sions of the 1950s and 1960s remain intact, and in many cases are stronger and more far-reaching than they were initially crafted to be. And King, the symbolic embodiment of the modern civil rights movement, has become enshrined as a national hero, with a national holiday in his honor devoted to reflection on the meaning of civil rights.

The civil rights movement also inspired many other social movements, most notably the women's movement, to battle against discriminatory barriers. These movements often ally with civil rights forces to defend the achievements of the past and to fight for more guarantees of equality. Moreover, the civil rights movement changed the agenda and the language public figures use in their debates about public policy. White supremacy and racial segregation, openly and proudly defended by many through much of American history, have virtually disappeared from public discourse. Today, even southern conservatives staunchly defend the notion of a color-blind society.

Finally, the civil rights movement made the nation more aware of the persistence of poverty among large segments of the African American population, rooted, according to many, in the history of racism and race relations in the United States. While it did not solve the problem, the civil rights movement deserves credit, not criticism, for bringing this aspect of the American experience to the fore. No longer are the black poor invisible, as they were through much of American history. Furthermore, while policy makers disagree over the solution to poverty, few if any contend that blacks are "naturally" inferior, making any and all attempts to eradicate poverty futile.

This does not mean that we should underestimate the persistence of racism and racial inequality in American society. Events ranging from an attack on blacks by whites in the predominantly white neighborhood of Howard Beach, New York, in 1986, to the beating of Rodney King, a black man, by white police in Los Angeles in 1991, testify to the persistence of the color line. Yet these incidents should not compel us to claim that the civil rights movement achieved little. Such a view not only fails to appreciate the magnitude of the strides toward freedom that the civil rights movement made, it also dishonors those who risked their lives in the struggle for racial equality.


NOTES
1
Chris Mead, Champion: Joe Louis, Black Hero in White America ( New York: Penguin, 1985), 296-97. 36

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The Civil Rights Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Advisory Board vi
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Chronology of Events xvii
  • The Civil Rights Movement Explained 1
  • 1 - The Modern Civil Rights Movement: an Overview 3
  • Notes 35
  • 2 - Freedom's Coming and It Won't Be Long: The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement 39
  • Notes 56
  • 3 - Mississippi: "Is This America?" A Case Study of the Movement 59
  • Notes 77
  • 4 - With All Deliberate Speed: The Fight for Legal Equality 79
  • Notes 100
  • 5 - Sisterhood is Powerful: Women and the Civil Rights Movement 103
  • Notes 119
  • 6 - A Second Redemption? 121
  • Biographies - The Personalities Behind the Civil Rights Movement 127
  • Primary Documents Of the Civil Rights Movement 149
  • Glossary of Selected Terms 199
  • Annotated Bibliography 205
  • Index 215
  • About the Author *
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