Bronx CORE

Bronx CORE represents the most well known example of a CORE group targeted and its leader victimized by the counter-intelligence program of a police agency.
As early as June 1961, a group of approximately 15 members (1/3 of them Black, 2/3 White) were meeting as Bronx CORE. Some were already veterans of the Route 40 freedom rides and, according to a field secretary's report, were already clear as a group that non-violence for them was a tactic and not a way of life.

In line with other CORE chapters, the White members from the beginning decided to play background roles in order to support the idea of Black leadership. Mrs. Johnnie Mae Hunt (aka Johnnie Mae Allen) was the first chairman followed by her vice chair, the Freedom Rider Herb Callender. His vice chairman was Yaphett Kotto. Other early members include Frank Reynolds, Shirlee Prichard, Eric Robertson, Howard Quander, Dolly Dickens, Claire Chase, the Gallos and Merits.

Some of the first meetings were held in the home of one of the White members. By June 1963, the chapter had an office at 1315 Boston Road and approximately 150 members. How many of these were active members is not known but approximately 37 regularly attended meetings.

The White Castle Demonstrations
As with other chapters, Bronx CORE's earliest actions were in support of other chapter’s projects such as New York CORE’s demonstration against Harlem Hospital. It wasn’t until the summer of 1963 campaign against local White Castle restaurants that the chapter really came into its own.

Bronx CORE demanded 25% of White Castle’s jobs went to Blacks and Puerto Ricans. Out of 126 employees in its Bronx restaurants, only four were Black and they were porters/janitors. The first demonstration started with approximately twenty five pickets at the White Castle on Boston Road and Allerton Avenue on Saturday, July 6. During the five weeks the campaign lasted, the chapter not only had to deal with the taunts and random violence of local Whites but full blown examples of southern style violence, as well.

The White Castle site happened to be a popular spot for local White youth to hangout and drag race. Well over a thousand Whites showed up that night to counter picket. Many of them paraded confederate flags, wore white hoods and carried crosses a la the Klan. They threw eggs, rocks, tomatoes at the protestors, cursed at them, yelled racial epithets and insults. They also claimed the pickets were inspired by communists.

The next day firecrackers (which mimicked the sound of gunshots) were thrown at CORE demonstrators from a passing car. By night time, the female protestors had been sent home because of the violence. Only the male demonstrators remained such as Orville O’Brien (Black, 26, Brooklyn College student) who, even though he was on crutches, was attacked with stones while in a glass phone booth.

The White crowd grew to several thousand by Sunday night. Perhaps in retaliation against the mob, a car with 3 black males and one female drove by at approximately midnight and shot one of the White mob in the face with an air pistol.

Over the next few days, local White youth randomly attacked any Blacks passing the area whether they were part of the demonstration or not.

Members of the American Nazi Party also joined the counter demonstration. On July 14, eight of the neo-nazis were arrested on charges of planning to incite a riot at the demonstrations. Four others were arrested for doing a drive by shooting.

Other White Castles were picketed by CORE chapters in New Jersey and Long Island. White Castle eventually gave in for all its stores. The demonstrations also exposed for all to see the violently racist sentiments among many Whites in the Bronx.

Bronx CORE also experienced noticeable growth in its membership as a by product of the campaign. Out of the 500 members reported, however, its not known how many would have been considered active.

In Between...
Like other CORE chapters at the time, it worked on housing code enforcement activities. By putting pressure on landlords, Bronx CORE forced them to make the necessary repairs to local apartments.

The chapter also participated in CORE’s A+P campaign and its campaign against Ford Motors for discrimination against Jews and non-whites. Bronx CORE picketed Ford dealers in the Bronx for several weeks over hiring for executive positions.

>>>> Part 2 <<<<