Civil Rights in the Whitest State: Two-Part Discussion

Join us on two Mondays in August for a facilitated discussion of Vermont’s perception of Civil Rights from 1945-1968.

As the first state to grant universal male suffrage, many of Vermont’s citizens considered themselves enlightened advocates of racial and political egalitarianism. Most considered the national Civil Rights Movement to be primarily an effort to desegregate the South. Vermonters’ reactions to the movement did not conform to their self-perceptions of racial enlightenment, and we’ll discuss a variety of primary sources grounded in historical context with a particular focus on the work of former Vermont Senator George D. Aiken.

Monday, August 17, 12:00 pm: Competing and Conflicting Rights   
When the national Civil Rights Movement shifted focus from voting rights to public accommodations and fair housing, Vermonters’ apprehensions towards civil rights rose. Compulsory integration was perceived to threaten their rights of associations, privacy, and private property. Senator George D. Aiken reflected the sentiments of many Vermonters at the national level by providing a crucial weakening to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Monday August 24, 12:00 pm: “Warfare Amongst Vermonters”   
Opposition to Vermont’s Fair Housing Law of 1966 was immediate vocal, and racialized, but used race-neutral language and called forth private property law. We will take a look at primary sources from newspaper articles, letters, and statute revisions. We will ask questions that suggest comparisons to present day.

The content and facilitation of this discussion as been adapted from Civil Rights in the Whitest State: Vermont’s Perception of Civil Rights, 1945-1968 by Stephen Wrinn. Excerpts from this book will be made available and referenced during the discussion.