The Civil Rights Movement

The modern civil rights movement matured after World War II. Many African Americans had served with honor in the war and began to strategize further against racial discrimination and injustice in the country they had fought so hard to defend. Membership in the NAACP increased, and it won several important civil rights legal cases. In 1954, the movement exploded with the Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in public schools. From that point on, African American leaders vowed to break down all racial barriers.

    “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”
    -Vice President Lyndon Johnson, May 30, 1963

In the midst of this prolific social movement, the centennial anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation allowed African Americans to examine what they had achieved since slavery and to demand what was still needed for full equality. On September 12, 1962, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the speech in New York City in honor of this anniversary. He spoke on the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation, arguing that the document proved that government could be a powerful force for social justice. He urged Governor Nelson Rockefeller and President John F. Kennedy to hasten integration and progress towards full civil rights.

"...Equal Protraction of the Laws."

Ruby Bridges was the first African American child to integrate the all-white schools of New Orleans, Louisiana in 1960. Many white people protested against Ruby’s presence, so President Eisenhower sent U.S. marshals to walk Ruby to school. Ruby became a symbol of bravery for Americans who believed in the promise of democracy that was dawning in the civil rights era.