Civil Rights Marches (Cornerstones of Freedom)
What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer
the Following Questions:
1. What year did the Supreme Court end segregation
in public schools?
1954. Segregation can be traced back to 1896. In the famous case
Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled "separate but
equal" accommodations were constitutional making it legal for
a Louisiana state law to require separate accommodations based
During the 1950's and 1960's, states continued
to pass laws which were "separate but equal." There were separate
public schools, libraries, swimming pools, parks, movie theaters,
drinking fountains, rest rooms, waiting rooms, restaurants, lunch
counters, and seating on public buses. It was common to see signs
reading, "For Whites Only" or "For Colored Only."
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court again took
up the issue of "separate but equal" in the case of Brown v.
Board of Education of Topeka. This time, the Court reversed
its 1896 decision. On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme
Court ruled segregation in public schools was inherently unequal.
2. Name ONE person who
influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jesus, Henry David Thoreau, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Jesus: Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in Atlanta, Georgia.
His father, Martin Luther King, Sr. was a pastor. As a boy, King
listened to his father's sermons about the love of Jesus.
Henry David Thoreau: As a student, King studied Thoreau's
writings about civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the passive
resistance to an unfair or unjust law. This was the basis for
sit-ins and Freedom Rides during the 1960's.
Mahatma Gandhi: In 1948, King
attended a lecture about Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence. King
learned about the Salt March Gandhi led in 1930. The Salt March
was to protest England's monopoly of the salt production in India
and England's salt tax. Gandhi and his followers marched 250 miles
to the sea to make their own salt. King called Gandhi's philosophy,
"the most potent weapon available to an oppressed people in the
struggle for freedom."
3. True or False: Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. followed the philosophy of nonviolent
civil disobedience in his approach to improving civil rights.
True. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the Civil Rights
Movement believed the way to improve the civil rights and freedoms
of all people was through nonviolent civil disobedience. One of
the first peaceful boycotts was the Montgomery Bus Boycott which
King organized in 1955. The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled segregation on buses was unconstitutional.
By 1963, the nonviolent resistance gained
more attention throughout the United States. African-Americans
participated in "sit-ins" when they were refused service in segregated
restaurants. This meant they sat at the lunch counter until they
received service. African-American and white people rode buses
from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana, disobeying segregation
laws. This was called The Freedom Rides of 1961.
4. Describe the importance
of ONE of the following cities:
Alabama: Montgomery is the capitol of Alabama. From 1955 to
1956, the Montgomery Bus Boycott occurred to protest segregation
on public buses. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the
March from Selma to Montgomery to protest unfair voting practices.
Washington, D.C.: As the capitol of the United States,
Washington, D.C. is a popular location for marches and demonstrations.
Here is a partial list of Civil Rights events which occurred in
Washington, D.C. in the 1950's and 1960's: the Prayer Pilgrimage
for Freedom in 1957; the Youth March for Integrated Schools in
1958; the Second Youth March on Washington in 1959; and the March
on Washington in 1963.
Birmingham, Alabama: In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
called Birmingham, "the most segregated city in America." King
organized marches, boycotts, and sit-ins in Birmingham to end
segregation of public places, including stores and restaurants.
The African-American demonstrators were often injured by the Birmingham
authorities. They were attacked by police dogs and sprayed with
powerful fire hoses.
Selma, Alabama: In March, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. organized a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest voting
rights. The march which began on March 7, ended that day in violence
towards the marchers. A second march began on March 21, and it
was completed on March 25.
5. Describe ONE of the
following events or groups:
Bus Boycott (1955-1956)
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama,
for refusing to obey the law requiring her to give up her seat
to a white person. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a boycott
of public buses in Montgomery. It began on December 5, 1955. For
over a year, African-Americans did not ride the buses. A bus segregation
law was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. On November 13,
1956, the Supreme Court ruled Alabama's state and local laws requiring
segregation on buses were unconstitutional. The boycott ended
on December 21, 1956. It had lasted 381 days.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
The SCLC was founded on February 14, 1957. The SCLC asked President
Eisenhower to hold a White House conference on Civil Rights. Eisenhower
denied the request. On May 17, 1957, the SCLC organized a Prayer
Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C. It chose May 17 because
it marked the third anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision
in Brown v. Board of Education which desegregated public
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The NAACP is a civil rights organization founded in 1909. It participated
in the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C., on May
Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom (1957)
On May 17, 1957, the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom was held in
Washington, D.C. 30,000 people were in attendance on the steps
of the Lincoln Memorial. A. Philip Randolph led the demonstration,
and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the speakers. The date,
May 17, was chosen for the Prayer Pilgrimage because it was the
third anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision ending segregation
in public schools.
Civil Rights Commission
A Civil Rights Commission was established which gave federal protection
to African-Americans who wanted to vote.
Freedom Rides of 1961
In 1961, African-American and white people rode buses from Washington,
D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana, disobeying segregation laws. These
bus rides were called the Freedom Rides of 1961.
March on Washington (1963)
On August 28, 1963, almost 250,000 people from almost every state
gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
for the largest Civil Rights demonstration. In addition, 80 million
people watched the event on television. One of the speakers of
the day was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who delivered his famous
"I Have a Dream" speech. After the March, Civil Rights leaders,
including Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph met with
President John F. Kennedy at the White House.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
In June, 1963, President John F. Kennedy sent a civil rights bill
to Congress calling for the desegregation of public places, including
hotels, restaurants, and theaters. This bill also gave the Department
of Justice authority to sue schools which remained segregated.
On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson
signed the Civil Rights Act into law. This Act and the Voting
Rights Act were among two of the important Civil Rights laws passed
in the 1960's.
The March from Selma to Montgomery (1965)
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a 54-mile march
from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, to petition for voting
rights. Although Governor George Wallace prohibited the march,
the 525 marchers began on March 7, 1965. They were stopped almost
immediately by over 50 advancing state troopers armed with clubs,
whips, and masks. Many of the marchers were injured or hospitalized,
and it became known as "Bloody Sunday." The country was outraged
by the treatment of the marchers.
Two weeks later, on Sunday, March 21, a
second march began from Selma to Montgomery. This time, there
were over 2,000 marchers, and they were protected by 3,000 federal
troops. It took five days for the marchers to complete the 54-mile
journey. They arrived in Montgomery on Thursday, March 25, and
were joined by 25,000 people for the last 3 miles to the state
capitol building. Governor Wallace refused to accept the voting
rights petition. On August 4, 1965, just a few months later, the
Voting Rights Act was signed into law.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
On August 4, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting
Rights Act into law. It granted all African-Americans the right
to vote. This Act and the Civil Rights Act were among two of the
important Civil Rights laws passed in the 1960's.
What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the
Boycott: To refuse to buy something or take part in something
as a way of protesting
Civil Disobedience: Passive resistance
to an unfair or unjust law
Civil Rights: Individual rights
that all members of a society have to freedom and equal treatment
under the law
Democracy: Way of governing a country
in which the people choose their leaders in elections
Desegregation: Ending the practice
of separating people of different races in schools, restaurants,
and other public places
Oppression: Being treated in a
cruel, unjust, and harsh way
Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the
Following Questions for Your FREE
a. Cite ONE of the quotes by Civil Rights Leader
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Returning hate for hate multiples hate, adding deeper darkness
to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out
darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that." -- King wrote in The Strength to Love
published in 1963.
"[T]he most potent weapon available to
an oppressed people in the struggle for freedom." -- King's description
of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence.
"There comes a time when people get tired
of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression....We are
not here advocating violence. We have overcome that. We are a
Christian people....The only weapon that we have in our hands
this evening is the weapon of protest....One of the great glories
of democracy is the right to protest for right....We will be guided
by the highest principles of law and order....If you will protest
courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the
history books are written in future generations, the historians
will have to pause and say: 'There lived a great people -- a black
people -- who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins
of civilization.' This is our challenge and our overwhelming responsibility."
-- King speaking to a congregation at Holt Street Baptist Church
in Montgomery, Alabama, about how to respond to the arrest of
Rosa Parks in December, 1955.
"So long as I do not firmly...possess the
right to vote, I do not possess myself." -- King's statements
at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C. on May
"Even though we face the difficulties of
today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply
rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this
nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed,
'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created
equal.'...And when we allow freedom to ring from every village,
from every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be
able to join hands and sing...'Free at last, free at last. Thank
God Almighty, we're free at last!'" -- The end of King's speech
at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.
"It was an army without guns, but not without
strength....[Followers] of every faith, members of every class,
every profession, every political party [were] united by a single
ideal." -- King's comments in 1964, describing the March on Washington
held on August 28, 1963.
"I know some of you are asking today, 'How
long will it take?' I come to say to you this afternoon however
difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not
be long, because truth pressed to earth will rise again....How
long? Not long, because the arm of the moral universe is long
but it bends toward justices." -- King addresses the crowd after
the March from Selma to Montgomery on March 25, 1965.
b. Name an African-American
mentioned in this book and describe one of his or her accomplishments.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
He followed the philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience. Among
other achievements, King organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott
from 1955-1956, spoke at the March on Washington on August 28,
1963, and led the March from Selma to Montgomery from March 21
to 25, 1965. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis,
A. Philip Randolph was a Civil Rights
leader. He helped organize the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in
1957, and the March on Washington in 1963.
Ralph Abernathy was the president and treasurer of the
SCLC in 1965. On February 1, 1965, Abernathy and Martin Luther
King, Jr. led a march to the courthouse in Selma, Alabama, to
push for voter registration.
Hosea Williams belonged to the SCLC and participated in
the march from Selma to Montgomery in March, 1965.
John Lewis belonged to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC) and participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery
in March, 1965.
Coretta Scott King was the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. Among other accomplishments, she participated in the Youth
March for Integrated Schools in Washington, D.C. in 1958.
Roy Wilkins belonged to the NAACP and participated in the
Second Youth March on Washington in 1959.
Tom Mboya was the leader of Kenya. He spoke at the Second
Youth March on Washington in 1959.
c. Describe how African-Americans
were treated in the 1950's and 1960's in the United States.
Let's begin with the 1860's to explain the 1960's.
From 1861 to 1865, the United States fought
a Civil War. One of the causes of this war was the issue of slavery:
the North wanted to abolish (end) slavery, and the South wanted
slavery to continue. On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln
issued and signed the Emancipation Proclamation which freed about
4 million African-Americans held as slaves in the Southern states.
During the 1860's, three Amendments to
the U.S. Constitution were passed: the Thirteenth Amendment abolishes
slavery in the United States; the Fourteenth Amendment grants
due process and equal protection to all citizens; and the Fifteenth
Amendment gives a man the right to vote regardless of his "race,
color, or previous condition of servitude."
In 1896, the civil rights of African-Americans
were set back when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled "separate but
equal" was constitutional in Plessy v. Ferguson.
The separate schools for African-American
children were not equal. The buildings were run down and unheated.
The classrooms were small and overcrowded. The materials were
outdated, and the supplies were lacking. Although transportation
to and from schools were provided for white children, it was not
provided for African-American children.
African-American adults also experienced
unequal treatment under the law. There were separate restaurants,
hotels, and movie theaters. If an African-American sat at a "Whites
Only" lunch counter, he or she was refused service. There were
state and local laws requiring African-Americans to sit in the
back of buses. In many cases, African-Americans did not have the
same job opportunities as white people.
Although the Fifteen Amendment gives the
right to vote regardless of "race, color, or previous condition
of servitude," many African-Americans were not registered to vote
for fear of injury or loss of their jobs. Some states required
African-Americans to pass a test before they could register to
In the 1960's, the Civil Rights Movement
made significant strides towards improving the freedoms and liberties
of all people. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed which
helped end public segregation. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act
was passed which helped to ensure the right to vote.
d. Name the Presidents
of the United States in the 1950's and 1960's.
S. Truman was President from 1945 to 1953. Truman was the
Vice President for Franklin D. Roosevelt. When President Roosevelt
died in office in 1945, Truman became the 33rd President. He was
reelected in 1948.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was President from 1953 to 1961. In
1957, Eisenhower denied the SCLC's request to hold a White House
conference on Civil Rights.
John F. Kennedy was President from 1961 to 1963. Kennedy
sent a Civil Rights bill to the U.S. Congress in June, 1963, to
end segregation in public places, including hotels, restaurants,
and theaters. This bill gave the Justice Department authority
to sue schools which remained segregated. After the March on Washington
on August 28, 1963, President Kennedy met with the leaders, including
Martin Luther King, Jr., and A. Philip Randolph. President Kennedy
was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Lyndon B. Johnson, the
Vice President, became the 36th President.
Lyndon B. Johnson was President from 1963 to 1969. On July
2, 1964, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and on
August 4, 1965, he signed the Voting Rights Act into law. These
Acts were among two of the important laws passed in the 1960's.
Richard M. Nixon was President from 1969 to 1974.
e. Use five of the words
in Section 2 in a sentence.
Answers will vary. Here are sample sentences from our young readers:
better to boycott in a peaceful
way to get your voice heard than to be violent.
Martin Luther King, Jr. learned about civil
disobedience from Henry David Thoreau.
The Civil Rights Marches in
the 1950's and 1960's led to equality among all people.
The United States is a democracy
because people vote for the President, Congress, and other representatives.
Desegregation of schools
is good because I like going to school with ALL my friends.
I will rise up from the oppression
of my older sister as soon as I get my own room.
f. Have a parent or friend give you
a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.
More Valuable Information about the
Civil Rights Marches:
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Civil Rights Museum
Martin Luther King, Jr. & the Civil Rights Movement Photo
Gallery (Seattle Times)
African-American World (PBS)
Britannica Guide to Black History
Book Encyclopedia: The African American Journey