The Era of the United States United States Civil Rights Movement is most commonly recognized as occurring between 1950 and 1970. It was a very comprehensive campaign to further the civil rights of African Americans in the United States. It encompassed the efforts of American churches, businesses, politicians, lawyers, laborers and students. They were men, women and children. It was a strategic movement intended to reinstate rights granted African Americans after the Civil War by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution of the United States. These Amendments abolished slavery, provided citizenship and equal protection under the law and gave African American males the right to vote.
As one of the most successful social justice movements in the United States, The The Civil Rights Movement has inspired many other movements for other minority groups who have experienced discrimination in United States society, such as American Women, LGBTQ, Mexican American and Native American Groups.
Beginning in 1954 the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) won a Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. The ruling made racial segregation in public schools illegal and unconstitutional. Prior to this ruling, in a 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court had made “separate but equal” legal. This enabled whites to segregate African Americans and force them to live, learn and exist in areas separate from whites. A punitive social and legal system called “Jim Crow” was utilized to maintain this system which existed primarily in the South. Brown v. Board of Education was to begin dismantling this structure through the courts. Publicity about violence and intimidation of African American student resulted in President Eisenhower to send Federal Troops to enforce desegregation. Segregation continues to be an issue to this day. Some schools are integrated but there remain many school districts that are only African Americans and suffer from lack of funding and inferior facilities and resources. Teacher shortages, low test scores and poverty exist in many of these school systems (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223640/).
The beating death of a teenage boy, 14 year old Emmett Till, by white supremacists drew extensive media coverage and publicity on a scale that was recently seen in our current era as a result of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Carolyn Bryant, a clerk in a store accused Till of sexually harassing her and touching her. The murder of Till was a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement as the family pursued prosecution and bravely testified against his white attackers. Sadly, the attackers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted. They later bragged of committing the crime. Carolyn Bryant admitted she made up the story (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/07/emmett-till-murder-case/97588506/).
One major tactic used by the Civil Rights advocates was nonviolent protest and and civil disobedience. In 1955 Rosa Parks inaugurated the Montgomery Bus Boycott by refusing to give her seat to a white person as the law demanded. She was arrested and African Americans boycotted the bus system through a coordinated effort of the African American and white activists and the African American community. The boycott proved successful and resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public busses was illegal in 1956. Cesar Chavez later organized National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and used boycotts and nonviolent protests of poor working conditions and low pay of field workers in late 1960’s the early 1970’s.
As the Civil Rights advocates continued their peaceful resistance, students used sit down strikes at lunch counters in protest of segregated eating establishments and activists participated in Freedom Rides despite verbal abuse, physical violence, and bombings. The Federal Government stepped up in their defense.
These events culminated in the 250,000 person March on Washington in 1963 where Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the world with his “I Have a Dream” speech and resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which made segregation in businesses and places open to the public illegal and forbid discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or sex. The Civil Rights movement also realized the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which was supposed to remove hindrances, like poll taxes and literacy tests, that had been enacted to prevent minorities from voting. Even with the passage of these bills our society has to continue to contend with residual prejudices and attempts of some to revert to prejudicial systems.
I believe that overall the African American Civil Rights Movement has been the most successful so far. It is an ongoing movement that has been emulated by many other minority groups.
The women’s movement predates the Civil Rights Movement and resulted in women being granted the right to vote but has made minimal progress in winning equal pay. And despite getting the Equal Rights Amendment passed it has not been ratified (http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/history.htm).
I think that the LGBTQ movement has become the most formidable of the groups in recent years. It has used the media, peaceful demonstrations, and the legal system very adroitly. The community has created educational websites, advocated for understanding, and motivated business and governments towards tolerance. Movies like Milk, Philadelphia, Brokeback Mountain, Boys Don’t Cry and many others have given people a sympathy and an understanding for the plight of LGBTQ people. The greatest obstacle that remains is that it is still legal in most states to discriminate against people for sexual orientation and gender identity. Michigan is currently debating the meaning of the word sex which could affect the rights of people who identify themselves as transgender (http://wdet.org/posts/2017/07/28/85560-whats-in-a-word-how-sex-could-reshape-lgbtq-rights-in-michigan/). With the continued advocacy it conducts through the courts and community resources and events the LGBTQ community has steadily grown and experienced success with the passage of same sex marriage laws and getting insurance for partners. There is no doubt that they will continue advocating for civil rights and social justice.
Jennifer D. Keene, Saul Cornell, Edward . O’Donnell. Visions of America : A History of the United States, 2nd ed. Pearson, 2013.
July 1, 2017Edit
"Blog Topic #4: The Civil Rights Movement 1950-1970"
Leave a Reply
Enter your comment here…