The Civil Rights Movement

The Movement

Brown vs. Board of Education: The supreme court decided that "separate but equal" facilities was not constitutional, rejection its prior decision in the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision. A combination of black efforts to overturn segregation and change in supreme court ideals led to the decision. Black lawyers from the NAACP (Thurgood Marshall, William Hastie, and James Nabrit among others) worked for decades to free blacks from white oppression.

Topeka: A young African American girl lived right next to an all-white school and had to travel miles to reach her own elementary school. The case reach the Supreme Court who looked at it very carefully. They had to try and understand the history, sociology, and psychology of what was happening. The Supreme Court declared that the "separate but equal" schools were harming those affected by them.
Little Rock
Little Rock

Many communities complied easily and quickly to the decisions of the Supreme Court. Others, however, posed a problem... In the south, they referred to disobeying the Supreme Court's ruling in both of the aforementioned cases as Massive Resistance. Some delayed responding, others ignored the ruling altogether. More than 100 southern members of congress signed a manifesto denouncing the Brown decision.

Little Rock: After the government ordered the desegregation of schools in Arkansas, an angry mob of white people blocked the entrance to all colored peoples. The governor refused to do anything about this. Eisenhower eventually responded by sending troops to Little Rock to restore order and ensure that court rulings would be obeyed.

Rosa Parks: She was arrested in Montgomery
Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. She had, spontaneously so it seemed, decided to refuse the order. Later, she explained that her feet were simply tired. This proved very helpful in assisting black leaders rouse attention about the civil rights movement and move forward by gaining desegregation in public transportation.

Montgomery Bus Boycott: The last "straw" for black Americans was Rosa Parks arrest. They had been planning a bus boycott for sometime and Rosa Park's arrest only sped up their plans. Rosa Parks became their symbol. It boycott was mostly effective. Black citizens organized carpools, biked, and walked to work. Basically, they avoided all public transportation. A Supreme Court decision saved the boycott as it was beginning to deteriorate: segregated public transportation was illegal. This boycott was also important because it proved to black people that a peaceful war could be fought and won.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Was a local baptist pastor and son of a prominent Atlanta minister chosen to lead the boycott movement. He was a powerful oral speaker and a talented leader. In the beginning, King was not eager to be responsible for the civil rights movement, but over time he accepted the role as leader. King preached nonviolence (otherwise known as passive resistance). He drew ideas from Gandhi, Henry
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
David Thoreau (doctrine of civil disobedience), and the Christian Doctrine.

This era of change, with Martin Luther King, Jr. as leader of the black citizens, was known as the "Second Reconstruction."


Legacy of World War II: Because of the multitude of black men and women who served in the military or worked in war plants, this played a large role in the Civil Rights Movement. During **WWII**, blacks saw their possible role in society, and after the war ended, they, like women, did not want to lose that freedom.

Urban Black Middle Class: This class had been developing for a long time, but began to gain more power in the postwar era. The ideas for the movement often came from the people in this forming class (ministers, educators, professionals). The movement was also influenced by black college and university students.

Culture: The invention of the television constantly reminded black citizens of the way white Americans lived. Also, the news, which was spread through popular television and radios, enlightened other communities of the black citizens peacefully revolting. This inspired hope and determination in other black communities and led to a larger, nation wide passive resistance.

The Cold War: This caused white Americans to support the movement because they wanted their country to be the "ideal" nation, and racial segregation embarrassed them.

Democrats v. Republicans: As black citizens gained more power, they also began to vote more often and became a very prominent part of the Democratic Party. This became very influential in convincing democratic citizens to support the Civil Rights movement.