In 1963, as activists in the Civil Rights Movement pushed against a resistant public for racial equality, local civil rights leaders spoke about problems in Junction City’s communities on July 18, 1963. One of the greatest problems identified was equal opportunity and job availability for the city’s Black residents. (The term “Negro” was commonly used then and that language is reflected in this transcript.)
In Part 1 of the article, speaker Rev. Benjamin Reid of the Church of God noted that out of a population of 3,000 Black people, none were employed by the city except as sanitation workers, and very few downtown businesses or supermarkets hired Black employees.
“What is wrong here in Junction that we have none of these except school teachers?” Rev. Reid asked the audience of 175. “Don’t tell me that no one is qualified! Negroes can be trained just as anyone else!
“What do we want then? We want no favors — no hand outs — no token and show case jobs and positions. These things do not get to the root of the problem.
“First: We want Junction City to be aware that the minority groups in our city do have serious problems. We want you to be aware that we do want to improve ourselves. We are not a shiftless or lazy people. We are willing to train and prepare ourselves for skilled endeavor, but we want to know that there will be equality of opportunity within the community at large after we have prepared ourselves. We want to be accepted, not as special or privileged people, but as fellow Americans, with the same hopes, dreams, aspirations and desires of any other American.
“Second: We like Junction City. We want to stay here, raise our children here and see them have the same opportunities for advancement that they would have anywhere else in the United States. We are not interested in making trouble. There is no desire on our part to tear down or destroy friendly and harmonious relationships in Junction City. However, we feel that we have a stake in this city, and as this city grows and develops, we would like to grow and develop with it.
“To achieve these goals, I make the following recommendations:
“1. Negroes, continue to improve yourselves. We can justly be proud of the Negroes who have excelled in worthwhile endeavors here in Junction City. We can be glad for Negro families who have won the esteem and admiration of the entire community. Let us strive to be better citizens; more responsible voters; respected, law-abiding men and women. Let us encourage our children to excel in school — to go on to higher educations — to be great in the areas that count most. Then apply for jobs — whatever it is — if you are qualified!
“2. I urge the City Commission to follow the lead of other progressive American cities and set up a Junction City Council on Human Relations. This council composed of leaders from both races can do an effective job of pinpointing and interpreting race relations in our community.
“3. The NAACP is to be reactivated in Junction City. Its purpose is to lead the Negro community toward the best course of action for the betterment of racial relations, and for the speedy achievement of full citizen opportunities and responsibilities under the law.
“We believe the cause is just. We believe that God is on our side. We believe that thinking men everywhere will rse up and wish us well. We shall overcome — by God’s help and by hard work. We are not simply Negroes. We are not simply members of a minority group. We are Americans!! That’s all we ever want to be.”
Mr. Reid read a letter from Fred M. Durland, president of Durland’s Furniture store which said the firm was in sympathy with the civil rights meeting and assured the Improvement Association all applicants will be considered on the basis of qualifications and not color. ...
“The Improvement Association for the past two years has been serving as a basic civil rights group in Junction City,” Mr. Reid said. “I urge everyone present to join the NAACP, which is an organization spanning the county. We have a goal of 1,000 NAACP members in Junction City. (About 50 joined following the meeting.)
“We are willing to go as far as necessary to get the rights the constitution guarantees us,” Mr. Reid concluded.
Mr. Samuel Jackson, NAACP leader from Topeka, called for at least 100 local delegates to a one-day civil rights conference to be held in Topeka July 27. A statewide attendance of 1,000 Negroes is sought. Kansas’s two U.S. Senators and give congressmen have been invited to attend and give their position on the pending civil rights bill before Congress.
Mr. Jackson said the delegates will march on the State Capitol and hold a prayer meeting on its front steps. Governor John Anderson, Jr., has been invited to make his position on civil rights known at this meeting.
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