The civil rights movement in the middle of the 20th century marked an important point in the changing of race relations in the United States. Prior to and during the civil rights movement, African-Americans faced legally sanctioned persecution and Jim Crow justice at the hands of white Americans. Peaceful protests and other methods of civil disobedience were often met with aggression and violence from whites.
Although legally having the right to vote since the 19th century, many African-Americans were unable to practice their right. Poll taxes and often outright violence made exercising their right to vote difficult and dangerous. In 1961, Robert Parris Moses worked to register fellow African-Americans to vote, and he and his coworkers were met with much resistance from the white community. "Along with other SNCC workers who subsequently joined him and local blacks who supported them, Moses was harassed and beaten; he was jailed several times. The threat of violence discouraged most blacks from registering" (Albert, 69).
In the result of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional. This decision reversed the previous decision in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, ruling in favor of the legality of the separation of races, as long as the facilities were equal. After the legal ending of segregation, one of the major focuses of African-Americans was to integrate schools. They wanted their children to benefit from the better facilities of the schools for white children. Unfortunately, the integration of schools was also met with resistance and violence from white communities. The experience of Fred Schuttlesworth, shown left, and his wife, while trying to enroll in a white high school was described as follows: "...in 1957, [Fred] Shuttlesworth and his wife had sent their kids, the first black kids, into a high school in Birmingham. They had escorted their kids, and Fred Shuttlesworth was attacked by the Klan and beaten with chains, and his wife was stabbed" (Albert, 81).
Even during the civil rights movement, Jim Crow justice prevailed in the South. Although the Supreme Court had ruled on the constitutionality of segregation, many white-owned businesses still refused to serve African-Americans. In March of 1964, four female reinforcements, all trained in "the disclipine of nonviolence", arrived in Jacksonville from Boston. Known mostly for their marital connections, they shared excitement over joining the new movement. The group, along with others, tried several times to eat at different restaurants, and from all were asked to leave, because the establishments did not serve 'colored' people. In the last restaurant they tried, they were met with police dogs, and some were escorted to jail.
"The group managed to reach a table in the empty bar of the Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge, and when Sheriff L.O. Davis entered with a brace of police officers and two German shepherds, Peabody refused to...