Major Events: In the 1940s and 1950s, lawyers representing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp)

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Major Events:

  • In the 1940s and 1950s, lawyers representing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) argued a sequence of crucial cases in the Supreme Court.

  • Their argument centered on the belief that segregation is inherently unequal and/or inadequate educational/ other facilities available to blacks.

  • In May 17, 1954, the Court reached a milestone decision in a case known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka – it declared that said segregated educational facilities did in fact prove to be inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional.

  • This event stimulated black resistance.

  • On December 1, 1995, a black woman named Rosa Parks was subsequently arrested because of her refusal to move to the African American section of a Montgomery bus – blacks organized and carried out a one-day boycott of the bus system in order to protest her arrest.

  • In 1957, Martin Luther King Jr., a local Baptist minister, was able to combine the protest elements with the historic force of the African American church. He transformed a racial protest from one grounded on spontaneity to a massive resistance movement, led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

  • In the ensuing period, picketing and boycotting spread throughout communities

  • In 1960, a newly formed group called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC launched a sit-in movement based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Black students persevered in attempts to gain service at a local lunch counter that was segregated.

  • This movement spread throughout the national and resulted in the desegregation of businesses that included but were not limited to department stores, supermarkets, libraries, and movie theaters.

  • In May 1961, the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE sent a group of individuals called

  • Freedom Riders” consisting of members of both races into the Southern states in order to achieve the goal of breaking down segregation in terms of the interstate transportation system.

  • In August, 1963, the movement would reach its climax with the massive demonstration called the March on Washington, D. C., in which blacks protested racial discrimination and showcased support for the significant legislation of civil rights yet to be issued in Congress.

  • In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson’s urging caused the Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act, one of the most significant bills in all history.

    • It prohibited discrimination in public amenities/accommodations.

    • It threatened to withhold federal funding for communities that upheld segregation.

  • In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which when enforced, eradicated the Southern tactics to prevent black voters from gaining the ability to actually vote.

    • The number of black voters in the South drastically increased, with a similar increase in the number of blacks in offices.

  • After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April 1968, the movement disintegrated from a cohesive movement to a relatively disorganized collection of protests which varied in the extent to which they employed violence as a means to achieve their ultimate goals.

Historical Background

Jim Crow Period- This is a time in history when the civil liberties of African Americans were severely limited by laws promoting “separate but equal”.

  • Voting Restrictions

o Poll taxes-Southern states required a poll tax which disenfranchised many African

Americans and poor whites.

o Grandfather clause- Some southern states enacted a clause prohibiting voters whose decedents didn’t vote prior to the Civil War. This eliminated African American voters.

o Literacy test- Southern states required voters to pass a very strict literacy test that

eliminated many African Americans of this period.

• Segregation

o African Americans were required to use separate public facilities (i.e. restrooms, hotels, railroads, hospitals, and beaches)

o African American children attended segregated schools.

o Plessey v. Ferguson - The Supreme Court upheld the policy of “separate but equal, leading to extreme segregation in the south.

Harlem Renaissance- African American cultural rebirth

• African Americans faced extreme segregation, compounded by poverty and violent discrimination.

• Race riots erupted and the NAACP used parades and campaigns to protest violence.

• Many African Americans from the south and other immigrants moved to urban areas, such as Harlem.

*This resulted in a mix of cultures in Harlem.

• Harlem authors, artists, and musicians used their work to express a new pride in African American heritage, the trials of an African American in a white world, and the quest for civil rights and equality.

Phase I-The goal of Phase 1 was to secure desegregation of public facilities and end voting restrictions through non-violent action.

• Several Groups emerged with these goals

o SCLC- Southern Christian Leadership Conference

o CORE- Congress of Racial Equality

o SNCC- Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee

o NAACP- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

o Other minority groups emerged during this period that sought equality for Hispanic and

Native Americans and women.

• Groups used non-violent action with the belief that opposing groups would not know how to respond to this type of protest

o Sit-ins- This is a form of non-violent protest in which protesters sat themselves in a segregated location until evicted. This often evoked sympathy.

o Freedom rides- Civil rights activists’ road in interstate buses into the segregated south to prove that violence would not stop them.

The outcomes of Phase 1 included desegregation of public facilities, transportation, and school, and an end of voting restrictions.

Phase II- This was a period in which African Americans sought social and economic equality with whites. They also wanted to improve neighborhoods, education, and job opportunities and stop police brutality.

• The nature of the civil rights movement changed during this phase because:

o Civil rights leaders and activists believed that the government had betrayed them and was unreceptive of their cause.

o Many groups were angry because of unemployment, poorly funded schools, and police brutality.

o Several race riots broke out in cities throughout the U.S.

o Because non-violent action had not helped poverty in inner cities, they turned to more violent action

• Ideas of Black Nationalism became popular- This advocates a racial definition that emphasizes black pride and social, political, and economic independence from white society. Advocators of this were:

o Malcolm X

o Stokely Carmichael

o The Black Panther Party

Phase III- This phase emphasized groups other than Africa n Americans.

• Great White Flight-White middle class moved to the suburbs and took economic resources with them. This resulted in higher crime rates and poor funds in inner cities.

• Groups of Phase III:

o Feminist Movement- wanted equal pay for equal work, abortion rights

o Latino Movement- improvements in living and working conditions for migrant workers

o Asian American Movement- better economic opportunities

o Native American Movement- self-determination o Environmental Movement- clean air/water o Consumer Movement- improvements in automobile safety, meat-packing plants, and children’s toys

o Americans with disabilities- equal access

1)    Why did the modern Civil Rights Movement begin after World War II?





2)    Explain the majority opinion in the case Brown v. Board of Education (1954)?





3)    Why did Eisenhower send troops to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957?





4)    Define the phrase “civil disobedience.” 





5)    Give an example of an action in the Civil Rights Movement that demonstrated civil disobedience.




6)    Why did Martin Luther King believe that non-violent resistance could be an effective way to gain civil rights?




7)    To what audience(s) was Martin Luther King Jr. speaking when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech?




8)    Name at least two pieces of Civil Rights legislation and explain what they did.




9)    What is Black Nationalism?




10) What factors encouraged race riots in American cities during the 1960s and 1970s?




11) Why did Malcolm X and groups such as the Black Panthers gain in popularity as the Civil Rights Movement dragged on?




12) What is “affirmative action?”  What case established its legality?





13) Why did the second-wave feminist movement emerge in the 1960s and 1970s?




14) Identify/Define the following:

a.    Betty Friedan:


b.    National Organization of Women (NOW):


c.    Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):


d.    Phyllis Schlafly:


e.    Title IX:


15) What did the Supreme Court rule in the case Roe v. Wade?




16) Why did the U.S. feel that South Vietnam was essential to U.S. national security?




17) What was the significance of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?




18) Identify the significance of or define the following:

a.    My Lai Massacre:


b.    Vietnamization:



19) Identify/Define the following:

a.    Hawks:


b.    Doves:


c.    Kent State Riots/Massacre:


d.    The “Silent Majority”:



20) What did the Supreme Court rule in NY Times v. U.S.?




21) Describe fighting conditions in the Vietnam War.




22) Explain the role that television played in both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.



23) What lessons did the U.S. learn in Vietnam?




1960s Culture and Politics


24) Give some examples of behaviors and groups that emerged as part of the counterculture.




25) What issues motivated members of “The New Left?”





26)  What programs did Lyndon Johnson sponsor as part of his Great Society agenda?

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