Brown vs. Board of Education was a supreme court case that reversed the effects of the Plessy vs Ferguson case in 1896. Originally meant to end school segregation, Brown vs Board eventually ended all segregation, allowing for the integration of African Americans into white society. Although Brown vs Board legally ended discrimination, it did not necessarily end the racism of the South, as seen in the case of Emmett Till.
After allegedly whistling or speaking flirtatiously at a white woman in a store in Mississippi , an African-American boy named Emmett Till was brutally raped, murdered, and mutilated by the woman's husband and brother. Till's death indicated to both American society and the outside world that racism persisted in the South. Despite this, the Civil Rights movement continued, as activists fought against racism systematically.
To challenge de facto segregation, nine gifted African-American students were given the opportunity to attend the all-white Little Rock Central High School. The students were met with anger, and Governor Faubus called in the National Guard to block their entry. However, this action was illegal given Brown vs. Board. Thus, Eisenhower was forced to protect the students and enforce anti-segregation laws. Meanwhile, other students challenged other aspects of white society.
Just as the Little Rock Nine students challenged the school system, participants in the "sit-in" movement challenged segregation in public restaurants. At Woolworth's in Greensboro, four African Americans defied a whites-only policy by refusing to leave after being denied service. The media coverage of this event drew attention to the brutality of segregation and encouraged many restaurants to integrate their establishments. While only a handful of students participated in the sit-in, the true number of civil-rights activists were seen at the March on Washington
MARCH ON WASHINGTON
BIRMINGHAM CHURCH BOMBING
VOTING RIGHTS ACT
To protest the injustices faced by African Americans, 250, 000 demonstrators gathered at Washington D.C. It was here that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The protest, coupled with the words of King's speech greatly empowered African Americans and gave many a sense of hope. The march also pressured the government and white America to support equality of African Americans. Even though the March on Washington was successful, acts of violent racism persisted.
Despite the progress made by leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, organizations like the KKK continued to carry out racist acts. In 1963, the KKK bombed a church in Birmingham, killing four young girls. This tragedy called increased attention to the Civil Rights Movement, while white Americans grew increasingly sympathetic of African Americans. Although this event caused a great deal of pain, it encouraged civil rights activists to persevere in the movement for equality, as seen in the Selma marches.
In 1965, civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr., led 3 marches to fight for increased voting rights. Alabama Governor George Wallace was a major segregationist that opposed to voter drives geared at registering African American voters. As they marched, protesters faced violent resistance from Alabama Troops. The marches were especially significant because they led the US government to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Prompted by the Selma Marches, the government passed the Voting Rights Act. Emphasizing the 14th and 15th amendments, the policy guaranteed increased voting rights for minorities. For example, literacy tests and poll taxes were banned. The Voting Rights Acts allowed African Americans to have increased political involvement in the United States. Although the policy was a major win for the Civil Rights Movement, its supporters lost one of its most important figures.
ASSASSINATION OF MLK
CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1968
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray. King's death shocked the nation and significantly affected Lyndon B. Johnson. While the loss of King was incredibly tragic for the civil rights community, a positive effect came out of his death. In the wake of King's assassination , Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act, which was associated with the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968, or the Fair Housing Act was passed shortly after the death of Martin Luther King. The Fair Housing Act was significant because it made segregated housing illegal. As a result, increased integration and racial inclusivity occurred in neighborhoods.
Although there were many events that contributed to the success of the Civil Rights Movement, such victories could not have been possible without the Brown vs. Board of Education case. Brown vs. Board was a 1954 Supreme Court case that challenged segregation in the education system. Plaintiff Oliver Brown, who fought against discrimination in schools, won the case. Lawyer Thurgood Marshall and Chief Justice Earl Warren were a major part of the hearing. Warren cited the 14th Amendment and argued Plessy vs. Ferguson was illogical because anything that was deemed "separate" was inherently unequal. This argument was especially significant, as the government was forced to apply this policy to public spaces beyond schools. Despite the success of Brown vs. Board, desegregation was not enforced. For example, nine African-American students were given permission to attend Little Rock Central High School, but were prevented from entering by Alabama Governor Orval Fabus. To civil rights activists, this event was a major loss. However, because Brown vs. Board was approved by the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall was able to legally challenge the actions of the governor. This prompted President Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson to protect and enforce the policies of Brown vs. Board. As the Civil Rights Movement progressed, activists continued to return to the policies of Brown vs. Board for legal support.
A Hinge in the Civil Rights Movement
Brown vs. Board
continued discrimination and racism
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Similar to President Lyndon B. Johnson, lawyer and Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall played a major role in the legal enforcement of civil rights laws. Marshall closely aligned himself with the Civil Rights Movement, serving as counsel to the NAACP. One of Marshall's most significant contributions to the movement was his involvement and victory in the Brown vs. Board the case. Not only did Marshall win, but he also protected the rights of desegregation when they were violated, as seen in the Little Rock Nine incident. With his work in the Brown vs. Board case, Marshall created the legal foundation for the Civil Rights Movement.
Major Figures of the Civil Rights Movement
Much of the civil rights policy passed during the 1960s could not have been possible without President Lyndon B. Johnson. Because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, both voters and legislators felt a great deal of sympathy for Johnson. This sympathy allowed Johnson to propose and enforce a great deal of laws, many of which related to civil rights. Johnson was heavily involved in the creation and enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Johnson's contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was especially important because as a white man of power, he was able to bring about the legal change that eventually created social change.
Although many male figures like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are known for their contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, women also actively fought against discrimination. Septima Poinsette Clark, an educator, was a member of the NAACP and SCLC organizations. Clark concentrated most of her efforts in education. Throughout her career, Clark encouraged Charleston to hire African-American teachers and fought for equal pay among races. However, her most significant accomplishment was likely her leadership in Highlander's Citizenship School Program. At these schools, Clark played a major role in providing African Americans with the knowledge necessary to pass the literacy tests necessary to vote. At the SCLC, she helped create over 800 citzenship schools. Through her activism, Clark helped enfranchise black communities and strengthened the demand for equal voting rights
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Another major female Civil Rights activist was Diane Nash. Nash, a freedom rider and member of SNCC and SCLC, played a considerable role in fight against discrimination. As a college student, Nash served as the Nashville SNCC chairperson of the sit-in movement. Nash also coordinated and participated in Freedom Rides across the South to protest segregation in the transportation. At the SCLC, Nash shifted her focus to voting rights, and became active in the Selma Campaign. Diane Nash's work was especially impactful in the legal realm.
Through her sustained efforts, Nash contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. With this, Nash empowered African Americans and helped end discriminatory voting practices.
As African Americans worked to achieve civil rights, Alabama Governor George Wallace fought actively against them. Governor Wallace was a stark opponent of the Civil Rights Movement, and believed that systems of segregation be maintained. Wallace opposed to the principles of Brown vs. Board and attempted to block African-American students from enrolling in several universities. He also made an effort to limit the voting rights of African Americans and disagreed with the views of Selma marchers. In 1968, Wallace ran for president as a third-party candidate. Although he received only 13% of the vote, his success showed that racism persisted in the southern region.
"Stand up for (white) America"
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While groups like the SNCC or SCLC operated largely through peaceful protest, the Black Panthers adopted a more assertive approach to achieving civil rights. The Black Panthers were heavily inspired by the radical beliefs of Malcolm X and formed militant groups to counter police brutality. The Black Panthers also served African Americans by establishing food, education, and healthcare programs. Not only did the work of the Black Panthers bring awareness to Civil Rights Movement, but also empowered black communities.
Major Organizations of the Civil Rights Movement
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, contrasted the radical nature of the Black Panthers. Instead of using force to combat violence and discrimination, members of the SCLC organized nonviolent protests and were active in registering black voters. The SCLC aligned itself with the relatively peaceful philosophy of their leader, Martin Luther King Jr. During the Civil Rights Movement, the SCLC played a major role in the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, which protested the racist nature of the transportation system. Through the SCLC, Septima Poinsette Clark also established citizenship schools that prepared black voters for literacy tests. Through their actions, the SCLC contributed to both social and political change in American society.
Organized by black university students, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee represented the goals of young civil rights activists. The SNCC was responsible for many of the freedom rides and like the SCLC, was active in voter registration. However, unlike the SCLC, the SNCC did not associate itself with Martin Luther King Jr. Instead, the SNCC adopted the views of Ella Baker, who believed the Civil Rights movement needed a more radical approach. While their philosophies were different, the SLCL and SNCC achieved similar accomplishments in achieving civil rights.
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1. Although Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were immensely successful, much of their work could not have been possible without the help of Lyndon B. Johnson. As a both a white man and president, Johnson possessed the privilege and authority necessary to pass major civil-rights laws. Because of his active role in passing desegregation and anti-racist legislation, Johnson had the greatest impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the legal realm. Over time, Johnson's legal accomplishments translated into social change.
2. Although President Kennedy worked to improve civil rights, Lyndon B. Johnson made a more positive impact on the Civil Rights Movement. During his presidency, Kennedy made civil rights one of his priorities by launching FBI investigations into cases of discrimination. He also inspired many, and when he died, people felt a great deal of sympathy for Johnson. As a result, Lyndon B. Johnson possessed increased power to pass laws. However, the civil rights legislation attributed to Johnson is the most significant. Johnson allowed for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. These laws enfranchised African Americans to a degree higher than the work of Kennedy.
3. The Brown vs. Board Supreme Court case caused the most significant change during the Civil Rights Movement. The case made segregation of public schools illegal, but civil rights activists began to attribute its ruling to all aspects of public society. Many African Americans applied it to public transportation or restaurants. Although the Brown vs. Board case was not initially enforced, and although it did not end racism, the case provided activists with legal support to back up their demands.
4. Since the time of the Civil War, the status of African Americans has changed considerably. During the war, southern African Americans were slaves, possessed no legal rights, and were considered property. Following the conclusion of the war, most African Americans were emancipated and enfranchised under the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Despite this, de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination persisted. Under Jim Crows laws, the United States operated under an inherently unequal "separate but equal" system. African Americans also faced violence and experienced acts of terrorism, especially from the KKK. However, during the 1950s and 1960s, the rights of African Americans improved. Brown vs. Board ended public segregation, and Kennedy helped enforce civil-rights laws. President Lyndon B. Johnson furthered Kennedy's efforts and passed several laws that improved the rights of black Americans. Still, racism continues in the United States. Social media has given a platform to racist individuals, and many use racial slurs or believe racial stereotypes out of ignorance. Fortunately, the country is advancing. Representation of African Americans in politics and film is higher than ever, and statistics related to African-American well-being are improving.