The quest for equality by black Americans played a central role in the struggle for civil rights in the 1960 s. Stemming from an effort dating back to the Civil War and Reconstruction, the black movement had gained more momentum by the mid-twentieth century. African Americans continued to press forward for more equality through peaceful demonstrations and protests. But change came slowly indeed. Rigid segregation of public accommodations remained the ruled in the South. In the North, urban ghettos grew, as the growth of blacks grew.

Crowded public housing, poor schools, and limited economic opportunities fostered serious discontent. In the North and South alike, consciousness of the need to combat racial discrimination grew. Support bubbled up from different social groups. Young people in particular, most of them students, enlisted in the effort to change restricted patterns deeply rooted in American life. The Black Civil Rights movement in the 1950's and 60's was a political, legal and social struggle of the black americans to gain full citizenship rights and to achieve racial equality. In 1962, the civil rights movement accelerated.

James Meredith, a black air force veteran and student at Jackson State College, applied to the all-white University of Mississippi and rejected on racial grounds. Suing to gain admission, he carried his case to the Supreme Court. An even more violent confrontation began in April 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama, where local black leaders encouraged Martin Luther King, Jr. , to launch another attack on the southern segregation.

Forty percent black, the city was rigidly segregated along racial and class lines. "We believed that while a campaign in Birmingham would surly be the toughest fight of our civil rights careers, King later explained, "it could, if successful, break the back of segregation all over the nation.' Though the demonstrations were nonviolent, the responses were not. City officials declared that protest marches violated city regulations against parading without a license, and, over a five-week period, they arrested 2, 200 blacks, some of them schoolchildren. As the media recorded events, Americans watching television and reading newspapers were horrifies.

The images of violence in Birmingham created much sympathy for black Americans' civil rights struggle. In August of 1963, civil rights protesters arranged massive march on Washington D. C. to lobby for the end of segregation. The high point of this day was the address by Martin Luther King, Jr.

King was long interested in Ghandi's theory of nonviolent protest. Despite the many advances by the black civil rights' leaders, racist tensions still are apparent in today's society. Martin Luther King was shot and assassinated for his civil rights work. All he wanted was for blacks and whites to be equal. The seperation gap has become less wide though.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed and it outlawed racial discrimination in all public accommodations, and in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed. This Act allowed federal examiners to register black voters where necessary. There is still a long way to go in the fight against discrimination, but we are moving closer and closer each day.