Jews and Activism in the 1960s

Reference: The Yiddish Book Center

In the 1960s many Jewish men and women participated in the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Movement was a fight for equal political rights for all Americans, irrespective of race. The movement peaked in the mid-1960s with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. As the Black Power Movement gained momentum in the late 1960’s, the tone of the Civil Rights Movement became more violent. At the same time, as the war in Vietnam intensified, college students around the country took to the streets and university campuses to protest. Many who were active in these protests remember this period as a moment when political reforms and social ideals were attainable.

Jews took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement. Many Jews contributed to the fight for equal rights through philanthropy, while others took to participated in marches and protests around the country. Jewish men and women also helped to register voters in the American South, picketed segregated establishments, and worked as civil rights lawyers. Over the past two years, many stories of involvement in the Civil Rights Movement have emerged through our oral history interviews. In this video, hear several Jewish men and women reflect on their activism.

— Allie Brudney and Christa Whitney

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