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Civil Rights

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9.05 Civil Rights

Student non-violent Coordinating Committee activists Ronald Martin,Robert Patterson, and Mark Martin stage a sit-down strike after being refused service at a F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., in 1960.

America fought to defend democracy in World War II and denounced fascist beliefs in race superiority and Nazi oppression. African Americans and their white allies thought it unacceptable that racism could persist in the U.S. and they intensified their attacks on racial segregation and disfranchisement.

The movement gained strength with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that called racial segregation in schools "inherently unequal," and the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1955-1956. In the early 1960s, the movement confronted segregated public facilities, including restaurants, stores, movie theaters, buses, and recreation facilities. Using sit-ins, boycotts, and demonstrations, the civil rights movement had limited success in integrating these establishments.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. standing behind him. (July 2, 1964)

The use of attack dogs, tear gas, and clubs against non-violent demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 horrified millions of Americans viewing these scenes on TV. That summer hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. The demonstrations would challenge the moral conscience of the nation and help lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This landmark legislation committed the federal government to preventing discrimination in employment and in all public facilities. A blow had been struck against Jim Crow segregation, but state laws could still be used to prevent African Americans from voting and private social clubs still excluded African Americans.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave the federal registrars to region in which discrimination had taken place. The M.F.D.P. (Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party), was demanding registrars be sent to Sun Flower County, Miss.

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