Civil rights mean the practice of social and political freedom of citizens and their protection from violation by other citizens. From the earliest settlements in North and South America, black people experienced slavery, oppression, and the harshest systems of white supremacy. This has seen the American history being marked by a series of determined efforts and struggles to enact inclusiveness for all by civil rights groups. Back then, as per the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation African Americans were not allowed to associate with whites in a majority of public accommodations and institutions like schools, restaurants, beaches, parks, old people homes, movie theaters, parks, restrooms, and even hospitals (Perry, Elisabeth, and Karen, 175). With this in mind, this paper takes a look at the evolution in civil rights in the 1960s including the struggles and successes.
The 1960s were a time for deliverance and freedom for African Americans in the US. Many of them were fed up with being segregated and being treated like minor beings. After the Civil War, certain amendments were made to the constitution of the United States that ended slavery, gave blacks in America the right to become citizens, and their males the right to vote. Though these laws were welcomed, they were never meant to last. South American white leaders enacted acts that strengthened racial segregation in the Jim Crow laws. Ironically, it was these that actually fired up the civil rights movements. Segregation was what caused the 1955 bus boycott organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after Rosa Parks refused to stand from her sit for a white man (Gray and Fred, 31). This incidence basically set the ball rolling for the civil rights movements that ran from Montgomery to Memphis.
Thanks to the success of the 1955 boycott, activists saw some light at the end tunnel in the fight for racial equality. Come the 1960s, and there arose some of the most significant Civil Rights Movements. Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) formed at the beginning of 1960 is one good example. They staged sit-ins in restaurants, drugstores, and other public places. Later in mid-1966, they called for black power after James Meredith; one of their leaders was shot. In 1961, though met with some violence, more activists like the Congress of Racial Equality and the Fellowship of Reconciliation staged freedom rides where they tried to test a ruling passed by the US Supreme Court against segregation on terminal buses, thats the Boynton v. Virginia decision of 1960 (Arsenault and Raymond, 13). As seen, there were constant conflicts in the US between people of different races. The hate had taken roots giving birth to distinct groups of black activists. A violent and non-violent one.Basically, the success of the fight for civil rights can be attributed to nonviolent protests. The strategy was to appeal to the hearts of their oppressors. Unfortunately, some white people were not ready to start treating blacks as equals and wanted things segregated. They fought back and were violent against them. People lost their lives both black and white. Front-line activists met the most brutality with some being jailed and even murdered. This encouraged the violent groups of activists on their course. One Chuck McDew is quoted saying We lived in a society that was amoral, and so, nonviolence wasnt going to work. However, thanks to their peaceful ways of claiming their rights, these 1960s nonviolent Civil Rights Movements were able to work with Congress to achieve making several amendments to the constitution.
For example in 1963, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) founded by Martin Luther and his supporters launched an essential campaign with the aid of Minister Fred Shuttlesworth. Although encouraging as far as turnouts were concerned, they were confronted by officers who were extremely violent. It was during this period after watching the internationally televised confrontations that President John F. Kennedy decided to introduce the 1964 Civil Rights Act which is one of the most vital US laws. This Act was the first key project of ending job segregation. August 28, 1963, the March on Washington protest for freedom and jobs saw more than 200,000 people participate. It was in this march that King made his historic speech with the signature words I have a dream. The walk had an immense impact on politics and society not forgetting Kings iconic speech that touched the hearts of many around the world. During this same period, The Deacons for Defense and Justice was formed in Louisiana which organized men to protect activists and guard their homes (Hill and Lance, 30).
Come 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) director Robert Moses organized a project that brought together hundreds of Northern white activists and voting rights organizers. This simple step led to the Alabama protests of 1965 in Montgomery and Selma which inspired President Lyndon B. Johnson to start the Voting Rights Acts of 1965. All these set the pace for what was to come. Like the 1970s election of 43 blacks as mayors. Across the board, the military became one of the most racially equitable employers in America. But the war for inclusivity had not been entirely won. Years of racial discrimination had left deep imprints in many American Institutions and hearts of people.
In conclusion, Civil Rights Movements were dealt a major blow in 1968 with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on 4th April. Although dead, his message and acts still linger in the minds of many Americans and the world at large. Even with his death, African American people were able to organize themselves and even make effects in the political arena. This gave them a lot of confidence and prompted them to also shine in other areas such as sports, dance, music, and film. Martin Luther King's dream had finally started to be realized.
Arsenault, Raymond. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. , 2011. Internet resource.Gray, Fred D. Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System : the Life and Works of Fred Gray, Preacher, Attorney, Politician. Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books, 2013. Print.
Hill, Lance E. The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Print.
Perry, Elisabeth I, and Karen M. Smith. The Gilded Age and Progressive Era: A Student Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
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