King Joined a Movement
The civil rights movement actually started in Maryland in the 1930s. The NAACP and the black community in Baltimore worked together to launch a campaign to challenge the legality of segregation with Murray v. Pearson in 1935. The combination of grassroots mobilization and legal activism became a model for other communities in the South and fostered a reform movement to remove segregation as a barrier to black civil rights. By 1954, Brown v. Board of Education had successfully undermined the legal basis of Jim Crow. With his emergent leadership during the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King, Jr., shifted the movement from a focus on legal activism to non-violent direct action. Grassroots communities were no longer fighting the legality of Jim Crow but now mobilizing to confront the practice of segregation in their daily lives. The civil rights movement not only crippled Jim Crow but also produced, using King's vision, a new racial policy for America--equal opportunity for all.
Bruce Thompson is Professory of History and Coordinator of the Honors program at Frederick Community College. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from Marshall University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland.