The Declaration of Independence defined the promise of America - freedom and equality for all Americans. Yet, prior to the 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans were still enslaved. Even after the Civil War ended, they were still required to fight for educational, social, and political equality. The post-war era brought aberration from the way of life that many had become accustomed to. Civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance such as boycotts, marches, "freedom rides," and rallies were arranged to protest the second-class status acquainted with African Americans in many parts of the nation. There were also continuing efforts to gain social acceptance and legal rights through the courts. The media documented the quest to end racial inequality. There were several events that directly or indirectly stirred up the indignation that motivated the Movement, and the aftermath was quite significant to America, as we know it today.
The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution gave basic civil and political freedoms to African Americans. The end of the Civil War, which brought about these Amendments, was the legal end to slavery in the United States, but it would be a long and difficult battle before those rights became a social custom in America. Now, hostile whites, who did not know how to treat blacks as equal human beings, surrounded, and still held authority over, freed African Americans in the South. Laws, called Black Codes, were imposed to severely restrict the rights of African Americans. The 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson court case ordered separate but equal accommodations for black and white Americans, however, in most situations, the separated facilities were like night and day. Whites enjoyed comfortable and clean accommodations, while blacks were not so fortunate. From 1900 to 1920 full extension of segregation was exercised, not only in public transportation and schools, but in hospitals, churches, and jails as well.