Can you imagine turning on your television one day and seeing buildings in your hometown burning along with riots in full force? Sadly, this was the case during a few events in the civil rights era. From the 1950s – 1970s, there were several social issues in the United States with many groups, sparking the start of battles to be fought for equal access and the basic rights that every US citizen should have had. The groups that fought for equal access had started what seemed to be a war in the US against its own people. Each of them held their own without backing down to anybody or anything. Unfortunately, there was a lot of violence associated with these battles, including mobs and riots, along with police brutality and assassinations.
Throughout the civil rights period, I believe that African Americans gained the most out of their battles, even though they seemed to have suffered more than every other group due to the police brutality, mobs, and the extreme riots that broke out. I believe that there was no better time to start a movement than the 1960s, due to the growth of media and the amount of press coverage that was given during the riots that attacked African American demonstrators, which opened the eyes of many Americans, even the President in some cases. For example, as the Birmingham campaign demonstration was happening, the nation was shocked as they viewed television and newspaper images of firefighters attacking protestors with torrents of water and police dogs (Pearson 27.2.2). As African Americans suffered through the abuse from the police, Kennedy proposed a civil rights act outlawing racial segregation of public facilities. Then, during Freedom Summer, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning segregation in businesses and places open to public (Pearson 27.2.4). Another way that African Americans gained from the civil rights era was after the march on Selma, where marchers tried to gain sympathy of mainstream journalists covering the march. Five months after the march, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting literacy tests, poll taxes, and authorized use of federal registrars to register voters (Pearson 27.2.5). These laws were the benefits that came from the pain and suffering that African Americans had fought through.
Even though I believe that African Americans gained the most out of the civil rights era, I also believe that other groups gained from their own crusades. In 1966, women founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) which secured equal rights in traditionally male domains, convincing President Johnson to issue an executive order to create affirmative action programs hiring and promoting women and minority men (Pearson 27.3.5). Many women faced gender discrimination and sexual discrimination, especially as few males seemed to care about the complaints. As women were discriminated against, LGBTQ community members were also discriminated against as anti-sodomy laws were the norm across the country before 1970, and homosexual acts were considered morally wrong. However, on June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn riots took place, where the gay community fought back against police during a raid on the community. This is symbolized as the start of the gay rights movement. Mexican Americans and Native Americans also gained from their own movements, as the short-handed hoe was banned in 1975 after it caused intense back pain to field workers (mainly Mexican workers) and Native Americans gained increased funding from Nixon for Indian reservations.
In conclusion, the civil rights era seemed to be one of the greatest points of breakthrough for many groups suffering discrimination and prejudice, and benefits came from the battles fought by several of the groups. Thankfully, with great leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., these groups were able to change what America was used to in their every day lives. Personally, I believe that nobody should be discriminated against due to race, sex, orientation, color, ethnicity, etc. as everybody is a human being and we all must live in the same world. The civil rights era just proves how much can change over time for one country.
Keene, Jennifer D., Saul T. Cornell and Edward T. O’Donnell. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Combined Volume, 3/e. Boston: Pearson, n.d.
“Sodomy Laws in the US.” SexInfo Online, UCSB, University of California, 10 Oct. 2013, http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/sodomy-laws-us.