The 1954–1968 civil rights movement in the United States was preceded by a decades-long campaign by African Americans and their like-minded allies to end legalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation in the United States. The movement has its origins in the Reconstruction era during the late 19th century, although it made its largest legislative gains in the mid-1960s after years of direct actions and grassroots protests. The social movement's major nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience campaigns eventually secured new protections in federal law for the human rights of all Americans.
After the American Civil War and the subsequent abolition of slavery in the 1860s, the Reconstruction Amendments to the United States Constitution granted emancipation and constitutional rights of citizenship to all African Americans, most of whom had recently been enslaved. For a short period of time, African American men voted and held political office, but they were increasingly deprived of civil rights, often under the so-called Jim Crow laws, and African Americans were subjected to discrimination and sustained violence by white supremacists in the South.