Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

Civil Rights Movement Unit

Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement Unit

Many of the major events which defined the modern Civil Rights Movement in America took place in Alabama during the 1950s and 1960s. Concerted efforts to guarantee African Americans equal access to public and private transportation, schools, voting booths, economic opportunities, and housing caused tremendous social turmoil all over the South, where legal discrimination against black Americans was most pronounced.


From Alabama emerged two of the leading figures in the struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to prominence here as a spokesman for African Americans seeking equality, while Governor George C. Wallace became the symbol for white resistance to racial integration. Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Selma all figured prominently in the contest between the two views these leaders represented.


Boycotts, demonstrations, and protest marches by Civil Rights activists provoked sometimes violent responses from whites determined to resist integration. This, in turn, focused national attention to Alabama, leading to a series of federal court orders and congressional legislation to guarantee black Americans equalilty under the law.


Go to: Lesson 1: Riding the Bus - Taking a Stand
Go to: Lesson 2: The Opinions of the Public
Go to: Lesson 3: Birmingham 1963
Go to: Lesson 4: Marching for Justice - Selma to Montgomery
Go to: Lesson 5: Voting Rights