The Civil Rights Movements

The Civil Rights Movements

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The Civil Rights Movements

The civil right movement was the struggle of African Americans in the 1950’s and 1960’s to achieve civil rights equal to their white counterparts. These civil rights included equal opportunities in employment, education, voting rights, right to equal access to public facilities, housing and the right to be free of racial discrimination. The movements’ main objective was to restore to the African Americans the right of citizenship guaranteed by the 14 & 15 amendments in the constitution. These rights were eroded by segregationist Jim Crow Laws in the South. The Africans rights altered the relationship between the states and the federal government, as the federal government had to enforce its laws and protect the right of the African American society. This movement also spurred the reemergence of the judiciary; Supreme Court, in its role as the protector of individual liberty against the majority power. The greatest advantage of the movement is that it not only prompted gains for the African Americans, but also the rights of people with disabilities, women and others. This paper will try to highlight some of the key players in the movement struggle and the events that took place during the struggle.

Some of the major players in the civil right movement were Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X and Thurgood Marshalls. The genesis of the movement began on December 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama when she refused to surrender to a white man, her seat a city bus. The news of Parks arrest quickly spread through to the African America society. She (Parks) worked for the local branch in Alabama, as the secretary of the National Association for the advancement of colored people. She was a respectable and dignified member of her society; therefore her arrest was the genesis for the Africans to no longer tolerate racial discrimination laws. The group of African American women in the women’s political council, decided to boycott the city buses as a sign of their outrage to Parks arrest. This suggestion soon spread to nearly all African Americans including the influential black clergy. On the 5th of December, the African community rallied at the Holt Street Baptist Church in Alabama was they decided to carry out the boycott. This soon paralyzed the transport system as blacks were the major users of the city buses.

Another event that took place during the civil rights movement is the famous protest organized by King in 1963. The march took place in Washington D.C., and thousands of Americans, both blacks and whites attended. At Lincoln Memorial, was where Dr. King gave his famed speech “I have a dream.” This march was a success in that, after President Kennedy’s death in the same year, the American government passed the Civil Rights Act that gave blacks the same rights as the whites. The law also extended opportunities to blacks in work, education and the right to vote.

Another event that took place during the civil rights movement was the Million Man March. This was one of the most significant and well attended rallies in the history of Washington, D.C. it was organized by the Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan on the 16th of October, 1995. Thousands of African American men gathered, for a day long rally on the Mall in Washington D.C. The purpose of the rally was to promote racial solidarity and personal responsibility for the role that each one served in the struggle. The rally deliberately recalled the 1963 Washington march as the high point of civil rights movement. 1963 gathering was when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., gave his well-known, “I Have a Dream” speech. Speaker after speaker in the Million Man March invoked King’s speech, noting that King’s dream of racial unity had not yet been realized. Reverend Jesse Jackson also expanded the religious inspired tone of repentance that was so much part of the march. He called on African men to take responsibility for their families, to end drug use and violence in their residence as well as communities and to ensure that their children go to school.

Civil rights movement still continues

During this time, women were inspired to, to fight for their rights as well. The modern women’s rights movement started in the 1960 and gained momentum as the years progressed. The pursuit of women’s rights has led to legal challenges in areas of domestic relation, criminal law, reproductive rights, education and employment. After many years of struggle, Congress finally approved the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in March 1972. This move was seen to pave way for easy and quick adoption of the amendments by the states. 30 states had ratified the amendment within a tear of the congressional approval. The supporters of ERA saw it as a tool to improve the economic standards of women. However, opponents saw it as a means of undermining the traditional cultural values, particularly those concerned with the role of women in society and their role in the family. Some cases in the Supreme Court affected the ratification effort. An example is the Roe V. Wade case, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1973) that legalized abortion. This was seen as an additional legal basis for women’s rights to abortion by the Emerging Right-To-Life movement.

In the 1970’s and the 1980’s, fierce lobbying to place in states that were considering the ERA. Opponents warned that passing the ERA would lead to the abolition of gender based segregated facilities like toilets: it would lead to unisex public toilets. They (opponents) also saw the ERA as a way of removing criminal laws that dealt with homosexual acts. Even though the ratification deadline was extended, the supporters of ERA were not able to gain more states for ratification.

Civil rights movement is not over yet in America. Over the years we have got the right to equality for African American, the right to vote for the black society as well as women, and many others but still, we have a long way to go. Some of the rights that need to be enforced is equal pay for equal work done for women as those given to their counterparts. In America, the issue of salaries and wages for women still persists to this day. Men earn a higher income compared to women in the same field. Until we are all seen and felt to be equal, the struggle will continue.

Another issue that still makes the civil rights to persist is the rights of Homosexuals to live free from discrimination in some parts of the American society. The right to adopt children is so bureaucratic in America towards gays and lesbians than towards heterosexual couples. Until we all realize that we are equal gay or straight, the modern civil movement will continue for years to come.

Roles played by President’s Lyndon Johnson and Kennedy to address inequality

The role played by Kennedy

Kennedy tried to reduce inequality in the society especially related to poverty by the area redevelopment act of 1961. By doing this he gained support from the civil rights leaders for his support in trying to eradicate poverty in urban and rural areas.

Another instance where Kennedy tried to end inequality was in 1963, when he sent US troops to escort James Meredith, the University of Mississippi where he was prevented to take his studies. The troops stayed there until when he got his degree.

The role played by LBJ

He called on the country to not only move towards “the rich society and the powerful society, but upwards to the Great Society.” This was the society that he defined as one that would end racial injustice and poverty. During his term in office, the national government set policies and establish minimum standards for state governments to meet and he provided additional funding towards accomplishing this goal. His programs aimed at bringing aid to the unprivileged Americans, protecting American consumers and regulating the U.S. natural resources. He addressed inequality in education by investing vast amounts of money in colleges to fund some students and projects. He also provided federal aid for secondary and elementary education in providing remedial services for poor districts. As a senator, he was a moderator on race issues and he played a part in the efforts to guarantee civil rights to African Americans. When he took office, he was an heir to Kennedy’s commitments and passed the civil rights act, thus ending segregation in public facilities.

Both this presidents talked about wanting to help the civil rights movement. Kennedy did play a part during the movement but his actions were more rhetorical. He seemed to want to please the senators who never approved African rights. During the Lincoln march by Dr. King, the president at first never approved it, then after accepting that the march to continue, he wanted to limit its numbers. Later after the march was over, he claimed to support the rights movements. In my conclusion, I think he failed to do what the right movement expected from him. President LBJ on the other hand was successful in ending segregation and uplifting the lives of the less fortunate, including both blacks and whites. In my opinion, he was the most successful president to help end black discrimination in America.


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Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Theda Skocpol. 2007. Inequality and American democracy: what we know and what we need to learn. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Lawson, Steven F. 2003. Civil rights crossroads: nation, community, and the Black freedom struggle. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Levy, Peter B. 1998. The civil rights movement. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press.

Pycior, Julie Leininger. 1997. LBJ and Mexican Americans: the paradox of power. Austin, Tex: Univ. of Texas Pr.

Romano, Renee C. 2006. The civil rights movement in American memory. Athens, Ga. [u.a.]: Univ. of Georgia Press.