What is the Civil Rights Movement?
movement was a struggle by African americans in the mid 1950’ to late 1960’s to achieve equal civil rights to those of non color. Those rights included; equal opportunity in employment housing and education, the right to vote, the right of equal access to public facilities, and the right to be free of racial Discrimination. The Civil Rights Movement was an important time during the 1950’s and 1960’s that helps eliminated segregation and gain equal rights for all African American citizens. Many leaders such as Martin Luther King, Rosa parks, Malcolm X, and Andrew Goodman put themselves at risk. Their effort and commitment ended the discrimination against black, African Americans, and finally gained freedom and equality. How could people be so cruel to one another? People are the same according to the man upstairs, in who we all or most of us believe in. People should not be treated any differently because of their skin color. It is obviously something that one can not help or change themselves. God made each individual the way that he did for a reason, but inside and beneath the color of everyones skin, everyone’s the same So what was the civil rights movement for and why did it have to begin in the first place.
The civil rights movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s, for blacks to gain equal rights under the law in the United States. The Civil War had officially abolished slavery, but it didn’t end discrimination against blacks. MAny african americans were denied the rights to go to eat in a front of a diner, drink out of the same water fountain as whites, sit in the front of a bus or even in just a public place, and even denied the rights to attend school with whites. Segregation in schools were deeply rooted in the southern, but not northern or western states. Segregation in schools were ended by the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that declared school segregation unconstitutional. “To marginalize blacks, keep them separate from whites and erase the progress they’d made during Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” laws were established in the South beginning in the late 19th century. Blacks couldn’t use the same public facilities as whites, live in many of the same towns or go to the same schools. Interracial marriage was illegal, and most blacks couldn’t vote because they were unable to pass voter literacy tests” (History).
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The most basic right of anyone who resides in the United States, in a democracy, is the right to vote. Without this right, people can be ignored and not heard by the government or higher up, and have all of their privileges and rights abused. This is what happened to African American people who were living in the South after the Civil War Reconstruction. Even though the 14th and 15th amendments guaranteed the civil rights of black Americans, “their right to vote was systematically taken away by white supremacist state governments”. After a while, in the 1950s, Blacks were allowed to vote. Only so many would register to vote, but women weren’t allowed. “ The “”white primary,”” which was soon imitated in most other Southern states, effectively prevented the small number of blacks registered to vote from having any say in who got elected to partisan offices–from the local sheriff to the governor and members of Congress. When poll taxes, literacy tests, “”grandfather clauses,”” and “”white primaries”” did not stop blacks from registering and voting, intimidation often did the job. An African-American citizen attempting to exercise his right to vote would often be threatened with losing his job. Denial of credit, threats of eviction, and verbal abuse by white voting clerks also prevented black Southerners from voting. When all else failed, mob violence and even lynching kept black people away from the ballot box” (CRF). As a result of intimidation, violence, and racial discrimination in state voting laws, a mere 3 percent of voting-age black men and women in the South were registered to vote in 1940. In Mississippi, under 1 percent were registered. Whites did everything that they could to ensure that Blacks or any other minority did not vote.
Jim Crow laws played a huge role in the Civil Rights movement. “Jim Crow laws were any of the laws that enforced racial segregation in the American South between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950s” (Urofsky). These were passed laws requiring the separation of whites from “persons of colour” in public transportation and schools. These laws were later furthered to parks, cemeteries, theatres, and restaurants in an effort to prevent any contact between blacks and whites as equals. The initial start up of the Jim Crow laws began as early as 1865, right after the approval of the 13th Amendment freeing millions of slaves. Black codes were very aggressive laws that stated, where and how freed slaves could work, and for how much money. These codes were displayed all throughout the South as a way to basically put black citizens into a jail like life, to take voting rights away, to control where they lived and how they traveled and to take children for labor purposes. With such law and codes, there came a group of white citizens who would do anything to stop black citizens from gaining rights or to punish them for doing such things that only whites would be able to do, called the “Klu Klux Klan” or “KKK”. Violence was rising, making the lives of black lives very hard and dangerous.
Black schools were vandalized and destroyed, and these groups of the KKK, attacked black citizens in the night. “The KKK grew into a secret society terrorizing black communities and seeping through white southern culture, with members at the highest levels of government and in the lowest echelons of criminal back alleys” (History). More things had become segregated including: Segregated waiting rooms in professional offices were required, as well as water fountains, restrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, even amusement-park cashier windows. After World War II there was an increase in civil rights activities in the black community, making sure that black citizens were able to vote. This helped in the decades-long attempt in the civil rights movement resulting in the removal of Jim Crow laws. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which legally ended discrimination and segregation that had been institutionalized by Jim Crow laws.
Africans americans have overwhelmingly been the victims in civil rights cases that date back to decades ago. There have been many individual stories about violence against african american people due to the fact that racism was a big problem back in the 1950’s. The story of Emmett Till is a huge example. Emmett Till was a young african american who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 at the age 14, after being accused of offending a white women in her family grocery store. During summer vacation in August 1955, he went to the grocery store for his mother, in the Mississippi Delta region where he spoke to a young woman by the name of Carlyon Bryant. Bryant was a white woman, who worked in the family store. Till spoke to the woman and Bryant turned a little boys life upside down. Till, a 14 year old boy was accused of flirting with or whistling at bryant. He was later found lynched in a tree, with several bruises and dislocated bones, scars, a swollen face, and even burned skin. The brutality of his murder and the fact that his killers were acquitted drew attention to the long history of violent persecution of americans in the united states. In 1955, Bryant had testified against Till, which found Till guilty of a crime which now doesn’t exist, but also found Bryant not guilty of having the boy killed. Decades later Bryant disclosed that she had lied and added extra things into the case just because he was african american.
There were many attempts to get rid of segregation. “One of the earliest approaches was centered in the courts. Spearheaded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), this strategy initiated lawsuits to undermine the legal foundation of Jim Crow segregation in the South. The landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling held that separate facilities were inherently unequal and thereby declared segregation in public education to be unconstitutional” (Khan). This was big to the African Americans, being that now they can go to school and receive an education along side the whites. Many whites did not like the decision of the courts and decided to act out very violently.
The March on Washington was huge as well. The March on Washington was a massive protest march that occurred in August 1963, when some 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Also known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the event aimed to draw attention to continuing challenges and inequalities faced by African Americans a century after emancipation. This is where King spoke of his “I have a Dream” speech.
Freedom Riders played a huge role in getting African Americans and other minority groups their civil rights as well. “Freedom Riders were groups of white and African American civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Rides, bus trips through the American South in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals. Freedom Riders tried to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters at bus stations in Alabama, South Carolina and other Southern states. The groups were confronted by arresting police officers—as well as horrific violence from white protestors—along their routes, but also drew international attention to their cause” (History). This was a group of 13 Freedom Riders. Seven African Americans and six whites who had left Washington, D.C., on a Greyhound bus on May 4, 1961. Their plan was to reach New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 17 to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled that segregation of the nation’s public schools was unconstitutional. These people were met by police and other citizens of the south, who didn’t want them coming to protest.
Other events also help lead to the end of the civil rights movement. On December 1, 1955, a 42-year-old woman named Rosa Parks took a seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus after work. The segregation laws at that time, stated blacks must sit in seats in the back of the bus. Moments later, a white man got on the bus and couldn’t find a seat in the front of the bus, the driver of the bus, told Parks and three other blacks allow the man to sit in one of their seats. Parks refused and was arrested. With Parks refusing to give up her seat, the Montgomery Improvement Association staged a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. The entire boycott lasted 381 days and On November 14, 1956 the Supreme Court ruled segregated seating was prohibited. On September 3, 1957, nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, arrived at Central High School to begin classes, at a school that blacks were not allowed to attend before the Brown vs Board made segregation illegal in public schools. The arrived at the school and were met by the National Guard of Arkansas due to the angry whites who did not want the kids there. On March 7, 1965, the civil rights movement in Alabama turned violent, “as 600 people participated in the Selma to Montgomery march to protest the killing of a black civil rights activist by a white police officer and encourage legislation to enforce the 15th amendment” (History). As they got close to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met and blocked by Alabama state and local police. They refused to stop and they continued to move on and were terribly beaten, tear-gassed, and hospitalized.
“As late as 1969, 15 years after Brown, only 1 percent of the black students in the Deep South were attending public schools with whites. After a series of legal cases in the late 1960s, the federal courts finally dismantled segregated schools. They required school districts to implement plans, such as school-district rezoning, that would bring black and white schoolchildren and faculty under one roof” (Davis).
In conclusion, I feel as if they fought for the right thing in the long run. It is hard to think about how over 100 years ago, African Americans had to live as slaves and had to put up with abuse, confinement, and had little to no freedom. If it were not for them our future would have probably been very different and they were very brave to do what they had did because they risked their lives for a greater cause. We would probably still had been in the same hole and would have never climbed out if it weren’t for them willing to put their life on the line for their people, in who we are today. Many things would most definitely be the same, as they still are the same today, but I feel that we would have had less freedom, including the freedom and rights to be writing this paper to get the education that i need to accomplish my goals of life. “The goal of full social, economic, and political equality still has not been reached. African Americans continue to be incarcerated at a rate greatly disproportionate to their percentage of the population. Black men are the most frequent victims of police brutality, while poverty rates among black children and families are higher than among either whites or Latinos. Stereotypical portrayals of African Americans remain prevalent in popular culture. Many black Americans suffer from poor access to social services and from systemic inequalities in institutions like public education. As successful as the Civil Rights Movement was, there still remains unfinished business in the struggle for full equality”.”