Movement for racial equality in the U.S. that, through nonviolent protest, broke the pattern of racial segregation in the South and achieved equal rights legislation for blacks. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), African American and white supporters attempted to end entrenched segregationist practices.
When Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., an African American boycott of the bus system was led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Abernathy. In the early 1960s the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee led boycotts and sit-ins to desegregate many public facilities.
Using the nonviolent methods of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the movement spread, forcing the desegregation of department stores, supermarkets, libraries, and movie theatres. The Deep South remained adamant in its opposition to most desegregation measures, often violently; protesters were attacked and occasionally killed.
Their efforts culminated in a march on Washington, D.C., in 1963 to support civil rights legislation. Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson persuaded Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a victory that was followed by the Voting Rights Act in 1965. After 1965, militant groups such as the Black Panther Party split off from the civil rights movement, and riots in black ghettos and King's assassination caused many supporters to withdraw. In the succeeding decades, leaders sought power through elective office and substantive economic and educational gains through affirmative action.
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