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The Civil Rights Movement

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1 The Civil Rights Movement
The Watsons Go to Birmingham Unit Term 6

2 Historical Context Although the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution ended slavery and extended the rights and protected the citizenship of blacks, these changes did little to change the attitudes and behaviors of white Americans, especially those living in the South. From the end of the Civil War through the early 1960s, where black people could go and what they could do was severely limited by segregation.

3 What is Segregation? Separating people based on the color of their skin is called segregation. Segregation existed in the United States for decades after slavery ended. Racist laws and policies treated African Americans as second-class citizens and separated African Americans and whites. These types of laws became known as Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow laws existed in states south of and including Virginia. The term Jim Crow was a rude, uncomplimentary way of referring to black people.

4 Life During Segregation
Segregation affected people’s daily lives. For example, African Americans and whites used different water fountains and bathrooms. They had separate waiting rooms and seating sections on public transportation, such as buses. Baseball leagues were either all African American or all white. The effect of segregation was to make it seem as though African Americans were inferior to other people.

5 Separate but Equal? The Jim Crow laws had their legal foundation in the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in The ruling said that dividing citizens by race was constitutional if the separate facilities were considered equal. The ruling legalized segregation. In the South during the 1950s, African American and white children attended different schools. According to the “separate but equal” ruling, schools for African American students and schools for white students were supposed to be equal. In most segregated states, however, white schools received significantly more funding than African American schools, which meant that white schools had newer materials, larger classrooms, and higher-paid teachers than the schools for African Americans, which were often crowded and in need of renovations.

6 The Fight for Equal Rights
The civil rights movement was a mass protest movement across the United States that aimed to stop racial segregation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement of African Americans. The movement reached its peak in the 1950s and 1960s and was characterized by civil disobedience and nonviolent protests, such as boycotts, sit-ins, and marches. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and other leaders and activists — as well as thousands of ordinary people — took part in the protests.

7 Brown v. Board of Education
In 1954, the Supreme Court said, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, that separating students by race created educational facilities that were unequal. Therefore, segregation laws and policies violated the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits states from denying citizens their civil liberties and equal protection under the law. The ruling had the effect of desegregating public schools in the United States.

8 States Are Forced to Integrate
In parts of the South, state governments refused to enforce the federal ruling. In Virginia, some schools even closed to avoid integrating. In 1957 in Arkansas, nine African American students integrated the all-white Central High School in Little Rock. Anti-integration protestors surrounded the school, and the governor sent the Arkansas state militia to blockade the school, refusing entry to the nine students. President Eisenhower ordered federal troops to protect students who were able to integrate the school.

9 Rosa Parks Rosa Parks became a civil rights activist by chance. On December 1, 1955, Parks was riding a Montgomery bus home from work. She was seated in the African American section of the segregated bus. Her seat was in the row closest to the white section of seating, which was full. When several more white passengers boarded the bus, the bus driver ordered Parks and three other African American passengers to move back. Parks refused, and the bus driver had her arrested for violating segregation laws. 

10 Bus Boycotts The arrest of Rosa Parks marked the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott, a 381-day mass protest against the segregated bus system in Montgomery, Ala. On December 5, African American residents stopped using the Montgomery public bus system, causing it to lose 75 percent of its riders. Impressed by this success, local civil rights leaders encouraged the boycott. They also filed a federal lawsuit against bus segregation. On June 5, 1956, a federal district court decided that segregated bus seating was unconstitutional; the Supreme Court agreed in November of 1956, and buses were legally desegregated on December 20, 1956.

11 Lunch Counter Sit-Ins Other protests focused on lunch counters and restaurants in the South, which had refused for years to serve African American customers. Protestors organized sit-ins, during which civil rights activists, both African American and white, gathered in groups to sit at lunch counters for hours. They were denied service, but took up seats that could have been filled by paying customers. In September 1959, students held a sit-in at Grant’s Department Store in Miami, Florida (shown here) that lasted for weeks. The restaurant decided to close rather than serve African Americans. Activists throughout the South took note of the nonviolent action in Miami and began holding their own sit-ins, including one at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, in 1960.

12 Martin Luther King Jr. Desegregation continued in the South, and the civil rights movement carried on in the early 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr., the most famous civil rights leader, advocated civil disobedience and nonviolent protest to fight racism and discrimination. His most famous speech about racial equality, “I Have a Dream,” was delivered in Washington, D.C., in 1963. 

13 The Civil Rights Act After years of dedicated effort, the civil rights movement succeeded. On August, 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The law was intended to end to racial discrimination under the law by guaranteeing equal voting rights for minorities; prohibiting segregation and discrimination in public places; desegregating public schools and other public facilities; demanding Equal Employment Opportunities for all races and outlawing discrimination in the workplace. In 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which protected the rights of minorities. These important laws continue to protect equality today.

14 The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 begins in January 1963, nine years after the Supreme Court ruled that “segregation is inherently unequal.” Unfortunately, life for many black people was still very different from life for white people. Because of the long history of segregation in the South, many Southern black people moved in the early 20th century to industrial areas of the North where there were more manufacturing jobs, particularly in the automobile industry, and somewhat better treatment. Flint, Michigan was a very important automobile-manufacturing center in 1963. Thus, as a result of migration patterns, there were many Michigan families like the Watsons who had close relatives in the South.

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