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New Pictures Emerge of Bernie Sanders’ Civil Rights Activism

Bernie Sanders Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans

Bernie Sanders Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans


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 Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans

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 Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans

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.  WaPo Opinion spreader Jonathan Capehart, for example, who hadn’t been born when Lyon snapped them, claims the pictures are of someone else.  He even wrote a story about it this morning.

**UPDATE: Capehart continued his attack on Sanders nonstop for several days, Tweeting one story he’d written 30 times in 12 hours, even appearing on MSNBC (video below) to cast doubt about Sanders’ identity in one particular photo (which University of Chicago had themselves labeled as Sanders since it was taken in 1963). Importantly, this came at a pivotal time in the campaign, when Clinton and her supporters were using questionable tactics to discredit Sanders to win over minority voters.

After we and others called him out, Capehart didn’t appear on MSNBC for nearly two months, but it didn’t matter much, as he’d done his job by planting seeds of doubt in national publications and on national TV.

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.”

Bernie Sanders Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans

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.

Bernie Sanders Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans

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

Bernie Sanders Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans

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

Bernie Sanders Civil Rights University of Chicago Tyson Manker Veterans

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.


***UPDATE: Days later, more photos were released by Chicago Tribune of Bernie Sanders being arrested and dragged off by police during a chaotic Civil Rights demonstration in 1963. At that point, Clinton supporters and pundits stopped spreading misinformation about Sanders’ noble Civil Rights activism, although individuals like WaPo opinion spreader Jonathan Capehart, one of the smear campaign leaders, never retracted their calculated lies much less credited Sanders for being the first Presidential candidate with an arrest record for protesting racial segregation.


Tyson Manker is a former combat marine, attorney, college professor. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.