Now in their 70s and 80s, these pioneers tell us how things have changed in the fight for equality — and how much farther we need to go.
THEN: For integration of public schools, fair housing and equal access to public accommodations
NOW: For an end to police brutality against people of color; against institutional racism in all its forms
Who is protesting
THEN: Young, mostly black people, based mostly in the South. Many were inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, although others thought he moved too slowly.
NOW: A larger nationwide coalition of people of all colors, including members of the decentralized Black Lives Matter movement
How they protest
THEN: A nonviolent, multi-pronged approach combining marches, rallies, Freedom Rides, sit-ins and congressional hearings
NOW: Peaceful rallies and street protests with flashes of violence in places like Ferguson (2014), Baltimore (2015) and in numerous cities after the death of George Floyd
One Freedom Rider described how nonviolent civil rights protesters underwent training on how to respond when they were verbally abused or physically assaulted.
How they spread their message
THEN: Rallies, speeches, opinion pieces, interviews with the news media, nonviolent protests that deliberately courted violence
NOW: Social media and phone cameras give protesters a new tool that’s used to organize, to spread messaging and to hold wrongdoers accountable
THEN: “We shall overcome,” “I am a man,” “Freedom now,” “Black power”
NOW: #BlackLivesMatter, “I can’t breathe,” “Say his name …” “Hands up don’t shoot”
One civil rights protester described how some white people in the 1950s and 1960s had their own weaponized language:
THEN: Assassinations, bombings, police dogs, fire hoses, officers with clubs, discriminatory code words such as “agitators,” “outsiders”
NOW: Riot gear, tear gas, flash bangs, discriminatory code words such as “thugs”
A member of the Little Rock Nine described her reaction to President Trump saying that protesters who breached the White House fence would be met by “vicious dogs”:
CNN’s Brandon Griggs and John Blake contributed to this story.