The U.S. Civil Rights Movement (VIDEO)

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States was a long, drawn out process that just proves that changing human nature is a slow process. Civil and human rights have been a prevalent topic of political discussions since, most likely, the beginning of people grouping themselves together to be governed.

In modern times, it generally is seen to have begun with the 1880’s case of Barron v. Baltimore. This was a court case that determined the Bill of Rights only applied to the federal government, and that the state governments didn’t have to abide by those laws unless they decided to individually. What this meant for African Americans was that no one had to give them any rights, and they could still be owned as slaves, because the Bill of Rights didn’t apply at the local levels of government.

Marion Doss
Marion Doss

In the 1860’s, Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation to free the slaves. The problem with this was that the only states that still had slaves were the Southern states, which had seceded from the Union and declared that Lincoln wasn’t their president. It wasn’t until the 13th Amendment  was passed that slavery was truly abolished. The 14th Amendment came next, that said no matter whether or not you were ever a slave, if you were born (or naturalized) in the U.S., you were a citizen. It also said that no one could be denied life, liberty, or property without the due process of law.

The 15th Amendment was signed in the 1870’s, which gave African Americans the right to vote. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 attempted to give African Americans equal treatment. It passed, but was overturned by the supreme court in the 1880’s, saying that the federal government couldn’t control discrimination in private settings.


  • Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves
  • 13th Amendment declared slavery illegal
  • 14th Amendment declared African American’s citizens
  • 15th Amendment allowed them to exercise their right to vote

At this point, slavery was no longer allowed, but a lot of whites still felt that blacks were inferior. This led to segregation.

In 1896, the court case Plessy v. Ferguson came with the ruling “separate-but-equal” that most of us are familiar with. This meant that blacks & whites could still be segregated, and pretty much only added that if the whites had a certain amenity, that the blacks also had to have it: ex: flush toilets, water fountains, etc.


It wasn’t until almost 60 years later, in the court case Brown v. Board of Education that segregation began to crumble. The ruling on this case said that schools could no longer be segregated, but it wasn’t enforced immediately. The school districts used the excuse that they didn’t have enough funds to desegregate, and the state governments that are supposed to enforce the laws decided it was more important to get re-elected–and knew that if they forced desegregation, their southern voters would not vote for them again.

  • The Civil Rights act of 1957 was the only other Civil Rights act since the one in 1875 to pass. It declared it illegal to coerce or discourage African American’s from voting.
  • The Civil Rights act of 1964 made segregation illegal in all public places, not just schools.
  • The Civil Rights act of 1968 that said you couldn’t refuse housing to someone because of their race (passed just days after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination)

These, coupled with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally had enough clearly defined penalties for those that discriminated that desegregation ended shortly thereafter.

West Point~the U.S. Military Academy's photostream
West Point~the U.S. Military Academy’s photostream

Of course, it’s difficult to mention the Civil Rights Movement for African American’s in the United States without mention the heart and soul responsible for changing public opinion–Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was undoubtedly one of the most influential people in the history of American culture, and well deserves the title. He has inspired many worldwide to fight for their own rights. May we all have the courage to fight for what’s right!

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

Featured image credit: Archives Foundation

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