NORTH OMAHA Civil Rights and Strategy for Change
What were the various goals, strategies, and tactics used by different groups to advance civil rights
and Black Power, and how effective do you think each group was?
Fight for Rights
Research compiled by: Deziree R., Jennifer B., Jontayvia S.
The DePorres Club was a civil rights organization of black and white Creighton University students started in 1947. The sponsor of the club was Father John Markoe. Markoe believed that racism was a sin against God. Therefore, he decided to do something about it. The group's main focus was the desegregation of businesses. One of the most commonly used strategies was holding campaigns against local businesses. An example of this was the Reed Ice Cream Campaign to pressure the company to allow blacks to work there. The DePorres Club thought the employment policy was unfair, because blacks were the best customers at Reed's. So they hosted sit-ins and picketed the stores. The club also ran campaigns to get the streetcar company to hire black drivers and the Coca-Cola Company to open employment to minorities. The DePorres Club did a lot of demonstrations, initiated court cases, and helped desegregate schools. After the 4CL was formed in 1963, the DePorres Club slowly faded into the background. They should be remembered because they played a big part in the early years of the civil rights movement in Omaha.
The Citizens' Coordinating Committee for Civil Liberties (4CL) was another civil rights group, formed in 1963. Although the group was militant, they were non-violent in their civil disobedience. Two of the men who founded the group were Rudolph McNair, pastor of Zion Baptist Church, and R.F. Jenkins. One of their biggest focuses was fair housing, and they held numerous sit-ins and marches. One tactic the committee did that got a lot of publicity, was at a city council meeting in 1963. The group had a sing-in, and many were arrested for singing protest songs. The 4CL said that what the black community wanted was for someone to care, so they stepped up to the plate. The group was significant because it persistently pressured Omaha’s government to hold true to its promises of equality. They encouraged more African Americans to get involved, especially those who were not satisfied with the NAACP’s tactics. It was a way of unifying many in the Near North Side community.
(Photo courtesy of the Douglas County Historical Society.)
Peony Park was a popular recreation site near 76th and Cass with an amusement park and a large sandy beach swimming facility. In the summer of 1963 the NAACP Youth Council competently fought the discriminatory practice of excluding blacks from the swimming area. The group organized non-violent protests until justice was served. One of the things they did was to keep their cars in the only entrance to the park, thus backing up the lines, causing others to not be admitted. Archie Godfrey, former president of the Youth Council said that protection was always an important factor when doing these non-violent protests. As a safety precaution the youth decided it would be best to get the media there, so anything that happened would be caught on film. With the help of Rudy Smith, the first black photographer for the Omaha World-Herald, they were able to accomplish that.
Owner of the Park, Joseph Malec, struck back by re-opening the park as a “private club”; to get into the park people needed a membership, but this was not a permanent solution. On a Sunday afternoon, 20 young African Americans were given membership applications. A dozen filled them out and turned them in. They still were not allowed into Peony Park. They decided to take matters to court. According to an article in the Omaha Sun, July 25, 1963, “ The law is clear. ' All persons,' says a Nebraska statute, are entitled to equal accommodations at 'inns, restaurants, public conveyances, barber shops, theaters, and other places of amusement.’” Through their persistence, Archie Godfrey and the NAACP Youth Council won the battle of desegregating Peony Park. (In the picture: The building attached to St. Benedict's Church, where they held debates whether to protest the Peony Park or not. Location: 2423 Grant Street)
Douglas County Historical Society, Newspaper clippings archives.
Godfrey, Archie. Personal Interview. July 19, 2011, Omaha, Nebraska.
Howard, Ashley M. Then the Burning Began: Omaha Riots, and the Growth of Black
Radicalism, 1966-1969. MA Thesis, University of Nebraska-Omaha, 2006.
Smith, J. C., Jr. The Citizens’ Coordinating Committee for Civil Liberties: History, Public Opinion, Analysis. MA Thesis, Creighton University, 1964.
Smith, Jeffrey Harrison. The Omaha DePorres Club. MA Thesis, Creighton University, 1967.
Zurowski, Cory. “Bloodletting: The Minard Murder, the FBI, and the end of Omaha’s Black Panther Party.” The Reader. Volume 14. May 24-30 2007
Special Thanks to:
Douglas County Historical Society
Zion Baptist Church is located at 22nd and Grant. Its minister in 1963 was one of the founding leaders of the 4CL
What I learned about myself is that I am really interested in African American history especially Omaha's. I never knew they fought so much for our rights.
— Jennifer B.
I've learned a lot about myself over this past week. Looking back on everything I've learned, and everything I've seen I truly believe I would not be strong enough to go through what African American's went through at that time.
--- Deziree R.
I learned that you can do anything no matter what age you are.