The Rise and Decline of Civil Rights Groups

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Black civil rights groups, which started paving the way for racial change in the United States in the early 1900s, peaked in power during the 1960s. But after the voting rights and civil rights acts were passed in the mid-1960s, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, their influence waned as African Americans were elected to public office and as the media focused on other causes.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

· Founded: February 1909 in New York by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois and Henry Moskowitz, among others.

· Highlights: Led anti-lynching movement; won Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case; member Rosa Parks's refusal to give up bus seat led to 381-day Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1955.

· Membership: 500,000 listed in 1968; 300,000 to 400,000 today.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

· Founded: January 1957 in Atlanta by Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Fred Shuttlesworth and Joseph Lowery, among others.

· Highlights: Formed by the leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott, and King, its first president, led modern civil rights movement.

· Membership: 250,000 listed in 1968; 125,000 today.

Congress of Racial Equality

· Founded: 1942 in Chicago by students James Farmer, Bernice Fisher, James R. Robinson and George Houser, among others.

· Highlights: The interracial group adopted Mohandas K. Gandhi's principle of nonviolent resistance. In 1961, CORE co-organized Freedom Rides to desegregate the South.

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