The Origins of The Civil Rights Movement - African American Studies Research Paper


The civil rights movement began in 1954 with the Supreme Court ruling on the Brown v. The Board of Education and ended almost ten years later in 1965 in Selma, Alabama with the killing of 4 young girls.

The origins of the civil rights movements can be linked all the way back to Reconstruction. Blacks in America had been trying to become equal citizens for nearly 100 years. Blacks in the South had been put back to a near slavery conditions with the Black Codes and the Jim Crow Laws.

In 1909 NAACP was formed, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, by W.E.B. Dubois the first black man to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard. The NAACP promoted equality for blacks.

The CIO, the Congress for Industrial Organization, was the first union to allow blacks to participate in as equal members. The CIO helped teach blacks how to vote, get signatures for petitions and how to organize strikes. These organizations existed during the early 1900s to World War II. In World War II blacks fought to protect America. They fought to protect the rights they were not given as citizens. When blacks returned from the war they were expected to go back to being second class citizens. All of these events contributed to the beginning to the civil rights movement.

The events that started the civil rights movement began in 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown v Board of Education of Tapeka, Kansas that segregation in schools was unconstitutional and wrong. The NAACP hired Thurgood Marshall to argue the case in front of the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall went ahead to be the first Black Supreme Court Justice. He served for 24 years on the Supreme Court.
In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat up to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and put in jail. Her refusal to give up her seat lead to an eight month strike of the bus system in Montgomery. The black community organized their own carpools and buses during the entire eight months. 65% of Montgomery’s bus income came from black riders. The eight-month strike put a severe financial burden on the city. The Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional and ended the strike.

Next 1957, the Governor of Arkansas refused to desegregate his schools and ordered the National Guard to stop 9 black students from desegregating Little Rock’s Central High School. Governor Faubus completely ignored President Eisenhower orders to desegregate. The President then sent in Paratroopers and National Guardsmen to escort the 9 black students into Central High School.

In 1960, four college students started a sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina. Every day these four students returned to a café for lunch waiting to be served. They received national attention and black and white students started participating in the sit in. While all of these events are going on white policemen and white mobs are assaulting blacks. Bull O’Connor, the Police Chief, of Birmingham, Alabama, orders his officers to beat up black protesters. The black protesters followed Ghandi’s example of the non-violent protest. This practice of non-violence infuriated the white attackers, however, when the news cameras would capture the violence on camera, it would show non-violent protesters singing gospel hymns and walking slowly down the street being attacked by white bigots.
In 1961, the freedom riders tried to show how the nations bus where now desegregated by riding Cross County. They met opposition along the way. Then in 1962, the University of Mississippi was desegregated. As this lone black student broke the white barrier U.S. Marshal’s and National Guardsmen escorted him. In 1963, the civil rights movement took off. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march on Washington D.C. His march ended on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he gave his “I have a dream” speech. This year was hard for blacks the leader of the NAACP, Medgar Evans, was gunned down in his driveway. His killer was not brought to justice until the late 1990s.

The civil rights movement came to an end in 1964, when a church was attacked on a Sunday morning killing four little black girls. President Lyndon B. Johnson then passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which guaranteed the rights of minorities; President Johnson also passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed the voting rights of minorities. President Johnson started other programs to help minorities like the Head Start Program.

The civil rights movement then fell apart the leaders became interested in other causes. New black leaders emerged with Malcolm X and S. Carmichael who encouraged blacks to fight violence with violence. The Black Panthers were formed with the Black Power movement.
The civil rights movement lead to the beginning of other movements such as women, homosexuals, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and other groups. The civil rights movement achieved first class citizenship for blacks and minorities 100 years after the civil war. The civil rights movement questioned everything America stood for.

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