The Civil Rights Movement

1955-1968

After the Civil War, African Americans were still being discriminated because of their skin color. The South wanted to restrict African American’s freedom. As a result, the southern state passed laws like the Jim Crow Laws in order to keep African Americans and white people segregated. Several citizens believed that the Jim Crows Laws weren't fair, and they began to protest non-violent. However, other people who opposed civil rights for blacks used violence against them during the peaceful protests. People were killed, their houses were burned down, they were sprayed with hoses by police, threatened by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), etc. In the end, African Americans gained their civil rights, and several laws were put in place to limit segregation. Even though the discrimination diminished, African Americans still face discrimination and racism today.

Important People

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.- Civil Rights activist, led the March on Washington, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Spoke the "I Have a Dream" speech, and got assassinated by James Earl Ray. Used civil disobedience or non- violent protests.

James Earl Ray- Assassinated Martin Luther King Jr.

Rosa Parks- Sat on the bus in the "Colored Only" section, and got arrested for standing up for civil rights.

Ruby Bridges- First African American girl to go to a white school. Civil Rights activist.

Freedom Riders- Civil Rights activist group that tested the Jim Crow Laws in the South.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK)- white extremist group that HATED African Americans, and used violence against them.

Dwight D. Eisenhower- Sent guards to protect African Americans while they entered a white school called Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

John F. Kennedy(JFK)- Sent guards twice to protect African Americans while they were trying to integrate schools or make groups of people equal.

Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ)- Signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Causes of the Civil Rights Movement

1. Jim Crow Laws were laws that segregated African Americans and whites.

2. After Reconstruction, African Americans still faced discrimination as well as racism, and were treated badly.

3. In 1896, the Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Ferguson declared "separate but equal". This meant that as long as blacks and whites were separate it was equal (but it really wasn't).


NAACP Forms

Before the Civil Rights Movement, an organization called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) formed in 1909. This organization fights for equality for African Americans, and was founded by W.E.B. Dubois.

Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

In the South, schools were segregated which prevented blacks and whites from going to school together. As a result, many blacks purposely went to a white school to challenge the law which led to the Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954. It all started when Brown's daughter Linda Brown went to an all-white school, even though she was black. The prosecution used the argument that she couldn't go to a white school, because of the color of her skin. However, a man who was a member of the NAACP named Thurgood Marshall declared that segregation is a violation of the 14th Amendment (which is everyone born in America is an American citizen, and outlaws discrimination based on race), and it overturned the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision.


Newspaper that came out after the Brown vs. the Board of Education court case

Ruby Bridges

As you already know, public areas in the South were segregated but one brave young girl took the step of attending an all-white school. In 1954, a black elementary student named Ruby Bridges went to an all-white school. When she entered the school every day, white people were standing on the sidelines, and said nasty things to her. However, she had the National Guard to protect her, but never once did Ruby Bridges cry because of what the white people were saying. Once she entered the school, parents started to pull their kids out, because they didn't want their kids going to school with an African American. Over time, people started to realize how silly the Jim Crow Laws were. As a result, parents started to enroll their kids back into the school that Ruby attended. She then started to make new friends in her class, and her story still inspires people today. Ruby became the first African American girl to enter a white school as well.

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

In school you were probably taught that Rosa Parks got on the bus because she was tried from work, and she sat in the whites only section on the bus. However, that version of the story is a myth. During the Civil Rights Movement, people were assigned to sit in a certain section on the bus. White people were only allowed to sit at the front, and African Americans were only allowed to sit in the back of the bus. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks came out of work to ride the bus home. When the bus pulled up, she paid her fine and went to the back of the bus. Then, she sat in the "blacks only" section. By law, blacks had to give up their seats to white people if all of the seats were filled. Three white people came on the bus, and the bus driver moved the rope that separated the two sections back one row, so the seats that were in the "blacks only" section were now in the "whites only section". The driver then told Parks to get up, but she refused to move her seat. As a result, she was then arrested, and sent to jail even though she stood up for equality. Parks wasn't really tried from work like people think, she was tired of the segregation. After Parks was arrested, a man named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott in order to nonviolently protest against the segregation that existed on the buses. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was an act of civil disobedience or non-violent protest which is what Dr. King believed in. Instead of taking the bus, people rode in cabs, walked, car pooled, etc. The boycott went on for 381 days, which resulted in the bus companies losing lots of money. Soon, the bus companies let people sit where they wanted to on the bus, and people didn't have to sit in a designated section.

Rosa Parks arrest

Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. led several black and white people on a march to Washington in order to get the government to pass equal rights legislation. The March on Washington was an act of civil disobedience as well. During the March on Washington, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and spoke his "I Have a Dream" speech. In the speech, King said that his wish is for all people to be treated equally.






March on Washington

Martin Luther King spoke his "I Have a Dream" speech

The Freedom Riders and Little Rock Nine

After Brown vs. Board of Education, some black high school students decided to enter an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. When the African American students went into the school, some ended up getting murdered by the police. After this happened, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was outraged that this happened, and he sent the National Guard to protect the students when they entered the school again. After this, some black people decided to form certain groups in order to protest, and test the Jim Crow Laws non-violently (civil disobedience). Groups like the Freedom Riders participated in sit-ins, marches, etc. in the "Deep South" (states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, the Carolina's, and Tennessee) in order to protest the law. During the sit-ins, the Freedom Riders would sit at a "whites only" counter in a restaurant. As a result, several people from the group would get beaten, or even killed. However, the Freedom Riders would continue to stand up for equality, and continue to face violence. Then, in 1961 the organization rode their bus to Alabama where some white people exploded their bus killing several African Americans.

The Freedom Rider's bus got bombed by white people

Little Rock Nine

The Violence of the KKK

This section explores four different cases where the Ku Klux Klan assassinated people who were killed either because they were helping defeat segregation, or because of skin color.

Emmett Till

Emmett Till bragged about the north's freedoms, and showed pictures of white girls to his friends. Then, he was dared by his friends to go and flirt with Carolyn Bryant who was working in a store. Till then went into the store where he inappropriately touched and whistled at her. Later that night, Bryant's half-brother and husband who were members of the KKK kidnapped Till, and the murders beat and shot him. After the murder, the two men took Till's body and threw it into a river. In the end, both men were acquitted by an all-white jury.

Emmett Till

Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers was an NAACP field secretary who received several death threats while living in Jackson, Mississippi. One night, while coming back from an NAACP meeting the KKK murdered him in his driveway. After the murder, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Medgar Evers

16th St. Baptist Church Bombing

In the early morning of September 15, 1963, a few members of the KKK pulled a car up to the 16th St. Baptist Church where they placed a bomb behind the exterior staircase. Then, at 10:19am five girls were straightening their clothes when suddenly the bomb killed four of them. After, the FBI looked into the case and declared that their were five potential suspects, but the director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover said that the case wasn't worth looking into. As a result, the case was closed, but reopened again in 1977. The case ended with all of the men going to jail.

The Victims of the bombing

Viola Liuzzo

Viola Liuzzo was a civil rights activist who drove from her home in Detroit, Michigan to Selma, Alabama in order to help organize the March on Selma. One night she drove four African Americans back from Selma, and the KKK shot Liuzzo from a car. The suspects who shot her were finally caught by the FBI and sent to trial. Viola Liuzzo's murder encouraged President Lyndon B. Johnson to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Selma and the Assassination

King led several people from Selma, Alabama across the bridge to Montgomery in order to protest equal voting rights in March 1965. However, the Alabama police force were waiting for the protesters at the bridge, and they didn't want African Americans to gain voting rights. Once the protesters showed up at the bridge, the police force used violence against them which resulted in the protesters retreating back to Selma. In the end, the protesters crossed the bridge, and made it into Montgomery. Then, in August of 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Years later however, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968. Ray had deep hatred for King, and he (Ray) didn't want African Americans and whites to be treated equally. Many people were sad that a great leader was assassinated, but to this day Dr. King is a role model to several people across the American continent.

The Government Steps In

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which declared discrimination based on race is illegal. After that, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The Voting Rights Act said that no one can be denied the right to vote based on skin color. Also, the 24th Amendment was ratified in 1964 which declared poll taxes illegal.