American Experience

Awakenings - 1954-1956/Fighting Back 1957-1962

Season 19, Episode 1 of 13

Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, the program traces the civil rights movement from the Montgomery bus boycott in 1954 to the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The three, two-hour programs profile some of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life. "Awakenings - 1954-1956," - Individual acts of courage inspire black Southerners to fight for their rights: Mose Wright testifies against the white men who murdered young Emmett Till and Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. "Fighting Back - 1957-1962," - States' rights loyalists and federal authorities collide in the 1957 battle to integrate Little Rock's Central High School and again in James Meredith's 1962 challenge to segregation at the University of Mississippi. Both times, a southern governor squares off with a U.S. president, violence erupts - and integration is carried out.

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