Movement for Civil Rights Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2728 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 28  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

Civil rights movement is considered one of the most complex and tumultuous times in this nation's history. Though the Civil rights movement spanned many years, peak activity and highlights of the movement are most often credited with the time period up until 1965. Prior to this time, minorities living in the United States faced segregation and discrimination. The movement against 'colored' folk in the United States was grounded in years of unequal treatment, slavery and corruption which led to segregation and savagery.

For many years in the United States a separate 'class system' of sorts existed in which minorities and women alike were considered to some extent second class citizens. In fact, as late as the 1940s in the United States more than three fourths of African-American's still lived in rural and economically marginal areas of the south, living in more poverty stricken areas and under a lower standard of living than most whites.

African-Americans living in the United States were not afforded the same luxuries as white people were, and were also looked down upon as less deserving, intelligent and worthy of the same recognition and rights that white citizens were. All of this changed however, during the era of the civil rights movement, when black leaders emerged and began fighting for equal rights, representation and opportunity under the law.

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The aim of this paper will be a discussion of the civil rights movement particularly with regard to achievements made by African-Americans during what is considered the 'peak' of the civil rights era. Among the many aspects of the civil rights movement to be touched upon will include the origins, highlights of a few significant leaders of the civil rights movement. The movement itself is too far reaching to cover in great detail; however every emphasis will be made to provide adequate reference to critical aspects of this momentous period in American history.

Term Paper on Movement for Civil Rights Assignment

Many consider the time between 1955-1965 to be the peak of the civil rights movement, when many acts were passed including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These acts provided basic right for all Americans including the right to vote regardless of one's race. Thus much of the information presented is discussed with reference to this ten-year time period, though it is important to remember that the fight for liberty existed for many years before and after this particular span of time.

Origins of the Civil Rights Movement

It is hard to pinpoint an exact start to the civil rights movement. The exact origins of the movement might vary depending on who one consults with regarding the civil rights campaigns of the early 50s and 60s. There are many that credit Martin Luther King with initiating the climactic events of the civil rights movement. Certainly Kings March on the state capitol building in Alabama in March of 1965 was a momentous occasion, demonstrating the desire for equal opportunity and a unified front among the black population in this country.

Other than Martin Luther's works, the Montgomery bus boycott and Rosa Parks are credited with beginning of the true civil rights campaign, as these events are a hallmark of the civil right movement, where people started standing up for their rights and fighting to end segregation.

One might simply conclude that the civil rights movement began in earnest when citizens and leaders began standing up for the civil rights and liberties that were guaranteed them under the constitution of the United States. Though some early action during the 1940s is evident, for the most part the civil rights movement did not start up in earnest until the 1950s and 60s. The struggle for civil rights would end up being long but worthwhile in the hearts and minds of those dedicated to freedom and liberty for all.

Highlights of the Civil Rights Movement

There were many highlights of the civil rights movement including the passage of the two acts mentioned above. Among the more common events of note included marches, boycotts and freedom rides and rallies to solicit media attention regarding the struggle for racial equality. Some other significant events that worthy of mention include: military de-segregation, appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Brown Decision and the March on Washington.

During the early 1900s most African-Americans lived in below average housing districts in the South. Those that had migrated north did eventually find more political, social and economic opportunities than their southern counterparts, but still did not realize the same equal opportunities that white men did in this country. Many blacks were "disproportionately relegated to low-skilled and poorly paying jobs."

Segregation often prevailed not only in common day-to-day events but even within residential neighborhoods where blacks were often confined to poverty stricken neighborhoods with little opportunity to move up the economic or social ladder of life.

Military Desegregation

Military desegregation was one of the initial successes of the civil rights movement. In 1948 President Truman issued two executive orders one of which provided equal treatment and opportunity for members of the armed forces. The passage of the armed forces order meant that people of any race, religion, color or national origin could now serve equally within the armed forces and represent the country they lived in. Truman also issued an order that required fair employment practices among the civilian agencies of the federal government.

Brown Decision

Soon after this monumental achievement the NAACP found itself working on among other things school desegregation case in Charleston South Carolina which became known as the Brown decision. The case appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, upon which Thurgood Marshall, the first black man appointed to the Supreme Court, was serving. The court decided in favor of Brown, marking a victory for the civil rights movement because it allowed de-segregation in a school.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

There were many instances where African-Americans made headway and headlines, one of which was during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During this monumental occasion African-Americans pooled together to boycott public buses, and formed an organization that supervised the boycott called the Montgomery Improvement Association. The boycott was successful because it eventually led the Supreme Court to ban segregated seating on busses in 1956.

Martin Luther and Other Leaders

There are several individuals credited with truly helping the civil rights movement succeed. Among the earliest noted and most well-known figures of the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King, Jr.. Martin Luther is credited with furthering the goals of the early civil rights movement and leading the nonviolent efforts of the civil rights movement during its critical years.

He is most well-known for his "I have a dream" speech in 1963 which inspired many to take on the fight for justice and equality under the law.

Rosa Parks was well-known for refusing to sit in the Negro section on a bus in Montgomery Alabama in 1995, and was arrested. She is thought to have inspired the Montgomery bus boycott.

Martin Luther was assassinated in 1968, which led to rioting and aggression among many black communities in cities and rural areas. Martin Luther had been considered by most to be the foremost leader in the non-violent quest for civil rights that existed in this country. He is also credited with coming together with leaders including Charles Steele and Fred Shuttlesworth in the early years of the civil rights movement to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which became a leading force in organizing the civil rights movement based on the principles of nonviolence and civil disobedience.

In the years that followed his death, there was a move among other civil rights leaders to achieve more political power in the government and more representation. Affirmative action for past discrimination became a big issue among civil rights activists.

Malcolm X surfaced as a Black Nationalist and more radical leader during the civil rights movement as well. Founder of the Organization of Afro American Unity, he too was assassinated in 1965.

Analysis of the Civil Rights Movement

There are those that believe that the modern civil rights movement was a "product of post World War II," born during a period of "worldwide decolonization" where nations were emerging as de-segregated and diverse. Indeed African-Americans living in the United States in the 1960s onward were very aware of the decolonization efforts of global nations and began seeking more independence for themselves on the home front.

More and more civil rights leaders including Malcolm X came to believe that people had arrived "at the end of the white world supremacy" and drew inspiration and started taking a stand against segregation and fighting for equal opportunity.

The civil rights movement was a significant force that caused the U.S. social system to "live up to its ideology of equality for all under the law." The goal of the movement was to not only inspire de-segregation but also to integrate minorities into the egalitarian system that this country was founded on.

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