In the thick of the civil rights movement, Virginia newspaper publisher George Lewis said in a letter to LIFE Magazine that to him, truly marked and socially-acceptable steps toward social equality included the printing of a black person’s face in his newspaper when that person appeared in the news. The “act” of sharing a lunch counter, though, was just beyond the pale.
Unfortunately for Lewis, the latter could not be forgotten with a simple turn of the page. Throughout the early 1960s, a wave of sit-ins–as gracious as they were courageous–tore through the American South and aided substantially in the passing of the incredibly necessary Civil Rights Act of 1964. That could not have been achieved without the sacrifice, strength and strategy of civil and human rights activists throughout the country, though particularly in the South. From teaching the illiterate to write to training the impassioned to resist provocation while voting, the American civil rights movement left no stone unturned in its pursuit of equality.