The American Civil Rights Movement carries the most painful memories in American history. From 1868 when the 14th Amendment was passed to the 2012 murder of Treyvon Martin, five events stand out as the key moments that shaped the Movement.
Brown v. Board of Education
This case from Topeka, KS, 1954 sparked the Civil Rights Movement. It outlawed segregation in public schools, then desegregation protests began to occur all throughout the South. What this case did was to inspire other desegregation protests such as Rosa Parks and the Greensboro Four.
Visiting family in 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till walked into a Mississippi store to buy candy. Bragging about his integrated Chicago school, Emmett Till spoke to a white woman in a manner not accustom in the South. Consequently, three white men kidnapped and murdered him. The murders were acquitted. The fact that the white men were acquitted caused national outrage that thrust the Civil Rights Movement towards its climactic 1960s decade.
The Greensboro Four
February 1, 1960, four black college students take seats in the white’s only section of a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro NC. They were refused service. The next day they returned with more students, and were refused service. Whites began to humiliate the students trying to get them to leave. The students remained peaceful. The sit-in participants grew to the hundreds and drew media attention. This event caused Woolworth’s to change their segregation policy, which caused many public places to follow suit.
The Freedom Riders
May, 1961, several black and white activists took a bus from Washington DC to New Orleans to protest the segregation of interstate buses. Because the bus was mixed with whites and blacks, it challenged the laws of segregation. Despite the violent reactions the Freedom Riders received, they drove on unstoppable. The Freedom Riders inspired the cause and created solidarity between whites and blacks in the movement.
The March on Washington
August,1963, hundreds-of-thousands marched on Washington DC. This protest was responsible for getting the Government to do something on a Federal level for Civil Rights. It was during this march that Dr. King made his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech. The event was the reason for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
List of Sources:
Carson, Clayborne. In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Wolff, Miles. Lunch at the Five and Ten, The Greensboro Sit-Ins: A Contemporary History. New York: Stein and Day, 1970.