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Civil rights, United States: overview

Stephen Eric Bronner

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

People Kautsky, Karl

Key-Topics inequality, racism, revolution, violence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00358.x


The US civil rights movement (ca. 1954–65) was one of the most significant social and political movements in the history of the American Republic. Over the course of little more than a decade, African Americans from all walks of life, joined by a small but increasing number of whites, mounted a successful challenge to the legal edifice of segregation that had confined blacks socially, politically, and economically to second-class status for the better part of a century. They did so by invoking the foundational principles of the United States – liberty, justice, and equality – and by insisting that the country live up to its own ideals and allow Americans to enjoy their constitutional rights and privileges without regard to race. This revolution in race relations was conducted largely along principles of nonviolence, though violence would be repeatedly used against the movement's activists to try to halt their progress. For these reasons, the American civil rights movement is remembered not only for its transformative impact, but also for reflecting the vitality and constructive possibilities of American democracy. The civil rights movement is commonly associated with the developments of the 1950s and 1960s that led to the demise of legal segregation in the United States. However, the struggle for black equality in America predates the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. Since the arrival ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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