What were the goals, strategies, and impact of the 1950s civil rights movement?

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The civil rights movement spearheaded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. campaigned for equal rights for black people. A chief goal was to achieve these rights in a short period of time, because, as King noted, black people had been waiting a century for equality and felt the time was now.

Beyond the generalized goal of achieving equality with white people, the movement had targeted goals, such as the ability to vote in the south without the restrictions put in place that prevented black people from exercising their voting rights. Another goal was the integration of public places, such as restaurants, lunch counters, buses, restrooms, and pools.

The chief strategy used was nonviolent disobedience. King placed emphasis on peaceful protest and had his protesters trained in Mahatma Gandhi's techniques of nonviolent resistance. For example, before the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, volunteers role-played so that they would be prepared not to respond violently to ridicule, insults, having drinks or catsup poured over their heads, being spat on, and even being hit, punched, kicked, or suffering other forms of attack.

Garnering publicity was also an important part of King's strategy. He wanted the public at large, especially white people, to know what black people were trying to achieve. He also wrote persuasively to encourage white people not to sit on the sidelines but to actively and vocally support the movement.

King's strategies were successful. Public sympathy for the civil rights movement grew, and by the 1960s it had achieved most of its preliminary goals in terms of legal reforms to protect voting rights and end segregation. Unfortunately, however, the changing of hearts has remained a more elusive problem.

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