And directly growing out of the Civil Rights Movement were similar movements on behalf of women, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, the disabled and others. Many of the legal rights won by the Civil Rights Movement were applied to all those groups, and their movements used many of the same strategies, tactics, and arguments as the Civil Rights Movement. The student free speech movement was started by veterans of the Freedom Movement, and many Movement veterans were active leaders in the anti-Vietnam war movement. Today, the gay rights movement is using many of the strategies and tactics of the Civil Rights Movement.
In broader terms, the Movement changed the consciousness of society at large. Prior to the Movement, overt racism was a normal and accepted aspect of American life, now racism has been to some degree driven underground and forced to disguise itself. In the 1950s TV programs thought nothing of using racist language like "coon," "shine," and "n-----" in dramas and "comedies" and most non-white people were shown as racist stereotypes and caricatures such as Stepenfetchit, Amos & Andy, the Pancho (Cisco Kid), and so on. And businesses used racist names, logos, images, symbols and advertising without a second thought. Now that is no longer the case.
In politics, mainstream politicians of both parties like Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and their current day successors proudly proclaimed themselves to be racists, made public speeches avowing the inherent racial superiority of white Europeans and the genetic inferiority of all non-white, non-Christian people, and campaigned on explicitly racist platforms. Now they deny that they are racists and they have to disguise their agenda.
Before the Movement, it used to be perfectly acceptable in white middle- class homes to make "darky," "polack," "kike," "spick," and "wop" jokes at the dinner table. Miscegenation laws made marriage or sex between black men and white women illegal in a third of the states in the union, and people were put in jail for committing the crime of inter-racial marriage. (Sex between white men and Black women was technically illegal too, but rape of Black women by white men was so common as to be an accepted part of the "southern way of life.") The Freedom Movement made that kind of overt racism unthinkable in today's society. (Covert racism, of course, still flourishes in all its myriad ugly forms.)
I can remember back in the Fifties and Sixties when people became aware of segregation. There were two water fountains, one Black and one white. Two bathrooms, one Black and one white. There were certain places where if you were of a certain group, you weren't allowed in at all. I've always believed that there was some right-thinking white people that felt the same way about all these things that were going on as I do. So I think it's opened a lot of white people's minds. I feel they benefited from that.
And back in the Sixties, not only Black people were getting killed for challenging the system, but you had a number of white people that were also killed for challenging the system. Like you had James Goodman and Mickey Schwerner in Mississippi. You had Viola Liuzzo and Reverend James Reeb in Alabama, and you had a number of other people that were killed.