Articles and Essays

  • The March on Washington

    For many Americans, the calls for racial equality and a more just society emanating from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, deeply affected their views of racial segregation and intolerance in the nation. Since the occasion of March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago, much has been written and discussed about the moment, its impact on society, ...

  • Collecting and Presenting the Freedom Struggle at the Library of Congress

    What makes a mass social movement? How is it defined? What happened as part of the movement and why? What are its obvious features and its hidden aspects? Who are the actors, both famous and obscure? These are among the prominent questions to keep in mind when we seek to understand the historical origins, changing meanings, and the current resonance of social and cultural ...

  • Music in the Civil Rights Movement

    African American spirituals, gospel, and folk music all played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement. Singers and musicians collaborated with ethnomusicologists and song collectors to disseminate songs to activists, both at large meetings and through publications. They sang these songs for multiple purposes: to motivate them through long marches, for psychological strength against harassment and brutality, and sometimes to simply pass the ...

  • Nonviolent Philosophy and Self Defense

    The success of the movement for African American civil rights across the South in the 1960s has largely been credited to activists who adopted the strategy of nonviolent protest. Leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jim Lawson, and John Lewis believed wholeheartedly in this philosophy as a way of life, and studied how it had been used successfully by Mahatma Gandhi to protest ...

  • School Segregation and Integration

    The massive effort to desegregate public schools across the United States was a major goal of the Civil Rights Movement. Since the 1930s, lawyers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had strategized to bring local lawsuits to court, arguing that separate was not equal and that every child, regardless of race, deserved a first-class education. These lawsuits were combined ...

  • The Murder of Emmett Till

    The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 brought nationwide attention to the racial violence and injustice prevalent in Mississippi. While visiting his relatives in Mississippi, Till went to the Bryant store with his cousins, and may have whistled at Carolyn Bryant. Her husband, Roy Bryant, and brother-in-law, J.W. Milam, kidnapped and brutally murdered Till, dumping his body in the Tallahatchie River. The newspaper ...

  • Voting Rights

    When Reconstruction ended in 1877, states across the South implemented new laws to restrict the voting rights of African Americans. These included onerous requirements of owning property, paying poll taxes, and passing literacy or civics exams. Many African Americans who attempted to vote were also threatened physically or feared losing their jobs. One of the major goals of the Civil Rights Movement was to ...

  • Women in the Civil Rights Movement

    Many women played important roles in the Civil Rights Movement, from leading local civil rights organizations to serving as lawyers on school segregation lawsuits. Their efforts to lead the movement were often overshadowed by men, who still get more attention and credit for its successes in popular historical narratives and commemorations. Many women experienced gender discrimination and sexual harassment within the movement and later ...

  • Youth in the Civil Rights Movement

    At its height in the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement drew children, teenagers, and young adults into a maelstrom of meetings, marches, violence, and in some cases, imprisonment. Why did so many young people decide to become activists for social justice? Joyce Ladner answers this question in her interview with the Civil Rights History Project, pointing to the strong support of her elders in ...