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If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King (If You)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. Which of the following public places were affected by segregation laws during the 1950's and 1960's:
a) Schools
b) Restaurants
c) Water Fountains
d) Hospitals
e) All of the above

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled "separate but equal" accommodation were constitutional. This case was Plessy v. Ferguson. Only Justice John Marshall Harlan dissented (or disagreed) and wrote, "Our Constitution is color-blind."

During the 1950's and 1960's, southern states continued to pass "separate but equal" laws. These laws are referred to as segregation laws because they segregated (or separated) people based on race.

Most of the public places in the South were segregated by law. This included schools, restaurants, water fountains, and hospitals. It also applied to libraries, swimming pools, parks, movie theaters, restrooms, waiting rooms, hotels, elevators, lunch counters, public beaches, telephone booths, cemeteries, and seating on public buses. There were signs stating "Whites Only" or "Colored Only" designating the separate facilities.

At movie theaters, African-Americans sat either in the back, upstairs, or in separate theaters. When African-Americans rode a bus, they entered the front door to pay, and then they exited the bus and re-entered through the back door.

During the Civil Rights Movement, many people used civil disobedience as a form of protest. Civil disobedience is the refusal to obey a law considered wrong, evil, or unjust. Did you know almost 20,000 people were arrested between 1960 and 1963 for protesting and breaking segregation laws?

During the Civil Rights Movement, laws were passed which ended segregation and discrimination. Restaurants, hotels, theaters, bus stations, and other public places became integrated.

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2. True or False: Before 1954, it was legal for public schools to be segregated.
True. Public schools were just one of the many public places which were segregated. The conditions of African-American schools were worse than white schools. They were usually run-down, one-room buildings with no air condition or heating, no water, and no electricity. There were few teachers, few books, and few supplies.

White children and black children were usually not allowed to play together.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue of "separate but equal" in public schools in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The Court ruled segregation in public schools was inherently unequal. However, segregation remained in private schools. Did you know Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer for the NAACP who argued Brown v. Board of Education? Later, Marshall became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

In September, 1957, nine African-American students tried to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The governor sent the Arkansas National Guard to stop the students from entering the school. President Eisenhower stepped in. He sent U.S. soldiers to Arkansas to escort the children to school for the entire school year.

In 1962, James Meredith tried to attend the University of Mississippi. The governor did not allow him to enroll because Meredith was African-American. President Kennedy stepped in. He sent federal marshals and the National Guard to Mississippi. Meredith was finally allowed to enroll, and he became the first African-American to graduate from the University of Mississippi.

In 1963, two African-American students tried to attend the University of Alabama. Governor George Wallace of Alabama stopped them from entering. Again, President Kennedy stepped in, and again he sent in federal troops. The students were finally allowed to enter.

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3. Describe ONE of the following people:
Martin Luther King, Jr.: He was one of the most famous leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. King believed in nonviolent action and civil disobedience. Sometimes he was arrested for breaking segregation laws. On April 16, 1963, King wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail which was published in newspapers and magazines. It stated segregation laws are unjust and hurt people. It became famous and is referred to as Martin Luther King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail. King was also the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Read about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rosa Parks: She was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus on December 1, 1955. This event led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted over a year. The boycott ended after the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation on public buses was unconstitutional. Read about Rosa Parks.

A. Philip Randolph: He was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and helped plan the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.

Thurgood Marshall: He was a lawyer for the NAACP who argued and won the school segregation case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. He then became the first African-American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Malcolm X: He was the leader of the Black Muslims.

Coretta Scott King: She is the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.

James Meredith: He was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Mississippi.

Reverend Jesse Jackson: He ran for President of the United States in 1984 and 1988.

John F. Kennedy: He was the President of the United States from 1961 to 1963.

Robert F. Kennedy: He was the Attorney General of the United States during the Kennedy Administration. He was also the brother of President Kennedy.

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4. Name the state in which each city is located.
Birmingham, Alabama: It was a city where violence broke out during the Freedom Rides in 1961, and it was where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous Letter From A Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963. King referred to Birmingham as "probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States." Four days after the March on Washington (August 28, 1963), four young African-American girls were killed when a bomb exploded in a Birmingham church.

Greensboro, North Carolina: It was the city where the Greensboro Lunch Counter sit-ins took place in 1960.

Jackson, Mississippi: It was a city where violence broke out during the Freedom Rides in 1961.

Little Rock, Arkansas: It was the city where nine African-American students tried to attend the all-white Central High School in September, 1957. The governor sent the Arkansas National Guard to stop the students from entering the school. President Eisenhower stepped in. He sent U.S. soldiers to Arkansas to escort the children to school for the entire school year.

Montgomery, Alabama: It was the city where the Montgomery Bus Boycott occurred from 1955 to 1956, and where violence broke out during the Freedom Rides in 1961. It was also the city where the voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, ended on March 25, 1965.

Selma, Alabama: It was the city where Martin Luther King, Jr. started the 54-mile march to Montgomery, Alabama, to petition for voting rights on March 7, 1965. The marchers were stopped and injured by state troopers. Two weeks later, over 2,000 marchers began and completed the 5-day march to Montgomery.

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5. Define ONE of the following marches or protests:
Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956)
African-Americans refused to ride the city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, for over one year as a protest of the segregation laws.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one of the first protests of the Civil Rights Movement. In March, 1955, teenager Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, and she was arrested. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was also arrested for the same reason. Parks was found guilty and required to pay a $14 fine.

Jo Ann Robinson, the president of the Women's Political Council, and E. D. Nixon had a plan to boycott the city buses of Montgomery. They distributed 35,000 leaflets asking African-Americans to stop riding the buses. Community leaders and church ministers, including Martin Luther King, Jr., met to discuss the protest.

The next Monday (December 5), 50,000 African-Americans did not ride the city buses. They decided to continue the boycott until segregation on buses ended. For over a year, African-Americans walked, hitchhiked, rode bicycles, or shared car rides.

On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Alabama's state and local laws requiring segregation on buses were unconstitutional. The boycott ended on December 21, 1956. It had lasted 382 days.

Greensboro Sit-In (1960)
Four African-American students sat at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, to protest segregated lunch counters.

On February 1, 1960, four African-American students bought school supplies at a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina. When they ordered at the lunch counter, they were told they were not allowed to sit there because of their race. They continued to sit there until they were served.

The news of the sit-in spread. By the end of February, there were sit-ins in thirty-one cities across the South. The sit-ins continued throughout the year. By the spring of 1961, the sit-ins helped change segregation laws in almost 140 cities.

The lunch counter sit-ins also inspired other types of civil rights protests. There were wade-ins at pools, stand-ins at theaters, sit-ins at libraries, kneel-ins at churches, and lie-ins at hotels and motels.

Freedom Rides of 1961
Bus rides throughout the South which eventually made the South obey the integration laws of buses and bus stations.

The Freedom Rides of 1961 were one of the most famous civil rights protests. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled buses traveling from state to state must be integrated, and the bus stations must also be integrated. However, these laws were ignored in the South.

In 1961, James Farmer, the head of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), organized a "Freedom Ride" from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. During this trip, thirteen people (seven black and six white) sat together. On the outskirts of Anniston, Alabama, one of the two buses carrying the Freedom Riders was attacked and set on fire. Several of the riders were beaten. The second bus reached Birmingham, Alabama, and some of its passengers were beaten. The news of this violence was spread through newspapers. The riders decided to stop.

Students belonging to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) thought the Freedom Rides should continue to make buses in the South safe for everyone. They rode from Birmingham to Montgomery, Alabama, and on to Jackson, Mississippi. In Montgomery, the Freedom Riders and their supporters were attacked, and President Kennedy sent 600 federal marshals to protect them. In Jackson, the Freedom Riders were imprisoned for disobeying segregation laws.

The Freedom Rides continued throughout the summer of 1961. In September, 1961, the U.S. government found new ways to enforce the integration of buses and bus stations, and these laws were obeyed.

The words "Freedom Rider" became a badge of honor and described any person who helped the Civil Rights Movement.

March on Washington (1963)
The largest Civil Rights demonstration to protest discrimination which occurred on August 28, 1963.

On August 28, 1963, civil rights supporters gathered near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to attend the March on Washington to protest discrimination. Almost 250,000 people rode at least 2,000 buses and 30 special trains to attend this event planned by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. One of the speakers was Martin Luther King, Jr. In his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, King stated, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

March from Selma to Montgomery (1965)
A 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery to petition for voting rights.

The right to vote is very important. When a person has the right to vote, he or she has a voice in who is elected as police commissioner, mayor, school board member, and to other public offices. During the Civil Rights Movement, these positions were very important. The police commissioner could decide not to turn attack dogs on children. The mayor could enforce integration laws. And the school board members could choose to buy good books for all children.

In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution which gave all men the right to vote regardless of his "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was added which gave women the right to vote. Although African-Americans had the right to vote during the 1950's and 1960's, the laws in the South made it difficult for them to vote.

The March from Selma to Montgomery helped shed light on this problem. When the 525 marchers began on March 7, 1965, they were stopped almost immediately by state troopers. Two weeks later, a second march began. This time, there were over 2,000 marchers, and they were protected by 3,000 federal troops. They completed the march five days later in Montgomery, Alabama.

On August 4, 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, and African-Americans had greater access to the polls. Since then, African-Americans have been elected as U.S. Representatives and Senators, state government officials, mayors, police chiefs, and many other positions. Did you know Reverend Jesse Jackson ran for President of the United States in 1984 and 1988?

Other Protests
Other forms of protests included Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter From A Birmingham Jail, the Freedom Summer of 1964, and the Poor People's March on Washington.

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6. How did the news of the Civil Rights Movement spread throughout the country?
By word of mouth, listening to speeches, reading newspapers and magazines, and watching television.

Many of the people living in the South, especially Alabama and Mississippi, experienced the Civil Rights Movement first hand. Others only knew what was going on through reading articles in the newspaper and watching it on television.

Images of buses on fire during the Freedom Rides, police dogs attacking people, and fire hoses forcefully spraying protestors were seen on television throughout the country.

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7. What month is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday celebrated?
January.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, and the King Federal Holiday is observed on the 3rd Monday of every January to celebrate his birthday.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Four days later, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives establishing a Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday. On November 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill establishing the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday. The King Holiday was first observed on January 20, 1986.

Did you know Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964? The Nobel Peace Prize is given to the person (or persons) in the world who had done the most for peace that year. King believed civil rights protests should be peaceful and nonviolent.

>>Read about Martin Luther King, Jr.

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Civil Rights Movement: The fight for freedom and equality for African-Americans during the 1950's and 1960's

Segregation Laws: Laws set up to separate people based on race

Sit-in: Nonviolent form of protesting racial segregation in which people peacefully sit in public places where segregation laws prohibit them to sit. For example, African-Americans peacefully sitting at a lunch counter in a public restaurant.

Attorney General: The chief lawyer for the United States government

Civil Disobedience: Peacefully refusing to obey a law believed to be wrong, evil, or unjust

Freedom Singers: A group of singers traveling around the country and singing in concerts to raise money for the Civil Rights Movement

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. Compare segregation in the South with segregation in the North.
In the South, public places were segregated by law, and in the North they were not
.

In the North, neighborhoods, restaurants, and clubs were segregated by custom, not by law. African-Americans usually lived in separate neighborhoods. Since children attended school in their neighborhood, African-American children and white children usually attended different schools. Like in the South, African-American schools in the North had less money and were in worse conditions than white schools.

In the North, some public places were desegregated. This included water fountains, lunch counters, buses, and movie theaters. Also, African-Americans in the North were more free to vote.

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b. What are the words to the song "We Shall Overcome?"
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome some day,
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome some day.

We'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand some day,
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome some day.

We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid today,
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace some day,
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome some day.

Singing was an important part of the Civil Rights Movement. Songs were used to lift spirits and to give people strength and courage. In Albany, Georgia, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized a group of Freedom Singers. These singers traveled around the country singing concerts and raising money for the Civil Rights Movement.

Did you know the song "We Shall Overcome" became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement?

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c. Describe the significance of ONE of the following U.S. Supreme Court cases or U.S. laws:
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
U.S. Supreme Court case holding "separate but equal" is constitutional.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled "separate but equal" accommodations were constitutional. It allowed a Louisiana state law to require separate accommodations based on race. Only Justice John Marshall Harlan dissented (or disagreed) and wrote, "Our Constitution is color-blind."

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)
U.S. Supreme Court case holding segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue of "separate but equal" in public schools. The Court reversed its 1896 decision that "separate but equal" was constitutional. On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools was inherently unequal. Did you know Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer for the NAACP who argued the case? Later, Marshall became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Civil Rights Act (1964)
Federal law protecting civil rights based on race, including desegregation of public places.

In June, 1963, President John F. Kennedy sent a civil rights bill to Congress calling for the desegregation of public places, including hotels, restaurants, and theaters. This bill also gave the Department of Justice authority to sue schools which remained segregated. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. This Act and the Voting Rights Act were among two of the important Civil Rights laws passed in the 1960's.

Voting Rights Act (1965)
Federal law protecting the right to vote for people of all races.

On August 4, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. It granted all African-Americans the right to vote. This Act and the Civil Rights Act were among two of the important Civil Rights laws passed in the 1960's.

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d. What do the following acronyms stand for:
NAACP: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It was founded in 1909. One of the ways the NAACP helps fight segregation is to bring cases to court.

CORE: Congress of Racial Equality. It was founded in Chicago in 1942. CORE organized the first Freedom Rides in 1947, and organized the Freedom Rides of 1961.

SCLC: Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It was founded in 1957, after the Montgomery Bus Boycott from December 5, 1955, to December 21, 1956. It used nonviolent protests to end segregation laws, and it elected Martin Luther King, Jr. as its president.

SNCC: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. It was founded in 1960, by students after the sit-ins.

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e. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
Answers will vary. Here are sample sentences from our young readers:
Martin Luther King was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation laws were unconstitutional.

Sit-ins were used to protest segregation laws during the Civil Rights Movement.

Janet Reno was the first female Attorney General.

Nonviolent marches and protests are a type of civil disobedience.

Freedom Singers sang during the 1960's.

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f. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about the Civil Rights Movement:
IMA Hero™ Martin Luther King In-Depth History
IMA Hero™ Rosa Parks In-Depth History
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Civil Rights Museum
Martin Luther King, Jr. & the Civil Rights Movement Photo Gallery (Seattle Times)
The African-American World (PBS)
Encyclopedia Britannica Guide to Black History
World Book Encyclopedia: The African American Journey
Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University
Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail

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