During the early 20th century in Southern states, racial segregation was the norm, and blacks had limited opportunities.
But the 1950s brought forces to bear that would launch a powerful civil rights campaign.
Black soldiers who had fought in the war beside whites came home expecting to work beside them. The black media flourished, spreading news of injustice. Black lawyers chipped away at legal justifications for segregation. And black students, at times disobeying their parents, planned demonstrations.
Ministers saw a religious context to the civil rights struggle. Among them, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., a gifted orator who had been influenced by India’s Mahatma Gandhi in his belief in nonviolent protest, rose quickly to lead the movement.
It was a movement of children and adults, preachers and lawyers, sharecroppers and presidents. They all felt a sense of urgency, a sense that, no matter what, they could not turn back.