The Struggle for Black Equality 1954-1980 Questions and Answers
by Harvard Sitkoff

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What were some of the main ways the struggle for equality was different in the North compared to the South?

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A common belief about the Civil Rights Movement, which has been encouraged by some published recollections, is that black people were freer in the North. Though it is true that black Northerners did not typically face the mortal threats that existed in the South, were able to use the same public accommodations and services as whites, and generally allowed to vote without any obstruction, many black Northerners would not exactly have described their lives as "free" during the 1950s and 1960s.

In the South, black people lived under a legal system of segregation referred to as Jim Crow. This required black people to use separate public facilities and to attend separate schools. Blacks who were deemed "insubordinate" to whites—an accusation that could have been levied against any black person who looked a white person in the eye when speaking to them, or for a black man who did not cross the street when a white woman passed on a sidewalk—could be lynched or beaten.

However, black and...

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