Dec. 1, 1955, is a date that jump-started the Civil Rights movement. Rosa Parks told a white man on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, she would not give up her seat. Although Parks wasn’t the first one to do so, the Lexington Herald-Leader states she got the most attention.
Ever since that day, what was a mild form of civil disobedience would turn into a national outcry for justice and equality. Here’s what Parks’ statement 55 years ago progressively turned into over the past five decades.
1963: March on Washington and “I Have a Dream” speech
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized the March on Washington in order to protest deplorable working conditions and segregation of African Americans. NPR reports that, when King spoke on Aug. 28, his words were heard by 250,000 in attendance on the National Mall.
King’s speech was a pivotal moment which inspired the hopes of everyone fighting for equal rights for African Americans after the brutality of the 1950s. “I Have a Dream” was the pinnacle of King’s voice of nonviolent protest, and is regarded as the highest example of his ideals.
1971: Rev. Jesse Jackson’s PUSH
In 1971, former King confidante and aide Rev. Jesse Jackson formed his own organization called People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) in 1971. Inspired by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Jackson wanted to lend a voice to all those who sought social justice and to improve the economic conditions of African American communities throughout the United States.
Other goals of the organization were to encourage young people to stay in school and further the cause of business owners. PUSH would later merge with the Rainbow Coalition in 1996 to include people of all backgrounds and faiths working toward common goals of bettering humanity.
1988: Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988
In response to a Supreme Court decision, Congress overrode a veto by Ronald Reagan to pass the Civil Rights Restoration Act in 1988. Reclaim Civil Rights states the law made certain any agency receiving federal funding must comply with all aspects of civil rights laws in every aspect of their operations, not just the part involving federal appropriations.
1995: Million Man March
Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam organized a second march on the National Mall in Washington set to overtake the original in sheer numbers. Called the “Million Man March,” around 850,000 African American men took part, according to BlackPast.org. The point of the march was to inspire African Americans back in their communities and start a Renaissance through culture, religions, economics and racial pride.
2008: Barack Obama Elected President
One moment that ties all of these events together is the victory speech given by Barack Obama on election night 2008. No one will ever forget a weeping Jesse Jackson looking on as Obama accepted the presidency at Grant Park in Chicago. It was a night when the struggles of King, Jackson and every African American before them took a giant leap forward as America’s first African American president was elected.
Even though Parks started the modern Civil Rights movement and galvanized African Americans behind one cause, the fight for equality in America is far from over. With many African Americans still facing higher levels of poverty and higher school drop-out rates than Caucasians, there are still socioeconomic factors to consider when discussing civil rights today.
Smith, Starita, “It wasn’t just Rosa Parks in Montgomery 55 years ago,” Kentucky.com.
NPR, “The March on Washington.”
Rainbow PUSH Organization, “Brief History.”
Reclaim Civil Rights, “Civil Rights FAQs.”
BlackPast.org, “Million Man March, 1995.”
PBS.org, “Vote 2008.”
MSNBC, “Income gap between black, white families grows.”
National Center for Education Statistics, “Fast Facts.”