The 1950s seemed a peaceful time within the United States. Yet changes were underway that would reshape American society. Among the most far-reaching was the Civil Rights Movement, which sought to ensure the promise of equal opportunity for all Americans.
Although African Americans had won freedom nearly a century before, many states, especially in the South, denied them equality. Segregation, or forced separation, was legal in education and housing. African Americans also faced discrimination, or unequal treatment and barriers, in jobs and voting. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s renewed earlier efforts to end racial injustice.
In 1954, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. It declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional. President Eisenhower and his successors used federal power to uphold the order to desegregate public schools.
Segregated drinking fountains were a common sight in the southern states.
By 1956, a gifted preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had emerged as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Inspired by Gandhi's campaign of civil disobedience in India, King organized boycotts and led peaceful marches to end segregation in the United States. Many Americans of all races joined the Civil Rights Movement. Their courage in the face of sometimes brutal attacks stirred the nation's conscience.
In 1963, at a huge civil rights rally, King made a stirring speech. “I have a dream,” he proclaimed, “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
In time, Congress responded. It outlawed segregation in public accommodations, protected the rights of black voters, and required equal access to housing and jobs. Despite these victories, racial prejudice survived, and African Americans faced many economic obstacles. Poverty and unemployment plagued African American communities in urban areas.
Still, the Civil Rights Movement provided wider opportunities. Many African Americans won elected offices or gained top jobs in business and the military.
People from all over the country came to the March on Washington, held on August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King Jr. was a keynote speaker.
How do the demands on the signs represent the civil rights movement?