Since World War II ended, there has been significant activity by groups who have been excluded from opportunities and/or rights to achieve recognition and protection for those opportunities and rights. Opposition to these civil rights movements has often been couched in terms of "Real Americans" and false claims of "outside agitators." In what ways were some of these movements continuations of the fights for inclusion seen before World War II? In what ways were they new?

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Two ways that civil rights movements in the United States after World War II continued pre-war fights for inclusion were through attention to public institutions and to voting in regard to both race and gender.

Access to schools became a focal point in the fight for equal access to public institutions in the 1950s. A turning point for this issue was the landmark United States Supreme Court 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled against the “separate but equal” concept. Before 1940, however, numerous cases had highlighted unequal treatment of Black Americans; these cases were often handled by the Legal Department of the NAACP. In the 1936 Murray v. Maryland case, Thurgood Marshall successfully argued against racial discrimination by the University of Maryland Law School.

The 1869 passage of the Fifteenth Amendment confirmed Black men’s right to vote but still denied that right to all women. The Nineteenth Amendment, ratified in 1920, recognized women’s right to vote. Numerous obstacles to voting remained, however, such as the poll tax, which was abolished in 1964 under the Twenty-Fourth Amendment.

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