Demonstrations, debates, boycotts, legislation, and litigation that attempted to secure the political, social, and economic rights of African Americans and all other U.S. citizens.
In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Civil Rights movement led by African Americans was most effective in altering the politics, culture, and mores of American society. The movement is often regarded as beginning with Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a Supreme Court decision that struck down racially segregated education; however, its roots can be traced back to the post-Civil War era.
The Civil War
The Civil Rights movement that began in the mid-1950’s differed from earlier civil rights efforts in that its successes had far more lasting consequences. Its approach to the problem of a lack of rights was multifaceted, including legal challenges, economic boycotts, political empowerment, and even efforts to influence the arts and media. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Three events between the years 1954 and 1960 shaped the Civil Rights movement. The first was the historical Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education
The second critical event was the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott.
The third event was a series of demonstrations that began in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, when black students from a local historically black university participated in a sit-in demonstration in which they occupied seats at a local segregated lunch counter and refused to leave until they were served. The sit-in
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People holds a civil rights demonstration outside the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1964.
The Court continued to expand its definition of state action to include what had been thought of as private conduct through most of the 1960’s. For example, in Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority
By the mid-1960’s, groups within the Civil Rights movement, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), began to question the fundamental strategies of more traditional groups, including the NAACP’s emphasis on litigation and nonviolence. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 also changed the movement’s focus. SNCC, CORE, and other groups debated the value of nonviolence as a tactic, argued about whether blacks and whites should be working together in the Civil Rights movement, and asked whether the movement should be attempting reform or revolution. In the second half of the 1960’s, some African American civil rights leaders began talking about “black power,” the achievement of rights for blacks by blacks within the American sociopolitical system.
By the mid-1970’s, the Civil Rights movement had largely ended, although many African Americans continued to work to improve their status and safeguard their civil rights. The focus and emphasis of these efforts changed, however. The first African American mayor of Atlanta claimed that politics were the substitute for civil rights activism. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, by contrast, claimed that ownership and managerial power in the economy was the substitute. The Civil Rights movement was successful in gaining political and economic rights for African Americans, opening public facilities to them, and influencing American culture through the arts and the media. After it ended, however, an increasing gap emerged between those African Americans who had succeeded in the economy and those who remained part of an underclass. The movement, although it ended legal segregation and overt discrimination, could not eliminate all prejudice and discrimination, nor could it address all the social and economic needs of African Americans.
Belfrage, Sally. Freedom Summer. New York: New York University Press, 1965. Boxill, Bernard. Blacks and Social Justice. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Allanheld, 1984. Broderick, Francis L. W. E. B. Du Bois: Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis. Reprint. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1966. Carnoy, Martin. Faded Dreams: The Politics and Economics of Race in America. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Cashman, Sean Dennis. African Americans and the Quest for Civil Rights, 1900-1990. New York: New York University Press, 1991. Feagin, Joe R., and Melvin P. Sikes. Living with Racism: The Black Middle-Class Experience. Boston: Beacon Press, 1991. Friedman, Leon, ed. Brown v. Board: The Landmark Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court. New York: New Press, 2004. Horwitz, Morton J. The Warren Court and the Pursuit of Justice. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998. Klarman, Michael J. From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Patterson, James T. “Brown v. Board of Education”: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Brown v. Board of Education
Civil Rights Acts
Legal Defense Fund, NAACP
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Button
Race and discrimination
School integration and busing
Separate but equal doctrine
Vote, right to