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The history of civil rights in America cannot be fully appreciated without understanding how cultural values supported discrimination, segregation, and overt racism for so long and why their repellent after-effects remain so deeply embedded in the nation’s fabric. As William Grier and Price Cobbs wrote in Black Rage, “Americans characteristically are unwilling to think about the past. We are a future-oriented nation, and facing backwards is an impediment to progress” (p. 23). This void leaves many Americans possessing only a cursory knowledge of crucial parts of their nation’s history and thus a limited understanding of present-day beliefs, values, and behaviors.

This entry provides the history of Black civil rights in the United States, beginning with the early settlers, to the ending of slavery, and through ...

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