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Top: Jewish Founded Organizations: NAACP 

Top: Jewish Founded Organizations: Civil Rights: NAACP


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How and Why Did Jewish Involvement in the Civil Right Movement Develop?

In 1909, when four Jews were among the sixty multiracial signers of the Call to National Action resulted in creation of the NAACP, the Yiddish newspapers on New York's Lower East Side were already equating lynchings of African Americans in the South with pogroms against Jews in Russia. During the next half century, organizational bonds and political cooperation between African American and American Jewish communities gradually matured. The culmination in 1964 was Mississippi Freedom Summer when over half of the white students who journeyed south to fight for black voting rights are estimated to have been Jewish. Those drawn to the civil rights movement gave diverse reasons, and selfless idealism on behalf of others coexisted with enlightened self-interest in uprooting prejudices that also victimized Jews.

Martin Luther King, Jr., from a 1965 interview, in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings (1986), p. 370:

"How could there be anti-Semitism among Negroes when our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood not only in the form of sizable contributions, but in many other tangible ways, and often at great personal sacrifice. Can we ever express our appreciation to the rabbis who chose to give moral witness with us in St. Augustine during our recent protest against segregation in that unhappy city? Need I remind anyone of the awful beating suffered by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland when he joined the civil rights workers there in Hattiesburg, Mississippi? And who can ever forget the sacrifice of two Jewish lives, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in the swamps of Mississippi? It would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward the Negro's struggle for freedom--it has been so great." 

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