June 1961 – Nurses, Freedom Riders and Jet Magazine – Sepia Saturday #180

Nursing students Sylvia and Jacqui Vincent, my 2nd cousins once removed, appeared on the cover of the June 15, 1961 issue of JET magazine.  After reading the article about my cousins I noticed the many short articles about the Freedom Rides that appeared throughout the magazine. The first  Freedom Ride took place on May 4, 1961, just a few weeks before this issue. Integrated groups boarded two buses in the north with plans to defy the segregated seating on the buses and the segregated waiting rooms when they got to the south.  They met violence as they entered Alabama. They were beaten and the bus was set on fire. I found the following horrifying description of that first ride in this article Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961.

My 2nd cousins once removed. Their grandmother was my great grandmother's sister - daughters of Eliza and Dock Allen.
My 2nd cousins once removed. Their grandmother was my great grandmother’s sister – daughters of Eliza and Dock Allen.

jacqui_jet_nursingJohnson Publishing Company’s web page describes JET Magazine   as follows:

JET is the No. 1 African-American newsweekly and has more than 7 million readers. As Editor-in-Chief of the magazine and its website, JETmag.com, Mitzi Miller continues the legacy of serving credible and entertaining information to the Black community.

Initially billed as “The Weekly Negro News Magazine”, JET is noted for its role in chronicling the early days of the American Civil Rights movement from its earliest years, including coverage of the Emmett Till murder, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Our wedding announcement section “Black Love” and “Beauty of the Week” are a long-standing traditions in JET magazine.

The publication has been a staple in homes and businesses of Black Americans since 1951, bringing life to its popular catchphrase: “If it isn’t in JET, it didn’t happen.” JET is the beloved bible of America Americans and ranks number 4 in reader engagement.

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19 thoughts on “June 1961 – Nurses, Freedom Riders and Jet Magazine – Sepia Saturday #180

  1. You really do have a magnificent family archive. Now I don’t feel so embarrassed about keeping every last newspaper cutting with a family mention.

  2. Kristin, after reading the “Get on the Bus” link, I am lost for words. Disgusting and horrifying at the same time. The bravery and courage of those freedom riders is amazing.

    1. It’s just amazing to me that there was no one who went out and just started blowing up the white waiting rooms and other segregated places. No one went in and just shot the places up.

  3. Your cousins’ comments about the advantages of a nursing career echo the sentiments of many of my former students who were majoring in nursing — the same appeal 50 years later!

  4. Ahhh, yes. The Jet.

    Your cousins are beautiful. How wonderful to have that record.

  5. Hi Kristin

    You’ve matched the meme perfectly this week and what a story. I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of JET so thanks for enlightening me. The freedom riders stories are so scary and, you’re right, horrific.

  6. An interesting read about the Freedom Rides Kristin and a wonderful newsclip about your nursing cousins.

  7. Kristin, did you read that issue of Jet at the time or have you been reading these old issues only recently? Did your family subscribe to JET? Funny that your cousins are the front-page feature and the freedom rides get the small print. Perhaps, being the first freedom right, it was too soon to know how important that movement was going to be. In general, what was JET’s stance toward the civil disobedience and militancy of the civil rights movement? I too love old magazines. So much to pore over, down to the advertisements. Did you save lots of back issues, or only ones with mentions of your relatives in them?

    1. I put a link to that issue of Jet. It was two weeks after the first rides and there were lots of articles about the affects. I don’t know if I read that issue of Jet at the time. My mother didn’t subscribe to it but my father did and my paternal grandmother had copies at her house too, so I saw it around all the time. I read about the Freedom Rides and there was lots of talk about them, I’m not sure if I read about it in Jet though. If I did, I didn’t know that the nurses were my cousins. They were on the maternal side of the family so my mother would have realized it.

      I don’t know of any black publications of the time who weren’t behind the sit-ins, freedom rides, voter registration etc. and thought the government should do more to both protect the activists. If you look at the link above, there aren’t just articles about the freedom rides but about all sorts of civil rights happenings.

      I didn’t have this copy. I must admit I didn’t save any Jets. When I was asking my cousin for a photo of her as a nurse for a collage of medical people in the family, her son sent me a digital copy of the cover. I found the rest of the magazine online.

      Aside from civil rights issues and other race news, Jet also had a center fold of a shapely black woman wearing a bathing suit, they had bits about weird happenings in the black community- I remember a short about a man being buried in his flashy car.

      1. I hadn’t read the issue yet when I wrote my comment; now I have. Fascinating coverage–something for everyone; I see that a large part of the inside of the issue was taken up with wide-ranging coverage of civil rights struggles of all kinds and across society (despite the “pretty nurses” on the cover). I knew about Jet but didn’t know what its political stance would have been at the time. I’d always thought of it as rather apolitical. But of course the movement for civil rights must have had the support of the whole of black society; (Perhaps the existence ultra-right wing African Americans courted by the Republican Party is a relatively new phenomenon?) and the freedom riders were entirely peaceful. The strategic approach of this issue seemed to be a pragmatic, all-American one: that segregation is bad for business. I like the magazine’s sense of humor (man’s life saved due to a bullet being deflected by his arm while he was picking his teeth!). I even like the centerfold: she’s so pretty and wholesome.

        1. Yes, the whole community, across generations and income, was behind the movement. I remember watching an antiwar demonstration outside of a business on campus. The students were picketing peacefully outside while the adult workers hollored insults down on them. I thought at the time that this wouldn’t happen if black youth were picketing. Of course there was criticism of tactics, more so as time went on, but the goal of respect and equal rights was pretty much universally supported.

  8. “Jet” was new to me, too, so thank you for throwing this light on the civil rights movement , with these lovely images.

  9. Ah, those uniforms!!
    I remember when I started working there in the 1980s
    that there was a woman still wearing her coiffe.
    Even her hairstyle was retro…

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