1860s: Freedom at Last | 1870s: Representation | 1880s: Repression | 1890s: End of an Era | The Biographies | Conclusions


The 1890s: The Quest for Civil Rights


The first Texas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was organized in Houston in 1912 (three years after the national organization had been founded). Although it was obscured by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the 1920s, it reorganized in the late 1930s. The NAACP supported the elimination of the white primary and other obstacles to voting, as well as the desegregation of schools and public places.

During the 1940s, more than 1,000,000 African American men served in the armed services, albeit in segregated units, and more than 1,000,000 additional African American men and women left the South and took advantage of wartime full employment and prosperity. These experiences led to rising expectations that racial discrimination would end. Federal courts handed down decisions that eroded the 50-year-old segregation laws. The 1950 case Sweatt vs. Painter required the University of Texas Law School to admit African-American students, thereby eliminating segregation in the South's graduate and professional schools. In Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court required an end to the segregation of schools, buses, restaurants, and other public accommodations, but actual integration took decades to complete. The integration process in Texas was slow and painful. Texas Governor R. Allan Shivers, who opposed the Brown decision, called out Texas Rangers in 1956 to prevent African-American students from entering the public school in Mansfield.

The Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s was led by Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr., who advocated nonviolent civil disobedience in the form of boycotts and sit-ins. The movement culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which swept away the legal barriers of segregation. It forbade discrimination based on race, protected the rights of African Americans to vote, created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and accelerated the desegregation of public schools. Texas followed suit in 1969 by repealing its own separatist statutes. Supreme Court decisions in 1969 and 1971 ordered school districts to increase the number of African-American students in white schools through the controversial practice of busing.

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Page last modified: April 22, 2015