Civil Rights Movement - American History
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Civil Rights Movement

World War II Shipyard black worker
World War II Shipyard

During World War I, many white men were away being soldiers, and because of the war no new people came from Europe to take their places. So some black people were able to find work in factories, which paid better than any work they had had before. In World War II, in the 1940s, the same thing happened, and more black people began to work in factories, making weapons and building boats for the war. By the 1950s, new government farm policies pretty much ended sharecropping in the United States.

black woman sitting on a bus

In the 1950s, these people, who were richer and better educated than their parents or grandparents had been, began to protest and try to get rights equal to white people. In 1955, the NAACP organizers Rosa Parks and Jo Ann Robinson started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which won the right for black people to sit with white people on the city bus. Some black people, like the boxer Muhammad Ali and the preacher Malcolm X, decided to stop being Christians, the religion of the old slave-owners, and convert to Islam. Other black people stayed Christians and used their religion to organize protests.

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King

The Christians' most important leader was Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King helped to get Congress to pass a Civil Rights Bill in 1964 that made it illegal to keep black people out of any public place, like a swimming pool or a restaurant, and also illegal to refuse to hire black people for a job just because they were black. But Malcolm X was shot dead in 1965, and a white man who was angry about Dr. King's work shot him dead in 1968.

Here's a video of some people in South Carolina marching to protest the way they were being treated:



map of black population 2000
Where black people live now

Because of the Civil Rights Act and their own work, black people managed to get better jobs, better houses, and better schools than they had had before. But even now, while some black people are rich, most black people are still not as well off as white people, and they still suffer from racism that keeps them from getting good jobs or sending their kids to good schools. And most black people are still pretty much where they were before, working as unskilled labor for low wages for white people in the South.

African-Americans after slavery
African-American Slavery
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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