Civil Rights Leaders
Beliefs and Goals
Events and Activies
"Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Events and Activities
Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
The King family had been living in Montgomery for less than a year when the highly segregated city became the epicenter of the burgeoning struggle for civil rights in America, galvanized by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, secretary of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Activists coordinated a bus boycott that would continue for 381 days, placing a severe economic strain on the public transit system and downtown business owners. They chose Martin Luther King Jr. as the protest’s leader and official spokesman.
King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
In his role as SCLC president, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled across the country and around the world, giving lectures on nonviolent protest and civil rights as well as meeting with religious figures, activists and political leaders. (During a month-long trip to India in 1959, he had the opportunity to meet Gandhi, the man he described in his autobiography as "the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.") King also authored several books and articles during this time.
King Marches for Freedom
Later that year, Martin Luther King Jr. worked with a number of civil rights and religious groups to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a peaceful political rally designed to shed light on the injustices African Americans continued to face across the country. Held on August 28 and attended by some 200,000 to 300,000 participants, the event is widely regarded as a watershed moment in the history of the American Civil Rights movement and a factor in the passage of the Civil Rights Actof 1964.
The march culminated in King’s most famous address, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, a spirited call for peace and equality that many consider a masterpiece of rhetoric. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial–a monument to the president who a century earlier had brought down the institution of slavery in the United States—he shared his vision of a future in which "this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'" The speech and march cemented King’s reputation at home and abroad; later that year he was named Man of the Year by TIME magazine and in 1964 became the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar….it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring”
Events & Activities
Because she would not give up her seat, the bus driver called the police and Rosa Parks was arrested. News of her arrest quickly spread. The NAACP decided to use Rosa Parks to challenge the segregation laws in the courts, while the African-American community of Montgomery, Alabama decided to create a boycott of the buses in an effort to make changes.
Since the rest of the civil rights movement stemmed from what became known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rosa Parks is known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.
Goals & Beliefs
In prison, Malcolm X became a member of the Nation Of Islam; after his parole in 1952, he quickly rose to become one of its leaders. For a dozen years, Malcolm X was the public face of the controversial group, but disillusionment with Nation of Islam head Elijha Muhammed led him to leave the Nation in March 1964. After a period of travel in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the United States, where he founded Muslim Mosque Inc. and the Organization of Afro- American Unity . In February 1965, less than a year after leaving the Nation of Islam, he was assassinated by three members of the group.
Malcolm X's expressed beliefs changed substantially over time. As a spokesman for the Nation of Islam he taught Black supremacy and advocated seperation of black and white Americans—in contrast to the Civil Rights Movement's emphasis on interigation. After breaking with the Nation of Islam in 1964—saying of his association with it, "I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then ... pointed in a certain direction and told to march"—and becoming a Sunni Muslim, he disavowed racism and expressed willingness to work with civil rights leaders, he continued to emphasize Pan- Africanism, black self-determination, and self-defense.
Black Panther Creation
Despite his legal run-ins, Newton began to take his education seriously. Although he graduated high school in 1959, Newton barely knew how to read. He became his own teacher, learning to read by himself. In the mid-1960s Newton decided to pursue his education at Merritt College where he met Bobby Seale. The two were briefly involved with political groups at the school before they set out to create one of their own. Founded in 1966, they called their group The Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Unlike many of the other social and political organizers of the time, they took a militant stance, advocating the ownership of guns by African Americans, and were often seen brandishing weapons. A famous photograph shows Newton - the group’s minister of defense - holding a gun in one hand and a spear in the other.
The group believed that violence - or the threat of violence - might be needed to bring about social change. They set forth their political goals in a document called the Ten-Point Program, which included better housing, jobs, and education for African Americans. It also called for an end to economic exploitation of black communities. Still the organization itself was not afraid to punctuate its message with a show of force. For example, to protest a gun bill in 1967, Newton and other members of the Panthers entered the California Legislature fully armed. The action was a shocking one that made news across the country. And Newton emerged as a leading figure in the black militant movement.