Many factors, both great and small, contributed to the success of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Small but significant factors include the decision of popular entertainers to advocate for civil rights. Though we often like to pretend these days that we do not care what the famous think, the role of those whom we elevate to such a status is key in forming popular culture. This may have been more true in the early 1960s, when the influence of such people became more ubiquitous as a result of television.
The Beatles famously refused to play to a segregated audience in Jacksonville, Florida, on September 11, 1964. Numerous figures from the entertainment world, such as Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, and Paul Newman, participated in the March on Washington—a huge, televised event. Politicians, including the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson, also enlisted the support of black entertainers, such as Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier, to promote civil rights and even to provide suggestions on how to proceed. Through the popularity of black music, such as rock-and-roll, and Poitier's 1962 win as Best Actor at the Academy Awards, black entertainers were becoming more visible, and some used their cultural capital to speak out on behalf of civil rights.
Lastly, in relation to the previous educator's comment about World War II, it is very possible that some U.S. soldiers' encounters with the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe presented them with the hypocrisy of condemning systemic dehumanization in Europe while being indifferent toward it at home. The murder of Emmett Till in 1955 made this inconsistency very clear. Till, a fifteen-year-old Chicago native, was dragged from the home of a relative he was visiting in Money, Mississippi, and tortured, shot, and dumped into a river for supposedly whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a local white woman. Toward the end of her life, Bryant admitted that she had lied.
Mamie Till, Emmett's mother, insisted on allowing news photographers at the funeral to take photos of his disfigured body. The photos were circulated throughout the world. For the USSR, they were instrumental in disproving the nobility of American democracy. Shortly after Till's murder in August 1955 and the acquittal of his killers in September, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began in December 1955. The Civil Rights Movement maintained a steady progression from this time.