Back in 1951, 13 black parents sued the Topeka, Kansas school board, charging that their children's segregated education was unconstitutional. The case became famous, known as Brown versus the Board of Education. It wasn't the first case challenging separate but equal laws, but like past cases, it was born out of frustration and dissatisfaction with racial inequities.
Rosa Parks, in refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man, became the mother superior of the civil rights movement. Parks' arrest caused a protest that lasted 381 days, and led to the Supreme Court ruling that segregation in public transportation is unlawful. Despite the changes she brought about, Parks continued to believe that it will be a long time before feelings of white supremacy are completely erased from the United States.
Everyone's heard of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., and learned about their contributions in the civil rights movement. Few, however, are familiar with the name Emmett Till. Till's death, at the hands of two white men in the segregated south, opened American's eyes to that region's racial hatred. Though his killers were not brought to justice for their crimes, Till's legacy lives on in the form of new books and documentaries about him, created to keep his memory and legacy alive.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that school segregation was unconstitutional did not end the practice. Many state and local officials continued to bar black students from all-white schools. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to Arkansas to enforce a court order to integrate a high school.
It took the protection of U.S. soldiers for nine black students to enter Little Rock Central High School and integrate its all-white classrooms. But, their challenges didn't end at the schoolhouse door. They had to endure continuing insults and threats from their classmates for the rest of their time in the school.
Four young black men sat in the 'Whites Only' section of their local diner and demanded service. The North Carolina diner had to close down for five months because of the incident. This peaceful action by four black students spread to fifty-four cities within days and contributed to the elimination of segregation from the United States.
In 1961, a small group of activists, both black and whites, decided to travel by bus through the Deep South, where segregation in bus facilities wasn't just the custom, it was the law, and where the simple act of boarding a bus was enough to put one's life on the line. The law stated that waiting areas at bus stations could not be segregated for those traveling between states, but many did not follow this law. The activists, known as the Freedom Riders, rode in protest of this injustice and continued to draw America's attention to the racial violence in the South.
In November 1963, President John F. Kennedy appealed to Americans to support the civil rights of black citizens to equality in education, public accommodations and voting. Days after his speech on the proposed Civil Rights Act, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Dorothy Height was one of the principle planners of the march on Washington on August 28th, 1963, which led to the Civil Rights Act. Height often worked behind the scenes as male civil rights leaders took the spotlight. But, she later became an adviser to presidents and received the nation's highest civilian honors.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2009 permitted the continued enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but some justices questioned whether the act is still necessary.
In 1968, athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos placed the struggle for civil rights on a world stage when they raised their fists on the winners' podium at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. They wanted to draw attention to the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. The men were suspended from the U.S. team and sent home.
When civil rights leader A. Phillip Randolph proposed a civil rights march in Washington for the summer of 1963, no one knew how large the crowd would be. The number eventually rose above 200,000 people. The marchers, black and white together, crowded around the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most famous speech.
Forty-five years after he and others were beaten during a voting rights march in Alabama, Rep. John Lewis returned to the Selma site of "Bloody Sunday," one of the defining events of the civil rights movement. The violence outraged the nation and President Lyndon Johnson, who ordered federal troops to guard Martin Luther King Jr. and protesters on their march from Selma to Montgomery.
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on Meet The Press one week after leading his historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. King said the demonstration was necessary not just to help push the Voting Rights Bill through, but to draw attention to police brutality and racially-motivated murder in Alabama.
Rep. John Lewis and other witnesses tell the story of the fight for African-American voting rights in the 1960s. They discuss the obstacles and violence faced by Martin Luther King Jr. and many civil rights workers in winning African-Americans the right to vote.
On "Meet the Press," Martin Luther King Jr. talked about his opposition to the Vietnam War and said that despite the riots in American cities, he refused to allow himself "to fall into the dark chambers of pessimism."
An examination of the issues and struggles that civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. focused on before his assassination and the impact his death had on the nation.
Distributed by NIEonline.com with permission
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