Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s


Long before the Civil Rights movement of 1960s making headlines, the black response to racial inequality and oppression was all underway. The blacks were no-longer tolerating with the dominant racial inequality showed to them by the whites. This resulted to the formation of Civil Rights movements which led to numerous rulings during the 1950s; in particular Brown vs. Board of education of Topeka, and actions from Civil Right leaders like Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights movement led the nation to civil unrest and later, remarkable gains were achieved from it (Teaching Tolerance, 2005). The transformations made at that period shaped the U.S history significantly.


The Civil Rights movements that occurred in 1960s were the results of events that happened in 1950s, for example, the case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. The case was marked by a landmark ruling on the segregation of schools life (Farris, 2003). The Supreme Court ruled that segregation of public schools violated the rights established in the 14th Amendment. The case involved an eight year old girl, Linda Brown, and her parents argued that schools were innately unequal, and segregation had disastrous effects on children. These events led to the establishment of Civil Rights act, and the government was responsible for enforcing Civil Rights laws passed by Congress (Curtis, 1995). Likewise, the case on Rosa Parks, also known as the mother of the civil rights movement, transformed the US history when she refused to give up her seat to a white male (Litwack, 2009). This resulted in Dr. King organizing a bus boycott that lasted 382 days in Montgomery, Alabama. 90 per cent of participants of the boycott were Blacks. The Supreme Court finally ruled that segregation of bus city services was unconstitutional. The success of the boycott led to the development of nonviolent civil rights movement.

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Black students were also involved in the movement. This was observed when they protested against being served lunch while standing at Greensboro’s Woolworth’s store. The attendant refused to serve them lunch, unless they were to take it while standing. This resulted into peaceful protests in North Carolina and later escalated to more than hundred cities across the country. In an attempt to desegregate public accommodations; motels, hotels, stadiums, restaurants, and concert halls, freedom riders took their protests through buses. The riders were attacked by an angry mob and this escalated to a greater violence. This prompted President Kennedy to order the protection of riders while travelling to Jackson, Mississippi (King, 2012). These protests resulted in the formation of civil rights act of 1964 which prohibited discrimination in public places and the use of public facilities.

The civil rights movement flourished in full force during this period, and produced remarkable organizations and leaders who were committed to the primary cause of racial injustice. The popularization of the black power created unity among the blacks, hence making them a powerful community, which terrified many whites. This power gave them strength and fighting spirit to conger the segregations. Conversely, on many occasions they experienced difficulties in identifying how to secure the rights in the best way. For example, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People thought that legal means were the best ones, but they ended up experiencing a lot of difficulties (Wolfson, 2003). Therefore, Southern Christian Leadership and Martin Luther King Jr. endorsed nonviolent direct action campaigns, strikes, marches, and rallies to draw awareness to their cause.

Civil rights activism advanced on and entered a different phase in the latter part of 1960s. Advanced laws on civil rights were passed during that time, and the opposition towards the Vietnam War ignited tensions in the country. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for the rights of Blacks and Hispanics by marching in the streets and delivering the speech I have a dream, to send the message for the demand of equal rights for all Americans irrespectively of skin color (King, 2012). The message pressurized President Kennedy’s administration to advance the laws on civil rights. On April 4, 1967 Martin Luther King Jr., made his most comprehensive public statement against the Vietnam War. He disputed that the war should have been terminated not because it was a pointless war staged for bad ends, but it was an obstacle to social advancement in the country, thus, it prevented the Blacks from attaining their just and right position in America (Farris, 2003).

The black power was considered to be an agitating cry of the blacks across the country and the government had to heed to their cry. The gains made from the protests received a lot of resistance from the whites. This led to continued intimidation from the whites as they were not ready for submission. Martin Luther King and other leaders launched a massive campaign that brought together thousands of blacks in Birmingham, Alabama. On the onset of this campaign, King was arrested and from his cell he wrote a letter in response to the increased racism in America. The letter argued that all people had a moral role of breaking unjust laws in the community (King, 2002). The letter was credible because many Blacks had been suppressed to unjust laws and, hence there was a need to end the racial discrimination.

The presence of strong leadership from the activist leaders; Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and other rights activists, offered guidance to the Blacks in the pursuit of their freedom. Through mobilization leadership, King was able to motivate and empower the movement which fought against the oppression and segregation of the Blacks (Fandel, 2007). For all its flaws and accomplishments, King had set the modern stage for us to begin to build an America, which would fulfil its promise for justice and equality for Blacks and other minorities. On the other hand, Malcolm X was considered to be a provocative and charismatic speaker who gave voice to the Blacks (Haley, 1964). He delivered a speech in 1964 in which he advocated for the use of any means to secure black political and economic independence from the Whites. That made King and other activists of his time to gain great achievements in fighting for Civil Rights, and this called for the need of celebrating the lives of these great activists.


The pursuit of liberties and Civil Rights has been a common argument in the entire American history. The civil rights movement of the 1960s transformed the economic, political, and social conditions that affected the minorities in the United States (Farris, 2003). The peaceful protests for example, freedom rides and sit-ins, had led to end of discrimination on public facilities. The adherence to nonviolent tactics provided by Martin Luther King Jr. inspired large number of Blacks to participate. Through unity and determination, the Blacks made their voices heard and change was effected (Fandel, 2007). The Christian based organization became a major force in organizing civil rights movement, and it made headway in publicizing civil right abuses that continued to oppress the Blacks. Though the most outstanding change was the eradication of restrictions that separated the Blacks from the Whites, the freedoms gained virtually had extended to every sphere of life. It led to changes in prevailing notions on citizenship rights of Blacks and bolstered the human rights of all Americans regardless of their skin colour. The key figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and other Civil Rights activists fought with their lives for inalienable rights to be guaranteed in the U.S Constitution. The legal framework transformation occurred due to the Civil Rights movement shaped the American history on matters relating to segregation.

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