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The civil rights movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s for Black Americans to gain equal rights under the law in the United States. The Civil War had officially abolished slavery, but it didn’t end discrimination against Black people—they continued to endure the devastating effects of racism, especially in the South. By the mid-20th century, Black Americans had had more than enough of prejudice and violence against them. They, along with many white Americans, mobilized and began an unprecedented fight for equality that spanned two decades.
WATCH The Civil Rights Movement on HISTORY Vault
Jim Crow Laws
During Reconstruction, Black people took on leadership roles like never before. They held public office and sought legislative changes for equality and the right to vote.
In 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution gave Black people equal protection under the law. In 1870, the 15th Amendment granted Black American men the right to vote. Still, many white Americans, especially those in the South, were unhappy that people they’d once enslaved were now on a more-or-less equal playing field.
To marginalize Black people, keep them separate from white people and erase the progress they’d made during Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” laws were established in the South beginning in the late 19th century. Black people couldn’t use the same public facilities as white people, live in many of the same towns or go to the same schools. Interracial marriage was illegal, and most Black people couldn’t vote because they were unable to pass voter literacy tests.
READ MORE: How Jim Crows Limited African-American Progress
Jim Crow laws weren’t adopted in northern states; however, Black people still experienced discrimination at their jobs or when they tried to buy a house or get an education. To make matters worse, laws were passed in some states to limit voting rights for Black Americans.
Moreover, southern segregation gained ground in 1896 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Plessy v. Ferguson that facilities for Black and white people could be “separate but equal.
READ MORE: When Did African Americans Get the Right to Vote?
World War II and Civil Rights
Prior to World War II, most Black people worked as low-wage farmers, factory workers, domestics or servants. By the early 1940s, war-related work was booming, but most Black Americans weren’t given the better paying jobs. They were also discouraged from joining the military.
After thousands of Black people threatened to march on Washington to demand equal employment rights, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941. It opened national defense jobs and other government jobs to all Americans regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.
Black men and women served heroically in World War II, despite suffering segregation and discrimination during their deployment. The Tuskegee Airmen broke the racial barrier to become the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps and earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Yet many Black veterans met with prejudice and scorn upon returning home. This was a stark contrast to why America had entered the war to begin with—to defend freedom and democracy in the world.
As the Cold War began, President Harry Truman initiated a civil rights agenda, and in 1948 issued Executive Order 9981 to end discrimination in the military. These events helped set the stage for grass-roots initiatives to enact racial equality legislation and incite the civil rights movement.
READ MORE: Why Harry Truman Ended Segregation in the US Military
On December 1, 1955, a 42-year-old woman named Rosa Parks found a seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus after work. Segregation laws at the time stated Black passengers must sit in designated seats at the back of the bus, and Parks had complied.
When a white man got on the bus and couldn’t find a seat in the white section at the front of the bus, the bus driver instructed Parks and three other Black passengers to give up their seats. Parks refused and was arrested.
As word of her arrest ignited outrage and support, Parks unwittingly became the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement.” Black community leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) led by Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr., a role which would place him front and center in the fight for civil rights.
Parks’ courage incited the MIA to stage a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days. On November 14, 1956 the Supreme Court ruled segregated seating was unconstitutional.
Little Rock Nine
In 1954, the civil rights movement gained momentum when the United States Supreme Court made segregation illegal in public schools in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1957, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas asked for volunteers from all-Black high schools to attend the formerly segregated school.
On September 3, 1957, nine Black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, arrived at Central High School to begin classes but were instead met by the Arkansas National Guard (on order of Governor Orval Faubus) and a screaming, threatening mob. The Little Rock Nine tried again a couple of weeks later and made it inside, but had to be removed for their safety when violence ensued.
Finally, President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened and ordered federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine to and from classes at Central High. Still, the students faced continual harassment and prejudice.
Their efforts, however, brought much-needed attention to the issue of desegregation and fueled protests on both sides of the issue.
READ MORE: Why Eisenhower Sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock After Brown v. Board
Civil Rights Act of 1957
Even though all Americans had gained the right to vote, many southern states made it difficult for Black citizens. They often required prospective voters of color to take literacy tests that were confusing, misleading and nearly impossible to pass.
Wanting to show a commitment to the civil rights movement and minimize racial tensions in the South, the Eisenhower administration pressured Congress to consider new civil rights legislation.
On September 9, 1957, President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law, the first major civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. It allowed federal prosecution of anyone who tried to prevent someone from voting. It also created a commission to investigate voter fraud.
Woolworth’s Lunch Counter
Despite making some gains, Black Americans still experienced blatant prejudice in their daily lives. On February 1, 1960, four college students took a stand against segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina when they refused to leave a Woolworth’s lunch counter without being served.
Over the next several days, hundreds of people joined their cause in what became known as the Greensboro sit-ins. After some were arrested and charged with trespassing, protesters launched a boycott of all segregated lunch counters until the owners caved and the original four students were finally served at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where they’d first stood their ground.
Their efforts spearheaded peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations in dozens of cities and helped launch the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to encourage all students to get involved in the civil rights movement. It also caught the eye of young college graduate Stokely Carmichael, who joined the SNCC during the Freedom Summer of 1964 to register Black voters in Mississippi. In 1966, Carmichael became the chair of the SNCC, giving his famous speech in which he originated the phrase "Black power.”
On May 4, 1961, 13 “Freedom Riders”—seven Black and six white activists–mounted a Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C., embarking on a bus tour of the American south to protest segregated bus terminals. They were testing the 1960 decision by the Supreme Court in Boynton v. Virginia that declared the segregation of interstate transportation facilities unconstitutional.
Facing violence from both police officers and white protesters, the Freedom Rides drew international attention. On Mother’s Day 1961, the bus reached Anniston, Alabama, where a mob mounted the bus and threw a bomb into it. The Freedom Riders escaped the burning bus, but were badly beaten. Photos of the bus engulfed in flames were widely circulated, and the group could not find a bus driver to take them further. U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (brother to President John F. Kennedy) negotiated with Alabama Governor John Patterson to find a suitable driver, and the Freedom Riders resumed their journey under police escort on May 20. But the officers left the group once they reached Montgomery, where a white mob brutally attacked the bus. Attorney General Kennedy responded to the riders—and a call from Martin Luther King, Jr.—by sending federal marshals to Montgomery.
On May 24, 1961, a group of Freedom Riders reached Jackson, Mississippi. Though met with hundreds of supporters, the group was arrested for trespassing in a “whites-only” facility and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Attorneys for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) brought the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, who reversed the convictions. Hundreds of new Freedom Riders were drawn to the cause, and the rides continued.
In the fall of 1961, under pressure from the Kennedy administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals
HISTORY and Google Earth: Follow the Freedom Riders’ Journey Against Segregation During the Civil Rights Era
March on Washington
Arguably one of the most famous events of the civil rights movement took place on August 28, 1963: the March on Washington. It was organized and attended by civil rights leaders such as A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King, Jr.
More than 200,000 people of all races congregated in Washington, D. C. for the peaceful march with the main purpose of forcing civil rights legislation and establishing job equality for everyone. The highlight of the march was King’s speech in which he continually stated, “I have a dream…”
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech galvanized the national civil rights movement and became a slogan for equality and freedom.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964—legislation initiated by President John F. Kennedy before his assassination—into law on July 2 of that year.
King and other civil rights activists witnessed the signing. The law guaranteed equal employment for all, limited the use of voter literacy tests and allowed federal authorities to ensure public facilities were integrated.
READ MORE: 8 Steps That Paved the Way to the Civil Rights Act of 1964
On March 7, 1965, the civil rights movement in Alabama took an especially violent turn as 600 peaceful demonstrators participated in the Selma to Montgomery march to protest the killing of Black civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson by a white police officer and to encourage legislation to enforce the 15th amendment.
As the protesters neared the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were blocked by Alabama state and local police sent by Alabama governor George C. Wallace, a vocal opponent of desegregation. Refusing to stand down, protesters moved forward and were viciously beaten and teargassed by police and dozens of protesters were hospitalized.
The entire incident was televised and became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Some activists wanted to retaliate with violence, but King pushed for nonviolent protests and eventually gained federal protection for another march.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
When President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965, he took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 several steps further. The new law banned all voter literacy tests and provided federal examiners in certain voting jurisdictions.
It also allowed the attorney general to contest state and local poll taxes. As a result, poll taxes were later declared unconstitutional in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections in 1966.
Civil Rights Leaders Assassinated
The civil rights movement had tragic consequences for two of its leaders in the late 1960s. On February 21, 1965, former Nation of Islam leader and Organization of Afro-American Unity founder Malcolm X was assassinated at a rally.
On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on his hotel room’s balcony. Emotionally-charged looting and riots followed, putting even more pressure on the Johnson administration to push through additional civil rights laws.
READ MORE: Why People Rioted After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassination
Fair Housing Act of 1968
The Fair Housing Act became law on April 11, 1968, just days after King’s assassination. It prevented housing discrimination based on race, sex, national origin and religion. It was also the last legislation enacted during the civil rights era.
The civil rights movement was an empowering yet precarious time for Black Americans. The efforts of civil rights activists and countless protesters of all races brought about legislation to end segregation, Black voter suppression and discriminatory employment and housing practices.
Civil Rights Movement Timeline
Six Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement
10 Things You May Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr.
A Brief History of Jim Crow. Constitutional Rights Foundation.
Civil Rights Act of 1957. Civil Rights Digital Library.
Document for June 25th: Executive Order 8802: Prohibition of Discrimination in the Defense Industry. National Archives.
Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In. African American Odyssey.
Little Rock School Desegregation (1957). The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute Stanford.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute Stanford.
Rosa Marie Parks Biography. Rosa and Raymond Parks.
Selma, Alabama, (Bloody Sunday March 7, 1965). BlackPast.org.
The Civil Rights Movement (1919-1960s). National Humanities Center.
The Little Rock Nine. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior: Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.
Turning Point: World War II. Virginia Historical Society.
Integration of Central High School
Martin Luther King, Jr. Photographed by Friend, Flip Schulke
America in Mourning After MLK's Shocking Assassination
The Supreme Court Declares Bus Segregation Unconstitutional (1956)
After African Americans boycotted the Montgomery, Alabama bus system for over a year, the local bus company had agreed to desegregate its buses because it had lost so much revenue. The city and state, however, insisted that bus drivers continue to enforce Jim Crow laws. A Federal District Court then ruled that segregation on the buses was illegal. The Supreme Court affirmed that decision, Browder v. Gayle, in November 1956, handing NAACP lawyers a major victory. The following month, when the Supreme Court indicated that it would not hear an appeal of that decision, all avenues to delay bus integration had been exhausted. The next day, December 21, 1956, thousands of black riders were on the buses again — and sitting in any seats they chose. Yet the troubles did not end. Shots were fired at the buses and Rev. Ralph Abernathy's home and church were bombed. The success of the protests led the boycott leaders to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with another rising community leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as its president.
The 1960 Presidential Election
The presidential election of 1960 was one of the closest in history. During the campaign, Republican Richard M. Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy mostly avoided civil rights issues, afraid to alienate Southern voters. In October of that year, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested at a sit-in in Atlanta. Word reached the Kennedy campaign and two aides, Harris Wofford and Sargent Shriver, arranged for the candidate to make a sympathetic call to King's wife, Coretta Scott King. Meanwhile, Robert Kennedy called the judge in the case.
"It's time for all of us to take off our Nixon button," Martin Luther King, Sr. said after the Kennedy brothers' show of support. Because state Democratic parties held a lock on the political process in the South, baseball great Jackie Robinson and other African Americans had been supporting the Republican candidate. Republicans had attracted African American votes since the days of Abraham Lincoln, emancipation, and the Fifteenth Amendment. Now that tradition of support vanished — Kennedy received 68 percent of the black vote and won the presidency.
The Desegregation of Interstate Travel (1960)
In the months following John F. Kennedy's inauguration, civil rights activists were disappointed that the president did not introduce any new legislation on the issue. However, the Supreme Court had issued a ruling in December 1960 that interstate buses and bus terminals were required to integrate. This legal development inspired members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to ride Greyhound buses from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. The black and white volunteers, known as Freedom Riders, would find out whether the law would be enforced in the land of Jim Crow. CORE director James Farmer recalled, "What we had to do was to make it more dangerous politically for the federal government not to enforce federal law than it would be for them to enforce federal law. This was not civil disobedience really, because we would be merely doing what the Supreme Court said we had a right to do."
The Supreme Court Orders Ole Miss to Integrate (1962)
In 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the integration of public schools. The landmark decision ended an era of "separate but equal" treatment of African Americans that in practice had proven anything but equal. Yet Southern states defied the court's decision. In Mississippi, Medgar Evers and other African American applicants were denied admission to the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss. In January 1961, James Howard Meredith, a nine-year Air Force veteran and student at Jackson State College, applied for admission to Ole Miss. When his application was returned, he took his case to court with the help of an NAACP legal team. The issue ended up before the Supreme Court, which ruled that Meredith should be allowed to attend the state-funded school. With the support of angry mobs of white Mississippians, Governor Ross Barnett did everything he could to prevent Meredith from enrolling, although his efforts were ultimately futile. Hatred directed toward Meredith as a symbol of integration would lead a white man from Memphis to shoot and wound the activist during his 1966 "march against fear."
The March on Washington (1963)
African American activist A. Philip Randolph had been fighting for equality since he founded a union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. In 1941, he planned a march on Washington to demand jobs for African Americans in the booming wartime economy. That protest was called off after President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to ban discrimination by defense industries or government.
Two decades later, Randolph decided a march was required to speed the rate of change in the nation. President John F. Kennedy asked that the march be called off, afraid that it would hurt his civil rights bill. Faced with Randolph's determination, however, Kennedy endorsed the protest.
On August 28, 1963, a quarter of a million black and white people — more than twice as many as had been expected — marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in a show of unity, racial harmony and support for the civil rights bill. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and other folk singers entertained the crowd before John Lewis of SNCC and others made speeches. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his best known speeches, inspiring the assembled crowd with the words, "I have a dream."
Randolph also spoke: "Fellow Americans, we are gathered here in the largest demonstration in the history of this nation. Let the nation and the world know the meaning of our numbers. We are not a pressure group, we are not an organization or a group of organizations, we are not a mob. We are the advance guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom."
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Support for a federal Civil Rights Act was one of the goals of the 1963 March on Washington. President John F. Kennedy had introduced the bill before his assassination. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed it into law on July 2, 1964. It achieved many of the aims of a Reconstruction-era law, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was passed but soon overturned.
The landmark 1964 act barred discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in public facilities — such as restaurants, theaters, or hotels. Discrimination in hiring practices was also outlawed, and the act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help enforce the law. Although the law attempted to legislate fair election practices, not all the ways used to deny blacks a vote could be covered the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be required to address this issue comprehensively.
The 1964 Presidential Election
In the presidential election of 1964, incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson soundly defeated Republican Barry Goldwater. After defeating the more progressive Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican nomination, Goldwater won electoral votes from only his home state of Arizona and the five states of the Deep South. Yet Goldwater's nomination marked a conservative shift within the party.
At the Democratic convention in Atlantic City that summer, the delegation from Mississippi had found itself with challengers of its own. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party sent black and white delegates to the convention to replace the delegation of the whites-only Mississippi Democratic Party. The MFDP worked the rules to their advantage, embarrassed President Johnson and then rejected his compromise of two "at large" seats. Nominally, the MFDP had failed, but televised proceedings of sharecroppers and field workers like Fannie Lou Hamer taking on the entrenched political forces inspired more people to become politically active.
Lyndon Johnson's "We Shall Overcome" speech
On March 15, 1965, just days after the "Bloody Sunday" confrontation in Selma, Alabama that shocked the nation, President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress and the American people in a nationally televised speech. He announced the voting rights legislation he would be introducing. "Their cause must be our cause, too," he said, referring to civil rights activists. "[A]ll of us. must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome." In his closing words, the president invoked a rallying cry of the civil rights movement. An SCLC staffer watching the speech with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. remembered seeing a tear of joy run down the minister's cheek. Upon passage, Johnson's legislation would be known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had one major flaw. It did not address all the legal and illegal methods whites had used to systematically deny blacks the right to vote in state and local elections. As legislation to amend this omission wound its way through Congress, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965. At its conclusion, activists presented Governor George Wallace with a petition asking him to remove obstacles to voter registration. Americans saw the heroes of the civil rights movement on the national news, and then heard about the Ku Klux Klan's murder of a white homemaker from Michigan named Viola Liuzzo who had volunteered for the cause. Support for the Voting Rights Act increased.
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law with Alabama NAACP activist Rosa Parks by his side. Laying out the importance of the bill, Johnson said, "The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men."
The Kerner Commission Report (1968)
Appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a commission chaired by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois explored the reasons behind the Detroit riots of 1967. The commission presented a report in February 1968. "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal," the report said. "What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that. white institutions created [the ghetto], white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it."
Detroit had seemed immune to the race riots that overwhelmed dozens of American cities — after all, the local economy was excellent and black culture and commerce were thriving in the music of Motown. However, urban renewal projects appeared designed to sweep away black neighborhoods, complaints about Detroit police abuse were not addressed, and blacks found limits to career advancement in the auto industry. Following five days of riots during which military tanks rolled through the streets, 41 were dead, hundreds injured and thousands left homeless.
As soon as the Kerner Commission Report was published, controversy emerged when a host of the social science researchers who worked on the study protested that the report had eliminated their major finding: the riots were actually protests against racial oppression. The Kerner Commission's recommendations for reform included suggestions for economic empowerment that came with a large increase in the federal budget — but the president was unwilling to pay this price in the face of escalating military costs for the war in Vietnam.
The 1968 Election
Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, won a three way race in the presidential election of 1968 against Independent George Wallace and Democrat Hubert Humphrey. It was a year of tumult. Major turmoil had shaken the Democratic Party that summer. Incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson had decided not to run for reelection as Eugene McCarthy won many early delegates on an anti-war platform. Robert Kennedy entered the race as well and was campaigning in Indianapolis when news came that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed. Later that summer Kennedy won the California primary and was himself assassinated. The Democratic Party convention, held in Chicago that year, became a center of protests and riots as Mayor Richard Daley had the city police enforce curfews and brutally suppress protesters.
The Attica Prison Riot (1971)
In 1971, the Attica State Correctional Facility in upstate New York was overcrowded and the conditions for prisoners were inhumane. The majority of prisoners were minorities. A group of five prisoners representing the inmate population sent a letter to the authorities requesting reforms, including such humble changes as more frequent showers and more toilet paper. At the time, inmates were allotted one bucket of water a week as a "shower" and given only one bar of soap and one roll of toilet paper a month. The prisoners also asked for more visits and less censorship of their mail. The new commissioner of correctional services, Russell Oswald, asked for more time to make the reforms. Understanding Oswald's reply to be a delaying tactic, the prisoners took over the facility on September 9 and kept 40 guards as hostages. One guard, injured during the uprising, died in hospital. After four days of negotiations, state troopers and correctional officers took the prison back by force, killing ten hostages and twenty-nine inmates, and brutalized other inmates they had recaptured.
The National Black Political Convention (1972)
"Economic, cultural, and spiritual depression stalk Black America, and the price for survival often appears to be more than we are able to pay." This was the state of the union according to delegates to the first National Black Political Convention, March 10-12, 1972. The disparate group included elected officials and revolutionaries, integrationists and black nationalists, Baptists and Muslims (the widows of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X — Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz — both attended). They met in Gary, Indiana, a majority black city where they were welcomed by a black mayor, Richard Hatcher. The one group that was excluded was whites (for that reason, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, an organization that supported integration, criticized the meeting). Participants were buoyed by the spirit of possibility, and themes of unity and self-determination.
Delegates created a National Black Political Agenda with stated goals including the election of a proportionate number of black representatives to Congress, community control of schools, national health insurance, and the elimination of capital punishment. The news media fixed on the most controversial debates about the recognition of a Palestinian homeland and the use of busing to integrate schools, but for the most part the convention was united.
When published, the Agenda included a note addressing the notion that the process was idealistic: "At every critical moment of our struggle in America we have had to press relentlessly against the limits of the 'realistic' to create new realities for the life of our people. This is our challenge at Gary and beyond, for a new Black politics demands new vision, new hope and new definitions of the possible. Our time has come. These things are necessary. All things are possible."
The Federal Court Order to Integrate Boston Schools
During the 1950s and 1960s, Ruth Batson of the NAACP and other activists investigated Boston public schools and found tremendous differences and inequities in the staffing, supplying and maintenance of schools that served mostly white or mostly black students. They held meetings and rallies, organized freedom schools and independent busing programs, and successfully lobbied for state legislation to demonstrate the segregated and unequal nature of Boston schools. The Boston School Committee continued to reject the notion that the schools were essentially a segregated system and took steps to maintain that segregation. So the NAACP turned to the federal courts. In 1974, US District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. found the city of Boston guilty of unconstitutional and intentional segregation in its schools. The remedy proposed by the court was desegregation the most controversial aspect of his plan was two-way busing — sending black students into predominantly white schools and white children into predominantly black schools.
The Bakke Case and the Status of Affirmative Action in 1978
From the late 1960s on, local governments and businesses attempted to level the economic playing field through a set of assistance programs for minorities known as Affirmative Action. Although opponents claimed that Affirmative Action gave minorities an unfair advantage, those in favor argued that the strategy reduced the towering advantages of patronage, exclusive experience and economic power that whites had enjoyed for centuries. In 1974, Allan Bakke, a white applicant to medical school, sued the University of California, claiming that he had suffered discrimination when less qualified minority students were given places in the medical school class that rejected him. The case went to the Supreme Court.
Bakke's lawyer argued that constitutional rights were meant for individuals and not for racial groups. In June 1978, the nine justices of the Supreme Court handed down six separate opinions. Some of the justices felt that race should not be used in the admissions process while others felt that race was a legitimate factor. The Court ruled that the school's application system was unconstitutional. However, the decision written by Associate Justice Lewis Powell also held that race could be used as a factor in admissions.
Because of the number of opinions in the case, the legal status of Affirmative Action continues to be debated. In 2003, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Powell's core holding that race could be considered in the admissions policy of the University of Michigan law school.
It is hard to imagine any movement more important for understanding the meaning of freedom and equal rights in the U.S. than the civil rights struggle in post-World War II era. Yet, as Julian Bond has succinctly argued, in most textbooks and the media, the popular understanding of that movement is reduced to: “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, and the white kids came down and saved the day.”
Hartman Turnbow in Holmes County, Mississippi. One of the thousands of people who were central to the Civil Rights Movement, yet are missing from the history textbooks.
That interpretation is consistent with the way much of our history is learned: Charismatic presidents and heroic leaders make history happen. Textbooks often illustrate the Civil Rights Movement with a photo of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the March on Washington. Left in the shadows are the decades of organizing by young people, women, and community members that made these milestone events possible.
The last decade has seen the publication of excellent studies of local and grassroots organizing during the Civil Rights Movement, but little of that work has impacted what is taught in middle and high school. This institute will help correct that imbalance by introducing participants to some of the newest scholarship on the movement.
This institute is designed by a collaborative team of scholars, veterans, and educators from Duke University, the SNCC Legacy Project (collaborators on the SNCC Digital Gateway), and Teaching for Change. Participants will learn the bottom-up history of the Civil Rights Movement and receive resources and strategies to bring it home to their students, so that they can see themselves in this history. Teachers will have the unique opportunity to learn from people who were key organizers in the Civil Rights Movement, and from leading scholars of that era.
Three key narratives will serve as the focus of this institute.
1) Local movement activists thrust forward its leaders, not the other way around, Charles Cobb Jr., journalist, author, and SNCC veteran has pointed out. Young people usually think that the civil rights movement started with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington or with Rosa Parks in Montgomery. In reality, black people had dreamed of and fought for their freedom for decades. For example, Parks had been an activist in Montgomery’s NAACP chapter for two decades and the Women’s Political Council had threatened a boycott the year before Parks refused to move. Parks worked closely with E.D. Nixon, who was a member of the union led by A. Philip Randolph, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The Montgomery movement existed well before King was selected to become the movement’s symbolic leader. As Cobb has noted, a true understanding of how Montgomery happened is obscured, not illuminated, by focusing only on King. Cobb adds, “The way to understand this moment. . . is by understanding the kind of challenges black people were making to one another across the south. This is what drove struggle and change.”
2) The tradition of protest grew out of the institutions of the black community – church, family, schools and lodges – which provided the framework and support out of which protest emerged. Nowhere was this more the case than in the struggle of young activists in the 1960s, starting with the Greensboro sit-ins on February 1, 1960. At the time, many people thought the sit-ins came out of nowhere that they were like an “immaculate conception.”
Yet as Duke historian William Chafe explains, “The truth was very different. The students who sat in at the lunch counter that day in Greensboro did not miraculously discover the politics of direct-action protest. Rather, they found a new way to express a commitment to fight Jim Crow that had been part of their entire process of growing up—lessons taught by their parent who were NAACP members, by their teachers at their all-black high school who demanded that they become ‘the best that you can be,’ by their minister who preached the Social Gospel at their church. Their decision to act—and the method they chose—grew directly from the foundation of resistance to racial injustice that was embedded in the black community and reinforced by their participation in the NAACP youth group that Ella Baker had started in Greensboro in 1943.”
Appropriately, what happened next reflected the deep roots of this protest tradition. As the number of people sitting in at the Greensboro store multiplied, so too did the readiness of others to follow in their footsteps. Within 8 weeks, sit-ins spread to more than 60 cities in 9 states. It was also fitting that Ella Baker, the acting executive director of King’s SCLC, was the one to convene a meeting of student protestors at the HBCU Shaw University. Out of that meeting came the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a national organization led by young people that became the cutting edge of the civil rights struggle. The group mobilized protests in Alabama, southwest Georgia, and Mississippi (in partnership with people like WWII veteran Amzie Moore) to carry the movement to new heights. Judy Richardson said, “By focusing only on the greatness of Dr. King, we ignore the amazing courage, strength and brilliant leadership of ‘regular’ people. Many of them had been plowing the ground of political and social change before SNCC, CORE, or SCLC ever got to these communities.”
3) The link between grassroots protest and legislative reforms instituted by state and national governments came when thousands of activists, in the face of brutal repression, mobilized to demand that the government mandate desegregation in public facilities and guarantee the right of black Americans to vote. Neither the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nor the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would have happened had it not been for the behind the scenes grassroots organizing. White leaders like Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson ultimately responded—but only when they had no choice, and only when pressure from black activists—and some white activists—compelled them to act.
Thus it is impossible to teach the truth about the civil rights struggle in America only by examining the work of leaders. It is critical that our public school curriculum accurately represent the process by which social change occurred. Institute scholar Adriane Lentz-Smith notes, “The flowering of the black freedom struggle into the mid-century civil rights movement is at the heart of 20th-century U.S. history: a story of the making and re-making of American state and nation. Yet it is too often reduced to caricature or conveyed through invocations of a handful of near-mythic heroes. Learning the history in its complexity and in its roots in everyday struggle will help teachers and their students tell a more robust history of American democracy and consider that history’s significance to our vital and unfolding present.”
That is the purpose of this summer institute. Participants will have the opportunity to learn first-hand from veterans of SNCC. They will learn how the 1960s voter registration work in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi was built around canvassing — going door to door, talking to people, urging them to put their lives on the line by going to the registrar’s office — and how that grassroots insistence on the right to vote was what finally forced the government to act. It was the fact that SNCC activists lived with and were guided by local people in the communities where they worked — going to their churches and building relationships — that finally created the pressure the government could not resist.
It is much more complicated to teach this more accurate history than it is to focus on huge demonstrations or a president signing legislation. But it is the only way students will come to understand how the movement started, what transpired in its topsy-turvy struggle to get the nation’s attention, and how social change finally happens. This is critical for informing students’ own role as engaged, active citizens. Institute co-director Wesley Hogan notes, “Classroom teachers, simply enough, make citizens out of our young people. If children and young adults do not learn how to participate in the democratic process in the social studies classroom, then students are left to their own devices.”
Program of Study
The institute will be divided into the following time periods: 1940-1954, 1955-1965, and 1966-1980. The three themes discussed above will be addressed throughout. It will be led by two co-directors, Judy Richardson, who served on staff the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Georgia, Miss. and Lowndes Co., Alabama (1963-66) and ran the office for Julian Bond’s successful first campaign for the Georgia House of Representatives. Her documentary film work includes the award-winning 14-hour PBS series Eyes On The Prize, PBS’ Malcolm X: Make It Plain, and videos for the Little Rock 9 National Park Service site and visiting professor at Brown University and Wesley Hogan from Duke University, who has written about youth activists in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC and the Dream for a New America), and youth activists since 1960 (On the Freedom Side: How Five Decades of Youth Activists Have Remixed American History).
Participants will engage in a rigorous examination of key historical events (such as the uprising of tobacco workers in Winston-Salem, NC, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Greensboro Sit-in, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization) introduced through books, articles, guest presenters, primary documents, and participant research.
During each week of the institute, participants will have time to examine three major questions:
- What happened in previous decades that laid the groundwork for this event?
- How did leaders emerge from the movement?
- What was the role of grassroots organizing?
Participants will interact with peer response groups, scholars, and veterans, who will serve as resources and respondents throughout the three weeks. They will also have full access to the libraries at Duke University.
Teachers will modify or develop lessons and units for teaching about the Civil Rights Movement in ways that challenge the traditional narrative. Teachers will also develop approaches to engaging their peers in teaching the bottom up, inside out history of the Civil Rights Movement.
A key resource will be two documentary websites, SNCCDigital.org and CRMvet.org. They offer profiles of activists and events, along with a rich collection of oral histories, videos, primary documents, and a section on contemporary activists responding to questions relevant to their organizing.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Site Image Caption: Victoria Gray of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party on the floor of the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. © 1976 George Ballis/Take Stock. Source: Duke Libraries
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Extra!: Civil Rights Timeline
1783 Massachusetts outlaws slavery within its borders.
1808 The importation of slaves is banned in the U.S., though illegal slave trade continues.
1820 The Missouri Compromise to maintain a balance of 12 slave and 12 free states.
1831 In Virginia, Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion during which 57 whites are killed. U.S. troops kill 100 slaves. Turner is caught and hanged.
1850 In the Compromise of 1850, California is admitted into the union as a Fugitive Slave Laws are strengthened and slave trade ends in Washington, D.C.
1857 The Supreme Court rules in the Dred Scott case that slaves do not become free when taken into a free state, that Congress cannot bar slavery from a territory and that blacks cannot become citizens.
1861 Southern states secede and form the Confederate States of America Civil War begins.
1863 President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation freeing "all slaves in areas still in rebellion."
1868 The 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection under the law to all persons, is ratified.
1870 The 15th Amendment, which bans racial discrimination in voting, is ratified.
1896 The Supreme Court approves the "separate but equal" segregation doctrine.
1909 The National Negro Committee convenes. This leads to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
1925 In its first national demonstration the Ku Klux Klan marches on Washington, D.C.
1948 President Truman issues an executive order outlawing segregation in the U.S. military.
1954 The Supreme Court declares school segregation unconstitutional in its ruling on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
1957 Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus uses the National Guard to block nine black students from attending Little Rock High School. Following a court order, President Eisenhower sends in federal troops to allow the black students to enter the school.
1960 Four black college students begin sit-ins at the lunch counter of a Greensboro, North Carolina, restaurant where black patrons are not served.
Timeline: Key Moments in Black History
By Borgna Brunner and Infoplease Staff
Photograph of newspaper
advertisement from the 1780s
The first African slaves arrive in Virginia.
Lucy Terry, an enslaved person in 1746, becomes the earliest known black American poet when she writes about the last American Indian attack on her village of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Her poem, Bar's Fight, is not published until 1855.
An illustration of Wheatley
from her book
Phillis Wheatley's book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is published, making her the first African American to do so.
Slavery is made illegal in the Northwest Territory. The U.S Constitution states that Congress may not ban the slave trade until 1808.
Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin greatly increases the demand for slave labor.
Poster advertising $100 reward
for runaway slaves from 1860
A federal fugitive slave law is enacted, providing for the return slaves who had escaped and crossed state lines.
Gabriel Prosser, an enslaved African-American blacksmith, organizes a slave revolt intending to march on Richmond, Virginia. The conspiracy is uncovered, and Prosser and a number of the rebels are hanged. Virginia's slave laws are consequently tightened.
Congress bans the importation of slaves from Africa.
The Missouri Compromise bans slavery north of the southern boundary of Missouri.
Denmark Vesey, an enslaved African-American carpenter who had purchased his freedom, plans a slave revolt with the intent to lay siege on Charleston, South Carolina. The plot is discovered, and Vesey and 34 coconspirators are hanged.
The American Colonization Society, founded by Presbyterian minister Robert Finley, establishes the colony of Monrovia (which would eventually become the country of Liberia) in western Africa. The society contends that the immigration of blacks to Africa is an answer to the problem of slavery as well as to what it feels is the incompatibility of the races. Over the course of the next forty years, about 12,000 slaves are voluntarily relocated.
Nat Turner, an enslaved African-American preacher, leads the most significant slave uprising in American history. He and his band of followers launch a short, bloody, rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The militia quells the rebellion, and Turner is eventually hanged. As a consequence, Virginia institutes much stricter slave laws.
William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing the Liberator, a weekly paper that advocates the complete abolition of slavery. He becomes one of the most famous figures in the abolitionist movement.
On July 2, 1839, 53 African slaves on board the slave ship the Amistad revolted against their captors, killing all but the ship's navigator, who sailed them to Long Island, N.Y., instead of their intended destination, Africa. Joseph Cinqu was the group's leader. The slaves aboard the ship became unwitting symbols for the antislavery movement in pre-Civil War United States. After several trials in which local and federal courts argued that the slaves were taken as kidnap victims rather than merchandise, the slaves were acquitted. The former slaves aboard the Spanish vessel Amistad secured passage home to Africa with the help of sympathetic missionary societies in 1842.
The Wilmot Proviso, introduced by Democratic representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, attempts to ban slavery in territory gained in the Mexican War. The proviso is blocked by Southerners, but continues to enflame the debate over slavery.
Frederick Douglass launches his abolitionist newspaper.
Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery and becomes one of the most effective and celebrated leaders of the Underground Railroad.
The continuing debate whether territory gained in the Mexican War should be open to slavery is decided in the Compromise of 1850: California is admitted as a free state, Utah and New Mexico territories are left to be decided by popular sovereignty, and the slave trade in Washington, DC, is prohibited. It also establishes a much stricter fugitive slave law than the original, passed in 1793.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. It becomes one of the most influential works to stir anti-slavery sentiments.
Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act, establishing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. The legislation repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and renews tensions between anti- and proslavery factions.
The Dred Scott case holds that Congress does not have the right to ban slavery in states and, furthermore, that slaves are not citizens.
John Brown and 21 followers capture the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W. Va.), in an attempt to launch a slave revolt.
The Confederacy is founded when the deep South secedes, and the Civil War begins.
President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring "that all persons held as slaves" within the Confederate states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Congress establishes the Freedmen's Bureau to protect the rights of newly emancipated blacks (March).
The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee by ex-Confederates (May).
Slavery in the United States is effectively ended when 250,000 slaves in Texas finally receive the news that the Civil War had ended two months earlier (June 19).
Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting slavery (Dec. 6).
Black codes are passed by Southern states, drastically restricting the rights of newly freed slaves.
A series of Reconstruction acts are passed, carving the former Confederacy into five military districts and guaranteeing the civil rights of freed slaves.
Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, defining citizenship. Individuals born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens, including those born as slaves. This nullifies the Dred Scott Case (1857), which had ruled that blacks were not citizens.
Howard University's law school becomes the country's first black law school.
Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving blacks the right to vote.
Hiram Revels of Mississippi is elected the country's first African-American senator. During Reconstruction, sixteen blacks served in Congress and about 600 served in states legislatures.
Reconstruction ends in the South. Federal attempts to provide some basic civil rights for African Americans quickly erode.
The Black Exodus takes place, in which tens of thousands of African Americans migrated from southern states to Kansas.
Spelman College, the first college for black women in the U.S., is founded by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles.
Booker T. Washington founds the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. The school becomes one of the leading schools of higher learning for African Americans, and stresses the practical application of knowledge. In 1896, George Washington Carver begins teaching there as director of the department of agricultural research, gaining an international reputation for his agricultural advances.
Plessy v. Ferguson: This landmark Supreme Court decision holds that racial segregation is constitutional, paving the way for the repressive Jim Crow laws in the South.
W.E.B. DuBois founds the Niagara movement, a forerunner to the NAACP. The movement is formed in part as a protest to Booker T. Washington's policy of accommodation to white society the Niagara movement embraces a more radical approach, calling for immediate equality in all areas of American life.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded in New York by prominent black and white intellectuals and led by W.E.B. Du Bois. For the next half century, it would serve as the country's most influential African-American civil rights organization, dedicated to political equality and social justice In 1910, its journal, The Crisis, was launched. Among its well known leaders were James Weldon Johnson, Ella Baker, Moorfield Storey, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Benjamin Hooks, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Julian Bond, and Kwesi Mfume.
Marcus Garvey establishes the Universal Negro Improvement Association, an influential black nationalist organization "to promote the spirit of race pride" and create a sense of worldwide unity among blacks.
The Harlem Renaissance flourishes in the 1920s and 1930s. This literary, artistic, and intellectual movement fosters a new black cultural identity.
Nine black youths are indicted in Scottsboro, Ala., on charges of having raped two white women. Although the evidence was slim, the southern jury sentenced them to death. The Supreme Court overturns their convictions twice each time Alabama retries them, finding them guilty. In a third trial, four of the Scottsboro boys are freed but five are sentenced to long prison terms.
Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball's color barrier when he is signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers by Branch Rickey.
Although African Americans had participated in every major U.S. war, it was not until after World War II that President Harry S. Truman issues an executive order integrating the U.S. armed forces.
Malcolm X becomes a minister of the Nation of Islam. Over the next several years his influence increases until he is one of the two most powerful members of the Black Muslims (the other was its leader, Elijah Muhammad). A black nationalist and separatist movement, the Nation of Islam contends that only blacks can resolve the problems of blacks.
Pictured from left to right:
George E.C. Hayes,
and James Nabrit
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional (May 17).
A young black boy, Emmett Till, is brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Two white men charged with the crime are acquitted by an all-white jury. They later boast about committing the murder. The public outrage generated by the case helps spur the civil rights movement (Aug.).
Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the "colored section" of a bus to a white passenger (Dec.1). In response to her arrest Montgomery's black community launch a successful year-long bus boycott. Montgomery's buses are desegregated on Dec. 21, 1956.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights group, is established by Martin Luther King, Charles K. Steele, and Fred L. Shuttlesworth (Jan.-Feb.)
Nine black students are blocked from entering the school on the orders of Governor Orval Faubus. (Sept. 24). Federal troops and the National Guard are called to intervene on behalf of the students, who become known as the "Little Rock Nine." Despite a year of violent threats, several of the "Little Rock Nine" manage to graduate from Central High.
Four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter (Feb. 1). Six months later the "Greensboro Four" are served lunch at the same Woolworth's counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the South.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded, providing young blacks with a place in the civil rights movement (April).
Over the spring and summer, student volunteers begin taking bus trips through the South to test out new laws that prohibit segregation in interstate travel facilities, which includes bus and railway stations. Several of the groups of "freedom riders," as they are called, are attacked by angry mobs along the way. The program, sponsored by The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), involves more than 1,000 volunteers, black and white.
James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi (Oct. 1). President Kennedy sends 5,000 federal troops after rioting breaks out.
Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala. He writes "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which advocated nonviolent civil disobedience.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is attended by about 250,000 people, the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation's capital. Martin Luther King delivers his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The march builds momentum for civil rights legislation (Aug. 28).
Despite Governor George Wallace physically blocking their way, Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes at the University of Alabama.
Four young black girls attending Sunday school are killed when a bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a popular location for civil rights meetings. Riots erupt in Birmingham, leading to the deaths of two more black youths (Sept. 15).
FBI photographs of Goodman,
Chaney, and Schwerner
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. It prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin (July 2).
The bodies of three civil-rights workers (Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Schwerner) are found. Murdered by the KKK, James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner had been working to register black voters in Mississippi (Aug.).
Martin Luther King receives the Nobel Peace Prize. (Oct.)
Sidney Poitier wins the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Lilies of the Field. He is the first African American to win the award.
Malcolm X, black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is assassinated (Feb. 21).
State troopers violently attack peaceful demonstrators led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as they try to cross the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Fifty marchers are hospitalized on "Bloody Sunday," after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The march is considered the catalyst for pushing through the voting rights act five months later (March 7).
Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal (Aug. 10).
In six days of rioting in Watts, a black section of Los Angeles, 35 people are killed and 883 injured (Aug. 11-16).
and Huey Newton
Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), coins the phrase "black power" in a speech in Seattle (April 19).
Major race riots take place in Newark (July 12-16) and Detroit (July 23-30).
President Johnson appoints Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. He becomes the first black Supreme Court Justice.
The Supreme Court rules in Loving v. Virginia that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional. Sixteen states still have anti-miscegenation laws and are forced to revise them.
Eyewitnesses to the
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. (April 4).
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing (April 11).
Shirley Chisholm becomes the first black female U.S. Representative. A Democrat from New York, she was elected in November and served from 1969 to 1983.
The infamous Tuskegee Syphilis experiment ends. Begun in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service's 40-year experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis has been described as an experiment that "used human beings as laboratory animals in a long and inefficient study of how long it takes syphilis to kill someone."
The Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action, but imposed limitations on it to ensure that providing greater opportunities for minorities did not come at the expense of the rights of the majority (June 28).
Guion Bluford Jr. was the first African-American in space. He took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the space shuttle Challenger on August 30.
The first race riots in decades erupt in south-central Los Angeles after a jury acquits four white police officers for the videotaped beating of African-American Rodney King (April 29).
Colin Powell becomes the first African American U.S. Secretary of State.
Halle Berry becomes the first African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. She takes home the statue for her role in Monster's Ball. Denzel Washington, the star of Training Day, earns the Best Actor award, making it the first year that African-Americans win both the best actor and actress Oscars.
In Grutter v. Bollinger, the most important affirmative action decision since the 1978 Bakke case, the Supreme Court (5?4) upholds the University of Michigan Law School's policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students because it furthers "a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body." (June 23)
Condoleezza Rice becomes the first black female U.S. Secretary of State.
In Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson, affirmative action suffers a setback when a bitterly divided court rules, 5 to 4, that programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., which tried to maintain diversity in schools by considering race when assigning students to schools, are unconstitutional.
Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat from Chicago, becomes the first African American to be nominated as a major party nominee for president.
On November 4, Barack Obama, becomes the first African American to be elected president of the United States, defeating Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain.
Barack Obama Democrat from Chicago, becomes the first African-American president and the country's 44th president.
On February 2, the U.S. Senate confirms, with a vote of 75 to 21, Eric H. Holder, Jr., as Attorney General of the United States. Holder is the first African American to serve as Attorney General.
On Aug. 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo., by Darren Wilson. On Nov. 24, the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson was announced, sparking protests in Ferguson and cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston.
The protests continued to spread throughout the country after a Staten Island grand jury decided in December not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner. Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by Pantaleo in July.
The 114th Congress includes 46 black members in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.
Michael Bruce Curry becomes the first African-American Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
Simone Biles became the first African-American and woman to bring home four Olympic gold medals in women?s gymnastics at a single game (as well as a bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Also, in Rio, Simone Manuel was the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming.
Carla Hayden was confirmed as the first female African-American head of the Library of Congress.
Boycotts, Movements and Marches
by Cheryl Bond-Nelms, AARP, February 9, 2018 | Comments: 0
Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images
The front line of demonstrators during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963.
The 1950s and '60s were the height of the civil rights movement and the continued struggle for social and racial justice for African Americans in the United States. The Civil War abolished slavery, but it did not end discrimination. African Americans, along with help from many white colleagues, mobilized and began an unprecedented journey for equality. Here are the major boycotts, movements and marches instrumental in bringing social change during the civil rights movement.
Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
A group of African American commuters walked to work on the 'Day of Pilgrimage,' a protest that was part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
1. 1955 — Montgomery Bus Boycott
This boycott was born after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., to a white male passenger. The next day, Dec. 1, 1955, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proposed a citywide boycott against racial segregation on the public transportation system. African Americans stopped using the system and would walk or get rides instead. The boycott continued for 381 days and was very effective. In June 1956, a federal court ruled that the laws in place to keep buses segregated were unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually agreed. The Montgomery bus boycott was one of the first major movements that initiated social change during the civil rights movement.
After being arrested by Albany Police Chief Laurie Pritchett, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a line of protesters down an Albany, Georgia street.
2. 1961 — Albany Movement
This movement protested the segregation policies in Albany, Ga. Many groups took part in the Albany movement, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), local activists and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King’s goal was to offer counsel rather than become a participant, but he was jailed during a demonstration and was given a sentence of 45 days or a fine. He chose jail to push for change but was released three days later. Some concessions were made to the coalition, but the movement eventually disbanded after nearly a year of protests without accomplishing its goals.
Charles Moore/Getty Images
Police dogs, held by officers, jump at a man with torn trousers during a non-violent demonstration, Birmingham, Alabama, May 3, 1963.
3. 1963 — Birmingham Campaign
The goal of the Birmingham campaign was to end discriminatory economic policies in the Alabama city against African American residents. They faced deep financial disparities and violent reprisal when addressing racial issues. The campaign included a boycott of certain businesses that hired only white people or maintained segregated restrooms. Protesters used nonviolent tactics such as marches and sit-ins with the goal of getting arrested so that the city jail would become crowded. Police used dogs and high-pressure water hoses against protesters. This campaign came to a successful end when many signs of segregation at Birmingham businesses came down and public places became accessible to people of all races.
The civil rights leader Martin Luther King waves to supporters on August 28, 1963, on the Mall in Washington, D.C., during the March on Washington.
4. 1963 — March on Washington
This was the largest political rally for human rights ever in the United States. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 participants converged on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963, to protest for jobs and freedom for African Americans. King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The March on Washington is credited with helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (in the foreground) is being beaten by a state trooper during the march in Selma, Ala., March 7, 1965.
5. 1965 — Bloody Sunday
This march went down in history as Bloody Sunday for the violent beatings state troopers inflicted on protesters as they attempted to march peacefully from Selma, Ala., to the state capital, Montgomery. The march was aimed at fighting the lack of voting rights for African Americans. Approximately 600 protesters were to travel from Selma on U.S. Highway 80 to the state capital on March 7, 1965, led by John Lewis, then chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Rev. Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Police violence against protesters brought the march to a shocking end. Footage of the brutality broadcast across the nation sparked public outrage and boosted support for the civil rights movement.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images
Hundreds of supporters and members of the Chicago Freedom Movement march along State Street, Chicago, Illinois, July 26, 1965.
6. 1965 — Chicago Freedom Movement
The Chicago Open Housing Movement, also called the Chicago Freedom Movement, was formed to protest segregated housing, educational deficiencies, and employment and health disparities based on racism. The movement included multiple rallies, marches and boycotts to address the variety of issues facing black Chicago residents. By Jan. 7, 1966, King announced plans to get involved in the Chicago Freedom Movement, and on Aug. 5, 1966, King led a march near Marquette Park in a white neighborhood. The marchers were met with rocks, bottles and firecrackers. Approximately 30 people were injured, including King, who was hit in the head with a brick. After negotiations with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, an agreement was announced on Aug. 26, 1966, to build public housing in predominately white areas and to make mortgages available regardless of race or neighborhood. The Chicago Freedom Movement continued through 1967 and was credited with inspiring the Fair Housing Act, passed by Congress in 1969.
Frank Hurley/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Dr. Benjamin Spock and Rev. Martin Luther King protest against the Vietnam War along Central Park West.
7. 1967 — Vietnam War Opposition
Many groups and individuals vehemently opposed the Vietnam War in the massive peace movement of the 1960s and '70s. King compared the antiwar movement to the civil rights movement and denounced U.S. involvement in a series of speeches, rallies and demonstrations. His first public speech against the war, called “Beyond Vietnam,” was delivered in April 1967 in front of 3,000 people at Riverside Church in New York. He called for a stop to all bombing in North and South Vietnam, as well as a declaration of a unilateral truce and a move toward peace talks. His stance cost him many allies, including President Lyndon Johnson, but King maintained his antiwar position until his assassination exactly one year to the day after he delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech.
Resurrection City, a plywood and canvas encampment that housed approximately 3,000 participants in the Poor People's March on Washington.
8. 1968 — Poor People’s Campaign
The goal of the Poor People’s Campaign was to gain more economic and human rights for poor Americans from all backgrounds. A multicultural movement, the campaign included Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans and whites along with African Americans. A march on Washington was planned for April 22, 1968, but when King was assassinated on April 4, the movement was shaken and the march postponed. By May 12, approximately 50,000 demonstrators had converged on the Mall in Washington and erected a tent city, called Resurrection City, in what became a live-in. The campaign's major march occurred at the Solidarity Day Rally for Jobs, Peace and Freedom on June 19. The occupation lasted six weeks and ended when bulldozers arrived and mowed down Resurrection City on June 24. The bill of rights the campaign strived to establish never became law, but the federal government enacted several programs to end hunger.
A Timeline of Major Events in the American Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement is one of the most beautiful and most painful events in the history of the United States. On the one hand, the ugliness of human nature in terms of violence and hatred was exposed, but you also have the opposite as well. Thousands of people came together under leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and even the president John F. Kennedy to fight for the rights of people they had never even met. Ordinary people like James Meredith and James E. Chaney put their lives on the line to fight for rights for everyone. Here are some of the most important events in the Civil Rights movement.
Looking at the progression of civil rights in the US, it’s very clear that small steps can make a huge difference. Equality wasn’t established by one big event. It took hundreds of small events. The United States cannot truly become great until every person is truly treated equally.
("Legal information found on this page does not constitute legal advice.")
Social studies, government
One 90-minute class period
The Civil Rights Movement did not begin suddenly in the 1960s, nor was it a short battle. Even today, many civil rights hopes and objectives have still not been met.
The movement for African-American civil rights and against racial discrimination grew over time through massive grassroots organization, a commitment to achieve racial equality through non-violence, legislative victories, brilliant leadership and collaboration and the sheer courage and determination of hundreds of thousands of participants.
To understand the enormity of the famous March on Washington, we compiled a timeline of major civil rights events in the 100 years leading up to August 20, 1963.
This timeline of the history of the Civil Rights Movement does not include every event, but attempts to capture those that exemplify the long struggle for equality that so many fought so hard for, and many gave their lives to see realized. The interactive nature of the timeline allows for students and teachers to learn more about these historic events through both text and video.
Either as a class or individually visit the interactive timeline at the link below of important civil rights events leading up to the March on Washington and important historical events that follow the march. There are videos and information students can browse through to learn more about the real life events that took place. Or you may want to click on the link below and scroll through the timeline together and watch the videos together (they range from 2-10 minutes and the specific times are outlined here in an excel spreadsheet)
1. The Who and How of March on Washington
Most students are familiar with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, considered a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement. However, few students understand the sheer magnitude of the task and the courage that it took to plan and carry out the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The demonstration was so powerful that it is said to be responsible for ushering in a wave of legislation that outlawed acts of discrimination and changed an entire nation for generations to come.
- Put students in small groups and give them copies of two documents:
- The “Final Plans for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”
- The program for “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”
- Have the students do a scavenger hunt and answer the questions on the worksheet “March on Washington Primary Documents.”
2. What We Demand- The Goals of the March on Washington
Pass out the worksheet “The Goals of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: What Did They Hope to Accomplish” and ask students to read through the goals. Have them keep in mind the obstacles African-Americans faced up to that point (1963). Ask them to think about and answer the following questions on their worksheet:
Native American Civil Rights Timeline
The Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson began its long "Jim Crow" career of "separate-but-equal" in South Carolina which perpetuated segregation even for Native American Indian communities and the notion that Native American Indians were second class citizens.
Cherokee Nation v. Hitchcock
the Supreme Court held the United States has the power to overrule Cherokee laws
Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock
the Supreme Court ruled that Lone Wolf, a Kiowa, could not obstruct the implementation of allotment on Kiowa land, regardless of Kiowa consent: the case established Congress' power to unilaterally break treaties. The Court declared the Indians to be "an ignorant and dependent race" that must be governed by the "Christian people" of the United States.
United States Antiquities Act
establishes national jurisdiction over antiquities.
World War I
American Indians classified as "citizens"
In 1924 that the federal government officially classified American Indians as "citizens" and were given the right to vote in National elections. This was done after Native American Indian had already fought in three wars for the United States of America.
Indian Reorganization Act
US Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act. This new policy sought to protect American Indians from loss of their lands and provided funds for economic development. It also helped reestablish tribal governments.
Wheeler-Howard (Indian Reorganization)
permitted tribes to organize and write constitutions for self-government, and directed the government to consolidate and conserve Indian lands, and encouraged education and economic plans for Indians the Johnson-O'Malley Act authorized contracts with states to administer educational, medical, and welfare programs on Indian reservations. In 1974, the Johnson-O'Malley Act was amended to encourage Indian direction of such programs.
World War II
There were nineteen elementary schools classified “Special Schools” serving these Indian communities. These were segregated American Indian Schools serving various Native American Indian communities throughout the state including: the Cross Roads School of Westminister, SC serving Cherokee community in upstate, The Sardis Indian School,The Summerville Indian School, The Varnertown Indian School, and the Catawba Indian School.
National Congress of American Indians
About 100 Indian people met to create the nation’s first large-scale national organization, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) . This organization was designed to monitor federal policies. Today, over 250 member tribes work to secure the rights and benefits to which they are entitled to enlighten the public toward the better understanding of Indian people to preserve rights under Indian treaties or agreements with the United States and to promote the common welfare of the American Indians and Alaska Natives.
More than 100 tribes were legally terminated
During the 1950s, more than 100 tribes were legally terminated, land assets were lost, thousands of Indians were relocated by the Federal programs to the culture shock of the urban slums and tribal governments were generally weakened. It was during this time that the Catawba Indians of South Carolina were terminated as a federal Indian Tribe. The Catawbas had been recognized by Congress in 1848 and 1854, yet they were looked upon as a “State Indian Tribe.” This decision was not rescinded until recently when they won a land claim and once again became a Federal Tribe with Treaty status. They had fought this land claim since 1904.
Alianza Hispano-Americana Edit
1894: The AHA was founded in Arizona in 1894 to defend Mexicanos' rights and improve their life quality. The Alianza was one of the first regional Mexican American organizations. By 1930 the Alianza had almost 300 lodges scattered throughout the Southwest and mainly in Arizona. These lodges were a safe haven for members providing various social services and helping Mexicanos who faced discrimination and denial of their civil liberties. 
Japanese-Mexican Labor Association Edit
1903: On February 11, 1903 500 Japanese and 200 Mexican laborers joined together and formed the first labor union called, the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association. The JMLA opposed the Western Agricultural Contracting Company with three major concerns, the artificial suppression of wages, the subcontracting system that forced workers to pay double commissions, and the inflated prices of the company store. In order to address their concerns, the JMLA declared a strike against the WACC during a pivotal moment in the sugar beet season. Several of WACC's contracted workers joined the JMLA, which caused a standstill in the sugar industry. Eventually the WACC conceded to most of the JMLA's demands. 
El Primer Congreso Mexicanista Edit
1911: El Primer Congreso Mexicanista met in Laredo, Texas from September 14 to 22, 1911. It was the first large convention of Mexican Americans to organize against social injustice. 
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Edit
1920: The ACLU was founded in 1920 by a group of social and political activists who were dedicated to protecting the civil rights guaranteed to all citizens by the constitution. When it was first founded, the ACLU was very active in pro-labor protests however, more recently it has mainly focused on legal matters such as, due process, the right of freedom of opinion and expression and equality before the law.  Often, the ACLU has supported Mexican American organizations in lawsuits regarding segregation and voting discrimination.
The Confederacion de Uniones Obreras Mexicanas Edit
1928: The federation of Mexican workers Union was the first ever union for Mexican workers, founded in Los Angeles in 1928. The focus of the organization was to deal with the issues of increasing unemployment among Mexican immigrants as the U.S. economy began to weaken. The CUOM served as an umbrella group for the agricultural unions in Southern California, which were made up of Mexican Americans. In 1928 the organization had over 3,000 members and represented 8 different unions. After the Great Depression hit the US the CUOM also began advocating for restrictions on repatriation and immigration. 
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Edit
1929: On February 17 the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was founded by Mexican American men in Corpus Christi, Texas. LULAC is the largest and longest-lasting Latino civil rights group in the country. The LULAC addressed the needs of Mexican American middle-class men who wanted to combat racism, which stood in the way of community empowerment.  The LULAC was the first organization of Mexican-Descent to emphasize U.S. citizenship. The LULAC emerged within the historical context of South Texas between 1920 and 1930. Texas transformed from ranching and farming to an urban society, which provided a foundation for the emergence of the Mexico Texano male middle class. 
El Congreso Del Pueblo de Habla Espanola Edit
1935: EL Congreso grew in Southern California between 1935 and 1950. Its goal was to promote civil rights specifically in terms of working conditions for Latinos and other minorities. The first national convention of El Congreso was held in Los Angeles on April 28, 1939, and attracted over 1,000 delegates who represented more than 120 organizations. Moreno along with other members of El Congreso drafted plans at hotel Alexandria for the protection of the foreign born, focusing on deportation and discriminatory legislation, which targeted aliens.  Josefina Fierro de Bright later joined Moreno as one of the leaders of the organization and helped rejuvenate El Congreso. Fierro de Bright and Moreno delivered moving [ opinion ] speeches and encouraged involvement in voter registration drives to try to end the oppression of agricultural workers at the hands of labor bosses and farm growers. 
American Council of Spanish-Speaking People Edit
1950: the council was established at the beginning of the 1950s during a convention of Chicano civil rights groups in El Paso, Texas. George I. Sanchez was the first executive director of the council. Sanches and the council were dedicated to desegregating schools. In 1952 the council joined the Alianza Hispano-Americana and filed several lawsuits against Arizona school districts, which continued to practice school segregation. 
Alianza Federal De Pueblos Libres Edit
1963: The Federal Alliance of Free Towns was founded by Reies Lopez Tijerina in 1963. Its ultimate goal was to regain lands awarded by the Spanish and Mexican governments to early settlers and to their townships and later lost for various reasons after the official U.S. takeover of the Southwest in 1848.  The Alianza switched between legal action and confrontational tactics, which raised considerable public concern. In 1976 members of the Alianza raided the Tierra Amarilla courthouse following the lead of Tijerina. The decline of the Alianza began in 1970 when Tijerina was sentenced to jail. 
United Farm Workers Edit
1966: The NFWA merged with the Filipino American union called AWOC to form the United Farm Workers. The UFW was led by Chavez and Huerta and its goal was to improve conditions and wages for farmworkers and to increase the political power of Latinos. In order to garner national attention the UFW initiated boycotts, fasting, grassroots community organizing, voter registration drives and appeals to spiritual values.  The union affiliates with the AFL-CIO, the national labor federation.
The Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) Edit
1967: The Mexican American Youth Organization was founded in San Antonio, Texas, and was the major political organization of Mexican-American youth for over a decade. The organization was founded by José Ángel Gutiérrez and four other young chicanos who were all known as "Los Cincos".  MAYO became one of the anchors of the Chicano movement as it fought for social justice while emphasizing the idea of Chicano cultural nationalism. Gutierrez and the other founders staged MAYO's first demonstration in front of the Alamo on July 4, 1967.  Group membership consisted of Mexican-American teenagers and university students who were committed to the concept of la Raza. MAYO identified and addressed 3 needs of Mexican Americans: economic independence, local control of education, and political strength and unity through the formation of a 3rd party. Throughout the rest of the 60's and early 70's MAYO's membership rose as chapters popped up at schools and universities throughout the nation. By 1970, there were over 1,000 MAYO chapters. 
The Raza Unida Party Edit
1970: The Raza Unida Party was established on January 17, 1970 at a meeting of 300 Mexican Americans in Crystal City, Texas. The Raza Unida Party was founded in opposition to the two party system and offered a third political party to people in Texas. After it filed for party status in 1970, the RUP sought to bring greater economic, social and political self-determination to Mexican Americans in Texas. Membership in the party was open to anyone who was committed to RUP's goals. In April 1971 the party won a total of fifteen seats in the city council and school board election.  In 1971, held its first state convention in San Antonio and voted to organize at the state level. That year the RUP ran 11 candidates for state offices in Texas.  In 1972, the RUP held its first national conference in El Paso where about half of the estimated participants were women. At the national conference the delegates from the Congreso de Aztlan to run the national party and elected Gutierrez as the national chairman of the RUP. 
Octaviano Larrazolo Edit
Octaviano Larrazolo was from New Mexico and became the first Mexican-American U.S. Senator. Larrazolo was appointed clerk of the district court at el paso before being appointed clerk of the United States district and circuit courts for the Western District of Texas at El Paso. In 1895 Larrazolo moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where he practiced law and became involved with the Democratic party and focused on civil rights for Mexican Americans. Larrazolo had difficulty gaining popularity in the Democratic party because Latino rights were better represented in the Republican party. In 1911 Larrazolo attended the constitutional convention held in reparation for the New Mexico territory to enter the Union. Larrazolo and other Latino delegates were successful in implementing pro-Latino measures and language into the New Mexico State constitution. In 1923 he was elected to the US House of Representatives and in 1928 he was elected as a Democratic Senator of New Mexico.
Benjamin Nathan Cardozo Edit
Benjamin Cardozo was the first Latino named to the US Supreme Court. In 1917 he was elected on the democratic and republican tickets to serve a 14-year term on the Court of Appeals. He was then elected again in 1926 on both the democratic and republican tickets to serve a 14-year term as Chief Judge.
Luisa Moreno Edit
Luisa Moreno was a Guatemalan organizer and civil rights activist. She was born to an upper-class family in Guatemala and moved to New York City in 1928. She was motivated to advocate for civil rights when she witnessed the terrible working conditions in the garment industry. She was also surprised by the amount of racial segregation and discrimination present in the United States at that time. She was first hired by the American Federation of Labor as a professional organizer before she founded El Corso Pueblo de Habla Espanola, which was the first national effort to unite Latino workers from different ethnic backgrounds. Its first conference was held in Los Angeles in 1938. Later, Luisa was deported from the US during "Operation Wetback" where more than 3.8 million Latin Americans had to leave the US. 
Senator Dennis Chavez Edit
Dennis Chavez was the Senator of New Mexico and introduced the first Fair Employment Practices Bill, which outlawed racial and origin discrimination but the bill didn't actually get passed. He represented New Mexico for 27 years in the US Senate. In his early years in government he served on the state legislature where he fought to provide textbooks for public school children. After his service in the Senate, New Mexico honored him with a statue which is on display in the US Capitol. 
Reies Lopez Tijerina Edit
Reies Lopez Tijerina was considered a radical figure in the Chicano movement. Tijerina as a child attended an Assemblies of God institute near El Paso, Texas. In 1957 he fled to New Mexico where he fought for the land he believed belonged to Mexican American's and wanted to convince the federal government to honor the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In February 1963 Tijerina created La Alianza Federale de Mercedes. La Alianza garnered national attention when they occupied the Eco Amphitheater and arrested two forest rangers for trespassing. Tijerina was arrested for assault but then released on bond. La Alianza members then raided the local court house and attempted to perform a citizen's arrest on a district attorney. This incident ended in violence. When Tijerina was put on trial he was acquitted of his charges. He was eventually arrested in 1970 and never regained the same degree of influence. 
Corky Gonzales Edit
Corky Gonzales was a famous Latino boxer who was very influential amongst Chicano youth in the 60's and 70's. He is well known for his crusade for justice in the Denver school system and organized the Denver high school "walkouts" in 1967.  He is also the author of the novel I am Joaquin where he laid out the framework for his rhetoric regarding Chicano Nationalism and the idea of the Southwest region of the United States as "Aztlan". In 1965 he was appointed director of Denver's War on Poverty. Gonzales represented the crusade for justice throughout the nation as he organized and called Chicanos to action. In 1970 he formed The Colorado La Raza Unida Party. 
Cesar Chavez Edit
Cesar Chavez was one of four major leaders of the Chicano Movement. He was raised a migrant farmworker and served in WWII. After the war was over he dedicated his life to public service.  He was dedicated to helping farm workers unionize through nonviolent methods. One of his early victories came from his strike against the Rose industry. He led a number of other marches and huger strikes in an attempt to improve the labor conditions and wages for the working class. He created the United Farm Workers which saw great success at first but later suffered from disloyalty and disorganization. 
Dolores Huerta Edit
Dolores Huerta was a school teacher who became interested in the rights of Latino Farm workers. She joined the CSO where she met Chaves and eventually helped him found the UFW. She became the first woman to take part in leading a major labor association.
Luis Valdez Edit
Luis Valdez founded El Teatro Campesino, which is the first farm workers theater in Delano, CA where the actors educated and entertained workers on their civil rights. He was a playwright, producer, and director, and was heavily inspired by Cesar Chavez.  His 1978 play "Zoot Suit", was based on the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles. "Zoot Suit" was the first Chicano play to be performed on Broadway. 
Lupe Anguiano Edit
Lupe Anguiano has been a dedicated leader in both the civil rights and feminist movements. In 1966 she was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to create a Mexican American unit in the department of Health, Education and Welfare.  Anguiano monitored several affirmative action programs in her position at the HEW [ citation needed ] and she strongly advocated for bilingual education. Anguiano helped write the Bilingual Education Act, which was passed by congress in 1968.  Eventually Anguiano resigned her position in the HEW and joined the UFW with Chavez where she held several leadership roles.
José Ángel Gutiérrez Edit
José Ángel Gutiérrez founded the Raza Unida Party in 1970 as a new political entity. In September 1972 he was elected as the Raza Unida Party's national chairman. In 1984 he unsuccessfully ran for State Representative of Oregon. He founded the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1994 and served as the director.
Lauro Cavazos Edit
Lauro Cavazos was appointed as Secretary of Education by President Ronald Reagan. He was the first Latino to be appointed to a presidential cabinet. He resigned in December 1990 due to an investigation regarding the improper use of frequent flyer miles. After his resignation he returned to Tufts university to work as a faculty member.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Edit
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Latina woman elected to the US house of Representatives in 1986 she became the first Hispanic woman in the Florida Senate. In 1989 she became the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress as well as becoming the first Cuban-American in Congress. In the Florida Senate she sponsored legislation for the "Florida Pre-Paid College Tuition Program". 
The Jones Act Edit
The Jones act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 and granted full U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans born on the island and gives them the right to travel freely to the Continental United States. However, the act also stated that because Puerto Rico was not a state, Puerto Ricans were to be represented in Congress by a delegate with limited powers and did not receive Senate representation. 
Constitution of New Mexico Edit
In 1910 New Mexicans held a constitutional conventions that created a document, which was approved in 1912 when New Mexico became a state. May of the constitution's provisions reflected Hispano's immense desire for protection against losing land through litigation/fraud, government seizure and tax delinquencies. they also wanted protection against the racial and ethnic prejudice they faced as Hispanics in the US. The convention was successful in achieving some political power. For example, Articles II and XII made New Mexico a bilingual state and put English and Spanish on an equal basis for all state businesses. 
Mendez V. Westminster Edit
Mendez v. Westminster was a 1946 federal court case that challenged racial segregation in the Orange County, California school district.  Five Mexican-American fathers challenged the practice of school segregation in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The court ruled in favor of Mendez and the co-plaintiffs on February 18, 1946 and found that segregated schools were an unconstitutional denial of equal protection. Segregation in those districts ended and the rest of the state of CA eventually followed. 
Delgado V. The Bastrop Independent School District Edit
After World War II, the League of United Latin American Citizens filed a lawsuit in Texas to eliminate educational segregation of Mexican-American children in school systems. In June 1948, the federal court in Austin stated that this kind of segregation was unconstitutional because it violated the Fourteenth Amendment.  After the decision, Mexican-Americans were officially classified as white, and were no longer subject to the "separate-but-equal" doctrine. The Texas State Board of Education issued an accommodating statement of policy and instructed local school districts to abolish segregation of Mexican Americans. 
Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 Edit
President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act as part of his "War on Poverty" in 1964.  The act created the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the Job Corps. VISTA assigned volunteers to low-income areas to engage in community-action projects. The Job Corps recruited young people who were natives to their area to work on the public projects. Both programs helped Mexican Americans improve both their economic and social positions in the community. 
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Edit
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was founded in 1964 as a corollary to the Civil Rights Act passed by congress in 1964.  The act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and the EEOC was designed to prevent employment discrimination. Congress has given the EEOC the authority to investigate discrimination claims, create conciliation programs, create voluntary assistance programs and file lawsuits. The agency is still in existence today and continues to enforce a range of federal statutes, which prohibit employment discrimination. 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act Edit
The Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965 authorized federal funding as part of the mandate of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  The funds were allocated for school districts that were actively striving to raise the achievement level of youths from disadvantaged backgrounds including students whose first language was not English. Throughout the country, Hispanic community groups, which represented this population started urging local education officials to take advantage of the funding in order to improve the schooling opportunities for Hispanic children. 
Albuquerque Walkout Edit
In 1966 fifty Mexican American delegates followed the lead of Albert Pena and walked out of a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing in New Mexico.  The walk out was in protest of the fact that there were no Mexican American commissioners on the EEOC and they demanded that President Lyndon B. Johnson host a White House conference on Mexican American problems. In May the President agreed to meet with Chicano leaders at a conference in El Paso.  The Albuquerque Walkout was considered a huge milestone in the Chicano fight for civil rights and is even seen as marking the beginning of the Chicano Movement. 
The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 Edit
In 1967 Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas was concerned with the academic performance of Spanish-speaking children and proposed the Bilingual Education Act, which was signed by president Lyndon B. Johnson on January 2, 1968. It was the first Federal Legislation to address the unique educational needs of students with limited English speaking ability. The act provided funding to school districts to develop bilingual education programs.  Furthermore, it set the stage for further legislation regarding equality of education for language minorities.
Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 Edit
Congress passed the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 to make bilingual education more widely available in public schools. The EEOA prohibits discrimination against faculty, staff, and students, including racial segregation of students, and requires school districts to take action to overcome barriers to students' equal participation.