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The American Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement was a struggle for social justice that continues to this day and is still being constantly evaluated by scholars across disciplines. Historically, the era currently known in American history as the Civil Rights movement mostly took place during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time African Americans and others identifying as Black were trying to gain equal rights under United States laws after years suffering under racist policies across the United States.

Little Rock Integration Protest

Following the civil war, Black people were continuously marginalized and kept separate from white Americans. Jim Crow laws gained ground in in 1896 when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which created the now widely-criticized “separate but equal”  doctrine. Fighting against the idea of “separate but equal” would become a key rallying point for organizers of the Civil Rights moving forward. In 1954, the Supreme Court made segregation illegal in public school in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. On November 14, 1956, the Supreme Courtruled segregated seating was unconstitutional after Rosa Parks help stage a boycott of the Montgomery bus system.

Greensboro Four sitting at a white only counter at Woolworth

Despite these changes within our government, Black Americans were still struggling with being accepted in white society but responded with mass protests. For example, on February 1st, 1960, four black college students took a stand against segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina. They refused to leave a Woolworth’s lunch counter unless they were served (and they were not). For the next several days hundreds of people joined them during their peaceful sit in. Protests similar to the one done by the Greensboro Four encouraged and inspired other students to get involved in the civil rights movement.

Arguably one of the most famous events within the civil rights movements was the March on Washington which took place August 28, 1963. A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. organized and attended this march. More than 200,000 people, white and black, came together to peacefully march with the purpose of forcing civil rights legislation and establishing job equality for everyone. During this march Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic speech “I have a dream…”

Although the Civil Rights Movement brought forth progress there was a lot of resistance. Several peaceful protests were met with physical violence from observers and police. Police sprayed crowds of protesters with fire hoses and tear gas. Leaders and activists alike were sent death threats (bricks in windows, crosses on fire on their property, nooses hanging from trees). Unfortunately some of these threats were followed through and resulted in death. Two civil rights leaders were assassinated in the late 1960’s. Malcom X on February 21, 1965 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968; both died from gun shot wounds.

The civil rights movement was an empowering and yet trying time for America. With the effort and hard work of activist and protesters America was able make progress fighting against black voter suppression, segregation and discriminatory employment and housing practices. However, the fight continues to this day.


Below is a list of suggested Titles we have available on the topics of “The Civil Rights Movement” “Jim Crow” “Slavery is Rural Southern United States” “The American Civil War” and “Protesting while being a black student.” This by no means is a completed list of books categorized under these topics, but a glimpse into these topic. Please feel free to take a look at the suggested Titles or search Fulcrum for more!

HEB Titles on the American Civil Rights Era

A nation under our feet: black political struggles in the rural South from slavery to the great migration” by Steven Hahn

Black students in protest: a study of the origins of the Black student movement” by Anthony M. Orum

Civilities and civil rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black struggle for freedom” by William Henry Chafe


Color-blind justice: Albion Tourgée and the quest for racial equality from the Civil War to Plessy v. Ferguson” by Mark Elliott

Courage to dissent: Atlanta and the long history of the civil rights movement” by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

From Jim Crow to civil rights: the Supreme Court and the struggle for racial equality” by Michael J. Klarman

Growing up in the black belt: Negro youth in the rural South” by Charles Spurgeon Johnson

In struggle: SNCC and the Black awakening of the 1960s” by Clayborne Carson

Inventing the “American way”: the politics of consensus from the New Deal to the civil rights movement” by Wendy Wall

Jim Crow New York: a documentary history of race and citizenship, 1777-1877” by David N. Gellman and David Quigley

Reasoning from race: feminism, law, and the civil rights revolution” by Serena Mayeri

The Black revolution on campus” by Martha Biondi

The crucible of race: Black/White relations in the American South since emancipation” by Joel Williamson

The lost promise of civil rights” by Risa Lauren Goluboff


The politics of race in New York: the struggle for black suffrage in the Civil War era” by Phyllis F Field

The trials of Phillis Wheatley: America’s first Black poet and her encounters with the founding fathers” by Henry Louis Gates

Watching Jim Crow: the struggles over Mississippi TV, 1955-1969” by Classen, Steven D.

What a woman ought to be and to do: Black professional women workers during the Jim Crow era” by Stephanie J.Shaw