TIME Congress

Lawmakers to Introduce Historic LGBT Non-Discrimination Bills

Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Same-sex-marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage in Washington on June 26, 2015

After marriage equality, the fight for full civil rights begins

On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. David Cicilline are set to propose historically broad non-discrimination bills that will protect Americans from losing their jobs—or from being evicted from their apartment or other forms of discrimination—because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporters of the bills are using the fact that marriage is newly legal in all 50 states as both a springboard and justification for this next battle to win civil rights for the LGBT community.

The Equality Act will cover the areas of employment, education, housing, public accommodations, jury service, federal funding and credit. “You can be married on Saturday, post your wedding pictures on Facebook on Sunday and be fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment on Monday,” says Cicilline, who became the fourth openly gay member of Congress in 2010. The legality of same-sex marriage, he says, “creates a sense of urgency,” because it will lead to LGBT people living more openly but consequently expose them to the possibility of more discrimination.

There is a vast misconception that it is already illegal to discriminate against gay people—one poll put the number at 87% who believe so—but there are no federal laws that set out protections for LGBT Americans. Twenty-one states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 18 of those, as well as the District of Columbia, also include gender identity. “There is a huge hurdle our community needs to overcome to convince people that this kind of discrimination is—A—perfectly legal, and—B—actually exists,” says Winnie Stachelberg from the Center for American Progress.

In December, that progressive think tank put out a report to refute the notion that protections for LGBT Americans are “unnecessary,” as conservatives such as House Speaker John Boehner have argued. One in ten lesbian, gay or bisexual people say they’ve been fired from a job because of their sexual orientation, they reported, while nearly one in three transgender people reports being treated unequally at a retail store.

A lesbian couple in Michigan, where a GOP lawmaker tried but failed to pass a non-discrimination law last year, says a pediatrician recently refused to see their six-day-old baby after she “prayed” on the matter. There was no statute under which the couple could file a complaint, says report author Sarah McBride. But, she adds, non-discrimination laws aren’t just about recourse. “They’re also about preventing bad behavior,” she says. “They’re also about making clear what our values are as a country and what we expect our citizens to do, and that’s to treat everyone fairly and with respect.”

A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people when it comes to hiring and firing has been introduced in some form—and then failed to become law—in nearly every Congress for the past two decades. But rather than have another go at passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or even a broader bill that creates a new law, Merkley and Cicilline are trying a different strategy: amending existing statutes like the Civil Rights and Fair Housing acts so that those long-established protections are extended to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race, sex, religion or national origin.

“The only way that we can achieve full equality for the LGBT community,” says Cicilline, “is to make them part of this well-accepted civil rights construct.”

The move is designed, in part, to make it harder to object to the bill—because the Equality Act will “literally be extending the exact same protections” other classes already have—and to stymie the inevitable objections about religious freedom, which almost always crop up alongside debates over such non-discrimination bills.

“It has the value of saying, Look, whatever religious exemptions currently exist in these other protected categories—race, religion, gender, ethnic origin—those same religious exemptions would exist in the context of the LGBT community,” Cicilline says. “Not a single person’s right to exercise their religious tradition or to honor the practices of their own religion are compromised by this legislation.”

Critics of such bills say that legally obliging, say, a pizzeria to cater a same-sex wedding, violates a person’s right to oppose such unions based on religious or moral beliefs. With the battle over same-sex marriage lost, many conservatives are turning their efforts to pushing “religious freedom” or “First Amendment defense” bills to give people legal arguments for such refusals. A poll released earlier this month found that a small majority of small business owners—55%—believe businesses should not be allowed to deny wedding-related services to a same-sex couple based on religious beliefs.

Republicans Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Raul Labrador introduced companion bills in June aimed at “protecting religious freedom from Government intrusion,” stating that “conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberty are real.” While they say their bill is aimed at making sure organizations like religious schools can’t lose their tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage, progressives say it threatens to “undermine” protections Obama extended to millions of LGBT workers with an executive order, as well as the future of a broad non-discrimination law.

Merkley announced in December that a big proposal was coming. The scores of lawmakers he and Cicilline expect to co-sponsor the bills are rehashing this old fight in a time when there are new levels of awareness and acceptance for LGBT Americans, particularly among young people. According to Gallup, a record high 60% of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 50% in 2012 and 40% in 2009. Once people learn that protections for LGBT people don’t exist federally or in many states, “they overwhelmingly support the basic idea that LGBT Americans should be judged only on their merits, just like everyone else,” Merkley tells TIME. “It’s time to act.”

TIME Education

I Use Star Trek in My Classroom to Have Difficult Conversations About Race and Gender

A scene from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."
Paramount A scene from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

Star Trek has stories and characters that give meaning and purpose to our collective sense of identity and existence

The television series Star Trek: The Original Series (1966–1969) debuted one year after my immediate family and I relocated from the Harlem district of New York City to an area of South Central Los Angeles in 1965. This was also the year in which that latter metropolis erupted into riots that became known collectively as the Watts Rebellion. The television series became a form of escape from the surroundings of a depressing urban reality and envisioning a more tolerant future.

As it turned out, however, TV was not to be the key to that future. Rather, that entrée would be provided by many subsequent years of formal education that would spark in me an intellectual curiosity about the inner workings of the trek of life—engaging the tangibles of this world as well as the intangibles I imagined to exist beyond the stars.

It was through the arts and humanities that I attempted to grapple with the many intersecting questions I had about things that mattered most to me, such as race, gender and sexuality, as well as technology of the past, present and future.

Fast forward half a century—to where I help my students attempt to make sense of exactly those same relevant, complex questions.

Teaching complex, contemporary issues

After earning a doctoral degree in art history and teaching at the university level for 25 of those intervening years, I have observed a contradiction in the majority of students of this Generation Y: They seem connected and yet very distanced from the overwhelming complexities of the world around them.

The point of connection appears strongest in the area of popular culture. The disconnect, ironically, seems vested in a contemporary (sometimes blind) obsession with technology.

As a historian of art and visual culture by training, I wrestled with how popular culture and technology might be combined in a thought-provoking fashion with difficult and uncomfortable social and personal matters. How might these issues be made important to a student’s contemporary situation, to her or his daily experiences and encounters?

I found part of the answer by traveling back to the 1960s, when difficult social change movements around race (civil rights, black power), gender (the women’s movement) and sexuality (the gay and lesbian movement) were in full swing and paralleled the national obsession with technology, the space race and indulgence in popular culture as a way to both escape and liberate ourselves.

The result of my time travel was the creation of a new course for the 21st century entitled “Roaming the Star Trek Universe: Race, Gender, and Alien Sexualities.” The course explores the Star Trek universe of science fiction television as one way to probe critical issues of race, gender and alternate forms of sexuality. The response to the course offering was overwhelming.

But why would students be interested, and why teach such a course in today’s complex world?

Why does it matter?

Certainly, this is not the first nor last course to be taught on Star Trek. However, what makes it different, or at least unusual, is its open-ended interest in the intersecting dynamics of race, gender and varying forms of sexuality.

As a persuasive tool in imagining the possibilities of the future, Star Trek has the power and pull to immerse the individual completely through stories and characters that give meaning and purpose to our collective sense of identity and existence.

For instance, in the original series episode, called “Let that be your last battlefield” (1969), the conflict between two bi-colored humanoids named Lokai and Bele leads to questions of racial and political friction, assigning racial designations and bringing out the tensions of identity politics.

As with real life, there are no pat solutions but many consequences.

The science fiction genre, as part of popular culture, provides a seductive means of examining the intersections of the concerns of race, gender and sexuality in exciting and daring new ways such as, for instance, using Klingons as metaphors for Muslims and Vulcans for Jews.

The linking of past, present and future through subjects such as slavery, racism, colonization, feminism, reproductive technologies, homosexuality/homophobia, spirituality and religious fundamentalism, just to name a few, stimulates critical reexamination of today’s very real problems.

One way to do this, for example, is to ask probing questions so to get students thinking about ways in which interspecies conflicts among humans, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians, Betazoids, Cardassians and Bajorans, to name a few, are portrayed and how they mirror or parallel disagreements between today’s nations, races, genders, religions and classes.

The idea of creating futuristic spaces, places and experiences that are modeled on past and contemporary situations poses questions about the possibility of achieving optimistic futures and the inevitability of being left with pessimistic ones.

Science fiction is about everything

Counter to stereotype, science fiction is not only about the future of technology and science, but encompasses what the writer and educator Thomas Lombardo calls “the future of everything” – the future of society, culture, ethics, the environment, the human mind, races, genders, sex and sexuality.

It is in respect to the complex narratives about thoughts on the future of everything from a variety of perspectives that the Star Trek universe presents a challenge and is overwhelming even when restricted to the intersecting matters of race, gender and sexuality.

Of these three concerns, race is perhaps the most difficult to figure out. There is a constant struggle over what race means, and, in most instances, its definition and significance remain unresolved.

There are a host of characters from the Star Trek universe that speak to the logic and illogic of race, signaling the importance and timeliness of racial matters today.

Characters in the television series who are readily identified by the color of their skin include Uhura, Worf, Geordie Laforge, Guinan, Captain Benjamin Sisko and Tuvok. All of them can teach us something about contrived racial (and gender) categories that also go beyond skin color.

However, in order to think more deeply about race, we also have to look at what the series says about the power of whiteness and its tendency to reinforce racial as well as gender stereotypes.

Captain Kirk of the original series, the Prime Directive, and the United Federation of Planets all come to mind here. Characters such as Mr Spock, B’Elanna Torres, Odo and even Commander Data reference the complexity of ethnicity and racial mixtures disguised as hybrid alien species struggling for identity and a sense of belonging in an extended humanoid and technological universe.

Relevance to our lives today

These issues and the struggles they impose are important because they continue to resonate with us today and have direct bearing on the quality of our lives.

The process of teaching and learning about race, gender and sexuality through science fiction stories and technology in television and film can be challenging and even daunting.

But Star Trek may well be one of the more significant ways (even boldly so) through which to not only teach and learn about the past, the present and the future, but to willfully shape the contours of the latter.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Texas

Lawyer Describes Arrest Video of Activist Found Dead in Texas Jail

Sandra Bland was initially pulled over for a traffic violation

The lawyer for the family of a woman found dead in a Texas jail cell last week said dashcam video from the roadside traffic stop that led to her arrest shows the encounter grew confrontational after she refused an officer’s demand to put out her cigarette.

Sandra Bland, 28, was pulled over by a state trooper for a routine traffic violation in Prairie View on July 10, authorities said. After running her license and insurance, the trooper returned to her car with what appeared to be a written warning, according to the the lawyer, Cannon Lambert, who sat down with NBC News…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Opinion

How Go Set a Watchman Speaks to Our Time

Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman Goes On Sale
Joe Raedle—Getty Images The newly released book authored by Harper Lee, 'Go Set a Watchman', is seen on sale at the Books and Books store on July 14, 2015 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Whatever its literary merits, Harper Lee’s second novel sheds more light on our world than its predecessor did

To Kill a Mockingbird was set in the early 1930s, and Harper Lee portrayed Atticus Finch—obviously based on her own father—as a calm, fearless crusader for justice for all, regardless of race. But readers of her just-released novel, Go Set A Watchman, featuring nearly all the same characters but set, this time, in 1955, when Atticus was 72 and Jean Louise, or Scout, was 26 will find Atticus a determined opponent of integration and a racist who believes Negroes (as he and the rest of polite America then called them) are too inferior to share equally in American society—or even, in many cases, to be allowed to vote. A careful reading of the two books in light of 20th-century southern history, however, shows that the contradiction is far more apparent than real.

Read TIME’s review of Go Set a Watchman here

Atticus’ tragedy, which was more fully revealed in the earlier book, was the tragedy of the white south. Since well before the Civil War, many white southerners—even those who recognized that they exercised a tyranny over black men and women—were too frightened even to think of giving that tyranny up, for fear that their slaves or former slaves would take their revenge and treat their former masters the way they had been treated. Ironically, while Mockingbird appeared just as the civil rights movement was hitting its stride, it is Watchman that explains the enormous resistance that movement faced and how it left an enduring mark on American politics. It may be less inspiring than Mockingbird, but it tells us more about the United States not only in the 1950s, but even today.

In Mockingbird, Atticus directly addresses the race question most clearly after Tom Robinson has been convicted of the rape that obviously never took place. “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow,” he says, “but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.” Nothing in Mockingbird suggests that Atticus thinks that Negroes should vote, attend the same schools as white children or even, significantly, have their own attorneys to represent them. He is relatively socially liberal: he seems a bit shocked when he finds that Calpurnia, the black maid who has raised his children since his wife’s death, took them to her own church while he was away, but he stands up for Calpurnia when his sister, Aunt Alexandra, wants him to dismiss her. But while he thinks that white people can and must treat Negroes fairly in the law courts, and while he is willing to put his own life on the line to prevent his client’s lynching before the trial, nothing suggests that his views on the broader race question are out of the ordinary for Alabama in the 1930s.

By 1955, the era in which Watchman is set, a bombshell has been thrown into the South: Brown v. Board of Education, the unanimous 1954 Supreme Court decision mandating integrated schools. Change was coming, and Maycomb wasn’t happy about it. Jean Louise is shocked to find her father taking a leading part in a meeting, in the same courthouse where he won a rape case for a black defendant years earlier, of the local White Citizens’ Council—the more respectable alternative to, but often close ally of, the Ku Klux Klan. And later, in the climactic confrontation between father and daughter, Atticus explains that Alabama’s black population simply cannot be allowed to vote, because there are too many of them and they would elect a black government. He also insists that he and his young law associate Henry take the case of Calpurnia’s grandson, a young black man who has run over and killed a local white drunk in his car. But Atticus doesn’t want this case to try for an acquittal: he simply wants to make sure that the NAACP doesn’t hear about it, send in an out-of-state lawyer, and turn it into a cause.

Evidence suggests that it was the white South’s terror over the coming of the Civil Rights Movement that revived the spirit of the Civil War in the 1950s, and led the South Carolina legislature to start flying the Confederate flag over the state capital in 1962. The terror of federal intervention on behalf of African Americans was sufficient to wipe out a whole species of southern politician, the New Dealer who was liberal on everything but race. The federal government under Lyndon Johnson did desegregate public accommodations and assure black voting rights, but in response, the white South became—and in the deep South, remains—solidly Republican. And horrible though it is, the old spirit was strong enough to inspire the killing of nine black people in a Charleston church, for which Dylann Roof will be tried next year. He is reported to have said, “you rape our women and are taking over our country.” That spirit was not strong enough, however, to keep the Confederate flag flying, and that is a real sign of progress.

Just a few years before a New York editor rejected Go Set A Watchman, William Faulkner, from the neighboring state of Mississippi, published Intruder in the Dust, another tale of a black man unjustly accused of murder who is saved by a couple of courageous whites who discover the real killer. Musing about the situation in the context of mid-century America, Faulkner later estimated that out of 1,000 random “Southerners”—by which he meant white southerners—there might be only one who would actually commit lynching, and but all of them would unite against any outsiders trying to stop one. That, sadly, was not far from an accurate prediction of the white South’s response to the civil rights movement—a response that has reshaped American politics ever since. That is what young Harper Lee documented in Watchman. While she and her editors did the nation and the world a great service by publishing Mockingbird instead, the earlier manuscript gave a much better sense of what the country was up against in the late 1950s—and how we got to where we are today. Now that South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, son of staunch segregationist J. Strom Thurmond, has announced that the Confederate flag does not represent a heritage he is proud of, it seems that Atticus Finch, too, would have no trouble changing his mind with the times.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

TIME Texas

Activist Found Dead in Texas Jail Had Spoken About Depression

Bland was arrested following a traffic stop and committed suicide 3 days later, authorities said

(DALLAS) — A black woman who authorities say hanged herself in a Texas jail had posted an online video earlier this year saying she was suffering from “a little bit of depression,” though family and friends say the 28-year-old gave no indication she was distraught enough to contemplate suicide.

As Sandra Bland’s family and friends press for details of what happened, a prosecutor said Thursday that he will present the findings of a Texas Rangers’ investigation to a grand jury. The FBI is also investigating the circumstances surrounding Bland’s death.

Bland, who was from the Chicago suburb of Naperville, was moving to Texas to work at Prairie View A&M University, the historically black college from which she graduated in 2009. She was arrested on July 10 in Prairie View following a traffic stop, and authorities say she hanged herself Monday morning in a Waller County Jail cell in nearby Hempstead, about 60 miles northwest of Houston.

Her death comes amid increased national scrutiny of police after a series of high-profile cases in which blacks have been killed by officers or died while in custody. Social media posts have questioned the official account of her death.

Bland had posted a video to her Facebook page on March 1 in which she said that she was suffering from “a little bit of depression as well as PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder. She did not explain the cause of the PTSD.

In a video posted three days later, she elaborated.

“I want you guys to know it’s a daily struggle. It’s a daily test,” she said. “Depression is nothing but the devil. It’s a way of mind and it’s a way of thinking.” She recommended prayer to cut through the fog.

Family members were shocked by her death and do not believe she would commit suicide.

“Based on the Sandy that I knew, that’s unfathomable to me,” Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper, said at a news conference in Chicago on Thursday.

Another sister, Shante Needham, said Bland had called her from jail Saturday afternoon, telling her that she’d been arrested, but didn’t know why. She also said an officer had placed his knee in her back and she thought her arm had been broken.

“She was very aggravated. She seemed to be in pain. She really felt that her arm had been fractured,” Needham said, holding back tears. “I told her I would work on getting her out.”

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said an autopsy found Bland died by asphyxiation and that she used a plastic bag to hang herself from a partition in her cell. He also said that although jail video didn’t show what went on in Bland’s cell, it showed no one went in or out of it from the time she was placed there until a jailer found her unconscious.

Sheriff Glenn Smith said jailers had used an intercom to check on Bland less than an hour before she was found dead.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards cited the Waller County jail three years ago for improperly monitoring prisoners. The state agency found the jail was not checking all inmates at least once an hour, as required by law. It inspected the jail after a man hanged himself with a bedsheet in November 2012.


Keyser reported from Chicago. Writers Don Babwin and Sara Burnett also contributed to this report from Chicago.

TIME Texas

Civil Rights Activist’s Death in Texas Jail Sparks Questions

Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell 3 days after her arrest

Family and friends of a civil rights activist found dead in a Texas jail have launched a campaign questioning the authorities’ ruling of a suicide.

Sandra Bland was arrested after allegedly becoming combative during a routine traffic stop on Friday. She was found dead in her cell on Monday morning.

The Waller County Sheriff’s Office said the 28-year-old died “from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation,” calling it a “tragic incident.”

However, those who knew Bland don’t believe she would have taken her own life. She had recently moved to the area, about 50 miles west of Houston, and was due to…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Retail

Walmart Accused of Denying Benefits to Gay Employee’s Spouse

Danny Johnston—AP Customers shop on widened aisles at a Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Springdale, Arkansas on June 4, 2015.

Employee sues retail giant for failure to offer health insurance after DOMA was overturned

Correction appended

A gay Walmart employee has filed a class-action complaint against the retail giant, claiming that it denied her wife health insurance benefits.

Jacqueline Cote, 52, a Walmart employee from Massachusetts, has taken the company to court for failing to alter their benefits policy to include same-sex spouses immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, Bloomberg reports.

The retailer only began extending such benefits in January 2014—nearly six months after DOMA was overturned—at which point, Cote argues, her wife, Diana “Dee” Smithson, had already spent over $150,000 on uninsured medical expenses while battling ovarian cancer. Cote also claims the company violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a Massachusetts fair employment law.

Brian Nick, a spokesman for Walmart, wrote to Bloomberg in an email that “[Walmart’s] benefits coverage previous to the 2014 update was consistent with the law.” Cote’s case will be the first class-action suit of its kind since the Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that state prohibitions on gay marriage were unconstitutional, her lawyers claim.


Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of the plaintiff. She is Jacqueline Cote.

TIME Books

From Mockingbird to Watchman: A Changing Alabama

To Kill A Mockingbird
Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images Actors Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in the film 'To Kill a Mockingbird', 1962.

The years between the 1930s and the 1950s were turbulent ones for Harper Lee's home state

Harper Lee’s new novel Go Set A Watchman, released Tuesday, takes place two decades years after the Depression-era To Kill a Mockingbird. In the new book, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns to her Alabama home in the 1950s, only to find a world on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement. Both novels grapple with issues of racism and justice, social issues that evolved dramatically — in real life as in the books — during the intervening years. Following World War II, desegregation was on the mind in Alabama of the mid-1950s. But Lee’s home state, at the time of Watchman’s narrative, still had a rough road ahead.

Read TIME’s review of Go Set a Watchman here

Here are some of the real historical events that would have shaped Scout’s world:

The Mockingbird Alabama and Jim Crow

In 1933, a court case that helped inspire the courtroom narrative of To Kill A Mockingbird captivated attentions and headlines in real-life Alabama: the trial of the African-American teenagers dubbed the Scottsboro Boys, whom two white women had accused of rape.

When eight of the teenagers were convicted and initially condemned to death by an all-white jury in Scottsboro, Ala., the subsequent series of appeals brought national scrutiny to the justice denied to black defendants. The Supreme Court ruled against Alabama’s “selective jury system,” calling for new trials in 1933. TIME followed the cases as they repeatedly rose to the Supreme Court and returned to Alabama. (Read part of that original coverage here.)

Throughout Southern states, Jim Crow laws remained steadfast, mandating “separate but equal” facilities and services, which were far from equal in practice. Alabama systematically denied African Americans their voting rights by means of poll taxes. And while Ku Klux Klan activity was in decline, lynchings still took place within the state. Unsurprisingly, many African Americans left Alabama to move north or west throughout the decade and afterward as part of the Great Migration.

“Defense Boom in Dixie”

The Second World War catalyzed change for Alabama. The South grew from “the Nation’s number one economic problem,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the region in 1938, to a developing region of industrial growth and wartime job opportunity. In 1941, TIME reported on Alabama’s steel mills expanding, as well as the new facilities for aluminum, gunpowder, ammunition and anti-aircraft shells.

Alabama was also home to the nation’s first African-American fighter squadron. The Army Air Forces established the 99th Fighter Squadron in July of 1941, training an all-black unit to operate aircraft. The squadron incited anger, especially for surrounding farmers who “watched their cheap help skitter off the fields to get better jobs at the Army post.” An officer quelled their contempt by calling a meeting and telling them “that this is just what Hitler wanted, just this kind of division among the U.S. people; Goebbels would be delighted.” Wartime necessity continued to break down racial barriers when Roosevelt published Executive Order 8802 in 1941, barring any racial discrimination in the defense industry.

Rumbles of Change

Several former Ku Klux Klan members rose to power on the state and national level in the 1930s: Bibb Graves, elected Alabama Governor in 1936, had reportedly been a Klan chapter head, and Alabama’s Senator Hugo La Fayette Black caused a national scandal when it came out he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan before he was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice in 1937.

Meanwhile, the NAACP advanced legislation to suppress the lynching that was a threat to Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird and that still took place in 1930s Alabama; the NAACP recorded eight instances in 1937, and then six in 1938. Anti-lynching bills went before the House and Senate, falling due to lack of votes and filibusters but gaining more momentum and strength each time.

But after the war, perspectives on race began to shift. When Ku Klux Klan mobs saw a brief resurgence around 1949, Alabama became the first state to make it a misdemeanor to appear in public wearing masks. In the Birmingham area, the state took 17 white men to trial for their participation in Klan mob intimidation. (That particular case wasn’t a complete victory for justice, however, as the trials were delayed when the judge and juries were found to be former Ku Klux Klan members; only two trials happened and both of those defendants were acquitted).

Desegregation and Separatism

The early 1950s were the time of Brown v. Board of Education, which declared that school segregation was unconstitutional. Though that case was decided in May 1954 and elaborated upon the following year, the first of the cases that were eventually combined into that landmark ruling began as early as 1950. It would have been abundantly clear that segregation could no longer stand unchallenged. As desegregation spread, indignant citizens began forming White Citizens’ Councils — like the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council that appears in Go Set a Watchman — that brought people together to coordinate resistance to the change.

Alabama in particular put up strong opposition to integrated schools; in September of 1955, TIME graded the state with an “F” because none of its school districts had made moves to desegregate. The state legislature passed a bill, over the governor’s veto, allowing school boards to place students according to best fit; later it resolved that the Supreme Court’s ruling was null and void altogether.

Go Set A Watchman takes place at the very beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Before 1955 was finished, Alabama would see Rosa Parks launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1956, Autherine Lucy would become the first black student to enroll in the University of Alabama, Harper Lee’s own alma mater. Segregationists were still fighting hard, but that was because they had more to fight against.

For the Alabama of To Kill A Mockingbird, though that book’s characters have become symbols of justice, equality is just an idea. For the Alabama of Go Set A Watchman, the prospect of equality is still inflammatory — but all the more real.

Read TIME’s original 1960 review of To Kill a Mockingbird, here in the TIME Vault: About Life & Little Girls

TIME Civil Rights

Sikh Postman at Disney World Wins Fight to Work in View of Guests

He had previously been limited to private routes where visitors could not see his turban and beard

A Sikh postman employed at Walt Disney World who said he was discriminated against because of his turban and beard can now work on routes in view of visitors to the park.

Gurdit Singh has worked at Disney World since 2008, when he was assigned to one delivery route that is not visible to the park’s guests. Other post workers, he said, are rotated through different routes where they can be seen by the public. He said the company told him the reason for the discrepancy was that he violated a “look policy” because his “costume” did not match what the Florida park was looking for. Singh took this to be a comment on his ethnic and religious appearance.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The Sikh Coalition took up his cause in May, according to the BBC, and now Disney has said Singh can deliver on all routes. Disney described itself to the BBC as an “employer of choice that is committed to diversity and prohibits discrimination based upon religion.”


TIME Congress

House Drops Plan to Vote on Displaying Confederate Flag in Federal Cemeteries

The cancellation coincided with South Carolina vote to remove Confederate Flag from state capitol

(WASHINGTON) — The Republican-controlled House has scrapped plans to vote on approving the display of the Confederate flag at Park Service-run cemeteries in the wake of furious protests from Democrats.

Officials said Thursday the legislation that included the issue would be pulled from the floor for the time being.

The decision came as Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to approve the display of a painful reminder of a racist past.

It also coincided with a vote in the South Carolina Legislature to remove the Confederate Flag from a pole outside the state capitol.

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