Home > Civil Rights > An Overview of the Civil Rights Movement

An Overview of the Civil Rights Movement

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 22 Feb 2016 | comments*Discuss
Civil Rights African-americans Movement

In historical terms an overview of the civil rights movement would have to begin during the 1860s. Although the civil rights movement was at its strongest during the 1960s the movement actually dates back much further than this.

The Beginning of the Struggle

When the Civil War came to an end congress passed legislation on a number of civil rights issues aimed at protecting those who had been slaves. However, even though this legislation had been passed there were still a great number of racist whites who opposed the legislation. Black Codes were laws that were passed in a number of southern states that effectively limited the civil rights of African-Americans. The codes were used to restrict the integration of blacks and whites and to control labour and activities of African-Americans.

The Great Migration

The Black Codes legislation effectively eliminated African-American’s civil rights in the South. Blacks had to sit in segregated areas in public places such as restaurants and were forced to use separate bathrooms. They were also underpaid in their employment and there was little if any chance of integration. The need for skilled works in the North between World War I and II led many blacks to migrate to cities in the North. Over a million African-Americans migrated to cities in the North during this period. For some the experience opened their eyes to the injustices they had suffered in the South.

The Struggle for Freedom

Over a million blacks fought for America during World War II but most were forced to serve in segregated units. Civil rights activists took this opportunity to voice their concerns as to how the government fought for freedom in countries abroad while limiting the rights of its own black citizens. A. Philip Randolph, a prominent civil rights activist decided that the time was right in 1941 to organise a march on Washington as a protest.

President Roosevelt realised this could disrupt the war effort and decided to desegregate military manufacturing factories and created the Fair Employment Practices Committee. The result of Roosevelt’s actions were that around a quarter of a million blacks were able obtain higher level jobs within industries manufacturing for the war.

Rosa Parks and the Movement

The seamstress Rosa Parks effectively spurred the civil rights movement in 1955. Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. After the arrest Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out at rally in Alabama on the topic of segregation. This also led to a boycotting of city transportation for almost a year. The issue came to the Supreme Court that stated that the segregation of buses was unconstitutional. King formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that was dedicated to non violent protest.

The 1963 Riots

Civil rights demonstrators were greeted with violence on a massive scale in 1963. Incidents such as the Birmingham Protest where nearly a thousand children were arrested during a peaceful protest shocked the nation. Police had been televised using firehoses, electric cattle prods and tear gas on peaceful protesters during numerous civil rights demonstrations that year. President Kennedy had requested a civil rights bill that would end racial discrimination and the time had come for the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The March on Washington

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a non violent demonstration in support of Kennedy’s civil rights bill. Ultimately around 250,000 blacks and whites made the journey to the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 to hear civil rights speaches including King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. Kennedy was assassinated only months after the march but President Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act 1964 despite much opposition. Discrimination and segregation were outlawed in the act.

Bloody Sunday

By the mid 1960s southern blacks were still unable to use their right to vote and King travelled to Alabama in order to lead a peaceful protest against these restrictions. Thousands of blacks arrived to exercise their right to vote but police used violence against them that resulted in the deaths of several civil rights activists. Lyndon Johnson and America were shocked by the violence and a bill was finally passed that protected the voting rights and safeguarded black voters.

The above overview is a brief glimpse of some of the events and incidents that make up the history of the civil rights movement. There are many other key figures that make up the movement such as Malcolm X and The Black Panthers. Their combined actions helped pave the way for an equal society where people can live together without fear of discrimination based on colour, race, religion and gender.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
thanks on the info it helped me to write my essay
buttmonkey420 - 22-Feb-16 @ 1:18 AM
grüße gehen raus an die homes vom englisch lk
swizzynag - 17-Jan-16 @ 9:26 AM
This article was really helpful for me planning a paper for my GCSE history exam!
sara15 - 11-Oct-14 @ 5:57 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Dragon
    Re: Civil Rights in the Uk
    GDPR in the UK has become another tool of the oppressors. Police are denying requests for body camera footage on the grounds that the…
    16 April 2021
  • Donna
    Re: Acting Against Discrimination
    I would like to seek advice on a racial hate crimes from the police. The police assault me since the assault they have lied on…
    23 November 2020
  • MarkyTM
    Re: Rights If Your Child is Arrested
    My son is 17, 18 in early December Last year I had the police call a round a total of 10 times (assault, criminal damage,…
    20 November 2020
  • Johnny
    Re: The Police and Your Civil Rights
    Under English common law rights. I have been told that I'm should give my details to the police. Just looking at the moment…
    17 November 2020
  • Non
    Re: Challenging the Police
    I witnessed and reported the murder of my English friend. The GMP have concluded a murder case without interviewing the complainant or the…
    3 November 2020
  • Irina
    Re: Staging a Legal Peaceful Protest
    Can I close the M1 with group of people to protest against genocide that is happening right now ?
    16 October 2020
  • Tinah
    Re: Rights If Your Child is Arrested
    Hi my 16 year old son was stopped by one police officer on his motorbike for looking suspicious! He smelt cannabis and…
    5 October 2020
  • Liz
    Re: The Police and Your Civil Rights
    Call 999 due to an altercation with ex husband and in-law , they came out starting commenting on the house my son and…
    3 October 2020
  • JohnDoe
    Re: Civil Rights in the Uk
    We are all being being watched by the government and big companies especially over the internet. Those who don't believe in the big…
    28 September 2020
  • Al68
    Re: Protecting Your Privacy
    We moved into our house during 2011, for the first few years life was idealic. We had a semi private patio & a relatively private place…
    31 August 2020