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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Ithaca Council for Equality - Video Premiere & Discussion

Fri, August 27, 2021 1:43 PM | Anonymous

The mid 1950s through the late 1960s was a tumultuous and violent time for civil rights workers in the US. Freedom Riders were attacked as they tried to integrate inter-city busses. Black churches were bombed, and peaceful protestors were attacked by police with fire hoses and snarling dogs. This era was also renowned for powerful civil rights organizations across America, especially in the deep south, where such notables as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee worked for equality for Black Americans.

In Ithaca, the struggle for equal rights was spearheaded by the Council for Equality, Ithaca's own home-grown, grass-roots social justice organization. Founded in 1959, the organization did their work here until the late 1960s. They were an education and advocacy organization, working to inform the larger public about what life was really like for local African Americans, and, more importantly, to advocate for them. According to their mission statement, they were a "bi-racial, private, non-profit organization," which was concerned to "study, improve, and change discrimination on whatever level it is found in Ithaca." Their membership was a diverse blend of young and old, Black and White, women and men. Some were affiliated with Cornell and Ithaca College, but there were members of a local carpenters' union, at-home mothers, teachers, and more. Their work was done through their committees, primarily employment, education, and housing. At its height, the Council for Equality had more than 200 members. Beverly J. Martin and James L. Gibbs were two of its greatest luminaries. Their work impacted the lives of African Americans in Ithaca and beyond.

The History Center has created a brief video highlighting the history of this significant organization and it will premiere on Saturday September 11th at 10:30 on Facebook and our YouTube channel. Join us remotely for a watch party with archivist Donna Eschenbrenner. She will be available afterwards by Zoom for questions and conversation.


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