The Civil Rights Era: Introduction
In the popular American memory, the Civil Rights Movement began in the mid 1950s, grew under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, and ended with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But the history of the movement was actually both longer and more complex than this simple story suggests. The Black Freedom Struggle began in the Progressive Era (see the documents in that section above) and continued through the World Wars, into northern cities, and in many respects remains active today.
These documents offer persepctives on African American activism before, during, and after the classic civil rights phase of the struggle from 1954 to 1965. They also offer a window onto the diverse views that drove those engaged in the struggle, from political figures to grassroots activists and advocates of "Black Power"--the call for African Americans to have self determination and control in their own communities.