The African-American Civil Rights Movement

Participants, some carrying American flags, marching in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965
Participants, some carrying American flags, marching in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965

The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to social movements that were undertaken by African-Americans in the United States to fight discrimination and racial segregation. The major social movements occurred between 1955 and 1968. These social rights movements were peaceful and rarely involved violent confrontations.

Aim Of The African-American Civil Rights Movement

Close to a century after the abolition of slavery in the United States, black Americans were still oppressed and subject to rampant race-inspired violence, segregation in public facilities, unequal job distribution, and lack of voting rights. The rights that were promised in the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments were denied. As a result, organized social groups emerged whose approach involved using non-violent protests and civil disobedience in an effort to resolve crises.

Organized Groups And Individuals Who Led The Movement

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) was an important organization that sponsored civil rights law suits and lobbied for the African-American rights. This group had some white members who also fought for equality. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were both members of NAACP. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was established at Shaw University in 1960. The group played a major role in organizing voter registration, sit-ins, and freedom meetings. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was one of the earliest and most major social movement groups that was established at the University of Chicago. The members and leaders were volunteers who worked like trade unions. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was a clergy led civil rights movement group. It was closely linked with the first president to the group, Martin Luther King Jr. The formation of SCLC was sparked by the Montgomery Bus Boycott (see explanation below). Certain individuals played a key role in the civil rights movement. These individuals include but not limited to Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, Philip Randolph, and Adam Clayton Powell among other movement leaders.

Milestones Of The Movement

The Montgomery Bus Boycott occurred when Rosa Parks declined to offer her bus seat to a white passenger. She was jailed and this started a 381-day peaceful demonstration from 1955 to 1956. The aim was to remove bus segregation. Similarly, the March on Washington was a peaceful demonstration intended to fight racial discrimination in the employment of defence officers. This demonstration was organized by Phillip Randolph in August 1963. The St. Augustine Movement organized non-violent protests led by Dr Robert B. Hayling and colleagues in 1963-1964. Later it was joined by Martin Luther Jr. and was widely publicized. It led to widespread protests that culminated in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mississippi Freedom Summer public outrage occurred in 1964. The protests throughout the state were organized by various African-American movements and involved white students from the north. This movement resulted in the failure of Jim Crow system and formation of Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Selma Voting Rights Movement was instigated by SNCC in Alabama. The protesters were advocating for the right to vote. The protesters were waylaid by local law enforcement officers on their way to the capital, Montgomery. This attack caused a national outcry that forced the president and the senate to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Fair Housing Movements lasted for two years from 1966 to 1968. This movement was fighting house segregation. This climaxed into the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated a day after delivering a stirring speech in Memphis on April 4, 1968. The assassination of Luther Jr. led to protests in 110 cities throughout the US.


More in Society