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The Civil Rights Movement

A Guide to the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s


When researching such a rich topic as the Civil Rights Movement, it is difficult to know where to start. The movement contained so many protests and personalities and so much legislation and litigation. This overview of the Civil Rights Movement will guide you through the major topics of the period.

1. The Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s

The modern Civil Rights Movement got its start in the 1950s as returning African-American veterans from World War II began demanding equal rights. The decade of the fifties also saw the rise of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the nonviolent protest movement. This timeline of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s explains the events leading up to and following Rosa Parks's stance in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.

2. The Civil Rights Movement in the Early 1960s

The early 1960s was the heyday of the early Civil Rights Movement. The efforts of civil rights activists began paying off as Presidents Kennedy and Johnson finally addressed the issue. Television coverage of protests, such as in Birmingham, Alabama, and the often violent reaction to them shocked Americans as they watched the nightly news. This timeline shows how King became the nation's greatest moral leader.

3. The Civil Rights Movement in the Late 1960s

The victories of the Civil Rights Movement raised the hopes of African Americans living all over the country. But segregation in the South was, in a way, easier to combat--Southern segregation was enforced by the law, and laws could be changed. Segregation in Northern urban areas had its roots in the unequal conditions that led to disproportionate poverty among African Americans. Nonviolence techniques had less effect in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles as a result. This timeline tracks the shift from the nonviolent phase of the Civil Rights Movement to the emphasis on black liberation.

4. Major Civil Rights Speeches and Writings

During the 1960s as civil rights made the national agenda, Martin Luther King, Jr., along with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, gave major speeches shown on live television. King also wrote throughout this period, patiently explaining the morality of direct action to detractors. These speeches and writings have gone down in history as some of the most eloquent expressions of the principles at the heart of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

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