A Divided Union

Civil Rights Movement Non-Violent Direct Action

1955 -- Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks, a black woman travelling on a bus refused to give up her seat to a white man. She was arrested. Angry black women urged their local leaders to act. Martin Luther King formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). This was instrumental in organising the Montgomery bus boycott. Black people provided 75% of the bus company’s money and a boycott seriously affected their profits. America followed the events closely on TV and radio. After a yearlong boycott the Supreme Court declared the segregated buses were unconstitutional. Black people won a momentous victory.

1957 -- Eisenhower introduced the first Civil Rights Act since 1875. It created a Federal Civil Rights commission to prosecute those that denied any citizen their civil rights. The Act didn’t achieve much but it did show that the Federal Government was no longer willing to allow the Southern States to do as they pleased.

1957 -- Martin Luther King formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to fight against racial segregation.

A bust of Martin Luther King Jr


Sit-ins began in the late 1950s -- The (SNCC) Student Non-violent Co-ordination Committee played an important role in sit-ins across the South. The mass protests also helped to draw the attention of the country’s media to other injustices endured by black people.

1960 Tennessee Sit-in -- In Tennessee students organised sit-ins in restaurants, churches and Libraries. Their college expelled them but backed down when teachers threatened to resign.