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Civil Rights Protests at 1960 Convention

* Re “The Protesters of 1960 Helped Change the World,” Commentary, Aug. 13: At the 1960 Democratic convention, there was much disarray both among the various groups contending for the presidency and also a serious split among black leaders whether to endorse civil rights demonstrations. Leaders such as Adam Clayton Powell were strongly opposed to such an activity. And it was actually SNCC, CORE and other student groups that promoted and organized the protests. The pre-convention march was followed by a town hall-type meeting at the Shrine Auditorium, where all presidential candidates were invited to make a presentation. None mentioned the civil rights plank about which the picketers were demonstrating. Some of the speakers were booed. But it was Powell (not a candidate) who came on stage and, like the highly talented orator he was, brought the house to its feet. Bayard Rustin, who would later organize the March on Washington, recruited Michael Harrington to participate in drawing up a civil rights agenda. There was not a direct connection to the protesters.

The pickets, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, were there every day, all day. The Rev. Maurice Dawkins, a local preacher (shown in the photo), added a somewhat surreal aspect to the occasion. However, he is illustrative of the freewheeling nature that demon-strations of the ‘60s sometimes manifested.

F. DANIEL GRAY

Los Angeles

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