Jews and the Struggle for Black Civil Rights
On this page:
American Jews, Race, Identity, and the Civil Rights Movement: Introductory Essay for Living the Legacy, Unit 1, at the Jewish Women’s Archive
Black-Jewish Relations, “From Swastika to Jim Crow” at PBS.org
Black-Jewish Relations in the United States at JewishVirtualLibrary.org
Blacks and Jews, Facilitator Guide to film. This guide offers extensive information about the relationship of Blacks and Jews throughout the Civil Rights movement.
Jews in the Civil Rights Movement at MyJewishLearning.com
See also the Topics index at the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, which has topics such as Racism and Global Responsibility. The BJPA has articles from Jewish journals dating back to 1900, showing Jewish communal policy on a wide range of issues.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., commenting in 1964 on violence by Blacks against shopkeepers, most of whom were Jews:
“While the outbursts in New York City and Rochester cannot be considered expressions of anti-Semitism, I am particularly pained to learn that a large percentage of the looted stores were owned by our Jewish friends since, as a group, the Jewish citizens of the United States have always stood for freedom, justice, and an end to bigotry. Our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood in tangible ways, often at great personal sacrifices.
“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? And who will ever forget the sacrifice of two Jewish lives, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in Mississippi this past June? 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.
“I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews. Not only because we need their friendship, and surely we do, but mainly because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all.”
From the Archives of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Abraham Joshua Heschel, episode of Religion & Ethics News Weekly
Digital Archive, correspondence from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, at the King Center
Following in My Father’s Footsteps: Selma 40 Years Later, by Susannah Heschel
The Freedom Seder, film of the Passover Black-Jewish seder on the first anniversary of the assassination of Rev. King
Praying With My Legs, clips of film by Steven Brand
Selma’s Jews Remember Civil Rights Era, interviews by JTA news
The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel, episode of “On Being” with Krista Tippett, December 6, 2012.
- Rabbi Prinz: “bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.” (“Prinz’s Story,” Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent)
- Biography of Rabbi Prinz.
- Rabbi Joachim Prinz, as President of the American Jewish Congress, was an activist on behalf of civil rights as well as the separation of church and state.
- Rabbi Prinz wrote to Rev. King on October 28, 1958 detailing his request to President Eisenhower to call a White House conference on civil rights unrest in the South.
- In 1964 Rabbi Prinz delivered an address to the House Judiciary Committee against proposed changes to the First Amendment to the Constitution which would permit prayer and Bible readings in public schools.
- Allan Nadler, “The Plot for America,” Tablet Magazine.”Joachim Prinz, a German refugee and influential Newark rabbi, was a Civil Rights leader and confidante of Martin Luther King. But after he denounced Jewish leaders for abandoning the cause, he’s been all but ignored by history.”
- Listen to Rabbi Prinz’s speech at the 1963 March on Washington.
- View the typewritten speech.
American Jews and Civil Rights — Lesson plans that correspond to images at the online exhibition “From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America.”
Jews and the Civil Rights Movement, a component of Living the Legacy at the Jewish Women’s Archive
Topics to be Sure to Include:
- Jewish leadership in the creation of the NAACP;
- Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald schools (see the website about Aviva Kempner’s film in production about Julius Rosenwald);
- Jews and the Freedom Rides;
- Jews among civil rights attorneys;
- Support for Holocaust refugees at Black Colleges.