Black Americans and the Civil Rights Movement

Subject: History
Pages: 4
Words: 1200
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College

Introduction

Throughout the twentieth century, racial segregation dominated the United States, but a turning point came in 1960. The state’s dark-skinned heritage began to struggle to equalize all citizens, regardless of their race. It is important to note that the struggle for rights was nonviolent, but extremely effective. Although the task of protest was difficult because of the unequal distribution of parties, the program was very successful. It is necessary to analyze the struggle for black rights and see if its principles are applicable today.

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Analysis of Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights movement in the United States has gone down in history as an example of heroic struggle against blatant injustice. Indeed, the men who opposed racial segregation had a lot of courage and many of them, including Martin Luther King, paid with their lives for their beliefs. However, the movement’s success was attributed not only to the human qualities of the equal rights activists, but also to merely economic considerations.

On August 28, 1963, in Washington, Martin Luther King gave his famous speech, which began with the words “I have a dream” (King, 1963). The legendary human rights fighter envisioned a society where individuals were not persecuted or humiliated because of their skin color. Racial segregation was indeed defeated, but the power of persuasion alone would not have been enough (King, 1963). Segregation ceased to exist as soon as it was no longer profitable.

How the Movement Changed Society

Slavery in the U.S. South collapsed after the Civil War, 1861-1865. The Washington government established an occupation regime in the South and pursued a policy of Reconstruction there, which meant the arrangement of the Southern states along Northern lines. Reconstruction was carried out by northerners, mostly former northern army officers, but also by lawyers, businessmen, and politicians who had been given leadership positions in the southern states (Glasrud & Wintz, 2019). All belonged to the Republican Party, while white Southerners traditionally supported Democrats (Glasrud & Wintz, 2019).

As a result of Reconstruction, there were significant changes in the South. On the one hand, wealthy and affluent blacks emerged, including landowners, hoteliers, shopkeepers, and other businessmen, as well as priests, lawyers, journalists, and other intellectuals. On the other hand, many white Southerners attributed the success of the former slaves to the activities of the Sackers and transferred their hatred of the corrupt occupation authorities to the Negro population (Reed, 2019). The terror of the Ku Klux Klan and similar organizations began against the Sackglers and blacks who had “forgotten their place,” and the masses of Southern whites were on the side of the Klansmen.

The Role of the Law in the Status of Minorities and Blacks

It should also be noted that the laws of rights would have made a huge contribution to this issue. The fact is that in spite of the policy of equality and reformation, there were a large number of opponents of such a movement. Because of this there were victims, misunderstandings and robberies and it also slowed down progress considerably. From the economic point of view, more money had to be spent on this reformation, because sabotage, attacks and clashes between the groups of different views were common. Besides, it was necessary to identify other minorities on the continent who would have been encouraged by the rights laws that had been passed. This would also show the effectiveness of the struggle for the right to self-determination, which would encourage other groups to become more active as well.

The Principles and Strategy of Movement

After the Montgomery protests, King analyzed the course of the nonviolent movement, identifying a number of principles. He placed his faith in justice and religious beliefs, such as love for one’s enemies, at the heart of the movement. He emphasized the need to fight evil, to fight segregation as an idea itself, but not against specific people (Reed, 2019). It is noteworthy that this movement condemns harshness and aggression, that is, it is dominated by the nature of the boycott. As King wrote, a participant in nonviolent resistance often expresses his protest through non-cooperation, but these actions are not an end in themselves: they are merely a means of awakening a sense of shame in his opponent (Glasrud & Liles, 2019).

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As a result, the civil rights movement’s approach was built on the Gandhi method of nonviolent resistance. A special place in the tactical experience of the non-violent civil rights movement was the creation of constructive tension (Glasrud & Liles, 2019). The leaders of the movement deliberately created crises in the racist South. By stating their demands and demonstrating intransigence, participants wanted to create a new climate in interracial relations, and the crises were a means to negotiate the abolition of unjust laws and segregationist practices, to negotiate backed by action by the masses.

Nowadays Context

Finally, it makes sense to consider the applicability of such strategies and goals in today’s world. First of all, it must be said that even though the issue has moved on and racial segregation has been eradicated, racism still exists. It manifests itself in the form of certain slangy but offensive words and stereotypes, the presence of ghettos. It also needs to be dealt with, and nonviolent methods will still be extremely effective today. It is well known that public condemnation of violence sharply escalates and increases when it is directed against victims who behave peacefully and there are no aggressive attitudes or actions on their part (Reed, 2019). Numerous studies confirm the fact that scenes of physical aggression directed against people who do not offer resistance cause the observer to be convinced of the injustice of the use of violent action.

It is also worth highlighting a significant advance in the sociology and psychology of modern society, which on the whole condemns aggression more harshly than before. In addition, progressivist ideas are prevalent in civilized countries, which means that attitudes toward many unacceptable aspects have also changed (Andrews, 2018). The “Black Power” movement was a natural response by desperate poor blacks to the continuing deterioration of their standard of living, to the actual persistence of racial discrimination in American society (Andrews, 2018).

Such arguments and methods are as valid and relevant today as they were in the 1960s, except for acts of brutality. In today’s America, such a movement would have an extremely positive effect on diversity. Since oppressed races and social groups are already being equalized, recognized in society and breaking down barriers, such nonviolent activism would only serve as a catalyst.

Conclusion

In evaluating the experience of the nonviolent American civil rights movement of the 1960s, it should be noted that its leaders considered the social, not the racial, aspect of the struggle to be the main one. In twelve years of organized and focused activity, the movement achieved legislative, formal equality for black Americans. The social and political problems of segregation were solved. Thanks to Martin Luther King and his associates, the nonviolent black movement relied on organized disciplined action by the masses. Direct action in the form of marches, boycotts, and demonstrations moved the Black South, awakened its political consciousness, armed it with courage and an effective method of struggle – nonviolence.

References

Andrews, K. T. (2018). Freedom is a constant struggle. University of Chicago Press.

Glasrud, B. A., and Liles, D. M. (Ed.). (2019). African Americans in Central Texas history. Texas A&M University Press.

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Glasrud, B. A., and Wintz, C. D. (Ed.). (2019). Black Americans and the civil rights movement in the West. University of Oklahoma Press.

King, M. L. (1963). I have a dream. American Rhetoric. Web.

Reed, T. V. (2019). The art of protest. Culture and activism from the civil rights movement to the present. University of Minnesota Press.