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GET UP, STAND UP: The Story of Pop and Protest Flash Points
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Listen to selections from VOICES OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. The struggle for full equality for African Americans in the United States began the day slavery was outlawed, but the start of the contemporary civil rights movement can be linked to several key events: the newfound sense of empowerment of returning black servicemen, who had served with honor during World War II;
the 1954 Supreme Court decision (Brown v. Board of Education) declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional; and the arrest of Rosa Parks, a member of the NAACP, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the rear of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955. Blacks, many of whom were students, led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and other church leaders, used nonviolent acts of civil disobedience -- economic boycotts, sit-ins, protest marches, freedom rides -- and were aided by the NAACP's legal victories in the Supreme Court to bring an end to legalized racial discrimination. Their efforts also led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

Opposition by local and state governments was often violent, and music, including spirituals and hymns, helped illustrate the goals and justness of the struggle and strengthened activists' courage.

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Audio excerpts from VOICES OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, Smithsonian Folkways SFW40084, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Used by permission. (Photo: National Archives [top right])

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