Because large segments of the populace–particularly African-Americans, women, and men without property–have not always been accorded full citizenship rights in the American Republic, Civil Rights movements, or “freedom struggles,” have been a frequent feature of the nation’s history.
In particular, movements to obtain civil rights for black Americans have had special historical significance. Such movements have not only secured citizenship rights for blacks but have also redefined prevailing conceptions of the nature of civil rights and the role of government in protecting these rights.
The most important achievements of African-American civil rights movements have been the post-Civil War constitutional amendments that abolished slavery and established the citizenship status of blacks and the judicial decisions and legislation based on these amendments, notably the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Moreover, these legal changes greatly affected the opportunities available to women, nonblack minorities, disabled individuals, and other victims of discrimination.
|A drinking fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, April 1938. (Photo by Reuters/Library of Congress)|
|A sign on a restaurant in Lancaster, Ohio, August 1938. (Photo by Reuters/Library of Congress)|
|A man drinks at a "colored" water cooler in a streetcar terminal in Oklahoma City, July 1939. (Photo by Reuters/Library of Congress)|
|The bus station in Durham, North Carolina, May 1940. (Photo by Reuters/Library of Congress)|
|A high school student being educated via television during the period that schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, were closed to avoid integration, September 1958. (Photo by Reuters/Library of Congress)|
See more »