How did the US Civil Rights movement of the 60s succeed?

Perhaps that, and by occupying a seat in government they can effectively block the agenda from the other side from seeing the light of day. As an example, the worthless George Santos is not likely to push forward anything at all to benefit anyone, but his ass is in the chair for that district, so nothing from the other side of the aisle will happen.

Plus, occasionally, even if the agenda is no progress on anything at all, a golden opportunity floats into view (Supreme Court nominations).

If the best argument you have for your ideas is that they’re technically not illegal to express…

Three words Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Yeah, that old school “good old boy” from Texas was able to ram thru the Civil Rights Act when it would have been impossible for any Eastern Liberal.

Because pretending to be racist to get votes is racism.

This is why it is most unhelpful to define racism in such a way that it hinges on knowing the secret workings of another mind. Because doing so only allows racists an out, whereby the sincerity of their beliefs relative to words and actions somehow matters. As if an oppressive racial system built upon a known lie is somehow less harmful than one built upon a sincerely held, but no less false, belief of one’s own racial superiority.

This is more or less what James Baldwin said in “The Fire Next Time”; that and that Africa was de-colonizing and the US had to establish diplomatic relations with people who up until then wouldn’t have been allowed to use the white restroom.

and the fact that Africa was clearly liberating herself and therefore had, for political reasons, to be wooed by the descendants of her former masters. Had it been a matter of love or justice, the 1954 decision would surely have occurred sooner; were it not for the realities of power in this difficult era, it might very well not have occurred yet. This seems an extremely harsh way of stating the case— ungrateful, as it were— but the evidence that supports this way of stating it is not easily refuted.

I would guess proximity. Not to downplay the immense grassroots efforts in the civil rights movement, already mentioned upthread, which lead to that proximity. There’s something special about seeing people face to face. The unfamiliar is perceived as dangerous; the familiar, not so much.

My mother had a story about her first introduction to one of her classmates at school. The girl asked her, “What church do you go to?” Mom replied, “I’m Jewish.” The girl followed up, totally innocent, “Where are your horns?”

For my part, I went to the same schools, ate the same food, sat at the same tables, used the same restrooms, spoke the same dialect, saw the same movies, swam in the same pools, and played the same games as other kids. Not so for my father, on account of his race, or to a lesser extent my mother, on account of her religion. Aunts and uncles had to travel hundreds of miles by bus to marry because miscegenation was a criminal offense against the State. The worst I got in school were some lighthearted Hitler/Holocaust jokes. It was never questioned that I was a human being, same as everyone else.


One of my friends was asked this same question by one of the obnoxious Campus Crusade for Christ goons on the UCLA campus. The guy’d apparently never been out of the deep South before.

which also resulted in white-flight backlash

Yup. The ignorant are gonna ignorant.

Which is why we need an education system that works for everyone. Bigotry is a highly predictable side effect of ignorance. Cure the ignorance at a young age and you cure the bigotry. SKip that step and a new generation of bigots is made. Not born, made. Made by inaction.

I’ll go with four main interrelated causes:

  1. the advent of television enabled people to see the brutality that Southern police were employing against peaceful demonstrators.

  2. Martin Luther King was a strategic political genius.

  3. LBJ went to bat for civil rights; I’m guessing that had more to do with Cold War propaganda needs than to any inherent human decency on his part, but he did do it.

  4. The emerging youth counterculture noticed that the people who were most loudly racist were also those most enthusiastic about the Vietnam War, punitive drug laws, and sexual repression, and connected the dots.

My impression is that a big change between the 60s and now is that a large percentage of the white population is now legitimately anti-racist. In the 60s, many white people came around to the idea that segregation and denying blacks the vote was wrong, but they still “wouldn’t want one to marry their daughter” as the saying goes. Today, 98% of Americans under 30 approve of interracial marriage. Until fairly recently, polls always showed that white Democrats were less concerned about civil rights issues than black Democrats were; in the Trump/BLM era, that’s no longer true.

This is too often ignored. LBJ made serious mistakes as president, but this was not one and impossible for anyone else to have accomplished at the time. History will treat Johnson well on the issue of civil rights.

I do think that’s something that is underappreciated by a lot of people. The way Rosa Parks’ story was taught to me in school was as follows: “One day, Rosa Parks decided she didn’t want to give up her seat to a white man on the bus.” Which technically isn’t a lie, but isn’t quite the truth is it? Her actions were deliberately planned in order to spark a legal battle. i.e. It was a strategic decision. I was a little disappointed that the myth I was taught wasn’t true, but it really made me respect the strategic thinking of those behind the Civil Rights Movement.

I agree with the times on your list but I’d add one more; the Reconstruction Amendments.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments had already guaranteed a large portion of the civil rights agenda. The problem was these amendments were being generally ignored. But the fact that they existed meant the civil rights movement rested on a solid legal foundation. And they meant that members of the movement could point out they weren’t asking for anything new; they just wanted the rights they had already been given decades earlier.

People tend to focus on the public part of the civil rights movement; the boycotts, the sit-ins, and the marches. But they often forget there was a parallel fight going on in the courts. This campaign was led by people like Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall as they filing lawsuits from the thirties to the sixties and drove them through the court system all the way up to the Supreme Court.

It depends on what you mean by a ‘solid legal foundation’. The legal side of the Civil Rights movement was a huge uphill fight against decades-old Supreme Court precedent, usually unanimous decisions that were directly on-point. Civil rights activists had to dismantle the legal foundation step by step.

Think about the waves made by Dobbs (overturned Roe v. Wade). The work it took for the conservative movement to get there. There were like ten of those in the civil rights era.

Take literacy tests and poll taxes, for example. Until 1966, the law of the land was clear in that the 14th Amendment did not prohibit colorblind literacy tests or poll taxes. Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections, 360 U.S. 45 (1959) (upholding literacy tests as constitutional when applied equally to all races); Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937) (upholding state poll taxes as constitutional). Lassiter was abrogated in federal elections by the civil rights act of 1964, but I think it may still be controlling precedent if a state were to reimpose literacy tests for state elections. Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970). But cf. Schnell v. Davis, 336 U.S. 933 (1949) (literacy test applied exclusively to Blacks violates 15th Amendment). The 24th Amendment (1964) abrogated Breedlove with respect to federal elections and the Court finally overturned Breedlove with regard to state elections in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966).


I’d say having a right explicitly enshrined in the Constitution is pretty solid.

If you mean the general right to vote, that isn’t explicitly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution enumerates the right to vote for U.S. Representative and Senator provided one meets the qualifications for the most numerous branch of the state legislature (Art. I, sec. 2, 1789; Amend. XVII, 1913). State governments were explicitly prohibited from abridging the right to vote based on certain enumerated characteristics: race/color/prev. servitude (XIV, 1870) and sex (XIX, 1920). During and after the civil rights movement we added: failure to pay taxes (XIV, 1964) and age (XVI, 1971).

“I do not think the enjoyment of the elective franchise essential to citizenship”. Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393, 581 (1857) (Curtis, B., dissenting).

“It is clear, therefore, we think, that the Constitution has not added the right of suffrage to the privileges and immunities of citizenship as they existed at the time it was adopted.” Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 171 (1874).

“Certainly, if the courts can consider any question settled, this is one. For nearly ninety years the people have acted upon the idea that the Constitution, when it conferred citizenship, did not necessarily confer the right of suffrage.” Id. at 177.

“The Fifteenth Amendment does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone.” United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214, 217 (1876).

“The privilege to vote in any State is not given by the Federal Constitution, or by any of its amendments.” Pope v. Williams, 193 U.S. 621, 632 (1904).

This line of precedent ran right up to Breedlove and Lassiter in 1937 and 1959 respectively. Suffragettes had been pushing to abolish poll taxes since 1920, but the big payoff at a federal level came after joining hands with the broader civil rights movement in the '60s.

And this is just one part of the legal side of the civil rights movement. The legal foundations of civil rights in this country were torn down and rebuilt in very short order. For example the double jeopardy clause wasn’t held applicable to the states until 1969, overturning a thirty year old precedent. The right to an attorney at government expense wasn’t recognized until 1963, overturning a twenty year old precedent. In the space of two years, 1962-1964, the Court overturned a 16 year old precedent and ruled that electoral districts just about everywhere violated the equal protection clause, apparently a continuous violation since the amendment was passed ninety years prior. &etc, etc, etc.


I think one of the biggest boosters to civil rights would have been in 1954 when 9 white male US supreme court judges ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, thereby “legitimizing” fights for racial equality.

Unlike today where the SCOTUS which is openly corrupt can’t take it all away from you fast enough.

I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make here. Are you arguing that the existence of 15th Amendment had no effect on the civil rights movement? More generally, what do you feel is the difference between our positions? Reading your posts, you seem to feel we are in disagreement. But I can’t tell what you feel that disagreement is.

Yes, but it was Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP which pushed this issue to the attention of the Supreme Court.