Instructing young children on the Civil Rights Movement

You are born with rights.

That is something all children need to know. Certain needs are rights that no one can take away from you. Things that you are entitled to and will be as long as you shall live. However, though most of the people of the world now enjoy unalienable rights, this was not always the case even as close as a hundred years ago.

Many people were denied their fundamental human rights such as the right to life, food, work, education, liberty and health. Particularly the African-American community in the United States of America, who were not given full civil rights by the government even hundred years after the abolishment of slavery. The Civil Rights Movement was born to end this inequality once and for all.

The Civil Rights Movement can be a difficult topic for children to understand. Hence, in this article, we will attempt to break down this topic in simpler chunks so you can teach your child all about it.

What was the Civil Rights Movement?

As you already know the rights of the citizens of a nation are known as their civil rights. Around a hundred years ago, African citizens of the USA were denied full civil rights, which led to nationwide protests against the legislation. The struggle of Black people to earn full civil rights as citizens of the USA is known as the Civil Rights Movement.

When did the Civil Rights Movement start?

Though the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement were sown as early as 1909 when its leader W.E.B. Du Bois formed the NAACP or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the period in history from 1954 to 1968 is officially termed as the age of the Civil Rights Movement. It was at this time when Blacks all over the country united to raise their voice against discrimination, disenfranchisement (when citizens are deprived of certain basic rights),  and racial segregation (when races are treated differently in everyday life).

Who started the Civil Rights Movement?

With the Civil Rights Movement, it is not a question of ‘who’ started it but rather ‘what’ started it.

In the year 1995, on the 1st of December, an African-American woman by the name of Rosa Parks was arrested when she refused to move to the back of a public bus in the city Montgomery, Alabama. This single act of unacceptable discrimination caused a minister of the town of Montgomery, Martin Luther King Jr., to organise a full-fledged boycott of buses by the African-American community.

In turn, this boycott led to the rise of several protests throughout the southern parts of America, thus causing the desegregation of the bus line. Post this incident, Black people led several peaceful protests in droves throughout America, which were quashed brutally by those in power at the time.

However, in the year 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made his now iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington DC, urging people to end discrimination once and for all. This single speech was one of the most powerful moments in Civil Rights Movements that caused the tides to turn, paving the way for victory for the African-American community of the USA.

What are the key points to know about the Civil Rights Movement?

A lot of significant events took place during the Civil Rights Movement which resulted in the implementation of equal rights for Blacks and Whites in America. The key points of the movement have been highlighted below for your convenience:

  • At its core, the aim of the movement was to ensure equal rights for all, irrespective of people’s skin colours. It is a noble cause. Skin colour should not play a role in deciding whether one should get access to basic human rights or not.

  • This was a peaceful movement. Leaders of the movement chose civil disobedience and nonviolent protests as their medium to achieve their goal. The Civil Rights Movement, much like the Non Cooperation Movement led by Gandhiji in India, proved that there are better ways than violence to fight for justice.

  • Though this movement was started by the African-American community of the USA, it attracted activists of different religions and races from all of the country, uniting people for a single and just cause.

  • In the pre-Civil War Era of the United States, which would be the early 1800s, slavery of Black people was rampant in the country. At this point, Blacks were denied all fundamental human rights.

  • In the early to mid 1900s, Democrats of the southern states of the US were opposed to the idea of equal rights for all. They actively passed laws to abolish any of the rights Black people had gained. These unjust laws came to be known as Jim Crow Laws.

  • NAACP or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was formed for the purpose of regaining the rights that Black people had lost due to the Jim Crow Laws.

  • In 1954, a law was passed which made it illegal to have segregated schools for Black and White children. Before that, Black children were not allowed to attend the same schools that their White counterparts did.

  • From the 1950s to 1960s, which were the peak years of the Civil Rights Movement, activists from all over the country joined hands to conduct protests in the form of sit-ins, boycott of buses, children’s crusades, freedom rides and marching to Washington DC.

  • World-famous leaders, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., joined this movement, eventually taking it forward towards the realisation of its goals.

  • In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed in America, which explicitly made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of skin colour in public spaces as well as for jobs. No discrimination of sex, colour, religion, race or home country was allowed as per this law. This was a major victory for the African-American community.

The Civil Rights Movement is one of the most important events in modern history as it paved the way for equality for coloured people. We hope this will help you in teaching your kids about this crucial movement. We have touched upon all the basics from what was the Civil Rights Movement, when did the Civil Rights Movement start and who started the Civil Rights Movement.

At EuroKids, we make it a point to teach our little preschoolers about the important events in worldwide history so we can expand their horizons and make them familiar with global worldviews. If you would like to know more about our curriculum and other activities, be sure to visit us.

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