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An Overview of the Civil Rights Movement


Six decades have passed since the U.S. civil rights movement kicked off in the 1950s. Many of the achievements minority groups have made today can be directly traced to the fight for civil rights in the 20th century. With the information in this overview, discover the highlights of the civil rights movement, the challenges leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. faced as well as the role organizations such as the National Urban League played. The civil rights movement didn’t just advance the causes of African Americans but also motivated Asian Americans and Latinos to launch their own fight for civil rights. 

1. The Freedom Riders Movement

Kevin Schlot/Flickr.com

In 1961, a coalition of black and white civil rights activists known  as the Freedom Riders embarked on a dangerous journey from Washington, D.C., to the Deep South to protest segregation on interstate bus lines. They endured beatings from white supremacist mobs as well as arson attempts, but through their efforts, Jim Crow on interstate bus and rail lines was finally struck down. Today, the Freedom Rides have been the subject of books and documentaries, alike. Still, the Freedom Riders have never received the same amount of recognition that Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did for their role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 


2. 50th Anniversary of Lunch Counter Sit-Ins

DB King/Flickr.com

On Feb. 1, 1960, four black college students protested Jim Crow in Greensboro, N.C., by sitting at a lunch counter in Woolworth's and demanding to be served. While blacks could purchase household goods and other items from the department store, they could not sit at its then segregated lunch counters in the South. The activism of these students from North Carolina A&T State University led to a boycott of downtown Greensboro stores that not only lasted for months but also motivated hundreds of students to demonstrate against segregation. Find out how the courage of these students led to desegregation of lunch counters in North Carolina and nine other states throughout the South.



3. The Chicano Movement

Cliff 1066/Flickr.com

Latinos have more political power than ever before. A major voting bloc, both Republicans and Democrats court the Hispanic population. In the civil rights era, however, Latinos had to fight to be heard. They voiced their concerns in what is known as the Chicano Movement. Discover the primary concerns of the movement, its key players and its legacy today. As anti-immigrant sentiment rises in the U.S., a new generation of Latino civil rights activists is emerging.


4. The Asian-American Civil Rights Movement

Asian Americans mobilized around political causes in the 1960s and ’70s during the Asian-American civil rights movement. An apology to Japanese-American internees, an end to the Vietnam War and ethnic studies programs in colleges were major movement causes. Today, Asian Americans continue to be politically active as they become a larger slice of the U.S. population and lawmakers of Asian descent break ground in government.

5. Southern Christian Leadership Conference Profile

DB King/Flickr.com
During the civil rights movement, a number of advocacy groups for people of color rose to prominence, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This profile about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference reveals the fundamental role the group played in the fight for civil rights. Be it the March on Washington or the campaign to end sergegation in Birmingham, Ala., the SCLC played a role. Today, however, the future of this landmark civil rights group remains uncertain. In recent years, board members have fought for control over the SCLC in court. Moreover, King’s daughter, Bernice King, declined to serve as the group’s president.

6. Whitney Young Biography

Library of Congress
Whitney Young Jr. was arguably the National Urban League’s most influential executive director. During the decade he served as head of the civil rights organization, Young increased its budget 18-fold, pushed corporate America to provide more jobs for African Americans and swayed dignitaries to use federal funding to benefit inner cities. Learn more about Young’s contributions to civil rights and African-American progress.

7. National Urban League Overview

The National Urban League is one of the oldest civil rights groups in the nation. The NUL’s history includes activism in the civil rights movement, providing college scholarships to African American youth and the creation of its groundbreaking State of Black America report. While the future of other civil rights group remains uncertain, the NUL continues to be a prominent advocate for the progress of African-Americans. Find out the achievement the organization has made and the group’s current platform with this overview.

8. Profile of Richard Aoki, Asian-American Black Panther

Nick James Music/Flickr.com
Despite its name, the Black Panther Party accepted members from all racial backgrounds. One of the founding members of the group, Richard Aoki, was a Japanese American. Aoki served as a field marshal in the Panthers, using his experiences in the U.S. Army to help the revolutionary group. After the Black Banther Party unraveled, Aoki continued to serve the community by serving as an educator in the San Francisco Bary Area. This biography reveals how this survivor of a Japanese internment camp is a hero to African- and Asian-Americans, alike.
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