Here’s an excerpt from Thomas Sugrue’s Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North about the shift in White Northern racial attitudes between the 1940s and 1960s:
“Survey researcher Paul Sheatsley examined responses over more than two decades to the question “If a Negro with the same income and education as you moved into your block, would it make a difference to you?”
In 1942, only 42 percent of northern whites would have approved of such a black neighbor; by December 1963, 70 percent of whites claimed they would accept such a neighbor. The shift in attitudes about housing tracked other major changes. By similar figures (40 percent in 1942, 75 percent in 1963), northern whites agreed with the statement that “white students and Negro students should go to the same schools.” And in 1963, four-fifths of northern whites agreed that “Negroes are as intelligent as white people.” …
Longtime open housing activist Charles Abrams was thrilled at the “almost complete shift, particularly in the North and West, in the public feeling about discrimination and racial prejudice.”
Note: This comes as no surprise to me. I’ve been familiar with the polling data on White racial attitudes since college.
Between the Second World War and 1964, twenty-nine states outside the South enacted fair employment practice laws. Even before the Second World War, eighteen Northern states already had public accommodations anti-discrimination laws, and six more Western states had passed anti-discrimination laws by 1959.
Eventually, we’re going to get into the Jewish role (there’s a lot of useful information in this book about this) in bringing about this change in Northern public opinion. We have already seen how the Quakers were “the most visible white dominated group in the civil rights movement besides the Communists.”