Portal:Civil rights movement

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The 1963 March on Washington participants and leaders marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial
The 1963 March on Washington participants and leaders marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial

The civil rights movement was a social movement and campaign from 1954 to 1968 in the United States to abolish legalized racial segregation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement in the country. The movement had its origins in the Reconstruction era during the late 19th century and had its modern roots in the 1940s, although the movement made its largest legislative gains in the 1960s after years of direct actions and grassroots protests. The social movement's major nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience campaigns eventually secured new protections in federal law for the civil rights of all Americans.

After the American Civil War and the subsequent abolition of slavery in the 1860s, the Reconstruction Amendments to the United States Constitution granted emancipation and constitutional rights of citizenship to all African Americans, most of whom had recently been enslaved. For a short period of time, African-American men voted and held political office, but as time went on Blacks were increasingly deprived of civil rights, often under the racist Jim Crow laws, and African Americans were subjected to discrimination and sustained violence by white supremacists in the South. Over the following century, various efforts were made by African Americans to secure their legal and civil rights, such as the civil rights movement (1865–1896) and the civil rights movement (1896–1954). The movement was characterized by nonviolent mass protests and civil disobedience following highly publicized events such as the lynching of Emmett Till. These included boycotts such as the Montgomery bus boycott, "sit-ins" in Greensboro and Nashville, a series of protests during the Birmingham campaign, and a march from Selma to Montgomery.

At the culmination of a legal strategy pursued by African Americans, in 1954 the Supreme Court struck down the underpinnings of laws that had allowed racial segregation and discrimination to be legal in the United States as unconstitutional. The Warren Court made a series of landmark rulings against racist discrimination, including the separate but equal doctrine, such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964), and Loving v. Virginia (1967) which banned segregation in public schools and public accommodations, and struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage. The rulings played a crucial role in bringing an end to the segregationist Jim Crow laws prevalent in the Southern states. In the 1960s, moderates in the movement worked with the United States Congress to achieve the passage of several significant pieces of federal legislation that authorized oversight and enforcement of civil rights laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly banned all discrimination based on race, including racial segregation in schools, businesses, and in public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 restored and protected voting rights by authorizing federal oversight of registration and elections in areas with historic under-representation of minority voters. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. (Full article...)

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Alabama Highway Patrol troopers attack civil rights demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.

The Selma to Montgomery marches were three protest marches, held in 1965, along the 54-mile (87 km) highway from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery. The marches were organized by nonviolent activists to demonstrate the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression; they were part of a broader voting rights movement underway in Selma and throughout the American South. By highlighting racial injustice, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the civil rights movement.

Since the late 19th century, Southern state legislatures had passed and maintained a series of Jim Crow laws that had disenfranchised the millions of African Americans across the South and enforced racial segregation. The initial voter registration drive, started in 1963 by the African-American Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) failed as local White officials arrested the organizers and otherwise harassed Blacks wishing to register to vote. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally ended segregation but the situation in Selma changed little. The DCVL then invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to amplify the efforts, and these figures drew more prominent people to Alabama. Local and regional protests began in January 1965, with 3,000 people arrested by the end of February. On 26 February, activist and deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being shot several days earlier by state trooper James Bonard Fowler during a peaceful march in nearby Marion. To defuse and refocus the Black community's outrage, James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma voting rights movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, calling for an unhindered exercise of the right to vote.

The first march took place on March 7, 1965, led by figures including Bevel and Amelia Boynton, but was ended by state troopers and county possemen, who charged on about 600 unarmed protesters with batons and tear gas after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the direction of Montgomery. The event became known as Bloody Sunday. Law enforcement beat Boynton unconscious, and the media publicized worldwide a picture of her lying wounded on the bridge. The second march took place two days later but King cut it short as a federal court issued a temporary injunction against further marches. That night, an anti-civil rights group murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston. The third march, which started on March 21, was escorted by the Alabama National Guard under federal control, the FBI and federal marshals (segregationist Governor George Wallace refused to protect the protesters). Thousands of marchers averaged 10 mi (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80, reaching Montgomery on March 24. The following day, 25,000 people staged a demonstration on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. (Full article...)
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King in 1964

Coretta Scott King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006) was an American author, activist, and civil rights leader and the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. from 1953 until his death. As an advocate for African-American equality, she was a leader for the civil rights movement in the 1960s. King was also a singer who often incorporated music into her civil rights work. King met her husband while attending graduate school in Boston. They both became increasingly active in the American civil rights movement.

King played a prominent role in the years after her husband's assassination in 1968, when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women's Movement. King founded the King Center, and sought to make his birthday a national holiday. She finally succeeded when Ronald Reagan signed legislation which established Martin Luther King, Jr., Day on November 2, 1983. She later broadened her scope to include both advocacy for LGBTQ rights and opposition to apartheid. King became friends with many politicians before and after Martin's death, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Robert F. Kennedy. Her telephone conversation with John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential election has been credited by historians for mobilizing African-American voters. (Full article...)

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Civil rights activists stage a sit-in at Woolworth's in Durham, NC to protest against racial segregation. (10 February 1960)

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