America History : Civil Rights Movement

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Though it’s sad to say, discrimination has always played a large role in our world’s history and even found its way into America long ago. Some of the most common types include, racial discrimination, religious discrimination, and sexism. They’ve all been a huge issue in our society, even today, that have resulted in different movements, protests, and laws to put an end to this horrible behavior. Racial discrimination in the U.S. dates back as far as the early 1800s, even with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which prohibited racial discrimination, other laws were put into place to, once again, discriminate against people of color.

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The mid-1900s especially were a time where many different demographics found their voice. They formed movements, organizations, and protests all to fight the system and change how they were being treated. Women and African Americans specifically have always dealt with a great amount of discrimination and stereotypical images being put on to them, which is what ignited the need for them to stand up and change their circumstances.

There were many movements during the 1960s and 1970s but one of the most known movements that fought against discrimination was the Civil Rights Movement. The movement lasted over a decade and its sole purpose was for African Americans to gain equal rights and freedom from discrimination they were facing throughout the country. Over the years there were several riots, sit ins, and numerous amounts of black people being arrested and beaten for voicing their injustices. This reminds us that we should always fight for what we believe in and never settle for less. It paved the way for future activists to fight against not only discrimination but other things such as sexism and racism. Actions were taken and eventually equality between white and black people was actually becoming a thing. There were many protests and marches that occurred which aided in solving the issue. They led to the making of different laws that favored minorities, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination based on race, sex, color, or national origin. The actions taken against racial prejudices benefitted African Americans in the end and they slowly began to get granted the rights that were guaranteed to them by the Constitution.

The Civil Rights Movement allowed us as a country to take a big step forward in the right direction. This relates to Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” because it allows people to have a better understanding of the conditions she was referring to when writing her poem. She continuously mentions how she still rises, despite the negative comments made about her or the stereotypes directed towards her blackness and womanhood at the time, she completely understood the oppression of African Americans and women. Even after the movement, discrimination against black people was still prevalent and derogatory terms were used frequently, but as Angelou said she was able to rise above the negativity and ignorance, so being knowledgeable about the Civil Rights Movement or any movement in general that was fighting against discrimination was essential in being able to understand what Angelou was referring to in her writing.

Movements related to race were not the only movements fighting for justice during that time. There were also feminism movements fighting for more rights and better treatment of women. However, this movement was strongly influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and gave women the confidence they needed to stand up for what they believed in. Despite the racial tension during the time, black women still pushed through and chose to be a part of this movement, even though several of them were excluded by white women and had to march in separately. They were all fighting against the traditional roles associated with women in society and how they should act in life or within a marriage. The 70s especially were a very active time for Women Rights Activists. For example, one of the things women fought for was them finally being able to express their feelings and have a voice without a man telling them what they should or should not say. One of their main quotes was, “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Women had changed so much during that time, that TIME magazine gave the “Man of the Year” award to American women in 1975, labeling the cover, “ TIME: Women of the Year” and placing photos of many women of different ethnicities all over it. From their looks to their attitude the discrimination they faced from men changed their entire perspective once they hit a breaking point. Women were always seen as the cook, wife, and mother while the men were allowed to be the provider and behave as they pleased, which is where the phrase, “boys will be boys” comes from. So, the movement aimed to stop stereotypes just like those and show that women have more of a purpose than being a conservative, stay at home parent, they could do anything a man could do.

The movement also acknowledged the significant salary difference between men and women. Even today the issue still arises but at that time women who worked were viewed as odd and disobedient. The fight for women’s rights was happening way before the 1970s, for example the passing of the 19th Amendment granting women suffrage. However the 60s, 70s, and 80s were when the wave of active feminism occurred and women gained the confidence to express themselves in the way they wanted. The discrimination against women and the stereotypes created towards them pushed women to fight for themselves because no one else would which is what significantly changed the direction for how women are treated today.

The Civil Rights Movement and Feminist Movement both have background information that would be helpful before reading the poem and insightful when it comes to understanding it as well. Angelou mentioned the sexiness of her thighs which went against the common stereotype associated with women. They were expected to be conservative when it came to expressing their sexuality and they were frowned upon and shamed if they were too revealing, so Angelou’s poem contrasts with the norm. She breaks the stereotypical idea of women during that time, while also giving herself a voice in the poem that isn’t dictated by a man and shows the progress the success of this movement has made. Overall, understanding the history and context behind the main lines of Angelou’s poem helped in not only being able to relate more to the poem, but also understanding the circumstances within the poem and what Angelou was witnessing and might’ve gone through during the time she wrote it. Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements in the mid 1900s paved the way for several minorities and women today to have rights that were supposed to have been granted to them from th

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America History : Civil Rights Movement. (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved from