Tour of the Omaha Civil Rights Movement by Adam Fletcher Sasse

A Tour of the Omaha Civil Rights Movement

The history of the Civil Rights movement in Omaha is made of events, people and places where segregation happened, the struggle was born and nurtured, and change happened. Following is a tour of some of the the addresses and some of the dates when events happened, along with some of the influential outcomes.

 


The Roots of the Omaha Civil Rights Movement

1966 Civil Rights March in North Omaha, Nebraska
This article from the June 13, 1966 Omaha World-Herald details a march in honor of slain Civil Rights activists nationwide. 100 marchers participated; the motorcyclists pictured harassed the marchers. The march began at 24th and Binney and went to 22nd and Willis.

 

Omaha has a horribly active legacy of racial segregation, white supremacy and bigotry. Infused throughout the policies and procedures in the City of Omaha; apparent in the culture and shared beliefs throughout the entire community; and obvious in many individual peoples’ attitudes are ideas about African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and others—because of their skin color.

The Civil Rights Movement has long fought against white supremacy, for racial integration and against racism. Since at least the 1880s, there have been deliberate efforts to combat Jim Crow in the city. Following is a tour and timeline of the Omaha Civil Rights movement.

 


Why Civil Rights in Omaha?

Above is a map of the Omaha Civil Rights Tour. Use the features to zoom in and out.

 

Omaha was founded in 1854. Just seven years later, starting in 1861 and going to 1865, the Civil War ripped at the fabric of the country, Omaha included. A large question in the Civil War addressed slavery, and the legacy of white supremacy across the United States. Despite the Kansas-Nebraska Act that created the Nebraska Territory by allowing the legislature to vote on slavery. Despite that, the Nebraska Territory limited voting to “free white males” only, and in 1860 the US Census found slaves in the territory.

Despite the United States defeating the rebellious southern states that wanted to tear apart the union, white supremacy kept its grip on the entire nation, including Omaha. For a century after the Civil War, Jim Crow rules and attitudes ensured de facto segregation and de jure segregation kept Blacks in Omaha segregated from whites. Housing, schools, churches and public transportation were all impacted, and there are still strict rules the city adheres to right now.

 


Omaha Civil Rights Tour

This list is incomplete. Please send additions, corrections and more information to info@northomahahistory.com.

  1. Mixed Marriages Become Illegal (1865) The Nebraska Legislature enacted a statute declaring marriage between whites and a Negro or mulatto was illegal. They made it a misdemeanor with a fine up to $100, or imprisonment in the county jail up to six months, or both. Visit the site of the second Nebraska Territory Capital, 124 N 20th St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  2. One of the Original Black Schools Opens (1878) Opened in the 1870s as Omaha View School, Howard Kennedy Elementary School was one of Omaha’s five original segregated schools and stayed that way until 1976. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the school, 2906 N 30th St Omaha, NE 68111.
  3. Native Americans Recognized as People (1879) A U.S. district court judge at Fort Omaha set U.S. legal precedent by recognizing the personhood of Native Americans in the Trial of Standing Bear v. Crook. This granted American Indians the rights of citizens. People included were Standing BearThomas TibblesSusette LaFlesche and General George Crook. Visit the site of the trial at Fort Omaha, 5730 N 30th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  4. School of African American Firsts (1881) Long Grade School was one of Omaha’s five original segregated schools and stayed that way until 1976. In 1895, Lucinda Gamble was hired as the first African American teacher in the Omaha School District to teach at Long School. Dr. Eugene Skinner became Omaha’s first African American principal, beginning his service at Long School in 1947. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the school, 2520 Franklin St Omaha, NE 68111.
  5. Early Civil Rights Law (1885) When the federal Civil Rights Act was struck down in 1884, the Nebraska Legislature adopted a law to “protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights.” Establishing punishment for breaking the law, they established a fine from $25 to $200 plus the cost of prosecution. It passed the Legislature unanimously. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  6. Statement of Gratitude (1885) On March 19th, the McCook (NE) Weekly Tribute published a paragraph saying, “Colored citizens of Omaha passed a resolution saying: “We do publicly express our thanks to the friends of equal rights, Hon. B. Wright, Robert M. Taggart, Thomas C. Brunner, George Micklejohn, Geo. W. Chives and others, members of the legislature of Nebraska, for their indefatigable efforts in urging the successful passage of the civil rights bill.”
  7. Newspaper Battles (1885) In June, the Omaha Daily Bee attacked the Omaha Republican newspaper. Apparently the Republican had attacked Omaha’s leaders for not standing up for the civil rights of an African American man in Kentucky who was stabbed by a white man in a plainly racist stabbing. The case couldn’t be tried because a jury couldn’t be found, and the newspapers wrote a few articles back and forth against each other.
  8. Suburban School Packed, Becomes Black (1885) Originally located at 1518 North 26th Street in the upscale Kountze Place neighborhood, Lothrop Grade School became one of Omaha’s five original segregated schools and stayed that way until 1976. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the school, 1518 N 26th St Omaha, NE 68131.
  9. Judgmental School Named for a Judge (1888) After opening in the 1880s, Lake Grade School was one of Omaha’s five original segregated schools and stayed that way until 1976. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the school, 2410 N 19th St Omaha, NE 68110.
  10. Downtown School Becomes Majority Black (1888) Built to serve a growing neighborhood near downtown, students in the Webster Grade School were mostly Black when it was demolished in 1969. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the site of the building, 618 N 28th Ave Omaha, NE 68131.
  11. Ex-Slave Pension Bill (1890) William Connell, a Nebraska Republican representative who supported the movement to secure pensions for former slaves, introduced the first bill in the US Congress in support. Connell lived in Omaha. Modeled after the military pension plan for Civil War veterans, H.R. 11119 wasn’t passed.
  12. The Lynching of Joe Coe (1891) The first record of community violence against blacks in Omaha occurred when an African American man called George Smith (or Joe Coe) was lynched by a vigilante mob for allegedly raping a white girl. The lynching was outside the second Douglas County Courthouse. Visit the site of the lynching outside the second Douglas County Courthouse, 1701 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68183.
  13. First African American Legislator (1892) Dr. Matthew O. Ricketts was elected from North Omaha to become Nebraska’s first African American state legislator. Visit the site of his home, 2236 Ohio St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  14. Early Community Organizing (1892) The “most prominent colored citizens” of Omaha formed the Afro-American Civil Rights Club in July. Seeking to influence African American voters, the club discussed methods and more. Visit the site of their meeting, 112 S 12th St, Omaha, NE 68108.
  15. First Black Newspaper in Omaha (1892) Cyrus Bell launches the first Black newspaper in Omaha called The Afro-American Sentinel. It ended its run in 1925, when Bell died. Bell kept early offices at the African Baptist Church for many years. Visit the site of the African Baptist Church, 1216 Dodge St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  16. Massive Black School Opens (1892) Opened as Paul Street School in the 1890s, Kellom Grade School was one of Omaha’s five original segregated schools and stayed that way until 1976. Built as a huge brick warehouse-style building, it was rebuilt in the 1950s. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the school, 1311 N 24th St Omaha, NE 68102.
  17. A Meeting To Move Forward (1893) “Friends, brethren, my people,” said Vic Walker, “We are not here tonight as insurrectionists or revolutionists. Our brothers who have talked of force have allowed their indignation to control their tongue to an extent they have not dreamed of, and which they would be quickest to disclaim as their thoughts in their calmer moments. We do not believe… in dynamite, in a resort to arms.” After “many years” of meetings, Black leaders in Omaha gather to discuss a campaign for civil rights.
  18. Nebraska Civil Rights Law Adopted (1893) Section 4000, Chapter 10 of the Statutes of Nebraska is adopted by the Nebraska Legislature. It says, “Civil rights of persons: All persons within the state shall be entitled to a full and equal enjoyment of the accomodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of inns, restaurants, public conveyances, barber shops, theaters, and other places of amusement, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to every person.” The same law said, “A civil right is a right accorded to every member of a district, community or nation.” Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  19. Second Black Newspaper in Omaha (1893) George F. Franklin launches The Enterprise. It changes hands and runs through 1920. Visit the site of the Crouse Block where the newspaper’s offices were, 1601 Capitol Ave, Omaha, NE 68197.
  20. First Black Firefighters (1895) The first Black firefighters are hired by the Omaha Fire Department to work at Hose Company #11. Dr. Matthew Ricketts requested they be hired to serve the nearby Black community. Visit the site of former station #14, 2032 Lake Street, Omaha, NE 68110.
  21. National Federation of Colored Women (1896) Ella Lillian Davis Browne Mahammitt helped co-found the National Federation of Colored Women nationally, including starting a chapter in Omaha this year. By the 1920s, there were five chapters in North Omaha with more than 750 members. Visit the location of the main chapter, which met at the original St. John’s AME Church, 617 N 18th St, Omaha, NE 68178.
  22. Omaha Represented in National Org (1898) Thomas P. Mahammitt, the new editor of The Enterprise, sits on the executive committee of the Western Negro Press Association. Mahamitt also served two terms as the City of Omaha Inspector of Weights and Measures, and became a leading caterer in the city. Visit his former home at 2116 N 25th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  23. International Black Communist Leader Born (1898) An influential and respected member of the international Communist movement, Harry Haywood was born in South Omaha this year. Becoming involved with the African Blood Brotherhood, Haywood later became a leading African American member of the Communist Party of the United States. He was active from the 1920s to his death in 1981. Visit South Omaha where Haywood lived and was active along S. 24th St, Omaha, NE 68107.
  24. Early Police Brutality (1899) An African American named J. A. Smith died under conspicuous circumstances after being arrested by Omaha police. He was arrested for “loud talking.” Visit the site of the old Omaha Police Department, 1101 Dodge St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  25. Suburban School Become a Black School (1903) Built for a suburban white community in the early 20th century, Monmouth Park Grade School was predominantly African American by the 1960s. Closed in 1985, it was demolished in 1993. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the site of the school, 4508 N 33rd St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  26. Omaha Represented in Another National Org (1905) Thomas P. Mahammit, editor of The Enterprise, sits on the executive committee of the National Afro-American Press Association. Visit his former home at 2116 N 25th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  27. Racism or Labor Bias? (1905) In 1905, more than 800 students (mostly children of immigrant workers) in South Omaha protested the presence of Japanese students at their school, calling them “scabs”. The Japanese students were children of strikebreakers brought in by the Omaha Stockyards the previous summer during a fierce strike. White children then refused to attend classes and locked teachers out of the building. Visit the former South Omaha City Hall, 2411 O St, Omaha, NE 68107.
  28. First Female Black Magazine Editor (1906) Lucille Skaggs Edwards is the first black woman to publish a magazine in Nebraska, called The Women’s Aurora. Visit the site where the office might have been at 2502 1/2 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  29. Black Political Involvement Rises (1906) Black members of the Omaha community formed a group called the “Progressive League of Douglas County” to pressure the county Republicans to include blacks on the legislative ticket. Their meeting location is unknown, but may have been the Druid Hall. Visit the Druid Hall at 2412 Ames Ave, Omaha, NE 68111.
  30. Anti-Greek Rioting (1909) In February, a race riot in South Omaha broke out, targeting Greeks. Racist flames were fanned by the arrest of a Greek man by an Irish policeman. After destroying Greektown, almost almost Greeks had fled the city. Visit the former site of Greektown at S 26th Ave and Q St, Omaha, NE 68107.
  31. Boxing Riots (1910) After Black boxer Jack Johnson won a major upset in Reno, Nevada, a riot happened in downtown Omaha’s Sporting District as whites learned about the defeat. Visit the former site of the Sporting District, S 16th St and Harney St, Omaha, NE 68102
  32. Another Segregated Suburban School (1911) A simple two-room school building with an outhouse, Fairfax Grade School was mostly African American students in 1966. It was demolished in 1974, and there’s no sign of it today. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the site of the building, 3708 N 40th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  33. Interracial Marriage Still Illegal (1911) The Nebraska Legislature makes another law to declare marriages between whites and Black people illegal. They also declared that marriages between whites and those persons with “one-quarter or more Negro blood” were void. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  34. National Org Opened Omaha Shop (1918) An early organized effort for civil rights in the city was the Omaha Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with Rev. John Albert Williams playing the role of first president, and Harrison Pinkett acting as executive secretary. National co-founder Mary White Ovington spoke in Omaha that year. Visit the site of St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church where Rev. Williams was minister, which was located at 1121 N 21st St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  35. Third Black newspaper in Omaha (1915) Rev. John Albert Williams launches The Monitor, which closed in 1929. Visit the site of their offices at 1119 N 21st St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  36. Violent Segregationist Politics (1915) Claude Nethaway was a Florence real estate agent. In 1917, his wife was murdered and a transient African American named Charles Smith was controversially convicted of the crime. Two years later, Nethaway was one of only two men tried for lynching Will Brown during the 1919 race riot. After two trials, he was set free. In 1921, he ran for city council and lost, and in 1932 he ran for US Representative for Nebraska and lost. Visit his former home, 3022 Filmore St, Omaha, NE 68112.
  37. Black Liberation Org Started in Omaha (1917) George Wells Parker founded the Hamitic League of the World in Omaha and gave a classic talk to the Omaha Philosophical Society. In 1918 the League published a popular pamphlet called Children of the Sun. The Hamitic League was committed to black nationalism. After moving to New York, Cyril Briggs became editor of their journal, The Crusader. It later became the journal of the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB). Parker lived with his parents. Visit the site of Parker’s home, 2517 Caldwell St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  38. Black Liberation Org Started in Omaha (1917) George Wells Parker launches a national magazine called The Crusader in Omaha. Later partnering with Cyril Briggs of the African Blood Brotherhood, The Crusader became the later organization’s publication in 1922. Visit the site of Parker’s home, 2517 Caldwell St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  39. Segregated School in Leafy Suburb (1917) Built as a suburban neighborhood school, Druid Hill Grade School was mostly African American by 1966. In the fall of 1996, Druid Hill relocated to a new building. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the original school building, 3030 Spaulding St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  40. The Second Lynching in Omaha (1919) Another lynching occurred in 1919 when a white mob stormed the Douglas County Courthouse to take Willy Brown, an African American accused of raping a young white woman. The lynching occurred at at intersection downtown. Visit the site of the lynching at the intersection of 17th and Dodge St, Omaha, NE 68102
  41. Rallying Together for Business (1920) Organized to help blacks in Omaha secure employment and to encourage business enterprises among African Americans, the Omaha Colored Commercial Club was like a commerce and employment bureau. Led by Harrison Pinkett, Rev. Russell Taylor, and others, the office for the was located in the Elks Club. Visit the Elks Club, 2420 Lake St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  42. Newspaper Struggles (1921) Harrison Pinkett launches The New Era, and Count Wilkinson took control of The New Era in 1922. It closed in 1926. Visit Pinkett’s former home at 2118 N 25th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  43. Black Empowerment Organizing and Preaching (1922) In the 1920s, the Baptist minister Earl Little founded the Omaha chapter of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, or UNIA. Little was renowned for preaching on street corners in the heart of the African American business district. Visit the site of his organizing and preaching at the intersection of N. 24th and Lake Streets, Omaha, NE 68110.
  44. Short Lived Liberation Paper (1922) George Wells Parker launches The Omaha Whip and it ends in the same year. Visit the site of Parker’s home, 2517 Caldwell St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  45. Large High School Becomes Segregated (1923) Opened to serve Omaha’s emerging middle class, Tech High was one of three Omaha schools that graduated African Americans when it was closed in 1984. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the former school at 3215 Cuming St Omaha, NE 68131.
  46. Discouraged from Activism (1924) Rev. Russel Taylor of St. Paul Presbyterian Church was removed from his church because his Civil Rights activism made the congregation uncomfortable. After advocating for segregated schools and communities for Omaha’s African American for a decade, he was fired. Visit the site of his former church, 2531 Seward Street, Omaha, NE 68110.
  47. Black Leader Born in Omaha (1925) Born in Omaha in 1925 as Malcolm Little, Malcolm X’s family moved away from the city while he was young after the KKK repeatedly attacked it for his father’s activism through the UNIA. Visit the site of his home and birthplace and the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, 3448 Evans St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  48. Black Business Booster (1926) Herman J. Ford, C. C. Galloway and B. V. Galloway launch The Omaha Guide. It ended its run in 1958. Visit the former Omaha Guide Printing Company, 2418 Grant St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  49. Another National Org Sets Up Shop (1927) The first chapter in the American West of the Urban League was founded in Omaha. National civil rights leader Whitney Young was the leader of the Omaha Urban League in the 1950s. Visit the current office, 3040 Lake Street; Historic offices, 3022 N 24th St, and; 2213 Lake Street, Omaha, NE 68110.
  50. More Mixed Marriages Illegal (1929) The Nebraska State Legislature forbode marriages between whites and those persons with one eighth or more Asian blood. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  51. Jim Crow Swimming Challenge (1930) In June, African Americans began going to the City of Omaha’s McKinley Park swimming pool. De facto segregation had kept them away, and when white crowds became increasingly confrontational, the City drained it. African American lawyer and NAACP head John Singleton protested, and the pool was eventually refilled. However, that was brief, and today the pool is still gone. Visit the park at 2808 Harrison St, Omaha, NE 68107.
  52. Secretive Org Sets Up Chapters (1930) A secret African American organization founded in Omaha was called Knights and Daughters of Tabor and was also known as the “Knights of Liberty.” It’s goal was “nothing less than the destruction of slavery.” Their meeting location is unknown, but may have been the Druid Hall. Visit the Druid Hall at 2412 Ames Ave, Omaha, NE 68111.
  53. National Org Sets Up Youth Wing (1936) Formed in 1936, the Omaha NAACP Youth Council led Civil Rights campaign through the 1960s. Their work led to integration in several Omaha businesses, and because they worked together with other organizations, their legacy lasts today. The organization continues. They didn’t have an office, but met frequently at the Near North YMCA. Visit the former Near North YMCA, 2309 North 22nd St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  54. Johnson Defended By Pinkett (1922) Harrison Pinkett served as the attorney for African American Robert H. Johnson, a political agitator who supported M. L. Endes for police commissioner and who was arrested and held in jail the week of the election. Pinkett claimed in court that Johnson’s right of habeas corpus was illegally taken and the acts of the police were in retaliation for Johnson’s politics. Visit Pinkett’s former home at 2118 N 25th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  55. Burning Cross (1930) On the evening of April 16, two men placed an iron cross covered with oil-soaked burlap on the lawn of Singleton’s son, former state senator Dr. John Singleton, and set it afire. John was away, but his wife and niece were there. John’s father Millard arrived shortly afterwards and tore down the cross in front of a large crowd. Visit the site of John Singleton’s home, 2932 N. 28th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  56. Longest Running Black Paper Started (1938) Mildred Brown her husband S. E. Gilbert launch the Omaha Star. Starting with a circulation of 6,000, it eventually became the city’s only African-American newspaper, and continues today. Visit the Omaha Star office, 2216 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  57. Black Painters Denied (1940) The Omaha Star launched a campaign against the National AFL and a local union when African Americans were required to have union membership to get a job painting the Logan Fontenelle public housing projects. Visit the site of the Logan Fontenelle Homes at 1465 N. 24th, Omaha, NE 68110
  58. Almost All Mixed Marriages Illegal (1943) The Nebraska Legislature passed a law prohibiting marriage of whites with anyone with one-eighth or more Negro, Japanese or Chinese blood. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  59. Civil Rights Fighters Start Meeting (1947) A group of high school and college students established the DePorres Club. Named after the “patron saint of all those seeking racial harmony,” the DePorres Club led the struggle for Civil Rights in Omaha for many years without the support of the city’s traditional African American leaders. Visit Creighton University Administration Building, 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE 681114.
  60. Human Rights Institute (1948) Religious leaders around Omaha met for a one-day meeting to discuss Civil Rights sponsored by the Urban League. Their major request was the establishment of a Mayor’s Commission on Civil Rights in Omaha, which was passed unanimously, but never enacted by the mayor. Visit the site where the institute was held, Rome Hotel, 1116 Jackson St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  61. Civil Rights Fighters Open Storefront (1948) In October, the DePorres Center opens for activities including weekly forums on racism, dances, and youth groups. Visit the site of the DePorres Club, 1914 North 24th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  62. First Noted Sit-In (1948) The DePorres Club staged Omaha’s first sit-in at Dixon’s Restaurant in the Douglas County Courthouse. 30 members joined, and the restaurant eventually committed to desegregation. Visit the courthouse, 1701 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68183.
  63. Bertha Versus Harry (1948) Bertha Calloway takes Harry’s Restaurant to court for discrimination and wins. Visit the site of the restaurant at the site of the old Omaha City Hall, 1819 Farnam St Omaha NE 68183.
  64. Sinking Donuts in Court (1949) In February, members of the DePorres Club take Dunk Donuts to court under an 1893 Nebraska law against racial discrimination and won a judgment of $25 against the owner. Visit the former Dunk Donut Shop, 2409 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68138.
  65. Big Time Youth Rally (1949) In April, the Interracial Youth Rally is held in the auditorium at Tech High School. Visit the former school, 3230 Cuming St, Omaha, NE 68131.
  66. National Leader Speaks (1950) Roy Wilkins, the leader of the NAACP spoke in April at Zion Baptist Church. Visit Zion Baptist Church, 2215 Grant St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  67. Another National Leader Speaks (1950) In May, Manuel Talley visits the DePorres Club. As the founder of the Los Angeles chapter of the Congress on Racial Equity, or CORE, he is highly regarded by Omaha’s Civil Rights community. Visit the original site of the club’s meetings, Creighton University Administration Building, 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE 681114.
  68. Boycott Until It Closes (1950) In July, the DePorres Club launched a boycott against Edholm-Sherman Laundry for their racist hiring practices. The company’s owner defended her practice of barring Black people from working in the main office or driving delivery trucks. Citing the effects of the protest, the laundry closed permanently in 1951. Visit the site of the Edholm-Sherman Laundry at 2401 Lake St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  69. Don’t Drink Coke (1951) In May, the DePorres Club starts boycotting Omaha’s Coca-Cola Bottling Company against their racist hiring practices. It ends in June when an African American is hired there. Visit the former site of the bottling plant, 3200 N 30th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  70. Omaha Bus Boycott Happens (1952) The DePorres Club launches a citywide boycott of streetcars and buses after the bus company shows a long trend of not hiring African American drivers. The Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway and Bus Company was the employer. Visit the site of the Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway and Bus Company Bus Barn, 2222 Cuming St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  71. Cooling Off Ice Cream (1953) In January 25, the DePorres Club launched a boycott of Reed’s Ice Cream in Omaha, along with the NAACP Youth Council. It lasts five months before the company changes their racist hiring practices and hires a single African American. The business closed in 1959. Visit the site of Reed’s Ice Cream plant and headquarters at 3106 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  72. Segregated Junior High Opens (1953) Tech Junior High was the only junior high with African American students while it was open through 1972, when it was closed. Because of de facto segregation, it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the former school, 3215 Cuming St Omaha, NE 68131.
  73. Black Leaders Meet (1954) Community activists begin to gather informally at North Omaha neighborhood locations during the Korean War. Visit the site of the Fair Deal Cafe, 2118 N. 24th St, Omaha, NE 68111; and the location of the former Carter’s Cafe2510 N. 24th St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  74. Kicked Off Campus (1954) The DePorres Club is forced to stop meeting at Creighton University. Longtime ally Mildred Brown offers her office at the Omaha Star, and the club’s activities continue. Visit the Omaha Star office, 2216 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  75. Court-Ordered Swimming Integration (1955) In State of Nebraska v. Peony Park, the Nebraska attorney general took Peony Park to district court over its segregated swimming policy. The court found that Peony Park discriminated against African American swimmers. In September, Peony Park was fined $50 and costs of the trial – but the park owners simply paid the fine and continued to discriminate. Visit the site of the former park at 7910 Cass St, Omaha, NE 68114.
  76. Longtime Informal Meeting Place Opens (1956) Opened this year, Goodwin’s Spencer Street Barbershop became an informal home to many Civil Rights leaders. Nebraska’s Civil Rights lion, the young Ernie Chambers, was a barber here in the 1960s. Visit the shop, 3116 N. 24th Street, Omaha, NE 68111
  77. City Attempts Something (1956) The City of Omaha begins operating a Human Rights and Relations Board. Visit the Omaha City Hall, 1819 Farnham St, Omaha, NE 68183.
  78. Fire Department Integrated (1957) The Omaha Fire Department became integrated and the seniority system of advancement came to an end. Visit the Omaha Association of Black Professional Firefighters, 2028 Lake St, Omaha NE 68110.
  79. Teachers Rally Together (1958) A group of African American educators in Omaha Public Schools started a professional caucus called Concerned and Caring Educators, or CACE, that continues to this day.
  80. Another National Leader Speaks in Omaha (1958) The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at a national Baptist conference in Omaha and preached at Salem Baptist Church in North Omaha. Visit the site of the original Salem Baptist Church,  2120 Seward St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  81. King Back In Town (1960) In October, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came back to Omaha for the Western Baptist Bible College. At the Civic Auditorium, he gave a speech called “The Church in National Affairs,” in which he predicted that “within five years we will see a breakdown of the massive resistance to integration.”
  82. Swimming for Change (1963) On June 4, an African American airman at Offutt Air Force Base named Fred Winthrop went to Peony Park for a swim. A lifeguard told him that he couldn’t use the pool. Winthrop brought the matter to the city of Omaha, which said it was a case for the Human Relations Board. Their inaction led to more action that summer.
  83. New Civil Rights Movement (1963) A group of African American ministers from North Omaha formed a group called the Citizens Civic Committee for Civil Liberties, or 4CL. The group rallied throughout the city to demand civil rights for all African Americans through picketing, stand-ins during city council meetings and other efforts. They didn’t have a regular office, but met frequently at Zion Baptist Church, and hosted several events there, too. Visit Zion Baptist Church, 2215 Grant St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  84. City Hall Pray-In (1963) In October, 4CL held a pray-in at the old Omaha City Hall to promote the establishment of a local equal opportunity employment and housing ordinance. The organization estimated 10,000 people showed up, including 500 school-age students. 45 people were arrested, including dozens of ministers. Visit the site of the old Omaha City Hall, 1819 Farnam St Omaha NE 68183.
  85. Fighting Tokenism (1963) Rev. Rudolph McNair leads a 4CL march of 150 people against the creation of the Omaha Human Rights Commission (HRC), which was intended to placate Civil Rights activists. It didn’t work. Visit the site of the old Omaha City Hall, 1819 Farnam St Omaha NE 68183.
  86. Protesting Woolworth’s (1963) Omaha civil rights icon and journalist Charles B. Washington helped stage a sit-in at Woolworth & Co. store in downtown Omaha to protest discrimination against blacks in public places. Visit the site of the former store, 124 S 16th St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  87. Fighting a Supposedly Private Club (1963) After a 1955 court finding against Peony Park’s Jim Crow practices, Black swimmer Fred Winthrop was turned away from swimming at the park. As a result, the NAACP Youth Council led a summer-long protest against the park to end segregation there. After suffocating their business, the park relented and allowed Black swimmers. Visit the site of the former park at 7910 Cass St, Omaha, NE 68114.
  88. State Considers Equal Housing Bill (1963) North Omaha state senator Edward Danner advanced the Nebraska Equal Housing Bill through the Legislature to enact a state policy of equal housing, citing the fact that fewer than 50 of the 10,000 new homes in Omaha were available to Blacks. The bill was not passed. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  89. Another National Leader Speaks (1964) Malcolm X spoke in North Omaha. Visit the site of his speech, Elks Club, 2420 Lake St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  90. Iconic Leader Speaks (1964) A. Philip Randolph, founder and president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, spoke in North Omaha. Visit the Elks Club, 2420 Lake St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  91. Omaha With Selma (1965) On March 29, the NAACP Youth Council held a Youth Freedom Rally at the Near North Side YMCA to stand in solidarity with the March on Selma. Visit the former Near North YMCA, 2309 North 22nd St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  92. Ending School Club Segregation (1965) The NAACP Youth Council won the integration of Omaha Public Schools clubs and after school activities. Visit the site of many members’ protests at Omaha Central High School, 124 N 20th St, Omaha, NE 68102.
  93. State Law Prohibits Employment Discrimination (1965) The Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act, or FEPA, is enacted by the Legislature (NE Rev. Stat. Sec. 48-1101 et seq). It prohibits discrimination against employees or job applicants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex including pregnancy, disability, or marital status at workplaces with at least 15 employees. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  94. State Commission Created (1965) The Nebraska Equal Opportunities Commission, or NEOC, is authorized by statute to receive, investigate, and pass upon charges of unlawful discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, or familial status. Visit the NEOC, 1313 Farnam St # 4, Omaha, NE 68102.
  95. First Civil Rights Riot (1966) In what are largely regarded as screams for civil rights, the first of the North Omaha riots happened in July, with a second riot in August. Both of these caused a great deal of damage to the North 24th Street corridor. Visit N. 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  96. Following the Feds (1966) The City of Omaha creates a Human Rights Department after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its goal is to “eliminate unlawful discrimination through investigation, education and outreach.”
  97. The Oldest Public School Becomes a Black School (1966) Opened as a one-room pioneer school in 1866, Saratoga Elementary School was mostly African American students by 1966, and because of de facto segregation it was referred to as a Black school. Visit the school, 2504 Meredith Ave Omaha, NE 68111.
  98. Omahans March for Slain Heros (1966) This June article from the June 13, 1966 Omaha World-Herald details a march in honor of slain Civil Rights activists nationwide. 100 marchers participated; the motorcyclists pictured harassed the marchers. The march began at 24th and Binney and went to 22nd and Willis.
  99. Documentary Captures the Moment (1966) The production of the Oscar-nominated documentary A Time for Burning, which tracked the sentiment of 1960s white Omaha towards African Americans. In 2005, it was added to the National Film Registry. Some of the film is recorded at Augustana Lutheran Church. Visit Augustana Lutheran Church, 3647 Lafayette Ave, Omaha, NE 68131.
  100. Football Player Breaks Color Line (1967) Former Tech High player Gale Sayers became the first African American NFL player to share a room with a white player. Visit his alma mater, the former Technical High School, 3230 Cuming St, Omaha, NE 68131.
  101. Radical Black Youth Organizing (1967) The Black Association for Nationalism Through Unity, or BANTU, was a unique Omaha youth activism group that organized African American students in the city’s high schools. Focusing on black power and self-determination, BANTU claimed concessions from the Omaha City Council. BANTU maintained a unique relationship with the Omaha chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP). One of their most active sites was North Omaha’s former Tech High. Visit the former Technical High School, 3230 Cuming St, Omaha, NE 68131.
  102. National Black Liberation Org Opens Shop (1967) In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Panthers were actively organizing Freedom Schools in Omaha’s public housing projects. They were blamed for starting several of the riots in the 1960s. Visit the site of Black Panthers Headquarters, 3508 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  103. Another Football Player Breaks Color Line (1968) Marlin Briscoe, a football star and graduate of North Omaha’s Tech High, became the first black quarterback in the American Football League. Visit his alma mater, the former Technical High School, 3230 Cuming St, Omaha, NE 68131.
  104. Student Walkouts (1968) In March, 1,000 students walked out of Horace Mann Junior High School to protest against police brutality and for civil rights. Visit the former Horace Mann Junior High School, 3720 Florence Blvd Omaha, NE 68197.
  105. Presidential Hopeful Speaks (1968) A month before he was assassinated, in May, Robert Kennedy visited North Omaha during his presidential campaign. He gave an impromptu speech in the neighborhood, and later spoke at Creighton University in support of Omaha’s civil rights activists. Visit the northwest corner of the intersection at N. 24th and Erskine, Omaha, NE 68110.
  106. Wallace Sets Omaha Rioting (1968) In March, the NAACP Youth Council and others protested an appearance of racist presidential candidate George Wallace. After counter-protesters began acting violently toward the activists, police brutality led to dozens of protesters being injured. During the melee, Howard Stevenson, a sixteen-year-old African-American youth, was shot and killed by a police officer. Visit the site of the former Omaha Civic Auditorium, 1804 Capitol Ave, Omaha, NE 68102.
  107. Policeman Kills Youth (1969) A 14-year-old student named Vivian Strong was killed on June 26 by an Omaha policeman named James Loder, sparking several days of rioting. Visit the site of the break-in leading to the murder at 1701 N 21st St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  108. Legalizing Having Fun Together (1969) This the the year the Nebraska Legislature enacted the Act Providing Equal Enjoyment of Public Accommodations Discrimination. It says that discrimination cannot happen in the enjoyment of places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, or sex. Any establishment offering goods and services to the general public is affected, except for limited exemptions for bona fide private clubs and public accommodations owned or operated by religious organizations. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  109. Vivian Strong Liberation School (1969) The United Front Against Facism, which took up the cause of Black liberation promoted by Omaha’s defunct Black Panthers chapter, launched their version of a Freedom School in North Omaha. Visit the former school at 2616 Parker St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  110. Everyone Can Legally Live Anywhere (1969) When the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal to discriminate in the area of housing because of a person’s race, color, religion, or national origin, the City of Omaha adopted an open housing ordinance this year, effectively ending the effect of redlining and racial housing covenants throughout the city. The Omaha Human Relations Department (OHRD) is a FHAP that is responsible for the investigation, elimination, and prevention of all forms of prohibited discrimination in the City of Omaha. Visit the OHRD, 1819 Farnam St, Suite 502, Omaha, NE 68183.
  111. Student-Led Activism (1969) Black Liberators for Action on Campus, or BLAC, was a student-led activism campaign at UNO designed to raise issues related to African Americans, including the creation of a Black Studies program at the university. 55 After more than 50 Black students conducted a sit-in in the office of the UNO president, some of their demands were met. Visit the Administration Building at the University of Nebraska Omaha, 6001 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE, 68182.
  112. Longest Ever Serving Senator Elected (1970) Local barber and law school graduate Ernie Chambers was elected to the Nebraska State Legislature as the newest African American state legislator, preceded by several other African American politicians, including Edward Danner, John Adams Sr. and his son John Adams Jr. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  113. Life Imprisonment for Panthers (1970) Black Panther leaders David Rice and Edward Poindexter were charged and convicted of the murder of Omaha Police Officer Larry Minard with a bomb. Their case continues to be controversial, as Omaha Police allegedly withheld exculpatory evidence at trial. Targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO, Rice and Poindexter are supported by Amnesty International with calls for retrial or release. The Nebraska Parole Board has recommended the men for release, but political leaders have not acted on these recommendations. Visit the site of the bombing, 2867 Ohio St, Omaha, NE 68111.
  114. Regional Black History Museum Opens (1976) The Negro History Society formally opened the Great Plains Black History Museum in 1976 with the goal of celebrating African American contributions to the city and region. Visit the original site, 2213 Lake St, Omaha, NE 68110, and; current site, 2221 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  115. Court-Ordered Integration (1976) The US Supreme Court mandated Omaha Public Schools, or OPS, begin a busing program to integrate schools. White student enrollment in OPS drops dramatically as white families move to suburban districts or enroll white students in private schools. The burden of busing fell on African American students to predominately white schools, instead of vice versa. The program ended in 1999 when the district adopted an open enrollment program based on income instead of race. Visit Omaha Public Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131.
  116. Burning Houses, Not Crosses (1981) An Omaha Housing Authority scattered-site duplex under construction in East Omaha is burned down by arsons, and as of 2018, the crime remains unsolved. Visit the site, 4841 N 14th St Omaha NE 68110.
  117. The Omaha Star Continues (1989) Dr. Margarite Washington takes control of The Omaha Star. She passed away in 2016, and the paper continues running today with new leadership. Visit the Omaha Star office, 2216 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  118. Discrimination Banned in Housing (1991) The Nebraska Fair Housing Act Discrimination is enacted by the Legislature. It bans discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status is prohibited in Nebraska. Residential property owners, property managers, realtors and multiple listing services are targeted. Exemptions exist for dwellings owned or operated by religious organization and bona fide private clubs for non-commercial purposes; housing for older people; and owner-occupied private homes in which no more than three sleeping rooms are rented. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  119. Torching Cars, Not Crosses (1995) At the same location as a previously torched Omaha Housing Authority duplex, an recently moved-in African American tenant’s car is tipped over and torched by arsons. As of 2018, the crime is still unsolved. Visit the site, 4841 N 14th St Omaha NE 68110.
  120. MLK Memorial Dedicated (2002) The City of Omaha installed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Cornerstone Memorial at 24th and Lake Streets. Visit the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Cornerstone Memorial, 2502 N 24th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  121. City Tries Again (2005) Omaha mayor Mike Fahey proclaims September 26-30 as Race Equity Week. Visit the Omaha City Hall, 1819 Farnham St, Omaha, NE 68183.
  122. Re-segregating Omaha Schools (2006) Ernie Chambers proposed re-segregating public schools in Omaha. Nebraska Legislative Bill 1024 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, creating three racially identifiable districts. After a case by the NAACP against Omaha Public Schools, the plan was retracted. Omaha Public Schools remain segregated today. Visit the Nebraska State Capital, 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508.
  123. Burning A Store, Not a Cross (2007) Bob’s Food Mart was started in East Omaha in the 1920s. In the 2000s, Ethopian immigrant Kassahun Goshime and his sister Tsedey ran the store. Regularly harrassed, in February the store was graffitted regularly. Then, Goshime was abductred, bound with duct tape, locked in the basement and his store was set on fire. He escaped, but the store was completely destroyed. Visit the site, 5301 N 16th St, Omaha, NE 68110.
  124. Nebraska Backtracks (2008) In November, Nebraska voters decided to eliminate Affirmative Action Plans in public entities. The City of Omaha’s Minority Small Business program is ended because of this. Visit U.S. Small Business Administration, 10675 Bedford Avenue #100, Omaha, NE 68134.
  125. Celebrating Change (2008) The Mildred Brown Memorial Strolling Park was dedicated next to the Omaha Star building in honor of her professional accomplishments and Civil Rights contributions. Visit the park, 2222 N 24th St, Omaha NE 68110.
  126. Learning About Change (2015) The Mildred D. Brown Study Center was founded to help African American students establish careers as journalism and communications. Visit the center, 2221 N. 24th St.; Omaha, NE 68110.
  127. Street Named for Civil Rights Icon (2016) The City of Omaha renamed a section of Lake Street in honor of Bertha Calloway, founder of the Negro Historical Society and the Great Plains Black History Museum. Visit Bertha Calloway Street, 2219 Lake Street, Omaha, NE 68110.

 

Again, this is an incomplete list. Please send any additions, corrections or information to info@northomahahistory.com.

 


You Might Also Like…

Elsewhere Online

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s