There were changes achieved by civil rights protest groups without Government support, for example the desegregation of buses in Montgomery and desegregation of public places in Greensboro. However, their impact was limited. Arguable the nationally impacting de facto changes were mostly due to Government legislation, like both Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act, than achieved by civil rights protests. However, the Government was influenced by these protests to a large extent.
One example of a civil rights protest that achieved de facto change with very little Government support was the Montgomery bus boycott. Public transport through the south was segregated; blacks at the back, and the whites at the front. If the bus was full, a black person would have to give up their seat for a white person. The boycott was started after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man and was arrested and fined, this infuriated the blacks of Montgomery. They began a campaign of direct action targeting local bus companies and refused to use public transport. Martin Luther King Jr then took this case to the Supreme Court and after a year of the boycott, the buses were desegregated. This change was significant because it showed that the Supreme Court were willing for change towards desegregation and equal rights for blacks and whites. It also proved to the black people of the south that they had financial power as they were the main group of citizens that used the bus system as most white people either had cars or walked so without the black community using the buses, the companies struggled. Furthermore as the boycott got a lot of media attention, spreading images of a peaceful protest around America, people in the rest of America could see how bad the segregation was in the south. Despite these significant changes in Montgomery, in general it was a very small change as it was the only the desegregation in one small town in Alabama rather than the whole of America which meant that the blacks still had a long way to go and were limited to that one small change in one city.
Another example of a civil rights protest that achieved de facto change with very little Government support was Greensboro. Public places were also heavily segregated in the south in the early days of the Civil Rights movement. Places like restaurants, swimming pools and libraries were segregated where whites and coloured would have to sit separately or even have completely different pools and libraries to go to and use. The Greensboro sit-ins started when four black students sat in an all-white section of a café. Although it started with just four students, the numbers grew rapidly to over 300 black people sitting in white sections of public places. As a result the café closed to prevent the blacks sitting there and so these sit-ins spread to nearby towns. By the end over 70,000 people got involved. Eventually public places in Greensboro were desegregated through the constant pressure of the blacks. Greensboro was significant because it increased the number of Civil Rights groups and showed that they could all work together for the same goals. Furthermore it also demonstrated how fast peaceful protest could spread the south which then generated more media coverage as the protests were on a larger scale. With the positive media, the word of the black people making a stand and finally getting what they want. Also the media showed that the white people were acting violently to the peaceful protests and showed them in a bad light so the American citizens tended to side with the blacks and as a result started to want more equality and more rights for blacks. Similarly it showed that the Federal Government did not have to intervene and protect the blacks for them to get their own way.