New Pictures Emerge of Bernie Sanders’ Civil Rights Activism

New Pictures Emerge of Bernie Sanders' Civil Rights Activism

NATIONAL (VFB) – Despite attempts by critics to discredit his early activism, Bernie Sanders was in fact a Civil Rights organizer in the 1960s.  Sanders attended the University of Chicago before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was enacted, which led him to protest the school’s segregated housing policies.

According to reports, Sanders spent so much time organizing for Civil Rights that “his grades suffered . . . [and] a dean asked him to take some time off from school.”

“The CORE sit-in that Bernie helped lead was the first civil rights sit-in to take place in  the North.” -Danny Lyon

Moments of Sanders’ early activism were captured by famed photographer, Danny Lyon, who at the time was a student journalist. Lyon recalls,

“In 1962 and the spring of 1963 I was the student photographer at the University of Chicago, making pictures for the yearbook, the Alumni Magazine and the student paper, The Maroon.”

“That winter at the University of Chicago, there was a sit-in inside the administration building protesting discrimination against blacks in university owned housing. I went to it with a CORE activist and friend. The sit in was in a crowded hallway, blocking the entrance to the office of Dr. George Beadle, the chancellor.”

Bernie Sanders University of Chicago

Bernie Sanders (standing), then a college student at the University of Chicago, leads his classmates in a sit-in to protest segregated housing for black students. (Danny Lyon/Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

“I took the photograph of Bernie Sanders speaking to his fellow CORE members at that sit-in,” Lyon says.

A second picture, also taken by Lyon, shows Sanders standing next to the school chancellor, George Beadle

Bernie Sanders University of Chicago

Bernie Sanders (standing, right), member of the Committee on Racial Equality’s steering committee, stands next to University of Chicago President George Beadle, who addresses a CORE meeting on housing sit-ins. (Danny Lyon/Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

“I photographed Bernie a second time after he got a haircut, as he appeared next to the noble laureate and chancellor Dr. George Beadle. Time Magazine is now claiming it is not Bernie in the picture but someone else. It is Bernie, and it is proof of his very early dedication to justice for African Americans. The CORE sit-in that Bernie helped lead was the first civil rights sit-in to take place in  the North.”

Yet despite his courageous stands so long ago, Sanders’ noble activism is more than some Clinton supporters can stomach.  Post-writer Jonathan Capehart, for example, who wasn’t even born when Lyon snapped them, claims the pictures are of someone else.  He even wrote a story about it this morning.

Unfortunately for Capehart and Clinton, however, Lyon, who snapped the pictures now in question, took other photos of Sanders at the University sit-ins, which he has now released.

Lyon explained the need clear the air:

“The slander that Bernie was not a very early leader for African American civil rights got so outrageous that persons went into the archives of the University of Chicago and changed captions on Danny Lyon’s 1962 photos, claiming it was Bruce Rappaport standing in Bernie’s clothing leading the demonstration in the Ad Building. These newly discovered pictures, (below) including close up photographs of the student activists show us exactly what Bernie was and what he remains.”

Lyon describes the pictures (above):

“Here at the University of Chicago, in the winter of 1962, students led by Bernie Sanders and others have occupied the hallway of the Administration Building, spending the night inside. The Chancellor cannot get into or leave his office. Bernie is leading a protest against the discrimination practiced by the University of Chicago against African Americans in its extensive housing. This protest for equal rights for African Americans is the first sit-in to be held in the north as part of  the great 1960’s civil rights movement.  Bernie is the real deal.  And voters, all voters know it.”

If Lyon’s pictures aren’t convincing enough, stories of Sanders leading boycotts from Chicago and elsewhere are also emerging in print.

And if that still isn’t enough, Sanders himself was even arrested and convicted of resisting arrest.

His arrest, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, took place at “74th and Lowe” in Chicago, which is just blocks from the University.

74th and Lowe

So even though renowned Civil Rights activist Rep. John Lewis says he “never saw” Bernie Sanders during the 1960s, “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t absolutely there, fighting for justice, fighting for open housing,” according to Rep. Keith Ellison.

“He didn’t see Bernie Sanders because Bernie Sanders was doing fair and open housing in Chicago — that’s why he didn’t see him. No matter how good your eyesight is — if you are standing in Alabama, you can’t see people in Chicago.”

Ellison is right.  You can’t see the inside of a Chicago jail cell from Alabama.

Special thanks to Danny Lyon for taking these pictures over 50 years ago, and of course to Bernie Sanders for standing up for what was right, even when it was an unpopular thing to do.

Tyson Manker is a former combat marine, attorney, college professor, and candidate for State’s Attorney in Morgan County Illinois. He serves as the National Director of Vets for Bernie. Follow him on Twitter @mankerlaw.


  1. Alex Gibson says:

    Great article. #goberniego

  2. Malcom X. says:

    Its 2016 and Hardcore, ‘in the trenches’ 60’s civil rights fighter, April, 1960 SNCC co-founder John Lewis versus some ‘new kind of Memorex’ trying to tell him ‘How to be ‘Black???
    SNCC was formed by college youth skillfully guided by Dr. King’s SCLC, but some in the white liberal community soon attempted to use it as a weapon to spread their own ‘more acceptable’ political ideas throughout the South via the genuine ‘grass roots’ Black Movement.
    That’s why Sanders was officially purged from SNCC with a host of several hundred other white radicals like Allard K. Lowenstein and his cohorts, who actually, shamelessly attempted an internal take over of the entire organization.
    They were literally slowing SNCC down to a crawl while attempting to inject it with Marxist ideology and rhetoric, thus alienating SNCC from the very poor sufferers of the Black South that it was designed to serve. They did not WANT Marxism, they only wanted FREEDOM.
    After being kicked out of SNCC, Sanders then co-founded CORE with Roy Innis, “Black-Capitalist’ Mack Daddy of the so-called Harlem “Poverty Pimps”.
    SNCC on the other hand became EVEN MORE dedicated to fighting for the impoverished Black South and the grassroots, until its dissolution in 1969.
    It’s NOT a pretty picture, no matter how Bernie tries to paint over his deeply flawed ‘civil rights’ past. Thats because it’s mostly fake and as such a charade and insult to EVERYONE who knows the REAL story of the deep complexity of the multiplicity of organizations back then.
    At first I ignored the BS, but for him to then conjure up Dr. King at EVERY turn, when he had LESS THAN ZERO to do with Dr King is getting beyond sickening.
    Racial Paternalism is a dying disease, and yet Bernie still embodies it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      You are the one who sounds like ‘BS” with your fake name, and uninformed, biased slandering of Senator Sanders. It is too bad the South did not adopt a bit of that ‘Marxist” approach. Perhaps then the population would have had access to other than the corporate media and what was handed to them by their sold-out ‘leaders,’ and they would have been able to make a more informed and productive decision about who to support in the Democratic Primary. As Michelle Alexander, Ta Nehisi Coates, and Cornel West have been trying to communicate to the Black community, Hillary and Bill Clinton are not your friends, and they have been exploiting the Black community. There is no freedom without economic justice, no matter how many special ‘neo-lib’ programs get thrown your way.

  3. Cheryl Faulk says:

    This is all so irritating. There is a big difference between what Sen. John Lewis said today and what the Bernie Gang has turned it into. Who cares what he did in Chicago. He tried to tell everyone he marched in Selma and he clearly didn’t because Sen. Lewis was an organizer of that march and Bernie was NOT there! Period!

    • James Hutchison. says:

      I believe Sen Sanders has never said he was in Selma. He has said that he participated in the March on Washington .Clearly he was an early leader for C.O.R.E. in Chicago.and was arrested there and many people DO care about that. Both John Lewis And Bernie Sanders are heroes of mine so please everyone speak carefully.

    • Sen.Sanders has never claimed to march in Selma, he marched in the famous March on Washington led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
      A website mistakenly made that claim based upon a photo from the Selma march in which a young man is seen who looks like a young Bernie Sanders. Sen. Sanders had no hand in that innacurate claim.

    • Carsen says:

      as if he could remember every single person who was there

    • J Barragan says:

      His campaign has confirmed that he did not march in Selma and Bernie himself never said he did. He did, however, participate in the March on Washington, which may be what you are referring to. Here’s an article about it:

    • Mary Maxwell says:

      There are two separate issues, Cheryl. John Lewis cleared up one of them, by stating that he could have been there, he didn’t personally see every single person there. He also stated today that he did not meet the Clintons until the 1970’s, which makes sense, as they are several years younger than Bernie and John.

      The other issue is that some of the alumni at U of Chicago are saying some of these pictures are not Bernie, and others are Bernie! They don’t deny Bernie was there and involved.
      They are trying to say that some of those pictures are of Bruce Rappaport, another friend/classmate. The photographer says they are Bernie. It is a trust issue, something supporters of the candidate are interested in. As well they/we should be.

      Lane Ralph, these photos were taken in Chicago. John Lewis was in Alabama at the time. Many student demonstrators did go to the March on Washington, though, from all over.
      I remember that, as I am 10 years younger than Bernie Sanders, and I remember hearing that students came from all over the place to attend. There were thousands there. I’m sure John Lewis did not meet all of them. Some people have picked out a person in a picture with John Lewis, saying it looks like Bernie, and it does, but it may not be him. Big crowd!

    • Charles Carr says:

      Bernie never once claimed to have marched at Selma. He said he was at the March on Washington. And once again, even if he was, John Lewis saying he wasn’t is no absolute truth. There were thousands at Selma, and John Lewis didn’t meet every single person there.

      Also, everyone should care about what he did in Chicago, as he organized the first sit-in in the North. That’s a fairly big fucking deal.

    • Irene says:

      That’s not fair , that’s like saying Clinton didn’t have anything to do with the democratic debates because I just listen to them, I didn’t see her there!

    • Matt says:

      Your comment is weird, because Bernie said he hasn’t marched in Selma, and Sen. Lewis didn’t say anything to that effect. You found the fake picture that was circulated and then tried to make up words to shove into Bernie and Sen. Lewis’s mouths.

      So maybe you oughta quit perpetuating that lie.

    • HL Johnson says:

      No, he never said he was in Selma. Check your sources, please. He participated in the March on Washington, and mentions that.

    • Adam says:

      So he met every single person who marched? There were a lot of people there you imbecile.

    • Angie S. says:

      He never, at one time, claimed he marched in Selma. He marched on Washington.

    • Eliot Ware says:

      Bernie Sanders claimed to have marched in Selma? When did he do that?

  4. Lane Ralph says:

    I don’t see John Leis in any of these photos. Where was John Lewis?

  5. j hardy acrroll says:

    Sanders himself hasn’t claimed he took part in the march. He was not at Selma. He was active in the civil rights movement. He is not in the Selma picture. That’s another guy.

  6. nmb says:

    The best protection shield for Bernie …

  7. sarah says:

    Bernie Sanders has never said he marched in Selma.

    John Lewis did, in fact, imply that Sanders efforts meant nothing, and that the Clintons were on the front lines of the civil rights struggle.

  8. Aurora says:

    Really, now you are being ridiculous…..but I will play along. John Lewis was in Alabama being an Adult!

  9. Kent Weissinger says:

    I don’t think Lewis ever met Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner or Liuzzo either, but each of them gave more to the civil rights movement than either Lewis or Sanders.

  10. Matthew Teeters says:

    Cheryl, I agree that people are trying to make Lewis’ comments into something they aren’t – Lewis can endorse or not endorse whomever he wants.

    That said, Sanders did not say he was in Selma. The campaign has denied that it’s him. The question here is about the piece saying that the CHICAGO CORE photos weren’t Sanders. That’s what’s being addressed in this article.

  11. Jason McKahan says:

    @Cheryl faulk “Sanders has stated that he did participate in the landmark ‘March on Washington’ civil rights event of August 1963 (where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream’ speech), we haven’t found any record of Sanders’ claiming that he was also present at any other civil rights march involving Martin Luther King, Jr” snopes

  12. Colin Donahue says:

    Cheryl Faulk, please post a credible link to sometjing where Sanders said that he marched in Selma. I’ve been a supporter sunce wven before he announced and I have *never* seen that asserted. He *was* at the march on Washington, which is documented, and has been referenced by the campaign.

  13. OldBiff says:

    Bill Clinton worked with the CIA and the Bush family as govenor of Arkansas to run drugs into the United States, where they were then sold to the various mafia to then send into U.S. inner cities, the incarceration rate of the poor and black then skyrocketed, I ask people willfully voting for people involved in that racist operation, or voting for the person this time around married to a person responsible for that racist operation, to reconsider, please reclaim human dignity, redemption is possible for the american people to take a step forward into the future of a combined american fabric, not a step backwards into phony support for the poor while hillary takes money from the saudis, the vieled hidden clinton racism, dont let it happen america.

    • Elizabeth says:

      This is the kind of issue voters should be paying attention to, not whether an elderly man saw one of hundreds of thousands of young people who were engaged in the civil rights movement. Billary is simply BAD for America, including Blacks. Period.

  14. Sherrye Weinstein says:

    Cheryl Faulk, Bernie Sanders NEVER SAID that he marched in Selma. Look it up. He said that we was in the March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King gave his, “I Have a Dream” speech. It is OTHER people who have confused the issue. If you do your research you will realize your mistake. And who cares what he did in Chicago? You don’t care that he organized a civil rights movement in Chicago, the first of it’s kind in the North? You don’t think that people in Chicago needed a civil rights movement in 1962?

  15. HD says:

    Hey Cheryl Falk: Get some education before you actually put a thought together. Your ignorance is so typical of american stupidity.
    Sen John Lewis remarks:
    ” I was asked to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

  16. Laurel says:

    It wasn’t a lie that he marched in Selma! You all are just afraid of the facts to know that your queen isn’t what she’s made everyone think she is. Bernie is the real deal. Hillary is a wolf in sheeps clothing who has been on the board for Monsanto, Walmart and worked during the civil rights movement to put a republican in office. FYI that republican that she was working for and helping wanted to reinstate segregation! Wake up people! Hillary couldn’t get anymore evil.

  17. […] documents referencing Sanders’ work in organizations like CORE and SNCC. The organization Veterans for Bernie published a number of pictures by photographer Danny Lyons that purportedly show a young Bernie […]

  18. Frank D says:

    He, nor his campaign, ever claimed he marched at Selma. That was a product of the internet rumor mill creating a false caption on a photo.

  19. Rebecca Ballard says:

    No, Cherfyl Faulk, he said he participated in the March on Washington, not the Selma to Montgomery marches.

  20. Christian says:

    Sanders never said he marched in Selma.

  21. Leta Bez says:

    Cheryl Faulk, have you seen photos of how many people were marching with MLK? Do you really think Lewis took note of all of them. He lied about meeting the Clintons back then and he should never have slammed Bernie who has always worked tirelessly for the poor and disenfranchised.

  22. Frank says:

    Cheryl Faulk, could you please direct me to a source that shows Sanders claims he marched from Selma? I’d bet a lot of money that he never said anything of the sort. What Bernie has claimed is that he, along with hundred of thousands of others (who Lewis also probably doesn’t know personally), participated in the march on Washington and, what’s more important/apropos to what the adults in the room are actually discussing, that he was one of the lead organizers of a sit-in against segregated housing within Chicago University. Which he absolutely was and which the recently released photos, despite the smear from Clintonite propagandists/journalists, indisputably demonstrate. I mean, do try to keep up.

    But maybe you’re right… Who cares what Sanders did in Chicago? Who cares about segregated housing, am I right?! Certainly not you, evidently. Let’s focus more on Hillary. I bet she was doing wonderful things in the early 1960s… *cough* campaigning for anti-civil rights Republican, Barry Goldwater *cough*

  23. Peter says:

    Sorry, take some aspirins if the Bern overwhelm you.

  24. Ernest Canning says:

    At the time these photos were taken of Bernie Sanders, then the President of the University of Chicago branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, Hillary Clinton was in high school, where she became a Young Republican and “Goldwater Girl.” For those who, unlike myself, are not old enough to remember, in 1964 Goldwater supporters were considered to be right-wing extremists. Back then Hillary bought into an early version of the GOP big lie (“voter fraud”). Instances of in-person voter impersonation (the only type of voter fraud that can be prevented by disenfranchising Photo ID laws) are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Yet there was young Hillary checking “voter registration lists against addresses to find voter fraud.”

  25. JW says:

    Wait … WHAT?

    “SNCC was formed by college youth skillfully guided by Dr. King’s SCLC, but some in the white liberal community soon attempted to use it as a weapon to spread their own ‘more acceptable’ political ideas throughout the South via the genuine ‘grass roots’ Black Movement. That’s why Sanders was officially purged from SNCC with a host of several hundred other white radicals”

    Kind of ironic that whoever wrote this bizarre comment decided to call themselves Malcom X. Bernie was a member of CORE not SNCC. And CORE was the Civil Rights group most closely associated with BLACK NATIONALISTS. When they split with SNCC it was over the fact that SNCC abandoned the push to desegregate Chicago schools. So SNCC was taking the more moderate road more acceptable to white northern liberals. And CORE was standing up for school desegregation as well as housing desegregation.

    In a larger sense, if you can accuse Bernie and most CORE members of any real sin against SNCC, it would be shifting their support Malcolm X and the black nationalists over the course of the mid-1960s rather than sticking to King’s more moderate nonviolent and integrationist legacy. That might be a whole other electability problem for Bernie — especially given the over the top national freak out over Beyonce’s Superbowl halftime show! But trying to water down Civil Rights for white reactionaries is definitely not something I think CORE can be accused of doing. And even in the case of Bernie personally … if he has done anything over the years to tweak his Civil Rights record it is that he has downplayed his support for Malcolm X and the black nationalists.

    Apropos of this … I thought Erica Garner’s ad for Bernie was beyond awesome. And my favorite thing about it was that she actually cites Malcolm X by name as a personal hero. When I saw that I was like “Go Bernie!” Any white politician in this country who is willing to POSITIVELY mention Malcolm X in a campaign ad is a politician I’m willing to vote for. Bernie may not be perfect on race issues. He’s like a hundred years old after all. But that ad alone tells you that he’s miles ahead of most white people in this country. And equally important it tells you that he doesn’t give a flying @#% what anyone thinks of him or whether his positions make him “unelectable.” He says what he says and let the chips fall where they may.

    So Go Bernie! And Go Beyonce! And while we’re on this topic … is that Erica Garner ad possibly a subtle hint that electing Bernie Sanders might mean a Presidential pardon for Abdul-Jamal Mumia? I REALLY want to see someone ask THAT debate question!!

  26. Cheryl Bolden says:

    This is interesting. Did I miss the sound bite where he addresses the photo on the bridge? I have been a member of the democratic party since 1972 when I first registered to vote. It is comforting that someone with so much history in civil rights has finally decided to join the party as well.

  27. […] source : […]

  28. steve says:

    Just want to clarify that Bernie did not lead the first sit-in in the North. In 1955 students from Morgan State College worked with CORE and lead a lunch counter sit at the Read’s drugstore in Baltimore City which was followed by others.

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