In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, legendary
attorney, civil rights activist and cherished member of the CSU family Thomas N. Todd
was featured on WGN News. Mr. Todd spoke about his experiences in the Jim Crow south:
“There was an apartheid system where there was complete separation of blacks and whites.
You have to understand, when you deal with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that black people
as a group were considered inhuman.” Todd grew up in Alabama, and moved to Chicago
after the civil rights act was signed. He says back then, the civil rights movement
had plenty of protesters. They needed black attorneys to make sure laws were enforced.
“It was against the law for blacks to drink out of a white water fountain and you
could be put in jail for doing that. So we had to be taught not only how to live
as a child, but also how to be mindful of these traps.” One of those traps ensnared
a 14 year old Chicago boy visiting Mississippi relatives in the summer of 1955. Four
days after Emmett Till was accused of flirting with a white woman, he was kidnapped,
tortured, disfigured, and murdered by two white men who were later acquitted by an
all white jury. Till’s open casket funeral focused a national spotlight on the empty
promise of racial equality, and began to embolden African Americans.
See the story and video HERE
Thomas Todd's collection of memorabilia and papers from his extensive career are a
valued part of the Chicago State University archives and can be viewed upon request
at the CSU Library.