Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights MovementBy: Anna Grace Bankhead

The Civil Rights Movement took place from 1954 to 1963. It was a nonviolent protest for racial equality. African Americans were protesting against racial segregation in the south. The following contains information about the purpose of the Movement, influential leaders, protests, important dates, and effects of the Movement. ( movement )
A protest for civil rights
A protest for civil rights

The purpose for the Civil Rights Movement was to gain racial equality between blacks and whites. There was segregation throughout the country. There were separate drinking fountains, schools, and much more for blacks and whites. Also, on buses, whites were allowed to sit at the front of the bus while blacks were forced to sit at the back. These segregation issues sparked many protests that aimed to gain racial equality.

There were many people that were very influential in the Civil Rights Movement. Two of the most widely known were Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

  • Rosa Parks is known as the woman that inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks, a black woman, seated herself in one of the seats at the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. When a white man told her to move to the back, she refused to give up her seat. This act of rebellion led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Supporters of equality joined the protest and agreed not to use any of the buses. The bus company lost 65% of its income. Eight months later, the Supreme Court declared that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery
Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was probably the most influential leader during the Civil Rights Movement. He organized many nonviolent protests and, also, spoke to the public his point-of-view concerning the racial inequality that was taking place. One of his most famous speeches was his “I Have A Dream” speech. He followed the “techniques” of Mohandas Ghandi, who believed in nonviolent civil disobedience. Martin Luther King Jr. was a very strong influence for many African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

Here are a few protests that took place during the Civil Rights Movement:

  • 1960 Sit-in Campaigns: At a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, the first sit-in was organized. After Joseph McNeill was refused service, he returned the next day, along with three of his classmates to sit at the counter until they were served. They were still refused service, so they returned each day. The New York Times began to report on the sit-ins and many other blacks, along with whites, began protests like this.
  • 1961 Freedom Rides: Many protests began throughout the country to desegregate bus terminals. Blacks and whites chose to sat where they pleased. They frequently encountered violence from those who didn’t agree with their decision, but they continued to protest.

  • 1954 Brown vs. Board: In the early 1950's, segregation in schools was widely accepted and legal in many states. In 1952, however, the Supreme Court agreed to hear numerous cases on the segregation of schools, including the case of Oliver Brown vs. the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas. Finally, in 1954, segregation of schools was determined to be unconstitutional.
  • 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • 1957 Desegregation in Little Rock: A high school in Little Rock, Arkansas was going to begin the school year desegregated. On the first day of school, nine black students arrived ready to begin attending Little Rock Central High School, but were prevented from entering the building due to different causes. Nearly a month later, President Eisenhower sent "1,000 paratroopers and 10,000 National Guardsmen" to Little Rock, and the school, at last, became desegregated.
  • 1960 Sit-in Campaigns
  • 1961 Freedom Rides
  • 1962 University of Mississippi Riot: James Meredith was to be the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. He was escorted to the campus by Federal Marshals under the order of President Kennedy. A riot broke out and two students were killed.
For more information on these events, click on these links:
Civil Rights Timeline

The “efforts” of the movement peaked in “a march on Washington, D.C., in 1963“. John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Lyndon B. Johnson became president. Johnson convinced Congress to “pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964“. The passing of the “Voting Rights Act” followed in 1965. Beginning the next year, many supporters withdrew from the movement. The “Black Panther Party” was formed; there were riots in “black ghettos”, and Martin Luther King was assassinated. In later years, leaders sought control through “elective office”, as well as through “substantive economic and educational gains through affirmative action”. ( )


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