History - Race Relations USA


Attitudes in the Southern States 1950's

  • Jim Crow Laws - Segregation in churches, hospitals, theatres and schools between white people and black people, in the Southern States
  • Poll Tax - A tax had to be paid in order to be able to vote, and most black people were too poor to pay the tax.
  • Literacy Tests - In order to be able to vote, people had to prove that they could read difficult extracts. If black people passed these tests, they would then be threatened and attacked so that they would not vote.
  • The KKK - founded in 1866 by conferderate soldiers. Most of its members were White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPsand wanted to show that they were better and more powerful than black people, immigrants, Jews, Roman Catholics, communists and socialists.
  • Even though the KKK was banned in 1872, it carried on illegally and was popular, including judges and politicians within it's members. 
  • Schools for Black Americans were set up, but many were forced to close.
  • Black Americans were likely to be threatened if they gave evidence against a white person.
  • Under the Jim Crow Segregation Laws: in Arizona - the marriage between a white and a black shall be null and void, and in Florida - the schools for white and black children shall be conducted seperately. 
  • Many Black Americans were forced to leave Southern America due to poor living conditions.
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Rosa Parks / Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-1956

  • On December 1st 1955 in Mongomery Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested and fined after she refused to give up her seat for a white man. 
  • The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) led by 26-yr old Martin Luther King, organised a Bus Boycott in protest.
  • African Americans supported the Boycott by walking to work or car pooling for a year, until the Supreme Court finally ruled that Alabama's Bus Segregation Laws were Unconstitutional.
  • The sucess of this peaceful protest was inspirational to those who opposed segregation in the south, as it proved Black Americans could organise themselves effectively. 
  • The Boycott involved 170,00 Black Americans, and 200 vehicles used for car-pooling.
  • However, the family of Rosa Parks was targeted by racists, so she was forced to move from Montgomery to Detroit in 1957
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Brown v.s Topeka Board of Education 1954

  • Linda Brown was a seven year old black girl. She had to walk 20 blocks to school even though there was a school for white people two blocks from her home.
  • The NAACP helped her father to bring a legal case against the education board.
  • On 19 May 1954 the court declared that segregation was against the law and the constitution of the USA.
  • The Board of Education of Topeka and every other education board were forced to bring segregation to an end.
  • But many schools continued to refuse to implement this, and by 1956, in six southern states, not a single black child was attending any school where there were white children.
  • In 1955, membership of the KKK grew dramatically as a response to this.
  • No date was set by which schools must have ended segregation, so nothing changed.
  • The district court ruled that the old law 'seperate but equal' still applied. 
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Little Rock High School 1957

  • In September 1957, nine black pupils tried to attend a school for white children
  • The Governor of Arkansas (Orval Faubus) sent National Guard soldiers to prevent the black children from entering the school.
  • The black people made a case against the Governor, won, and the soldiers forced to leave.
  • The black pupils now had the right to go to the school and President Eisenhower sent 1,000 paratroopers / soldiers to look after them for the rest of the year.
  • By 1960, out of a total of 2 million black school children in the state of Arkansas, only 2,600 were going to the same school as white children.
  • The Little Rock High School case was publicised to the rest of the world, who were shocked
  • However, 4 parents of the black children lost their jobs, and only 1 of the students graduated.
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Freedom Rides 1961

  • Segregation continued on buses that took people from one state to another. In the north, black people had the right to sit in the same place as white people to wait for buses, but in the south they had to sit in separate waiting areas.
  • In 1961 the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) organised freedom trips. Black people travelled on buses across the country from one state to the next without getting off the bus. This led to a great deal of conflict between the black and white people and the Government sent 500 soldiers to protect the black people.
  • Robert Kennedy (brother of JFK), who was the National Attorney, stopped segregation within the public facilities associated with transport – buses, railways and airports. By 1963, this had extended to include most public facilities.
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Freedom Marches 1963

  • The council of Birmingham, Alabama, refused to let black people use entertainment facilities and leisure centres in the town.
  • In 1963 Martin Luther King organised a march in which 30,000 black people took part.
  • Each day, 500 people were arrested. The police, under the orders of Eugene 'Bull' Connor, treated the protesters cruelly, using water cannons and attacking people with dogs and batons.
  • All this was shown on television and some of America's white population began supporting the black people’s cause.
  • President Kennedy sent soldiers to make Birmingham council put an end to segregation.
  • JFK said that the civil rights movement should 'Thank god for 'Bull Connor'' as he was the one who had made many white people and the government realise the injustices faced by black people.
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Washington March 1963

  • In August 1963, 250,000 people (including 50,000 white people) took part in a march to Washington DC.
  • Martin Luther King delivered his famous 'I have a dream' speech, calling for equal rights for all of America. 
  • This put pressure on Congress to pass Kennedy's Civil Rights Bill.
  • The event received worldwide media coverage, but the federal government took no political action to deal with the issues raised.
  • Over 2000 buses, 21 trains, 10 airliners and many cars all converged to Washington
  • The march began at the Washington Monument, and finished and the Lincon Memorial.
  • Less than a month after he delivered this speech, a bombing killed 4 young girls in a Birmingham Church
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Black Power Movement 1960's

  • Malcolm Xwas a Muslim, and wanted Black Americans to be more militant demanding change.
  • He campaigned for the Nation of Islam, a separate USA for Blacks.
  • He wanted to confront racism and, if necessary, meet violence with violence
  • 1965, 50% of blacks in the northern states lived in poverty, many in city ghettos.
  • 1967, 33% of black families lived below the poverty line.
  • “Black Power” slogan emerged in 1966 – idea that Blacks should control their own communities.
  • At the Mexico Olympics in 1986, the top three athletes used the medal ceremony for the 200m sprint to protest about the lack of real civil rights in America. Smith won gold, and Carlos won bronze. Both wore one black glove each, and the archway that their raised arms created was meant to represend unity in America. They also wore black socks and no shoes to represent the poverty that many Black Americans suffered from.
  • Their gesture was viewed as a Black Power salute, and was watched my tens of millions of people across the world. Both men were expelled from the Olympic village, suspended from the American Olympic Committee, and ordered to leave Mexico City, for bringing politics to a non-political event.
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Martin Luther King as a Protest Organiser 1955-195

  • In 1955, King was asked to be leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sparked off by Rosa Parks, and he was head of the Montgomery Improvement Association.
  • He valued the importance of non-violent protesting.
  • His house was bombed, and he was the first boycott leader to be put on trial, but he chose to go to jail rather than pay a $10 fine. 
  • In 1957 he set up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), but this lacked organisation and mass support, so achieved very little after the Bus Boycott.
  • In 1961 King was invited to lead a march after students from Georgia, Albany staged sit-ins at the bus station, hundreds of freedom riders were arrested, but failed to achieve change.
  • In 1963 King was arrested at Birmingham, Alabama, after he expected there to be white violence which he hoped would raise national sympathy.
  • In solitary confinement he wrote his 'letter from Birmingham jail' on toilet paper, which was smuggled out by his wife. 
  • The Children's Crusade saw children met with police violence, which gained publicity.
  • In support of the Civil Rights Bill, Martin Luther King organised the March on Washington in August 1963
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Civil Rights Act 1964 / Nobel Peace Prize

  • The Civil Rights Act 1964 was the act that made the biggest difference to the lives of black people in America. Martin Luther King's campaigning had helped to achieve this.
  • The Act prohibited racial discrimination and prejudice in employment.
  • It also gave black pupils the right to use any public facilities funded by the government, eg schools, hospitals, churches and theatres.
  • It established the Equal Opportunities Commission to look into any complaints involving discrimination and prejudice.
  • In 1964 Martin Luther King was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
  • The Voting Rights Act followed in 1965, removing many of the barriers which had ensured African Americans could be disenfranchised in some states.
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Race Riots / MLK's Assassination

  • 1964: The Harlem Riot and the New York Race Riot take place.
  • In 1965, King tried to organise a march from Selma to Montgomery, but this was aborted because of violent white protests and police violence against demonstrations.
  • On March 21st 1965, 10,000 people joined King marching from Selma to Montgomery, Only 300 people were allowed to take part, but they were joined by 25,000 more people in Montgomery to present a petition for voting rights. 
  • August 1965: A total of 34 people are killed in the Watts area of Los Angeles, and another 1,072 are injured during a riot lasting six days.
  • Martin Luther King was assassinated on 4th April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was attending a march in support of striking sanitation workers.
  • He was shot dead on his hotel balcony, and President Lyndon B Johnson called for a national day of mourning
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Race Relations Timeline 1942-1968

  • 1942 - Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was established
  • 1946 - Supreme Court declared segregation on buses that crossed state borders was illegal
  • 1948 - Discrimination in the armed forces was banned
  • 1952 - First year since 1881 without a lynching
  • 1954 - Supreme Court declared segregation in schools to be unconstitutional
  • 1955 - Montgomery Bus Boycott began after the arrest of Rosa Parks
  • 1957 - Little Rock clash, Martin Luther King president of the SCLC, Civil Rights Act passed.
  • 1960 - First studen sit-ins against segregation at lunch counters occurs
  • 1961 - The arrest of Freedom Riders in the South
  • 1963 - Washington March, and four black children killed in Birmingham Church Bombing
  • 1964 - Civil Rights Act passed by Congress, Martin Luther King awarded Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1965 - Selma  Montgomery marches, Voting Rights Act, Malcom X assassinated, Watts riot
  • 1956 - Stokely Carmichael introduced the idea of Black Power
  • 1968 - Mexico Olympics Black Power Salute, Martin Luther King Assassinated
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