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The American Civil Rights Movement
The American Civil Rights Movement

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The American Civil Rights Movement


In the mid-1950s a mass movement developed in opposition to racial discrimination in the United States. This struggle reached its zenith in the early 1960s, when a series of non-violent demonstrations forced the federal government to enact legislation, overturning a deeply entrenched system of racial segregation across the southern states of the USA. The protests of the civil rights movement, and the inspiring words of its leaders, attracted widespread media attention and captured the public imagination. Together with the anti-Vietnam War movement and the counterculture, the civil rights movement has become part of the popular memory of the 1960s, helping to characterise the decade as a period of rapid transformation and upheaval. But how successful, ultimately, was this struggle for racial equality? Was it a radical, revolutionary movement, or something more moderate? In this course, you’ll explore these questions and examine the key events which defined this critical juncture in American history.

Use of racial language and terms

This course deals with topics involving racial issues. Since the societies being studied were characterised by deeply-held and widespread racist views, this course contains language that is also racist. Although these may provoke a strong personal response, we believe it is necessary to engage with such attitudes to reach a clear understanding of the past.

This free course is an adapted extract from the Open University course A113 Revolutions [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . It is one of four OpenLearn courses exploring the notion of the Sixties as a ‘revolutionary’ period. Learn more about these OpenLearn courses here.