The Developing Civil Rights Movement from the late 1940 to the 1960's

Essay by cielbleuCollege, Undergraduate May 2004

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The Civil Rights Movement sought to secure the enactment of nation civil rights legislation, elevate racial pride, and change America's social, cultural, and political life in the latter decades of the twentieth century. The Civil Rights Movement had roots in the constitutional amendments enacted during the Reconstruction era. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment expanded the guarantees of federally-protected citizenship rights, and the Fifteenth Amendment barred voting restrictions based on race. However, rights dwindled after Reconstruction ended in 1877. By 1890, whites in the North and South became less supportive of civil rights and racial tensions began to flare. Additionally, several Supreme Court decisions overturned Reconstruction legislation by promoting racial segregation. the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) that led the way to racial segregation when it ruled "that separate but equal," was constitutional.

During World War II, progress was made in outlawing discrimination in defense industries (1941) and after the war in desegregating the armed forces (1948).

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) pressed a series of important cases before the Supreme Court in which they argued that segregation meant unequal and inadequate educational and other public facilities for blacks. These cases culminated in the Court's milestone decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. (May 17, 1954), in which it declared that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. This historic decision was to stimulate a mass movement on the part of blacks and white sympathizers to try to end the segregationist practices and racial inequalities that were firmly entrenched across the nation and particularly in the South. The movement was strongly resisted by many whites in the South and elsewhere.

Despite the Brown decision, segregation...