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The Civil Rights Movement

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In the postwar years, the NAACP's legal strategy for civil rights continued to succeed. Led by Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund challenged and overturned many forms of discrimination, but their main thrust was equal educational opportunities. For example, in Sweat v. Painter (1950), the Supreme
Court decided that the University of Texas had to integrate its law school.
Marshall and the Defense Fund worked with Southern plaintiffs to challenge the
Plessy doctrine directly, arguing in effect that separate was inherently unequal.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on five cases that challenged elementary- and secondary-school segregation, and in May 1954 issued its landmark ruling in
Brown v. Board of Education that stated that racially segregated education was unconstitutional. White Southerners received the Brown decision first with shock and, in some instances, with expressions of goodwill. By 1955, however, white opposition in the South had grown into massive resistance, a strategy to persuade all whites to resist compliance with the desegregation orders. It was believed that if enough people refused to cooperate with the federal court order, it could not be enforced. Tactics included firing school employees who showed willingness to seek integration, closing public schools rather than desegregating, and boycotting all public education that was integrated.
The White Citizens Council was formed and led opposition to school desegregation allover the South. The Citizens Council called for economic coercion of blacks who favored integrated schools, such as firing them from jobs, and the creation of private, all-white schools. Virtually no schools in the South were desegregated in the first years after the Brown decision. In Virginia one county did indeed close its public schools. In Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, Governor Orval
Faubus defied a federal court order to admit nine black students to Central High
School, and President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce desegregation. The event was covered by the national media, and the fate of the
Little Rock Nine, the students attempting to integrate the school, dramatized the seriousness of the school desegregation issue to many Americans. Although not all school desegregation was as dramatic as in Little Rock, the desegregation process did proceed-gradually. Frequently schools were desegregated only in theory, because racially segregated neighborhoods led to segregated schools. To overcome this problem, some school districts in the 1970s tried busing students to schools outside of their neighborhoods. As desegregation progressed, the membership of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) grew.
The KKK used violence or threats against anyone who was suspected of favoring desegregation or black civil rights. Klan terror, including intimidation and murder, was widespread in the South in the 1950s and 1960s, though Klan
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