Civil rights campaigns, to 1968

Civil rights campaigns, to 1968

Rise of the Civil Rights Movement

  • The Civil Rights Movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s for black Americans to gain equal rights under the law.
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) played a significant role in the Civil Rights movement, organising protests and lobbying for legislation.
  • Brown v Board of Education (1954) was a landmark case; NAACP lawyers argued racial segregation was fundamentally unequal, leading the Supreme Court to declare racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional.

Major Events and Campaigns

  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56), led by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., protested the bus system’s racial segregation and led to its end.
  • The Little Rock Nine (1957) tested the implementation of public school desegregation, where nine black students were enrolled at an all-white school, causing a national crisis.
  • Sit-ins (1960 onwards) successfully protested segregation in public venues, starting with a lunch-counter demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina.
  • Freedom Rides (1961) were bus trips taken through the South to protest segregation on interstate bus lines, encountering violent resistance.
  • The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, was a major moment urging the passage of civil rights legislation.
  • Selma to Montgomery marches (1965) were three protest marches promoting black American voting rights that marked the political and emotional peak of the Civil Rights Movement.

Legislative Successes

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin in employment practices and ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed at overcoming legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented black Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment.
  • The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, or sex.

Key Figures

  • Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as the face of the Civil Rights Movement, advocating for nonviolent protest inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Rosa Parks’ refusal to give her seat to a white passenger prompted the Montgomery Bus Boycott and made her an icon of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Malcolm X, unlike King, advocated self-defense and the liberation of black Americans “by any means necessary” and was a prominent figure within the Nation of Islam.

Impact on Society

  • These campaigns and key figures significantly shifted public opinion in favour of civil rights by the mid-1960s.
  • Civil rights campaigns led to significant legal and societal changes, particularly with acts banning segregation and discrimination.
  • However, the struggle for equality and the backlash against these changes also led to more radical movements in the late 1960s and further civil rights issues that would continue beyond 1968.