The Civil Rights Act And Economic Inequality: WYSO’s Lewis Wallace Looks Back With Jessie O. Gooding

Jan 23, 2014

Jessie O. Gooding in his home in Jefferson Township.
Credit Lewis Wallace / WYSO

This year marks the 50-year anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed race and sex discrimination in employment and public facilities.

And a lot of people are asking: what has changed?

“Dayton has changed tremendously as far as where we were,” says Jessie O. Gooding of Jefferson Township. “We haven’t achieved the total goal.”

Gooding, age 87, has the long view: in the 60s he organized protests against racism in local businesses, and later he headed the NAACP in Dayton for nearly 20 years and sat on Jefferson Township’s Board of Trustees.

WYSO first talked to Gooding in November for a story about a "banking desert" created in West Dayton after PNC bank closed its last branch in that area.

He says when he first started organizing with the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE), discrimination in Dayton’s movie theaters, hotels and restaurants was still open, and most black people who could get jobs with the schools or the federal government worked as janitors or in other menial jobs.

“When I came to Dayton, there was one place you could eat downtown—white folks sat on one level, black folks sat on another level,” he says. Gooding himself struggled to get a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where he eventually worked as a chemist for nearly three decades.

Gooding met Martin Luther King Jr. three times back in the day, led a group from Dayton to Washington for MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963, and worked to calm the riots after MLK was shot in 1968. Today, he says, economic inequality is still a problem, one that can only be fought through both cooperation and agitation.

Under Construction is WYSO’s series on growth in the greater Dayton area. We dig underneath the physical and economic markers of growth to look at the human consequences. Check back Thursdays for new installments.