The Civil Rights Movement Begins
Frameworks for America's Past
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Originating Page

1954: The Supreme Court declared
school segregation illegal

The first big victory of the modern Civil Rights Movement was the court
case known as Brown v. Board of Education.  In that 1954 case, the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation of public schools was illegal. 
The court ordered school districts nationwide to make plans to
stop segregation of public schools as soon as possible.

The order brought anger, delays, and resistance from whites in many
areas.  By the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, plans to bring
whites and blacks together in the same schools were going forward.
These African American students (below) were the first to attend
a formerly "white" school in Richmond, Virginia, in 1960.

1955: Rosa Parks decided to
keep her seat on the bus

The event that really energized and spread the modern Civil Rights Movement
came in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused
to move out of her seat on a city bus to make room for white passengers.
She was already sitting in the "black" section at the back of the bus as
required by a city law, but the bus driver wanted to free up a new
row of seats for whites getting onto the bus.

Parks was arrested and charged with violating the bus segregation law.

A bus boycott, then a victory in court

Black leaders in Montgomery quickly organized a year-long boycott of the
city buses by African Americans.  That means blacks all over the city refused to
ride on the bus system until segregation was ended.  The boycott ended in 1956
when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on the city buses was illegal.

Below:  Rosa Parks rode the bus again in 1956, sitting wherever she wanted.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.,
insisted on non-violent protests

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., first became well-known because
of his role as a leader in the Montgomery bus boycott.  He
insisted on a policy of passive resistance - that is, completely
behavior during all protests against segregation.

Rev. King is shown in the photo below with his wife, Coretta Scott King.

The photos are from the Library of Congress.
Some have been edited or resized for this page.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2010, 2012 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.