What were the major causes that led to the Civil Rights Movement?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major cause of the Civil Rights Movement was the disparity in what rights African Americans felt they should have and could get and the rights that they actually had.  By the mid-1950s, African Americans thought they should have more rights than they had and they thought that the time was ripe for them to get those rights.

People often think that social movements happen because the people are oppressed.  But African Americans were much more oppressed in the 1920s, for instance.  The Civil Rights Movement did not start then.  This was because African Americans did not think they could get more rights.

After WWII, a variety of factors made it so African Americans felt they could get more rights.  These included:

  • anti-racist rhetoric of WWII
  • need for the US to look good to people of color around the world in the Cold War.
  • increased numbers of African Americans in the North who could vote.

In the 1950s, these factors helped convince African Americans that they could win more rights.  This led to the Civil Rights Movement.