Not that long coming

Issue section: 

I am puzzled by Millie Fry's statement that in 1964 "the civil rights movement had yet to explode onto the scene" (Culture, Socialist Review, February 2009). The Civil Rights Act signed that year by Lyndon Johnson was one index of a long, hard-fought struggle.

Granted, the full desegregation of Southern schools was still a long way from being accomplished. But far from "taking its first tremulous, tension-ridden steps", the integration campaign had already forced a presidential intervention (backed by federal troops) in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The nine black students involved were actively supported by the NAACP, who had also been central to achieving the 1954 Supreme Court decision that helped to force Eisenhower's hand. This case, Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, began way back in 1951.

In the intervening years we could also mention the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott inspired by Rosa Parks, the sit-ins at thousands of segregated lunch counters, the Freedom Rides to integrate interstate buses, and of course the famous March on Washington of some 250,000 people. Change was, as Sam Cooke sang, "a long time coming", and we shouldn't minimise the tenacity of the movement in fighting on.

Andrew Stone