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Home > Free Essays & Book Reports > History > Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Movement

African Americans have overcome many struggles as well as obstacles in the early years which have still not been terminated. African Americans have fought for freedom from enslavement, the right to earn a living, have land and a job, have equal justice, good quality education, to escape from oppression, the right to self pride and an end to stereotyping. Blacks everywhere got fed up with being treated as if they were inferior and slaves, so they banded together to form a movement. Not just any kind of movement, but a movement that would see victories as well as violence and death. That movement was the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement had a major goal, and that goal was to end discrimination based on race, creed, color, and gender, and to put an end to segregation. Its' supporters aimed for equality of all people and for the integration of society. The previously mentioned goals were achieved by many different means. The movement had its share of leaders, events, and strategies that helped to reach its' goals. There was a fair share of success and failures that accompanied the Civil Rights Movement. I believe that there were a few amendments that helped blacks to gain some of their rights in the future. Some of those amendments were the 13th and 14th amendment. The 13th amendment abolished servitude everywhere in the U.S. and declared that congress shall have power to enforce this outcome by appropriate legislation. The 14th amendment conferred citizenship on the freedman and prohibited states from abridging their constitutional privileges and immunities. It also barred any state from taking a persons life, liberty, and property without due process of law and from denying equal protection of laws. When these amendments were passed I think it gave many blacks the courage to express themselves and stand up for what they believe in. The rise of the modern civil rights movement was when a group of first- year students from North Carolina and Agricultural and Technical College decided to seat themselves at a segregated lunch counter and refused to leave until the were served. They took the advice of nonviolence from a great leader named Martin Luther King Jr.(who will be talked about in later paragraphs). With these four men doing this each and every day they gained support of many other black students as well as some white students. These boys’ actions started sit-ins in hundreds of cities. In the result of this act many blacks were arrested, beaten, jailed, deprived of their jobs, intimidated, and some even killed. With all this happening the government was forced to protect many black Americans and to guarantee them their rights. In order to enforce these rights federal legislations were passed, public facilities such as transportation and waiting rooms were now desegregated and blacks finally gained back their access to the polling booth. There have been some white people who have been involved in the civil rights movement such as a man named John Brown. He led a slave revolt and was considered a fanatic by other whites and a martyr by the people whose cause he campaigned. 1 A lot of whites that did help blacks in their struggle for freedom were intimidated and abused by others, but that never made them give up. In the Supreme court cases Plessy –vs- Ferguson and in the Brown case many of the decisions that were made combined to produce the Montgomery movement, which will be talked about in the following paragraph. Supreme Court decisions, as in the case of Brown vs. Topeka board of education of 1954, also helped in bringing the blacks one step closer to achieving their goals. The separate-but-equal doctrine was first established in 1896, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy vs. Ferguson that the separation of races is constitutional as long as equal accommodations are made for each race. The ruling in the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education overturned the Plessy ruling. It stated that separate educational facilities were unequal and unconstitutional. Schools all over the country then began to integrate their student body. The Supreme Court had ruled that deliberately created segregation would place a psychological inferiority on the black child and that was absolutely wrong. The decision from the Brown case placed the federal government on the side of those people who saw segregation as something bad and evil. During the Civil Rights movement there were many women who helped the movement become successful. Rosa Parks is one of the women who made a significant difference just by her actions. In Montgomery during 1955 there were no black drivers at all and when blacks would enter a bus they were forced to pay their fee get off and then reboard on the back of the bus. In the front of the bus were seats that were only allowed to white passengers. One day Rosa Parks was on her way home from work. She was very tired and she sat behind the reserved section for whites. She was told to get up and move. When she refused to do so she was later arrested. This arrest unsettled many blacks because Rosa was a very well respected figure. She is not the only woman who did this. Another women by the name of Claudette Colvin who was the age of 15 in high school was also handcuffed and taken to jail. After the arrest of Rosa Parks people then started to have bus boycotts, which drew much support of almost 100 percent of the cities black residents. The civil rights movement also started the rise of a black power movement towards the middle of the 1960’s. Black power basically rejected white American cultural and held that racism could not be eradicated from the hearts and minds of white people. It also indicated that blacks needed to have unity and pride instead of just integration.1 This started the result of many organizations that supported black power. Some organizations were The Black Panthers, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panthers in October of 1966. It is a party that legally demanded the end of racism and class oppression based on constitutional rights. This organization condemned institutional structures and in their view have made the American society corrupt. They have also disavowed some established channels that have authority, which have either oppressed the black community. It has rejected middle class values because they contribute to the indifference toward the disinherited youth of the black ghetto. So basically the Black Panthers is a revolutionary organization that gains its support from rootless young blacks that are trapped in large urban slums.2 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) came into being on February 12, 1909. This organization helped to better the Blacks through legislation and education. The NAACP has stuck with its goal to promote racial separatism.2 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is a non-sectarian coordinating agency, which is for organizations as well as individuals engaged in non-violent protest in the major cities of the United States. This organization has a goal to gain blacks full citizenship rights as well as total integration. 2 The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came into being on April 25,1960. It is an organization, which is for student groups who are engaged in direct action which were protest across the entire South. 2 With all of these organizations being formed it changed Black power and split it up into two parts, which was the violence approach, which was supported by Malcolm X, and the nonviolence approach, which was supported by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandis Gandhi. Malcolm X was a very controversial and fiery person. Malcolm was also a black nationalist or separatist during most of his life. He was born in Omaha on my 19,1925. Before he became a civil leader he had many problems. He was a drug addict and also sold marijuana. He was sent to prison where he met a Muslim man who changed his life. This man was named Elijah Mohammad. Malcolm picked up this mans viewpoints and when he was released from jail he became an outspoken defender of Muslim doctrines. Malcolm believed that a common foe, the white man, hindered black, brown, red, and yellow people’s freedom worldwide throughout most of his life. He believed that evil was and inherited characteristic of white men. He spoke of whites as being devils and was later suspended from Elijah Muhammad’s Black Muslim movement. Malcolm in one of his last interviews said that he had made mistakes during his life, and he was accountable for these mistakes. Malcolm’s biggest mistake was holding the racist view that all white men are evil, but he later altered this view. A man who takes responsibility for his actions, is noble: Malcolm X was noble because he stood in the face of the black Muslims, and said, “I was wrong in holding that all white men are evil, and you are wrong also, if you hold this belief.” Malcolm later formed his own organization called Afro American Unity. He believed that violence was the key and that by advertising nonviolence nothing would be accomplished. Malcolm believed that if blacks were going to be free then they would have to free themselves by using any means necessary. Malcolm also believed that freedom or, independence comes only by two ways; by ballots or by bullets. Malcolm felt that if black peoples could not use ballots to be free, like black people in the south or those in the north whose rights were hindered by gerrymandering, and then bullets were the next option. Malcolm continued to promote armed defense against white injustice, throughout his whole life. He was murdered in 1964 shortly after the group had just been built up. He was buried under the name Al Hajj Malik al-Shabazz, which he had received during his pilgrimage to Mecca. . The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 marked a turning point in the civil rights struggle. Non-violent demonstrators began to advocate “black power” and “any means necessary” as methods to securing African American liberation. Martin Luther King Jr. on the other had been totally different from Malcolm X. They both had the same goal, but they had a completely different way at going to gain it. Martin Luther King Jr. preached nonviolence as being the key to equality. He was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. He made his first mark on the civil rights movement by mobilizing the Black community during a 382-day boycott on the cities bus lines. Kings faith in nonviolence was tested many times during the Montgomery bus boycott, but each time he just felt stronger and more committed to what it was that he had to do. With these actions he made it possible that the U.S. Supreme Court declared that laws requiring bus segregation was unconstitutional. King also summoned together a number of Black leaders in 1957 to lay down the groundwork for an organization, which is now known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He was the president of this organization and worked hard to protest campaigns against discrimination and voting rights.2 King did so much to help the Civil rights movement be a success. Even though he was arrested many times his voice was still and always heard by many people. He was named the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, which was on of his greatest triumph. He worked very hard to please everyone no matter where they were. Many people felt that King was taking a huge risk by bringing the campaign for peace in step with the goals of the civil rights movement, but he knew exactly what he was doing. Even though he could not prevent some of the violence that continued in the world he always felt that if he could stop some people from using violence his goal was being achieved. King was later killed on April 4 1968 while standing on the balcony of the black- owned Lorraine motel. His death struck a wave of violence in major cities. The death of King left many people in the black community with a feeling of much grief and anger. “Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. A Southerner, a black man, he gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to free all people from the bondage of separation and injustice, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream of what American could be. He helped us overcome our ignorance of one another. He spoke out against a war he felt was unjust, as he had spoken out against laws that were unfair. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. Honored by kings, he continued to his last days to strive for a word where the promises of our founding fathers. His life informed us, his dreams sustain us yet.” 3 Mohandas Gandhi Mohandis Gandhi left many works explaining his nonviolence theories. However, in his Hind Swarf or Indian Rule we learn a lot of him and his ways, especially the way he spreads his ideas. Gandhi is a writer that wants to get his point across and nothing matters but getting it across. That is why he writes very literal as well as with imagery. He uses a lot of examples to try and paint a picture in your mind about what he is saying. Gandhi makes up situations which he thinks a person would act violently too and show us how he would handle the situation nonviolently. Martin Luther King Jr.and Mohandis Gandhi has shared the same successful method of nonviolence protest unlike Malcolm X who believed in violence only. These two leaders that shared the method of nonviolence through many nonviolence protest. They both achieved their goals without an ethnic war, which in the end resulted to them being able to reach many people as a result of their hard earned work. . The Civil Rights Movement affected the United States in a few ways. One of those ways was by the means of affirmative action. Affirmative action states that companies must actively pursue the hiring of blacks, females, and other minorities. Companies are then put in the position to hire more blacks and women, and then quotas began to exist. Incompetent people get promoted and some argue that it is reverse discrimination. Affirmative action is actually reverse discrimination against white males. Today, civil rights groups argue that affirmative action cures discrimination. Two more successes of the Civil Rights Movement were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights act of 1965. The Civil Rights Act stated that discrimination on the basis of race in all public places is illegal. After the Civil Rights Act was passed, more blacks were seen entering the work force. Prior to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965, blacks had to pass a literacy test, pay poll taxes, and fit in with the grandfather clause, just to vote. Very few blacks registered to vote in those days because they could not read, answer absurd questions, or pay the tax. However, after the passing of the act, more blacks were registering to vote. Blacks were elected to such public offices as mayors and state and congressional representatives. Voter eligibility was now based on age, residency, and citizenship. In conclusion the civil rights movement had many events that went on in order to help Blacks achieve some rights. There were many leaders who helped contribute to the success of the civil rights movement. Many people believed that Martin Luther king Jr’s death marked the end of the civil rights movement in views dealing with nonviolence and in some ways it did. Even though things may not have worked out exactly the way some people had hoped it too I feel that Blacks have come a long way and in many ways we are still working hard to achieve our goal to the fullest.

Bibliography

Ansbro, John C. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Making of a Mind. New York: Orbis Books 1982 Ashmore, Harry S. Civil Rights and Wrongs. New York: Pantheon Books 1994 Blumberg, Rhoda Lois Civil Rights the 1960’s Freedom Struggle. New York: Twayne Publishers 1991 Conti, Joseph G. and Stetson, Brad Challenging the Civil Rights Establishment. Connecticut: Praeger Publishers 1993 Ploski, Harry A. and Kaisher, Ernest Afro USA: A reference work on the black experience. New York University: Bellwether Publishing Company, Inc 1971 Morris, Aldon M. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: A Division of Mcmillian, Inc 1984

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