WCPT's Civil Rights Snapshot

This is a WCPT’s Civil Rights Snapshot – where we spotlight civil rights issues, past and present. And, pay tribute to the people who fought for the civil liberties we enjoy today. We encourage you to get involved and stay vigilant about the civil rights we have, and those we still need to fight for.



Vernita Gray

Vernita Gray was one of Chicago's longest and most prolific activists for LGBT rights.  In 1969, after attending the Woodstock music festival, she came out as a lesbian after learning about the Stonewall Riots in New York.  Her tireless work on behalf of women of color and her advocacy for the entire LGBT community, including 18 years in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office providing assistance to LGBT crime survivors, helped pave the way for a more just and equal society. It was Vernita, early in President Obama's U.S. Senate run, that challenged him to understand the connection between the civil rights struggle they shared on race, to the struggle she faced being treated as a 2nd class citizen because of her sexual orientation.  

Vernita’s unwavering dedication to the fight for social justice was instrumental in passing Marriage Equality in Illinois.  Gray and her wife Pat Ewert were the first same sex couple married legally in the state.  Her legacy is an Illinois that is more just and fair, and we are all the better for her efforts.

To learn more about Vernita Gray:



Reverend Willie Barrow - Click Here To Listen

Chicago’s Reverend Willie Barrow began her lifelong fight for civil rights over seventy years ago.
When she was 12, in her hometown, Burton, Texas, young Ms. Barrow protested the school bus system that refused service to black children. She hopped on a bus and refused to get off. That was more than 15 years before Rosa Parks’ famous bus boycott.
As field organizer for Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Barrow organized many marches and boycotts in Chicago and beyond. Back in the day when most hotels would not cater to African Americans, Rosa Parks, Dr. King, and many other civil rights leaders spent the night on a sofa in Reverend Willie Barrow’s living room. That sofa and Reverend Barrow’s work, live on today. 


To learn more about Reverend Willie Barrow, visit:



Emmett Till

In 1955 at age 14, Emmett Till, a Chicago Native, visited relatives in Mississippi.  We will never know exactly what was said between the young, black Mr. Till and the white wife of a shop owner, but she claimed he offended her. Days later, the shop owner and another man kidnapped Emmett, savagely beat and shot him, then dumped his body in a river. His funeral was in Chicago and Emmett Tills mother insisted on an open casket so all the world could witness the brutality he had suffered. The killers, who later admitted their crimes, were tried but acquitted.  The case sparked international outrage and put a spotlight on the depravity of racial discrimination and segregation. Emmett Till, an unwitting martyr, became a civil rights hero after his short life ended. 

To learn more, visit www.progressive.org.


Jane Addams and Hull House

Jane Addams is best known as the founder of Hull House, a place that provided aid to poor working-class families in Chicago. This type of assistance center came to be called a "settlement house”. Born into a wealthy family, Ms. Addams was one of a small number of women in her generation to graduate from college. Her commitment to improving the lives of others led to her work for social reform and world peace.  But Jane Addams was labeled by the press as a traitor for her opposition to US involvement in World War I. Despite her critics Addams forged ahead. She taught, wrote, and lectured about peace, nationally and internationally.

To learn more about Jane Addams and the great work she did, visit:

America’s Library dot gov.  



Civil Unions

Less then 24 hours after it was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives, the Illinois State Senate approved a measure that would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions. Senate Bill 1716 – “The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” would provide legal recognition of gay couples and give them some of the same benefits that are given to traditional married couples, including the right to visit a loved one in the hospital, disposition of a partners remains and the right to make decisions about a loved one’s medical care. The bill would take effect July 2011 and Governor Quinn has said he will sign the legislation.

For more information check out these websites:



http://www.gregharris.org (Rep that co-founded the bill & openly gay)


CLICK HERE to listen to the Civil Rights Snapshot that aired on WCPT!


Giving Back

In the USA, most of us have a great deal to be thankful for: public education for our children; social security and medicare for our seniors; national parks that preserve our wild lands; and freedom of speech that allows us to be here for you, every day. These are just a few things in a long list of what keeps America great. In 1621 the colonists at Plymouth broke bread with their Native American friends, and we’re still going strong, hundreds of years later, sharing with our neighbors and caring for our families. Yet there is still much to do. We still have homeless and hungry people. Quality health care and equal rights remain elusive for many. And racial discrimination still abides among us. This Holiday Season, we encourage you to take some time to reflect on our collective good fortune, and take a look around you. Chances are there’s someone nearby that needs a hand. Please offer yours…if you can.

CLICK HERE to listen to the Civil Rights Snapshot that aired on WCPT!





On January 1st, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation which declared FREE, slaves residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government.  It was a great beginning.  But it was more than one hundred years before President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels.  And yet even today, racism exists in the hearts and minds of many.  Our fight is not over.  We must keep working to make equality for ALL Americans a reality.  And please stay vigilant about the civil rights we have, and those we still need to fight for. 

For more information check out these websites:






CLICK HERE to listen to the Civil Rights Snapshot that aired on WCPT!



Child Labor

According to the University of Iowa Labor Center’s Child Labor Project, over 246 million children, many as young as five, are involved in child labor around the globe. Child labor is work that harms children or keeps them from attending school. It involves work by children under conditions that are hazardous, illegal, or exploitive.  Underage children work at all sorts of jobs, usually because they and their families are extremely poor. Large numbers of children work in commercial agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, mining, and domestic service. We encourage you to learn more about exploitive child labor.

For more information check out these websites:





CLICK HERE to listen to the Civil Rights Snapshot that aired on WCPT!


Women's Suffrage

On August 18th, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. It states: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." As we approach the 90th anniversary of this amendment, we encourage people to pause, and think about it. It was only 90 years ago that women in this country could be denied the vote…simply because they were women! There is a long, storied list of women activists who fought bravely for this constitutional right. We are grateful for their strength and vision.

For more information check out these websites:







CLICK HERE to listen to the Civil Rights Snapshot that aired on WCPT!



LGBT Rights

In the 1960’s, public homosexuality was prohibited by law in many cities across the country. Private businesses and social clubs were regularly raided and shut down. But on June 28th 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, the patrons resisted. That night and for the following several days, members of the gay, lesbian and trans-gender community throughout the city took their anger to the streets. The Stonewall Riots, as this series of events came to be called, is viewed by many as the birth of the Gay Rights movement. We salute those brave individuals who had the fortitude to stand up against discrimination and demand equality. 

For more information check out these websites:





CLICK HERE to listen to the Civil Rights Snapshot that aired on WCPT!