The civil rights movement can be defined as a mass popular movement to secure for African Americans equal access to and opportunities for the basic privileges and rights of U.S. citizenship. Although the roots of the civil rights movement go back to the 19th century, the movement peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. African American men and women, along with whites, organized and led the movement at national and local levels. They pursued their goals through legal means, negotiations, petitions, and nonviolent protest demonstrations. The largest social movement of the 20th century, the civil rights movement influenced the modern women's rights movement and the student movement of the 1960s. The civil rights movement centered on the American South, where the African American population was concentrated and where racial inequality in education, economic opportunity, and the political and legal processes was most blatant. Beginning in the late 19th century, state and local governments passed segregation laws, known as Jim Crow laws, and mandated restrictions on voting qualifications that left the black population economically and politically powerless. The movement therefore addressed primarily three areas of discrimination: education, social segregation, and voting rights. The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ushered in a new era in the struggle for civil rights. This landmark decision outlawed racial segregation in public schools. Whites around the country condemned the decision, and in the South such white supremacist groups as the Ku Klux Klan and the Citizens' Council organized to resist desegregation, sometimes resorting to violence. A primary target of supremacist groups was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Over the course of decades the NAACP had filed a procession of court cases, including Brown, and had assumed the lead in the national struggle against segregated...
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