Civil rights, the rights to freedom from discrimination that every citizen and inhabitant enjoys by law, have evolved gradually over the years in the United States. For African-Americans, civil rights have been hard-won and are still an issue. Trenton's African-American community like those in many other American cities, has experienced its own share of tribulation in attaining proper acceptance within mainstream society and has also contributed significantly to the broader civil rights movement.
In the 1940s, segregation and racist attitudes were still strongly pervasive in Trenton - in the neighborhoods, in the schools and in the workplace. One landmark legal challenge took place in the city during this period when Gladys Hedgepeth and Berline Williams filed suit in 1944 against the Trenton Board of Education in the New Jersey Supreme Court, objecting to their children having to walk two miles from their homes to the all-Black Lincoln School, when other public schools were closer at hand. This case helped set the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court's hearing of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka ten years later and the decision that barred segregation throughout the nation's public schools.
In the 1960s, Trenton's African-Americans and other civil right's sympathizers stood solidly behind the cause for racial justice. A march by 4,000 protestors through the downtown to the War Memorial in 1963 culminated in a rally to raise awareness over discriminatory practices in the workplace and the need for minimum wage legislation. Other civil rights demonstrations were mounted in the city in the mid-1960s, and Trenton was one of many American communities to experience rioting following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. This represented the high point in racial tension in the city and since that time Trenton's African-American community has built a strong political presence in local government as befits its growth in numbers.
Links to learn more - New Jersey State House, Trenton; Trenton Free Public Library, Trenton