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Chasing the Dream Exploring Black History


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Author Myrlie Evers-Williams is a trailblazer as an activist for civil rights

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Glossary of terms

February 1, 2001
Web posted at: 10:53 PM EST (0353 GMT)

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Bigotry -- prejudice and/or discrimination against one or all members of a particular group based on negative perceptions of their beliefs and practices or on negative group stereotypes.

Black nationalism -- a philosophy advocated by some African-American leaders, such as Malcolm X (1925-1965), calling for self-determination for African-Americans.

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) -- a mainstream civil rights organization founded in 1942.

Culture -- the pattern of daily life learned by a group of people. These patterns can be seen in language, governing practices, arts, customs, holiday celebrations, food, religion, dating, rituals and clothing, to name a few examples.

Discrimination -- the behavior or action that can follow prejudicial thinking. Discrimination is the denial of justice and fair treatment in many arenas, including employment, housing and political rights.

Diversity -- different or varied. The population of the United States is made up of people from diverse races, cultures and places.

"Fill up the jails" -- a strategy by civil rights organizations to put pressure on local authorities by getting arrested in large numbers for acts of civil disobedience in Southern cities.

Freedom Rides -- bus rides through the South organized in the 1960s by CORE to convince the federal government to enforce desegregation laws.

Jim Crow laws -- laws passed in Southern states to separate whites and blacks in public and private facilities.

Ku Klux Klan (KKK) -- a white Southern vigilante group created during Reconstruction and responsible for lynching and intimidating blacks and sympathetic whites.

Literacy tests -- tests that citizens had to pass to register to vote. Literacy tests were used in the South to prevent African-Americans from voting during the segregation era. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned their use.

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) -- An NAACP attorney who successfully argued against the "separate but equal" doctrine in the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Marshall later became the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court.

Multiculturalism -- many or multiple cultures. The United States is multicultural because its population consists of people from many different cultures.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) -- founded in 1909, it is the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. Its Supreme Court victory in the Brown v. Board of Education decision mandated school desegregation.

Poll tax -- a tax that citizens had to pay to vote. It was often used in the South to prevent African-Americans from voting. The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1964, barred the poll tax in federal elections.

Prejudice -- prejudging, making a decision about a person or group of people without sufficient knowledge. Prejudicial thinking is based on stereotypes.

Racism -- prejudice and/or discrimination based on the myth of race. Racists believe that some groups are born superior to others, and in the name of protecting their race from "contamination," they justify the domination and destruction of races they consider to be inferior to their own. Racism can be personal or institutional. Personal racism occurs when a person's skin color is the basis for how others perceive him or her. Institutional racism is racial prejudice or discrimination supported by power and authority and used to the advantage of one race over others, as with differential treatment by police or security guards.

Scapegoating -- the action of blaming an individual or group for something when, in reality, there is no one person or group responsible for the problem. Scapegoating is blaming another person or group for problems in society because of that person's group identity. Prejudicial thinking and discriminatory acts can lead to scapegoating. Members of the disliked group are denied employment, housing, political rights, social privileges or a combination of these. Scapegoating can lead to verbal and physical violence, including death.

"Separate but equal" -- doctrine first established, and later overturned, by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing states to maintain segregated facilities for blacks and whites as long as they provided equal service.

Sit-ins -- a nonviolent strategy used by civil rights groups to challenge Jim Crow laws by demanding equal treatment and the end to segregated facilities.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) -- a civil rights organization formed in 1957 by Southern ministers and led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The SCLC is committed to the principle of nonviolence.

Stereotype -- an oversimplified generalization about a person or group of people without regard for individual differences. Even positive stereotypes, such as the belief that Asians are good at math and computers, can have a negative impact.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) -- a civil rights organization formed by student leaders in 1960. The SNCC was involved in voter registration drives, political organizing and sit-ins throughout the South.

White Citizens' Council -- a white hate group formed in Mississippi to maintain segregation following the Supreme Court's Brown decision.

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