United States History I & II
United States History I & II

United States History I & II

Lead Author(s): Sara Eskridge

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Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition


Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013


Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device


Hardcover print text only


Per volume


Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost


Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform


Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Hardcover print text only


Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition


Per volume


Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013


Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition


Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed


Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition


Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes


McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

Sara Eskridge, Ph.DRandolph-Macon College, VA

Dr. Eskridge is a Professor of History at Western Governors University. She specializes in Civil Rights, Cold War, Southern, and Cultural History. She is the author of Rube Tube: CBS as Rural Comedy in the Sixties (University of Missouri Press, 2019) as well as several articles and book chapters on southern mediated images during the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.

Contributing Authors

Andrew WegmannLoyola University

Michael CarverCalifornia Polytechnic State University

Michael FrawleyUniversity of Texas of the Permian Basin

Linda ClemmonsIllinois State University

Angela HessCameron University

Sam NelsonRidgewater College

Volker JanssenCalifornia State University

Lance JandaCameron University

Explore this textbook

Read the fully unlocked textbook below, and if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to see how you can use this textbook in your course today.

Chapter 26: Civil Rights Movement and the Era of Social Change

Chapter Overview

The civil rights movement may have reached its zenith in the late 1950s and 1960s, but African Americans had been patiently fighting against segregation and general social injustice since Reconstruction. As the 20th century progressed and African Americans contributed more and more to society, they grew increasingly frustrated that those contributions were ignored. This frustration prompted a series of increasingly radical adjustments to the strategies of civil rights organizations, which culminated in increased awareness of the nation’s racial problems as well as major judicial and legislative changes to support African American civil rights. In the process, America’s youth received an education on civil disobedience, lessons that came in handy as they started to protest against the Vietnam War, for free speech, and in support of a host of other sociopolitical causes. 

The civil rights movement may have seemed like a niche movement for a group of minorities, but in reality, it led to expanded civil and voting rights for a significant portion of the U.S. population, created a generation of black voices that added to national conversations on race, and inspired most of the protest movements of the 1960s, including the anti-war movement, the Chicano movement, and the women’s movement.

Chapter Objectives

  • Explain the emergence of the civil rights movement in 1950s and describe its evolution through the 1960s
  • Understand the tactics advocated by the various members of the movement (and why they advocated them), compare and contrast the tactics utilized by the movement, and understand which tactics were most effective
  • Compare and contrast the goals, successes, and failures of Kennedy’s civil rights policies
  • Elucidate why the civil rights movement radicalized by the end of the 1960s and why white Americans increasingly lacked support for the movement
  • Explain how student movements evolved out of the civil rights movement

Question 26.01

26.01 - Level 4

Based on information that you have gleaned from previous chapters as well as your own personal knowledge, what did it mean for a place to be segregated? Why do you think that segregation was so important that state and local governments fought so hard to implement and maintain it?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.01.

Pre-war Movement

It is difficult to pinpoint a specific date on which the civil rights movement started, but since the advent of Jim Crow, African Americans had worked diligently against the system in the hope of achieving some semblance of equal rights. In 1909, journalist Ida Wells and activist W.E.B. DuBois founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an interracial organization that existed for the purpose of advancing African American rights. Wells introduced the group’s first signature issue, the need for a national anti-lynching law (Figure 26.1). Although such a law never came to fruition, the organization earned national recognition for its efforts as an activist organization. 

Figure 26.1: The cover of Ida Wells’ 1892 polemic on southern lynching. Although Wells was the co-founder of the NAACP and introduced its first signature issue, her pivotal role in the organization was often overlooked because she was a woman. ​[1]

The NAACP gradually branched out into other areas of civil rights advocacy. The organization had a mission: to train and employ the best lawyers, both white and African American, and secure African American civil rights using the judicial system. The organization explicitly refused to condone the incitement or provocation of violence on behalf of civil rights, but also encouraged its members to always challenge perceived mistreatment through legal channels. This system met with a few early successes. In 1915, NAACP lawyers successfully struck down Oklahoma’s grandfather clause as unconstitutional, although the case did not settle the issue of other obstacles to African American voting, such as poll taxes. Over the next few years, the organization managed to dismantle a number of similar laws in other states. The primary issue with this system was that the NAACP was targeting each of these laws, one by one, and the legal process was expensive and time-consuming. It would take hundreds of years to overturn every racially biased law in the country. There had to be a better way.

26.02 - Level 1

In what year did W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells form the NAACP?

Question 26.03

26.03 - Level 6

If you were an early civil rights campaigner, how would you choose to challenge the discriminatory society that you faced at the turn of the 20th century?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.03.

In their attempts to dismantle segregation, the NAACP encountered obstacles, namely a pesky association with communism that never seemed to disappear. In the 1930s and 1940s, communist organizations were quick to support civil rights causes, thus creating an association between the problematic political philosophy and the civil rights movement. The 1931 Scottsboro case helped to cement this connection. That year, nine African American teenage boys were arrested for sexually assaulting two white teenage girls. The boys were given a quick show trial, during which their court-appointed lawyer came to court drunk every day, and they were sentenced to death despite medical evidence demonstrating that neither woman had been sexually assaulted. Many agencies, including the NAACP, were slow to offer assistance to the boys, but the Communist Party of America (CPA) quickly stepped in and took over the defense. They were able to appeal the conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court. Additionally, the CPA organized marches and demonstrations in order to raise awareness for the plight of the so-called “Scottsboro Nine.”

Throughout the case, the NAACP battled for control with the CPA, but to outsiders, the fact that CPA was so intimately involved in the case proved that the civil rights movement was a communist cause. In truth, very few African Americans joined the Communist Party and ultimately preferred the idea of democracy to communism. They just welcomed all the help they could get in their fight to receive fair treatment under the law. Many Americans did not think that this was a good excuse.

In 1931, the NAACP chose an energetic lawyer named Walter White as its new head. A Georgia born mixed-race man who could easily have passed as white, White elected not to pass and instead devoted his life to improving the legal position of African Americans. Having made his reputation investigating lynchings and race riots, White expanded the legal horizons of the organization. Under his leadership, the NAACP redirected its focus from enforcing “separate but equal” to dismantling segregation altogether. He created the Legal Defense Fund for the purpose of funding desegregation cases and hired Thurgood Marshall, who made a splash by initiating a major case against the University of Maryland, which had denied him entry to its law school. Marshall won the case because Maryland did not have a law school for African Americans, thus placing the state in violation of the Plessy v. Ferguson mandate. By the time America entered World War II in 1941, Marshall had become head counsel for the NAACP, touching off a series of legal cases across the South and Midwest that would systematically undermine the practice of segregation over the next 15 years.

26.04 - Level 4

Why is the benefit of dismantling segregation as opposed to ensuring that localities provided truly equal and separate accommodations?

26.05 - Level 2

Which branch of government was the primary focus of the NAACP’s civil rights activism?









Question 26.06

26.06 - Level 4

Consider why the American Communist Party took such an active interest in the civil rights movement and the struggle for racial equality.

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.06.

Double V

The world wars helped to motivate the campaign for civil rights in ways that no one expected. African Americans participated enthusiastically in both wars, believing that this test of patriotism would help prove their worth to white Americans and establish them as full citizens. Unfortunately, this did not happen. After World War I, African American soldiers returned home expecting newfound respect from their fellow citizens; instead, they were met with a barrage of anger from those who expected them to return to their old subservience. Race riots erupted all over the country, especially in Texas, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured. 

The aftermath of World War II did not play out much differently. African Americans had supported the Double V strategy, fighting for a double victory, both over fascism abroad and over racism at home. Once again, dreams of achieving equality through service did not come to bear in reality. Personnel shortages during the war resulted in the use of African Americans in unprecedented ways, such as the introduction of African American recruits into Officer Training Schools and a larger reliance on African American nurses, and the post-war GI Bill offered benefits to veterans of all races, thus offering more educational and economic opportunities. However, the armed forces remained segregated and Jim Crow laws still dominated the South and Midwest in particular.

26.07 - Level 1

The “Double V” strategy sought to challenge which of the following ideologies?











Changes in Strategy

After World War II, African American support for the NAACP skyrocketed. Armed with military service and college educations, the new African American middle class joined the organization in droves, with the membership jumping from 50,000 in 1940 to half a million by 1950. Other civil rights organizations developed in the wake of the war. In 1942, civil rights activists Bernice Fisher, George Houser, and James Farmer created the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which was dedicated to achieving civil rights gains using Gandhi’s principles of non-violence. The group served as a pre-cursor to the non-violent protests of the 1950s and 1960s. As these activists staged protests that were met with violence and harassment, news of this treatment travelled, thus encouraging more African Americans to join the movement.

Question 26.08

26.08 - Level 5

Why do you think Mohandas Gandhi’s strategy was inspirational for American civil rights activists? Why do you think they needed to adopt such a strategy?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.08.

Sensing that the African American community’s activism was a precursor to a more aggressive strategy, non-southern Democrats believed that their party should begin courting the African American vote. President Harry Truman, who privately felt morally obligated to end racial segregation, agreed with this assessment, taking an initial step of good faith by desegregating the armed forces via executive order in 1948. That same year, he also made civil rights a part of his presidential campaign platform, a decision that inflamed the more conservative southern members of the Democratic Party. Southern Democrats left the nominating convention early and formed their own party called the Dixiecrats. The party’s sole platform was to preserve segregation and their presidential candidate, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, was a dedicated and outspoken segregationist. Even though several states in the Deep South voted for Thurmond, Truman still narrowly won against both Thurmond and Republican candidate Thomas Dewey (Figure 26.2). The incident with the Dixiecrats demonstrated that the Democrats did not need the South in order to win a national election and that the party could therefore support civil rights issues with relative ease. The election also indicated that the Democratic Party was continuing its trend of moving away from a conservative political ideology toward a more progressive one.

Figure 26.2: The above map shows the Electoral College map of the 1948 election.​​

26.09 - Level 3

Based on the above map, match the 1948 presidential candidate with the regions of the country that voted for him.


Harry Truman


The Midwest and New England


Thomas Dewey


Deep South


Strom Thurmond


The Entire Midwest


The Far West

The NAACP was able to supplement this newfound support from the Democratic Party by achieving a string of important legal victories that started even before World War II. In the 1938 case Gaines v. Canada, the court decided that it was unconstitutional for the state of Missouri to force an African American student to attend an out-of-state school that accepted students of color rather than admit him at the state’s flagship university. The court ruled that the state must provide equal accommodations for black students, although this too was ruled unconstitutional in a later case. Another 1948 case, Shelley v. Kramer, outlawed racially restrictive residential covenants. These cases, along with several others, signaled the Supreme Court’s willingness to hear segregation cases as well as its willingness to rule in favor of the NAACP.

After finding that desegregation suits could win before the Supreme Court, the NAACP decided to attempt a legal battle designed to destroy segregation altogether. Their battleground of choice was public primary and secondary schools. Research demonstrated that although African Americans paid an average of 33% of the taxes in the South, they only received about 5-8% of that back in public services like schools. In most Southern states, it was difficult for an African American to get a high school education—many counties did not have black high schools. This limited access to educational opportunity thus limited students’ future job prospect and earning capabilities. The schools that did exist were generally not even paid for by the counties—they were paid for by private philanthropists like Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald, the president of Sears Roebuck and Company, helped finance thousands of black schools in the early 20th century through a system of matching contributions. Once a community had raised enough money to finance a significant portion of a school project, they could apply for a grant from Rosenwald, who provided grants that covered the remaining portion of the funding. These so-called Rosenwald Schools helped to bridge the gap left in African American education due to governmental neglect and oversight. The NAACP realized that the limited financial resources available in most southern counties meant that they could not afford two separate school systems, which meant that all of them were providing unequal accommodations.

Brown v. Board of Education

In an effort to build the strongest desegregation suit possible, the NAACP systematically developed a class action lawsuit utilizing a variety of cases from all over the country. These cases, of which there were dozens, wound their way through the circuit court system. By 1952, five such cases had made their way to the Supreme Court, whereupon they were combined into a single lawsuit. The cases represented plaintiffs in Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Kansas. The case was combined under the name of the Kansas plaintiff, Oliver Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Topeka was chosen as the primary case for several reasons. First, the case featured a small child, as opposed to the others, which featured teenagers. NAACP lawyers thought the plight of a little girl might appeal to the sympathies of the court more readily. Secondly, the case was not southern, thus making the issue feel more national than regional (Figure 26.3). Last, Topeka had the strongest case. While the other cases focused on the lack of resources given to African American school children, the Topeka case revolved around child safety. Oliver Brown’s daughter was forced to attend a school several miles from her home, and she had to walk to and from it every day because the city did not provide buses for African American schools. Meanwhile, the Browns lived only half a mile from a white school whose buses passed the Brown house every day. 

NAACP lead counsel Thurgood Marshall presented the case to the Supreme Court by relying on a host of sociological and psychological evidence. His goal was to prove two premises: that segregation was not desired by the whole population, but by one group attempting to separate itself from another, and that the resources given to the black community under these conditions were so inferior that their ability to succeed in life was inhibited. The court found this evidence compelling, and in 1954, upon deciding that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” ruled unanimously in favor of Oliver Brown. The case represented a huge step forward for the civil rights movement, as the court ruling indicated that segregation itself was unconstitutional.

Figure 26.3: The above map shows how and where educational segregation was practiced in the United States before the Brown v. Board ruling. As the map demonstrates, segregation was most heavily practiced in the South, but it was also common in other parts of the country. The graphic also hides the fact that while segregation was forbidden in the Northeast, de facto segregation was widely practiced.​​

26.10 - Level 3

Which of the following Supreme Court decisions was directly overturned by the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education?


Dred Scott v. Sanford


Gaines v. Canada


Plessy v. Ferguson


Powell v. Alabama

Brown II and Massive Resistance

While the Brown case might have seemed like a clear-cut victory, it was more complicated in practice. Southerners reacted to the court’s decision with unbridled anger and confusion, with many claiming that the court had overstepped its jurisdiction. The following year, in 1955, the Supreme Court released a subsequent decision to accompany the Brown v. Board case, often referred to as Brown II. This type of decision was typical for a large case such as this, and usually allowed the court to offer suggestions for how states could develop legislative methods to enact the court’s decision. In this case, the court’s suggestions seemed like acquiescence to southern anger over the initial decision. The court did not set a timeline for when states should implement desegregation policies, instead insisting that states proceed with “all deliberate speed.” This language essentially gave states permission to desegregate as slowly as they felt necessary.

26.11 - Level 1

Click on the state where the named plaintiffs in the Brown v. Board of Education case lived.

26.12 - Level 1

Put the following events in chronological order.


Brown v. Board of Education


Gaines v. Canada


1948 Election


Brown II


Double V campaign


Scottsboro Nine

Many southern legislators took the Brown II decision as an invitation for resistance. In 1956, more than 100 members of Congress signed the Southern Manifesto, a statement disavowing the Brown decision as judicial abuse that trespassed on states’ rights. Southern legislatures began passing laws which technically complied with the Brown v. Board decision, but tacitly prevented school desegregation. Laws differed from state to state, but some of the more common pieces of legislation included state-funded vouchers for private schools and guarantees that the state would close desegregated schools, often citing the “safety risk” such a step would pose for the students. The use of a pupil placement board became a common measure. 

While students are typically placed into the local school system by their governing school board, pupil placement boards reallocated that responsibility to the state government. All students wishing to attend or transfer to a school filled out a form, which the board reviewed. Students were placed into their respective schools based on the recommendations of the board. On its face, this law was racially neutral; after all, every student, black or white, had to submit an application and the applications did not contain references to race. In practice, however, most pupil placement boards were able to draw upon context clues to determine the race of the students in their charge and successfully prevented the desegregation of the schools in their state.

In this way, Southern school systems maintained a system of segregation for years after the Brown v. Board decision. The NAACP fought continuously against these laws, once again building cases that wound their way through the federal court system. In 1957, a number of federal courts across the South finally forced a number of schools to desegregate. In Virginia, five school districts closed for half a year in response to these orders, per the massive resistance laws put into place years earlier. This decision marked a turning point for Virginia, as well as other Southern states which faced similar problems. It was one thing to oppose segregation on philosophical grounds; it was entirely another thing to have one’s children denied an education. Parents lobbied to have their schools re-opened, and in 1958, the Virginia legislature overturned the school closing law and permitted a degree of token desegregation, which meant allowing a handful of African American students into a few white schools. The only county that refused this compromise was Prince Edward County, Virginia, which elected to keep its public schools closed until 1968. It was the only place in the nation to take such a drastic step to preserve school segregation.

Although Virginia’s desegregation woes remained mostly out of the national news, the same could not be said for other southern states. In many cases, segregationist governors, well aware that their resistance to federal court orders was futile, knew that they needed to put up a public fight against desegregation in order to remain politically viable with their constituents, which consisted solely of white voters. In 1957, the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas decided to permit nine African American students to matriculate. Governor Orval Faubus publicly denounced the decision and expressed his determination to prevent desegregation by calling the National Guard to forcibly block the students’ entry into the school. President Dwight Eisenhower, who personally did not support the civil rights movement or racial integration, initially showed reluctance to intervene. However, as photographs surfaced of the beleaguered teenagers under attack by rabid anti-segregation protesters and denied entrance to their school, Eisenhower was forced to send in federal troops to escort the students to school—nearly three weeks later. The African American students attended for one year, until the fall of 1958, when Governor Faubus chose to close Little Rock’s high schools for a year in order to prevent African Americans from attending. The so-called Little Rock Nine finished their education via correspondence at other schools. 

Figure 26.4: Little Rock Nine being escorted into Central High School by members of the 101st Airborne division, 1957. [2]

26.13 Level 4

Why do you think that token integration was an acceptable solution for many parents, when they had supported fully segregated schools just weeks before?

Question 26.14

26.14 - Level 2

Describe some of the strategies that southern segregationists employed to circumvent the intentions of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.14.

In another instance, New Orleans decided to integrate its public schools starting with the first grade. In 1960, a young girl named Ruby Bridges became the first African American child to attend the all-white William Frantz Elementary School (Figure 26.4). She was escorted to school by federal marshals, as local law enforcement was unwilling to protect her. Only one teacher in the school was willing to take her, and the other children in that class were withdrawn by their parents in protest. Ruby was the only student in her class for the duration of the year. For allowing Ruby to attend this school, her parents suffered. They regularly received death threats, Ruby’s father lost his job, and her mother was refused service at the local grocery store. However, over the next couple of years as the furor over desegregation died down, both white and African American students started to enroll in the William Frantz School.

Figure 26.5: Ruby Bridges, exiting her elementary school escorted by federal marshals, November 1960. [3]

These massive demonstrations made national news, but they were not typical. Most schools desegregated without incident, although their level of desegregation was token. African American students were not necessarily attacked for their attendance at white schools, but they were often ostracized and ignored by students and teachers alike. Rural areas had more success with desegregation, but in urban areas, white students typically fled city schools for the relative racial homogeneity of the suburbs.

Boycotts and Sit-ins

Although fighting for school desegregation comprised a large portion of the civil rights movement’s attention in the late 1950s, some activists challenged other components of segregated Southern life. African Americans wanted to desegregate every part of social life, not just education. Boycotts proved an effective method of achieving this goal. One of the first major boycotts took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1953, shortly after the initial Brown v. Board decision. African Americans there were disgusted that they were forced to sit in the back of the city buses despite comprising the majority of the bus system’s clientele. In protest, citizens banded together to boycott the bus system for eight days, during which time the bus system’s patronage dropped to virtually nothing. The bus system was forced to integrate for fear of going bankrupt. This is largely considered the inspiration for the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, which was a much larger-scale protest.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott began out of similar circumstances and frustration about inferior treatment of the bus system’s primary clientele. However, the Montgomery boycott had several factors to distinguish it. First, it was motivated by the December 1955 arrest of a local seamstress, Rosa Parks, for refusing to give her seat over to a white gentleman (Figure 26.5). Parks, who was the secretary for her local NAACP chapter, understood the risks of her actions and knew that her arrest would serve as a method of igniting the local black community into action. In fact, the NAACP sued the city and then combined with local churches to create the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The MIA promptly organized a city-wide boycott of the bus system, relying on a system of carpools, the largesse of African American taxi drivers, and in some cases, simply walking the miles between work and home. While the Baton Rouge boycott only lasted eight days, the Montgomery Boycott was a 13-month long effort. During that time, it garnered national attention and the bus company nearly went bankrupt. On December 20, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Montgomery to strike its bus segregation laws. The buses were desegregated the following day. The Montgomery Boycott was significant because it established that the African American community was capable of sustaining a lengthy protest and also capable of creating social change through that protest. The boycott also marked the public emergence of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a 26 year old pastor at one of the local Montgomery churches and the president of MIA. His role as the public spokesman for the boycott led to his becoming a nationally known civil rights figure, a position cemented by his bestselling book on the Montgomery boycott.

26.15 - Level 1

What city’s boycott inspired the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott?

Figure 26.6: Rosa Parks, being photographed for her mug shot, following her arrest for violating a law enforcing segregation on public buses, February 22, 1956. [4]​

In 1957, following the Montgomery Boycott, Rev. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization committed to gaining civil rights for African Americans by utilizing methods of non-violent resistance. Incorporating Christian social gospel ideals with the methods of Mohandas Gandhi as well as the tactics employed by James Farmer’s Congress of Racial Equality, King understood the potential impact of meeting violent racism with passive resistance. Members of the SCLC received extensive training in non-violent resistance methods and were encouraged to develop local chapters of the organization in the hopes of developing a grassroots movement. Activists who participated in SCLC protests were expected to adhere to a strict set of guidelines. They were expected to wear their nicest clothes, to be prepared to be beaten, verbally assaulted, and jailed, but to never engage in violence or retaliate against violence in any way. Students actively trained for these situations so that they would remain non-violent under the most extreme circumstances. SCLC protests were always performed with an eye toward the law and they always obtained proper permits. The idea was to cast the protesters as respectable, law-abiding, middle class citizens at the mercy of white Southern law enforcement’s inexplicable aggression. This method was designed to gain the attention of the news media and use the plight of the young protesters to win public support for the movement in other parts of the country.

Question 26.16

26.16 - Level 5

What is your opinion of the non-violent resistance strategy employed by the SCLC? Explain your answer and reasoning.

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.16.

King also learned the power of using students as protesters. Before 1960, most of the people engaged in civil rights protest were older adults. In February 1960, a number of African American students sat down at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina and asked for service. They were denied service and despite the taunts and aggressive attacks by white diners, the students remained seated at the counter, returning every day to repeat the tableau for six months. Every time the students returned, they brought more protesters with them, and this, in turn, sparked a rash of similar sit-ins in other counties and states. The story made national headlines, creating outrage that calm, nicely dressed, seemingly respectable college students were being treated so poorly, and ultimately led to Woolworth’s desegregating their lunch counters in July 1960. King saw that young people inspired more sympathy in the general populace and henceforth used them liberally in his campaigns. For their part, the young protesters were more than willing to participate in these campaigns and often used them as a springboard to other independent protest projects.

King soon learned that he had to choose the locations of his protests very carefully. In one of SCLC’s initial campaigns in 1961, he chose the town of Albany, Georgia. King selected this town because of its history of oppression, recent reports of white men sexually assaulting black female students at the Albany State College, and its refusal to allow African Americans to vote. The campaign was considered unsuccessful, largely because the town’s sheriff refused to behave aggressively toward the protesters. The relatively peaceful protests in Albany failed to draw the attention of reporters, who wanted dramatic photographs and film footage. King was arrested, and he refused bail until the city agreed to certain concessions benefiting the African American community. Although Albany agreed to these concessions, they immediately reneged on them as soon as King left town. Despite the campaign having limited success in changing the racist policies in Albany, the lessons learned became invaluable during the organization’s next campaign in Birmingham, Alabama.

The SCLC was not the only organization making waves in the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was using different non-violent methods to draw attention to systemic inequality. In 1961, shortly before the Albany Campaign commenced, CORE organized a series of Freedom Rides, designed to draw attention to the continuing problem of segregated interstate bus travel and segregated travel accommodations. The Supreme Court had ruled segregation in interstate travel illegal in 1946, but no state seemed willing to uphold the court’s rulings. In May 1961, the initial Freedom Ride, a bus carrying both white and black passengers sitting in interracial pairs, was to leave from Washington, D.C. and travel to New Orleans, Louisiana over the course of two weeks. Riders encountered increasing violence as they traveled deeper into the South, culminating in a Ku Klux Klan attack on the buses in Anniston, Alabama. The Klan slashed the tires of one bus and attempted to set the buses on fire, before some event, either an exploding gas tank or an undercover cop brandishing a weapon, caused the mob to disperse, allowing the riders to escape. When the second bus arrived shortly after, the Klan boarded the bus and beat the passengers to the point that they required hospitalization. Alarmed at reports of the violence, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, at the behest of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, ordered a federal escort to accompany the buses for the remainder of their journey to New Orleans. CORE coordinator Diane Nash quickly recruited new volunteers in order to continue the Rides (Figure 26.6). Despite the physical danger faced by the Freedom Riders, the journey was considered successful because it drew national attention to the issue of segregated travel and the dangers that African Americans and whites faced when they thwarted this illegal system.

Figure 26.7: Freedom Riders Julia Aaron, left, and David Dennis were among the Freedom Riders who paved the way for Freedom Summer student volunteers. Pictured here in 1961, Dennis would eulogize activist James Chaney three years later.​ [5]

26.17 - Level 1

Put the following events in chronological order.


Founding of SCLC


SCLC Albany Campaign


Greensboro sit-ins


Integration of Little Rock’s Central High School


Freedom Rides


Montgomery bus boycott

Malcolm X: An Alternative View

Malcolm X took different lessons from the numerous accounts of violence against African American civil rights protesters. Born Malcolm Little and alternately known as Haaj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X became known as an alternative voice in the civil rights movement, one who actively opposed the notion of non-violent protest. He and Martin Luther King had little in common to unite them in their cause. While King had grown up in the middle class and had access to both educational and economic opportunity, Malcolm X grew up poor in the Midwest, the son of black activists who supported the black separatist leader Marcus Garvey. His father was killed by white supremacists when Malcolm was young, and his mother institutionalized, leaving he and his siblings to grow up in foster care. Even though Malcolm did not grow up in the South and did not experience the Jim Crow system directly, he nonetheless found himself in a racist educational system that stifled his intellect. When he mentioned to his white teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer, the teacher scoffed and told him that as a black man, this was all but impossible. Instead of pursuing an education, he went to the East Coast and got a job as a train porter, widely considered one of the best jobs available to an African American man in the early 20th century. Living in New York, Malcolm fell in with a seedy crowd, who introduced him to a life of drugs, prostitution, and crime. He became a sometime pimp, gambler, thief, and drug dealer. In 1946, at the age of 21, he was arrested for burglary and jailed—and this became a turning point in his life.

While in jail, Malcolm Little met a fellow inmate who introduced him to the Nation of Islam, a relatively new and obscure religious movement that advocated for black self-reliance and ultimately, the unification of the African diaspora. By 1950, Little had given up his birth name and started signing his name Malcolm X to signify the African name stolen from ancestors that he would never know. After being paroled in 1952, Malcolm X became a temple leader for the Nation of Islam. He became increasingly important as a civil rights figure, becoming a leader of the movement in 1957 when he organized an impromptu protest of the harsh treatment received by an African American criminal suspect in New York. He assembled thousands of protesters to the police station and demonstrated his power when, upon discovering that the suspect had received proper medical care and treatment, he dispersed the crowd with a simple hand gesture. The NYPD took this as a signal that Malcolm X was a potentially dangerous individual, and they began to watch him.

By the late 1950s, he had formally changed his last name to Shabazz, but the public knew him as Malcolm X. News outlets looked to him for quotes on the latest political stories and civil rights events. In terms of his teachings and influence, he was the opposite of Martin Luther King. While the SCLC fought to end segregation, Malcolm X promoted it. Like his parents’ idol, Marcus Garvey, he believed that whites would never treat African Americans as equals and as such, the races should remain separate as an interim measure until African Americans could either return to their homeland in Africa or establish an all-black colony somewhere in U.S. territory. He also rejected the concept of non-violence, saying that African Americans should defend themselves by any means necessary, although he stopped short of condoning preemptory violence. He even referred to men like King as “Uncle Tom preachers.”

Malcolm’s philosophy was a fringe one in the African American community, with only 75,000 people joining the Nation of Islam in his lifetime. However, his outspokenness gave him disproportionate influence due to the media attention he garnered. Many called him a hatemonger, a racist, and an irresponsible extremist; however, as the civil rights movement progressed and younger people became increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of change, Malcolm X’s brash persona and insistence on immediate action became more appealing. Malcolm X experienced a change of heart in 1964 when he visited Mecca, fulfilling his religious obligations as a Muslim. While in Mecca, he had a vision of the harmony that could potentially exist between the races when he saw people from all over the world coming together in an expression of love and faith, leading him to reconsider black separatism. He no longer believed in the inherent evil of white people and started to believe that integration was possible, although he never disavowed violence in self-defense. 

Having already broken with the Nation of Islam, he took a huge number of followers with him from the faith and started expressing a desire to work with other civil rights leaders, even Martin Luther King (Figure 26.7). He began to actively separate himself from the Nation of Islam, instead becoming a Sunni Muslim, whose beliefs were far more in line with mainstream Islamic belief than the Nation of Islam. His movement toward a more mainstream position on civil rights became problematic for his former colleagues at the Nation of Islam. He was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam in February 1965, in front of a large crowd at a meeting in New York City. At 39, he died just as the civil rights movement began to splinter and he himself was becoming more mainstream. His radical vision, however, became more and more prevalent in the coming years.

Question 26.18

26.18 - Level 4

What are the ideological differences between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X? How do you think their backgrounds might have influenced their different strategies to combat racism?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.18.

26.19 - Level 1

Match the civil rights leader with the organization they are connected to.


W.E.B. DuBois


Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)


Martin Luther King




James Farmer


Nation of Islam


Malcolm X


Congress for Racial Equality (CORE)

Figure 26.8: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X at their only meeting, March 26, 1964. [6]

26.20 - Level 3

Which of these men was a proponent of the non-violent protest philosophies espoused by Ghandi?

1963: A Turning Point

Despite Malcolm X’s public castigation of his non-violent campaigns, in 1963, Martin Luther King and the SCLC launched their most successful and most publicized campaign to date in Birmingham, AL. In April of that year, protesters flooded into the city in order to begin a series of sit-ins, marches, voting drives, and protests against the city’s inflammatory and racist practices. Although the city obtained a court injunction against the protests, King and other SCLC leaders decided to continue the protests, as they considered the court injunction to be a constitutional violation of their freedom to assemble. King, along with hundreds of others, was almost immediately arrested for violating the injunction and imprisoned for eight days, during which time he wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail.

To keep the campaign from faltering during King’s imprisonment, the SCLC decided upon a shock technique guaranteed to draw media attention. The SCLC recruited local middle and high school students to participate in what the media later dubbed the “Children’s Crusade.” They were chosen because they were a cohesive unit, most of them having attended school together since kindergarten. SCLC leaders recruited the girls first, knowing that their participation would draw the interest of male participants. On May 2, more than a thousand students skipped school to participate in a march; more than 600 of them were arrested, the youngest of which was eight years old. As television cameras rolled, Police Chief Bull Connor rounded up the children, who were singing hymns and clapping, onto school buses to take them to jail. The decision to use children in the protest was controversial, with Malcolm X acidly stating that “real men don’t put their children on the firing line.” Despite the angry reception, the Children’s Crusade met expectations in terms of media coverage—it made the front page of both The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The Birmingham jail was now full of protesters, prompting Police Chief Connor to try a new tactic: dispersing the crowds. On May 3, the day after the Children’s Crusade, another thousand protesters gathered for a march in the downtown area. As the protesters, mostly students, marched, they were attacked with fire hoses, powerful enough to rip shirts off backs and send smaller protesters flying over the tops of cars. When bystanders began yelling for the police to stop, the police dispersed them with German Shepherds. Reporters on the scene, some of whom had covered the Vietnam War, said they had never seen anything so disturbing as the way the police treated the children that day. Martin Luther King, in response to concern about the children’s welfare, tried to ease parental fears by pointing out that the eyes of the world were now on Birmingham. Indeed, public figures now condemned police actions in Birmingham and turned civil rights into a hot button issue. The Birmingham campaign ended when the city and local business owners reluctantly consented to desegregate.

Spotlight on Primary Source

While imprisoned in Birmingham in 1963, Martin Luther King wrote this letter in response to members of the local clergy condemning the civil rights protests.

Question 26.21

26.21 - Level 6

What is your opinion of using children to draw attention to the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham? How would you justify this strategy to worried parents?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.21.

Civil rights groups followed up the success of the Birmingham campaign with a highly publicized March on Washington in August 1963 (Figure 26.8). They hoped that as President Kennedy started to consider civil rights legislation, this high profile event would put pressure on both the president and Congress. Planned primarily by Bayard Rustin, the march was attended by approximately 250,000 people, an estimated 80% of which were African American. At this event, Martin Luther King further capitalized on his growing public image by giving his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Shortly thereafter, a federal court order called for the forcible desegregation of Alabama schools. 

Figure 26.9: Hundreds of thousands descended on Washington, D.C.'s, Lincoln Memorial Aug. 28, 1963.​ [7]

The following month, Birmingham experienced a disturbing coda to its time in the national spotlight as a hotbed of civil rights activity. The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had served as a general meeting place for protesters and organizers alike in the spring of 1963, earning it a reputation among the white community as a nest of troublemakers. On September 15, a bomb exploded in the church shortly before the beginning of Sunday services. Although most of the parishioners were able to evacuate without incident, 20 people were injured in the blast and four teenage girls were killed. Thousands attended their funeral and protests erupted all over the city. Once again, Birmingham made national headlines as people across the country called for swift justice for the perpetrators of the bombing. These calls went unanswered for more than a decade, until the Alabama attorney general re-opened the case.

26.22 - Level 2

Where did SCLC stage their well-publicized 1963 civil rights campaign?

Over the course of 1963, a significant change occurred in the way that most Americans viewed the civil rights movement. In early 1963, most Americans believed that civil rights were not a major concern for the United States. By the end of the year, polls showed that Americans believed it was one of the most important issues of the day. In the face of mounting public pressure, President Kennedy was forced to make good on his campaign promises. He had actively avoided getting involved in civil rights issues for most of his presidency, considering them politically divisive, but that was no longer possible in 1963. Not only did the events in Birmingham create a sense of urgency in the domestic population, but they also provided fodder for the Soviet Union, which used civil rights struggles to create anti-American propaganda. Kennedy had submitted a civil rights bill in 1963, but the bill did not address the important issue of desegregated public facilities and he did nothing to promote it, leaving the bill to languish in Congress. In the wake of the Birmingham campaign, Kennedy gave his first televised address to the nation in which he explicitly addressed the need for civil rights legislation. After the March on Washington, he offered a second civil rights bill, the most comprehensive since Reconstruction, which called for the complete desegregation of public accommodations. Kennedy was assassinated months later, when the bill was still under review.

After Kennedy’s assassination, his successor, Lyndon Johnson, immediately took up the bill as his first major cause. He leaned heavily on Kennedy’s memory in drumming up support for the bill, taking advantage of the fact that the American people were already adopting a heroic version of the slain president in the wake of his assassination. Southern segregationist legislators fought the bill vehemently, arguing that the law usurped individual liberties. They attempted a number of maneuvers to get the bill rejected, including adding a provision forbidding discrimination against women in the workplace. To their surprise, the House passed the bill, even with the women’s provision included. Once the bill moved into the Senate, southern Democrats fought the bill even harder, at one point engaging in a 75-day filibuster led by former Ku Klux Klan member Robert Byrd. Nonetheless, the Senate ultimately passed the Civil Rights Act with a two-thirds majority and President Johnson signed the bill on July 2, 1964. The bill outlawed discrimination in public accommodations based on race, gender, color, religion, or national origin.

Question 26.23

26.23 - Level 4

Why do you think segregationists inserted the provision calling for an end to discrimination against women in the workplace into the proposed civil rights bill?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.23.

26.24 - Level 1

Which year marked the turning point for public opinion in favor of the civil rights movement?

Question 26.25

26.25 - Level 5

Explain why Martin Luther King Jr. sought to win the “PR war” in the civil rights struggle, and the tactics he used in that effort.

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.25.

The Struggle Continues

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a major step toward securing civil rights for African Americans, there was still much to be done. One of the biggest flaws in the bill was that it did not address the issue of voting rights, which were still sorely lacking in many states. In 1964, immediately following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, activists in Mississippi decided to capitalize on the goodwill created by the bill to engage in a demonstration highlighting the lack of black representation in southern politics. Since Reconstruction, the southern political system had been entirely run by the Democratic Party, to the point where the winner of the Democratic primary was considered the de facto winner of the election. No white Southerners supported the Republican Party, still considered the “party of Lincoln,” and African Americans were systemically excluded from the voting process by way of poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests.

In 1961, the Southern Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had organized voter registration drives in an effort to increase African American voter participation. Those who participated were met with violent opposition. In 1963, would-be black voters attempted to vote in a primary election and were turned away there as well. Several protesters, frustrated by the lack of success, decided to create their own political party. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was founded in April 1964 by veteran SNCC activists Fannie Lou Hamer, Robert Moses, and Ella Baker. The founders intended for the party to serve as an equal opportunity rival to the entrenched white establishment, accepting white and black members equally. They traveled to the Democratic National Convention in August 1964 with the goal of unseating the undemocratically elected Democratic Party delegates from Mississippi. After all, the Mississippi delegates had been chosen by a segregated electorate in an election that used unfair exclusionary practices that violated federal election laws. It was here that the civil rights movement hit the limits of the Democratic Party’s sympathies. National party leaders, concerned that the presence of the MFDP would disrupt the proceedings and draw negative attention to the party, did not want to seat any of the delegates. However, Hamer and the rest of the delegates continued to press their case. In a televised hearing of the Convention Credentials Committee, Hamer told her life story, including her experience as an impoverished sharecropper and her experience in attempting to vote (Figure 26.9). Hamer’s testimony moved the Democrats to offer what they perceived as a compromise: two Convention seats for the MFDC in addition to those taken by the currently sitting Mississippi delegates. The MFDC declined the offer, which they considered an insult to their cause. From that point forward, African American activists maintained an active distrust of the Democratic Party, even as average African Americans flocked to vote for them.

Spotlight on Primary Source

Before getting involved with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Fannie Lou Hamer was a the wife of a poor rural Mississippi sharecropper. Galvanized by the work of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and other civil rights groups, she began to work to register African Americans in her home county, often with violent results. The following is Hamer’s recounting of the violence and harassment she received when attempting to register to vote in 1962 and 1963.

Question 26.26

26.26 - Level 2

How does Hamer describe her experience attempting to vote? What experiences did she face as a result of this action? How do you think Hamer’s testimony affected those who heard it?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.26.

26.27 - Level 2

Which of the following was a method used in southern states to prevent African American voter participation?


Poll taxes


Grandfather clauses


Physical intimidation


All of the above

Figure 26.10: Fannie Lou Hamer, American civil rights leader, at the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey, August 1964. [8]

Although the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party raised awareness of the continued inequities facing AfricanAmericans in the South, the incident was not enough to push Congress into taking legislative action. In 1964, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference combined forces to register voters. As part of this Freedom Summer, protesters not only registered voters, but also opened so-called “freedom schools” designed to teach locals about subjects that were explicitly avoided in other schools, such as constitutional rights and black history. These efforts were met with resistance and violence by the local police and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In early 1965, SCLC decided to focus its efforts in Selma, Alabama, an area that had faced a particularly difficult time registering voters due to its rabidly segregationist governor, George Wallace, and its aggressive police department. Due to the fact that Martin Luther King had just won a Nobel Peace Prize and his star was at an all-time high, he believed that he could draw attention to voting inequality in a way that ordinary citizens might not by themselves.

Figure 26.11: Bloody Sunday- Alabama police attack Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers, 1965. [9]

The centerpiece of the Selma movement was a massive march of protesters from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. On March 7, more than 600 protesters started the more than 50 mile march, only to be stopped on a bridge at the edge of town by armed state troopers, who resisted the marchers with clubs and tear gas. The conflict was filmed for the news and caused national outrage, as protesters and religious leaders streamed into the city to show support for the SCLC and the movement. King attempted another march two days later, only to be stopped again by Alabama troopers (Figure 26.10). State leaders attempted to issue an injunction against the marchers, but by then, the event had gained national support, and a district court judge forced the state to permit the march to go forward. Likewise, President Johnson gave a televised speech in support of the marchers, which drew even more people to Selma. When the march finally proceeded on March 21, more than 2,000 marchers were involved—more than three times the original number. They were protected throughout the 4-day march by the U.S. Army and the Alabama National Guard. When the group arrived on March 25, they were met by tens of thousands of supporters, and they all gathered at the Alabama state capital to hear King and other leaders speak.

As events in Selma came to a head, President Johnson met before a joint session of Congress to address the urgent need for a voting rights bill. Congress, seeing the national swell of support for the movement, passed the Voting Rights Act in August. The bill was the first national law to enforce the 15th Amendment, which passed during Reconstruction and had initially allowed African American voting rights. The Voting Rights Act called for federal oversight of the election process, and made long-held voting obstacles like poll taxes and literacy tests illegal. After the passage of this law, AfricanAmericans were able to engage in the political process to the fullest extent they had ever achieved.

26.28 Level 5

Defend the SCLC's decision to continue the March to Montgomery after experiencing violent pushback from law enforcement officials in Selma.

26.29 - Level 2

Which of the following voter suppression tactics were banned by the Voting Rights Act of 1965?


Poll tax


Literacy test


Grandfather clause

Riots and Confusion in the Movement

In the wake of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, there was an expectation among white Americans that the civil rights movement had achieved all of its goals and would therefore disappear from view. Yet, in the aftermath of these enormous legislative victories, African Americans still believed that there were a number of inequities in American society that needed addressing, particularly in regions not previously targeted by the movement. Still faced with a lack of affordable housing, job opportunities, and equal pay in cities all over the country, they felt they should act on the momentum gained from recent successes by attacking racism as a nationwide problem. As a result of these opposing views, a significant amount of racial tension began to develop all over the country in the mid-1960s.

Housing became the biggest priority. Although racially restrictive housing covenants were outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1948, they continued to exist on an unofficial basis all over the country. Los Angeles offers an excellent example of this type of discrimination. There, nearly 95% of all housing was off-limits to people of African American, Asian, or Hispanic heritage. After World War II, with a rising non-white population, developers started to create African American suburbs, and some real estate agents in Los Angeles started selling homes in white neighborhoods to black families. Unscrupulous agents would often sell homes to black families, wait for the white inhabitants to panic, and then purchase their homes at rock bottom prices and re-sell them at a premium to house-hungry African Americans, a practice called blockbusting. White homeowners responded to what they saw as an intrusion by burning crosses on the lawns of black residents, vandalizing their homes, and occasionally even attacking the occupants. White gangs developed and roamed the streets looking for African Americans walking in what they perceived as white areas so that they could attack them. Black and Latino residents could not expect help from local law enforcement in these situations, as officers generally tended to live in the working class neighborhoods where blockbusting tactics were prevalent and therefore sympathized with the attackers.

During the 1960s, the Los Angeles Police Department had a policy to “engage” as many black and Latino youth as possible, meaning they stopped every person they saw fitting this description in order to check for possible wrong-doing. In 1965, after a young black man was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, his family intervened angrily on his behalf and ended up being arrested themselves. Passersby supported the family and a crowd quickly gathered, culminating in the injury of an LAPD officer. This initial action touched off a 6-day riot in Los Angeles which ended with several people dead, more than a thousand injured, and millions of dollars of property damage (Figure 26.11). Approximately 35,000 adults participated in the Watts riot. White viewers watching on television viewed the rioters as hoodlums with no civic pride who were trashing their own neighborhood. African Americans saw things differently. They saw the riots as an uprising against an unjust system signaling that they weren’t going to tolerate mistreatment any longer.

Figure 26.12: Burning buildings during the Watts riot, August 1965 [10]

Increasing Radicalization

After Los Angeles, Martin Luther King’s next challenge was tackling racial discrimination in housing in Chicago. Going into northern neighborhoods proved to be one of King’s biggest challenges, as northerners assumed that racism was a southern issue and did not like being asked to evaluate their own prejudices. King had to abandon the campaign prematurely due to the death threats and violence he received. He was nearly stoned to death in one instance, and later remarked that “the people of Mississippi need to come to Chicago to learn how to hate properly.” After Chicago, he continued to work on fair housing campaigns in addition to working with sanitation workers for fair wages and working conditions, although he concentrated his efforts in the South.

Question 26.30

26.30 - Level 6

Why do you think younger civil rights advocates such as Stokely Carmichael started to reject the idea of non-violent resistance? How would you justify their actions? Also, how could you justify the virtues of non-violent resistance to them?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.30.

26.31 - Level 1

Which of the following issues was not addressed by civil rights legislation in the early 1960s?






Voting rights


Workplace discrimination

As King continued his struggle to obtain civil rights through non-violent resistance, his disciples started to have second thoughts about his methods. Stokely Carmichael was one such doubter. Carmichael had stopped his undergraduate education at Howard University in order to participate in voter registration drives in the early 1960s. Throughout the years, Carmichael had endured beatings, served jail time, and gained a lengthy FBI file. In 1966, in the face of an increasing number of riots and mounting examples of injustice and police brutality, Carmichael became radicalized. Carmichael came to believe that the only way to improve the plight of African Americans was not to ask for equality, but to take over the system itself. He felt that with African Americans in power, there would not be police brutality or wage inequality, and black communities would receive their fair share of money for schools and roads and other public services.

In June 1966, activist James Meredith led a one-man walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in order to encourage African American voter registration and draw attention to the continued discrimination that existed in the South. He was shot on the second day of the march by a white supremacist, sparking a wave of support from civil rights groups, who continued the march in his stead. In the latter days of the march, Carmichael made a speech that represented a major break with the mainstream movement. Carmichael advocated for “black power.” He advocated that African Americans should give up passive resistance in favor of arming themselves. He also believed that black men should evade the military draft whenever possible; after all, there was no reason for them to fight for the freedom of Vietnamese people when they were denied fair treatment at home. Likewise, they could not be a credit to their community if they were off dying in Vietnam in disproportionate numbers. Lastly, echoing back to the teachings of Malcolm X, he believed that if African Americans could not reach the upper echelons of power, they should separate entirely from the white community and form their own power structure. Carmichael’s new philosophy separated his organization, SNCC, from the NAACP and the SCLC, which continued to espouse integration and non-violent resistance.

In the fall of 1966, a group of African American men in Oakland, California took Carmichael’s idea and expanded upon it. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was established in order for African Americans to exercise some degree of surveillance over police activity in black neighborhoods. Its leaders, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, drew upon the teachings of previous black nationalists, including Malcolm X. After a rash of incidents involving the police killing unarmed black men, each of which was followed by a riot, Newton and Seale believed that they could convert all of the furious anger into political power. They studied gun laws and realized that under certain circumstances, they would be able carry weapons and observe the police from a short distance without doing anything illegal. Stokely Carmichael came to California shortly after the party’s founding and actively endorsed their plan.

Although the Black Panthers became known for their advocacy of carrying loaded weapons and challenging police authority, they saw themselves primarily as a community organization, giving “power to the people.” One of their other signature causes was improving the conditions of black prisoners in the United States and ensuring that they received proper legal representation. This push for better prison treatment led to an uptick in prison riots in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as prisoners staged bloody rebellions against their captors. Most famously, prisoners staged a riot at Attica Prison in 1971, when more than a thousand inmates held 39 guards hostage for three days. These events earned the Black Panthers a reputation for inciting violence, but in truth, they were much more concerned with community outreach. They also organized food drives to feed the hungry, created reading programs, offered home care to the elderly and sick, and actively promoted an African American standard of beauty. The Panthers encouraged the use of the word “black” as opposed to the common term “negro,” and they typically wore their hair in the “afro” style. They also encouraged people to dress in traditionally African-style garb, such as dashikis. The “black arts movement” became pervasive as the black community embraced artists like Maya Angelou and James Baldwin. The movement became so powerful that universities often instituted black studies programs in order to meet student interest.

The Panthers remained a fringe movement, even in the African American community, although their supporters were fervent. The movement also had the effect of alienating white civil rights supporters, who felt uncomfortable with the idea of armed conflict against the police. Several of the Panther leaders were arrested for various charges, thus causing strife even within the group. Despite the controversy that surrounded the Panthers, some of their ideas, such as the focus on community outreach and promotion of black pride, found purchase within the mainstream.

Question 26.32

26.32 - Level 3

Make the case for why the Black Panthers should be considered a community service organization as opposed to a political group.

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.32.

The death of Martin Luther King is often considered the beginning of the end of the civil rights movement. By 1968, King had become more radical, addressing the issue of economic inequality and becoming a vocal dissenter against the Vietnam War. In April of that year, King was in Memphis, Tennessee offering assistance to a sanitation workers’ strike. In the previous weeks, he told friends he had premonitions of his death, and felt he was not long for the world. As King stood on the balcony of his hotel room shortly before an event on the evening of April 4, he was fatally shot by a lone gunman, later identified as white supremacist James Earl Ray. He was 39 years old. King’s death sparked outrage in the black community, and more than a hundred riots exploded all over the country in response. Even the Black Panthers, who disagreed with King’s non-violent methods, believed his death represented the end of the possibility of racial peace. There was one good thing that came out of King’s assassination—it prompted Congress to swiftly pass more civil rights legislation: a fair housing bill that King had supported which prohibited discrimination in the sale, renting, or financing of a home based on race, gender, nation of origin, religion, or color. President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1968 Civil Rights Act on April 11, just over a week after King’s passing.

Second Wave Feminism

Although the women’s movement had existed in some form since the 19th century, the Second Wave Feminist movement, also known as the Women’s Liberation movement, sprang at least partially from the African-American civil rights movement. While the First Wave of feminism occurred between 1848 and the 1920s and focused on the establishment of voting rights in service of achieving broader legal and social rights for women, the Second Wave was dedicated to establishing universal equality in the legal system, the workplace, in sexuality, and in the home. The women’s movement of the early 1960s initially revolved around white middle-class women who found the societal expectations that they be entirely fulfilled by their husbands, home, and children to be profoundly stifling. These women, many of whom were highly educated, were expected to give up any educational or career goals in service of having a family. While some women were content with this arrangement, many others ended up isolated in their homes, assuming that others were fulfilled while they kept their discontentment a secret. Although countless books and magazines addressed this discontent during the 1950s, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) was the first to point to societal oppression instead of blaming women for their lack of fulfillment. Books like Friedan’s launched a period of self-discovery for many American women. Friedan came to represent the liberal brand of Second Wave feminism, which focused on working within the system to effect political and legal change. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 included a section that eliminated gender discrimination in the workplace, it seemed like such changes were in the offing. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did not enforce the law, forcing women like Friedan to organize more formally. In 1966, Friedan and others formed the National Organization for Women (NOW), with the purpose of giving women a space to organize in order to obtain equal economic, social and political rights.

Figure 26.12: Photo of Betty Friedan​ [11]

This brand of feminism appealed to women like Betty Friedan (Figure 26.12), but it was not intersectional; it did not address the concerns facing women who were not white, heterosexual, middle class, and suburban. The civil rights and antiwar movements changed that. Through the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Martin Luther King’s SCLC, and the SDS led protests, rallies, and voter registration drives in the early-to-mid 1960s, gender disparities revealed themselves to women of all classes and races. Although these movements preached solidarity and equality, and women’s participation was crucial to their success, men were almost universally the leaders and public faces of the protests, while women were relegated to menial office work and traditionally female duties like making food and cleaning up. When women brought up their concerns, men in these organizations often dismissed them for taking attention away from the “real” problem.

African-American women were torn during these developments, as they felt they were betraying the civil rights movement if they drew attention to the issues of the women’s movement. They often felt divided between their loyalty to the civil rights movement and their identities as women. While feminism became more intersectional over time, this tension is an issue that persists even today for women of color.

Activists like University of California professor Angela Davis helped to bridge the divide between African-American women and feminism. Davis was a member of both the Black Panthers and the feminist movement. She served as a professor of philosophy at UC San Diego before Governor Ronald Reagan refused to renew her appointment due to her connections with the Communist Party. She achieved national recognition in 1970, after her lover, Black Panther George Jackson, was involved in a shoot-out using weapons that she had purchased. Davis was tried as an accessory to murder and acquitted. With her large Afro hairstyle and Black Panther-inspired style of dress, Davis became a feminist icon for black women by recognizing that, as members of not one but two oppressed groups, black women had more reasons than anyone to fight against ingrained social prejudice and injustice.

Question 26.33

Question 26.33 - Level 4

What unique tension did many African-American women face in choosing to participate in the social movements of the 1960s?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.33. 

Davis was a proponent and teacher of consciousness-raising, a key element of the radical brand of Second Wave Feminism. Women would gather together in each other’s homes and simply talk about their daily lives. In discussing seemingly mundane issues such as childcare, work, and marriage, the women came to see that they had much in common, and that they all had to bear some degree of injustice. In this way, women learned to recognize the concept of institutional sexism. In doing so, they came to recognize the mantra of the Second Wave movement, that “the personal is political,” and organize campaigns based on the issues the CR groups identified.

Question 26.34

Question 26.34 - Level 2

What does it mean to say that "the personal is political"?

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.34. 

As the 1960s progressed and the African-American civil rights movement became more radicalized, so too did the women’s movement. Women stepped outside of consciousness-raising circles and began to embrace radical feminism, which posited that patriarchal society could only be changed through the radical alteration of societal norms and institutions. This ideology called for thoroughly rejecting the societal expectations of gender norms and binaries. The younger women, in particular, rejected traditional clothing, hairstyles, makeup, and behavior expected of their gender, instead choosing to protest and wear pants and no makeup. Although there is a stereotype that feminists of this era were “bra-burners,” there is no evidence that such a ritual was part of the feminist protests of the time. Indeed, this myth came from the coverage of a protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A group called the New York Radical Women staged the non-violent protest in order to bring attention to what they believed was a sexist and outdated way of ranking women based on their looks. In front of reporters, the women threw “instruments of female torture” into a “Freedom trash can,” with the intention of burning them to connect the women’s protest with that of draft card-burning war protesters. The collection included copies of Playboy magazine, bras, girdles, pans, and cleaning implements. Although the women did not actually burn these items, the press latched onto the bras, and they became the symbol of radical feminism. The New York Radical Women disbanded the following year and some of its members formed an even more revolutionary group, called the Redstockings. Although this group of radical feminists supported consciousness-raising, they also rejected the notion that gender inequality could be solved through institutional reform. They instead believed that all men oppressed all women and that it was the man’s job to individually renounce the patriarchy rather than the job of all women to change the system.

As more women connected with the movement, it transformed from a purely cultural phenomenon into something more concrete. Women introduced their claims of unequal and unfair treatment into the legal system, once again using the tools created by the African American civil rights movement. By the mid-1960s, the women at NOW had some success in forcing employers to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In 1970, dozens of female Newsweek magazine staffers, led by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer and former civil rights activist Eleanor Holmes Norton, filed a discrimination complaint against their employer, on the grounds that the magazine was violating Title VII by not permitting them to become staff writers. The women ultimately undertook multiple legal measures before the magazine made the necessary changes to its hiring policies. For her part, Holmes parlayed high-profile cases like the Newsweek case into positions on the New York City Human Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before ultimately winning a seat in the House of Representatives, where she still serves today. Likewise, ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a career out of dismantling sexist laws that discriminated against women in the economy and in the workplace. Among other things, she helped to dismantle laws that made jury duty optional for women, extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause to women for the first time, and eliminated disparities in government housing allowances for men and women. Ginsburg’s reputation as a crusader for women’s rights earned her a position on the U.S. Court of Appeals, and in 1993, a position as a justice on the United States Supreme Court.

Question 26.35

Question 26.35 - Level 3

What was so "radical" about the Radical Feminists of the late 1960s?

Shirley Chisholm, an educator, child welfare expert, and one of the founders of NOW, became the first African-American woman to become a member of the United States Congress in 1968. As a member of the House of Representatives, Chisholm was able to expand the political reach of women, particularly women of color. She was one of the creators of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, more popularly known as WIC. Chisholm was uncompromising in her commitment to helping women and children, and her strong will earned her the respect of her fellow congressman, and she held her office for seven terms. She made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in the presidential election of 1972, making her the first African-American woman to vie for a major party nomination. Chisolm’s rise to a position of power represented the leaps and bounds by which women had moved forward in society as a result of the Second Wave movement.

Figure 26.13​: In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became both the first woman and first African-American to run for the nomination to a major party to be President of the United States. This campaign poster features her slogan "unbought and unbossed." [12]

By the 1970s, the combination of efforts from radical and liberal feminists, African-American and white, had led to a number of changes that transformed the economic, political, and personal lives of American women. The Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade allowed women the right to get an abortion and birth control pills became widely available to all women regardless of marital status. Job wanted advertisements were no longer segregated by gender. Married women were allowed to open credit and checking accounts in their own names, a privilege previously denied to them. More women began attending college and graduate school and there was more of an expectation that men would take on more childrearing and household duties than they had in the past. In just over a decade, feminists were able to radically alter expectations about marriage, work, family, and overall quality of life for future generations of women.

Native American Activism

Native Americans also experienced a surge of activism in the 1960s. These protesters had as many, if not more, injustices to overcome as their female and African-American counterparts. They faced higher rates of poverty and unemployment than other minority groups in the United States, had a far lower life expectancy than any other American demographic, and coped with the substandard living conditions that were typical in reservation housing. A typical reservation home only had two or three rooms, but many lived in dilapidated shacks or broken down cars. Very few had access to indoor plumbing and running water. Educational attainment remained low; approximately 15 percent finished high school and a statistically insignificant number attended college.

In the 1950s, Congress passed a law allowing states to have jurisdiction over Native American reservations without acquiring the consent of the tribes, and there was talk that the government wanted to force Native Americans living on the reservations to hand over their land and relocate to urban areas. Faced with attempted infringements on their rights, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) successfully contested the laws. By the 1960s, manifestations of Native American protest were more common and, inspired by African-Americans, some groups adopted the slogan “Red Power” and many of the tactics of the civil rights movement. In 1966, one group staged a large protest against police brutality against Natives. In 1969, another group occupied the abandoned Alcatraz Penitentiary in order to protest the substandard living conditions on reservations. In the video below, Richard Oakes, a leader of the protest, reads the Alcatraz Proclamation, which directly addresses the government for its role in bringing about these conditions.  In 1972, the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington D.C. and occupied it for a week as a way of bringing attention to the living conditions and general concerns facing Native Americans. The following year, members of the Lakota joined with AIM to occupy Wounded Knee, South Dakota, site of the infamous 1890 massacre, as a protest designed to shame the federal government into honoring its treaties with Native Americans.

Although Native Americans had resisted their poor treatment for centuries, the AIM represented the first time disparate tribes had banded together in order to address common grievances. This tactic paid off in the form of legislation designed to address a number of grievances. The 1972 Indian Education Act gave Native parents more control over their children’s education, while the 1976 Indian Health Care Act sought to address disparities in Native American medical treatment. Later, the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act gave tribes decision-making powers in custody cases involving Native American children. Meanwhile, several major Supreme Court cases affirmed the rights of Native tribes in administering their own affairs, which included everything from levying taxes to operating casinos to hunting rights. A number of Native groups also filed lawsuits in order to repossess land that had been taken from their ancestors. Although attempts like these were not always successful, they represented a renewed willingness on the part of Native Americans to take collective action in the interest of protecting their civil rights. These actions are of a piece with the recent fight over the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. In 2016, Native American protesters banded together in an effort to prevent an oil pipeline from being built near their traditional burial grounds, arguing that the pipeline would destroy their reservoirs of fresh water. Echoing the actions of AIM, the protesters occupied the land, forcing a standoff with the federal government and drawing national attention to what had been a regional issue. Although the future of the pipeline route remains uncertain for now, the Native Americans in the region are carrying on a long tradition of protest on behalf of their people.

Question 26.36

Question 26.36 - Level 2

Which of the following issues galvanized Native American protests in the 1960s and 1970s?


Control over children's education


Land treaties dishonored by the federal government


Living conditions on Native reservations


Equal pay for equal work

Chicano Movement

Also known as “El Movimiento,” the Chicano Movement of the 1960s represents yet another civil rights struggle that developed concurrently with the African-American movement. Before the mid-twentieth century, the term chicano had been a derogatory term for a Mexican-American. The movement embraced the term as a symbol of national and ethnic pride.

The Chicano movement was not a protest for one specific change; rather, it was a combination of movements that comprised many elements of Mexican American society. One of the largest segments of the movement was the farm workers’ movement, led by César Chavez. Chavez, who was a farm laborer, was also an admirer of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, and utilized their non-violent tactics in orchestrating his movement. In 1962, he created the National Farm Workers Association and mobilized farm workers to collectively fight for better pay, hours, and working conditions. In just over a decade, Chavez’s organization grew to 50,000 workers, making it large enough to effectively force growers to accede to its demands. His organization eventually became the United Farm Workers.

Spotlight on Primary Source

César Chavez was instrumental in organizing the Delano grape strike, a labor strike against California grape growers that lasted for five years.  It began when Filipino farmworkers walked off the fields on September 8, 1965, and expanded when they were joined by Mexican-Americans two weeks later. Supported by millions of people throughout America, the strike was a landmark struggle for civil and labor rights, and led to the foundation of of the United Farm Workers. In early 1969, many years into the strike, Chavez penned this letter to the President of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League to address accusations of violent tactics used by the strikers. 

Figure 26.14: Sculpture of César Chavez and farm laborers on display at César Chavez​ Plaza in downtown Sacramento, California. [13]

Question 26.37

Question 26.37 - Level 1

Which African-American civil rights leader does César Chavez cite for inspiration in his Letter from Delano (1969)?


Stokely Carmichael


Martin Luther King Jr.


Malcom X


Angela Davis

In addition to the plight of the farmworkers, there was also a movement to restore land grants in New Mexico to the descendants of their former Mexican owners. In the 1950s, long-time Chicano rights activist Reies Tijerina discovered that government officials and local ranchers had worked systematically to swindle Mexican-American landowners out of land grants given to them in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which had ended the Mexican-American War. Tijerina petitioned the U.S. and Mexican governments for redress, locating the original documentation and asking the U.S. to honor the original agreements.

Ultimately, Tijerina did not secure the land grants, but he did galvanize the Chicano population, the momentum of which Tijerina capitalized upon in order to form a youth movement, which comprised a third part of the Chicano cause. Chicano youth, led by Tijerina, emphasized pride in their Mexican heritage and participated in the Poor People’s Campaign, Martin Luther King’s last civil rights campaign before his death. This political activism, which did not receive much support from the Democratic Party, led to the creation of La Raza Unida, a political party centered around Hispanic issues and Chicano nationalism. Although it never rose to national prominence, the party was active in state and local elections throughout the Southwestern United States during the 1970s.


Martin Luther King Jr.'s death in 1968 had the effect of radicalizing many African Americans, who saw King’s assassination as the ultimate white rejection of the leader’s non-violent message. Membership and support for the Black Panthers soared in the wake of his death, while white supporters were encouraged to step back. With the exception of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, no more civil rights legislation passed following King’s death. However, the leader’s influence continued. In addition to the anti-war movement, the Berkeley Free Speech movement, which began in 1964 and lasted throughout the 1960s, was started by students who admired King’s work in the South and believed they should follow his example. They protested peacefully against policies with which they did not agree, and specifically college rules forbidding students to engage in political activities on campus. The Second Wave women’s movement and to some extent, the gay rights movement also evolved in the same manner. King’s influence became so singular and pervasive that calls to have a national holiday in his honor surfaced soon after his death. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan finally responded to these requests by making the third Monday in January Martin Luther King Day, a date chosen so as to coincide with King’s birthday. The event not only marked King’s passage into the official canon of singular American leaders, but it also signaled the inclusion of the civil rights movement into the crucial events that shaped United States history. Although the movement is often characterized as a story of unmitigated triumph, its legacy is much more complicated. Despite the great gains achieved by civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, the latter part, with its divisions, increased radicalization, and failed attempts to change northern cities, represented the weaknesses of the movement. If anything, these difficulties demonstrated the pervasive nature of American racism, as well as the limits of grassroots activism in creating lasting and meaningful social change.

Question 26.38

26.38 - Level 5

How would you evaluate the success or failures of the Civil Rights Movement? What criteria would you use to judge the movement? Do you think the effects of such a movement might take time to reveal? Consider both legal and social issues.

Click here to see the answer to Question 26.38.

Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Class Discussion 26.01

Class Discussion 26.01 - Level 2

Riots became a prominent feature in large urban areas during the late 1960s? Why did riots become more prevalent in black communities at the height of the civil rights movement, when so many legislative gains had been accomplished?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 26.01.

Class Discussion 26.02

Class Discussion 26.02 - Level 2

Why was the Black Panther Party viewed with suspicion by the mainstream media as well as many middle class Americans of all races?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 26.02.

Class Discussion 26.03

Class Discussion 26.03 - Level 5

As the civil rights movement progressed, why do you think the NAACP became a less visible part of the struggle?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 26.03.

Class Discussion 26.04

Class Discussion 26.04 - Level 2

Why was the death of Martin Luther King often considered to be an ending point for the civil rights movement?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 26.04.

Class Discussion 26.05

Class Discussion 26.05 - Level 3

What influences do you think the civil rights movement exerted on other freedom and political movements of the 1960s?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 26.05.

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Suggested Additional Material

Raymond Arsenault. 2011. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (New York: Oxford University Press).

John Dittmer. 1995. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (University of Illinois Press).

Juan Williams and Julian Bond. 2013. Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 (New York: Penguin Books). 

Answers to In-Chapter Discussion Questions

Answer to Question 26.01

Jim Crow laws developed in the late 19th century in response to increased African American participation in political and economic life, particularly in the South. This was a way for the majority white population to continue to exert control over a population that was becoming more educated and independent. Most Jim Crow laws involved segregation in public accommodations such as schools and railroads. 

Click here to return to Question 26.01.

Answer to Question 26.03

Answers will vary.

Click here to return to Question 26.03.

Answer to Question 26.06

The American Communist Party was interested in the civil rights movement for several reasons. One, the communist party aimed to create a system in which workers controlled the means of production in order to create a more egalitarian society. The civil rights movement, with its emphasis on equal rights, matched those priorities. Secondly, ACP support for the civil rights movement served as excellent propaganda for the communist party, as this struggle highlighted the inability of certain groups to achieve equality within the capitalist democratic system. This demonstrated the principles of freedom and equality so often espoused in the U.S. were much more elusive than advertised.

Click here to return to Question 26.06.

Answer to Question 26.08

Ghandi’s strategy was appealing for U.S. civil rights leaders because one, it was very successful in India and two, it’s message of non-violence and love corresponded with the principles of religious leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King. Although the NAACP had been successfully prosecuting cases against the Jim Crow system for decades, most civil rights leaders realized that this process was moving too slowly to effect any radical change and that boycotts and protests were more effective at creating an immediate change in public perceptions of segregation. The contrast of peaceful protesters with violent police officers ensured a large number of people would see the protests and support the message.

Click here to return to Question 26.08.

Answer to Question 26.14

Strategies include creating a system of state vouchers for private schools, pupil placement boards, guarantees of closing desegregated schools, closing schools instead of desegregating them, etc

Click here to return to Question 26.14.

Answer to Question 26.16

This question is entirely opinion based and there is no right answer. However, students might say that they support the strategy based on its effectiveness and shock value, while others might say they disagree with it because it puts young people, and sometimes children, purposefully into harm’s way.

Click here to return to Question 26.16.

Answer to Question 26.18

While Martin Luther King espoused a strategy of non-violence and racial cooperation, Malcolm X believed that African Americans should fight back against aggressors when attacked and that African Americans should separate themselves as completely as possible from the white community, as he did not believe racial cooperation was possible . He did not advocate for preemptive violence. King’s philosophy was clearly influenced by his upbringing- as a product of the middle class, he believed in the power of the law and religion to change people’s hearts from hatred. X, on the other hand, was a product of a much more violent and racist upbringing and saw first hand the destructive power of institutional racism. He had no faith in the American system of law and justice as a result.

Click here to return to Question 26.18.

Answer to Question 26.21

Again, this is an opinion question and there is no right answer. However, students might say that they agree with the strategy because of the shock value that comes with seeing small children rounded up like criminals. Also, the children were not physically harmed during this exercise so one could say that the children did not experience any personal injury as a result of this experience. That said, there was no guarantee the children would not be hurt and one could also argue that as children, they were not fully cognizant of the consequences of their actions when they agreed to participate. The justification to a worried parent could be that their children are drawing much needed attention to a worthy cause that would hopefully benefit them in both short and long term ways.

Click here to return to Question 26.21.

Answer to Question 26.23

Opponents of the civil rights bill inserted the language concerning women because they thought it would derail the legislation. Due to pervasive biases against women in the workforce at the time, some legislators wanted to exploit those sentiments and and target those who thought that the idea of having to treat a woman equally and give her equal opportunities was so distasteful that they would derail the entire bill.

Click here to return to Question 26.23.

Answer to Question 26.25

1) MLK was a master at using the press to gain sympathy for his cause. This led him to encourage his supporters to dress nicely, never fight back, and project respectable middle-class values. He sought out situations where there would likely be an aggressive and violent response from local officials, making the protestors into the clear victims. 2) He also recognized that young people garnered more sympathy from the public, so he often used students in his activities. However, this instinct also led him to put children in the dangerous situations, like during the Children’s Crusade.  

Click here to return to Question 26.25.

Answer to Question 26.26

Fannie Lou Hamer describes two times when she was not only being turned away when she attempted to vote, but also arrested. Following her arrest, she was placed in police custody where she endured harassment, abuse, and possibly sexual assault. Although the last part of the question in opinion based, one can imagine that those who heard her story were affected by it, as her experience turned the theoretical practice of voting into a real story of denial and suffering.

Click here to return to Question 26.26.

Answer to Question 26.30

Leaders like Stokely Carmichael rejected non-violent resistance because they felt that they should not have to put up with beatings and violence in order to obtain rights that already belonged to them. People like Carmichael had spent years getting beaten, jailed, threatened, and tracked by the FBI and they did not think they had made enough progress for their efforts. One could counter Carmichael’s arguments that saying while progress may not have moved forward as much as hoped for, the movement was still responsible for the passage of several major pieces of legislation which had the potential to create even more long term changes.

Click here to return to Question 26.30.

Answer to Question 26.32

The Black Panthers promoted literacy programs, provided meal services to the need and indigent in the community, promoted self-protection from police violence within the community, and advocated for more humane treatment of prisoners in the criminal justice system.

Click here to return to Question 26.32.

Answer to Question 26.33

African-American women faced the option of joining the civil rights movement, which did not work to advance the issues they faced as women; or the women's movement, which was not intersectional and did not take into account the unique discrimination they experienced as women of color. Furthermore, many African-American women felt that these movements needed to compete for national attention, and that  joining the women's movement would be a betrayal of the civil rights cause. 

Click here to return to Question 26.33.

Answer to Question 26.34

"The personal is political" was a rallying cry of the second wave feminist movement, and was used to point out that the personal experiences and choices women faced were the product of larger political and social structures. The slogan was also used to challenge the dominant American vision of the nuclear family. 

Click here to return to Question 26.33.

Answer to Question 26.38

Students might say that the movement was successful in that it achieved tangible progress in the form of civil rights, voting and fair housing legislation, in addition to raising general awareness of institutional racism. However, it failed because legislation cannot eliminate personal beliefs, such as racism and failed to bridge the schism that existed between races. It is safe to say that the civil rights movement continues into the present day and that many of the issues discussed during the 1950s and 1960s still resonate today. Students might mention the Black Lives Matter movement as an example. 

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Answers to Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Answer to Class Discussion 26.01

Riots became common because many African Americans became frustrated with the pace of progress. Although legislation helped to secure voting rights and other civil liberties, there were still issues of job discrimination, housing discrimination, and police brutality. Some of these issues could not be solved through legislation, nor could they immediately remedy racism or the effects of centuries of oppressive policies toward African Americans. For many, particular those in poorer neighborhoods most affected by the problems that remained, riots were a way to express anger with the system and its lack of progress.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 26.01.

Answer to Class Discussion 26.02

The Black Panthers were often perceived as being aggressors against the police due to the fact that they carried guns, when in fact, the Panthers were careful not to engage in violence against the police unless directly provoked. The Panthers also had an unofficial uniform- all black clothing- that came across as menacing, as it was supposed to be, because it was sending the message that the African American community was strong, powerful, and not to be messed with, like a panther. Unlike those who participated in the non-violence movement, Panthers were not emphasizing their belonging in the middle class, they were not trying to be mild mannered and welcoming, and they were not promoting a wholesome image that appealed to mainstream America.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 26.02.

Answer to Class Discussion 26.03

The NAACP had long pursued justice for the African American community through traditional channels, focusing addressing problems in the legal system through the courts. After the victory of Brown v. Board, many African Americans realized that judicial victories would not be enough to secure the changes need in American racial dynamics. For the purposes of achieving true change, the people themselves needed to be changed, necessitating the use of grassroots methods that included the people and gave Americans of all races a glimpse into the realities of segregation and other racially motivated policies. The NAACP did not disappear in the era of grassroots political organizing, but it did remain rooted in its more traditional legal strategy of affecting change.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 26.03.

Answer to Class Discussion 26.04

Although the civil rights movement continued in the wake of King’s death, for many Americans, he represented the leader of that movement and its touchstone. Although King became more radical toward the end of his life, he was still perceived by many as a moderate voice in what was becoming an increasingly radicalized movement. Without his fame and influence, the movement did not have the same cache, and what’s more, those who filled his shoes often could not agree on strategies, thus making them less effective leaders than their predecessor.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 26.04.

Answer to Class Discussion 26.05

The civil rights movement served as an inspiration for the anti-war movement, the Free Speech movement, the women’s movement, the Chicano movement, and the gay rights movement, all of which began in the 1960s. Many of the leaders of those movements had initially participated in some aspect of the civil rights work that took place in the South, and they deployed the methods used by that movement in the service of their own causes. Most of these groups typically used some combination of the non-violent strategy combined with a legal strategy that more closely resembled that of the NAACP.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 26.05.

Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of Project Gutenberg in the Public Domain.

[2] Image courtesy of the U.S. Army in the Public Domain.

[3] Image courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Service in the Public Domain.

[4] Image courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History in the Public Domain.

[5] Image courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities in the Public Domain.

[6] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress in the Public Domain.

[7] Image courtesy of ourdocuments.gov in the Public Domain.

[8] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress in the Public Domain.

[9] Image courtesy of the National Parks Service U.S. Department of the Interior in the Public Domain. 

[10] Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-USZ62-113642] in the Public Domain.

[11] Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-USZ62-115884] in the Public Domain.

[12] Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-DIG-ppmsca-42048] in the Public Domain. 

[13] Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-DIG-highsm-23135] in the Public Domain.