The civil rights movement was among the most important historical developments of the twentieth century and one of the most remarkable mass movements in American history. Not only did it decisively change the legal and political status of African Americans, but it prefigured as well the moral
premises and methods of struggle for other historically oppressed groups seeking equal standing in American society. And, yet, despite a vague, sometimes begrudging recognition of its immense import, more often than not the movement has been misrepresented and misunderstood. For the general public,
a singular moment, frozen in time at the Lincoln Memorial, sums up much of what Americans know about that remarkable decade of struggle.