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The Desegregation of Huntsville

American Experience

This video was originally published by American Experience to accompany its film, CHASING THE MOON. Produced by Ben Greenberg and Eric P. Gulliver and edited by Eric P. Gulliver.

When NASA arrived in Huntsville, Alabama in 1960, it brought new financial opportunities to the city. But for African Americans, the space boom only heightened the disparities of segregation.

Enter John and Joan Cashin in January of 1962. With a small group of like-minded black professionals, they formed the Community Service Committee, which led a mass movement of sit-ins, poster walks and boycotts. The CSC saw the Rocket City’s dependence on federal money was a vulnerability they could exploit to integrate the city.

John Cashin called it psychological warfare—and by July of 1962 the CSCs creative tactics paid off. With little of the violence that had met civil rights demonstrations across the state, Huntsville was the first city in Alabama to begin desegregation.

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