The Civil Rights Movement: What It Was, And What It Accomplished


The civil rights movement in the United States was was for the purpose of bringing equal rights and equal opportunities to African-Americans. It included legal cases, sit-ins, protests, and other activities.

The first legal case associated with the civil rights movement was Brown v. the Board of Education. Taking place in Topeka, Kansas, parents sued the Board of Education for the right to send their children to the schools of their choice. The result of the case was Topeka could no longer segregate its elementary schools on the basis of race after the court’s decision in 1954.

A year later, Rosa Parks was responsible for the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. While African-Americans were required to give up their seats on buses when the seats were needed for White passengers, Mrs. Parks refused to do this. The courage shown by this average working woman led Mrs. Parks to become known as one of the most influential people in the civil rights movement.

1957 marked the desegregation of Little Rock High School. The National Guard was called by the Arkansas governor in an attempt to prevent African-American students from entering the school. As desegregation had already been established by the courts, President Dwight Eisenhower intervened.

Protesters, Freedom Riders, and others who participated in nonviolent activities were subject to arrest, beatings, and even death. One of the many people who lost their lives in the civil rights movement was a 39-year-old housewife named Viola Liuzzo. She was shot to death in Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The 1963 March on Washington was the location of the famous “I Have A Dream” speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 200,000 demonstrators protested the need for civil rights laws, fairness and equality in employment and housing, equal opportunities in education, and other issues.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. It had originally been proposed by President John F. Kennedy. Discrimination in public facilities and employment was banned by this Act.

The Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. This did not necessarily make it easy for African-Americans to vote. In some areas, primarily in the South, they continued to face difficulties when exercising their legal right to vote. When individuals protested these difficulties by marching from Selma to Montgomery, they were on the receiving end of violence.

Many Americans participated in the civil rights movement. Men, women, and children of all backgrounds and races took a stand in the name of equal rights, equal opportunities, and freedom. Ministers, politicians, school children, and average citizens played a vital role in this important part of American history.

However, the fullness of Rev. King’s Dream has not yet been realized. While discrimination is against the law throughout the United States, prejudice continues. All Americans today should look at the courage of everyone who participated in the civil rights movement, and continue taking a stand against bigotry in their own homes, schools, and communities.