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Civil Rights in the United States



March on Washington, August 1963.  "US Government photo" [ ]

Image: March on Washington August, 1963

The Civil Rights Movement has been described as the single most sustained and most important movement in United States history.  The 1776 declaration that all men are created equal was not achieved for a substantial portion of the population for more than a century, and for African Americans, 188 years passed before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted.  

This guide focuses on this era and the movement to equality for African Americans, beginning with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.  It is designed as a starting point with the hope of engendering further research and learning.

LC Classes

Library of Congress Classification codes for the Civil Rights Era

E441-453 Slavery in the United States. Antislavery movements

E456-655 Civil War period, 1861-1865

E456-459 Lincoln's administrations, 1861-April 15, 1865

E461-655 The Civil War, 1861-1865

E482-489 Confederate States of America

E660-738 Late Nineteenth Century, 1865-1900

E660 Collected works of American statesmen E661.7 Diplomatic history. Foreign and general relations

E663-664 Biography

E666-670 Andrew Johnson's administration, April 15, 1865-1869

E668 Reconstruction, 1865-1877

E671-680 Grant's administrations, 1869-1877

E681-685 Hayes' administration, 1877-1881

E686-687.9 Garfield's administration, March 4-September 19, 1881

E691-695 Arthur's administration, September 19, 1881-1885

E696-700 Cleveland's first administration, 1885-1889

E701-705 Benjamin Harrison's administration, 1889-1893

E706-710 Cleveland's second administration, 1893-1897

E711-738 McKinley's first administration, 1897-1901

E744-744.5 Diplomatic history. Foreign and general relations

E751 McKinley's second administration, March 4-September 14, 1901

E756-760 Theodore Roosevelt's administrations, September 14, 1901-1909

E761-765 Taft's administration, 1909-1913

E766-783 Wilson's administrations, 1913-1921

E784-805 1919-1933. Harding-Coolidge-Hoover era. "The twenties"

E785-786 Harding's administration, 1921-August 2, 1923

E791-796 Coolidge's administration, August 2, 1923-1929

E801-805 Hoover's administration, 1919-1933

E806-812 Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administrations, 1933-April 12, 1945

E813-816 Truman's administrations, April 12, 1945-1953

E835-837.7 Eisenhower's administrations, 1953-1961

E838-889 Later Twentieth Century, 1961-2000

 E841-843 Kennedy's administration, 1961-November 22, 1963

 E846-851 Johnson's administrations, November 22, 1963-1969

Find Books

Books at Rowan

All Books at Rowan

To find books use Rowan's Library Search and limit the material type to Books. You can do this either from the Advanced Search page (use the Material Type drop-down menu on the right) or from a search results page (use the Resource Type limiter).  

Select E-Books at RU

See search tips on e-Book Central's homepage.

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Find Articles

Finding Articles

Articles, in comparison to books, are shorter and usually discuss a more focused topic. Library databases provide access to scholarly articles and other resources that are often unavailable on the open web.

Recommended databases for History

Interdisciplinary Databases

These interdisciplinary databases can be good starting points for your research.

Primary Sources

In history and the humanities a primary source is a item produced from the time you are researching. Examples include a photograph, a letter, a newspaper article, and government documents.  Looking at actual sources from a specific time helps you get a firsthand account of what was happening then.

These resources will help you locate relevant primary sources. (See Primary Source Research for more guidance.)


Selected Websites About the Civil Rights Movement

AAIHS - African American Intellectual History Society

"The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) is a scholarly organization founded in January 2014 to foster dialogue about researching, writing, and teaching black thought and culture. African American intellectual history is a growing and thriving subfield and we believe that the AAIHS and its blog can play a role in fostering that growth for years to come. We are open to scholars in all disciplines, including but not limited to African American history, literature, philosophy, art, dance, and film. We also welcome scholars working on the African Diaspora." (source: website)

Civil Rights Digital Library

"The Civil Rights Digital Library promotes an enhanced understanding of the Movement by helping users discover primary sources and other educational materials from libraries, archives, museums, public broadcasters, and others on a national scale." (source: website)

Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Human Rights

The site is maintained at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland and is supported through a partnership with the US Government Printing Office, The United States Commission on Civil Rights, and the Thurgood Marshall Law Library.

Gilder Leherman Institute of American History: The Civil Rights Movement

Also, see issue 8 (Summer 2006) of History Now, the Institute's online journal.

History: Civil Rights

The History website has a wealth of information about the Civil Rights movement and the many events that occurred during this era.  The link takes you to the results page of a search for “Civil Rights” Find invaluable links here.

Library of Congress Civil Rights Resource Guide

Compiles links to civil-rights resources throughout the Library of Congress Web site. In addition, it provides links to external Web sites focusing on civil rights and a bibliography containing selections for both general and younger readers. (source: website)

The Martin Luther King , Jr Research and Education Institute

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute provides access to thousands of documents, photographs and publications about the modern African American Freedom Struggle. Use the page to navigate to resources about King's life and work and the larger movements of the era. (source: website) 

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Of the many events that led ultimately to the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Montgomery Bus Boycott stands out as particularly iconic.

Remembering the Civil Rights Era

NPR Coverage of Anniversaries in the Struggle for Equal Rights

We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil RIghts Movement

A partnership project produced by the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Transportation, The Federal Highway Administration, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. (source: website)

Search Google Scholar for more on "Civil Rights" "United States"

Google Scholar Search

Seminal Documents

Seminal Docucments of the Civil Rights Movement, Listed Chronologically

1863: The Emancipation Proclamation

1865: The 13th Amendment

1866: The Civil Rights Act

1868: 14th Amendment

1870: 15th Amendment

1909: The Formation of the NAACP

1941: Executive Order 8802: Banning Discriminatory Employment in the Defense Industry

1948: Executive Order 9981 Barring Segregation in the Armed Forces (P. Truman)

1954:  Brown V. Board of Education 

1955: Resolution of the Citizens Mass Meeting, Montgomery, AL  (bus boycott)

1956: The Southern Manifesto

1957: Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School

1957: Civil Rights Act of 1957

1960: An Appeal for Human Rights  [Image link]  (archived material)

1960: The Civil Rights Act of 1960 [Primary Source Document link]

1960: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Statement of Purpose

1962: Albany, GA  Movement Support Letter from M.L.King

1962: Executive Order 11053: Authorizing the use of federal troops to integrate the University of Mississippi

1963: Letter from the Birmingham Jail. M.L. King

1963: The Birmingham Manifesto

1963: The Birmingham Truce Agreement

1963: Program: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

                Audio: Martin Luther King. “I Have a Dream”

1964: Executive Order 1118: Providing Assistance for Removal of Unlawful obstructions of Justice in the State of Alabama

1964: Mississippi Summer Project Documents, June-August 1964 (multiple documents links from site)

1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964

1965: Williams v. Wallace

 1965: Petition to Governor George Wallace by Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers

 1965: The Voting Rights Act of 1965

 1966: The Black Panther Platform and Program

 1968: Report of the National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders (also referred to as the "Kerner Report")

also, see: Report of the National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders: A Review Article 

 1968: The Civil Rights Act of 1968. Provision for Open Housing

also, see The Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Primary Source Document)

 1971: James E. Swann et al v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, et al.

 1991: The Civil Rights Act of 1991

Government Sites

Government Materials Related to The Civil RIghts Era

Civil Rights Data Collection

From the U.S. Department of Education

Illustrates that Civil Rights is not a historical phenomenon but an ongoing issue in the United States.

Library of Congress: Civil Rights Resource Guide

Links to over forty sites related to Civil Rights

Library of Congress: American Memory

An important site from the Library of Congress. Use the search box to find matches to terms such as Civil Rights, Jim Crow, Martin Luther King, etc.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

A comprehensive Smithsonian Museum website