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Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Movement


Civil rights movement lobbied for racial parityin the United States of America during the late 1950s.This movement was triggered by, amongst others, the wide spread racial segregation practiced in America, especially in the South against the black Americans famously known as the Negroes.According to Cleaver (1997),the discriminations involved the prohibition of all black Americans from attending similar schools, restaurants, churches, and other social amenities with the whites.

This movement was aimed at ending the widespread racial abuse and to gunner for equal rights and opportunities for all American citizens. This was, however, a daunting task as it involved not only amending the discriminative constitution but also changing the mentality of the whites who believed that they were the “owners” of the United States.Legal attempts to curb this issue proved futile and the blacks were left with no option other than taking to the streets in bitter protest against their oppressors (Metcalf, 1968). In fact, the blacks were considered more or less like slaves to their white masters in the US.

Discussed below are some of the roles played by black male and female activists like, Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), Dubois W.E.B (1868-1963), Martin Luther Jr., Philip A. Rudolph, Rosa Parks, Jo Anne Robinson and many more (Bennett & Jerome, 1977).

The Role of Blacks in Civil Rights Movement


By 1877,many amendments had been made in the US laws to accommodate the rising figures of Blacks within America (about 3445 blacks to 1297 whites) but the withdrawal of Rutherford Hays assured the return of white supremacy. The massacre of the whites also rose so high forcing the then Supreme Court to rule on the famous Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) by approving “separate but equal” as anofficialfoundation of segregation (Waldo & Martin Jr., 1998).DuboisW.E.B sternly rejected the modifications and motivated the blacks to protest for their socio-political equality with the whites. In 1905 he assembled the Niagara Movement that was aimed at reinstating the Black’s socio-political and civil rights in the US; he becamethe co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) by 1919, the coordinator of the 1st Pan-African Congress in 1919, and the editor of the 1st NAACP magazine. Both the NAACP and NUL (National Urban League) played major roles in sensitizing and mobilizing blacks to fight for their rights in the United States. In fact, it was by the campaigns of NAACP that the Supreme Court reversedPlessy’s “separate but equal” policy that paved way for civil rights movement between 1950s and 1960s.

Washington T. Booker was another civil rights activist who fought for the uplift of the Blacks through provisions of equal and sufficient education and industrial knowledge in order to battle socio-political segregation experienced in Southern America. Booker achieved this by mobilizing the Northern white humanitariansto support his agenda. According to Howell (1983),he dialogued and pleaded with Southern entrepreneurs to embrace common interests when organizing Blacks for their jobs in Southern factories. Booker was also instrumental in influencing the NUL in 1910 to develop and offer assistance to Negroes in the Northern towns and to support to Black separatism and nationalism efforts. His ideas boosted the formation of renowned movements like Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1920s, Black Muslim and Leftist nationalistic campaigns.This saw a lot of migration from the South to the North by 1960 enabling the Blacks to evolve from non-voters to voters. Moreover, Roosevelt’s new deal in 1936 changed his allegiance from the whites to the blacks.

By 1940, a socialist and the President of Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters named Randolph A. Philip also played a role of mobilizing numerous civil rights activists to fight for their equity in the US governance prompting the then US President Roosevelt to issue an Executive Order No. 8802 in June 1941 that stipulated amongst others the following adjustments; banning discriminations in the defense industries and in Government, and creating equal and just employment methods and opportunities to the Blacks that led to more number of Blacks being recruited in the US army. Later in 1948 after threatening to rally Blacks inprotests against their monotonous military service, President Harry Truman issued an Executive Order No. 9981 that ended military segregation and added the number of Black voters in United States.

Much was still underachieved until the emergence of Martin Luther Jr.that acted as the climax of civil rights activism. Though considered by many as a late comer in the scenes of civil rights activism, Martin Luther Jr. played a major role of attracting more than 200,000 Blacks and Whites’ indulgence withhisextraordinary “I have a Dream” speech. In his illustrious speech, heencouraged his listeners to be optimistic of a rapid end to their racial woes in the US and talked of dreams of a unified and a prosperous America that knew no racial or ethical boundaries. This therefore forced President Lyndon Johnson B. to sign the Civil Rights Act bill to become a law in the USon July 2, 1964 in order to curb a loomingdanger from the widespread “Black power.” This law abolished all forms of discriminations based on an individual’s color, race, religion, nationality, and many others (Gilliam, 1989).

According to McFadden (2005), the women also played vital roles in the fight for the civil rights of the Blacks in America. One Black woman by the name Rosa Parks played a crucial role in the Black’s salvation from their “masters” on December 1, 1955 by refusing to give up her seat to a white man while travelling back to her resident in Montgomery, Alabama by Bus. This led to her arrest in 1955 that sparked the official commencement of civil rights movement not only to agitate for her release but to liberate the Blacks from the power of the Whitesthrough the Montgomery bus boycotts. Rosa Parks was also a state and local NAACP leader having attended the Highlander Folk School workshop in Monteagle that saw her unite and share activist ideas with the likes of Diane Nash, Marion Barry Jr., Martin Luther Jr., and many others where, they discussed matters on “Radical Desegregation: Implementing the Supreme Court Decision.” Another woman Anne Jo Robinson, President of Women’s Political Council and tutor at Alabama State College printed circulars that agitated for mass boycotts by the Blacks. She was also instrumental in the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association that chose Martin Luther King Jr. as their president (Garrow&Robinson, 1990).

In the same context though largely opposed by the entire Muslim and Christian communities, homosexuality and gay rights should be considered as civil in the sense that other countries for instance, South Africa (2006) and Mexico has legalized it in order to cater for the varied views of her locals towards the marriage issue. In the US however the famous President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 1994 has been a stumbling block to its realisation. The rule bans

"…the propensity and intentions to engage in homosexual acts while serving in the armed forces of the United States as, it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability" (Chauncey, 1994).

In fact, over 12,600 lesbian and gay soldiers have reportedly been dismissed from the US military on claims of perpetuating heterosexual activities.This vice has claimed the jobs of highly trained officers simply due topracticing what to them appears as rightful and harmless to their fellow countrymen. Recently in the US emerged the harsh debate on legalizing heterosexual associations and marriages that saw mixed reactions from the public with a large group including the Anglican Church in support of the issue but it has not yet fully seen the light of the day. Maybe America is still waiting for the mass protests from both whites and blacks aswitnessed in the country’s dark ages to legalize heterosexuality.

Work Cited


Bennett, Jr., & Jerome.The Day the Black Revolution Began: Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 Marked ‘Beginning of End’ of Jim Crow System.” Ebony 1: 54-66, 1977. Print.

Chauncey, G. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World,1890–1940. New York: Basic Book Printers, 1994. Print.

Cleaver, N. K. “Racism, Civil Rights, and Feminism.” In Critical Race Feminism: A Reader (eds) Wing, K. A. New York, NY: New York University Press, 1997. Print.

Garrow, D. J. & Robinson, J. A. G. The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990. Print.

Gilliam, T. J. “The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956.” In Martin Luther Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement Vol. 7: The Walking City- The Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-1956. (eds) David, J. M. T & Martin, L. K. Brooklyn, New York: Carlson Publishers, 1989. Print.

Howell, R. My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered. New York: Viking Penguin Publishers, 1983. Print.

McFadden, G. J. Septima P. “Clark and the struggle for Human Rights” In Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965. (Eds) Vicki, L. C. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2005. Print.

Metcalf, G. R. Black Profiles. New York, United States: McGraw-Hill Publishers, 1968. Print.

Waldo, E., & Martin, L. Jr. Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s Publishers, 1998. Print.

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