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Rosa Parks

On a cold day in the winter of 1955, Rosa Parks (1955), a college-educated 42-year-old black seamstress, refused to get up from her seat near the front of a Montgomery city bus to make way for a white man. She was arrested. The protests that began with that arrest started the modern civil rights movement. An early leader of the Montgomery bus boycott (1955) movement was a young Christian minister from Atlanta named Martin Luther King Jr. (1960).

Brown v. Board of Education

The civil rights movement had legal and social support. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that segregated public schools are "inherently unequal" and that desegregation must proceed with "all deliberate speed."

Although Southern representatives initially resisted, desegregation has moved ahead with the deliberate speed of any major social change, which means it has taken generations. Legal forms of discrimination were abolished one by one in the decade after the civil rights movement began in the mid-1950s. These cases were the legal decisions that had the most impact on American society.


Question: What kind of legal decisions had the most impact following World War II?

Answer: Court cases involving civil rights were the most important in changing society.

The Civil Rights Commission

Dwight Eisenhower wasn't a revolutionary. He had grown up in the white Midwest and spent his career in the segregated army. But Eisenhower knew his duty. When the governor of Arkansas threatened to use force to keep black students from enrolling in Little Rock, Arkansas's Central High School (1957), Ike called out the army to protect the Little Rock Nine as they walked into class. Eisenhower also supported legislation to establish a permanent Civil Rights Commission (1957) to investigate and report on discrimination.


Question: What is the main purpose of the Civil Rights Commission?

Answer: The Civil Rights Commission is responsible for investigating and reporting on discrimination in the United States.

Sit-in demonstrations

In 1960, four black college students sat down to have lunch in a North Carolina store. Under orders, the servers refused to wait on them. The students refused to leave, starting the first sit-in demonstration (1960). The next day, they came back with 19 classmates, the day after, 85 — by the end of the week, a thousand protestors had converged on the store.

Sit-ins spread to segregated lunch counters all over the country; although the protestors often met with violence, they kept coming. Eventually, national laws outlawed discrimination in facilities open to the general public.


Question: What are some of the major domestic events during the Eisenhower administration?

Answer: During Ike's terms the gross domestic product (GDP) was up, the baby boom continued to increase population, black families moved from the rural South to the North and West, the civil rights movement got started, and the interstate freeway system was begun.

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