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KCTS 9 Connects

Seattle's Civil Rights Struggle - May 13, 2011

May 14, 2011

Jean Durning and Joan Singler, co-authors of "Seattle in Black and White" talk about starting CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in Seattle.

Enrique Cerna interviews Michael Audain, now a well-known Vancouver businessman and philanthropist, who became an "accidental" Freedom Rider in 1961 and helped the move to challenge segregation in the Deep South.

Whitworth junior philosophy major Benjameen Quarless, who is among 40 college students nationwide who have been selected for the 2011 Student Freedom Ride, talks about his upcoming 10-day journey that will trace the route taken by the original freedom riders of 1961.

Producer's Notes

Producer's Notes Once Upon a Time in Seattle

I am always amazed by the young students who come to KCTS for internships. They always offer such an “innocent” perspective on things. Like this week as we put together a story about civil rights. “You mean black people couldn’t use the same bathrooms as white people?” one asked.

Yup kids, they couldn’t use the same bathrooms, sit at the front of the bus, or even eat in the same section of a restaurant. They lived in separate neighborhoods, worked in separate factories and went to separate schools.

But you get the same “innocent” reaction from older folks too, when they find out this wasn’t just happening in the Deep South. This was also going on in Seattle. Progressive, enlightened, sophisticated Seattle.

Public schools were segregated. Black people couldn’t find jobs. And they were forced to live in the Central District as a matter of public policy. In fact, a public vote to de-segregate neighborhoods in 1964 failed by a two-to-one margin.

Police harassment of black people was so bad, civil rights groups set up Freedom Patrols to escort black people around the city so they wouldn’t be arbitrarily beaten.

All of this in Seattle. Progressive, enlightened, sophisticated Seattle.

This week on "Connects," we’re taking a look at this unseemly chapter in Seattle’s history – one that we’d maybe like to pretend didn’t happen here. We’ll show you the small group of dedicated activists who challenged segregation laws, and worked tirelessly to integrate neighborhoods and schools. The people who helped start us down the road the city we hope to be some day:

Progressive, enlightened, sophisticated Seattle.