White Americans who Fought for Civil Rights

U.S. History Tutorial

White Americans who Fought for Civil Rights


African-Americans occupy a special place in the history of our great nation. Much of that history is focused on the Civil Rights Movement. This tutorial identifies pivotal roles played by White Americans during the Civil Rights Era.

Sample Problem

Black History Month is a time to learn about the special contributions African-Americans have made to our society.In addition to honoring the Black heroes of the Civil Rights Era, it is important to learn about White Americans who fought for racial equality.


Civil Rights Turning Points

Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren

Earl Warren served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1953 to 1969. He was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1954, the year Thurgood Marshall victoriously argued the school desegregation case Brown v.Board of Education, before the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Warren who was a Republican, wrote the opinion ending school desegregation forever.He declared that segregated schools could never be made equal. Moreover, Warren issued an ultimatum to the other eight justices,stating that the decision had to be unanimous with no dissenting opinions. On the strength of his ultimatum, the court reached a unanimous 9-0 verdict that ultimately outlawed segregation in America.

Earl Warren deeply believed that racial segregation was wrong.Justice Warren achieved unanimity in all of the racial equality cases decided during his tenure on the Supreme Court.

Freedom Rider James Zwerg

Freedom Riders are Black and White civil rights activists who from 1961-1963,deliberately challenged Jim Crow laws by sitting together on interstate bus rides from the North to the South.

James Zwerg is a White Freedom Rider who was beaten bloody and unconscious by an angry White mob when he stepped off of a freedom bus in Montgomery Alabama.

The photos of Zwerg’s bloody face were published in newspapers around America. When Zwerg was interviewed in his hospital bed after the beating, the young man declared that the Freedom Rides would continue.

Zwerg’s courage and conviction energized the Freedom Riders who risked their lives every time they boarded interstate buses to break the chains of racial injustice.

The Woolworth Counter Sit-Ins

In the wake of Thurgood Marshall’s victory in Brown, the SNCC began to engage in planned acts of non-violent civil disobedience. The Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins were some of the most famous acts.
The Black college students requested service at the White only counter.When the black students were denied service,they refused to leave the counter. The police arrested, stepped on and beat the demonstrators. Prejudiced Whites hit the students and poured food and drinks on their heads.

However, White civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer refused to leave the counter until blacks were also served. Angry Whites dragged Joan Trumpauer from the Jackson,Mississippi Woolworth counter,by her hair.Trumpauer escaped, and returned to the lunch counter.


The White civil rights activists we discussed are true profiles in courage. These brave men and women fought not for themselves;they fought for the heart and soul of humanity.

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