The Pursuit of Liberty

The Greensboro Sit-ins

1954 – Brown v Board of Education

This is signficant because the Supreme Court overturned Plessy v Ferguson.  Segregation in education was no longer constitutional.  This means it could now be challenged legally whereas before it could not.  The Court told schools to desegregate with ‘all deliberate speed’ but did not specify a time limit.  Blacks would still need to challenge segregation where they found it in order to make it disappear.

1957 – Little Rock, Arkansas

Black students tried to enter High School but were prevented.  Eisenhower sent Federal Troops.  This shows that Supreme Court Rulings were being challenged in the South and that there was fierce opposition to integration. Presidential actions were significant because the Federal GVMT was exerting authority over state GVMT to make sure Supreme Court rulings were obeyed.

1956 – Montgomery Bus Boycott

Segregation on Montgomery Buses was challenged through a mass boycott.  The economic impact of this forced the bus company to desegregate.  Churches and the NAACP had a key role. Martin Luther King emerged as leader.  He was a Christian minister and believed in non-violent protest.  He set up SCLC

1960 – The Sit-ins.

The SNCC organized sit-ins at lunch counters.  Some white students were involved. This was a step up from Montgomery because they were breaking the law (of relevant states) being sent to prison and risking violence.  The degree of violence they face showed there was fierce opposition to integration.  The disruption and economic boycotts in the north forced the stores involved to desegregate.

1961 – The Freedom Rides

The SNCC and CORE organized for white and black activists to challenge segregation on interstate buses.  This was a step further than the sit-ins as they faced brutal violence which was picked up by the press.  The President became involved and forced interstate buses to integrate.

1961 – 1962  Albany

King was behind this.  The idea was to challenge segregation in Albany, force mass arrests, gain public attention and Presidential support.  It failed as Albany was ready for the activists.

1963 – Birmingham

King was behind this.  Segregation was challenged in Birmingham and lead to violence from the Police, which was picked up by the Press.  The President was unhappy that this showed USA in such a bad light.  King critisised for his use of children.

Aug 1963 – March on Washington

Organised to persuade the GVMT to sign up to Civil Rights Bill.  Symbol of unity and hope. ‘I have a dream’ speech

1964 – Mississipi Freedom Summer

SNCC behind this. Activists encouraged black voters to register to vote.  Met violence and resistance.  Three activists murdered.

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