The American Journey Modern Times © 2009

Chapter 14: The Civil Rights Era

Chapter Overviews

Section 1: The Civil Rights Movement

After World War II, African Americans and other supporters of civil rights challenged discrimination in job opportunities, housing, and education. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public schools was illegal. Three years later, African American students were able to attend an all-white school in Little Rock, Arkansas, after federal intervention. An increasing number of people were drawn to the civil rights movement, using nonviolent protest to secure the rights of African Americans.

Section 2: Kennedy and Johnson

In the 1960 presidential election, Republican candidate Vice President Richard M. Nixon pledged to continue Eisenhower’s policies. Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy, on the other hand, promised new programs, which appealed to many Americans who wanted change. Kennedy called for a New Frontier of social reforms and supported a new civil rights bill. When Kennedy was assassinated, the nation was stunned. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became president and continued to support civil rights issues.

Section 3: The Struggle Continues

New leaders and groups emerged as the civil rights movement grew. High school and college students staged sit-ins to challenge segregation, and Freedom Riders endured violence to ensure that interstate buses could not practice segregation. Others fought to integrate universities and to change the laws denying African Americans the right to vote.

By the mid-1960s, the civil rights movement had won many victories. Yet a growing number of African Americans believed changes were happening too slowly. Some African American leaders embraced more radical approaches to change. The deadly Watts riot in Los Angeles was the first of series of urban racial clashes. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. set off even more riots across the country.

Section 4: Other Groups Seek Rights

The influence of the civil rights movement led many American women to organize and push for greater rights. In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay women less than men for the same work. However, a proposed amendment to the Constitution to guarantee equal rights for women was defeated.

In the 1960s and 1970s, others entered the struggle for equality. Mexican American farm workers formed a union and organized successful boycotts to protest their harsh working conditions. Native Americans organized to improve their lives, as well. Their efforts resulted in the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 and drew greater attention to Native American land rights. People with physical disabilities fought for more job opportunities, better access to public buildings, and a greater role in society.

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