In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously rules in Brown v. Board of Education that public school segregation violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and in 1955 orders that desegregation proceed "with all deliberate speed." The murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955 receives prominent coverage in the press. In December 1955, the year-long Montgomery bus boycott begins; its eventual success demonstrates the potential of nonviolent mass action and brings the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to national attention.
Resistance to school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 causes President Eisenhower to dispatch more than 1,000 paratroopers to enforce a federal court order as an estimated 200 reporters cover the events. Congress passes the first federal civil rights act since Reconstruction, but only after it is weakened by Southern opposition. In 1959, a television documentary on the Nation of Islam brings Malcolm X to wider public attention.