Key events of the civil rights movement


The civil rights movement was a mass protest movement which took place between 1954 and 1968 in the United States. The movement fought against racial segregation and discrimination and tried to obtain legal and civil rights for African Americans.

The civil rights movement included a vast number of organizations, social actions and strategies, most of which focused on using non-violent means to promote their goals. Given the numerous events that took place during the civil rights movement, in what follows we will focus on some of the most important ones. 

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

It is hard to place an exact starting date on the civil rights movement, but one of the first major protests was the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1955, a college-educated African-American woman named Rosa Parks refused to give her seat in the middle section of the bus to a white passenger, after the white seats were all occupied (African Americans were expected to give up seats in the middle section of the bus for white passengers). She was arrested for civil disobedience and soon became a national symbol of the movement.

Her arrest led to African Americans gathering and boycotting the buses to demand desegregation of the transport sector. For about a year, African Americans in Montgomery refused to take the bus (often walking many miles to work), causing economic losses to the transportation sector.

The boycott was joined by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who soon became a prominent figure of the events. The local African-American leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the boycotts and chose King to lead them. During the boycott, King was arrested and his house was bombed.

At the same time, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took Rosa Parks’ case to court, along with other similar cases. In one of the cases, Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court decided that bus segregation was unconstitutional.

The boycotts ended when the city banned segregation in buses, following the Court’s decision.


Sit-ins were one of the main forms of protest between 1958 and 1960 and were generally organized by the NAACP Youth Council.

Sit-ins meant that African Americans would buy items from stores and then go to sit at the lunch counters of those stores, which were usually reserved for white people. When asked to leave, they would argue that if their money let them buy things, they should also be allowed to sit at the lunch counter. Such sit-ins were organized in various US states and also focused on parks, libraries, theaters, museums, etc, from which African Americans were banned.

Freedom Rides

Freedom Rides were organized in 1961 by civil rights activists who were riding interstate buses in Southern US. The activists were trying to show that a 1960 US Supreme Court decision banning segregation on interstate buses was not being implemented.

The Freedom Rides were originally ...

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