The fight for equality, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion is a continuous battle. This battle did not start in one specific place at a specific time, rather it has been going on for centuries. The Civil Rights Movement may have ended in the 1960s, but the battle to fight discrimination and to promote equality and fairness for all is still happening today. The movements that took place during this time were instrumental in preventing discrimination from being an acceptable thing.
Women played a significant role in the civil rights movement, despite the fact that the achievements of the men overshadowed those of the women. Being part of a movement fighting for equality did not protect the women involved from discrimination and sexual harassment. Due to this discrimination, women began their own feminist movement in the early 1960s.
The wave of feminism that took place during the 60 focused on issues such as sexuality, family, reproductive rights, domestic violence, and marital rape issues. This movement established rape crisis and battered women’s shelters and changed many custody and divorce laws. The feminist movement succeeded in passing many laws that improved equality for women. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 promised equal wages for the same work regardless of the sex of the worker while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. Two major cases in 1965 also marked monumental wins for the feminist movement. Weeks V. Southern Bell opened many “male-only” jobs to women while Griswold V. Connecticut overturned a law stating that married couples could not use contraceptives.
The civil rights effort led by African Americans was created to end racial discrimination and gain equal legal rights. Although there were violent times during this movement, it was mostly nonviolent and resulted in many laws being passed to provide equality regardless of ethnicity or race. Not only did African Americans fight for their on right, they also fought to protect every American’s constitutional rights, despite race, sex, or ethnicity.
A major court, Brown V. Board of Education, ended racial segregation in public schools on March 17, 1954, fueling the movement even further. In January of 1957, sixty African American civil rights leaders met in Georgia to organize protests and nonviolent gatherings to fight against segregation and discrimination. One major development in the African American civil rights movement took place on August 28, 1963. The March on Washington took place with over 250,000 people protesting for jobs and freedom. At this historic event, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most memorable “I Have A Dream” speech.
The Native rights movement changed America as much as the feminist and African American movements. This movement had a dual goal, achieving the civil rights of Native people, and the sovereign rights of Native nations.The activists involved in this movement also fought against racism, poverty, and violence while focusing on protecting treat rights and the distinct Native tribes.
A major case for the Native rights movement had to due with Mildred and Richard Loving. Under Virginia law, Mildred was an African American, despite the fact that she also had Rappahannock Indian heritage. Mildred and her white husband, Richard, were arrested in 1958 for violating the interracial marriage laws during that time. The case made its way to the Supreme Court and Mildred and RIchard won, causing the anti-interracial laws throughout the country to be overturned in 1967.
A lesser known movement during this time was the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. This movement mainly focused on restoring land grants, farm workers rights, enhancing education, and voting rights. It was very similar to the African American civil rights movement in the way that repression and police brutality was experience by members of both races.
The Chicano Movement inspired multiple student movements, such as organized protests and mass walkouts. Many students were being punished for speaking Spanish on school property, were not allowed to use the bathroom during lunch, and were actively discouraged from going to college. During these walkouts, the students faced police brutality and some were arrested for disorderly conduct. In 1974, the first major Latino voter registration organization was created, registering more the two million people in the first two decades.
The last major civil rights movement we will be discussing is the LGBT civil rights movement. This movement began due to years of persecution by certain religions, governments, and medical professionals. The goals of this movement were increasing legal rights, increasing acceptance of LGBT people, countering homophobia, and legalizing same-sex marriage.
In July of 1961, Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality. Ten years later, the American Psychiatric Association remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. On January 14, 1975 the first federal gay rights bill was introduced to address discrimination of the LGBT community.
Throughout the years, many groups and movements have accomplished equality in one way or another. As a country, we have a long way to go when it comes to accepting people as they are. Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, we are all just people trying to understand this crazy thing that we call life.
Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: a History of the United States. Pearson, 2017