Civil rights

On Thursday 1 December 1955, a man stepped onto a Montgomery bus and looked around for a seat. It was the time of segregation in the US. Blacks and whites were not allowed to share benches in parks, or sit next to one another on buses – or use the same entrances into cinemas.

The white man couldn’t find a seat in the front of the bus, so the driver asked four black people to move and make room for him. Three of them did; one did not. Her name was Rosa Parks.

Her actions inspired the civil rights movement in the US as activists across the country began campaigning for equal rights.

One of the most influential of these was Martin Luther King Jr, who led marches throughout the USA. In 1963, he addressed 250,000 supporters in Washington with his now famous I Have A Dream speech, in which he called for people to be judged “not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

On 2 July 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed segregation in all schools, public places, and jobs.

Every third Monday in January is marked as Martin Luther King Day. It is a time to remember the courage and imagination of those activists who fought for their civil rights.

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Rosa Parks is known globally for her refusal to move out of her seat for a white man. But she also worked tirelessly as an activist, supporting black people in trouble, as this TedEd video explains.


  1. Learn about the civil rights movements and then test your knowledges with this quiz.
  2. Research the civil rights movement in the USA and create a timeline of key moments.
  3. Read about some more civil rights activists and their fight against injustice. Choose one person and write a short biography of their life and work.