The Civil Rights Movement in the United States has been a long, primarily nonviolent struggle to bring full civil rights and equality under the law to all Americans. The movement has had a lasting impact on United States society, in its tactics, the increased social and legal acceptance of civil rights, and in its exposure of the prevalence and cost of racism. The American Civil Rights movement has been made up of many movements. The term usually refers to the political struggles and reform movements between 1945 and 1970 to end discrimination against African Americans and to end legal racial segregation, especially in the U.S. South. This article focuses on an earlier phase of the struggle. Two United States Supreme Court decisions—Plessy v. Ferguson, , which upheld “separate but equal” racial segregation as constitutional doctrine, and Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned Plessy— serve as milestones. This was an era of stops and starts, in which some movements, such as Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, achieved great success but left little lasting legacy, while others, such as the NAACP's painstaking legal assault on state-sponsored segregation, achieved modest results in its early years but made steady progress on voter rights and gradually built to a key victory in Brown v. Board of Education.
After the Civil War, the U. S. expanded the legal rights of African Americans. Congress passed, and enough states ratified, an amendment ending slavery in 1865—the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment only outlawed slavery; it did not provide equal rights, nor citizenship. In 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified by the states, granting African Americans citizenship. Black persons born in the U. S. were extended equal protection under the laws of the Constitution. The 15th Amendment (ratified in 1870) stated that race could not be used as a condition to deprive men of the ability to vote. During Reconstruction (1865-1877), Northern troops occupied the South. Together with the Freedmen's Bureau, they tried to administer and enforce the new constitutional amendments. Many black leaders were elected to local and state offices, and others organized community groups.