The Civil Rights Movement
“I Have a Dream”, the well-known speech of the black preacher and social rights activist Martin Luther King, is deservedly recognized as a masterpiece of oratory. On the day the speech was delivered, over 250,000 Americans headed to the memorial in Washington D.C., erected in honor of President Abraham Lincoln, the man who had abolished slavery. King’s words indicated the decisive stage in the struggle of African Americans for their fundamental human rights. In 1958, concerned citizens organized the movement aimed at safeguarding the black population from bias, prejudice, and inequality. Various means were used to prevent African-Americans from participating in the elections. Some laws prohibited black people from getting the education; they were also required to take specially designated places in the public transport. The current paper seeks to examine the most significant event in the United States history – the civil rights movement as the non-violent protest aimed at reaching the full legal equality for all people regardless of their race and gender.
Issues of compliance with civil rights and freedom of different people are the most pressing ones for today. These questions are an integral part of the internal politics of any country, especially a multi-ethnic one such as the United States of America. African Americans were forcibly brought to the continent, and they had to fight for their rights for many centuries. Slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century, but it took African-Americans almost a decade to reach complete liberation.
In the 19th and early 20th century, black people and their white allies attempted to end enslavement and ensure the equality for the liberated individuals. It was difficult to reach this goal because slavery and oppression of African Americans were among the intergroup political compromises that had reinforced the national unity. The Civil War of 1861-1865 would end the enslavement in the United States of America, but at the end of the conflict, the political will of the northerners, enabling them to deal with the resistance to the racial equality by white southerners, gradually dried up. The introduction of Jim Crow laws formalized the segregation throughout the South and suppressed the political progress of black population. However, African-American leaders continued to use their intellectual potential, which subsequently fueled the successful civil rights movement in the twentieth century.
The civil rights movement was non-violent, and the representatives of both the white and black population took part in it. By the mid-1950s, the indignant black population of the southern states could no longer accept the established practice of segregation. In the early 1960s, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized boycotts and sit-ins in many public places. The movement attracted many people of different races and forced to repeal the rules of segregation in schools, stores, libraries, and theaters. White Southerners resisted change and used violent methods to reach the set goals. White people of the South and most of the nation severely resisted the idea that African Americans should get full freedom in white-dominated society. There were frequent attacks on the fighters against segregation that sometimes ended in murders. The culmination of the civil rights movement was the March on Washington in 1963 in support of the adoption of laws against racial discrimination, prejudice, and bias. U.S. Congress passed the civil rights laws in 1957, 1960, and 1964. In addition, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to protect the rights of black voters.
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In the second half of the 1960s, the radical organizations that aimed to fight for the empowerment of the black population using force, violence, and arms, separated and acted independently. After the assassination of the legendary activist Martin Luther King and numerous riots in the black ghettos, many supporters left the movement. In the following decades, many leaders of the civil rights movement occupied the high government and public posts and succeeded in business and research activities.
Despite the serious ideological split in society, the American nation stood firmly on the path of democratic development, which meant the legal equality and freedom for all citizens. The progressive white population widely supported the struggle for democracy and civil rights. It was clear that the development was impossible without the freedom that should be available to all citizens regardless of their status, race, and gender. The outcome of the struggle for equal rights for blacks did not depend on legislation only. According to the U.S. Constitution, each state has broader sovereign rights, which the federal government should take into consideration.
The law was one of the essential factors in the struggle for civil rights. However, demonstrations, public appearances, and efforts of individuals in those places, where the discrimination prevailed, were of high importance. Photos of Birmingham demonstrators, who had suffered from the police dogs, outraged the whole nation. This was only one of the thousands of cases of violence faced by the white and black fighters for desegregation.
One of the most important features of the American political system is its proven ability to find a peaceful way to resolve complex social problems. The struggle for civil rights in the United States of America acquired a revolutionary character, but this revolution occurred with almost no casualties. The faith and self-esteem of African Americans became stronger. This is the faith of people, who demanded changes and did everything possible to achieve them. Black people were inspired to fight for equality.
U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and granted the federal government new powers to ensure that all citizens had equal rights. After the adoption of the new law on civil rights, hundreds of hotels, motels, restaurants, and snack bars in several cities in the southern regions first opened their doors to all races. In the struggle for civil rights, the individual accomplishments of black people demonstrated the justice. Achievements of the scholar and international official Ralph Bunche, who had won the Nobel Prize, showed all impartial people that black Americans could contribute fully to democratic society.
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The civil rights movement led by the prominent leader Martin Luther King Jr. and other devoted activists was the indispensable catalyst for the adoption of two important, unprecedented laws. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act finally established the legal equality of African Americans. They were taken partly due to the structural changes in the U.S. policy, including an unexpected rise of the strong president-southerner who advocated for civil rights and helped overcome forces that blocked the former civil rights laws.
To summarize, the civil rights movement is the social movement for racial equality developed in the 1950-1960s. It led to the abolition of racial segregation in the southern states and the adoption of a series of laws to protect the citizens’ rights. Officially, the racial discrimination of citizens ended in 1968. Prior to these significant events, the principle of segregation was in force in many American cities. Millions of Americans were horrified by the actions undertaken by the Southerners. Black people, who had led a great battle for civil rights, also changed views of white people. Some individuals embraced the prospect of positive race relations, but others were hostile. They feared social and political change and felt uncomfortable from the fact they would live anew.