Civil Rights Movements or other call it the African-American Civil Rights Movement that took place from 1955 to 1968 but lasted roughly until 1975. However, the earliest part of the Civil Rights Movement started in 17th to 18th century in which the first faction between the whites and blacks occurred. With the help of some prominent people like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who were both slaveholders refuted the idea of slave trade. These two showed a great concern for their slaves.
The Civil Rights had been passed despite oppositions from the delegates of the Constitutional Convention; but, the implementation or institution of the articles on the abolition of importation of slaves took into effect after twenty years because that period, American had focused on its battle against British army. Upon implementation, these black enjoyed certain freedom including the rights to vote.
On the other hand, the modern Civil Rights Movement was sparked after the Board of Education declared that the “school segregation unconstitutional” (From Slavery to Civil Rights). This is entirely incorrect because prior to that, as early as 1865 to 1877, there was an amendment of the abolition of slavery in America; indeed, the American Constitution “was amended three times to provide equal rights to black Americans, slavery was abolished, and citizenship and voting rights were guaranteed” (From Slavery to Civil Rights).
This declaration made by the Board of Education had triggered this protest among the black community. This movement which was led by Martin Luther King Jr. aimed at abolishing racial discrimination and segregation of African-American “through non-violent protest” (From Slavery to Civil Rights).
However, due to oppositions from the While Americans, many events ended up in bloody riots that killed numerous Blacks and Whites including Luther who was shot dead in 1968. In 1965, the “era of civil rights campaign” (Bailey and Kennedy) of the Blacks after President Johnson signed the new voting law – Voting Rights Act of 1965 -allowing Black Americans to vote. However, this law had prompted more problems and trouble for it did not stop the bloody riots in many other places of America; because, the Black believed that the men behind these trouble were the White Americans.
For this reason, many Black Americans raged in fury against the Whites, which is called the ‘Black Rage’ (Bailey and Kennedy). Tensions grew everywhere killing many lives; for the Blacks this symbolized their effort to exercise their political rights. Gradually, as this movement got enlarged, the protesters integrated “racial dignity, economic and political self-sufficiency, and freedom from white authority” (Wikipedia) in their struggle for civil rights.
Civil Rights Movement of 1955-1965 was the last attempt of the black Americans to gain full citizenship rights and to achieve racial equality. This movement started in peaceful demonstration but ended in bloody riots that killed many people everywhere. These blacks became very violent in order for them to be given what they asked for.
Finally, tension between the blacks and whites was temporarily ceased when these Blacks were given the right to vote; after they had exercised their right to vote, this had paved the way for many of them to land some jobs in the market and in the public office; black children had sat in integrated classrooms; and many black families had risen economically into the ranks of the middle class (Bailey and Kennedy), that until now, these black finally found their place in this land after many years of struggles.
Social Conditions that Triggered the Evolution of the Movement
The Blacks’ campaign for equal rights or civil rights is rooted back then in 16th century when the first African at Jamestown were purchased. Then years later another groups of Africans from Africa arrived at this place to serve as slaves. Slaves were really useful in the utilization and cultivation of lands, like doing agricultural works; and in performing household labors. This was the very reason why White Americans did not favor of giving these people freedom.
The sad thing about this condition was that most Africans who arrived in America “were bought and sold as a source of slave labor, [they] were denied the most basic human rights and were often subject to abusive treatment” (From Slavery to Civil Rights). Many events in the history of America that shows unequal, inhuman treatment were given to these people; they were discriminated and segregated, never had they experienced the opportunity to practice to own properties or live freely. Slavery was also inherited; therefore, children of slave would also turn as slaves.
The racially discriminatory laws that were passed had severed racial violence inflicted on black Americans, and that was permitted by government officials during the pre-war era. One of these laws was the 14th Amendment that was passed and yet given a contradictory interpretation that the protection of human rights was not guaranteed for individual Americans especially the blacks, but a protection of every state.
For this reason, especially the South Americans, the beating, the lynching, and the murder were carried out by individual white rather than by state government. These discriminatory acts were not controlled by the government because of the 14th Amendment which was interpreted by the Supreme Court.
Based on the report of James Ralph, there were discriminatory treatments being given to blacks; he further said, “Despite the 1885 civil rights law, it was difficult to obtain a conviction for discriminatory practices.” Many Americans had denied human rights to these slaves.
According to Wikipedia, there were four categories of the permitted acts of discrimination against African Americans, they are: racial segregation, voter suppression, denial of economic opportunity, and, private acts of violence. These protest against these acts were done peacefully at the first phase of the movement which took place in the late 18th century until the early 19th century. The kind of treatment that these black received continued until the modern civil rights movement.
Slavery had impacted seriously on black people leaving them scars that can never be erased in their minds. In the history, many slaves attempted to escape and rebelled in order to stop discrimination and gruesome experience that they had. Many revolts and insurrections had taken place; these Negroes had to fled away in order to escape their masters. In one report compiled by Carolyn Benneth, she narrated:
Fear, toil and the lash, hard words and a little ash cake and bacon, and fields stretching around the world–this was life for most slaves, day in and day out, season after season, with a half-day off on Saturday perhaps and a whole day on Sunday,” writes Lerone Bennett Jr., in Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America 1619-1964.
The Great Depression in America provoked these Black to form Black activism especially when the Communist Party of America “spurred agitation over employment rights and access to public accommodations (Ralph). The turn of the twentieth century, when liberation was the cry of European countries in order to end the feudalism, this has become the driving force of these black Americans to claim the rights that was deprived of them many centuries ago.
After the World War II, these miserable scenarios continued; there were attempts that triggered the blacks to resist and fight for their rights. During this period, black Americans’ rights were recognized by the law, and many influential people invoked civil rights movements that totally turned their history for good of all.
Various Activities that Contributed to the Success of the Movement
Many events took place before the dreamed civil rights came into existence. It took individual courage and initiatives before everything came about. The following are just some of the important event that happened along Civil Rights Movement.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was said to be the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. Although both black and white American can ride together in a bus, but whites’ seats are at the front seats and fill seats towards the rear while the blacks had to occupy the back seats towards the front. In case the white had to stand up for no vacant seat was available, the black had to stand up. But in one very tiring afternoon, Mrs. Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, refused to give her seats to a white man. She was arrested and put to jail; but Nixon, the Montgomery representative of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, bailed her out which gave him the idea of having Montgomery’s black citizens boycott the discrimination in bus riding.
This boycott system was a peaceful means of protesting which was done by not riding in the bus of about 40,000 blacks in Montgomery through the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. The accomplishment of this was that it made the protest nonviolently, and this had become the way of telling the whole America about their protest. This was covered by television and radio coverage elsewhere and drew attention of the general public. However, its weakness was that it failed to convince the state government of Montgomery; and after that the Supreme Court of Alabama decided to integrate the bus system which means every passenger can seat anywhere else in the bus.
The Sit-In demonstration was staged by almost 70,000 students to public snack bars and restaurant trying to break segregation of races in public places. This started when four black sit-ins at lunch counter in Greensboro, a place where black can not occupy a seat. Almost a year after that, a militant group of 70,000 students staged in a sit-in demonstration. And this time, this became very dramatic that even President Eisenhower supported this militant action as long as it promotes civil rights. However, this was not that successful because it took place at the last year of Eisenhower in the office as President of the United States.
The freedom rides were synonymous to sit-ins, it sought to hasten transformations in the South. This displayed a Greyhound bus like those used in the 1961 Freedom Rides
It was the time of President Kennedy when the March on Washington happened. 1941 was the first schedule of the march but it was canceled because President Roosevelt gave their demand. Bayard Rustin, its organizer formed a march to Washington in 1963, in this march, other notable men of the movement were there like King, Randolph, Wilkin, Farmer, Lewis, and Yong Jr.
Together, they planned the march and in August of that year, it occurred despite President Kennedy’s request to stop the demonstration and encouraged them to discuss the matter in the Congress. The blacks were really decided that is why Kennedy embraced the march. For fear of riot, many policemen were deployed the area, many important events for that day were cancelled, and it looked like as if, something big was about to happen.
As soon as they arrived, the program started with hymns and speeches from their leaders. And after the program, half of the protesters dispersed peacefully while others remained around the vicinity. Right after that, the black leaders met President Kennedy, and with a smile, he gave assurance that their request would be granted. In November of that year, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. And by the following year, a law was passed giving these blacks their civil rights.
Civil Rights Movement to estimate had taken about centuries before the equal rights were given to them. Indeed, the American Negroes had a great story to tell about their struggle for freedom which the modern blacks today must be grateful for.
The life of these Negroes in the hands of these whites was really terrible, terrifying and life-threatening that an ordinary people just like them would definitely aim for freedom. It was an uneasy endeavor; it was knocking at the hard wood or stone. It was a total turn about in the history of America. It was the real liberty and democracy that America is after for even at the edge of war.
Now that black Americans enjoy freedom, America became stronger and identified as peace-loving people, freedom loving people, and most of all, human rights loving people.
Bailey, Thomas and Kennedy, David. (1987). The American Pageant. 8th Edition (New York: D.C. Health and Company)
Benneth, Carolyn, Ph.D. (compiled). “Black Resistance: Slavery in the United States. http://www.afro.com/history/slavery/main.html
“From Slavery to Civil Rights: A Timeline of African-American History.” The Library Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/civilrights/flash.html
Ralph, James. “Civil Rights Movement.” Encyclopedia of Chicago.
http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/293.html African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_Rights_Movement_(1955-1968)#column-one#column-one