A Tradition of Activism
Throughout history, African Americans have taken action to improve their lives and challenge America to live up to its democratic ideals. Working both within and across racial lines, Black activists mobilized to abolish slavery, secure civil rights, fight against injustice, and expand social and economic opportunities. African Americans employed a range of strategies to effect change—including legal battles, mass protests, grassroots campaigns, public debates, and community development. By believing that change was possible, Black Americans changed history. Activists today draw on these achievements and study the lessons of the past in order to develop strategies for the future.
Revolution is not a one-time event.
The Struggle for Civil Rights 1900–Present
Though the Civil Rights Act of 1866 affirmed the civil rights of all citizens regardless of race or “previous condition of slavery,” segregation and discriminatory laws subjected African Americans to violence and exploitation across the country. Building on 19th-century activism, African Americans at the turn of the 20th century continued the struggle for civil rights. This timeline explores 20th-century milestones, watershed events, and the work of numerous organizations, legislators, educators, protestors, and organizers that ushered in civil rights reform. Lessons learned from their work reveal the civil rights strategies and victories that help inform present-day efforts to achieve equality.
A Tradition of Activism: Resources
History, Rebellion, and Reconciliation
Communities Mobilized for Social Change