Highlights of the Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King Marches with civilians for civil rights.
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The civil rights movement will always be remembered as one of the greatest social movements in American history It's difficult to know where to begin when researching a topic as rich as the civil rights movement. Studying the era means identifying when the civil rights movement started and the protests, personalities, legislation and litigation that defined it.

The Start of the Civil Rights Movement

Rosa Parks on bus

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The civil rights movement got its start in the 1950s as returning African-American veterans from World War II began demanding equal rights. Many questioned how they could fight to protect a country that refused to honor their civil rights. The 1950s also saw the rise of Martin Luther King Jr. and the nonviolent protest movement. This timeline of the civil rights movement's first chapter explains the events leading up to and following Rosa Parks' groundbreaking decision in 1955 to give up her bus seat to a Caucasian man in Montgomery, Ala. 

The Civil Rights Movement Enters its Prime

Civil rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy

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The early 1960s brought the civil rights movement into its prime. The efforts of civil rights activists began paying off as Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson finally addressed the inequality that blacks faced. Television coverage of the violence civil rights activists endured during protests throughout the South shocked Americans as they watched the nightly news. The viewing public also became familiar with King, who became the leader, if not the face, of the movement.

The Civil Rights Movement in the Late 1960s

Protesters at the Open Housing March, Chicago

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The victories of the civil rights movement raised the hopes of African-Americans living all over the country. However, segregation in the South was in some ways easier to combat than segregation in the North. That's because Southern segregation was enforced by the law, and laws could be changed. On the other hand, segregation in Northern cities originated in the unequal conditions that led to disproportionate poverty among African-Americans. Nonviolence techniques had less effect in cities such as 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.

Speeches That Changed the World

Martin Luther King delivering speech In NYC

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As civil rights made the national agenda in the 1960s, 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 civil rights movement.