MythBusters Quiz: Answers and More


1. Which of the following is TRUE of Rosa Parks, the woman who helped spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 after being arrested for defying the city’s bus segregation laws?

Answer: C. As Secretary of the local NAACP chapter and leader of its Youth Group, she had an important history of activism before her action that began the bus boycott.

At the time of the boycott, the 43-year-old Ms. Parks already had several run-ins with bus drivers because she opposed the law requiring Blacks to enter the bus from the back, yet pay in the front. In fact, the driver on December 1, 1955 who called the police had previously thrown her off the bus for refusing to enter through the back door. In addition to her NAACP activities, Ms. Parks was involved in trying to desegregate Montgomery’s schools and had attended an interracial meeting at Tennessee’s Highlander Folk Center, a key adult education facility heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Learn more:

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching, pp. 25–31, “The Politics of Children’s Literature: What’s Wrong with the Rosa Parks Myth” by Herb Kohl.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. By Jeanne Theoharis. 2013. A revealing window into Parks’ politics and years of activism.

2. During the 1960s a free breakfast program for children in Oakland, CA was sponsored by:

Answer: B. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

During the 1960s, the Black Panther Party’s provocative rhetoric of armed self-defense often led to demonized representations of them as a violent group. The BPP actually presented a progressive party platform, which quotes the Declaration of Independence and advocates free health care for the poor, full employment, decent housing, and an end to police brutality. Projects like the Free Breakfast Program reflected the Panthers’ commitment to community service and organizing.

Learn more.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching

Pp. 36–37, The Black Panthers and Community Control. Brief excerpt on the Panther Party and their push for democracy and community control.
Pp. 149, “What We Want,” by Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael)
Pp. 145, LESSON: “The Black Panther Party Legacy and Lessons for the Future” by Debbie Wei. 
Pp. 153, LESSON: “What We Want, What We Believe” by Wayne Au. 

The Black Panther Party Reconsidered. Edited by Charles E. Jones. Baltimore, Md.: Black Classic Press, 1998.
The Black Panthers Speak. By Philip S. Foner. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995.

3. After Rosa Parks was arrested, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was first set in motion when:

Answer: A. The Women’s Political Council, under the leadership of Jo Ann Robinson, distributed 35,000 leaflets urging 42,000 black residents of Montgomery to boycott public transportation.

The crucial roles of women, grassroots organizers, and rank-and-file citizens in the Civil Rights Movement are often minimized or left out of U.S. history books. Under the leadership of Jo Ann Robinson, a college English professor, the Montgomery Women’s Political Council began organizing against segregated buses in 1949. This lay the groundwork which enabled them to mobilize black citizens quickly after Rosa Parks was arrested. NAACP leader and labor organizer E.D. Nixon bailed Ms. Parks out of jail and convened a meeting of ministers the first night of the boycott to provide leadership. At that meeting, the ministers formed the Montgomery Improvement Association and elected the 27-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. as its leader. During the 381-day boycott, thousands of blacks walked to work. The movement depended on the many people who organized fundraising activities, car pools, and coordinated taxi service. King’s oratory and leadership helped sustain the movement, but its victory was built on the daily contributions of many unsung activists.

Learn more.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching page 96, “Montgomery Bus Boycott—Organizing Strategies and Challenges” by Alana Murray.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987.

4. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968, exactly one year to the day after he gave a speech on: 

Answer: D. The Vietnam War

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech in New York City on the occasion of his becoming co-chairperson of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam (subsequently renamed Clergy and Laity Concerned).

Titled “Beyond Vietnam,” it was his first major speech on the war in Vietnam—what the Vietnamese aptly call the American War. King linked the escalating U.S. commitment to that war with its abandonment of the commitment to social justice at home. His call for a “shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society” and for us to “struggle for a new world” has acquired even greater urgency than when he issued it decades ago.

The speech concludes: Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain …” Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world.

5. The struggle led by John Conyers, Shirley Chisholm, Coretta Scott King, Stevie Wonder, and countless others to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, recognized in all states, took how many years?

Answer: D. 32 years

The movement to establish a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement began when U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich) proposed such legislation on April 8, 1968,  just four days after King’s assassination. Six million signatures were collected to petition for the holiday and Stevie Wonder went on tour with his song “Happy Birthday” in support of the campaign. Year after year the bill faced defeat and viscous red baiting. The bill was finally signed in 1983 and 17 years later, all 50 states recognized the holiday. Learn more in The History of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday by Nadra Kareem Nittle and How Gil Scott-Heron and Stevie Wonder set up Martin Luther King Day, an excerpt from The Last Holiday: A Memoir by Gil Scott-Heron.


6. Which of the following states had the largest Ku Klux Klan membership during the 1920s?

Answer: C. Oregon

Racism in regions beyond the South has often been overlooked. During the 1920s, the KKK flourished in many Northern states and enjoyed a surprisingly respectable status. Confederate veterans first established the Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee at the end of the Civil War. The Klan opposed Reconstruction initiatives that extended voting rights to Blacks, as well as other measures that protected black economic and political rights. The second, more widespread Klan was established during World War I, in the context of the glorification of the KKK in D.W. Griffith’s silent film, “The Birth of a Nation,” and such actions as Woodrow Wilson’s re-segregation of D.C. federal employees. The new Klan grew to six million members at its peak in the 1920s, spreading to several regions of the United States and even reaching Canada. It gained political respectability within mainstream political institutions, with many Klan members serving in state legislatures. It gained respect within mainstream political institutions; with many Klan members serving in state legislatures.

7. During the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877), which of following events did NOT occur in the South?

Answer: D. The federal government provided each male, freed from slavery, with forty acres and a mule.

Historical accounts have often downplayed the accomplishments of Reconstruction and the considerable extent of black civic engagement during that era. In 1870, John Roy Lynch joined the first group of black representatives elected to Mississippi’s state legislature. He was 22 years old. By 25, Lynch was the first African American from Mississippi to sit in the House of Representatives. Merely ten years prior, Lynch had been enslaved. Now armed with the right to vote, black men elected hundreds of black legislators to state offices (as well as the 16 who served in the U.S. Congress), despite the harassment and violence against blacks that preceded elections. The new black politicians passed ambitious civil rights and public education laws. Lynch spent the last years of his life trying to correct the negative view of Reconstruction that had become accepted by most Americans by the early 1900s. In 1913, he wrote The Facts of Reconstruction, an autobiographical defense of the period. John Roy Lynch died in Chicago in 1939 at the age of 92. It wasn’t until 1987, more than a hundred years after Lynch’s last term in Washington, that Mississippi elected another black representative to the U.S. Congress.

Learn more.

PBS’s American Experience Reconstruction: The Second Civil War

Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution. By Eric Foner. New York: The New Press, 1996.
Freedom Road. By Howard Fast. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1995.

8. Which of the following was the overarching goal of the Civil Rights Movement?

Answer: C. Equality, empowerment, and democracy

Different leaders and activists often held differing views about both tactics and ultimate visions of a just society, and the evolution of the freedom struggle meant that people’s perspectives changed over time. But leaders as diverse as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X realized that it would take fundamental economic, social, and political changes to create an America in which all people were truly free.

Learn more.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching, pp. 55, “Teaching Eyes on The Prize: Teaching Democracy” by Judy Richardson

9. The crucial element enabling progress in winning civil rights was:

A. Grassroots activism and organizing

Answer: A. Inspiring leaders, large mass demonstrations, and eventually federal civil rights legislation and enforcement all contributed to changes toward greater equality, but grassroots organizers laid the essential foundation of the movement. Largely unacknowledged in history books, they performed the unglamorous, painstaking, and often dangerous work of building trust, commitment, and collective action. Their example and leadership prompted local people to take the courageous steps to attend a rally, try to integrate a segregated facility, or walk down to the courthouse to attempt to register to vote. In cities and towns across America, it was these activities that brought about the Civil Rights revolution.

Learn more.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching
Pp. 387, “’Until Victory Comes’: May 1941 Call to Negro America”
Pp. 380, “Cooperative Action in Black Los Angeles” by Homer Fleetwood II

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. By Charles Payne. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.


10. African Americans were not the only group fighting for equality in the 1960s and 1970s. Which of the following groups were also fighting for equal rights and/or self-determination?

E. All of the above

Too often history is taught as segmented, isolated incidents in time. Traditionally, the Civil Rights Movement is viewed solely as a struggle for black Americans, by black Americans. Actually, the Civil Rights Movement was a struggle for democracy which inspired oppressed people nationally and internationally. There are many powerful examples of domestic and international solidarity throughout the 20th century.

Learn more.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching
Pp. 120, “The Borning Struggle: An Interview with Bernice Johnson Reagon” by Dick Cluster
Pp. 393, “Cesar Chavez on How It Began” by Luis Torres
Pp. 396, “El Acto: Studying the Mexican-American Experience through Farmworkers’ Theater” by George W. Chilcoat
Pp. 336, “I Came From a Yellow Seed” by Nelson Nagai
Pp. 346, “Sisters in Arms” by David Hill

Lemon Grove Incident and Mendez v. Westminister. Films documenting two of the first court desegregation cases, both pre-dating Brown v. Board, which involved Mexican American students.

11. In 2002, over 50,000 people rallied in the “Mobilization for Public Education” in response to New York City’s proposed cut of $1 billion from the city’s public school budget. This demonstration was planned and coordinated by:

D. The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and the United Federation of Teachers

In contrast to popular perception, many young people continue to provide leadership in struggles for social justice in the post-Civil Rights Movement era. At the first National Hip-Hop Summit in New York City in June 2001, participants founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). The organization has held summits in several cities, including an August 2003 summit in Philadelphia that registered 11,000 new voters. HSAN unites hip-hop artists, entertainment industry leaders, education advocates, civil rights leaders, and youth leaders to combat poverty and injustice. Among their goals are increased voter registration among young people; the end of class, race, and gender discrimination; universal health care; the elimination of poverty; a clean environment; and the restoration of voting rights for felons who have served their time. Their website is

Learn more.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching
Pp. 500, “We the Peeps: After Three Decades Chillin’ in the Hood, Hip-Hop Is Finding Its Voice Politically” by Teresa Wiltz
Pp. 507, “The Hip-Hop Revolution” by Manning Marable
Pp. 498, “Where Is the Activism of the Hip-Hop Generation?” by Todd Steven Burroughs

12. According to the 2000 federal census, the most segregated city in the United States is:

Answer: A. Detroit, MI

Segregation has always been a national phenomenon rather than a purely Southern one, even when most African Americans lived in the South. Blacks started to move north at an accelerated rate during World War I in what came to be known as the Great Migration. In 2000, the ten most segregated cities were Detroit, Gary, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Newark, New York City, Cincinnati, and St. Louis.

13. During most of the 20th century, Blacks were prevented from voting by:

Answer: E. All of the above

After the Civil War, many African Americans took grave risks to exercise the right to vote, encountering relentless and multifaceted white resistance. While there were important pockets of black voting strength in the South (primarily in urban areas), it was not until the mid-1960s that the Civil Rights Movement was able to decisively turn the tide against black disenfranchisement. One of the best ways to learn about the grassroots work of the Civil Rights Movement is to read the accounts of voter registration campaigns. Here one can learn about the incredible obstacles faced and the strength and determination of the people who literally risked their lived to exercise their legal right to vote.

Learn more.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching
Pp. 207, “The Color of Elections” by Bob Wing

Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s. By Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.
I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. By Charles Payne. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Freedom Song. Film with produced by and starring Danny Glover. TNT Production.