The Civil Rights Era
The NAACP’s long battle against de jure segregation culminated in the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine. Former NAACP Branch Secretary Rosa Parks’ refusal to yield her seat to a white man sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the modern civil rights movement. In response to the Brown decision, Southern states launched a variety of tactics to evade school desegregation, while the NAACP countered aggressively in the courts for enforcement. The resistance to Brown peaked in 1957–58 during the crisis at Little Rock Arkansas’s Central High School. The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups targeted NAACP officials for assassination and tried to ban the NAACP from operating in the South. However, NAACP membership grew, particularly in the South. NAACP Youth Council chapters staged sit-in demonstrations at lunch counters to protest segregation. The NAACP was instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington, the largest mass protest for civil rights. The following year, the NAACP joined the Council of Federated Organizations to launch Mississippi Freedom Summer, a massive project that assembled hundreds of volunteers to participate in voter registration and education. The NAACP-led Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of civil rights organizations, spearheaded the drive to win passage of the major civil rights legislation of the era: the Civil Rights Act of 1957; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
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