American Civil Rights 1950's


1954- Brown vs. Education Board of Topeka

Fighting for desgregation of education. Oliver Brown wasn't happy with the education board of Topeka because his daughter wasnt allowed to attend a school (white) just a few blocks away, she had to travel much further to attend a black school.

There was high hopes because Kansas was not a southern state, therefore not being heavily racist.

The NAACP supported Oliver Brown in his case and Thurgood Marshall represented Brown in court. He argued that segregation was against the 14th ammendment. 

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Individuals who affected the Brown Decision

Oliver Brown- Tried to challenge segregated schools in Topeka. Tried to send his daughter to an all white school five blocks away and were rejected entry.

Earl Warren and the Supreme Court- Adjudged that even if facilities were equal, even though they never were, seperate education was psychologically harmful to black children. Supreme Court agreed, in defiance of President Eisenhower wishes.

NAACP- They were actively persuing an end to segregation in education. They supported the Brown case, they appointed there top lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, to represent Brown at the Supreme Court. The attempted to overturn Plessy vs Ferguson 

Thurgood Marshall- Represented Brown before the Supreme Court. He argued that segregation was against the 14th Ammendment.

President Eisenhower- He refused to use the federal power to enforce the Brown decision, until forced by events at Little Rock. His initial silence over Brown owed much to his belief in the seperation of the powers of the President and the judiciary. His public silence was seen as his lack of support for Brown.

The South- Signed Southern Manifesto(southern politicians).

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Significance of the Brown Case

Brought desegregation to schools however there was no date for it to be enforced therefore southern states put it off. 70% of schools had desegregated in Washington DC and in the border states i.e Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Oaklahoma within the first year. 

It showed determination of the black people (Oliver Brown)

The Brown Case over-ruled Plessy vs Ferguson 

It was the starting point for desegregation

Victory for the NAACP and the first real victory for civil rights 

Supreme Court was no longer biased 

The begining to end of racist attitudes

Eisenhower didn't enforce it 

Start of global change of opinion

Ku Klux Klan was revitalised once more

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Little Rock 1957

This was the aftermath of the Brown decision. 75 black children had applied to enter the school, 50 were rejected, 16 changed their minds once they realised the white community made it clear they were very hostile to the idea. This left nine children to enter. 

The night before they were due to enter Governor of Arkansas who was struggling to get re-elected made a television appearance to appeal to whites to stay firm on the issue of segregated schools. He predicted if the nine children entered the school 'blood will run in the streets'.

On the 3rd September they were told to arrive at the school together however one girl, Elizabeth Eckford didn't recieve this message due to not having access to a phone. She was met by white angry mobs. 'lynch her' were the cries of the mob. Fabus ordered the national guard to surround the school and keep the children out. He claimed he did this for their protection. 

Eisenhower intervenes (spider diagram) for a number of reasons. Federal district Court insisted that Little Rock should be desegregated but Fabus kept refusing and blocked the way by troops.

Eisenhower ordered the National Guard under his federal control and escort the Little Rock nine into and around school.

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Montgomery Bus Boycott

December 1st- NAACP local secretary Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus after the driver demanded that she give up her seat for a white man. She was thrown off the bus and prosecuted, her defence was taken up by the local black community. Edgar Nixon, a past president of the Alabama NAACP, had previously talked to Rosa Parks about the possibility of a major protest about segregation on buses if a suitable incident could be found.

December 5th- Day of Parks' trial. Black sucessfully boycotted on this day. They demanded the bus company use a first come first served service, that bus drivers should be more polite to them and that black drivers should be employed. City commissioners rejected the changes therefore a day boycott turned into a year boycott.

This was Martin Luther Kings first big appearance, he led the boycott. Carpools were organised to transfer people who lived far away, many walked. This showed the the determination of the black community. June 1956 the federal district court said segregation on buses was unconstitutional (Browder vs Gayle)

Northerns made collections for the Montgomery blacks. Boycott was called off in december'56 when desegreated buses started operating. KKK responded by sending 40 carloads of robed and hooded members throughout Montgomery. 

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Martin Luther King's influence

King was arrested in January 1956 after he had driven 30mph in a 25mph zone.

30th January 1956- Kings house was bombed. His family urged him to quit. He later said he was tempted to but he felt called by God to continue. 

King made inspirational speeches.He stressed that the boycott was a 'non violent protest', but it was not 'passive resistance', it was 'active non-violent resistance to evil'. 

He was President of the Montgomery Improvement Association. He decided no charge would be made for the carpools taking place, but donations were to be given to the MIA. By travelling around to different states appealing for funds, King managed to get financial help from a variety of different sources, these included the NAACP. He organised prayer meetings at his and others' churches to maintain the spiritual strength of those involved. 

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Kings Philosophy

King was brought up as an orthodox baptist. 

1. He believed that it was God's will that they campaign for justice. The core of Kings faith had not dimmed but broadened. It was clear to him that he had been called by God to take a major role in the true emancipation of the African American, and this might involve wider campaigns, leading to a hard and dangerous time.

2.Believed that justice could be achieved within the American system. The american tradition of freedom was associated with important measures such as the Bill Of Rights that outlined many different liberties, the consititutional ammendments guarenteeing equality, the right to vote for all and the recent signs of hope in verdicts like the case of Linda Brown. These all combined gave King and his followers belief that with federal help they could be triumphant in their campaign

3. Believed that non-violence must be strictly maintained. His methods were in common with the likes of Gandhi. No retaliation should be made even in the face of the worst possible provocation. Fair minded people were more likely to support the cause if the campaign could show the arguement was a simple one.The protestors must retain the moral high ground. They were prepared to break what they believed were grossly unjust and unconstitutional laws, this must only be done non-violently.

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Significance of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

It demonstrated the power of a whole black community using direct but non violent action. Montgomery whites could not believe local blacks had started and sustained the movement.

Showed importance and potential of black economic power. Black shoppers could not get downtown without buses, so businesses lost $1million. White businessman began to work against segregation.

Demonstrated how white extremism frequently helped to increase black unity and determination.

Revealed the hatred and determined racism of many white Southerners, but also the idealism of a handful of southern whites like reverend robert graetz, minister at a black Lutheran church in Montgomery, who supported the boycott. His house was bombed .

Demonstrated the importance of the churches in the fight for equality.

Showed the continuing effectiveness of the NAACP strategy of working through the law courts and importance of dedicated individuals such as Roas Parks.

Inspired more northern white support and more co-operation between Northern and Southern blacks

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Significance of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

In Montgomery itself the boycott was a limited victory. Apart from the buses the city remained segregated.

Blacks did not retreat when the KKK came riding through Montgomery, they came out and waved. This showed that their morale had been boosted. 

Inspired many other boycotts in the south

It brought King to the front of the movement. In 1957 he helped to established a new organisation, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This proved particularly as the NAACP had been persecuted in the deep south since Brown.

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