.

In 1910, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed to fight segregation, disfranchisement, and lynching. African Americans also formed aid societies, self-help organizations, and organized churches and schools when blocked from public accommodations.

Source: John Mitchell, Jr., “It Creates Bad Feeling,” cartoon, December 1891, Born in the Wake of Freedom, The Library of Virginia, accessed September 20, 2011.


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