In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a bus in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1957, the National Guard had to escort nine black schoolchildren past racist protestors in Little Rock, Arkansas. In March 1960, 60 black anti-apartheid protestors were shot dead in Sharpeville, South Africa.
In August 1963, 200,000 civil rights supporters gathered in Washington to hear Martin Luther King proclaim “I have a dream,” and Bob Dylan unveil “Only a pawn in their game,” highlighting the manipulation of the white poor by racist politicians.
Increasingly alert to events in the wider world, Derry noted the US, South African and other struggles for justice. Some pondered the possibility of these as models for action to remedy local grievance.
And in the county Tyrone in the town of Dungannon in 1963, housing protestors gathered outside a council meeting carrying placards: “If Our Religion Is Against Us Ship Us To Little Rock.” The demonstration led to the formation of the Campaign for Social Justice, the north’s first civil rights organisation.
“We Shall Overcome” became the anthem of the civil rights movement in Ireland.