European Civil Rights Movement Summary

Abstract.

Agrarian and industrial revolution saw the European countries that had already revolutionaries in those areas go to look for cheap labor in less revolutionized countries and ethnic groups, by taking the people from these areas to be slaves in the farms and industries. Many slaves were mistreated by their masters in many ways. Some countries that had been colonized and latter attained independence saw the oppression of the minority groups by the majority population.

The American blacks are among the minority groups that suffered a lot of oppression from their white counter parts especially with the segregation policies in place. Many of the blacks and some few white sympathizers rose against the oppressive policies and tried as much as possible to liberate the blacks and thus bring equality in the United States. This led to increased cases of riots and protests organized by civil rights movements, and thus led to the death of many protesters while others were arrested and jailed.

However with the emergence of leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. the civil rights movements in the United States took different twists that later contributed to the liberation of the black Americans, thus leaving a big mark on the American history.

Introduction

In the 1960’s there was a lot of experiences of social protests in the United States.  These protests were escalated by civil rights movements and the Vietnam War. When the Vietnam War came to an end, many organizations had been formed to promote racial justice and equality in the whole of America.  Their efforts took a long period before they started to be recognized, that is until the 1960s.

The groups however did not have a uniform consensus on how to promote equality on the national level.  Some groups (e.g. Martin Luther King’s SCLC) advocated for the peace methods to bring change as they believed that by working around an established system then change would be achieved.  However some groups advocated for the retaliatory methods and the separation of races (e.g. the Black Nationalist movements, and the Nation of Islam).

Numerous strikes, marches, riots and rallies were held from time to time to protest against the injustices, thus causing frequent confrontation with the police.   Many protestors were killed and some national leaders of various organizations (such as Martin Luther Jr. and Malcolm x) were later assassinated.  In the early sixties, restaurants, hotels, night clubs, public facilities and schools systems were segregated on the race basis and the education and job opportunities for the blacks were far below those available to the white Majority, (Kelly & Shuter 1998, pp 170).

The African –American population was the minority at the time, and thus depended on the support given by the white population, especially in sentiment terms.  Some of the Africans who were caught in spirit of hippie Movement took the issues of racial justice and equality to heart and went as far as marching to the streets to demand for justice (Anderson & Stewart, 2007 pp 17).

The Civil Rights movements of 1960’s

“The civil rights movements that spanned the years following the Brown V. Board of Education decision of 1954 through the passage of the voting rights acts of 1965 marked a watershed period that accomplished far more than elimination of racial barriers,” (http://www.enotes.com/civil-rights-article). This led to the transformation of the entire American social, political and cultural life.  The government and the courts have so far continued to protect the rights of the American blacks like any other citizen.

The civil rights movements by the blacks stems a long time since the blacks were brought into the American land chained as slaves.  They started agitating for their rights.  During the World War I, & II the blacks were used in the war as soldiers but also kept in segregated zones, and traveled north to take advantage of the defense industries (http://www.enotes.com/civil-rights-article).  The civil rights movement quickened its pace with the court ruling of 1954 and the passing of the voting rights of 1965.

The civil rights Acts was passed in 1957 (this was the first since the reconstruction) to enforce the voting and other rights of the blacks. However, many protests were witnessed all over the country by the black movements when they realized that their rights were not upheld.  For instance, the sit in protests by the students to desegregate the southern lunch counters.

This was one form of the non violence protests against the segregation in the public places.  Despite the non-violence means used by some civil rights activists, they met hostility during their mission, and most of them ended up being beaten, arrested and others lost their lives (Anderson & Stewart, 2007, pp 63). The first sign of relieve came with the intervention of President John F. Kennedy when he directed the enforcement of the regulations that would have barred the segregation in interstate travels.

The civil rights movement led by King thus marched to Washington to press for the enforcement of the law.  With the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Johnson managed to marshal the congress to pass the bill outlawing the segregation in public facilities and the discrimination in employment opportunities and education.  This was then followed with an increased campaign to make the Africans become part of the voting bloc in the United States.  The fight for voting rights was also not received very well with the white terrorists. For instance they arrested and murdered three girls who were registering voters (De Freitas, N.d para 11).

There were however disgruntled black activists who had lost faith with the civil rights movement reforms as they felt that the movements had targeted only the most blatant forms of discrimination.  For instance despite the court’s ruling against segregation, there was no immediate equality bestowed to the blacks and no political reform system that had mostly left the blacks being crippled both economically and politically. Hence some blacks especially in the north decided to adopt a more revolutionary stance as opposed to the King’s style of non violent approach.

Therefore with the growing sentiments of nationalism, organizations that were non-violent such as the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became violent and started advocating for ‘black power’.  In this crusade, the proposers wanted to endorse a racial guide for the black and even go as far as having complete separation with the whole white community.

Malcolm X was the greatest advocator of the black separation.  Malcolm managed to attract a large band of urban blacks with his charismatic way of speaking.  He urged his supporters to secure their rights by any means possible, thus rejecting the ideas of King of non-violence.  However, some civil rights were also against Malcolm’s ideas of violence. For instance, the Southern Christina Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  These groups felt that there was still need to strive to be in the mainstream society, and not complete separation.  With the assassination of Malcolm, the violent crusades did not die.  The black panthers boldly adopted the Malcolm’s message of “by any means” (Kelly & Shuter 1998 pp123).

There was still discontent during the latter half of 1960’s. The blacks continued to agitate against the poverty level and racism leveled to them.  The riots caused a devastating effect to the homes of the blacks and led to a more deepening different between  those advocating for a more violent means for achieving black rights and those advocating for a non violent means.  King was also assassinated in 1968 causing a blow to the civil rights movements that had already fractured due to the different stands they had.  But this did not however, deter the different groups from advocating for their agendas, even though they had lost momentum.

The fight for Black nationalism can also be traced  to Marcus Garvey who had advocated for the returning of blacks back to Africa and be supported by the American government for sometime until they establish themselves (Kelly & Shuter 1998 pp 12). But according to Malcolm, the blacks deserved to be given land as reparations for they had ‘sweated blood’ to make the white man build a reach country that had become capable of even helping her enemies (Kelly & Shuter 1998 pp 63).

Therefore, until the goal of returning to Africa, or a separate homeland in North America was realized, Malcolm advocated for the economic self determination through the black owned businesses like those owned and run by the Black Muslims (Cushman-wood, 1993 para 9). According to Cushman-wood, Malcolm argued that the Blacks had an economic reserve of $20 billion per year but he failed to see how this was used for survival. In his mission, Malcolm was using the values of capitalism to prepare the African Americans for separation.

Malcolm had the desire to develop a self esteem among the black people which led to his economic thoughts. He looked at what the Black Muslims were doing and believed that all the Blacks could do that. Therefore, by keeping money in the Black community, it would have helped to develop self esteem. This was to be achieved through separation from the white Americans. Malcolm differentiated segregation and separation.

He argued that segregation was used by the Whites to keep control over the blacks and make them continue begging, while in separation, the blacks would attain self-control. In this perspective, Malcolm admired the Jews because he felt that their self sufficient was a subject to be emulated by the blacks. He however criticized the Jewish community for taking money out of Harlem.  He also criticizes the Jewish civil rights movement leaders for not teaching the blacks on how they should be economically self sufficient (Cushman-wood, 1993 para 8).

Malcolm also criticized the black church leaders for failing to see how separation would lead to self esteem. He was hurt by the leader’s involvements in building churches instead of businesses. After they have built, they go back again to the whites to beg for jobs (Kelly, Rees & Shuter 1998 pp 72). To Malcolm, begging was antithesis for separation.  Those who were advocating for integration were considered to be begging to be let into a Whiteman’s house. Getting employment with a Whiteman was a temporal solution, but integration was nothing but an attempt by the middle class blacks to get approval from the Whiteman (Cushman-wood 1993 para 11).

King also shared Malcolm’s notion about the church harnessing massive wealth for themselves, but he was against the idea of separation but pro-integration. King did not see how the under development of the blacks was of necessity for the development of the American society. King’s argument was that it was legal segregation that had caused the blacks from not enjoying the economic pie and not the economy itself that was the primary cause for the black’s oppression (Anderson & Stewart, 2007 pp).

The American government had a difficult task in 1960’s dealing with the civil right’s movements in her country and at the same time dealing with the Vietnamese war. The Vietnamese war was a war between the capitalist ideologies and the communists’ ideologies. This was according to the Americans. But the Vietnamese felt that it was a war about unification. The majority soldiers in the war were blacks. With the civil rights movements, this posed a dangerous situation to the army in the Vietnam as they could have turned against their fellow army men.

As the civil rights movements intensified, the US was very much involved in the Vietnamese war drafting many men to go and fight into the war. The white Americans had an enormous debate concerning the morality of Vietnam War. But the African Americans were generally opposed to the war. It was argued that the freedom of the Vietnamese people was not an issue concerning what the Americans were doing to the Black Americans (Anderson & Stewart 2007 pp 49). Like many other wars, those who were in the frontline during the war were the poorest majority of the United States-whites, brown and Africans. Malcolm X had opposed the war in the early 1960s, and the SNCC and King also came to oppose the war later.

The black Americans who were opposed to the war were however severely punished unlike the whites who opposed the war.  For instance, the social worker Julian Bond who had been elected to the Georgia legislature had his seat denied for his opposition to the war.  There was the reduction of the financial support to the civil rights activities, and the black civil rights activists started receiving notices (Kelly, Rees & Shuter 1998 pp 85). During war time, the armies remained segregated and the Red Cross went as far as segregating blood as well.

The civil rights movements had insisted on pursuing ‘double V’ i.e. victory against the American enemies abroad and victory against racial segregation in their own land.  Many of the African Americans who were involved in the fights came home determined to change the racial segregation in their country (De Freitas, N.d para 14).

In 1967, King gave the first speech that was entirely devoted to Vietnam.  He said, “We must combine the power of the civil rights movement with the peace movement.  We must demonstrate, teach and preach until the very foundations of our nation are shaken,” (De Freitas, Para 33). This statement from king made other civil rights leaders who advocated for non violence to distance themselves from King.  However many soldiers were dying in Vietnam War and King had to lead a protest to the UN headquarters to protest against the war.  He also protested since he had been booed by the youths he was addressing when they felt that he had failed to deliver services they required.

A journalist commented that due to King’s actions, he was now closer to Malcolm than people had thought.  But according to King, since he had labored for years bringing change to the South and it was not forthcoming, hence there was need for the reconstruction of the entire society i.e. a revolution of values.  This could have been achieved by the nationalization of vital industries, granted income for the impoverished Americans and an end to slums (Cushman-wood, 1993 para 13).

With the death of King many civil rights leaders were unable to organize any meaningful riots or protests.  The Black panthers were also not very influential.  This gave the American Government room to deal with the situation in a brutal repression manner and apparent reform.  Many Black Panther members were arrested and others jailed. One of the strategies that the Americans used was to buy off the civil rights leaders and expand the middle class level of the blacks.

“Disguised as a reform, this was an attempt to promote a layer of blacks who having a state in the system would promote the ideas of that system.  Affirmative programs for example created new relatively high paid jobs for some black workers”, (De Freitas, N.d, para 41). There was thus an increase in the earnings of the top black workers in 1970s, business by the blacks also increased from 163,000 to 231,195 and between 1970 and 1975; twenty four black owned banks were established. The number of the black students entering the universities also increased from 75,000 in 1950 to 660,000 by 1976, (De Freitas N.d para 43).

However, these gains were not very much beneficial to the majority black Americans. They were used by the white Americans to cut off the black rebellions. Many of the civil rights leaders were thus absorbed into national, local and big businesses. The majority black Americans have not however benefited much as the civil rights leaders who were vocal in the movements, as several have had their economic conditions worsened since then. On the other hand, the civil rights movements gave the black Americans the democratic rights they had been denied since the reconstruction period. More important, it gave the black society the potential of becoming more organized in their community and the entire society.

The American civil rights movements left a permanent mark on the American society. It brought to an end the most overt forms of racial discrimination, also leading to the decline of racial violence.  The American blacks were initially barred to hold public offices, after the civil rights activities, the blacks are nowadays elected to the public offices they had been forbidden. Many of the blacks have also benefited from the economic conditions that were created after the civil rights movements. The movements also created room for the other minority groups to be able to advance for the rights, e.g. the Hispanics, the women, disabled, etc.

Reference:

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Cushman-wood D (1993): Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X: Economic Insights

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