Were African-Americans able to improve their
situation as citizens in terms of gaining equal
civil rights and opportunities in the United
Our Answer: YES
d been fighting
African Americans have
for rights and equality ever since they
were freed from slavery in 1865. Since
their freedom, African-Americans have been
gaining more rights and equality, slowly
but steadily. At first, they were
distinctly separated from whites
everywhere in the country and treated
almost like slaves. As they integrated
into society, African-Americans have come
to know more equality and freedom. Supreme
Court decisions and many additional laws
and acts helped.
Brown vs. Board of Education
• This case was initiated by the NAACP.
• It was a class action suit against the Topeka Board of
• There were five cases under the heading of “Brown vs.
Board of Education”.
• It took on the policy of “separate but equal” in schools.
• The Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal”
schools were not equal and did not provide equal
opportunities for the separated races.
• This case led to the desegregation of schools across the
nation, giving African-American students he same
educational opportunities as white students.
Rosa Parks and the Montgomery
• This incident occurred on December 1, 1955.
• Rosa Parks, a seamstress, took a seat on a bus and
refused to move.
• The bus driver called the police and Parks was arrested.
• The Montgomery Improvement Association organized a
boycott with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as its leader.
• Blacks filed a lawsuit stating they wouldn’t ride the
busses of Montgomery for 381 days.
• In 1956, the Supreme Court outlawed bus segregation.
• This movement against segregation on busses showed
that African Americans could unite and become
successful if they put their mind and heart into it. This
also proved the power of non-violent resistance.
“It was time for someone to stand up-or in my case, sit down,”-Rosa Parks
Dr. Ossian Sweet
• Dr. Ossian Sweet was an African-American doctor who
studied in France.
• When he returned to the U.S. in 1925, he unknowingly
bought a house in the “white side” of Detroit.
• A white mob attacked his house and Dr. Sweet did his
best to defend his home.
• Afterwards, Sweet was arrested for murder.
• After a second trial, Dr. Sweet was found not guilty by
an all-white jury.
• This was a big victory for African-Americans, as Dr.
Sweet was freed by his peers, including white men.
• The court decision showed that African-Americans
could stand up for themselves and defend their homes,
even in the midst of harsh racism.
The Fair Employment Practices
• A. Philip Randolph was an African-American leader
who thought blacks should be allowed equality in
the work force and help with defense during the
• He led a march to Washington D.C. for the cause.
• In response to this, President Roosevelt signed and
Executive Order that banned racial discrimination in
any defense industry receiving federal contracts.
• This helped integrate the military and defense force,
gave African-Americans more rights in the work
force, and gave them equal opportunities to get a
defense job. Many African-Americans became
employed with white co-workers because of this
McGhee vs. Sipes
• Orsel and Minnie McGhee, African-Americans, rented a
house from a white family in a white neighborhood in Detroit.
• The community had signed a restricted covenant saying that
African-Americans could not live in their neighborhood.
• Orsel and Minnie refused to leave their house.
• They were defended by the NAACP.
• Through appeals, the case reached the Supreme Court and
was combined with two other restricted covenant cases.
• In 1948, the court ruled that using state courts to enforce the
covenant was unconstitutional and violated the 14th
• The court ruled that agreements used to restrict occupancy
based on race were unconstitutional.
• This win was viewed as a win for all African-Americans and
minorities. It upheld their right to buy homes free of restricted
The Passage of the Civil Rights Act
• This act was passed on July 2, 1964 by President
Lyndon B. Johnson.
• It prohibited discrimination because of race,
religion, national origin, and gender.
• In addition, it gave all citizens the right to enter
all public accommodations like libraries, parks,
restaurants, and theaters.
• This act eliminated the segregation forced on
African-Americans after the Plessy vs. Ferguson
decision and gave them equal rights and
opportunities when it came to public
The Selma to Montgomery March
• Began March 7, 1965
• Lead by Martin Luther King Jr.
• Goal was to abolish literacy tests and allowing black citizens the right to vote.
• Stops Along the Way:
• *1st- March 7: "Bloody Sunday": Marchers traveled from Browns Chapel to Edmund
Pettus Bridge, but were viciously attacked by local police and state troopers.
• *2nd-March 9: Marchers trekked to Pettus Bridge, knelt, prayed, and then returned to
Browns Chapel, but Rev. James Reeb dies when beaten by white vigilantes.
• *3rd-March 21: Marchers with the protection of a federal court order and a
Federalized National Guard proceeded to the state Capitol to petition for voting
• *March 24: At "Stars for Freedom" rally near Montgomery, world-renowned
entertainers performed an inspirational show then joined the march the next day.
• *March 25: They arrived at the state Capitol, where MLK Jr. gave a speech; Viola
Luizzo, a marcher, was killed by the KKK that night.
• The March from Selma to Montgomery aroused sympathetic feelings towards the
non-violent marchers because of the beatings and killings that they endured. The
march also led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by President Lyndon B.
Johnson. This allowed African Americans the right to vote on literacy tests by
prohibiting any “voting qualification” which would deny the right of any citizen of
the U.S. to vote on account of race or color.
“We Shall Overcome”
Even though African-Americans didn’t
gain the full equality that they wanted,
they achieved many improvements that led
to more opportunities and equal rights.