Civil Rights in the USA

Civil Rights in the USA

  • Black Codes
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act
  • Reconstruction Plans
  • Reconstruction Acts
  • Wade-Davis Act
  • Civil Rights (1866)
  • Howard University
  • 13th Amendment
  • Radical Republicans
  • Fugitive Slave Law
  • Emancipation Proclamation
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Freemen's Bureau
  • Civil Rights (1875)
  • Fisk University
  • 14th Amendment
  • Niagara Movement
  • UNIA
  • Lynching of Rubin Stacy
  • National Assoc. of Colored Women
  • Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill
  • Fisk University
  • Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Journey of Reconciliation
  • Fair Employment Act (1942)
  • Randolph Institute
  • Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • Lynching of Emmett Till
  • SCLC
  • SNCC
  • Black Panthers
  • Freedom Summer
  • Baptist Church Bombing
  • March on Washington: 1963
  • Mississippi Burning
  • Black Panthers
  • Watts Race Riot
  • Civil Rights Act (1960)
  • Immigration Act (1965)
  • Americans for Democratic Action
  • Nonviolent Resistance
  • Strange Fruit
  • National Council of Negro Women
  • Costigan-Wagner Bill
  • Howard University
  • National Urban League
  • Jim Crow Laws
  • March on Washington: 1941
  • Little Rock High School
  • Southern Poor Law Centre
  • Freedom Riders
  • Segregated Lunch Counters
  • Congress of Racial Equality
  • Head Start
  • Black Power
  • Freedom Schools
  • Black Muslims
  • Selma March
  • March Against Fear
  • Civil Rights Memorial
  • Civil Rights Act (1957)
  • Civil Rights Act (1964)
  • Voting Rights Act (1965)
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Richard Allen
  • Susan Anthony
  • Charles Ball
  • Henry Ward Beecher
  • Henry Bibb
  • James Birney
  • Amelia Bloomer
  • Olympia Brown
  • Henry Box Brown
  • John Brown
  • William Wells Brown
  • Martha Browne
  • Henry Clay Bruce
  • Martin Van Buren
  • Annie Burton
  • Mary Ann Cary
  • Maria Chapman
  • Salmon P. Chase
  • Lydia Maria Child
  • Joseph Cinque
  • Peter H. Clark
  • Levi Coffin
  • Samuel Eli Cornish
  • Prudence Crandall
  • Alexander Crummell
  • Offobah Cugoano
  • Henry Winter Davis
  • William H. Day
  • Martin R. Delany
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Olaudah Equiano
  • James Forten
  • Francis Fredric
  • Henry H. Garnet
  • Thomas Garrett
  • William Lloyd Garrison
  • Joshua Giddings
  • Lewis Clarke
  • Moses Grandy
  • Horace Greeley
  • Angelina Grimke
  • Sarah Grimke
  • Frances Harper
  • Walter Hawkins
  • Oliver Howard
  • Samuel Gridley Howe
  • Josiah Henson
  • Harriet Jacobs
  • Thomas Johnson
  • John Jones
  • Elizabeth Keckley
  • Charles Langston
  • John M. Langston
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Mary Livermore
  • Elijah Lovejoy
  • Benjamin Lundy
  • Isaiah T. Montgomery
  • Lucretia Mott
  • Solomon Northup
  • Robert Dale Owen
  • James Pennington
  • Wendell Phillips
  • Robert Purvis
  • Charles Remond
  • Moses Roper
  • Josephine Ruffin
  • David Ruggles
  • Austin Steward
  • William Seward
  • Gerrit Smith
  • Edwin Stanton
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Thaddeus Stevens
  • William Still
  • Lucy Stone
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Jacob Stroyer
  • Charles Sumner
  • Arthur Tappan
  • Lewis Tappan
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Sojourner Truth
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Henry M. Turner
  • Nat Turner
  • Bethany Veney
  • Fanny Garrison Villard
  • Benjamin Wade
  • Theodore Weld
  • Ida Wells-Barnett
  • Phillis Wheatley
  • Walt Whitman
  • John Greenleaf Whittier
  • Fanny Wright
  • Zamba Zembola
  • Ralph Abernathy
  • Bella Abzug
  • Jane Addams
  • Herbert Aptheker
  • Bill Bailey
  • Ella J. Baker
  • Ray Stannard Baker
  • James Baldwin
  • Roger Baldwin
  • William Barbee
  • Marion Barry
  • Daisy Bates
  • Frances Bergman
  • Walter Bergman
  • Mary McLeod Bethune
  • Albert Bigelow
  • Betsy Blair
  • Ed Blankenheim
  • Julian Bond
  • Arna Bontemps
  • Anne Braden
  • Carl Braden
  • Edward Brooke
  • Elaine Brown
  • H. Rap Brown
  • Ralph Bunche
  • James Cannon
  • Doris Jean Castle
  • Emanuel Celler
  • James Chaney
  • John Carlos
  • Stokely Carmichael
  • Kathleen Cleaver
  • Eldridge Cleaver
  • Edward Costigan
  • Benjamin Elton Cox
  • Jonathan Daniels
  • Charles Darrow
  • Angela Davis
  • Benjamin Davis
  • Morris Dees
  • Ronald Dellums
  • Oliver Depriest
  • John Dewey
  • David Dillinger
  • Michael Donald
  • Hal Draper
  • Edmund Duffy
  • Leonidas Dyer
  • William Du Bois
  • Crystal Eastman
  • Elizabeth Eckford
  • Medger Evers
  • James Farmer
  • Louis Farrakhan
  • Walter E. Fauntroy
  • Joseph Felmet
  • E. Franklin Frazier
  • James Forman
  • Marcus Garvey
  • Eslanda Goode
  • Andrew Goodman
  • Joanne Grant
  • Alex Haley
  • Fred Hampton
  • Oliver Harrington
  • Hubert Harrison
  • Fannie Lou Hamer
  • Harry Haywood
  • Dorothy Height
  • David Hilliard
  • John Haynes Holmes
  • Benjamin Hooks
  • Lena Horne
  • Charles Houston
  • George Houser
  • William Dean Howells
  • Genevieve Hughes
  • Langston Hughes
  • William Bradford Huie
  • William E. Harbour
  • Adella Hunt-Logan
  • Bobby Hutton
  • Harold Ickes
  • George Jackson
  • Jessie Jackson
  • Jimmie Lee Jackson
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • James Weldon Johnson
  • Nicholas Katzenbach
  • Salaria Kea
  • Florence Kelley
  • Stetson Kennedy
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Robert Kennedy
  • Freda Kirchwey
  • Coretta Scott King
  • Martin Luther King
  • William Kunstler
  • Belle La Follette
  • Robert La Follette
  • Robert La Follette Jr.
  • Mark Lane
  • Oliver Law
  • James Lawson
  • Herbert Lee
  • John Lewis
  • Joseph Levin
  • Viola Liuzzo
  • Henry Demarest Lloyd
  • Mary Mahoney
  • Albert Maltz
  • Vito Marcantonio
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Bill Mauldin
  • Salynn McCollum
  • Claude McKay
  • Charles McDew
  • Floyd McKissick
  • Abe Meeropol
  • Michael Meeropol
  • Robert Meeropol
  • James Meredith
  • Marion Merriman
  • Inez Milholland
  • Jessica Mitford
  • Anne Moody
  • John Moody
  • Harry T. Moore
  • Robert Moses
  • Elijah Muhammad
  • Anna Pauli Murray
  • Abraham Muste
  • Diane Nash
  • Scott Nearing
  • Steve Nelson
  • Fredrika Newton
  • Huey Newton
  • Edgar Nixon
  • Peter Norman
  • Floyd B. Olson
  • Mary White Ovington
  • Chandler Owen
  • Rosa Parks
  • William Patterson
  • Louise Patterson
  • James Peck
  • Victor Rabinowitz
  • Philip Randolph
  • James J. Reeb
  • Walter Reuther
  • Paul Robeson
  • Rubye Robinson
  • Peter Rodino
  • Joel Rogers
  • Igal Roodenko
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Charles Edward Russell
  • Bayard Rustin
  • George Schuyler
  • Michael Schwerner
  • Bobby Seale
  • John Seigenthaler
  • Max Shachtman
  • Fred Shuttlesworth
  • James Silver
  • Modjeska Simkins
  • Agnes Smedley
  • Tommie Smith
  • Lincoln Steffens
  • Mary B. Talbert
  • Mary Church Terrell
  • Norman Thomas
  • Robert Treuhaft
  • Fanny Garrison Villard
  • Oswald Garrison Villard
  • Robert F. Wagner
  • Lillian Wald
  • William Walling
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Olivia Washington
  • Ida Wells
  • George H.White
  • Walter F. White
  • Hosea Williams
  • Roy Wilkins
  • Milton Wolff
  • Harris Wofford
  • Richard Wright
  • Ralph Yarborough
  • Andrew Young
  • Whitney Young
  • Samuel Younge
  • Malcolm X
  • Howard Zinn
  • James Zwerg

American civil rights movement

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American civil rights movement, mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States that came to national prominence during the mid-1950s. This movement had its roots in the centuries-long efforts of enslaved Africans and their descendants to resist racial oppression and abolish the institution of slavery. Although enslaved people were emancipated as a result of the Civil War and were then granted basic civil rights through the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, struggles to secure federal protection of these rights continued during the next century. Through nonviolent protest, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s broke the pattern of public facilities’ being segregated by “race” in the South and achieved the most important breakthrough in equal-rights legislation for African Americans since the Reconstruction period (1865–77). Although the passage in 1964 and 1965 of major civil rights legislation was victorious for the movement, by then militant Black activists had begun to see their struggle as a freedom or liberation movement not just seeking civil rights reforms but instead confronting the enduring economic, political, and cultural consequences of past racial oppression.

When did the American civil rights movement start?

The American civil rights movement started in the mid-1950s. A major catalyst in the push for civil rights was in December 1955, when NAACP activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man.

Who were some key figures of the American civil rights movement?

Martin Luther King, Jr., was an important leader of the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white customer, was also important. John Lewis, a civil rights leader and politician, helped plan the March on Washington.

What did the American civil rights movement accomplish?

The American civil rights movement broke the entrenched system of racial segregation in the South and achieved crucial equal-rights legislation.

What were some major events during the American civil rights movement?

The Montgomery bus boycott, sparked by activist Rosa Parks, was an important catalyst for the civil rights movement. Other important protests and demonstrations included the Greensboro sit-in and the Freedom Rides.

What are some examples of civil rights?

Examples of civil rights include the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to government services, the right to a public education, and the right to use public facilities.

The American civil rights movement

Civil rights politics in the United States has its roots in the movement to end discrimination against African Americans. Though slavery was abolished and former slaves were officially granted political rights after the Civil War, in most Southern states African Americans continued to be systematically disenfranchised and excluded from public life, leading them to become perpetual second-class citizens. By the 1950s the marginalization of African Americans, often taking an extremely violent form, had spurred a social movement of epic proportions. The American civil rights movement, based mainly in African American churches and colleges of the South, involved marches, boycotts, and extensive efforts of civil disobedience, such as sit-ins, as well as voter education and voting drives. Most of these efforts were local in scope, but the impact was felt at the national level—a model of civil rights organizing that has since spread all over the globe.

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: Transgender Rights in the United States

Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. It is an umbrella term that encompasses nonbinary and genderqueer people, or people whose gender do not fall on the male/female spectrum, as well. In the United States, it is estimated that 1.4 million adults identify as transgender.

Unsurprisingly, transgender rights in the U.S. vary from state to state. To date there has been only one Supreme Court case regarding the rights of the transgender population. The transgender community has historically been discriminated against in the realm of employment, marriage, medicine, incarceration, and the military, along with many other aspects of life considered normal for cisgender, or non-transgender, people. Transgender people are many times more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, and mental illness than their cisgender counterparts. The U.S. court system has offered sparse legal protections for transgender individuals and has in fact, invalidated the lived experiences of almost every trans person who has sought restitution for discrimination.

Notable Supreme Court Cases and Executive Policies

R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., 590 U.S. ___, (2020) - the Supreme Court ruled that title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, color, national origin, extends employment protections for transgender people.

Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 US 644 (2015) - the Supreme Court ruled that people have a right to marry regardless of sex. While this case was understood to permanently allow same sex marriages, it means that a person&rsquos sex, regardless of what it was assigned at birth, cannot ban one person from marrying another person. The validity of transgender marriages specifically has not been decided by the Supreme Court but on a state by state basis. New Jersey was the first state that determined that post-operative trans people may marry in their post-operative sex in 1976.

Historically, military personnel who transitioned in the military were discharged. However, in 2015, the Obama Administration removed a ban allowing transgender members of the military to serve openly. As of July 2017 the Trump Administration severely degraded the rights of transgender individuals in the military. Trump&rsquos ban and policies make it so transgender people are not afforded equal protections in the military and are banned from military service unless they enlist under the gender they were assigned at birth.

Enslavement in the British Colonies

In Great Britain, poor White people who could not afford to pay their debts were swept up into a system of indentured servitude that resembled enslavement in most respects. Sometimes the servants could purchase their own freedom by working off their debts, sometimes not, but in either case, they were the property of their enslavers until their status changed. Initially, this was the model used in the British colonies with enslaved White and African people alike. The first 20 enslaved Africans to arrive in Virginia in 1619 had all had earned their freedom by 1651, just as White indentured servants would have.

Over time, however, colonial landowners grew greedy and realized the economic benefits of enslavement—the full, irrevocable ownership of other people. In 1661, Virginia officially legalized enslavement, and in 1662, Virginia established that children enslaved from birth would also be enslaved for life. Soon, the Southern economy would rely primarily on labor stolen from enslaved African people.

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States

What is the difference between a civil right and a human right? Simply put, human rights are rights one acquires by being alive. Civil rights are rights that one obtains by being a legal member of a certain political state. There are obviously several liberties that overlap between these two categories, but the breakdown of rights between human and civil is roughly as follows:

  • the right to life
  • the right to education
  • protection from torture
  • freedom of expression
  • the right to a free trial

Civil rights within the United States include:

  • protection from discrimination
  • the right to free speech
  • the right to due process
  • the right to equal protection
  • the right against self-incrimination

It is important to note that civil rights will change based on where a person claims citizenship because civil rights are, in essence, an agreement between the citizen and the nation or state that the citizen lives within. From an international perspective, international organizations and courts are not as likely to intervene and take action to enforce a nation's violation of its own civil rights, but are more likely to respond to human rights violations. While human rights should be universal in all countries, civil rights will vary greatly from one nation to the next. No nation may rightfully deprive a person of a human right, but different nations can grant or deny different civil rights. Thus, civil rights struggles tend to occur at local or national levels and not at the international level. At the international stage, we focus on the violation of human rights.

This guide will focus on the civil rights that various groups have fought for within the United States. While some of these rights, like the right to education, certainly overlap with human rights, we treat them as civil rights in most academic conversations. Typically, the reason used to justify a right to equal education or another human right is grounded in a civil right of due process or equal protection.

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States

The history of emigration to the United States since 1778 has had multiple stages and was the result of multiple factors, both within the United States, and the immigrants' country of origin. There are multiple factors that cause emigration, including war or other social upheaval, lack of employment, economic instability, and natural disasters. There are multiple distinct eras of immigration in the United States: the revolutionary era until the end of the Civil War the industrial era, the era of the World Wars, post-World War II, and post-9/11. The United States policy on immigration has varied widely throughout its history, which has created continual change in immigration law. Federal government policy has alternately been guided by public sentiment, but has also driven public perception of immigrants and immigration in the United States. 1

Revolutionary Era to the Civil War

Until the break from England, he Crown did attempt to regulate and limit immigration into the Colonies. This regulation became a source of political and social tension within the Colonies. Upon establishing its independence from England the United States Congress passed an immigration act in 1790. This Naturalization Act allowed white and free immigrants to gain naturalized citizenship after having lived within the boundaries of the United States for two years. The Naturalization Act of 1795 included the stipulation that all immigrants must reject any allegiance to any foreign head of state or government and banned British citizens who fought against the United States in the Revolutionary war. It also raised the occupancy period to five years.

Immigration and naturalization policy continued to change and evolve in response to various political and social pressures through the end of the 18th century and into the 19th century. By 1803 the geographical reach of the United States had been greatly expanded westward through the Louisiana Purchase, and its southern boundary had been expanded by the seizing of Florida from Spain. By 1845 the United States had grown to include the territory of Texas, as well as the Oregon territory. In response, the immigration policies of the United States were modified in order to promote settlement of these new territories. From 1800 - 1850, emigration from Europe increased greatly. This expansion in immigration was the result of various forms of social and political upheaval in Europe. From 1820 -1860 95% of immigrants in the United States originated from northern Europe. From the 1830s to the 1850s the total number of immigrants to the United States rose from approximately 151,000 to 1.7 million. The majority of these immigrants were Irish, German, and British. Emigration from China to the west coast also increased during this time period. By 1860 Chinese immigrants constituted approximately 9% of California's population. By 1882 Congress had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended all emigration from China. Concurrent to this exclusion, emigration from European countries was actively solicited by the United States via the Homestead Act of 1862. This act granted land tracts to naturalized citizens for a nominal price of $1.25 per acre. In 1864 Congress passed the Act to Encourage Immigration, which established the office of Commissioner of Immigration and outlawed compulsory military service for male immigrants.

The Industrial Era

This era is also known as the "great wave" of immigration. This is due to the enormous growth in immigration, which resulted in approximately 23 million immigrants settling in the United States. The majority of immigrants were from Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as Scandinavia. However, large numbers of immigrants were non-European. While pale in comparison to immigration from Europe, approximately one million immigrants arrived from Japan, Turkey, and Mexico. In addition, non-Protestant religious groups, including Catholics and Jews immigrated to the United States during this time period. Immigration during the industrial era was not merely a result of favorable policies enacted by the United States government, but also of political unrest, discrimination, and fragile economies in the immigrants' home countries.

This era is also marked by the increase in anti-immigration reactions and xenophobia. Controls on immigration were proposed in Congress and there was a concurrent rise in anti-immigrant actions and demonstrations. The rate of immigration slowed briefly in the 1890s, dropping from approximately 5.2 million immigrants to 3.6 million. However, by 1910 immigration had increased to 9 million. This was followed by a constriction of immigration in the first two decades before the era of the World Wars. The Dillingham Commission released a lengthy study of the immigrant question, which differentiated between "desirable" and "undesirable" immigrants, based upon ethnicity, race, and religion, with northern European Protestants being favored over southern or eastern European Catholics and Jews, with non-European immigrants considered highly undesirable. The Immigration Act of 1917 implemented many of the recommendations of the Dillingham Commission and created the requirement of a literacy test for immigrants.

The World Wars

The first two decades of the 20th century ushered in a dramatic shift of attitude toward immigration, ending the era of mass immigration in the United States. Multiple national and international events coalesced into an increasing sense of nationalism and racial and class demarcations within American society. This nationalism greatly influenced the legislative endeavors of Congress, resulting in two acts that would set the tone for immigration in the United States. This tone has continued to the present.

The early 20th century is marked by the mass geo-political upheaval, exemplified by the Russian Revolution. This unrest influenced the social and political policy towards immigration in the United States. Europe experienced destabilization from multiple arenas, including the demise of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. World War I erupted after many years of unrest in the Balkans. In Italy, the destabilization of the economy resulting from the 1861 unification continued. Italian immigrants totaled 3.2 million from 1901 - 1920. Immigration from the Austro-Hungarian Empire totaled three million from 1901 - 1920 and approximately 2.7 million people immigrated from Russia during the same time period. This number of non-Protestant, non-northern European immigrants, along with the political upheaval capped by the inclusion of the United States into international politics during World War I, created a nationalistic and xenophobic back lash in the United States. This was reflected in two pieces of immigration legislation - the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924.

The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 introduced a formulation that capped the total number of immigrants admitted into the United States to 3% of the total population of immigrants from the same home country as reported in the 1910 U.S. Census, per year. The cap on nationality did not apply to professionals or immigrants from Latin America. Asian immigration was maintained, as defined under the Immigration Act of 1917, which limited immigration to Japanese or peoples from the Philippine Islands. The Immigration Act of 1924 maintained the formulation, but lowered the percentage to 2% and based the percentage on the total number of home countries on the 1890 U.S. Census. In addition, it prohibited immigration for those who would be ineligible for naturalization, which effectively ended Japanese immigration, as well as instituted the preferences system. The Acts of 1921 and 1924 drastically reduced the number of immigrations from Eastern and Southern Europe, the countries of the former Ottoman Empire, Russia, and obliterated immigration from Asia. From 1925 - 1930 the total number of immigrants decreased to 1.7 million 53% arrived from Europe and 45% arrived from Central and South America. From 1931 - 1945 the total number of immigrants was further reduced to 669,000 57% came from Europe and 38% came from the Americas. As a result of the new restrictions on immigration and naturalization the rate of emigration out of the United States totaled over one million persons.

Immigration policy was further complicated by the end of World War II, which created an unprecedented refugee and displaced persons crisis. It is estimated that 8 million people in Europe were displaced during the war, including people in German concentration camps and prisons and large populations leaving Eastern Europe due to the specter of Russian occupation, as well as those displaced by the war itself. The United States also had to contend with peoples of the former Axis powers who had important scientific, technical, and governmental knowledge. The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 attempted to address the various issues created by the end of the war.

For the purposes of the Act, a displaced person was defined by Annex I, Part 1, Section A and B of the Constitution of the International Refugee Organization. The Constitution differentiated between refugees and displaced persons. A refugee was any person who was a victim of Nazi or fascist regimes and the allies or "quislings" of such countries, or similar regimes Spanish republicans and victims of the Falangist regime persons who were considered refugees before the war. A displaced person was defined as any person who was deported from, or who was obliged to leave, his or her country of nationality or permanent residence due to the actions of Germany and the fascist regimes of Italy and Spain. The Displaced Persons Act also covered those who entered Germany, Austria, or Italy by January of 1948, or Czechoslovakians. Approximately 400,000 displaced person visas were issued to the United States preference was given to those who had particularized scientific and technological skills. Members of the former fascist regimes were eligible for visas under the program. President Harry Truman stated in his signing statement that the act continues "a pattern of discrimination and intolerance wholly inconsistent with the American sense of justice. the bill discriminates in callous fashion against displaced persons of the Jewish faith" and "excludes many displaced persons of the Catholic faith who deserve admission."

Post-War Immigration

The issue of immigration of displaced persons remained for several years after the end of World War II and it would be compounded by the fall of the Iron Curtain, which enveloped the eastern half of Germany, as well as Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Albania as Soviet satellite states, and the emergence of the Cold War and a strong anti-communist movement in the United States government. In 1952 protections against communist ideology would be memorialized in immigration policy through the McCarran-Walter Act, also known as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. This Act allowed the United States to exclude emigration from "ideologically undesirable countries." (Cieslik, et al) However, the Act also ended the restriction of emigration from Asian and Pacific countries, as well as determinations based on race or sex and it included as natural-born citizens those persons born in the United States' territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on or after December 24th, 1952. However, a quota system was maintained, but it did not apply to immigrants with special skills or family members of U.S. citizens. General immigration was capped at 270,000 persons per year. The Refugee Relief Act, which passed in 1953 and supplanted the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, negated the quota cap for refugees, escapees, and expellees. Under these early post war acts immigration remained low compared to the great migrations of the latter half of the 19th century, despite the massive upheaval caused by World War II. The total number of admitted legal permanent residents remained relatively low during the first decade after the War with slight increases in 1956 (321,625) and in 1957 (326,867). However, the composition of immigrants remained heavily European during the 1950s and the 1960s.

The quota system created in 1921 terminated with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. In its place a preference system was instituted, which was not defined by race, sex, gender, ancestry, or national origin. The preferences, ranked from highest to lowest, were:

  1. Unmarried children of U.S. citizens
  2. Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents
  3. Professionals of exceptional ability
  4. Married children of U.S. citizens
  5. Siblings of U.S. citizens
  6. Skilled and unskilled workers in short supply
  7. Refugees

In addition, the total number of immigrant visas allowed within the preference system was capped at 170,000 for origins in the Eastern hemisphere and 120,000 for the Western hemisphere. The new scheme resulted in an increase of immigration from Asian countries. The preference system has remained, but the specifics have changed through various amendments and new iterations of immigration legislation throughout the last decades of the 20th century.

However, the issue of refugees remained at the fore of immigration debate due to the impact of the war in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s and Cuba's revolution in the late 1950s. Approximately 450,000 refugees fled Southeast Asia in the 1970s and 1980s. Of that number, approximately 147,000 were Cambodians fleeing the terror of the Khmer Rouge, which came to power after the withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam in 1975. Approximately 260,000 Hmong fled from Laos and a much smaller number (approximately 40,000) Degar people fled Vietnam. In 1980 a brief period of mass migration from Cuba to the United States occurred after the announcement by President Fidel Castro of Cuba that any Cuban who wished to emigrate to the United States could do so by leaving by boat at Mariel Harbor. From April to September of 1980 approximately 124,000 Cuban refugees arrived in Florida via boat.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s refugees remained a source of contention within the discussion of immigration policy in the United States. The United States became the destination for persons fleeing from instability and civil war in Central and South America, as well as escapees and emigres from Soviet bloc countries. The problem of refugees coming to the United States was compounded by the increase of illegal immigration into the United States from South and Central America. The 1980 Census estimated the total number of illegal immigrants in the United States to be between 2 and 4 million persons.

In 1986 Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which attempted to address illegal immigration through amnesty programs for illegal immigrants, as well as criminalizing the hiring of illegal aliens as workers and instituting the I-9 form for all employees. Four years after the passage of IRCA, Congress passed a new act - the Immigration Act of 1990, also known as IMMACT. IMMACT negated the immigration caps based on hemisphere and instituted a total number cap of 675,000 persons, with 480,000 spots designated for family members of United States citizens 140,000 designated for employment-based immigrants, and 55,000 for "diversity" immigrants. IMMACT also provided an 18 month period of protected status for immigrants from El Salvador. In addition, IMMACT transferred authority for naturalizations from the United States Courts to the United States Attorney's office. It expanded the number and type of deportable actions and increased border protection.

Despite the new legislation immigration rose continuously from 1989 to 1993, with a total number of immigrants of 603,000 in 1989 to 971,000 in 1993. The majority of immigrants were family members of United States citizens, with humanitarian immigrants and refugees rounding out the majority of legal immigrants. Illegal immigration remained at the fore of immigration debates throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Various acts were instituted to address illegal immigration, which increased funding for border patrol, and denied Federal services for illegal aliens, and denied states the ability to provide services to illegal immigrants. From 1994 - 2000 the total number of legal immigrants fluctuated: in 1994 the total number of legal immigrants was 803,000 in 1995 the total number had dropped to 720,000 in 1996 the number increased to 915,000 in 1997 the total number dropped to 797,000 in 1996 the total number dropped again to 653,000 and remained relatively constant at 644,000 for 1999 in 2000 the number increased to 841,000.

The first year of the new millennium ushered in a large increase in total immigration. From 841,000 immigrants in 2000, 2001 ended with a total number of one million legal immigrants. This number essentially remained unchanged in 2002, but the total number of immigrants dropped precipitously in 2003 to 703,000. This drop was a direct result of the impact of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In response to the perceived vulnerabilities after the attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania Congress quickly passed the Patriot Act. Title IV, "Protecting the Border," attempts to address the vulnerabilities posed by immigration and non-permanent residents through implementation of heightened surveillance of those in the United States under a student visa and provides the Department of State and Immigration and Nationalization Service increased access to databases maintained by other departments for the purpose of background and criminal checks. Title IV also strengthened border patrol.

In 2002 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was founded as a result of the reorganization of multiple agencies under the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Many immigration and naturalization functions were brought under the umbrella of the DHS, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These new agencies use various technologies to monitor the entry of non-U.S. citizens. The preference system for legal immigration created in the 1960s remains in place. Despite further restrictions put on the eligibility requirements under the Patriot Act for legal immigration, the total number of legal immigrants grew in the two years after its passage in 2002. By 2004, the total number of immigrants had risen to 957,000 in 2005, the number had increased again to 1.1 million by 2006 the total number had risen to 1.2 million. In 2007 the number declined to one million, and has remained at approximately one million immigrants up until the last collection date available of 2014. (For more information on current immigration preference scheme see "Becoming a Citizen.")

Illegal immigration continues to be a major component of the current discussion on immigration in the United States. The Pew Research Center has reported that there are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, which constitutes 5% of the work force. The DREAM Act, originally introduced in 2001, was an attempt to provide a means by which persons who do not have a legal status, but who were brought to the United States as minors, could apply for legal permanent status, leading to naturalization. Despite multiple efforts throughout the first decade of the 21st century the Act was not passed. The state of California passed its own version of a "dream" act, which allows for undocumented students who graduated from a California high school to attend public college in California at the in-state tuition rate. For a student to participate, he or she is required to have legal immigration status, or the ability to apply for a legal status once eligible to do so.

The failure of the DREAM Act to be passed by Congress instigated action by the Executive branch. President Obama issued a policy memorandum in 2012 entitled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This policy provides a 2-year deferment from deportation action for successful applicants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has reported that it accepted 1.5 million applications from 2012 - 2016 of that number, 667,000 were renewal applications. Of that 1.5 million, 1.3 million were approved. (See the sections within "Current Issues On Immigration and Refugees" for more information on DACA and the DREAM Act.)

1 All information gathered from Immigration: A Documentary and Reference Guide, Thomas Cieslik, David Felsen, and Akis Kalaitzidiz, eds. Greenwood Press, 2009, unless where otherwise linked or specified. Total numbers given have been rounded down to nearest 1,000.

Exploring the Ongoing Fight for Equality on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail

James Baldwin prophetically predicted these times, in which righteous protest and violent insurrection have erupted almost in tandem, when he asserted: “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” And after we've spent months of standing still, locked inside, often afraid, there are few better ways to reacquaint ourselves with this country—and one another—than by driving the official U.S. Civil Rights Trail and visiting the locations, many of them national monuments, where brave Americans have already changed the narrative once before.

Coordinated mainly by state tourism agencies, the U.S. Civil Rights Trail was formalized in 2018 as a means to honor the mid-20th-century Black freedom struggle. Stretching from Wilmington, Delaware, to Topeka, Kansas, with a vast sweep through the South, the route includes more than 130 historically significant sites, from churches to courthouses, museums to memorials: places where hope unfolded. I've driven it in countless combinations, wending my way through different states and capitals the experience is moving no matter which way you go.

In Birmingham's Civil Rights District—once a hotbed of action, now a tranquil downtown neighborhood—I've walked the sites that mark this turbulent era, including 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young Black girls were murdered, and Kelly Ingram Park, where leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led protests during the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, a stirring movement propelled by bursts of collective action, from lunch counter sit-ins to buying boycotts. Across the street, at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, black-and-white photographs show children being assaulted with high-powered water cannons and accosted by police wielding batons and attack dogs. When these images first appeared on televisions and in newspapers around the country, they prompted many white Americans to rethink the story of America. The institute also houses the barred door of the jail cell that once confined King's body, though not his spirit. Touching those bars is, for me, a surreal journey of the imagination, a powerful reminder of one man's unflinching conviction.

Further southwest, in Jackson, Mississippi, interactive exhibits at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum continue the tale of racial terror and white economic control. It is no easy feat to walk between the columns that detail an endless list of lynched innocents as audio tracks of white Mississippians berating Black customers blare overhead. “Don't be touching that!” “We don't serve your kind in here!” I remember wondering, as I absorbed this barrage of verbal attacks, how I might react if I were spoken to that way. The placid teal-and-brick ranch house exterior of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, where the civil rights martyr and his family lived before he was gunned down in his driveway in 1963, belies the danger that lurked inside, where children's mattresses were laid on the floor and window heights raised to avoid bullets. It is painful to be reminded of the ways African Americans have had to adapt in the face of threats both unseen and expected—a fact of life that persists today, if in different forms. Black parents give children The Talk, with all its endless clauses: how to act when Driving While Black, Sleeping While Black, and Walking While Black.

Even as contemporary America grapples with the cultural divisions created by competing stories of who, how, and why we are, I know that by revisiting our history along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, we can be better. In the eternal words of the civil rights activist Ella Baker: Give light, and people will find a way.

This article appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: Women and the Vote

Prior to the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, many states within the U.S. did not allow women to vote. The national movement to gain a vote for women began in 1848 in New York, with abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. That it took 70 years for the suffragist movement to come to fruition via the 19th amendment was indicative of several issues one, that it was very hard to get an amendment passed two, that it was very difficult to grant rights to traditionally subservient groups three, that factors like the civil war and ensuring that black men received the right to vote afterward were priorities that took precedent and slowed the process.

The suffragist movement was not without its own issues - some suffragettes were unwilling to entertain the notion of allowing black women the right to vote. There was also resentment toward the 15th Amendment granting black men voting rights before women. Suffragettes like Francis E. Willard, president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, went as far as portraying blacks as alcoholic fiends who were ready to assault women. Despite being friendly with many blacks, Willard was not afraid to slander them in order to gain favor with those who would help her get the vote for women. This drove a considerable wedge between her and suffragists like Ida B. Wells. Other suffragettes used violence to get their point across, and some group members were arrested and served jail time.

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is labor law legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (public accommodations). Initially, the powers given to enforce the act were weak, but they were supplemented in later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate via several different parts of the Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce, its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws through the 14th Amendment, and its duty to protect voting rights under the 15th Amendment.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was the culmination of a campaign against housing discrimination and was approved at the urging of President Johnson, one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Its primary prohibition makes it unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with any person because of that person's inclusion in a protected class. The goal is a unitary housing market in which a person's background (as opposed to financial resources) does not arbitrarily restrict access. Calls for open housing were issued early in the twentieth century, but it was not until after World War II that concerted efforts to achieve it were undertaken. While the act stopped some of the more egregious instances of housing discrimination, it should be noted that we are far from fair when it comes to housing and one's ability to obtain it. Race is still an issue and has been despite the efforts made through the acts listed here.

Learn About Civil Rights History

Civil Rights: Law and History

An overview of civil rights law and the history behind it. Learn about the sources of civil rights, the key differences between civil rights and civil liberties, and how to get a legal help with a civil rights issue.

Civil Rights: Timeline of Events

A timeline of key events in the development of civil rights law. This article outlines important historical and legal developments, including the emancipation proclamation, the passing of the 13th Amendment, and more.

Civil Rights: U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

A guide to a number of landmark U.S. Supreme Court Cases dealing with civil rights, including Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu v. U.S., Shelley v. Kraemer, Brown v. Board of Education, and more.

Civil Rights in Education: Law and History

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in public schools. This section provides a history of civil rights in education, including information on Brown v. Board of Education.

Civil Rights and American Indians: History and Law

This section offers historical information on legal protections for Native Americans and other native peoples. Learn about the civil rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives and much more.

Civil Rights in Public Accommodations and Facilities: Law and History

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation. Learn about the history behind public accommodation law, including information on Rosa Parks.

Watch the video: Civil Rights and the 1950s: Crash Course US History #39