The civil rights movement was a social justice struggle for Black Americans. This movement took its toll during the 1950s and 1960s. Black Americans used the civil rights movement to fight for equal rights in the constitution of the United States of America. Discrimination against black people still existed after the civil war, which played a vital role in abolishing slavery. The Blacks came together with other white Americans and started mobilizing and carrying out unprecedented fights to seek equality in around 20 years.
Different black people assumed various leadership roles across the country like never before. These leaders were pivotal in holding public offices, seeking legislative changes for the right to vote, and fighting for equality. The 14th Amendment gave Blacks equal protection under the law in 1868 (Levy, 2019). Two years later, Blacks were given the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870. The whites in the South were not happy with this decision. The South established the Jim Crow laws in the late 19th century to separate and marginalize blacks. Interracial marriages were illegal, most blacks could not vote, there were separate schools, and blacks and whites could not use the same public facilities.
The northern states did not adopt the Jim Crow laws. The blacks still experienced discrimination when getting an education, buying a house, and working at their workplaces. The matters were made worse by bypassing some laws to limit the Blacks’ voting rights. When the United States Supreme Court declared Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, southern segregation gained ground. It stated that facilities for the Whites and the Blacks could be separate, although equal. Before the Second World War, Blacks could not join the military, and they were given better jobs. On June 25, 1941, Executive Order 8802 was issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and all government jobs and national defense jobs were opened to all Americans regardless of their national origin, color, creed, and race.
President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 in 1948 after the Cold War began to end discrimination among military personnel. Rosa Parks (a 42-year-old woman), 1955 December 1, boarded a bus from Montgomery after work (Laurent, 2019). Her arrest after refusing to stand up for a white man to sit ignited support and outrage, and she unwittingly became the mother of the civil rights movement. The MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association) was formed by the Black community leaders led by Martin Luther King Jr. (Baptist Minister). This role placed the minister in the center and front of the fight for civil rights.
The civil rights movement gained momentum in 1954 when segregation was made illegal in public schools by the US Supreme Court. In Arkansas, a previously segregated school in 1957 known as the Central High School called for volunteers from all-black schools. The Little Rock Nine (nine Black Students) arrived on September 3, 1957, to begin classes at Central High School. Instead, they were met by order of Governor Orval Faubus by the Arkansas National Guard with threatening mob and screaming. They tried some days later, and they were enrolled, although they were later removed when violence ensued for their safety (Verney, 2020). President Dwight D. The efforts of these boys brought much attention towards segregation hence fuelling protests.
After the Eisenhower administration pushed Congress to minimize racial tensions, new civil rights legislation was considered. On 1957 September 9, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was signed by President Eisenhower into law. In 1960, on February 1, four college students in Greensboro refused to leave the counter without being served by standing against segregation. The effort spearheaded peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins in several cities across the US, leading to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee launching, which encouraged several students to enter the civil rights movement. The act inspired some people like Stokely Carmichael, who later became the chair of SNCC, where he gave a speech and started the “Black Power” phrase.
The other vital activities that ensured the civil rights movement through the 1950s -1970s include the “Freedom Riders.” They tested the Boynton v. Virginia 1960 Supreme Court Decision and the famous March on Washington, attended by leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, and Philip Randolph to establish job equality civil rights legislation for all (Figueroa, 2018). Others include the civil rights act of 1964, the Bloody Sunday of 1965 on March 7, the 1965 voting rights Act, the assassination of civil rights leaders where Malcolm X was assassinated on 1965 February 21, and Martin Luther King Jr. on 1968 April 4. The fair Housing Act of 1968 was also passed to prevent discrimination in housing based on religion, national origin, sex, and race. It marked the last legislation which was enacted at that time.
Celebrities sang songs, poets composed poems, writers wrote books, and artists drew portraits and artwork to document and cherish and describe the events, horrors, and achievements of the struggles of the civil rights movement. Some of the songs which still hold the memories of the civil rights movement include Inner City Blues (Make Me Holler) (1971) by Marvin Gaye, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (2012) by The Roots, and Living For the City (1973) by Stevie Wonder to mention a few. Indeed, the civil rights movement was yet a precarious time for Black Americans, which played a vital role in empowering them. The efforts of countless protesters and civil rights activists of all races were pivotal in bringing about legislation that ended segregation and Black voter suppression.
Figueroa, C. (2018). U.S. Supreme Court in the civil rights era: Deliberative Democracy and its educative institutional role, 1950s–1970s. Annales. Etyka w Życiu Gospodarczym, 21(4), 59–88. Web.
Laurent, S. (2019). King and the other America: The poor people’s campaign and the quest for economic equality. University of California Press.
Levy, P. (2019). The Civil Rights Movement: A Reference Guide, 2nd Edition. Web.
Verney, K. (2020). The debate on black civil rights in America. Manchester University Press. Web.