Back to the video list: North American History


During the 1950s and 1960s the Civil Rights Movement achieved equal rights for black and white men in the U.S. society.






  • Date: 1955 – 1968
  • Location: United States of America
  • Start: Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • End: Assassination of Martin Luther King


Parties & Persons Involved

  • Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968)
  • John Lewis (1940 – )
  • Malcolm X (1925 – 1965)



  • Slavery is abolished in the United States after the Civil War (1861 – 1865)
  • Blacks can participate in the society & politics during the Reconstruction (re-integration of the southern states into the Union)
  • After the Reconstruction (until 1877) blacks are discriminated by law, intimidation & violence
  • Southern states use the principle of segregation ("separate but equal“)



  • 1946: The Supreme Court repeals the segregation in busses (Irene Morgan vs. Virginia)
  • 17 May 1954: : The Supreme Court repeals the segregation in public schools (Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka)
  • Dec 1955 – Dec 1956: Montgomery Bus Boycott after Rosa Parks did not want to give up her seat for a white man (Martin Luther King is one of the main organizers)
  • 02 – 25 Sep 1957: Little Rock Nine – Airborne troops are sent to enable nine Afro-American teenagers to attend school
  • 1960: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is founded which organises sit-ins & other forms of non-violent resistance
  • 04 May 1961: 1st Freedom Ride begins
  • The Freedom Riders face violence & arrest
  • 1962: The states enforce the abolishment of segregation in busses
  • 1963 – 1964: Peaceful protesters repeatedly face racially motivated violence
  • The nationwide media coverage leads to a growing pressure to end the discrimination
  • Aug 1963: March on Washington with 250,000 participants
  • Martin Luther King’s famous speech ”I have a dream“
  • 02 Jul 1964: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act
  • 1965: The sheriff of Selma obstructs the registration of black voters
  • 07 Mar 1965: Bloody Sunday during a protest march from Selma to Montgomery
  • 06 Aug 1965: President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act
  • 1960ies: Radicalisation of civil rights organisations & black leaders, i.e. Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Black Power
  • Oct 1966: The violent & socialist Black Panther Party is founded
  • Martin Luther King partially shows understanding for the radicalization of the movement
  • 04 Apr 1968: Assassination of Martin Luther King


Consequences & Impact

  • The Civil Rights Movements overcomes the segregation & discrimination of Afro-Americans (& other minorities) in the United States
    • But note: As in nearly all societies there is still racism on an informal level
  • Afro-Americans (& other minorities) can actively participate in the political & societal processes of the United States
    • Example: Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 1st Afro-American President of the United States on 20 Jan 2009