civil rights

Wing Luke's surviving siblings, Ruby Luke (left), Marge Young, and Bettie Luke at Attorney General Bob Ferguson's announcement of the new civil rights investigative unit.
Washington State Office of the Attorney General

The state Attorney General Bob Ferguson likes to say he heads the state’s largest law firm: There are 550 lawyers in 27 divisions. They represent the state on different cases like fraud, labor issues and consumer protection. But he felt something was missing.

Sunset over the Alabama River and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
Flickr Photo/sunsurfr (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to University of Washington communication professor David Domke about the pilgrimage he and 52 fellow travelers took to the deep south. They met with civil rights leaders and visited key monuments in the civil rights movement. The trip culminated in Selma, Alabama on the Edmund Pettus Bridge where President Obama spoke in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday."

Note to our readers: This report contains some strong racial language.

This month Selma, Ala., will mark the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." That's the day police beat demonstrators attempting to march to Montgomery in support of voting rights. Some of the most iconic images of that day were captured by a white photographer — the late Spider Martin.

Rosa Parks is well-known for her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Ala., in December 1955. But Parks' civil rights protest did have a precedent: Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin, a student from a black high school in Montgomery, had refused to move from her bus seat nine months earlier. However, Colvin is not nearly as well-known, and certainly not as celebrated, as Parks.

For decades, a graphic letter sent from J. Edgar Hoover's FBI to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was thought to only exist in a censored form. The letter focused on King's sex life and his extramarital affairs. Yale historian Beverly Gage, who's working on a biography of Hoover, recently uncovered an unredacted version of the letter at the National Archives. It begins:


Bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee were confirmed by a federal court Thursday, in a ruling that provides yet another shift in the legal fight over the issue.

The 2-1 decision handed down by the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit comes after the four states had argued this summer that their voters had the authority to decide whether to ban marriage between a same-sex couple.

Flickr Photo/Seattle Munincipal Archives (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with James Gregory, director of the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project at the University of Washington, about the history of racial exclusion in early 20th century housing covenants.

This segment originally aired May 21, 2014.

The U.S. Supreme Court won't block same-sex marriages in Oregon. The high court Wednesday turned down a request to halt gay marriages in the state.

Miriam Pawel's book, "The Crusades of Cesar Chavez."

Ross Reynolds talks with Miriam Pawel about her new book, “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography."

Chavez was the most influential Latino civil rights leader in American history. In the 1960s, he led migrant farm workers into a powerful force and national movement to boycott grapes.

But in his later years, the effort flagged, and Chavez's flaws became apparent. Pawel examines the man in full.

Election season is getting underway in states all over the country, and voting rights advocates worry some of those places may move to disenfranchise minorities by exploiting a Supreme Court ruling.

That ruling last June blew up a system that had forced states with a history of discrimination to win federal approval before making election changes.

Now, legal groups are responding by training a new generation of activists to sue. Consider this recent gathering of a few dozen lawyers and community activists on the 28th floor of an Atlanta skyscraper.

Flickr Photo/Mayor Ed Murray (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order Thursday to expand the Race and Social Justice Initiative program.

The new order is intended to hold the city accountable after a survey commissioned by the city found that around 90 percent of residents say the city continues to have racial problems.

We Belong Together's Facebook page/Nathan Mitchell

Marcie Sillman talks with Pramila Jayapal, an advocate for immigrant, civil and human rights. She and other supporters are pushing to slow deportation while Congress constructs an immigration bill.

Flickr Photo/javacolleen

Ross Reynolds talks with Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, about her long career advocating for civil liberties and free speech.

In Little Rock, Ark., on Monday, a federal judge is considering a deal that would end one of the longest-running and most notorious school desegregation cases in the country. The state, its largest school districts and lawyers representing black students have agreed to settle a complex lawsuit over unequal education.

Little Rock has long been the symbol of the South's violent reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared school segregation unconstitutional.

David Hyde talks with State Senator Adam Kline about how the civil rights movement shaped his life and political career.