From 1955 to 1965 there was war between the United States and the United States. No, it was not a war like World War II or the Revolution. It was a battle of the heart and soul of this country to make it clear once and for all that America will be a country with equal opportunities for all. It was the war that eventually took the name “The Civil Rights Movement.”
We must not make a mistake, this was not just a shouting game. Some of the events we remember today were very cruel and deadly. Those who fought in this war on both sides were very determined for the causes they were independent of and were willing to fight even to the death to see that their goal was achieved. The war continued for years and there was steady progress but not without great sacrifice by the party leaders who were dedicated to giving new meaning to the phrase "free my people."
Throughout the history of blacks, there may not have been a significant period since the Civil War in which African American Americans fought so hard and were defeated. Tensions in the country continued. When the Supreme Court authorized the separation of schools from Brown's history books and the Board of Education, a stage was set. But it was December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to donate her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man when the movement finally came to a standstill and became a titanic struggle for the rights of African Americans in the United States. That first battle brought to the fore one of the most important human rights activists of all time, Rev. Martin Luther King.
This great struggle for freedom was not easy and was marked by violence. Over the next decade some of the most important events in black history took place including…
* 1957 - President Eisenhower had to send state troops to Arkansas to allow him to enter Central High School with nine black students.
* 1960 - Sitting at the Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina set the stage for a non-violent protest that was used with great success throughout the struggle. Non-violent protests and civil disobedience became the basis for civil rights campaigns under the influence of Martin Luther King.
* 1963 - A historic march in Washington where more than 200,000 people gathered to hear Dr. Kings' famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
* 1964 - President Lyndon Johnson signs a bill that was the most significant event in his presidency and one that he strongly believed in, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
* 1965 - Malcolm X grant and Watts race rights.
* 1965 - President Johnson takes another bold step to accelerate the civil rights movement using Affirmative Action in issuing Executive Order 11246.
This short list is just a few of the highlights of this troubled time when the rights of all American citizens, black and white, and all colors were redefined in the streets, courts, and various government departments. In the years to come there will be major steps forward. Individually, every area of American life will see the explosion of African Americans in the areas of sports, entertainment, education and politics. There were many moments of pride and there were moments of great shame and horrible acts committed by white and black people. But throughout that struggle, society continued to grow and adapt to democracy as has always been the norm in American culture.
The struggle is far from over. Prejudice and hate speech continue to be a problem today. And while it is easy to think of those days of struggle with remorse, we can also look back with pride. We can be proud of great leaders who have shown great courage and wisdom to lead this nation to a better life. And we can be proud of America because it is here that such a struggle can create equality and freedom for all citizens, not just a few.