American Civil Rights Movement in Western America Trends and Accomplishments Research Paper

Pages: 14 (4394 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: History: U.S. (after 1865)

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[. . .] org, 2018). This is an example of the type of evidence that was used to demonstrate how segregation in public schools does not simply equate to some sort of innocuous separation that allows white children and black children to thrive separately but equally. This type of evidence showed without a shadow of a doubt that segregation had a direct hand in making black children experience a crippling sense of inferiority to white children. As Kenneth Clark testified, ““To separate [African-American children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone” (Naacpldf.org, 2018).  Hence, the landmark Brown v. Board decision was a reversal of an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court in the case Plessy v. Ferguson that deemed “separate but equal” as constitutional. The Brown v. Board decision was a case that started in the American west, but it quickly reverberated strongly with the rest of the country.

Sweatt v. Painter

It’s also notable to acknowledge that the road to the successful ruling in Brown was paved by an earlier case, Sweatt v. Painter, which also originated in the American Southwest. The case started in 1946 when an African American man named Heman Sweatt submitted and application for consideration at the University of Texas law school, an institution that was predominantly white at the time. Grover Sellers, the attorney general of Texas at the time asserted, “Heman Sweatt will never darken the doors of the University of Texas (Lavergne, 2010).The law school wanted to keep their student body strictly white (and probably all male) so they quickly set up an all-black law school on their university campus. In order to protect their racist and separatist ideologies in tact, the State of Texas spent millions of dollars to change a glorified trade school into a university that would have a law school and called it “Negro higher education” (Lavergne, 2010).

This school was shoddy and underfunded, but the board rationalized that if a black school already existed, they would not be forced to admit him into their white school. “At this point, Sweatt employed the services of Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and sued to be admitted to the University\'s ‘white’ law school. He argued that the education that he was receiving in the ‘black’ law school was not of the same academic caliber as the education that he would be receiving if he attended the ‘white’ law school” (uscourts.gov, 2018). The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1950, and the Court wholeheartedly agreed with Sweat, as there was copious evidence for the massive inequalities between the two schools. There was absolutely no credence for asserting that these two schools were “separate but equal.” Hence, the University of Texas found that there was very little to do other than admit Sweatt into their all-white law school (uscourts.gov, 2018).

The Little Rock Nine

Perhaps one of the most notable historical events within the American west that confronted the issue of segregation head on, was the emergence of the Little Rock Nine, via the integration of Little Rock Central High School. One historian referred to it as “the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War” (Branch, 1988). The events at Little Rock Central High School occurred three years after the tremendous and landmark Brown vs. Board of education decision—a decision that effectively ended segregation in public schools, finding it unconstitutional. However, historically southern states and in this case, a southwestern state, (as Arkansas is west of the Mississippi river) often follow their own code of culture, sometimes ignoring federal mandates. Three years after segregation in public schools was deemed unconstitutional, many areas in America had still refused to integrate—Little Rock was one of them, though eventually a federal court ordered this city to follow federal orders.

What happened subsequently demonstrates the immense courage the nine students possessed who sought to integrate amid Central High School (one of the most prestigious schools in the state): livid mobs of racist segregationist students swarmed around the students, chanting racial slurs and chanting things like, “Two, four, six, eight, we ain’t gonna integrate” (Mai, 2017). The local government continued to ignore federal orders and sought refuge in their own racist politics. Governor Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas sought to preserve segregation and he had dispatched the state’s own national guardsmen to prevent the students from entering. Eventually Faubus dismissed the national guard, leaving the students to the mercy of the angry mob; the police had to evacuate the students (nps.gov). This is perhaps one of the lowest moments in the state’s history. The state sought to undermine the sheer bravery that these students had exhibited and was determined to prevent them from their right of an excellent and equal education. President Eisenhower expressed enormous outrage at this issue, and rightly so. It was this type of incident that inspired the federal and presidential outrage necessary to create real change in the world. “‘Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of the courts,’ he said in a televised speech on Sept. 24, 1957. The president sent 1,200 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to protect the teenagers” (Mai, 2017). However, even though every single student that was part of the Little Rock Nine received an individual military escort for the duration of the year, the troops were not allowed total access of the school—there were still many places where these students had to endure racist abuse—such as classrooms, locker rooms, and bathrooms. “As a result, LaNier, like the eight other black students, endured daily indignities, threats and violence. Students spat on her and yelled insults like ‘baboon.’ They knocked books out of her hands and kicked her when she bent down to pick them up” (Mai, 2017). LaNier reflects in her memoir that while the military escorts were there to ensure the students stayed alive, she would be on her own when it came to dealing with the constant petty abuses and racist diatribes.

Part of what made this movement in the southwest so effective for desegregation and for the Civil Rights movement as a whole was because the media followed the story so closely, and by this time most households had televisions in them. Nightly national news coverage showed images of the students dealing with the rampant hostility around them. The issues pervading Central High became a symbol of the national struggles with race relations, equality and desegregation. According to historian Michael Brenes, the issues at Central High were “the first really public and visible test case of whether Brown is going to succeed” (Mai, 2017). Ultimately the bigotry of Faubus prevailed, and while the Little Rock Nine were able to finish the school year they started, Faubus closed all the public high schools as a move to prevent integration. While Little Rock wasn’t the only town in America to experience downright hostility to integration, the visceral images connected to the Little Rock Nine and the fury they provoked, continued to fuel ongoing support for desegregation all over the nation (Mai, 2017). “‘When people saw what was going on, they were genuinely shocked and horrified,’ says Brenes. ‘I don’t think you would have had the growth in the Civil Rights Movement if not for Little Rock’” (Mai, 2017). Thus, even though the hatred and bigotry present was only directed at the courage of nine students, it became an event which enraptured and rocked the nation, compelling so many to better understand the importance of integration, and giving the Civil Rights movement added steam and momentum.

Mendez vs. Westminster

While this instance of school desegregation received nationwide attention and claimed a place firmly in the history books, even further west was the setting of another landmark school desegregation case. The case Mendez v. Westminster was a case that took place in California in 1947 and focused on the issue of separate facilities for students of Latin descent, something that went against California law at the time. Thurgood Marshall represented Mendez, and historians have noted that the arguments used to win this case were also what he used to later win the landmark Brown v. Board decision. Sylvia Mendez was not allowed at public schools in California for “whites only” when she was 11 years old. This rejection in many ways fueled her father’s (Gonzalo Mendez) determined outrage through the appropriate educational, civic and legal avenues. With Marshall, Mendez was able to take four school districts located in Los Angeles, winning class action lawsuits within the federal court system (Uscourts.gov). This very western aspect of the Civil Rights movement was so important because it definitively paved… [END OF PREVIEW]

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American Civil Rights Movement in Western America Trends and Accomplishments.  (2018, May 2).  Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-civil-rights-movement-western/6328353

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" American Civil Rights Movement in Western America Trends and Accomplishments."  Essaytown.com.  May 2, 2018.  Accessed January 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-civil-rights-movement-western/6328353.