How the Civil Rights Movement Worked

Between 200,000 and 500,000 demonstrators march down Constitution Avenue during the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Barack Obama became president of the U.S. in 2008, many people hailed it as the culmination of the civil rights movement. As late as the 1960s, African-Americans in many parts of the U.S. could not vote. Now, some 50 years on, a black man was president of America. But Obama's election was not a sign that equal rights for people of all races had been achieved. However, it certainly would not have been possible without the advances from the civil rights movement.

The civil rights movement is the term given to the strategies and activities undertaken in the U.S. to end racial segregation and discrimination against blacks in America and to secure legal recognition of the rights that were already promised to them in the U.S. Constitution. Most of the activities took place between 1954 and 1968 and involved people of all races.

Despite hundreds of years of oppressive laws and violence against blacks, a single generation was able to influence important legislation and adjust entire attitudes of a prejudiced culture — and they didn't have the Internet, social media or any of the modern tools of communication.

How did they do it? Who were some of the people involved? Keep reading to learn about the civil rights movement, an era that changed the course of American history.