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Slideshow: How the Civil Rights Movement Started Skip to content

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The Rise of the Civil Rights Movement

How the 1964 Freedom Summer movement shaped social change in America

  • African American girl sitting at a desk and writing
    Steve Schapiro/Corbis

    1964 Freedom Summer

    En español | Fifty four years ago this month, the civil rights movement exploded into America’s consciousness. As the U.S. Senate wrestled with historic legislation addressing segregation and discrimination, events in the South, across the nation and around the world grabbed headlines and demanded attention.

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  • Child writing 'Free Mandela' on a wall in paint
    Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

    Nelson Mandela

    Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison on June 12 for committing sabotage against the South African apartheid government.

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  • Group of people walking with umbrellas and holding signs that read Freedom Now CORE
    Bettmann/Corbis

    Organizers

    James Farmer (in middle) was national director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in June 1964.

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  • freedom summer civil rights 1964 south worlds fair missing car malcolm x lbj mlk martin luther king jr. mandela bus
    Steve Schapiro/Corbis

    Voter Registration

    Civil rights leader Julian Bond stands next to a bus full of young people taking part in a CORE training session aimed at registering voters in Mississippi.

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  • Malcom X speaking in front of a microphone with his arm raised and finger pointing
    The Granger Collection

    Malcolm X

    Malcolm X announces on June 28 the creation of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, to win freedom for blacks “by any means necessary.”

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  • Martin Luther King, Jr. standing next to President Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act
    Bettmann/Corbis

    Civil Rights Act

    President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act on July 2 after the U.S. Senate passes the landmark legislation, which prohibits discrimination in public places, education and employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex.

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  • FBI Missing poster showing images of three activists: Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner
    Bettmann/Corbis

    Violence

    Three civil rights workers —Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner — disappear on June 21 after investigating a church burning near Philadelphia, Miss., triggering a massive FBI investigation.

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  • African American man holding sign that reads 'Give us American Rights' with white man holding sign that reads

    Sit-Ins

    In 1960, a black student picketed outside Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C., in support of the lunch counter sit-in taking place inside, while a white counter-demonstrator kept in step with him.

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  • African American man speaking in front of a blackboard

    Civil Rights Education

    Freedom Schools were established to address the unequal education received by blacks. Volunteers taught the history of the civil rights movement and leadership development in addition to reading, 
writing and arithmetic.

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  • Barry Goldwater standing in a crowd with election signs behind him

    Barry Goldwater

    Barry Goldwater won the 1964 GOP nomination for president. The founder of the conservative movement opposed the Civil Rights Act, saying it was unconstitutional for the federal government to intrude into states’ affairs.

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  • Black and white civil rights demonstrators standing and sitting and talking in woods

    Unity Among Protestors

    Black and white civil rights demonstrators gather together in Mississippi.

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  • Heavily damaged car being towed up a hill
    Steve Schapiro/Corbis

    Sad Endings

    The bodies of Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were found two months later, buried in an earthen dam.
      Next Slideshow: The impact of the civil rights movement
     

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