The Seattle chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) emerged as one of the most significant grass roots organizations in the fight for civil rights in the Pacific Northwest. Established in 1961, the Seattle chapter embodied the non-violent principles of the national organization which had been founded in Chicago in 1942. Multi-racial in composition, the Seattle chapter established a reputation for being one of CORE’s most active by the early 1960s. Best known for its organized protests against Seattle employers who engaged in racial discrimination, the Seattle chapter also worked to end discrimination towards African Americans in housing and education in the Greater Seattle area.
Several people, both black and white contributed significantly to the founding of Seattle’s chapter of CORE. Among the most important were Ken Rose, Ed and Joan Singler, and Ray Cooper whose participation in the Freedom Rides of 1961 helped inspire many others to join the organization. Ray Williams served as the first chair of CORE and Don Matson provided significant leadership. Harold “Tim” Martin played a key role along with Reginald Alleyne, Jr.
Beginning in October, 1961, the Seattle chapter began “selective buying” campaigns against various supermarkets in the city including Safeway and the A & P. Black patrons were encouraged not to shop where they could not be employed. One of the most effective tactics was the “shop-in” where protesters would take all the shopping carts, fill them, have the cashier ring them up, and then refuse to pay. By 1962, CORE shifted its focus to the downtown department stores. Jean Durning and Reverend Mance Jackson led efforts to integrate the Bon Marche. Soon to follow were efforts against Nordstroms, and J.C. Penney. Picketing was often used as a tactic. By the end of 1963, it was estimated that African Americans had been hired into more than 250 white-collar positions. Based on these gains the Seattle chapter was considered one of the most successful in the country. The