The Civil Rights Movement

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Reviews

These volumes should be helpful to students searching for information on a particular case, or for a discussion of topics such as 'Affirmative Action' and 'Civil Disobedience.' While libraries owning the original titles may not need this set, others will find it a useful addition [to] reference collections.
School Library Journal 

This would be a good addition where more material on the topic is needed. The book includes an outstanding bibliography, brief sketches of important civil rights figures, a time line, and an index.
The Book Report 

Libraries having the former are not likely to need this set, but other academic and public collections will find it a convient guide to an historic struggle.
Lawrence Looks at Books  
Reference Reviews 

Entries are clearly written and accessible to good high school students.... This is a useful chronology.
American Reference  
Books Annual 

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November 1999 · 2 volumes
765 pages · 6"x9"

ISBN: 978-0-89356-169-7
# of Pages: 765
# of Volumes: 2
Print List Price: $130

The Civil Rights Movement
This contribution to Salem Press's Magill's Choice series is a broadly conceived survey of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. In 319 alphabetically arranged essays, The Civil Rights Movement examines racial issues in all their manifestations, providing a strong emphasis on the role of African Americans—who, by all measures, were at the heart of the Civil Rights movement and provided its primary leaders.

Among books published on the Civil Rights movement, the breadth of this set may be unique. Its articles, ranging in length from 200 to 2,500 words, examine the Civil Rights movement in all its dimensions. The forces underlying the modern Civil Rights movement began taking shape well before the 1950's, when it developed into a powerful and dramatic national force that could not be ignored. In addition to the many articles in these volumes specifically addressing major aspects of African American history, nearly one hundred articles examine what lay behind the prejudice and discrimination that African Americans—and members of other racial and ethnic minorities—faced. To explain the concepts behind this reference work, it is helpful to review what is meant by the phrase "Civil Rights movement."

Articles in this set are arranged alphabetically under simple, straightforward titles. Additional help in finding information is provided by extensive cross-references listed at the end of each essay and by a comprehensive index. The 138 longest articles contain up-to-date bibliographical notes on core sources. Additional bibliographical material can be found in a comprehensive bibliographical appendix at the end of volume 2. Other appendices include a directory of profiles of eighty leading figures in civil rights history, the complete text of the U.S. Constitution, and a time line.

The term "civil rights" has been applied in many different ways and is often treated as synonymous with "civil liberties." In narrower usage, however, these concepts have distinct meanings. Civil rights are generally understood to be positive government actions undertaken to protect members of minority groups against forms of discrimination leveled at them because of their membership in those groups. By contrast, civil liberties are generally understood to be negative government guarantees against restricting rights belonging to all citizens. Most of the rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights are thus civil liberties. For example, the First Amendment prohibits Congress from abridging the rights of free speech, free press, freedom of assembly and petition, and religion. (These protections were later extended to apply to all levels of government, not just the federal Congress.) In principle, at least, all American citizens are entitled to enjoy these and many other civil liberties without fear of government hindrance.

The concept of civil rights is an outgrowth of historical situations in which rights have been denied, not to all citizens, but only to members of certain groups. For this reason, civil rights are often called "minority rights." In U.S. history, groups whose members have been denied rights have been defined mainly by race, sex, age, and sexual orientation. Especially pervasive examples have included denial of the vote to African Americans living in the South in the century following the Civil War and the almost total denial of the vote to women until passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

The need for government to take positive steps to correct civil rights abuses was first recognized around the time of the Civil War, when the impending abolition of slavery was raising questions of what rights former slaves were to have. After the war ended, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution were passed to abolish slavery, guarantee citizenship to all persons born in the United States—regardless of past servitude—and to prohibit denying the vote to citizens on the basis of race. These amendments alone, however, were not sufficient to protect African American rights, so Congress went further by passing a series of civil rights acts that spelled out other, more specific, rights and empowered the federal government to enforce them. Within a decade, however, the courts overturned these laws, effectively removing civil rights protections of African Americans until well into the twentieth century. Moreover, not only did the federal government retreat from protecting African American rights, it stood by while state governments—particularly those of the former Confederacy—passed discriminatory legislation making the condition of their African American citizens even worse. Eventually, the federal government again intervened to protect minority rights.

The epoch commonly known as the Civil Rights movement is generally regarded as having begun in the mid-1950's. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial discrimination in public schools in its Brown v. Board of Education decision. A few years later, an African American boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama, launched a decade-long era of antidiscrimination protest campaigns and voter-registration drives that culminated in the first significant civil rights legislation in nearly a century. By the end of the 1960's, virtually all major forms of legally enforced or protected racial discrimination were outlawed, and for the first time in American history it could be said that something approximating racial equality existed—at least on paper. Afterward, the struggle for real equality continued, but without most of the legal barriers it had previously encountered.

The political and social gains made by the Civil Rights movement were not merely products of government generosity or goodwill, they were won through relentless campaigning by Americans who refused to be denied rights on the basis of their membership in racial and ethnic groups. Because of their numbers and the distance they had to travel to attain legal equality, African Americans were the driving force behind the Civil Rights movement. They are also the focus of this two-volume set on the movement.

Many civil rights issues were debated in the courts, with most finally being settled in the U.S. Supreme Court. Individual court cases are the subject of forty-six articles. Since "civil rights" are, in effect, defined around positive government actions, it follows that legislation is a central part of civil rights history. Thirty of this set's articles, therefore, discuss individual pieces of legislation, including key constitutional amendments. Organizations advocating civil rights were also important components of the Civil Rights movement, and the set contains forty-two articles on black churches, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), as well as government agencies and other bodies.

The overwhelming majority of essays in this set are taken from Salem's new reference work, Racial and Ethnic Relations in America. The rest have been adapted from other Salem works, such as American Justice and Great Lives from History: American Series.All of the essays were written with the needs of students and general readers in mind. This project draws on the work of 187 scholars, to whom we once again express our thanks.