In sum, many see the civil rights movement as an inevitable development, part of the nation's natural evolution. The standard dating of the movement in textbooks and popular accounts of the topic, beginning with the Brown decision and culminating with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed by President Johnson, reinforces this view. All that was necessary, according to this interpretation, was for the nation's leaders to hand down these edicts. Yet, this view of the past misses the underlying causes of the civil rights movement, from the deep structural changes that created the climate for change, to the development of resources by the African American community so that it could take advantage of the improved climate, to the courage and bravery of individual men and women who acted to alter the course of history. It also risks misrepresenting one of the main lessons of the civil rights years. The civil rights movement did not take place because a handful of leaders determined that the time was right for enacting certain reforms. Rather, thousands of ordinary men and women, taking advantage of existing conditions, forged a movement that compelled the nation to begin to live up to its ideals.
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Publication information: Book title: The Civil Rights Movement. Contributors: Peter B. Levy - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 56.
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