Civil Rights Paper Assignment

The civil rights movement was the time where series of mass movements and rebellion was visible in American history. It was a long process especially for African-American in achieving their objective for equality and later was then granted.

The debate on Civil Rights Movement of 1945-1968 of James T. Patterson showed a well illustrated approach on discussing civil rights issues overviewed by Steven F. Lawson and Charles Payne. Their intellectual minds resulted to a conflicting analysis from that period of time. This impressive scrutiny from them gives a different approach in presenting viewpoints of what happened at the past. Rather then just collecting and reading a confusing set of analysis of an event or movement, the essays  are comprehensive in treating the subject matter but in an opposing perspectives.

The difference in emphasis of how they write facilitates their essays in” Debating the Civil Rights Movement”. Books such as Payne’s “I’ve Got The Light Of Freedom (1995)” and Lawson’s republished “BlackBallot (1976, 1999)”, are award winning books that would farther show their different insights and shows the way they understand and interpret issues(Whitman, 2000). The manner how a reader evaluates the book would give an impression on who is more convincing. But for me, regarding the debate, I find Paynes work more persuasive comparing to Lawson’s explanation.

Discussing the efforts of Lawson, yes I agree to his idea that the federal government took role in granting the civil rights. It is really impossible for the African-Americans blacks from the south to have a “first-class citizenship” without the help or influence of the national leaders. Also, through the mass movement and revolts shown by the people, the central governments have prepared the act.

But what caused these revolts? It is therefore the question and the image that Payne is trying to pinpoint in here. Understanding the idea of Payne, I could evaluate that he adopted the quotation,   “for every cause there   is an effect”. It would be best to say that his thoughts are superior then to Lawson theory. What I am trying to explain is that Payne is for a more specific scheme but for Lawson it is in a broader area that needs further analysis.

Payne is focusing on the struggles when one lives under a tough, unfortunate status or of becoming a worker or lifetime slaves to a high ranked person. He then emphasized that to understand this civil rights, a background check to these set of individuals must be done. The experienced hardships are the key tool for the establishment of Civil Rights.

Payne’s behavior was highly affected by his empathy to Ella Baker. She is great mass organizer and fighter for equality. Both of them have similar feelings and interest on subjects in public events especially on civil rights revolution. So, the way Payne perceives is based with actual understanding and admiration compelled by incidents from cause of the revolts.

In contrast, again Lawson exaggerated said that the grant was due to the protesters who sacrificed their lives, so the government leaders listened to their need of equal rights. He argues that after the event of the “March at Washington” and after Birmingham, no “legislative logjam” occurred from the country in questioning the complete civil rights bill. It was Lyndon B. Johnson who made the first move on it. Lawson added that, same to the demonstrations handled by Selma in securing and guarding the 1965 Voting Act Right, Johnson became useful by convincing and instructing the Justice Department in preparing the bill(Whitman, 2000).

 Just to clarify it, Johnson was not resolutely influence of Selmas activities rather it is the way he personally see and anticipate the issue that made him decide for what is right to do for the nation. Lawson then sticks to his findings that it is the national leaders of the state who dictates the outcomes, and the one who made the history in the struggle of the civil rights. It is the man in power decides   what he thinks is best and benefiting for the nations territory.

Citing a problem that I could infer from the mentioned Lawson’s view point is that, the country is in a democratic form of government. So the focus on to whom the government should entertain would be the needs of its people. They are calling for a Civil Right so the nation handed it to them because it is the duty of the government to serve the people. It is a vital need to help elevate the problem of personal status to the community, which is clearly explained by Payne. The person in position in the federal government was elected by the people to works as a representative to find ways to entertain and solved the problem of humanity.

Lawson says that the influence of government leaders was responsible for achieving the bill, but analyzing it at the other view, it is better to say that it is the voice of the people who awakened the nation to proclaim the Civil Rights of 1945-1968.

Adding more the arguments, Lawson interpretation of Martin Luther King’s speech uniquely supports his side. The racial reform made blacks dream possible. But Payne’s defense with the statement was that, excellence of great essays from noble man mutes some of the arising conflicts. King knows that the blacks were treated as slaves for centuries and his ambition was to end this situation. The long stay under the chains of adversity was an enough reason for him to change the condition. He wants to see them as African American citizens sharing equal rights at the same country.

Payne is sharply decisive on his "top-down" deal in the failure of figuring the role played by ordinary people in shaping the country. The focus is always on events that are of large scale giving a disadvantage to the social infrastructure that actually sustains on usual basis from the arising movement. And, the emphasis was only at the legislative changes through the outlay of realizing the movement on civil rights due to that experiences that transformed the individuals .Perhaps, for him, from the “top-down” idea, it encourages a “triumphalism” for the blacks.

The black radicals were  written off  a set of tassel ingrates that when their lives comes into an end, they  would forget the  fissure in King’s mind and analyze the thought from Malcolm X that it would be less than of what is being  expected.

A primary document complements the essay being discussed. The book published by Lawson entitled “From the Nation,” gives a selection of imminent on Truman’s supervision of 1947 based from “"To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights". Also selections from the "Southern Manifesto” of 1956, the 1958 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1958, are few examples that supplement Lawson’s essay.

 From “Views from the Trenches” of Payne, it was noticed by Lawson that it is not quiet coherent. It is only composed of five sections that are short documents, comparing to other documents which is composed of nine documents that are much longer. But, Payne’s citing from “Bigger than a Hamburger” of Ella Baker where copied and a few of the other documents are randomly selected(Whitman, 2000). Simply, by adding more documents as support, it gave way for a stronger frame and affirmed essay against Lawson. Through this, it corresponds to the arguments of Lawson as counteract to his claim.

 The difference in viewpoints from them gives insights on the civil rights movements especially for African American history regarding the politics behind it and to racial issue. But, Payne’s’ ideas would always be of great interest for me.

 The debate was well illustrated and would make the reader think and comment on the situation being highlighted. Despite the criticisms, arguments, and intellectual reciprocal from the liveliness of the essay, the propinquity of the flow and verity of the documents is still quite explicable especially to Mr. Payne’s defense of his thoughts.


Whitman, M. I. (2000). Debating the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1968 [Electronic Version]. Retrieved July 29, 2007 from