1949 April 20

African American Youth Told to Accept “Half a Loaf”


At the opening session of an NAACP Youth Council Conference at Howard University on this day, the young African-American delegates were advised to accept “half a loaf” in the pursuit of racial justice. Dr. Montague Cobb, of the Howard University School of Medicine, told them that “mature judgment” dictated not holding up progressive social legislation by pressing for “so-called equal rights clauses.” A delegation of young women from Sarah Lawrence College countered by arguing in favor of “purity” amendments to legislation that would require “equal treatment of all races, colors and creeds.”

The incident was typical of a recurring theme in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. At each point, as more radical activists pressed forward with new demands, conservative American-American voices warned against pushing too hard and alienating white support.

The NAACP Youth Council did not take the advice. Local councils undertook a number of sit-ins to protest segregation in the 1950s, several years before the famous 1960 sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina. See, for example, the sit-in in Oklahoma that began on August 19, 1958.

Read: Gilbert Jones, Freedom’s Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle Against Racism in America, 1909–1969 (2012)

Learn more about the Oklahoma City civil rights campaign: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/oklahoma-city-african-americans-sit-integration-1958-64

Learn more: Iwan W. Morgan and Philip Davies, From Sit-ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s (2012)

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