A watershed moment in the Civil Rights movement comes in the Brown v. Board of Educationdecision. The Supreme Court rules unanimously that, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”, setting the stage for battles over school integration throughout the next following decade.
In September of 1957, nine black teenagers attempt to enroll in a white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Their action sparks one of the pivotal battles of the Civil Rights movement and brings the power of the presidency and the federal government into the dispute.
A 14-year old black boy from Chicago named Emmett Till is lynched in Mississippi, opening America's eyes to racial hatred in the South. Then an African-American seamstress named Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger, and a little-known pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr. calls for a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
At segregated lunch counters from Greensboro to Nashville, young college students face arrest to bring the injustices of segregation to light. And a small group of blacks and whites from the north calling themselves the Freedom Riders brave mob violence in their attempt to expose segregation in bus stations across the South.
When a black Air Force veteran named James H. Meredith enrolls at the University of Mississippi, local mobs riot against federal marshals, turning Ole Miss into a battlefield. Eight months later, governor George Wallace personally blocks the door at the University of Alabama in defiance of a federal court order to admit black students.
Birmingham, Alabama rages as authorities use brutal tactics against nonviolent protestors. Demonstrations spread to other cities, and NAACP leader Medgar Evers is shot in Mississippi. The March on Washington attracts hundreds of thousands of people in August. But the fall begins with one of the worst crimes of the civil rights era: the bombing of a Birmingham church that kills four black girls.
Over the summer, young college students arrive in Mississippi to register black voters. When three volunteers disappear, the public outrage helps lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Disenfranchised blacks from Mississippi take their cause to the Democratic National Convention. And challengers arise to King's vision of nonviolent resistance, most notably Malcolm X.
On March 7th, marchers trying to get from Selma to Montgomery meet Alabama state troopers in a confrontation that becomes known as “Bloody Sunday”. That day results in a larger four-day march involving Martin Luther King, and a powerful speech by President Lyndon Johnson calling for the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Martin Luther King broadens his scope, speaking out against poverty and the Vietnam War, but he is met with resistance — from white protestors, from Lyndon Johnson, and from some in his own coalition. Riots break out in Detroit and other American cities, testing his theory of nonviolence. Then, in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, King is gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
In partnership with NBC affiliates, NBC Learn is producing four Town Halls in cities of historical significance to the Civil Rights struggle, where movement veterans, community activists, religious leaders and educators engage with local high school and college students. Each Town Hall segment features carefully selected archival footage and a thought-provoking discussion about racial equality.