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American Civil Rights Movement
1950s & 1960s
AP US History
Situation in the U. S. 1877 – 1950s
Forward Progress
• 13th Amendment
• 14th Amendment
• 15th Amendment
• Abolished slavery and
guaranteed rights—
including voting—to
African Americans
Situation in the U. S. 1877 – 1950s
Push Back
• Jim Crow Laws
• Poll Tax
• Literacy Test
• Grandfather Clause
• Southern states restricted
despite Constitutional
Situation in the U. S. 1877 – 1950s
Push Back
• Plessy v. Ferguson
• Supreme Court declared
segregation was legal as
long as facilities were
“separate but equal”
Situation in the U. S. 1877 – 1950s
Push Back
• Lynching
• Mob executions
• Used by whites in the
South to terrorize
African-Americans and
enforce the Jim Crow
Strange Fruit
• Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
Blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
Origin of the Civil Rights Movement
• World War II • 1. African-Americans left
sharecropping jobs for industrial
jobs in Northern cities
• 2. 700,000 African-Americans
served in WW II – “We return from
fighting. We return fighting.”
• 3. During WWII, AfricanAmericans successfully protested
against Jim Crow
Early Actions
• 1948 – President Truman orders the
desegregation of the Armed Forces
– First large scale desegregation effort
Playing for the Dodgers
Branch Rickey, president and General
Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, noticed
Robinson’s exceptional talent.
In 1946 Branch Rickey signed Jackie
Jackie Robinson, at the age of 27, became
the first Black Baseball player in Major
League history. He played his first game on
April 15th 1947. (almost 66 years ago)
Jackie and Civil Rights
Jackie Robinson’s Actions affected the world far
beyond Major League Baseball.
His courage and discipline in standing up against
racism were a preview of the actions taken by many
members of the Civil Rights Movement.
The success of the Jackie Robinson experiment was a
testament to fact that integration could exist.
Who was Linda Brown?
• Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka,
Kansas) 1954
– Facts
• Linda Brown = 8 year old African American student
• Nearest elementary school = 4 blocks from the
Brown home (all white)
• Linda Brown’s school (all black) = 21 blocks from
the Brown home
• NAACP sues Bd of Education challenging the
separate but equal
Origin of the Civil Rights
• Thurgood Marshall
• NAACP Lawyer who
argues Linda Brown’s
• Later became the first
Supreme Court Justice
Most Significant Victory
• Brown v. Board of
– “Separate educational
facilities are inherently
• School Districts across
the nation began to
• Catalyst for
desegregating other
aspects of American
The Story of Emmett Till
The Story of Emmett Till
• August 21: Emmett Till arrives in Money, Mississippi, and
goes to stay at the home of his great uncle.
• August 24: Emmett joins a group of teenagers, seven boys
and one girl, to go to Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market
for refreshments to cool off after a long day of picking
cotton in the hot sun. Bryant's Grocery, owned by a white
couple, Roy and Carolyn Bryant, sells supplies and candy
to a primarily black customers Some of the kids outside the
store will later say they heard Emmett whistle at Carolyn
The Story of Emmett Till
• August 28: About 2:30 a.m., Roy Bryant, Carolyn's
husband, and his half brother J. W. Milam, kidnap Emmett
Till from Moses Wright's home. They will later describe
brutally beating him, taking him to the edge of the
Tallahatchie River, shooting him in the head, fastening a
large metal fan used for ginning cotton to his neck with
barbed wire, and pushing the body into the river.
• August 29: J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant are arrested on
kidnapping charges in LeFlore County in connection with
Till's disappearance. They are jailed in Greenwood,
Mississippi and held without bond.
• August 31: Three days later, Emmett Till's decomposed
corpse is pulled from Mississippi's Tallahatchie River.
Moses Wright identifies the body from a ring with the
initials L.T.
The Story of Emmett Till
The Story of Emmett Till
• September 19: The kidnapping and murder trial of J. W.
Milam and Roy Bryant opens in Sumner, Mississippi, the
county seat of Tallahatchie County. Jury selection begins
and, with blacks and white women banned from serving,
an all-white, 12-man jury made up of nine farmers, two
carpenters and one insurance agent is selected.
• September 23: Milam and Bryant are acquitted of
murdering Emmett Till after the jury deliberates only 67
minutes. One juror tells a reporter that they wouldn't have
taken so long if they hadn't stopped to drink pop. Roy
Bryant and J. W. Milam stand before photographers, light
up cigars and kiss their wives in celebration of the not
guilty verdict.
Celebrating the acquittal
Montgomery, Alabama
• Rosa Parks • Refused to give up her seat to a
white man.
• Was arrested.
• Became a symbol of the Civil
Rights Movement
The Arrest
On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks
refused to give up her seat to a
White man on a bus.
Parks was arrested and charged
with the violation of a segregation
law in The Montgomery City
50 African American leaders in
the community met to discuss
what to do about Rosa’s arrest.
“People always say that I
didn't give up my seat because
I was tired, but that isn't true.
I was not tired physically, or
no more tired than I usually
was at the end of a working
day. I was not old, although
some people have an image of
me as being old then. I was
forty-two. No, the only tired I
was, was tired of giving in.” Rosa Parks Autobiography
Montgomery Bus Boycott
On December 5, 1955,
African Americans in
Montgomery began to
boycott the busses.
40,000 Black commuters
walked to work, some as far
as twenty miles.
The boycott lasted 382 days.
The boycott ended after the
Supreme Court ruled the law
Martin Luther King Jr.
• In 1953, at the age of 26, King
became pastor at the Dexter
Avenue Baptist Church
in Montgomery Alabama.
• His start as a Civil Rights
leader came during the
Bus Boycott.
Montgomery, Alabama
• King organized a boycott of buses in
• Lasted 382 days
• King’s home was bombed
• Supreme Court finally outlawed segregation
on buses
Montgomery, Alabama
• Martin Luther King Jr.
• Studied tactics of
Thoreau, Gandhi, and
• Preached about soul
• “We will not hate you,
but we cannot . . . obey
your unjust laws”
Non-Violent Tactics
• Boycott
• Refusing to buy a good or service
• Sit-in
• Sitting in segregated areas and
refusing to move
• March
• Marching with a large group to
draw attention to a cause
King Becomes a National Figure
• Southern Christian
Conference (SCLC)
• Civil Rights group
organized by King
• Included over 100
Little Rock, Arkansas—1957
• Nine African-American students were to
integrate Central High School
• Governor ordered Arkansas National Guard
to turn the students away
• Federal judge ordered the governor to allow
the students entry
• Governor refused—African-American
students were turned away
Little Rock, Arkansas—1957
• Eisenhower responds
• Put 1,000 paratroopers in
Little Rock
• Stationed in the High
students to class,
maintained order
U-46 Schools
• Try to guess the % by race / group for the
five U-46 high schools:
The Movement Grows
• Student Non-violent
Coordinating Committee
• Group of AfricanAmerican college students
in North Carolina
In the summers and over school-holidays volunteers came south
to join the fight for freedom and justice.
Most — but certainly not all — were college students or recent
Most — but certainly not all — were from the North.
Most — but certainly not all — were white.
Most returned to their campuses and jobs, but some stayed on as
full time freedom fighters.
Changes in Philosophy
What was
the goal?
What was
the strategy?
Greensboro, North Carolina
• SNCC used sit-ins to protest segregated
lunch counters
• Media coverage showed racism to the entire
Separate Everything
Colored Fountain
Notice the
arm band?
• By 1960, 48 cities had desegregated lunch
Who says the
KKK doesn’t
know how to
Freedom Riders
• Wanted to test enforcement of Supreme
Courts decision to desegregate interstate
• Blacks and Whites rode through the South
Getting Ready to Meet the Bus!!
Name the gender?
Freedom Riders
• Peck (a civil rights activist) rode on Bus One. At
the Alabama state line, a half dozen white racists
got on the bus, carrying chains, brass knuckles,
and pistols. They yanked the young AfricanAmerican riders from their seats and shoved
them into the aisle. Peck and a 60-year-old
white freedom rider tried to intervene. The
thugs knocked Peck unconscious and kicked the
old man repeatedly in the head until his brain
Freedom Riders
• When Bus One got to Birmingham,
Alabama, a mob was waiting at the bus
terminal, many holding iron bars and pipes.
As they entered the white waiting room,
they were dragged into the alley and beaten
with the pipes. Peck was again knocked
unconscious, this time he needed 53 stitches
in his head and face.
Freedom Riders
• In Anniston, Alabama, 200 whites attacked Bus
Two and slashed its tires. Six miles out of
town, the bus was crippled. The mob
barricaded the door, smashed a window, and
tossed a fire bomb into the bus. The freedom
riders were barely able to force the door open
and escape before the bus exploded.
Freedom Riders
• Another group of freedom riders rode from
Tennessee into Alabama. When they reached
Birmingham, the Police Chief had them pulled
off the bus, beaten and driven back to Tennessee.
The freedom riders returned to Birmingham.
When they proceeded to Montgomery, a white
mob had formed and no police were present.
The freedom riders were again beaten. John F.
Kennedy finally sent 400 U. S. Marshals to
protect the riders as they continued to
Ole Miss
• James Meredith won a court case that would
make him the first African-American
student at the University of Mississippi.
Ole Miss
• Federal Marshals escorted Meredith to
• Riots ensued – 2 dead, 200 arrested, 5000
soldiers needed to stop the rioters
• 1966 Meredith was shot during a freedom
march in Mississippi – he survived
Ole Miss
• Mascot – Rebels
• Symbol – Confederate
No Segregation!!
Hotel owner pouring
muratic acid in his pool
Police ‘escorting’ swimmers from
a white only beach
Birmingham, Alabama – 1963
1963 Video
Demonstrations to protest segregation
King was arrested – released
Children’s March- 959 were arrested
2nd Children’s March – police used fire
hoses, attack dogs against the marchers
• Finally, negative media attention, boycotts,
and protests led to desegregation
Jackson, Mississippi – 1963
• Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers was
killed in his driveway
• The killer, Byron de la Beckwith was
released after two trials (hung jury)
• Convicted in 1994 for violating Evers civil
rights – dies in jail 2001
Washington, D. C. – 1963
• March organized to persuade Congress to
pass Civil Rights Bill
• 250,000 met to hear speeches, music
• “I Have a Dream” speech – Martin Luther
King, Jr.
• After Kennedy was shot, Civil Rights Act of
1964 passed
I Have a Dream
Mississippi – 1964
• Freedom Summer – 1000 college students
went to Mississippi to register AfricanAmericans voters
• Met violent resistance—4 dead many
wounded, churches and businesses burned
Mississippi Burning
Selma, Alabama – 1965
• Voter registration drive – 2,000 African-Americans arrested,
police beatings
• Police killed a demonstrator
• King announced a protest March from Selma to Montgomery
• State police beat marchers, used tear gas
• Federal government stepped in protected marchers
• 25,000 marchers reached Selma
• The March crosses Lowndes County, a stronghold of the Ku
Klux Klan.
– Population: 81% Black, 19% white.
Voter registration: Blacks 0, whites 2240 (118%)
Selma, Alabama – 1965
• Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed—
eliminated the literacy test
• Allowed federal government to enroll
voters who were denied suffrage
• Twenty-Fourth Amendment—
eliminated the poll tax
Changes in Philosophy
What was the goal?
What was the strategy?
Black Power
• Slogan coined by Stokely Carmichael (SNCC)
• African-Americans should separate from whites,
define their own goals, and lead their own
• Signaled a shift away from non-violent
Black Power
Mexico City, 1968
Black Panther Party
U.S. African American Militant group.
Founded in 1966 in Oakland.
Led by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.
Believed violent revolution was the only way to
receive freedom.
• Urged African Americans to arm themselves.
Black Panthers
• Sold copies of Mao Zedong’s Little Red
Book to raise money so they could purchase
• Attended protests and rallies with shotguns
and law books!
Black Panthers
• Black Power
• Black Militancy—suggested armed revolt
– “Power flows out of the barrel of a gun”
• Communist
• Got into shootouts with police
Black Panthers
• Started free daycare and free breakfast
program in urban ghetto
• Made them popular in Northern cities
Black Panthers
Black Panthers
Black Panthers
• J. Edgar Hoover (head of the F. B. I.)
declares that the Black Panthers were the
"greatest threat to the internal security of the
Black Panthers
• Begin to unravel
• Leaders are sent to jail, flee the country,
killed by police
Malcolm X
X His father was killed by White Supremacist in Michigan,
in 1931.
X After time, Malcolm moved to Harlem where he became
involved in gambling, drug dealing and robbery.
X Malcolm was arrested at the age of 20 for armed robbery.
In jail he studied the teaching of Elijah Muhammad.
Elijah Muhammad
X Elijah Muhammad was the leader of the
mostly Black political and religious
group, The Nation Of Islam.
 His teachings, often perceived as
racist, preached complete
separation from Whites in society.
 He often expressed the idea the
Blacks were the first people to rule
the world and that the Whites
tricked them out of power and
oppressed them.
 Young Malcolm X developed his
adept speaking skills and political
ideas under the direction of Elijah
Nation Of Islam
X The Nation Of Islam
(NOI) was an activist
group that believed that
most African slaves
were originally Muslim.
X The NOI urged African
Americans to reconvert
to Islam in effort to
restore the heritage that was stolen from them.
X The NOI wanted to create a second Black
nation within the United States.
X The “X” in Malcolm’s name symbolizes the
rejection of his slave name.
Malcolm X: The Activist
X Malcolm X made constant
accusations of racism and
demanded violent actions of
self defense.
X He constantly retold the
injustices his people
suffered in the past.
X Malcolm X gathered wide
spread admiration from
African American’s and
wide spread fear from
Malcolm X Speaks, 1965
X “Be peaceful, be courteous,
obey the law, respect everyone;
but if someone puts his hand
on you, send him to the
X “Nobody can give you
freedom. Nobody can give you
equality or justice or anything.
If you're a man, you take it.”
X “You can't separate peace
from freedom because no one
can be at peace unless he has
his freedom.”
Malcolm X Quotes (On King)
X He got the peace prize, we got the problem.... If I'm
following a general, and he's leading me into a
battle, and the enemy tends to give him rewards, or
awards, I get suspicious of him. Especially if he
gets a peace award before the war is over.
X I'll say nothing against him. At one time the whites
in the United States called him a racist, and
extremist, and a Communist. Then the Black
Muslims came along and the whites thanked the
Lord for Martin Luther King.
X I want Dr. King to know that I didn't come to
Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come
thinking I could make it easier. If the white people
realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be
more willing to hear Dr. King.
X Dr. King wants the same thing I want -- freedom!
End of X
• After a pilgrimage to Mecca X changed his
philosophy to promote change without
violence (if possible) and equality of races
• Assassinated 1965 – allegedly by members
of the Nation of Islam – unsolved today!
Last Testament?
• "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some
difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now.
Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has
its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want
to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the
mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised
land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know
tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.
And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of
the coming of the Lord."
— The final words from Martin Luther King's last speech, given in Memphis
Tennessee the night before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968
Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Assassinated in
April, 1968
James Earl Ray
Died 1998
Conspiracy Theory??
• A racist petty criminal looking to make a name for himself
stalks a well-protected black civil rights leader and finally
slays him, then manages to make an almost-clean getaway
– but not before dropping the murder weapon (with prints)
and his personal radio with his prison ID engraved on it.
• It’s almost too perfect because nobody would be that
stupid. It must be a CIA-FBI-White House plot. Has to be.
There is no way that James Earl Ray, the high-school
dropout, Army throw-away, petty thief could stalk Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr., kill the most influential civil rights
leader of the era and evade an international manhunt for
more than two months, only to be busted by Scotland Yard
going through a customs checkpoint he wasn’t supposed to
be at.
Violence Erupts
• 125 cities experience rioting
Washington, D. C.
Kerner Commission
• Appointed by President Johnson after urban
• Decides that the main cause of urban
violence is white racism
Civil Rights Act of 1968
• Banned segregation in housing (this wasn’t
included in the 1964 Act)
De Jure Segregation
• Defined as: segregation that is imposed by
• Outlawed by Civil Rights Acts, Voting
Rights Act, and amendments
De Facto Segregation
• Defined as: segregation that happens in fact
although not required by law
• Difficult to overcome
• Involves changing attitudes, not laws
Affirmative Action
• Making special efforts to hire or enroll
groups that have suffered from
discrimination in the past.
• Very controversial—is it reverse