American history has not always been a smooth ride, and one of the biggest reasons for this is that the country was founded on a set of ideals that have yet to be fully realized. Most important among them the principle that all men and women are created equal.
The Founders understood that the reality and the ideal were not to be aligned in their lifetime; some of them were happy with this since they owned slaves, but others such as John Adams found it abhorrent.
They foresaw that things would change in the future and perhaps bring about the perfect union they sought; thus they built into the nation's laws the capacity for change. However, reactionary forces have not always welcomed that change, especially when it threatens entrenched interests or asks people to challenge their own prejudices.
The Civil Rights movement was one of the most important movements to bring America's reality and its ideals into greater alignment, by asserting the now hopefully uncontroversial position that skin color is not a reason for denying a person's full participation in their own democracy and its economy.
The fact that this is seen as pretty darn obvious to our generation is owed to the work of heroic leaders like Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks, Gloria Richardson, and more. In remembering their deeds, we honor them and carry on their work. So let's get to it!