Before 1954

Although Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in the US through his Emancipation Declaration in 1863, blacks were still being discriminated against for almost another century. It was not before the beginning of the 1950s when the 1896 Supreme Court ruling separate but equal gradually ceased to exist. In 1955 it was Mrs Rosa Parks who protested against separate seating in buses in Montgomery, Ala, by refusing to stand up from her seat in the front of a public bus, as it was customary for blacks only to be seated in the back. This incidence not only triggered off a bus boycott in Montgomery, but in fact the whole civil rights movement which was to last for at least the following 20 years.
Before 1954 blacks in most parts of the eleven Confederacy states (the South) were e.g. not allowed to:

  • serve on juries
  • send children to white public schools
  • drink from a whites only water fountain
  • use a whites only restroom
  • rent a room in a white hotel, motel or apartment building
  • try on clothing in a store
  • sit down in a white restaurant
  • sit on the main floor of a movie theater or concert hall
  • sit in the front of a bus
  • visit a white public park, beach or swimming pool

Marrying a white person, whistling at or reckless eyeballing (i.e. looking at a white female) were considered crimes. In courtrooms black witnesses were usually called by their first names or uncle or gal. In some Southern town, blacks were obliged to step off the sidewalk into the street to make room for passing whites.

After 1953 - Landmarks of the Civil Rights movement

  • 1954 Brown versus Topeka Schoolboard of Education, i.e. end of school segregation
  • 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott (Mrs Rosa Parks)
  • 1957 Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headed by M.L. King, founded. Starts direct action against segregation. Era of the marches. Violence in Little Rock, Arkansas, over school integration.
  • 1960 sit-ins by blacks at whites-only restaurants
  • freedom rides by blacks to reinforce bus desegregation
  • 1963 police and dog attack non-violent marches in Birmingham, Ala, leading President Kennedy to push for strong civil rights bill
    March on Washington - M.L. King's I have a dream-speech
  • 1964 Civil Rights Act passed, outlaws discrimination in public facilities
  • 1965 Voting Rights Act passed, enabling full black participation in state and federal elections
  • 1965-1967 Ghetto riots in many cities show frustrations of black
  • 1968 murder of M.L. King sparks more ghetto upheavals
  • 1970 number of black elected officials in the US: 1470
  • 1983 number of black elected officials in US: 5600
    Jesse Jackson joins presidential race
  • today there are black senators, congressmen and mayors in big cities like Washington, Detroit, Chicago or Los Angeles
  • further measures to enhance the situation of African-Americans (as blacks want to be called today) are busing and the affirmative action program, both meant to further integrate blacks into the American society.

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amazon.de Dear Mrs. Parks - A Dialogue with Today's Youth
Rosa Parks

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