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Civil Rights Movement

While the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1865) put a legal end to slavery in the United States, many states enforced laws that enabled mistreatment, promoted segregation, and disenfranchised African Americans. Resistance to this unfair treatment gained momentum during the early twentieth century, coalescing into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The black church played a central role in organizing and mobilizing people and protests during the Civil Rights Movement. Singing was an important part of the movement, with many of the songs originating in black churches. Some were gospel songs or old spirituals that had been sung by people in slavery. Often the words to the songs were changed to reflect the current struggles. Men, women, and children of all colors sang together - songs that expressed the desire for equality and lifted the spirit of mankind.

In 1964 the Civil Rights Act, which was proposed by President John F. Kennedy, was signed into law by his successor, President Lyndon Johnson. The act outlawed segregation and discrimination based on race, national background, and gender. The following year the Voting Rights Act was passed, which stated that citizens could not be denied the right to vote based on their race. It outlawed literacy tests and poll taxes that had previously been leveraged to prevent equal access to voting.

 

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