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he civil rights movement progressed through various stages in the 1960s. Activists began the decade by focusing on Southern racial discrimination. Because of the sustained protests of the 1960s, President Lyndon Baines Johnson placed his support behind legislation that would end the most visible signs of Southern racial injustice. In response, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965. Southern states and private citizens could no longer deprive African Americans the rights to equal facilities and to vote without unfair impediments. After these successes, the movement shifted course, transcending the earlier focus on Southern segregation and voting rights.Today, we tell about the movement for civil rights for black Americans.The day is August twenty-eighth, 1963. More than two hundred fifty-thousand people are gathered in Washington. Black and white, young and old, they demand equal treatment for black Americans. The nation's most famous civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, is speaking.
MARTIN LUTHER KING: "I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of our nation. "Early in its history, black Africans were brought to America as slaves. They were bought and sold, like animals. By the time of America's Civil War in the 1860s, many had been freed by their owners. Many, however, still worked as slaves on the big farms of the South. By the end of the war, slavery had been declared unconstitutional. But that was only the first step in the struggle for equality.Most people of color could not get good jobs. They could not get good housing. They had far less chance of a good education than white Americans. For about one hundred years, blacks made slow gains. Widespread activism for civil rights did not really begin until after World War Two. During the war, black Americans earned respect as members of the armed forces. When they came home, many demanded that their civil rights be respected, too. An organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, led the way.
In 1951, the organization sent its lawyers to help a man in the city of Topeka, Kansas. The man, Oliver Brown, and twelve others had brought legal action against the city. They wanted to end racial separation in their children's schools. At that time, two of every five public schools in America had all white students or all black students. The law said all public schools must be equal, but they were not. Schools for white children were almost always better than schools for black children. The situation was worst in Southern states.The case against the city of Topeka -- Brown versus the Board of Education -- was finally settled by the nation's highest court. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that separate schools for black children were not equal to schools for white children. The next year, it said public schools must accept children of all races as quickly as possible.
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