Notes on Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s in America, GCSE History Edexcel, Unit - USA A Dvided Union?

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USA ­ A Divided Union? CIVIL RIGHTS
What brought about the growth of the civil rights movements in the 1950s and 1960s?
Black Americans were theoretically freed in 1865 after the 13th Amendment to the Constitution for the abolition
of slavery. However, racism was particularly prevalent in the Southern States, due to the previously strong slave
trade and so AfricanAmericans were continually driven north from the Southern States of America, leaving
poverty and oppression and expecting better elsewhere this trend of migration was accelerated by World War
Two. AfricanAmericans were driven northwards because of the poverty in the South (also drove away white
people in the 1940s 50s) and systematic suppression of their race by white southerners, whilst in the North
there were more prospects of a job and better education. However many hopes were disappointed and as
whites moved out to the suburbs, nonwhite migrants moved into the old downtown areas of major cities and
their deprived and decaying ghettos contrasted starkly with the affluence around them. Urban black Americans
hence became the main strength of the civil rights movements.
Racism in the 1950s
Jim Crow Laws ­ a daily insult of segregation in southern states (separate education, cafes, transport,
drinking fountains etc., unfair literacy tests for blacks to vote which had been officially outlawed in 1870 but
casually ignored by Southern officials)
Klu Klux Klan ­ many suffered violence and intimidation at the hands of the Klu Klux Klan, who terrorised and
threatened African Americans, mainly by lynch mobs
Struggle for equal education
In 1950 the Supreme Court ruled that the education system could be "separate but equal".
1954 Brown vs. Topeka school board, Kansas: Court case brought by NAACP
Argued why should school girl Linda Brown travel miles to go to an allblack school when an
allwhite school was round the corner. Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled in favour of Brown, stating
"separate by equal" had no place in the education system, as black students had inferior facilities.
Eventually Supreme Court ordered in 1955 that all segregated schools were illegal, because separate
must mean unequal.
1957 Little Rock Case, Arkansas: Court case brought by NAACP to Supreme Court
Many Southern States ignored the 1955 rulings and this brought a bout the Little Rock Case
State Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, barred nine black students from the high school. However
Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the pupils. Faubus attempted to close all the schools in
Arkansas, but was forced to back reopen them by the Supreme Court. However, it was not until 1964
that all schools obeyed this decision.
Civil Disobedience
1955 The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Alabama NAACP (organised by Martin Luther King)
Local law in Montgomery was that black Americans were only allowed to sit on the back seats of buses
and had to give up their seats to a white person. Rosa Parks, an NAACP activist, deliberately refused to
give up her seat and was arrested and convicted for breaking the bus laws. Local civil rights activists set

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USA ­ A Divided Union? CIVIL RIGHTS
up the MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association) led by Martin Luther King, and they boycotted the
buses, organising private transport for people and as the buses relied on their black customers, after a
year of boycotts and civil rights lawyers fighting Rosa Park's case in court, the Supreme Court declared
the Montgomery bus laws illegal in 1956. This marked a beginning of nonviolent protest which
attracted WorldWide attention and public sympathy.…read more

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USA ­ A Divided Union? CIVIL RIGHTS
Democrats and asked MLK to call off the Washington march. King refused and gave the iconic `I have a
dream speech' on 28 August 1963, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964.
After Kennedy's tragic assassination there was a great wave of sympathy for him and his aims new
President Lyndon Bane Johnson was keen to ride the tidal wave of emotion and passed The Act through
Congress quickly.…read more

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USA ­ A Divided Union? CIVIL RIGHTS
The Black Panthers were a radical political party and small private army founded in California in 1966 and
demanded better housing, full employment and adequate education. They wore uniforms and had weapons but
disbanded in 1982 after 27 panthers were killed and 700 after confrontations with police.…read more


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