Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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What was the civil rights movement?

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The Civil Rights Movement was a collective effort toward social justice for African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. African Americans sought the same rights as white citizens. Many people credit Rosa Parks's refusal to sit in the back of the bus as the beginning of the civil rights movement. As a result, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, the MIA led a boycott of the bus system in Montgomery.

Another central event of the civil rights movement was the desegregation of schools due to the findings of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1957, in an effort to desegregate public schools, nine black students attempted to attend a whites-only school in Little Rock, Arkansas. They became known as the Little Rock Nine. Federal troops were required to escort them for their safety.

In 1957, the Civil Rights Act was signed to ensure black citizens could not be prevented from voting. In 1963, the March on Washington saw over 200,000 people congregate in a peaceful march. This was the location of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, legislation was signed that “guaranteed equal employment for all, limited the use of voter literacy tests and allowed federal authorities to ensure public facilities were integrated” (

This legislation, however, did not mean the search for equal rights was over. In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Although African Americans currently have equal rights under law, many people believe the quest for civil rights is ongoing.

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The Civil Rights Movement was a mass movement whose purpose was to win civil rights for African Americans.  While there were whites in the movement, the overwhelming majority of activists were African Americans.

The goal of the movement was to gain equal rights for African Americans.  The movement was pushing for an end to segregation and legal discrimination.  It was also trying to win the right to vote (which African Americans legally had already but which was blocked in a number of ways in the South).  

The movement is often said to have started in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott.  The successful stage of the movement ended in 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.  The best-known leader of the movement was Martin Luther King, Jr.

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