African Americans continued to live as second class citizens in the 1950's and 1960's, especially in the South, despite the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited states from denying anyone the right to vote due to race. States passed laws directed at separating the races and keeping blacks from the polls. During these times, African American sand other Americans led an organized and strong movement to fight for racial equality. The movement often met with strong opposition, such as in Birmingham, Alabama, where police sprayed protestors with high pressure fire hoses.
In the early 1900's W. E. B. Du Bois established the NAACP, (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) which fought to end segregation, the separation of people on the basis of race. In the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court struck down segregation as unconstitutional.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress and an NAACP officer, took a seat in the front row of the "colored" section of a Montgomery bus. As the bus filled up, the driver ordered Parks and three other African American passengers to empty the row they were occupying so that a white man could sit down without having to sit next to any African Americans. The leaders of the African American community, including many ministers, formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize a boycott. They elected the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 26 year old Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. , to head the group. The boycott proved to the world that common African Americans could unite and organize a successful protest movement. By 1965, the leading civil rights groups began to drift apart. Constitutional and legal changes guaranteed the civil rights of all Americans under the laws. Congress passed the most important civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction, including the Civil Rights Act of 1968, a law that banned discrimination in housing.
Other Civil Rights Acts of these two decades included, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which established federal commission on civil rights and a civil rights division in the Justice Department to enforce civil rights laws; Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in most employment and in public accommodation, enlarged federal power to protect voting rights and speed up school desegregation, and established equal employment opportunity commission to ensure fair treatment in employment; and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which eliminated voter literacy tests, and enabled federal examiners to register voters. The Civil Rights movement was remarkably successful in accomplishing the repeal of many discriminatory laws. It succeeded in securing for African Americans the civil rights promised by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The civil rights movement has also been the foundation for gaining equal rights by other groups, including other minorities, women and people with disabilities. -The Americans by McDougal Littell copyright 1998 by c Dougal Littel Inc. All rights reserved..