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Civil Rights
By Kate Tuohy

king
Martin Luther King Jr. gives his "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963.
(Photo: Bettmann/Corbis)
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation, or forced separation between black children and white children in public schools. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark court decision, but blacks were still denied the same privileges and rights as whites in America.

As a result, a new generation of black civil-rights leaders stepped in to voice their opinions. They were frustrated with the slow progress of equality in America for blacks.

A Baptist minister named Martin Luther King Jr. is considered the most important leader of the civil-rights movement. He believed in nonviolent protests, such as sit-ins and demonstrations.

King participated in many civil-rights marches throughout the early 1960s. The peaceful marches made daily news headlines all across the country.

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. More than 250,000 people gathered to hear King deliver his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.



Black voters in Greene County, Alabama, line up at a general store in 1966, to vote for the first time.
(Photo: Flip Schulke/Corbis)
King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The efforts of King and other black leaders made way for huge advances in the civil-rights movement.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred, or prevented, discrimination in public places such as restaurants, movie theaters, and hotels. It also barred discrimination in employment and voter registration.

The 15th Amendment ratified, in 1870, gave blacks the right to vote. In many areas of the United States, however, they were still denied this right. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave blacks even more freedom and protection.

More progress was made with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prevented discrimination in the sale or renting of a house.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting sanitation workers on strike, when he was assassinated.

In his lifetime, King fought hard for the equality of black people but he lent his powerful voice to other issues as well, including poverty and the Vietnam War. King greatly impacted the way people thought about justice and equality in the United States.

Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day every year on the third Monday in January.

For more information about Constitution Day, visit the National Constitution Center's Web site at www.constitutioncenter.org.