For Kids

The Civil Rights Movement


Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his "I Have a Dream" Speech

The civil right movement was an organized effort by black people in the United States to gain equal rights under the law. Starting in Montgomery, Alabama and led by Baptist minister and activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the movement used several forms of nonviolent protests, like marches and sit-ins, to draw attention to the injustices black people suffered every day because they did not have the same legal rights as white people. At the time the civil rights movement began, discrimination and segregation were both legal.

Discrimination is treating someone unfairly or unequally compared to the rest of the people around them. Before the civil rights movement it was legal to treat black people differently than the white people living in the same city or town. There were rules about what black people could do and where black people could go. Many of the rules had to do with keeping black people separated from white people. This is called segregation. Black children and white children did not go to the same schools. They were segregated, or separated, from each other. Black families could not go to the same restaurants or use the same restrooms as white families. Black adults were often prevented from voting, which is what citizens do to have their voice heard and their opinion counted.

The goal of the civil rights movement was to end legal discrimination and segregation so that black people would have the same equal rights under the law as white people. This photo from the National Archives is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington. In this speech Dr. King shared his dream for equal rights and inspired many people to support the efforts of the civil rights movement.

To learn more about the important events and people of the civil rights movement look at Read Thru History: Black History Timeline from 1954-1968. For important milestones in the civil rights movement a few books are listed, both fiction and non-fiction, that bring the events and people to life. Take a book walk through history to learn about these fascinating, determined, brave people who stood together so no one stood alone.

Websites, Activities & Printables:

What To Read

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.


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