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Chapter 28. The Civil Rights Movement, 1945 —1966.

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chapter 28

Chapter 28

The Civil Rights Movement, 1945 —1966


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain

"When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be men!" Cesar Chavez [From Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa by Jacques E. Levy, 1975

"My father wasn't very special. He was an ordinary person who did extraordinary things. We both knew that." Anthony Chavez [son of Cesar Chavez]

  • James Baldwin, author [“God gave man the rainbow sign, no more rain, the fire next time.”]
  • Dick Gregory, albums and books [“Dear mother, wherever you are. Whenever you hear the word N. you’ll know someone is advertising my book.”]
  • Woodie Guthrie, music
  • All “Folk” music
  • Bob Dylan, music
  • The Beatles, music
  • The Stones, music
  • “Soul” Music
  • Branch Taylor, Parting the Waters (1988 & 1998)
  • Richard Klugar, Simple Justice (1977)
  • Howard Zinn, SNCC, & A Peoples’ History of US
  • Rodolfo Acuna’s Occupied America (1981)
  • Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore (1989)
civil rights in bakersfield
Civil Rights in Bakersfield
  • Ad-hoc committee for the desegregation of the Bakersfield City School District, 1969
  • Health, Education, and Welfare [HEW] Hearings in Bakersfield, 1974
  • Kern Council for Civic Unity, 1960s and ’70s
  • Minority Coalition, 1970s and ’80s

1941 Ex Order 8802 forbids racial discrimination in defense industries & government

1946 Morgan v. Virginia, U.S. Sp. CT. rules segregation on interstate buses unconstitutional

Pres. Truman creates Committee on Civil Rights

1947 Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American on a major league baseball team

1948 Truman ex. order desegregates armed forces

1954 Brown v. Board of Education, SP CT rules segregated schools inherently unequal

1955 Supreme Court rules that school desegregation must proceed "with all deliberate speed"

Montgomery bus boycott begins

1956 Montgomery bus boycott ends in victory as the Supreme Court affirms a district court

Segregation on buses is unconstitutional

  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded

President Dwight Eisenhower sends in federal troops to protect African American students Integrating Little Rock, Arkansas, high school


1960 Sit-in movement begins as four college students sit a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and ask to be served

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) founded

1961 Freedom Rides begin

1962 James Meredith integrates the Un. of Mississippi

Albany movement fails to end GA segregation

1963 SCLC initiates campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama

Medgar Evers, leader of the Mississippi NAACP is assassinated March on Washington; Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream"

1964 Miss. Freedom Summer project brings students to Miss. to teach and register voters

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman are found buried in Philadelphia, Mississippi

Miss. Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) denied seats at 1964 Dem. Pres. Convention

1965SCLC and SNCC begin voter registration campaign in Selma, Alabama

Malcolm X is assassinated

Civil rights marchers walk Selma to Montgomery

Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed into law



Words and Music by Bob Dylan 1963, 1964 Warner Bros. Inc;

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers' blood. A finger fired the trigger to his name. A hand hid out in the dark.

A hand set the spark, Two eyes took the aim. Behind a man's brain.

But he can't be blamed.

He's only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man,

"You got more than the blacks, don't complain.

You're better than them, you been born with white skin,"

they explain. And the Negro's name. Is used it is plain. For the politician's gain. As he rises to fame. And the poor white remains. On the caboose of the train. But it ain't him to blame.

He's only a pawn in their game.


The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid,

And the marshals and cops get the same, But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool. He's taught in his school. From the start by the rule. That the laws are with him. To protect his white skin. To keep up his hate. So he never thinks straight. Bout the shape that he's in. But it ain't him to blame.

He's only a pawn in their game.

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks, And the hoof beats pound in his brain. .And he's taught how to walk in a pack. Shoot in the back. With his fist in a clinch. To hang and to lynch. To hide 'neath the hood. To kill with no pain. Like a dog on a chain. He ain't got no name. But it ain't him to blame. He's only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught. They lowered him down as a king. But when the shadowy sun sets on the one. That fired the gun. He'll see by his grave. On the stone that remains. Carved next to his name. His epitaph plain:

Only a pawn in their game.

part i

Part I:



This chapter covers the mass movements for civil rights beginning in the black community and then extending to the Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Asian, and American Indian communities as well.

This era, often called the “Second Reconstruction,” saw advances against segregation through federal court decisions and more direct activism as black leaders forced the larger community to face segregation issues.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 reinforced political equality but economic and social equality did not automatically follow. The persistence of poverty, entrenched racism and ghetto slums brought a split in the black consensus over goals for their movement.

The civil rights movement overall and the Great Society created new pride and expectation as well as anger and a more militant movement.  

chapter focus questions
Chapter Focus Questions
  • What were the legal and political origins of the African American civil rights struggle?
  • What characterized Martin Luther King’s rise to leadership?
  • How did student protesters take direct action in the South?
  • How did civil rights affect national politics?
  • What were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
  • How did America’s other minorities pursue their civil rights?
part ii

Part II:

American Communities

the montgomery bus boycott
The Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • In 1955 Montgomery’s black community mobilized when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat and comply with segregation laws.
  • Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, a boycott of busses was launched.
  • A network of local activists organized car pools using private cars to get people to and from work.
  • Leaders endured violence and legal harassment, but won a court ruling that the segregation ordinance was unconstitutional.
part iii

Part III:

Origins of the Movement

civil rights after world war ii
Civil Rights After World War II
  • The WWII experiences of African Americans laid the foundations for the subsequent struggle.
  • A mass migration to the North brought political power to African Americans working through the Democratic Party.
  • The NAACP grew in numbers and its Legal Defense Fund initiated a series of lawsuits to win key rights.
  • Key ways the African Americans were breaking color barriers included:
    • Jackie Robinson’s entrance into major league baseball
    • Ralph Bunche’s winning a Nobel Peace prize
  • A new generation of jazz musicians created be-bop.
the segregated south
The Segregated South
  • In the South, segregation and unequal rights were still the law of the land.
  • Law and custom kept blacks as second-class citizens with no effective political rights.
  • African Americans had learned to survive and not challenge the situation.
brown v board of education
Brown v. Board of Education
  • The NAACP initiated a series of court cases challenging the constitutionality of segregation.
  • In Brown v. Board of Education, newly appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren led the court to declare that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
  • The court postponed ordering a clear timetable to implement the decision.
  • Southern whites declared their intention to nullify the decision.
  • The “doll doctor” and his testimony
crisis in little rock
Crisis in Little Rock
  • In Little Rock, Arkansas, a judge ordered integration.
  • The governor ordered the National Guard to keep African American children out of Central High.
  • When the troops were withdrawn, a riot erupted forcing President Eisenhower to send in more troops to integrate the school.
part iv

Part IV:

No Easy Road to Freedom

martin luther king and the sclc
Martin Luther King and the SCLC
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged from the bus boycott as a prominent national figure. A well-educated son of a Baptist minister, King taught his followers nonviolent resistance, modeled after the tactics of Mohandas Gandhi.
  • The civil rights movement was deeply rooted in the traditions of the African American church.
  • King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to promote nonviolent direct action to challenge segregation.
sit ins
  • African American college students, first in Greensboro, NC, began sitting in at segregated lunch counters.
  • Nonviolent sit-ins were:
    • widely supported by the African American community
    • accompanied by community-wide boycotts of businesses that would not integrate.
sncc and the beloved community
SNCC and the “Beloved Community”
  • A new spirit of militancy was evident among young people.
  • 120 African American activists created the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to promote nonviolent direct challenges to segregation.
  • H. Rapp Brown, Stokely Carmichael, “black power”
  • The young activists were found at the forefront of nearly every major civil rights battle.
the election of 1960 and civil rights
The Election of 1960 and Civil Rights
  • The race issue had moved to center stage by 1960.
  • As Vice President, Nixon had strongly supported civil rights.
  • But Kennedy pressured a judge to release Martin Luther King, Jr. from jail.
  • African American voters provided Kennedy’s margin of victory, though an unfriendly Congress insured that little legislation would come out.
  • Attorney General Robert Kennedy used the Justice Department to force compliance with desegregation orders.
freedom rides
Freedom Rides
  • The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sponsored a freedom ride of biracial teams to ride interstate buses in the South.
  • The FBI and Justice Department knew of the plans but were absent when mobs firebombed a bus and severely beat the Freedom Riders.
  • There was violence and no police protection at other stops.
  • The Kennedy Administration was forced to mediate a safe conduct for the riders, though 300 people were arrested.
  • A Justice Department petition led to new rules that effectively ended segregated interstate buses.
the limits of protest
The Limits of Protest
  • Where the federal government was not present, segregationists could triumph.
  • In Albany, Georgia local authorities kept white mobs from running wild and kept police brutality down to a minimum.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was twice arrested, but Albany remained segregated.
  • When the federal government intervened, as it did in the University of Mississippi, integration could take place.
part v

Part V:

The Movement at High Tide

  • In conjunction with the SCLC, local activists in Birmingham, Alabama planned a large desegregation campaign.
  • Demonstrators, including Martin Luther King, Jr., filled the city’s jails.
  • King drafted his Letter From a Birmingham Jail.
  • A TV audience saw water cannons and snarling dogs break up a children's march.
  • A settlement was negotiated that desegregated businesses.
  • Birmingham changed the nature of the civil rights movement by bringing in black unemployed and working poor for the first time.
jfk and the march on washington
JFK and the March on Washington
  • The shifting public consensus led President Kennedy to appeal for civil rights legislation.
  • A. Philip Randolph’s old idea of a march on Washington was revived.
  • The march presented a unified call for change and held up the dream of universal freedom and brotherhood.
lbj and the civil rights act of 1964
LBJ and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The assassination of John Kennedy threw a cloud over the movement as the new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had never been a good friend to civil rights.
  • LBJ used his skills as a political insider to push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that put a virtual end to Jim Crow.
mississippi freedom summer
Mississippi Freedom Summer
  • In 1964 civil rights activists targeted Mississippi for a “freedom summer” that saw 900 volunteers come to open up this closed society.
  • Two white activists and a local black activist were quickly killed.
  • Tensions developed between white volunteers and black movement veterans.
  • The project riveted national attention on Mississippi.
  • With an overwhelming Democratic victory in the 1964 elections, movement leaders pushed for federal legislation to protect the right to vote.
malcom x and black consciousness
Malcom X and Black Consciousness
  • Many younger civil rights activists were drawn to the vision of Malcolm X, who:
    • ridiculed integrationist goals
    • urged black audiences to take pride in their African heritage
    • break free from white domination
  • He broke with the Nation of Islam, made a pilgrimage to Mecca, and returned to America with changed views.
  • He sought common ground with the civil rights movement, but was murdered in 1965.
  • Even in death, he continued to point to a new black consciousness.
  • In Selma, Alabama, whites had kept blacks off the voting lists and brutally responded to protests.
  • A planned march to Montgomery ended when police beat marchers.
  • Just when it appeared the Selma campaign would fade, a white gang attacked a group of Northern whites who had come to help out, one of whom died.
  • President Johnson addressed the nation and thoroughly identified himself with the civil rights cause, declaring “we shall overcome.”
  • The march went forward.
the voting rights act of 1965
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • In August 1965 LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act that authorized federal supervision of voter registration in the South.
part vi

Part VI:

Forgotten Minorities

mexican americans
Mexican Americans
  • Mexican Americans formed groups to fight for their rights and used the courts to challenge discrimination.
  • Legal and illegal Mexican migration increased dramatically during and after WWII. During the 1950s, efforts to round up undocumented immigrants led to a denial of basic civil rights and a distrust of Anglos.
  • UFW, Cesar Chavez, CUP, LULAC
puerto ricans
Puerto Ricans
  • Although Puerto Rican communities had been forming since the 1920s, the great migration came after WWII.
  • Despite being citizens, Puerto Ricans faced both economic and cultural discrimination.
  • In the 1960s and seventies, the decline in manufacturing jobs and urban decay severely hit them.
indian peoples
Indian Peoples
  • During the 1950s, Congress passed a series of termination bills that ended tribal rights in return for cash payments and division of tribal assets.
  • Indian activists challenged government policies leading to court decisions that reasserted the principle of tribal sovereignty.
  • Reservation Indians remained trapped in poverty.
  • Indians who had left the reservation lost much of their tribal identities.
  • Urban Indian groups arose and focused on civil instead of tribal rights.
  • Russell Means, Dennis Banks, Wounded Knee
asian americans
Asian Americans
  • During the 1950s, Congress removed the old ban against Japanese immigration and naturalization.
  • In 1965, a new immigration law increased opportunities for Asians to immigrate to the United States.
  • As a result, the demographics of the Asian-American population drastically changed.
part vii

Part VII: