Congress of Racial Equality Hat

The Fight for Freedom: Civil Rights

The Fight for Freedom: Civil Rights


Through the 20th century to present day, New Yorkers have united together to advance issues such as civil rights, wages, sexual orientation, and religious freedom.  Through the exercising of rights granted to them by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals in New York have spoken out, protested and petitioned the government to advanced freedom. Women’s rights, Civil rights, Native American land ownership, LGBTQ, sex trafficking, asylum seekers and immigration discrimination are some of the issues that individual activism helped change.

Civil Rights

After the Great Migration helped propel the civil rights movement north of the Jim Crow South, the largest civil rights boycott of the modern era took place in New York City in 1964 when 465,000 children stayed home from school to protest racial segregation.  Urban uprisings such as this (along with coalitions and organized movements like the Black Panther Party, the Black Arts movement, campus rebellions, and Black feminism) African-American activists in New York called for equal rights in the way of employment, housing, day care, health care, and criminal justice reform.

Flyer advertising a School Boycott in the 1960s.

School Boycott! Image courtesy of the Elliot Linzer Collection, Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives

This flier calls for a one-day school boycott in New York City on February 3rd, 1964. The boycott was part of a campaign for quality, integrated education. Civil Rights leaders Milton Galamison and Bayard Rustin, along with the NAACP and CORE, were integral in organizing the boycott. More than 450,000 students refused to attend their respective schools on the day of the boycott.

Congress of Racial Equality Hat

Congress of Racial Equality Hat. Founded in 1942 the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was one of the leading organizations advocating civil rights for African Americans.

Pan-American Emancipation Celebration Medal with Ribbon

Medal with Ribbon from Pan-American Emancipation CelebrationGreat Pan-American Emancipation Celebration, Waverly, New York August 1, 1901.

LGBTQ Rights

On June 24, 2011, New York became the sixth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. The Marriage Equality Act took effect on July 24, 2011.

Round button with text 'Against Gay Marriage? Don't Marry One!'

Marriage Equality Act Button

A sticker with pink triangle - pro-gay symbol - with text 'Silence=Death'

Act Up sticker, “Silence=Death”The pink triangle became a pro-gay symbol by activists in the United States during the 1970s. Its original use came during World War II, when known homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear inverted pink triangle badges as identifiers, much in the same manner that Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David.

Button for the 25th Anniversary of the Stonewall Raid with text 'Stonewall 25/Straight but not narrow'

25th Stonewall anniversary button “Stonewall 25 / Straight but not narrow”On June 28, 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a local gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York, ignited the first wave of the modern Gay Rights Movement.